A Lesson in Abstinence

Allegory of Chastity, by Hans Memling (1475, oil on wood)

Early Wednesday afternoon, when Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, moved to introduce a Bill to ‘require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes’, she set alight to the feminist blogosphere (See here, here, here, and here, for examples).

Central to the feminist criticism is the clear gender asymmetry contained in the proposal, as immediately pointed out by her detractor Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda (a transcription of the debate is to be found here). ‘For a start, the Bill is just about girls,’ complained Bryant, ‘I am not an expert, but it seems axiomatic to me that if we want to tackle teenage pregnancy, we have to talk to the boys and the girls.’ Continue reading “A Lesson in Abstinence”

Give Me Retirement … But Not Yet

Augustinus_1 In The Confessions, Augustine offers a personalized account of his struggle with conversion. While artful in presenting the dirty details, he consistently directs readers to a more general problem – what should one do when caught between what the mind knows and what the body desires? Augustine’s experience of this familiar tension largely focused on celibacy. Although intellectually certain of chastity’s virtue, his ‘broader’ loves left him to beg: ‘Give me continence … but not yet!’ Continue reading “Give Me Retirement … But Not Yet”