A Chaste Approach to Sex: Princeton’s Anscombe Society

Chuck Colson
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Posted: Feb 14, 2007 12:26 PM

When college students pack up and spend a couple of days at another campus, it’s usually to attend a sporting event—or maybe a long, boozy fraternity party.

But at Princeton this week, college students are gathering from around the country to take part in something radically different: a workshop on chastity. If your jaw just dropped, you probably have plenty of company. But when you recover, you ought to start cheering: The workshop is a healthy sign that young people are becoming disillusioned with today’s “hook-up” culture.

The conference is called “Making Love Last: Finding Meaning in Sex and Romantic Relationships.” It’s being put on by a Princeton group called the Anscombe Society, named for the late British philosopher Gertrude Anscombe. The workshop’s purpose is to help college students across the country form chastity societies of their own—societies that will help students figure out, and live out, a healthier approach to sex.

As Anscombe founding member Cassie Debened told “BreakPoint”: “College campuses tend to be rather hostile to chastity”—now, that’s an understatement. And yet, Cassie says that she and a handful of her Princeton peers could see the physical and emotional damage being done to sexually active students. This damage was well documented by people like Jennifer Roback Morse, author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World.

The Anscombe Society was the result.

According to its website, Anscombers “look to what sociology, psychology, medicine, philosophy, theology, and human experience [all] agree works for the good and [for the] health of the person [as well as] the common good and flourishing of society.” Experts on love and marriage—people like Professor Robert George, my friend at Princeton; J. Budziszewski from Texas; and Maggie Gallagher, the journalist—combine coffee and dessert with conversations about sexual ethics and authentic love.

On their website, Anscombers take on the stereotypes about the chaste lifestyle. Is chastity a catalog of restrictions? Anscombers ask. Or is it the best way to experience life, love, and sex to the fullest?

“We celebrate sex,” they write, “as unifying, beautiful, and joyful when shared in its proper context: that of marriage between a man and a woman.” If experienced outside the marital setting, however, sex loses its value and “ultimately reduces the participants to mere instruments serving an incomplete end—be it the desire for emotional intimacy, physical pleasure, or personal security.”

“A chaste lifestyle, on the other hand, respects the inherent dignity of every individual as a whole person.” If this sounds like the biblical view to you, it is. But sad to say, many students have never heard these arguments. The fact that so many students at so many other schools are eager to learn about it, however, tells us that students are looking for something better than what they are getting in today’s sex-saturated culture.

On Valentine’s Day, let’s congratulate those Princeton students who dreamed up the Anscombe Society and who are now teaching others that the best way to achieve lasting romance is to put sexuality in its proper place: within marriage.