Questions From Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley, who to judge by her writing appears to be some sort of human Catholic firecracker, is working on a book about love, chastity, and sex. She gave me a mini-email-interview to get a few words from my particular quadrant of that universe, and has agreed to let me stick ’em here, because that way I get an extra post practically for free, and so do you! I wrote this fast, and have done a little light editing since the email.

What does it mean to be chaste when one is attracted to the same sex?

Speaking broadly, it means the same thing for me as it does for anyone else: integrating my sexuality into the rest of myself. More specifically, it means celibacy, since there’s no way for me to be morally consistent and be in a sexual relationship with a man, and I don’t believe I’m called to marry a woman, although some in my situation may be.

The celibacy part is actually easier than is widely believed. What’s harder, for me, is what my spiritual director refers to as “emotional chastity”. There are times when I feel drawn to a man, emotionally above all, but I have to accept that the sort of emotional bond I’m looking for with him isn’t actually appropriate. It would be appropriate if he were a woman, or if I were a woman. So my heart reaches out for this kind of deep connection which either can’t or shouldn’t exist — whether “can’t” or “shouldn’t” is a more appropriate word is still an open question for me.

That’s not to say that I can’t or shouldn’t develop deep relationships with other men, and in fact these relationships are some of my greatest sources of joy. But I’m coming to understand that there’s a line that can’t be crossed even with my closest male friends — not a physical line (which is obvious), but an interior, emotional line. That’s emotional chastity, and that’s hard.

This segues into the next question:

Do you believe you’re missing out because you don’t date men or have sex with them?

Oh, absolutely. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t missing out. The fact of the matter is that celibacy is profoundly unnatural — which is to say that a human being is built, emotionally and spiritually and physically, for union with another human being. There are a lot of good reasons why that might never happen with individual people, but the fact remains that, on the natural level, there is something in our makeup that is frustrated by celibacy. It is not good for man to be alone. But there it is: this is a broken world, and good things come at a price. For me, the price for living in the truth is that I remain without a mate. It’s a price I am willing to pay.

16 Comments on “Questions From Arleen Spenceley”

  1. Christina Grace says:

    Steve: if I ever teach morality to high school kids again, I’m basically going to make them read your whole blog during the chastity unit. That is all.

  2. Das says:

    I don’t know how I feel about the idea that celibacy is unnatural. On the one hand, it doesn’t quite taste right. But, on the other, it isn’t, reasonably, unsound. I don’t yet know what to make of it.

  3. ichen says:

    Steve: I was wondering if you could explain further what you mean by that interior emotional line. Or really the whole idea of emotional chastity. I’m realizing I hear it, but don’t quite understand what it means and entails.

    As friend of mine expressed it this way: Celibacy is “supernatural.” Not abnormal, but supernatural. As Steve/Joey put it, “a human being is built…for union with another human being.” This is natural. Celibacy goes beyond that, into the supernatural.

    Perhaps that is a better reframing of terms?

    1. Das says:

      “Supernatural,” might be a better phrasing. I did realize that my issue is with the fact that, “unnatural,” usually describes a thing contrary to natural law. I don’t consider celibacy to be against natural law, so, in that mode of thinking, it is not unnatural.

  4. @ichen, I’m still working out what that means, and I’m hoping to post about it as soon as the mental dust settles.

    @das, yes, I think you’re probably right.

  5. Ryan Adderton says:

    At the risk of repeating some of the other comments, I love what you said about the emotional line. That has been one of the most frustrating things about living with same-sex attraction. Knowing that certain (normally) healthy non-sexual desires must go unmet because satisfying those desires is satisfying a type of unnatural lust is only partly mitigated by the fact that heterosexual people can have these same lusts. In a way, I believe it is easier for someone like me to recognize these desires for what they are and so easier to avoid, but that does not make the avoidance any easier to bear.

    Also, I was struck by your claim that humans are built for union with another person. I don’t think there is someone quite accurate about this statement. I can definitely get behind the statement if we understand that other person (or three?) to be God. Since we will be married to Christ alone in heaven, and then we will truly be fully human, can we really say that there is something unnatural, or even supernatural, about celibacy? It seems to me that in the exclusively human realm, we are built for union with other people, with varying degrees of intimacy. Does that make sense?

  6. Jason says:

    i don’t have very many friendships with guys now, but i’ve had plenty of past friendships to know about that interior emotional line.

    but i haven’t crossed that interior barrier with every male friendship. with those ‘safe’ friendships, I was comfortable with how far i was from that line, my emotions were pretty stable around them. maybe it was because what those friendships offered was satisfying enough without the desire for sex. maybe it’s because i didn’t envy those guys, didn’t feel enough of a threat to my own masculinity…? honestly, i have no idea. maybe i just wasn’t sexually attracted to them!

  7. richard says:

    Well expressed.

  8. Rivka says:

    This is interesting, because (I’m a woman by the way) my best friend is male, and while our relationship is truly platonic (no sex- although I think we both know there’s been hidden attraction, he was/is too much of a gentleman and I was/am too strong a Catholic to act on it)-that being said, I think emotionally we have a closeness that is beyond what either of us would feel was right with a same-sex friend.

  9. Anon2478 says:

    There it is, your fantasy world where your gracious, ‘loving’ ‘god’ creates you.


    Then commands you to be whole.

    It must suck to be born a genetic mutant and have a crappy life? There’s no way you can internalize this without believing you are especially messed up. That’s called self-deprecation.

    That you so generously embrace it, all the while riding the coattails of an LGBT community that has made a world where you get to live with the meager amount of decency we’ve now carved, is just outright sad.

    I’d tell you to be ashamed, for giving in, for believing what you do about yourself, your love, my love. But you got enough shame, already. Of that I’ve no doubt.

    1. Howdy Anon2478,

      We are civil here, even when we disagree with each other. That’s one of the things that makes this place so awesome.

      If you post another uncivil remark, I will edit it so that you appear to be saying nice and goofy things instead of rude and mean ones. Thanks!


  10. J.B. Toner says:

    And what about HALIBUT?! Why do they have to jump around on the windshield all the time? It’s not fair that my shoes aren’t Oreos anymore. When I go to the playground, I expect legal representation to be mauve sometimes! How come you’re not giving me a smaller kind of TOILET BRUSH???!!!

  11. Yanmega says:

    Not gonna lie, I spent a couple of minutes trying to decipher the last comment on this post, before I realized that it was probably that Anon guy. Good times.

  12. Rose says:

    Hey J-Steve. I like your answer to the second question. You always tell it like it is, which is very appreciable. Good job.

  13. Mike says:

    I too would like to see you clarify the “interior emotional line.”

    Spiritual bonds can be very loving and close without being sexual.

    I am finding as I spiritually deepen myself, my emotions around other men are far more stable. I am also finding I can become emotionally closer with men than before without experiencing sexual desires.

    I guess my strategy is try to sublimate my sexual desires into spiritual expressions. I will never be perfect at it, but it is a strategy that is helping me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *