Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hephzibah Anderson Is Chastened

In addition to having a wonderful name, Hephzibah Anderson has written a wonderful book.

The book is written for women. It is also beautifully written.

It begins with a premise. The author has an epiphany one day and discovers that she has been following a life path that does not lead to the love and marriage that she desires. She has misspent a portion of her youth and wasted her intimacy in a series of hookups, of meaningless sexual experiences, punctuated by some serious relationships.

The decides to set herself right by vowing to remaining chaste for one year.

Her year of chastity must count as something of a purge, an effort to overcome the past. As such, Anderson's book must count as an antidote to the despair many young women feel when they discover that serial hookups are not going to lead them to love and marriage.

I would mention that there is a larger psychological issue at work here. We have all done things that we wish we hadn't. If we do them often enough, we become someone we wish we weren't. Given the psychological and social aftershocks of such behaviors, how does one go about recovering one's self-respect?

Anderson offers a variant on that theme. Once a woman has had her share of hookups, once she has given enough of her intimacy away for free, how does she get it back?

Many young women have this experience. Given their sexual past, their "number," they despair of ever recovering their reputations and their self respect. And they do not see how they can get from where they are to where they want to be.

How do you get something back when you have given it away? How does a woman retake possession of her intimacy when she has been treating it as though it were the same as a man's. How do you stop, in Anderson's words, "forcing yourself to conform to masculine ideals."?

And how do you step back from the edge after you have lived the feminist lifestyle to its limit and discovered that it has cost you your femininity, your ability to experience life as a woman?

Anderson makes a vow, to herself at first, to abstain from sexual intercourse for one year. Note that she does not abstain from all sexual experience, but she vows to abstain from generative sex, thus privileging the one sexual act that many of today's intellectuals tell us is just another way to feel pleasure.

Her vow does not plunge Anderson into a nun-like existence. To be fair, many nuns have not had very nun-like existences either. And despite what the Freud-addled culture would have you believe, it does not make her repressed, crazy, sick, or unattractive to men.

Given the amount of misinformation that floats through the Zeitgeist it is worthwhile for young women especially to see that they can refrain from intercourse and still have intimacy, love, and romance.

What Anderson does lose, and not regret losing, is the round of painful dramas that seem naturally to follow the round of meaningless hookups. At one point in the book she sees a couple in front of a house involved in an especially drama-laden confrontation, and feels grateful that that is no longer her life.

What did a year's worth of chastity do for her: "... chastity has returned to me a sense of the private, of an inner space that is mine and mine alone."

Of course, there is a larger moral issue here. Anderson does not just remain chaste; she keeps her vow, strictly. And this, in and of itself, is morally chastening.

If you want to own your experience, you have to be able to keep your word. Even if the person to whom you have given it is merely yourself. If Anderson recovered her intimacy then one basic reason must be that she kept her vow, even when she was the only one who knew that she had made it.

In the past vows of chastity have led to mystical journeys and various other forms of sublimations. And yet, Anderson does not set forth on a journey into mental space or even a journey around the world. She does not go into therapy. To her great credit she does not set off on a therapeutic journey that ends with her falling in love with a Brazilian beach bum.

She struggles with her vow; she gets involved with men; she wonders how she got to where she is; she continues to live her life, personally and professionally. And she seems to enjoy it more than she had when she was trying to live up to a masculine ideal or a feminist ideology.


Anonymous said...

Always remember this: If a woman can go a year without sex when she is single, she can do that for far longer as a married woman. I would avoid such a woman like the plague.

posicionamiento en google said...

It will not really have success, I feel this way.

Sam L. said...

From what I gathered, she wasn't looking with a masculine perspective, but the feminist (sex without intimacy).

idssinfo said...

It cannot really have success, I suppose so.