CHARLESTON — The hunt is on, and chastity is the quarry.
Such was the message delivered by Dawn Eden at her talk March 6 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The author of “The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On,” told about 50 people who attended the discourse that they can’t find love and fulfillment through sex, and that they need to set their sights on a different goal.
She said in today’s world, those who want to go against the norm know that chastity is the real countercultural movement.
“In an age where sexual mores are set by the likes of Britney, Lindsay, Paris, and their greatest inspiration, Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City,” the true rebels are those young adults who are striving to attain a love that goes beyond sex. …to pursue that long-forgotten virtue known as chastity,” Eden told the eclectic mix of listeners.
Kathy Schmugge, family life coordinator for the Diocese of Charleston, was one of those in attendance. She said the crowd ranged from those who already support chaste living, such as priests and youth leaders, to those looking at making a change in their own lifestyles.
One young woman came at the urging of a friend, Schmugge said. The single mother of two children knows what it is to be unfulfilled by casual sex because what her heart is really looking for is joy and love.
Eden is able to reach out to people like her because she has lived the freewheeling lifestyle. She readily admits that she enjoyed sex on a physical level, but said spiritual and emotional happiness was seriously lacking.
Eden is a deputy news editor for the regional editions at the New York Daily News. In the 1990s, when she was in her 20s, she was one of the most successful female rock and roll historians of her time. She wrote for publications such as Salon and New York Press and interviewed 1960s stars including Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Del Shannon and Lesley Gore, according to her press release.
She was immersed in a world that saw nothing sacred about marital vows.
When she was 31, in October 1999, Eden underwent a dramatic conversion to Christian faith. With her new faith came the realization that her hedonistic lifestyle had actually carried her far away from even being able to sustain the kind of intimacy that could lead to marriage.
Marie Donnelly, a youth minister at the Cathedral, said Eden is a different kind of chastity speaker exactly because of her former lifestyle and subsequent conversion.
Eden doesn’t have any horror stories. She doesn’t denounce sex or call anyone a sinner, or try to tell anyone that sex isn’t fun.
“I had pleasure — believe me. But something was missing. It took me years to understand what it was. What was missing was joy. The kisses and caresses I sought, the heights of sexual excitement that I pursued, all served to camouflage the emptiness I felt inside,” she said. “That emptiness was in fact a God-shaped vacuum.”
One young man said he came to hear Eden speak because he’s burned out and looking to make a change in his life. He asked Eden what he should do when the temptation to have sex comes over him.
She said that people should seek spiritual direction and frequent the sacraments, including confession. Eden noted that singles have a desire for union, and said in Eucharistic Adoration we are able to have union with Christ.
She also suggested getting involved in helping others because that helps maintain the motivation to remain chaste.
Of course it isn’t easy.
Eden recalls her initial meanderings down the path to chastity.
“At first, I was bitter and resentful about forgoing sex,” she said. “I would think, ‘OK, God, I’m doing this for you, and you’d better appreciate it!’ But I quickly found that I couldn’t stay chaste if I thought that way.”
She eventually realized that in order to learn how to love, people must discover that love goes beyond sex and is meant to be shared with everyone. She also pointed out that the dignity of the human person must be recognized.
“There is no dignity in a society that encourages touching another person’s body but not allowing that person to touch your heart,” Eden said.
She hopes that her talks and her book will help people on their own path to conversion; maybe the young woman who bought her book, or the young man looking for a way to change.
“I find that most of the audience for my book and talks are young adults who, like me, bought into the “just do it” culture and found that it just didn’t do it for them,” she told the group of listeners.
Maybe chaste living will.