Chaste Courtship and Ethics

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on March 12, 2014.

I read this post yesterday, and it made me mad: “Jessa Duggar Will Have a Chaste Courtship — and My Kids Will, Too” by Kacy Faulconer.

Luke and I had a “perfect” courtship. No holding hands even, until the wedding.

After several year’s retrospect, I don’t really think it set us up any better for marriage than dating would have. In fact, dating would probably have been a lot simpler. We would have dated earlier, with less pressure, and more of a feeling of choice (it was by choice but also under intense pressure of ‘purity’). We wouldn’t have gained some of the baggage we did by having a complex, parent-involved relationship. I, especially, would have been my own agent, instead of my wishes being submitted to everyone else’s (and the triangulation in our families during that time was mind-boggling).

Had we dated, Luke and I would have been able to let physical closeness progress more naturally, and I don’t necessarily even mean sex before marriage — but just leaning on his shoulder when I was sad, that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how much it hurt not to be able to do that. Because I have negative touch in my past, it would have been really nice to have gradual healing touch. And sex before marriage? Had we done it, I’m sure we would have survived. The only difficulty would probably have been the shame, and that was something we were taught.

Chaste courtship, the writer of the piece claims, won’t repress her children:

I’m not repressing them. I’m freeing them. I have sons who need to learn restraint and respect. I have daughters who will be empowered by abstinence because they can simply sidestep the issues, pressures, problems, and pitfalls of promiscuity.

Look, just because you claim something is freeing, doesn’t make it so. Her ‘empowered’ daughters, like myself, won’t be able to safely learn about consent or their own bodies until marriage, at which point they’ll be expected to have sex every time their husband wants it. My big advice from my mom was ‘don’t say no too often’ (my dad did a better job with ‘the premarriage talk’). They’ll never feel like they own their bodies, because before marriage their bodies are owned by their parents, who feel it is their duty to keep their children pure, and after marriage they’ll feel like they belong to their husbands.

Parents who raise their children this way are trying to do what they think is best.

The problem is, they are motivated by fear to control their children. Fear that their kids will have sex, fear that their kids will ruin their lives somehow. They raise them to get an end result, it seems, because the end (a promised good marriage) justifies the means (intense control and denying their children bodily autonomy). I’m studying Ethics in my Philosophy class, and realized that many fundamentalists probably operate under a consequentialist system of ethics. (See also, spanking children to get godly offspring, or to not be embarrassed by fussing kids in public. I think it’s consequentialism.)

I operate under a more deontological view (also called ‘duty ethics’), there are acceptable actions, and unacceptable actions, and you should do what is right because it is right, and not because of the end result. One big rule of deontological ethics is that humans should never be treated as a means to an end.

And regarding the subject at hand, I believe it is wrong for a parent to control their adult child, no matter how good an end they hope to achieve for them. I think women should be able to own their own bodies and be touched only on their own terms, not their significant other’s terms, and certainly not their parents’ terms.

For another takedown of Mrs. Faulconer’s post, see Libby Anne’s post.

P.S. I’ve heard people saying that ‘parents can’t control their adult children’. Well actually, I think they can, especially when they’ve raised their children to mindlessly obey, and have kept them from taking steps towards independence like having a real job. It’s hard to go against your parents when they are the only way you have food and a place to eat. It’s also hard when you know that independence, or ‘disobedience’ could get you cut off from your family and everything you know. Would my parents have done this? I don’t know, and they didn’t when my brother dated against their approval. But I was still trying to please them and never would have tested it.

3 comments

  • Thanks for sharing – sometimes from the outside we appear to have followed the rules successfully and justified our parents choices to their community by ending up in good relationships. I feel torn, because I don’t want to be held up as an example for other people. My lack of sexual and romantic experience outside of my one and only relationship with my spouse has cause problems for me. But I also never want to talk about the fallout in my life from these ideas with the people who really believe in them, because it’s super personal and I don’t trust them to have a reasonable conversation with me about peanut butter, let alone sex and love.

  • This is so good! We do what’s right because it’s right not because we’re trying to gain or avoid something. I love it when someone puts words to what I believe or have tried to practice. Thanks for sharing!

  • Your statement, ” I think women should be able to own their own bodies and be touched only on their own terms, not their significant other’s terms, and certainly not their parents’ terms.”, is exactly and simply the bare minimum a person deserves in life. If there are teachings otherwise, they are based in abuse. Imagine wishing something less for your own progeny! How damaged our parents must have been to subject us to this kind of sub-human existence. And to say GOD says! as an excuse for obvious abuse…. too sad.
    (Your writing is from 2014…. any updates or more thoughts?)

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