Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Alice von Hildebrand on Female Chastity

Laura Wood cites Alice von Hildebrand

But let’s consider female chastity on a spiritual and moral plane. As Alice von Hildebrand has wrote in her essay, “The Privilege of Being a Woman,” the woman is a secret garden. Her sexual organs themselves are veiled and enclosed, which signifies their sacred dimension. Her body is the scene of creation. Even a woman who has never conceived or cannot conceive possesses this physical holiness. If you view the conception of a human being as purely a material event, her body does not resonate with this higher meaning. But even hard-core materialists have a difficult time evading this truth. They too find themselves drawn to the mystery of feminine beauty. They cannot explain what it means or why sex is more spiritual and consequential to women than to men, why it affects them on a deeper level.

Here we arrive at an important point. Sex means more to a woman. She cannot be as casual about it as men without violating her nature. The emphasis on female chastity is not some crude patriarchal imposition, some power play by men, but cultural recognition of this truth and of the highest aspects of femininity. Hildebrand writes:

The union of body and soul is particularly close in a woman’s body. She is “incarnated” in her body in a special way. This is why, when she gives herself, she gives herself completely; when she stains herself, the stain is particularly damaging. (The Privilege of Being a Woman, 2002)

The emphasis on female chastity reflects the moral power of women. This is another essential point. The sphere of conscience and feeling belongs to woman. This is where she reigns. The springs of feminine goodness feed the culture at large; the drought inhibits. This is why it is more serious when a woman commits adultery. (It is very serious in a man too). In giving away her body alone, she betrays the trust that underlies all things and destroys the riches, the vestiges of that long lost Garden, dependent on her love and protection.
I should read Dr. von Hildebrand's book, but I think this is an illustration of phenomenology's weakness, in comparison with philosophical realism. It is proper to the female to be that which is being acted upon (or receiving) in coitus. The natural term (completion) of the sex act is within her. The feeling of bonding that results from the actual bond being achieved is a natural consequence of the act, when oxcytocin is released and so on. The male, on the other hand, brings about the term of the sex act when he ejaculates, or releases his semen into the female. The term of the sex act for the man is a "going out," not the "receivng of." It is only appropriate then that the psychology of sex differs for men and women.

The knowledge, physical reactions, and emotions that a woman has in relation to sex follows upon her role. The belief that sex should be reserved to someone special is not always linked to the awareness that she can get pregnant and must find someone who will stick around. Rather, she would find it offensive to her "dignity" or her "specialness" if she were to share herself with so many men, rendering herself a tool for their pleasure and nothing more. Sexual intimacy should be reserved because of the physical interiority. (Though there are some women who have become some disturbed to think that being promiscuous is ok since women should seek only pleasure from sex, just like certain men.) Women, by instinct (one that follows upon their awareness of their body and role in sex) tend to be sexually reserved, and they invest more meaning into sexually bonding with a man (and we cannot forget that much of this is due to her psychological preparation that leads up to sex). It seems true that men must have a certain spiritual maturity to view sexual intimacy in the same way.

Still, I find the following to be imprecise, on the par of metaphorical language: "The union of body and soul is particularly close in a woman’s body. She is “incarnated” in her body in a special way." I think that eliciting this sort of "metaphysical" statement from the female sexual perspective is wrong. The emotions and understanding that a woman has of herself and her role follows upon her being a woman. If she "incarnated" in her body in a special way it is because she is a woman, and not a man.

On the Privilege of Being a Woman
Alice Von Hildebrand on Feminism and Femininity - Catholic Online

Started on March 15.

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