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Allegory of chastity by Hans Memling.

Chastity is sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the ethical norms and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion.

In the western world, the term has become closely associated (and is often used interchangeably) with sexual abstinence, especially before marriage. However, the term remains applicable to persons in all states, single or married, clerical or lay, and has implications beyond sexual temperance.

In Catholic morality, chastity is placed opposite the deadly sin of lust, and is classified as one of seven virtues. The moderation of sexual desires is required to be virtuous. Reason, will and desire can harmoniously work together to do what is good.

Contents

Etymology

The words "chaste" and "chastity" stem from the Latin adjective castus meaning "pure". The words entered the English language around the middle of the 13th century; at that time they meant slightly different things. "Chaste" meant "virtuous or pure from unlawful sexual intercourse" (referring to extramarital sex),[1][2] while "chastity" meant "virginity".[3][2] It was not until the late 16th century that the two words came to have the same basic meaning as a related adjective and noun.[1][2]

In Abrahamic religions

In Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious beliefs, acts of sexual nature are restricted to the context of marriage. For unmarried persons therefore, chastity is identified with sexual abstinence. Sexual acts outside or apart from marriage, such as adultery, fornication and prostitution, are considered sinful.

In the context of marriage, the spouses commit to a lifelong relationship which excludes the possibility of sexual intimacy with other persons. Chastity therefore requires marital fidelity. Within marriage, several practices are variedly considered unchaste, such as sexual intimacy during or shortly after menstruation or childbirth.

After marriage, a third form of chastity, often called "vidual chastity", is expected of a woman while she is in mourning for her late husband. For example, Jeremy Taylor defined 5 rules in Holy Living (1650), including abstaining from marrying "so long as she is with child by her former husband" and "within the year of mourning".[4]

The particular ethical system may not prescribe each of these. For example, within the scope of Christian ethic, 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 and design of human sexuality. Many 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.

Some Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have set up various rules regarding clerical celibacy, while others, such as Lutheran and Anglican churches, allow clergy to marry or even favour it.

In Christian traditions, celibacy is required of monastics—monks, nuns and friars—even in a rare system of double cloisters, in which husbands could enter the (men's) monastery while their wives entered a (women's) sister monastery.

Vows of chastity can also be taken by laypersons, either as part of an organised religious life (such as Roman Catholic Beguines and Beghards) or on an individual basis, as a voluntary act of devotion and/or as part of an ascetic lifestyle, often devoted to contemplation. The voluntary aspect has led it to being included among the counsels of perfection.

Eastern religions

Hinduism: Hinduism's view on premarital sex is rooted in its concept of the stages of life. The first of these stages, known as brahmacharya, roughly translates as chastity. Celibacy is considered the appropriate behavior for both male and female students during this stage, which precedes the stage of the married householder. Many Sadhus (Hindu monks) are also celibate as part of their ascetic discipline. .In classical Hinduism, sexual intercourse was seen as a sacred act of procreation- within marriage.

Jainism: Although the Digambara followers of Jainism are celibate monks, most Jains belong to the Shvetambara sect, which allows spouses and children. The general Jain code of ethics requires that one do no harm to any living being in thought, action, or word. Adultery is clearly a violation of a moral agreement with one's spouse, and therefore forbidden, and fornication too is seen as a violation of the state of chastity.

Buddhism: The teachings of Buddhism include the noble eightfold path, involving a prohibition against sexual misconduct. All Theravada and most Mahayana Buddhist orders of monks and nuns are expected to be celibate, and the violation of this state is considered to produce very negative karmic consequences. The Vajrayana orders allow exceptions to this rule as an upaya (skill in means) in achieving higher stages of enlightenment.

See also

References

External links








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