VH1's designated experts on virginity included Jessica Valenti, the feminist author of a book called "The Purity Myth," which neatly matched the channel's assumption that purity can't possibly be reality. Biology is destiny. Lust always wins. "There's now an iPhone application that's a purity ring that you can have on your phone to show that you're a virgin. I guess it's actually kind of useful because once you lose your virginity -- like most kids who take virginity pledges do -- you can just trash it."
Why wouldn't VH1 match the cynicism of Valenti with an author who has sincerely championed chastity? Take Dawn Eden, the author of "The Thrill of the Chaste." She would make a wonderful spokeswoman for -- and defender of -- chastity.
Here's the surprise: They did interview Eden last fall in New York. Here's the end of the surprise: They left her on the cutting room floor. She was informed with the usual cliches from producers that "the big guys above us" took the show "in a different direction," as they say. Translation: You were too good.
"I'm not surprised. This also happened the last time I did an interview for this type of program," she told my colleague Tim Graham. "It was clear that they were looking for a caricature of an ultra-right-wing evangelical, not a three-dimensional woman who had discovered a happier lifestyle choice."
Eden is not a caricature of an "ultra-right-wing evangelical." She came to the idea of chastity at age 31, after working in her 20s as a rock journalist. She was born in a Reform Jewish household as Dawn Eden Goldstein, dropping the last name when she became a writer. Chastity came naturally -- or as VH1 would insist, anything but naturally -- as a new spiritual commitment as she came to embrace the idea of Christianity and the Catholic faith.
She found the questions she was handed suggested a clear bias, like this one: "Teenagers have been horny since the dawn of time, no?" And "Critics say abstinence-only sex ed leaves kids clueless about sex. ...Talk about the agenda of abstinence-only education groups. What dangers does this kind of teaching pose?" Then there was: "Is it creepy that young girls are pledging purity to their dads until they are passed on to a husband?"
Even as they thanked her for participating (and getting censored), VH1 producers marveled at the "obsession" they could find in the media on the topic of virginity. So who's speaking honestly and prayerfully? And who's just cynically exploiting the topic?
VH1's whole concept should be turned around: Why should the advocates of premarital virginity be accused of insincere marketing? Especially by Viacom's "music video" channels that have long made their billions by selling the coolness and inevitability of sexual corruption to teenagers?