Anna Broadway is a writer and editor living near San Francisco. The author of Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity, Anna is a regular contributor to the Her.meneutics blog. Her work has also appeared in Books and Culture, Patheos, RejectApathy, Radiant and Beliefnet.
Articles By This Author
Rape Culture: How Our Scorn for Self-Control Drowns Out ‘No’
It’s easy to look at the now-infamous Steubenville case and see a Penn State writ small — a story of rape in the social-media age. What’s harder to see in Steubenville is ourselves. Yet the moral confusion of witnesses who prevented drunk friends from driving while permitting the assault on a teenage girl too drunk to resist or consent to sex cannot be understood apart from our widespread mockery of sexual restraint.
Self-control gets no respect in the bedroom. Hold back the passions deemed healthy and good? At best you’re quaint and immature, at worst repressed and puritanical. And don’t you dare suggest that possibly a little restraint might benefit those just becoming aware of their newly adult bodies. How dare anyone presume to limit another’s freedom, especially their sexual freedom?
Except in pockets of religious devotion, that’s the prevailing cultural sentiment toward sex and self-control in this country. And we don’t just defend our individual bodily freedom against almost any call to limits; we don’t even seem to believe you can control such desires.
So of course the 40-year-old virgin happened accidentally. It’s virtually a movie cliché that any deliberately chaste character will soon get his or her sexual comeuppance, as seduction or human nature eventually trumps principle.
And therein lies the problem.
Lessons from Caine’s Arcade: The Vital Joy of Making Things
In case you missed it, the viral video of the week is a delightful short film called Caine's Arcade. In the video, a 9 year old from East L.A. constructs an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad’s used car parts store and dons a custom-made shirt on days the arcade is open for business.
But because of their location and changes in the parts market that have moved his dad’s business mostly online, Caine gets no customers until a filmmaker named Nirvan walks in one day.
At long last, Caine gets to present the ticket options (a handmade fun pass costs $2 for 500 turns) When Nirvan wins a game, Caine crawls inside the box to manually dispense Nirvan’s winnings from a the roll of tickets.
Watching the film for the first time this week, I was filled with a joy so overwhelming it eventually brought tears.
Who Controls My Body? The Struggle to Reconcile Spirituality, Sexuality
When I was in high school, I used to have a recurring dream that it was the night before the apocalypse and I was somewhere with a guy I liked. We weren’t married, so the dream always came back to a debate over how to spend my last night alive. Would I obey God and die a virgin or would I give in and finally have sex, albeit in sin?
I don’t tend to think of myself as someone who is all that angry, but when I get the most upset, it is almost always because of some circumstance or person that’s kept me from getting my way. And as those dreams portended, following God has frequently meant not getting my way when it comes to sex.
When I was in my 20s and would get mad about being chaste, it always hinged on this notion that I was missing out on a lot of great sex. But the older I get, the more I see that as a lie. In every situation where I could have had sex, it would have been with a man I later got over. And if you had sat me down and asked about other parts of my life, I probably wouldn’t have been as eager to share them with him.
But that’s what sex with someone I’ve not committed to sharing my life with is. If I wouldn’t give him access to my bank account or power of attorney, maybe not even my journals or my house plants, why would I share my body with him? Should that be the least guarded part of my life?
The Delicate Art of Persuasion
It’s been a mind-boggling fortnight at the Internet water cooler. Kony 2012. Mike Daisey’s dubious portrayal of Apple’s manufacturing practices abroad. Questions of whether the “Christian Movie Establishment” is “out to get” Blue Like Jazz … and an Amazon petition to let Rachel Held Evans use the word “vagina” in her forthcoming book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood.
Running through each of these stories and the surrounding debate are similar themes: truth, storytelling, power, persuasion. The online conversation is often vicious and acrimonious, reflecting a trend that’s spurred some writers to leave reader comments unread.
Adding to the intensity of the discussions is that almost each of these controversies involves an effort to change something: the Ugandan geo-political scene; unethical manufacturing practices; ways of talking about religious experience; “Christian” expectations for women. That’s not to say these creators set out with those ends as their foremost goal, but their projects were certainly meant to be more than beautiful or useful.
Why I’m Single But Excited About This Valentine’s Day
This week is Valentine’s Day, the bane of singles and Scrooges everywhere. I’m just as single this year as every other year — and, indeed, even older than in previous years, which is scary — but for the first time I’m actually a little excited.
It’s not because a friend has set me up with someone she promises could make great conversation with even a zebra. Nor is it that I’m meeting up with girlfriends for a night of fondue, chocolate and When Harry Met Sally. I’m not even getting a pedicure or massage.
None of those things would be bad things to do, and I’m sure that I’d enjoy them, but almost all such plans — when scheduled for the evening of Valentine’s Day — end up feeling like eating a microwave dinner in a hospital ward while your family’s enjoying a homemade Thanksgiving together.
They’re substitute plans. And their inferior status would be instantly apparent were you given the choice between them and an evening with someone you like, who dotes on and delights in you. Basking in the warmth of another’s love is infinitely better than trying to pamper and love yourself, no matter what all the self-help books say.