No sex? Huh?

No sex? Huh?

Chastity is climbing out of the closet and making itself seen and heard. The sexual revolution of the 60s has given us so much sexual freedom and has made sex so easily available that it’s no longer a challenge for today’s generation. Abstaining from it is. And so, virginity is in vogue and celibacy no longer looked upon as prudish — it’s something to be celebrated.

That’s the story behind the silver ring some young people have started wearing these days. Former journalist Santhosh Kumar (27) is one of them. He stumbled on the Silver Ring Thing, a movement that started in the US to promote chastity, while looking up silver ring designs on the web. That inspired him to wear one himself.
There are several reasons why teenagers and young adults in the West are going public. According to Anna Coelho, a Natural Family Planning educator based in Goa, “They have realised the benefits of being chaste and would like to help their peers be chaste.  Some of them have suffered heartbreak and also had teenage pregnancies and they know the pain they’ve had to go through, and this makes them go out and share their lives with other youngsters.”

The ring thing
But is wearing a ring really necessary?
“The silver ring is a great accessory,” says Santhosh. And when an accessory has a deeper meaning for the wearer, it’s about silent pride, like a tattoo. One may wear a simple silver ring as a symbol of one’s efforts, or simply to reaffirm faith in oneself,” he says.
On a deeper level, the ring, says Santhosh, “symbolises a conscious effort from getting into anything involving sex with two people (or more) for as long as the ‘practitioner’ feels he needs to. That may include relationships, random one-night stands, or mutual physical relationships, or for that matter flirting too”.
Valentino Coelho (Vally to his friends) agrees the ring’s not essential but feels that “in a sexually-charged culture that idolises sex, it may be important to wear a ring to demonstrate your chastity.”

Commitment’s important
But at the end of the day, it’s not the ring that’s important but the commitment to chastity. And many youngsters follow this path of purity though not many will openly admit it because, well, it’s “so not cool”.

“It seems to me that widespread pre-marital sexual activity is more media hype than reality. Young people may be compelled to exaggerate or even fabricate tales of their sexual prowess since it’s not ‘cool’ to admit to chastity.  I think that young people today are smart enough to recognise the very real dangers of the ‘safer sex with condom’ approach,” says Vally who, like his wife of 25 years, Anna, is an NFP educator.

Standing tall
Seventeen-year-old Janani R is one such “smart kid” who refuses to succumb to peer pressure and join their bandwagon of beliefs. She doesn’t wear a ring to proclaim her chastity since she believes “it is a personal belief, not something to declare to the rest of the world”.

But looking around her, she’s made a decision to keep her self-respect and self-worth intact. “Proving one’s love for one’s partner does not have to involve sex, and if this is a prime motive for a relationship, it’s not worth being in a relationship with that person at all.

“I have a friend who used to have sex with her boyfriend every once in a while, and she thought it was right because she believed that he was ‘the one’ for her and that they had a future together. Not even a week after she told me this, they broke up. Why? She was away for a while so he went out with someone else because he was missing the sex.”

Vows and wows
Though people like Janani and Santhosh have their reasons for sexual abstinence, it’s a bit like flowing against the tide if you are surrounded by people who do not share your beliefs.
Santhosh has a tough time explaining his stand to incredulous friends. “It makes them uncomfortable since it’s hard to believe someone feels so.  Some think it’s lack of opportunity, some feel it’s cowardice, some think it’s a ploy for attention, and some feel it’s about putting up one’s price.”

But it really is about learning lessons from history or be doomed to making the same mistakes, says Vally. “Look at the Roman Empire which collapsed following widespread sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, infanticide.  Culture is shaped by how we treat sex.  A culture that does not value the place of sex is a culture of death.”

The pledge of purity
This movement in favour of chastity is music to the ears of Sr Annunciata, rgs, who’s been at the helm of Respect For Life India (RFLI), a city-based pro-life group for nearly 25 years. At 76 (AND being a nun) she’s an unlikely candidate to be talking sex, but that is part of her mission.
“I think chastity before marriage is extremely important. Values have collapsed and today, nothing is sin anymore…. To be happy, to grow in love, you need to follow the ABC formula through which you can make a difference and bring about a change,” she says.
The formula is simply this:
A: Appreciate yourself and others and abstain from premarital sex.
B: Be faithful to your spouse.

C: Correct choices leading to character formation.
“It is then that a bridegroom can tell his bride (and vice-versa) that I loved you even before I knew you and kept myself chaste for you,” she adds.
RFLI runs programmes where the pledge is projected on the screen and young people make a promise to give up anything that damages the body.
This includes premarital sex, drugs, smoking, drinking etc. “Young people then keep the pledge in their Bible or Koran or Bhagwad Gita as a reminder to stay chaste and happy,” she says.
According to Sr Annunciata, the youth are longing for a challenge and are happy to be challenged.

“We label them as indisciplined and lacking in self-control. But it is not true. If it was, they should be running away when they see me coming. Instead, they approach me. For instance, one young man came and asked for the pledge. After a moment, he wanted 13 more for his group of friends. He said they would sit together, discuss it and take the pledge together,” she says.

Foundations for the future
Being chaste before marriage is all about laying the foundation to a stable relationship. “I’m married to Anna for the past 25 years,” says Vally. “We were in a relationship for eight years before marriage and we struggled a lot with chastity. Perhaps it was our upbringing that helped us to wait for our honeymoon night to seal our ‘Yes’ to each other with marital intercourse.  Now, we are glad about that. Otherwise, it would have spoiled the wonder and satisfaction of our wedding night.  I know my wife trusts me with other women now because I could say ‘No’ before marriage when all my senses were screaming ‘YES, YE-EESS’!”
Anna echoes Vally when she says that their abstinence before marriage helped them to trust each other even after marriage.  “I was sure my husband would not indulge in extra-marital affairs as we are convinced about chastity before marriage and also in marriage.”

Besides, it helps them relate to their children “because we are able to share with them our struggle — we know what they are going through in a sexually-charged environment,” says Vally.  
“If the parents are chaste before and in marriage, it is easier for them to convince their children about chastity before marriage,” adds Anna.

Some chastity trends
The Silver Ring Thing is a para-church youth ministry in the US that promotes the message of abstinence until marriage using two programmes. One is the Live Event, a 2.5-hour stage performance incorporating music, special effects, video and personal testimonies. Those who make a commitment to abstinence may then purchase a silver ring as a symbol and reminder of their decision.
P434 is a DVD resource designed to capture students and their parents with the powerful, real-life stories of a generation gutting out the decision to wait, dealing with past mistakes, and find redemption in a broken world.

True Love Waits, another such movement, was the idea of a group of 50 youngsters guided by Richard Ross, a Baptist pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. It became a major movement with candidates making their promise publicly in church, often accompanied by their families. The message: The only safe sex is controlled sex. Sex at the proper time, in the proper way and with the proper person.

The Purity Ball, a cross between a prom and a wedding, is a trend that began in 1998 when Pastor Randy Wilson and his wife threw one as part of their Christian ministry in Colorado. The idea came from the desire to allow women to feel good about themselves without needing inappropriate male attention. Lisa Wilson says, “I believe if girls feel beautiful and cherished by their fathers, they don’t go looking for love from random guys.”

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