My name is Kate. I’m 32 years old. I’ve never had sex.
That obviously didn’t happen. Or it hasn’t happened yet. But I love my life. I spent last weekend learning how to scull on the Potomac River. I have good friends, a great family, hobbies and one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Do I feel a void because I’m not married and I don’t have children yet? Sure. Do I wish I were having sex? Of course.
But I believe that I’m living a fuller, better life because of my commitment to sexual integrity. I spend all day, every day doing the things that I want to do, because I’m not wasting my time worrying about waking up next to a stranger, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or missing a period.
The truth is, I am able to live the feminist dream because I’m not stressing over the things that sex outside of marriage often brings. And I’m not alone.
A recent study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that young people — specifically millennials – are now more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than the previous generation. Although there are many possible causes for this shift, it’s quite reasonable to believe that this generation doesn’t want the stresses that sex outside of marriage brings — unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, to name a few.
Maybe they realize that a condom doesn’t protect the heart, and that true love is something worth waiting for and fighting for.
Celibacy and chastity, as I have come to understand as a Catholic, are virtues that are practiced with a purpose. Chastity isn’t simply the restraining of one’s desires, nor is it something you just practice before marriage and then disregard after the wedding. Chastity is a lifestyle, centered on freedom and love, that challenges all people to love themselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible.
As a teenager, I read Joshua Harris’s book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I was enthralled by the view of purity that Harris proposed and decided I would save every act of affection, including kissing, until my wedding day.
Then when this interpretation of chastity was challenged in a “Christian Marriage” course I took in college, I began to understand that chastity goes much deeper than a long list of do’s and don’ts. I started researching the topic in more depth. The result was my college thesis, “Chastity in the Modern World and the Fulfillment of Chastity Within the Catholic Church.”
My thesis was based on the book “Love and Responsibility” by Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John Paul II. In this book, Wojtyla explained that every human being is a sexual being, but that we’re also rational — which means we don’t have to be mastered by our physical desires.
In the case of the single person, chastity does mean not having sex before marriage, but it also means striving toward the perfection of love. We must all aim to love ourselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible — this is chastity in its fullness.
Virtues, including chastity, must be practiced like a new sport or skill. I didn’t just decide to be a master rower and naturally row down the Potomac. I took an intense sculling course and then spent hours upon hours practicing on the water — and I’m still only in the beginner stages. There wasn’t a single Olympian who simply showed up in Rio and won gold. Like sports, virtue takes practice, failure and perseverance.
With chastity, there are days you will struggle and fail. Some days, it will seem simply impossible. But you must always remain faithful and persevere, especially in the difficult moments.
As a Christian, I believe that all things are possible with God, and that has been the bedrock of my journey with chastity. I’ve also surrounded myself with good friends who support me and my beliefs, which has made my journey easier.
While I didn’t get my early marriage or my 12 kids or my big house with a white picket fence, my commitment to sexual integrity has allowed me the freedom to live the life that I want. I am living the life that feminists throughout history fought for.
Through the virtue of chastity — true freedom and the perfection of love — I am living the feminist dream.
Kate Bryan is a writer in Washington, D.C., who has worked for conservative and anti-abortion organizations. Follow her on Twitter @katembryan.