Tony Abbott and the price of virginity

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Tony Abbott and I have something in common: we've both been having the sex talk with our teenage daughters.

As my 16-year-old firstborn navigates the world of opposite-sex attraction and ever-deepening relationships, my husband and I have sat her down and dispensed advice not dissimilar to that favoured by the Opposition Leader: think carefully and rationally before making any permanent decisions, respect yourself deeply, don't allow fleeting love to disrupt your academic pursuits, and, if you decide to go ahead and have sex, for God's sake use contraception.

It's a bittersweet ritual, the virginity talk: the final frontier of parental influence, this hollow script is recited to savvy teenagers across the world each year, energised only by the degree of love and expectation with which it is delivered.

It is in the murky subtext of this generic message that Tony Abbott and I part ideological ways. For no matter how seriously I take my parental advisory role, and no matter how desperately I long to extend my daughter's precious childhood, I realise that by proselytising on sex I am employing an outdated and irrelevant technique, broaching a subject on which she is already well informed and over which my right to exert control is rapidly diminishing.

Like other enlightened parents, I have acknowledged that sex does occur; not among all teenagers and not all the time, but regularly enough to render any furious denials quite pointless. Trying to suppress sex, particularly among hormone-fuelled teens and young adults, is like halting a tsunami with the palm of one's hand.

For many, virginity ceased to be a virtue a long time ago; an unmarried woman's dignity no longer depends on her chastity. Not because women have turned into lascivious pigs, but because we have come to see that the shame of 'impurity' suffered by women for millennia is negative and shackling. We have also learned that we are perfectly capable of making our own choices — not least when they relate to sex.

Socialised by the inflexible mores of the 1980s, during which I was a teenager, I still reflexively quake at the thought of gratuitous bed-hopping and mindless adolescent sex. But it's precisely this debauched, fantastical notion of sex, rather than the more realistic and mundane version of it, on which the morality police fixate when eviscerating the fragile new sexuality of teenagers. As guardians of a wholesome society, it is their duty to target these girls — and it is almost always girls — in a vain attempt to preserve civilisation's remaining vestiges of purity.

After all, thousands of years after her death, the Virgin Mary's defining characteristic still serves as a talisman, carrying with it a mystique that spans religions and cultures: there are the American girls, some as young as six, who pledge to 'save' themselves for their husbands on their wedding night; the Jihadists who hope to be rewarded with 72 virgins in heaven; the women who sell their virginity on eBay to the highest bidder; the adolescents who are forced to submit to virginity tests; and the little African girls whose virginity is thought capable of curing grown men of Aids.

This bizarre glorification of virginity and the latent distaste of our daughters' sexuality removes the very power with which we strive to arm them. If we can't trust them to make rational decisions about their own bodies, how can we ever expect them to excel at school, to raise children of their own, to travel abroad, to prosecute criminals, to perform brain surgery?

And who should be tasked with the job of preaching to the next generation on the subject of morality: parents, politicians, schools, churches? Do we side with Tony Abbott, whose public expression of a private view has wrought deep communal divisions, or Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who claims to speak for 'all' Australian women in denouncing Abbott's views? Do we condense our daughters' essence to the physical existence of a hymen, or take a broader view by valuing them for everything they already are and will one day become?

For me, the answer is simple. I hope to raise daughters who are strong and sensible, who are comfortable with their bodies and capable of making good decisions about who they will share them with.

Certainly, let's encourage all teenagers — boys as well as girls — to treat sex with the gravity is deserves, to vigorously avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, to eschew promiscuity and the psychological distress that is often its bedfellow. But please let's not reduce virginity to a commodity and turn pre-marital sex into a shameful aberration.

 


Catherine MarshallCatherine Marshall is a journalist working for Jesuit Communications. She is the mother of two daughters and one son.

 

Topic tags: catherine marshall, tony abbott, virginity

 

 

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Very well put. It isn't virginity that is Gift so much as sexuality, the 'tender fire' nec consumebatur.
Moira | 29 January 2010


An impressive and sensible article.My wife and I have 2 daughters and as they grew the topic of sex was open always - NO shyness - and we had few problems. However, I seem to have missed Tony Abbott's comments in this area and I would like to read them. Where do I find them?
Warren Wade | 29 January 2010


The best comment I've heard on the 'Abbott Gift' came from my son. 'It's a gift, but not a birthday present', he said. 'It's a Christmas present – both give, both receive.'
Joanna | 29 January 2010


Tony Abbott's loud proclamation of his views is always welcome, as each episode takes him and the Liberal Party one additional step towards their rightful place in the political landscape: the wasteland.
Peter Downie | 29 January 2010


Catherine Marshall's phraseology demonstrates that she is clueless about what Tony Abbott means. Mr Abbott's statement was not 'proselitysing' for 'extending precious childhood' and against the "shame of impurity", he was not harboring a 'bizarre glorification of virginity' or a 'distaste of our daughters' sexuality'. He was not telling people what to do, not even his own daughters. He was responding to the question, 'What advice would you give your daughters", and his response was that he hoped they would not give up their virginity "lightly".

It is a measure of the mind set of people like Marshall and Gillard that they can be outraged by this simple, reasonable piece of advice from a loving and concerned father.

For many people today, the virtues of chastity, virginity, modesty, self-control and respect for oneself and others are sound personal and social qualities for men and women equally, especially as the propaganda today is all in the other direction from Hollywood, glossy magazines, binge drinking, popular culture, etc - in sum, the "Californication" of Australia. (For Christians, of course, abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within belong to the divinely-revealed moral law.)

It is interesting that Marshall thinks of sex in terms of "unwanted pregnancies" and "sexually transmitted diseases" and that her most vehement exhortation to her daughter is about contraception. Contraception is not necessarily a barrier to what Marshall fears. But if that fails I suppose one can always fall back on abortion, that is, taking it out on the child who is conceived.

A footnote: Virginity is not Mary's defining characteristic. Its sole function is to
underscore her proudest title, "Mother of God".
Sylvester | 29 January 2010


Tony Abbot seems to have used the word "gift" as a throw away line when intensely questioned by a reporter. I doubt that he intended a homily on the subject. I can't fathom how Ms Marshall deduces "bizarre glorificaation and latent distaste" from such a small example of the discourse. Well put Moira and Joanna's son: the gift" is sexuality (not virginity) and tragically is squandered fecklessly in the current over-sexualised world.
Anne Forbes | 29 January 2010


Well said.
Pat Rayner | 29 January 2010


My kids weren't dumb and I figure yours aren't too. They asked why. Our answer was that making love is the most intimate physical thing two people will do together. But it's not just a physical activity. It's powerfully emotional and intellectual too. So if undertaken in the context of a relationship that lacks a matching level of emotional and intellectual intimacy making love will wreck the entire relationship, lead to a habit of bad relationship development and see you a lonely and selfish man. Do you want that? Then we added some practical talk about diseases, pregnancy etc. But if you want a more spiritual approach everything you've been given is a gift. Virginity is just one of them.
Dick Danckert | 29 January 2010


Queen Victoria was married the year she first menstruated. Modern girls face ten to 20 years of unmarried sexual maturity. Our advice should aim to arm our daughters to avoid pregnancy, chlamydia and heartbreak.
Michael Grounds | 29 January 2010


I just hope Tony Abbott's daughters listen to what he has to say with hearts and minds more open than those of most of his critics.Since when did love and the honest voice of experience become a murky subtext?
Margaret | 29 January 2010


The most humane, most penetrating and best-crafted piece I've seen in the current hullaballoo. But let's not forget the main game to which Mr A's daughters are the sideshow: as a minister he was not slow in legislating or exercising power to enforce his old-fashioned version of his religion-based morality. His parental choices are his business and co-exist with mine; but his legislative choices will extinguish mine. That's the rub. But, that said: colour me a Catherine Marshall fan!
Brian Abbey | 29 January 2010


Biology is a pretty strong tide to swim against.

Better that boys and girls hear the message that feeling positive and strong about yourself and being linked to the world around you as the most important thing. Abbott seems to have put sex (or lack thereof) as the most important thing.

It's interesting that this is all about the girl. As a mother of two sons (13 & 25yrs), the public discourse I keep hearing gives a message that sexual responsibility is all up to the girl, with rarely the same sort of pleas and concern for boys.

I do wonder how this affects young (and old) males' attitudes to females?

If I was a teenager again, I'd be finding this public discussion (by adults) intrusive.
Helen Bergen | 29 January 2010


I suspect Catherine Marshall and Tony Abbott do not differ in essence on this matter, but I suspect she does not like him.
Kevin Prendergast | 29 January 2010


Well said, Catherine - but Dick fills a huge hole you leave about what sexuality is for, rather than what is to be avoided. And while the language of gift comes from the Christian / Catholic tradition, and can be misused, that sexual intimacy involves self-gift at the deepest level is what this entails, not merely the 'gift' of a hymen.
And I'm not at all sure that I, an educated 64-year old, am 'perfectly capable of making my own decisions'. I need other people, relationships, the guidance of revelation - and even then am rarely 'rational'. And this is true of my retail therapy decisions, let alone deep intimacy!
CHarles | 29 January 2010


Really Catherine do you seriously believe that Tony Abbott "condense(s).(his).. daughters' essence to the physical existence of a hymen"?

I am sure many people believe that sex is best expressed within the context of a comitted, loving relationship. Casual sex can leave people feeling used and deeply hurt. I believe it's a nice ideal for both the man and the woman to wait until marriage, but do not consider non virgins have devalued themselves and I believe Tony Abbott would agree with me.Unfortunately, " if it feels good do it" is the prevailing norm but the morning after when you discover the sex " didn't mean anything" to other person, you may find you do not feel so good:(. Your sexual partner may tell people you were dud lay, your sexual partner may demand you to get an abortion when there is an unexpected pregnancy, or they may dump you to go in search of the next conquest...Hmm I would say people should think very carefully about who they decide to be sexually intimate with when there are emotional and physical consequences
cath | 29 January 2010


What Julia, Jill, and the rest of the jury have failed to acknowledge, is that Tony Abbott specified that he would advise IF they asked for him to do so. Methinks there's dirty work afoot!
Trish Taylor | 29 January 2010


As a father of 'grown up children', a boy and two girls, I wholeheartedly endorse Catherine's comments and advice. Let some sanity preveil!
Gavin | 29 January 2010


Well said, Catherine. We are whole people, not just a multitude of parts. Let's bring our children up to be whole people who value others' personhood.
Rev Eric McAndrew | 29 January 2010


What a great response to the hot aired, self boasting Tony Abbott. We are all entitled to our own views and the views expressed by Catherine are a welcomed air of compassion, wisdom and social value. Let us live in the now and not the past
Michael Scanlon | 29 January 2010


How many (if any) writers on the payroll of Jesuit Publications actually believe in any doctrines of the catholic church? I respect secular views, but it doesn't sit well with me to read them in the religious press.
Stuart | 29 January 2010


Both of these writers have very eloquently made their points and bravo to both of them. I wonder when we will see similar pronouncements to the male of the species explaining sexual activity is a gift to be given freely without coercion, not stolen or extorted under threat as so often is the case.
Rosemary Keenan | 29 January 2010


Young ladies do not lose their virginity to climate change but to men who sow their wild oats even before they are 20, Tony Abbott should have said so
B S Braganza | 29 January 2010


Tony Abbott is a politician; this is an election year. Nothing that a politician says in an election year can be taken at face value; everything they say is said to someone, in a context, for a purpose.

His purpose, in this case, is to shore up his support among the socially conservative who are hung up about sexuality. And he has succeeded, if the response to this article and the letters to the mainstream media are any indication.

A few weeks ago, his purpose was to shore up his support among the socially conservative who were hung up about immigration and 'foreigners'.

In both cases, the 'someones' have been groups whose votes he needs to retain if he is to win the election. In both cases, the 'context' has been the holiday 'silly season' when nothing of political substance is being discussed and when the media is looking for stories about 'people'.

In both cases, he used the imagery of 'gifts' of value and preciousness; in one case it was Australian Citizenship, in the other Female (but not male) Virginity. In neither case were these 'throw-away lines' but rather carefully crafted dog whistles, communicating directly with his intended audiences, but defensible to his critics as perfectly innocent and reasonable expressions of his personal views.

And no doubt we will see many more before the end of the year!
Ginger Meggs | 29 January 2010


Catherine, this is one of the most reasoned pieces I have read on this issue. Written like a thinking journalist. I've been appalled at how the media has reported this, but, worse at how "professional" commentators have weighed into the argument. well done!
Beth Doherty | 29 January 2010


I don't understand exactly how Tony Abbott's sound advice on the preciousness of sexuality and of virginity turned into him condensing his "daughters' essence to the physical existence of a hymen". Bit of a long bow that.

And I have to second Stuart's question. I'd expect this kind of response in any old secular media outlet, but a Jesuit publication?

Where's the well informed, soundly reasoned article arguing FOR traditional Catholic/Christian teaching in this area?

Why can't I come here to find a defence of why virginity is nothing to be ashamed of, why sexuality really is a precious gift, why it is that marriage elevates it, and how it enables sex to be not just a means of using one other but a true gift of two people to each other.

Why can't I read here a beautiful treatise on "Theology of the Body", or Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility", or an informed take on how our culture's denigration of virginity (male and female) is so very damaging?

(I write as someone who's been and done the secular approach to sex and, eventually, found it wanting...)
Meg | 29 January 2010


All I'd like to observe is that there are two different issues being discussed here (from perspectives that that are frequently -- but understandably -- tangled on "Eureka Street"). I can't see Catherine's perspective being at all distinguishable from any "sensible" and secular perspective. The situation of well-informed Christian parents giving sensitive and Biblically-based advice to self-aware Christian children is obviously a very different situation to a good many other situations in which this commentator and many of the correspondents find themselves.
Paul | 29 January 2010


Well said, Catherine.

I can understand a father's concern that his daughters not be hurt. Perhaps TA was merely remembering his own youthful behaviour?

More deeply, I believe the whole notion of the "Virgin Mary" to be an offence against all women who may not conceive a child through parthenogenesis! The myth flies in the face of the fact that betrothed couples (i.e. Mary and Joseph) were legally/morally able to have sex before marriage, and it feeds into the "virgin/whore" dichotomy which has led to so much violence against women. What occurs now between many young couples who intend to marry, mirrors that behaviour which was considered acceptable until the Council of Trent in the 16th Century.

As our rational understanding of the psychological and emotional needs of human beings grows, so also should exegesis. Both young girls AND their brothers would be well served by the Christian dictum to "love (i.e. respect) thy neighbour/friend/family/lover as thyself". If both respect themselves, respect for the Other will follow.
Patricia | 29 January 2010


I should at the start admit certain truths about myself so you may recognise my bias. I am a young very well educated professional woman who finds Tony Abbott very attractive. I am attracted I confess by his looks, charm, intellect and mystique… but equally I’m attracted by his authenticity and his mind. There is no suggestion of confection, fraud or jaded negativity about this man who cheerfully and without fanfare worked among Aborigines at Coen and Aurukun. I know it is the conventional wisdom among the noisy Left to bag Tony Abbott and claim some sort of gnostic knowledge that Australian women will reject him at the ballot box. This claim however may not be true!

If one was looking for a media outlet to head the list of those most friendly to Tony Abbott, the ABC would surely not come to mind.

Very recently an ABC on-line poll asked this question: Will Tony Abbott’s comment on virginity harm his popularity with women?

The result IMHO was astonishing. Among the one thousand eight hundred and fifty who responded 54% said yes and 46% said no! Those who know something of the ABC listener/viewer profile will understand my astonishment. A yes vote of 80% would not have surprised.

I will give the last words to ABC journalist Jonathan Green newly appointed editor of the on-line news analysis blog The Drum.

I quote from his recent piece "The Virgin Politician: Abbott’s telling honesty".
…Truth is that patterns of female voting may be a strong factor in this year's poll, and so perceived points of female advantage will get a big run from Labor; never mind that the Prime Minister's views on the likes of sex before marriage as(are) just as likely to be informed by Christian conviction - not to mention parenthood - as are Tony Abbott's. The fact is that a Liberal-friendly female vote was a fundamental factor in the enduring appeal of the Howard Government. It is a vote that has drifted leftward since the Rudd election of 2007.
That said, appealing to this group of voter's may be more complex than simply mouthing the sort of platitudinous and doctrinaire response that Gillard came up with at the weekend.

It may be that his conservatism might not matter so much ... the fact that Abbott speaks personal truths with candour could be more telling in an electorate leery of seemingly intractable political cynicism.

It's telling that Labor hard heads seem to sense that this honesty could be Abbott's Achilles heel. There's every chance that quite to the contrary, it could become the secret of his allure.
Rosemary | 29 January 2010


Patricia is confused on a number of points -

If she wants to feel "offended" about the Virgin Mary, that's her business, but whatever happened at the Annunciation, it was definitely not pathenogenesis = reproduction from gametes but without fertilization as in aphids and nematodes and certain species of wasps and fish. The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary was a supernatural action of the Holy Spirit, freely consented to by Mary, and had nothing to do with parthenogenesis.

Patricia is also quite mistaken about 1st. century rabbinic teaching on marriage. Marriage was a kind of two-tier process in which the legal contract of betrothal bound a man and woman exclusively to one another (unlike modern engagement) but they were not yet regarded as married and were not allowed to live together. Pre-marital sexual relations were always forbidden by Jewish law. That is not to say that such behaviour did not occur but it was strongly disapproved of and constituted grounds for cancelling the betrothal. If Mary had had sexual relations in the betrothal phase, it was very definitely not with Joseph who is shocked to find her pregnant and moves to end the betrothal.

Nor is the case that sexual relations between young people were acceptable in the medieval period. Such ativity doubtless took place and might even have been condoned by custom in some societies but it was not approved by the Church - before, during or after the Council of Trent.

The notion that the cult of the Virgin Mary fed into a violent virgin/whore dicholotomy is a familiar piece of hysterical feminist pseudo-scholarship.

It might be worth noting that, in exulting Mary as simultaneously Blessed Virgin and Mother of God, Christian theology is not suggesting that women are somehow failures if they are cannot manage to be virgins and mothers at the one and the same time. Mary of Nazareth has a unique place in God's plan of salvation.
Sylvester | 29 January 2010


I agree with both the Writer's & Tony Abbott's Comments.Jill Singer's and the Deputy'P.M.'s Comments,to put it mildly are a "Bloody disgrace" !
Graham Fletcher | 30 January 2010


I was disappointed at this article.


Catherine Marshall describes herself as an enlightened parent. If only I could claim the same, but alas I am still struggling to cope with to-day.

The concept of virginity before marriage appears patronising.

It is too hard to retain virginity before marriage, therefore , safe sex is the answer. Could safe sex be one step from promiscuity?

What about self-control, or are we to be influenced by this world of instant gratification .

Where does 'grace' and saving oneself for a committed relationship within marriage fit into this scenario.

Do we not as Christians instill into our children that sexuality is for marriage alone.We all fail, but we do have a goal.

This concept is so foreign to our society to-day, that I applaud Tony Abbott and his courage.

We cannot and must not try to enforce anything , but I believe we have a duty to inform our children, there is a way that says God's gift of our sexuality is sacred.

Avoiding unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, is indeed reducing pre- marital sex and virginity into the very commodity abhorred by Catherine Marshall.

Very disappionted ...

bernie | 30 January 2010


Catherine, as a Christian, I would tackle the question of virginity differently from you. I would point out to my sons and daughters that God wants us to "have life and have it to the full", and that Christ teachings, if followed, will lead to people having more joyous lives. I would tell them that the sexual act is a natural outcome of a couple being in love and that the only evidence of a couple truly being in love is their willingness to marry.

If this is not the case and the couple engages in sexual activity, then neither party can be sure that he or she is not being used by the other.I see this as the wisdom behind Christ's teaching against fornication. I would counsel them against sexual activity even when engaged in case the engagement falls through, with a possibility that further engagements and break-ups might follow. Marriage as virgins also elimates the possibility of STDs.

As poet Thomas More wrote "The more you have known o' the many, the less you can settle for one." Our curent divorce rate attests to this.

Kevin Reed (father of 6, grandfather of 12) | 30 January 2010


I wish Ms Gillard would stop the claim that she is speaking for ALL Australian women! .....And the spin doctors would get back into their boxes and stop treating ALL Australians as non thinking fools!
Penny | 30 January 2010


Firstly, thank goodness for a politician who is strong and confident enough to speak his truth clearly.

Secondly, what about the physical and mental consequences of sexual experimentation? What about the physical and mental consequences of abortion if an unplanned pregnancy occurs? Forget any so-called sin, or gift of virginity. It's a health issue.

Do we not owe our children collectively, (both sons and daughters) this evidence-based truth we demand in other areas of health?

STD's are rampant, fertility is problematic etc etc

Concerned | 30 January 2010


god bless and we all are god childern have your mercy on all of us aman
yunusbilakhiya | 30 January 2010


As an 18 year old male striving (at times struggling) to live out "outdated" virtues of chastity, I am extremely disappointed by Mrs Marshall's defeatist concession that in light of today's promiscuous society, it is a lost cause to convince today's teenagers of the preciousness of their sexuality. I beg to differ, and I know many more young people who, like me, refuse to have their sexuality reduced to meaningless "hook-ups" and pre-marital sex.

We communicate with our bodies just as much as we do with our words, and through sex in particular, give ourselves entirely to our partner. If you're not ready to give up your whole life in marriage to your partner, then you are communicating a LIE, which leads to devastating emotional break-ups, not to mention a legacy of STD's, mistrust, 'unwanted pregnancies', and so forth.

The meaning and beauty of sex is increasingly lost in today's society, but it doesn't have to be that way. I implore you, as parents and leaders, to ensure this message is not lost. Please take a stand, for if you truly love your children, then show them that they don't have to cheaply give away their virginity- because they deserve so much better. My parents did this for me, and I am forever grateful.

I'd refer you to the Q & A section of Chastity.com, and to Pope JP II's teaching on the Theology of the Body to more fully understand the truth about human sexuality.

Peace- from a young man struggling to live against the grain.
JR | 31 January 2010


Very interesting feedback on this article.
So far, 17 (seventeen) commentators have expressed disagreement, disappointment with Catherine Marshall's perspective on Tony Abbott/Catholic traditional teaching on the subject; 15 (fifteen) have expressed agreement with Catherine Marshall and a more secular approach to sexual instruction for the young; with three comments unrelated to the article's contents or Abbott's understanding of the issue.
Fr Mick Mac Andrew Bombala-Delegate NSW | 31 January 2010


As an 18 year old male striving (at times struggling) to live out "outdated" virtues of chastity, I am extremely disappointed by Mrs Marshall's defeatist concession that in light of today's promiscuous society, it is a lost cause to convince today's teenagers of the preciousness of their sexuality. I beg to differ, and I know many more young people who, like me, refuse to have their sexuality reduced to meaningless "hook-ups" and pre-marital sex.

We communicate with our bodies just as much as we do with our words, and through sex in particular, give ourselves entirely to our partner. If you're not ready to give up your whole life in marriage to your partner, then you are communicating a LIE, which leads to devastating emotional break-ups, not to mention a legacy of STD's, mistrust, 'unwanted pregnancies', and so forth.

The meaning and beauty of sex is increasingly lost in today's society, but it doesn't have to be that way. I implore you, as parents and leaders, to ensure this message is not lost. Please take a stand, for if you truly love your children, then show them that they don't have to cheaply give away their virginity- because they deserve so much better. My parents did this for me, and I am forever grateful.

I'd refer you to the Q & A section of Chastity.com, and to Pope JP II's teaching on the Theology of the Body to more fully understand the truth about human sexuality.

Peace- from a young man struggling to live against the grain.
JR | 31 January 2010


Hmmm... Here's a condom, darling. Don't get yourself knocked up. There are lots of nasty diseases out there. Don't get one. I'm not sure why the rates of STDs and teen pregnancy are so high when we have these wonderful condoms that will take care of all those nasty little inconveniences.

Virginity is so over-rated, darling. So 1950s.
Nellie | 01 February 2010


No, instead let's make virgins ashamed to be so socially backward and unwanted. Let them know that even their parents expect them to have sex and push birth control. Only sex proves someone to be worth anything, and marriage is a matter of luck. Yep. Empowerment.
Maureen | 01 February 2010


Meg (Comment 28/1) was lamenting the lack of an article in this Jesuit publication which is "well informed, soundly reasoned ...arguing FOR traditional christian teaching in this area." I read just such a one yesterday in the daily email of Mercator, which is not manifestly a Catholic publication. The article is by Carolyn Moynihan and wel lworth reading> www.mercatornet.com
Anne | 01 February 2010


It is interesting to me, that the women respondents are tending to be `practical and pragmatic` and the men tending more to `romance`...which is also I have to say where I come from on this. As a father of two women and grandfather of 3 girls, I want to pass on the beauty and wonder of `love-making` and not only the practicalities/enjoyment/dangers of `having sex`, although that has to be learned. I have personally never really wanted `it`outside of a deeply loving relationship as an expression of the deepest part of our beings, with huge gain in terms of `making-more-love` and deep relational healing. I don`t want any less for my women...or men for that matter! I suspect that in reality I would have quite a lot of common ground with Tony A and certainly Catherine, but the language of `unilateral` gift is itself potentially too superficial, objectifying and commodifying it seems to me.
Eugene | 01 February 2010


Catherine, I appreciate your love for your kids and envy the open dialogue you seem to have with them about sex. Sadly I didn't experience a lot of openness in my upbringing. That meant that I had to make my own mistakes - first to struggle to live an ideal of purity without the self-esteem to actualise what I meant in the face of the pressures a boyfriend could bring, then to throw what I believed out the window because it didn't seem to work... only to find that sex without commitment didn't work either and left me feeling used and alone.

I'm grateful for what I went through, because it brought me to a place where I could know the sacredness of sexual intimacy and clarify what I believe - that I am not an experience and neither is anyone else. We are human beings deserving of lasting and faithful love, andI think that means sex in marriage. I am grateful for the struggle - but I do sometimes wish that I had learnt that earlier, albeit not by lofty moral pronouncements. What I needed, I think, was to learn the self-worth to be able to stand for what I believed.

As an aside, I don't like TA much at all - hate almost all his policies re: climate change, industrial relations, etc - but I do think this has been taken out of context.
M. | 01 February 2010


Catherine Marshall's response to Tony Abbott on virginity is a credit to her and to Eureka Street for publishing it. For too long the Catholic Church has been indistinguishable from Islam and Mediterranean peasant Christianity (remember Zorba the Greek) in its celebration of female virginity and its apparent tolerant attitude to male sexual failings. Most female saints are called 'virgin' or 'virgin and martyr'. The sexual state of male saints is not highlighted. One cannot be optimistic that the official Church will ever change its view, but the faithful, faced with the real world, have long ago made up their own minds.
paul ormonde | 01 February 2010


I love my child. Who is now a teen age boy. I have be teaching him for many years about the advantage of being in the world but not of it. Those who have been much loved by our Lord
were those who kept themselves pure. So as to allow Him to dwell within their bodies. His Temple. The Temple of God. The True Wisdom of God is hidden from those who do not seek Our Lord in all humility and purity of thought action and devotion. Man made methods of conrtaception become a pagan god protecting a pagan conduct only to justify yet another chosen mode of pride. Virginity
is what has most been lost in this world of ours. Purity of thought and action and will in seeking to follow Him. Those who strive to keep their purity. Are those who truly Love Him and Know Him.

Those who Love Me Best Know Me best.

As it is written.

And once you know Him you also know that all that is not pleasing to Him is a lie.
Juliana | 07 February 2010


I apologize. I meant man made methods of anti-contraception in my previous comment.
Juliana | 08 February 2010


We must take a stand and we must protect our innocent. We must be a voice voice for our children. Young ladies, esp., wake up, U r being USED by the media and all who can exploit U. DON'S BE THAT GIRLS. DO NOT FALL FOR THE LIES.

God bless. Thanks - we need more articles like this to be distributed everywhere.
norma ann rodriguez-puente | 12 February 2010


Since my post on 28 Jan, Michael Leunig has said it all in his cartoon in the Age on Saturday 13 Feb. I quote -

"Tony Abbott hath a habbitt
Of sayeing olde worlde things
As iffe with innocence his tongue
In childhoode sweetly sings
But Tony lyke the cunninge foxxe
Doth knowe well wot he speaketh
And understandeth howe to catche
The rabbitts that he seeketh'

For the original, go to -
www.theage.com.au/photogallery/opinion/cartoon/michael-leunig/20090711-dgl6.html
Ginger Meggs | 14 February 2010


I agree with you, Stuart. As a means of expressing the gospel of Jesus Christ, Eureka St continues to fail and mislead people by omission and offers nothing unique - nothing that cannot also be sourced from a host of secular on-line publications of a similar ideological bent.

There is nothing wrong in promoting chastity. The fact is that within the Catholic Church chastity has always been regarded as a virtue. Its value lies in courage and boldness, a moral soundness and purity of mind. Just because so many people fail this does not make it any less worthy.
Nathan Socci | 25 February 2010


my issues with the making virginity too important are this

1. double standard for men and women
2. even if say there is no double standard ( in a hypothetical world where a man's virginity matters as much as a woman's) there still remain problems

one: you dont respect an individuals personal choice

two: you (man or woman) are valued by the status of ur virginity and not by yur heart, mind and soul which are the ONLY things ANY human beings should be 'valued' about.
arkvader | 20 May 2010


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