- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dawn Eden’s conversion from her lifestyle of casual sex resulted in her writing “The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment

While Keeping Your Clothes On,” which hit shelves Tuesday.

Miss Eden is a deputy news editor at the New York Daily News and a former rock historian. The following are excerpts from an interview:

Question: Your book is titled “The Thrill of the Chaste.” Is that possible: Finding a thrill in being chaste?

Answer: It’s definitely possible. You have to find a thrill in being chaste before you can find a thrill in anything else. We all start life as chaste children, and then as we grow up … sometimes we lose touch with the things that are at the root of happiness. …

Q: But you’re not a virgin yourself, are you?

A: Oh, my book is not about virginity. It’s about how chastity isn’t just for virgins. No, I’m not one myself.

Q: What makes you qualified to speak on this? Has there been a change in course?

A: Oh, there definitely has been a change in course. I grew up Reformed Jewish, and I was an agnostic for my adult life until I was 31, when I had a transformative faith experience. I became a Christian and I believed for the first time that there was a God and that God really cared about me. … I realized that my lifestyle was not in line with my faith. …

Changing is … not as easy as simply stopping doing something. … Change really comes from the inside out. …

Even if you don’t really feel happy declining opportunities for sex … if you work on the inside, you can become happier. … If you have to change from within, you have to change your behavior. And at the same time, if you’re changing your behavior, you have to work on your inside so that you’re doing things for the right reasons. …

Q: How can you present this message of chastity without evoking images of boring, high-collared dresses and Jane Austen characters? ..

A: Being chaste is enjoying every aspect of life and not just focusing one’s attention on, “I have to have this man for my boyfriend or husband … and if I don’t have that object — that male object upon whom my life is focused — I won’t be happy.” …

Women’s magazines tell women just to go for it, and they tell women not to just, you know, center their lives around a man. … They give that message on the one hand and on the other hand, “Wear this lipstick, and he’ll want you.” So, you know, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth. …

I’m saying that you really have to center your perspective not on your relationship to a man … but rather you have to center your perspective on your relationship with God and your relationship with everyone around you. … That is where fulfillment comes from.

Q: So you would say that chastity has changed to fit modern times?

A: I would say that chastity has always been the same, but I’d say the message has not gotten across well. …

Since the sexual revolution, people have equated chastity with celibacy and have just thought, “Well, being chaste means being like a priest.” … Now that I know more priests and nuns, I know that they actually have very exciting and fulfilling lives. …

But in terms of the way that people popularly perceive priests and nuns and perceive chastity as being celibacy, that’s inaccurate. … If you’re a chaste, single woman, you can look pretty. You’re not going to necessarily wear Britney Spears outfits, but you can certainly look attractive, and you can flirt, and you can enjoy the company of people of the opposite sex. …

Oh boy, if being chaste were just being prim and proper, you know, they’d never let me into that club.

Q: Explain a little bit why chastity is a higher standard than just technical virginity.

A: It’s a higher standard because you’re changing the way that you look at yourself and others. … See, I’m still learning. … Even though I haven’t had sex in a few years, I haven’t been perfectly chaste during the time because as you learn not to objectify others, you raise the bar in terms of how to relate to others.

Like in my relationship with my last boyfriend, we didn’t have sex … but I wasn’t perfectly chaste with him. Well, I found that I enjoyed the kind of danger of seeing how far we could go without taking off our clothes and how excited I could be. … I was thinking of him in terms of my gorgeous, 6-foot-tall toy. …

I don’t think that if you’re in love with someone that you always have to intellectualize it and you always have to second-guess yourself in terms of motivations. But I do think that if two people are determined to be chaste and determined not to have sex until marriage that they have to really make an effort to see one another as complete human beings and not just that, “You’re this gorgeous person, and if we, you know, say a few words in front of a priest, I get to jump your bones.” …

I find that the more that I do view men as complete people, the more attractive that they seem and the more I enjoy their company. I have better friendships now than I’ve ever had in my life. … They’re not just like, “Oh, I’m repressing my sexual desires so I can be friends with this person.”

Q: If this is such a good lifestyle, why doesn’t our culture sell it?

A: Oh, because it doesn’t sell products. Loneliness sells products. I mean, advertising is all about being aspirational, and for an advertiser, being aspirational doesn’t mean in terms of hoping for actual love or lifelong marriage. Aspiration is hoping that I’ll be pretty enough to attract this man, so I’ll have to buy products that will make me pretty enough. …

Q: You’ve based so much of your book on your Christian faith. Can this be a message for people of other religions — or people who have no religion at all?

A: Rachel Kramer Bussel, who is a senior editor at Penthouse — she writes “The Lusty Lady” … sex column for the Village Voice — she gave me a great endorsement for my book. … [She] said while she wouldn’t agree 100 percent with the book’s message, she found some of it very helpful, particularly the chapter on “Becoming a Singular Sensation.” In that chapter, I talk about the difference between being merely single and being singular, and it’s the difference between … centering your whole perspective around a man you hope to acquire and centering your perspective upon your relationship to God and to everyone. …

I think that even people who aren’t Christians recognize that if you’re just focusing your happiness around a man, unseen or seen, that you’re really limiting your happiness; whereas, you know, chastity can conceivably open up … opportunities for happiness rather than limiting them.

Q: Is this lifestyle that you’ve chosen now always fulfilling for you?

A: Any way that my life is not fulfilling right now, it would not have been fulfilling when I was unchaste either. … Is my life perfectly fulfilling? No. … I haven’t reached a state of nirvana, but is my life fulfilling in other ways that it wasn’t before? Absolutely. … I have not lost anything. I have only gained.

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