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Chastity and Culture

CCC 2344 Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is “an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.”131 Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.

In a time long ago when I did not know how to dance I made several trips with a group of friends to a dance club. We were certainly going to dance and to have a good time, and while we had some fun, overall it was a bad experience. It was the kind of place that people often refer to as a "meat market", and there was a certain creepy factor to the place, because many people went there looking for sex. One time,as I was leaving the bathroom two men entered, and the first was complaining to the second how he could not believe how his wife was there as well. He was there to cheat on her, and he was cheating on her that very instant.

This club was actually a place designed to promote lust.

  • All of the waitresses (no waiters) were very attractive, but were dressed in a provocative way.

  • Alcohol dims thoughtfulness and judgment. The waitresses were not merely serving alcohol, but actively pushing it hard. And not drinks you might savor, like beer or wine, but jello shots, which would get a person drunk quickly and without noticing it.

  • It was so loud it was hard enough to hear yourself think, much less have an actual conversation.

  • The music had a strong beat, with a lot of bass but not much variation. While it made it very easy to keep a basic timing there was nothing else to inform or inspire any kind of spontaneity in the dance.

  • It was very dark, but with pulsing strobe lights that visually presented a person as a collection of images, not as a person.

  • Finally the patrons contributed to the spirit of lust. To get attention women dressed in a very provocative fashion and the men took it in. No one knew how to dance, so there was no ability to communicate.

Everything there conspired to prevent someone from experiencing a fellow person. All of these elements served to add excessive amounts of noise and confusion to the personal connection, making knowledge of the other virtually impossible. As a result there was no intimacy, no enhancement of identity. All that was left to behold was the other as a body, a body there for selfish sexual gratification. The women who got the most attention were the ones with the best looks and the skimpiest clothing and the most suggestive gyrations. These women were letting themselves be used because they were in turn using the men so they could have attention.

Compare that to a place were trained dancers go. Everything there works to make connection more likely and far more fruitful.

  • If it’s a bar it is usually a weeknight and most of the people are dancers, and we have a dance DJ. Other times it's at a dance studio or a community center that dancers rent out. Often alcohol is not available, but if it is dancers usually don’t drink a lot of it (we often have a negative reputation with bars because we more concerned with dancing than drinking and don’t spend enough on drinks!)

  • The music is loud enough to dance to but quiet enough to have a conversation at a comfortable volume.

  • It's the kind of music you like to listen to and sing- music with variation that inspires you, music you can interpret.

  • It’s dark enough to add a sense of intimacy but light enough to see the person you are dancing with.

  • In many dances everyone dresses in a way that accentuates the positive aspect of the dance. Women dress modestly (sometimes it's more modest than at church!) and of course people know how to connect as dancers. Not only that, but everyone knows everyone else- we think of each other as our dance family

From the St. John's Ball

The first place is a place of lust- a place where people get used. In such a place the dancing is not beautiful, musical, comfortable or loving. But in the second place there is knowledge of the other, both because there is every opportunity to get to know the person’s interior dimension and the skill to see it. Men are appreciated for being powerful but gentle, confident yet sensitive. Women are appreciated for being beautiful and authentic, creative and imaginative. This is what chastity actually is- to express and the experience our sexuality as a free gift to each other, and not merely in sexual intercourse or even with sexual feelings. I can look at a man dance and appreciate his lead just as much as I can look at the woman dance and appreciate her following. This is an experience of the moral and spiritual dimensions. The joy in doing the good, the true and the beautiful, and revelation of the interior dimension of our neighbors on the dance floor.

Creating this culture is not easy, because dancing is not easy! Learning to dance well takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, as well as an education from those with knowledge of the art. But it's what we need to do to create the chaste culture we desire.

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