The Thrill of the Chaste
In our society today, we see how over-sexualized every aspect of life has become. “Casual sex” has been equated with freedom, sex-less commercials have been deemed ineffective, and control of sexual desire is considered slavery. In The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment while Keeping Your Clothes On, author Dawn Eden gives a counter-cultural perspective of living chastely by chronically her own struggles and providing her insights into navigating life in the modern world from a Catholic perspective.
Eden writes as both a story-teller and as a theologian who connects real-life experiences to a Catholic understanding of the human person. She imparts the importance of each individual being made in God’s image, called to love Him, and how this calling affects daily life and underlies the human desire to be loved. She makes important differentiations of fulfillment, such as the fulfillment of no longer being lonely and the fulfillment of loving someone with agape love. These distinctions throughout enable the reader to see pitfalls such as using another person instead of loving them, and the grave consequences of that.
The book begins with Eden’s understanding of fulfillment and abstaining from acting upon desires for the sake of the future fulfillment of a lifetime. She weaves her own story throughout the book, not necessarily chronologically, but as her experiences fit with the concept she is discussing. Eden emphasizes that the cultivation of virtues, such as chastity, is not accomplished overnight. Moreover, in her personal journey she shows how even purifying her motivations to be chaste took time.
One of Eden’s biggest strengths in her writing is her honesty and relatability. For example, she does not present herself as struggling with chastity, converting to Christianity, and then magically becoming chaste. She gives instances of struggles that she has and unpacks her thoughts at those times, as well as how she prioritized her motivations. None of her story is like a fairy-tale, with all of the loose ends tied up neatly the day after Easter. Rather, she shows that conversion happens on a daily basis, in each and every decision to love God. In the process, taking struggles and areas that need healing to Him is necessary and done one at a time, revealing that healing requires patience.
Eden splits the book up into twenty short chapters, the longest being the first. Each chapter focuses on a theme for growth, such as self-control, and can be read independently of the others. Putting the book down for a few days to think about the theme does not interrupt the flow of the book, although the entire book can be read in one or two sittings.
My biggest discontent with the book was that while Eden strives to describe her personal story of chastity, her story does not end with her living chastely with her sexual desires in the married life. Rather she is called to the celibate life. While this vocation is beautiful, it was hard to reconcile her entire struggle with desire with it, namely that she had the very intense desire for sexual intimacy but she was not called to fulfill it in the vocation of marriage. Overall, the book provides great insights into the struggle of conversion and entering into a Christian lifestyle, with a focus on chastity. I think the book is definitely helpful for those who strive for chastity and have become frustrated with a relapse into former habits.
About the author
Currently studying theology at The Catholic University of America, Molly Boland is an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.