Although we live in a sex-obsessed culture, in the secular world there happens to be positive portrayals of celibacy and chapter two focuses on these examples. The authors remind us that, in response to the sexual revolution psychologist Gabrielle Brown believed that sexuality "is a conscious, voluntary behavior which is learned, rather than an instinct over which one has no choice." This challenges the idea as sex as a biological imperative. Her ideas line up with what many Christian have believed for over two thousand years. Brown thought that "abstinence is a response on the outside to what's going on, and celibacy is a response from the inside."
For examples of women, they immediately discuss the 1998 film, Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth's virginity is treated with such respect and dignity in the film. They also describe Carson Brown's take on virginity where she defines freedom so as to redefine sexuality "apart from the pressure to have sex and the consumer culture that dictates those rules for those consumers." Brown argues that in our consumeristic culture, "Businesses want virgins to feel horrible about themselves, because if virgins were happy being virgins, they would be horrible consumers. As long as they are virgins desperately trying to ditch their virginity, fine. But abstinence undermines economics."
Another secular author, Wendy Keller, states, "We are on the crest of a new era in male-female relations. Having gone through a millennia of oppression we are at last in a place where we can step out onto the platform of power and safely claim a place for ourselves too." She asks, "what if you could put yourself back in control of your own sexuality--instead of forking it over to a man, society's point of view or your girlfriend's ideas of what is appropriate sexual behavior is for you?" The question from some feminists, is whether or not contemporary sexuality that so dismisses virginity has really made things better for women? Its interesting to think about virginity and celibacy from various secular angles where they don't have a "fundamentalist" axe to grind. Could it be that a rather "thick" view of sexuality from a Christian perspective may embrace celibacy?
Is our only response to sexuality, legalism, guilt in the Church to get in bed with secular values and culture when we are reacting to a legalistic mindset that purports a rather thin view of virginity under rules and guilt?
There is in the popular culture, a tradition in which sex is given up for a higher calling. In the film Dead Man Walking the character Prejean talks about other types of intimacy she has experienced instead of sexual intrimacy. She believes celibacy is important to serve her world better. The authors observe, "as the movie demonstrates, her calling is, ultimately more important and more valuable than the pleasure of sex or even an exclusive relationship."
Its just not in the religious higher calling that devotion to celibacy may be a virtue. With many superheroes in popular culture comes the positive calling of celibacy. Quoting a line from Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility." Colon and Fields comment, "Although superheroes fall in love, they realize they have a responsibility both to the ones they love and to the world at large." Superman is another character. In the popular culture, there are some things more important than the biological sex imperative.
I have to admit how surprised I was when I read this chapter. I have seen the superheroes films. But I haven't thought about the positive view of celibacy portrayed in them.
So, in cross-gender friendships, if you are married and you want to be intimate friends with a woman beyond your wife, you have to practice celibacy. As the Sarandon character makes clear, you can pursue other types of intimacy without pursuing sexual intimacy. If you are single, you may pursue other types of intimacy with opposite-sex friends and be faithful to a higher calling--even according to popular culture. Sometimes Christians view the secular world in such a black-and-white, immoral way.
In this post, a secular book like Friends: Why Men and Women are from the Same Planet makes a coherent case for men and women to enjoy each other as friends with deep affection, including physical affection with no sexual intimacy involved.
Gee observes, "Brothers and sisters and opposite-sex friends develop, sustain and --importantly--enjoy extraordinarily deep, intimate relationships, rich in unfettered communication, relaxation and laughter...These kinds of bonds are not, as they tend to be portrayed, merely a substitute for a more desirable sexual relationship. They are different but equal. The depth of love, the extent of the intimacy, and the enduring strength of the tie experienced within a close relationship with a brother, sister or opposite-sex friend can be as great as valuable and--perhaps more important--as valued as in any romance."