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1 Introduction



dablink|For information on the comic book Chastity, please see Chastity (Comic Book). For information on erotic sexual denial or enforced chastity, see that article or Chastity belt.

Chastity, in many religious and cultural contexts, is a virtue concerning the state of the mind and body. Due to prohibitions of sexual intimacy in Abrahamic religions deriving from the Ten Commandments|Decalogue and Mosaic law, the term has become closely associated with premarital sexual abstinence in Western culture; however, in the context of religion, the term remains applicable to persons in all states, single or married, clerical or lay, and has implications beyond sexual temperance.

The word derives, via the French chastet??, from the Latin castitas, which is the abstract of castus (the root of chaste), which originally meant a 'pure' state of conformity with the Greco-Roman religion, rather the practical counterpart of a pious (Latin pius) state of mind, in no way limited to the sexual sphere. As the etymological link suggests, castigation or chastisement is originally the use of (harsh) means to preserve or restore this state as a form of catharsis (disambiguation)| catharsis. This meaning is preserved fully in the parallel term chastening.

In ancient times the value of chastity was highly debated in both the homosexuality|homosexual and heterosexuality|heterosexual spheres. In particular, Socrates was an advocate of chaste pederasty|pederastic relations between men and boys, in opposition to the sexually expressed pedagogy|pedagogic relationships prevalent in his time. Plato, having transmitted many of these teachings, has become the eponym for this type of chastity, known today as Platonic love.

Traditionally, acts of sexual nature are prohibited outside of marriage in Islamic and Judeo-Christian ethical contexts and are considered sin|sinful. Since offenses against the virtue of chastity are most often perceived as fornication or adultery, the term has become closely associated with sexual abstinence in common usage throughout most of the English-speaking world.

Offenses against chastity can include:
  • adultery

  • anal sex

  • artificial contraception

  • fornication

  • lust

  • masturbation

  • oral sex

  • pornography

  • prostitution

  • rape

  • sexual intimacy during or shortly after menstrual cycle|menstruation

  • sexual intimacy for a period of time after the childbirth|birth of a child

although not all ethical systems proscribe all of these. The state of chastity may include not only sexual abstinence but also:
  • coitus within the context of marriage|marital fidelity

  • natural family planning

yet, as above, the particular ethical system may not prescribe each of these.

For example, within the scope of Christianity|Christian ethic, Roman Catholic Church|Roman Catholics view sex within marriage as chaste, but prohibit the use of artificial contraception as an offense against chastity, seeing contraception as contrary to God's will. Many Anglicanism|Anglican churches allow for artificial contraception, seeing the restriction of family size as possibly not contrary to God's will. A stricter view is held by the Shakers, who prohibit marriage (and indeed sexual intercourse under any circumstances) as a violation of chastity.

Vocational expressions of chastity
In the context of traditional marriage, the spouses commit to a lifelong relationship which excludes the possibility of sexual intimacy with other persons.

Sexual abstention
Virginity, the physical state of 'innocent' sexual purity, has often been a requirement for certain religious functions, especially as priest(ess), e.g. the explicitly thus named Vestal Virgins in pagan Rome.

Celibacy or consecration to virginity (however, priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church only requires abstention from the point of vows, not pre-existent virginity???even widowers with offspring can take holy orders), usually used in reference to persons of clerical or religious orders, is an avowed way of living by which the subject forsakes all sexual gratification. Within the context of Christian Orthodoxy (but their only for monastic vocations, not for parish clergy) and Catholicism (but only after over ten centuries of allowing married parish priest, and even a rare system of double cloisters, where husbands could enter the male monastery while their wives entered the female sister monastery), monastics, friars and religious sisters (nuns) almost always take a vow of celibacy, while in many protestant churches marriage is accepted or even encouraged. Clergy of the former traditions maintain their particular state of chastity at ordination: priests who are married remain married, and priest who are not married are not permitted to marry. In the Latin Church, married men are not normally permitted to be ordained as priests, but are normally permitted to be ordained as deacons. However, married Anglican priests who convert to Roman Catholicism are allowed to practice as priests while remaining married. In all churches of these Christian traditions, bishops are currently chosen from among the celibate clergy.

In some religions, celibate monastic life is commonly pracicted as a temporary phase, as by many men in buddhism.

Vows of chastity can also be taken by laymen, either as part of a religious life or on an individual basis, as a voluntary act of devotion and/or as part of an ascetic lifestyle, often devoted to contemplation.

  • http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm Catechism of the Catholic Church (III.2.I)

  • http://www.passtheword.org/SHAKER-MANUSCRIPTS/Abstinence/shaker-abst-x1.htm Early Shaker Writings Relating to Sexual Abstinence

category:Sexual abstinence

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Chastity".

Last Modified:   2005-12-19

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