“Nice girls don’t.”
This truism from a half-century ago reflected the well-recognized and practical fact that sexual indiscretions would burden women more than men. The conventionality of suburban life may not have held up Christian virtue as much as it sought to protect reputations, but even this secondary goal seemed uphold chastity for the sake of human respect, if nothing else.
The ensuing sexual revolution seemed to adjust the scales of “justice” more evenly, so that promiscuity was a choice available to both men and women, with few side effects. The pulsing beat of “free love” blared from so many outlets that, eventually, what were once called “indiscretions” turned into the very building block of “women’s liberation.” Birth control and abortion were essential elements in the new world-view, eliminating any unwanted consequences of sex outside of marriage, and soon, indifferent acceptance of children out-of-wedlock confirmed that the revolution was entrenched.
It is difficult to have a rational conversation about such things today, decades after the culture’s adjustment to the separation of conjugal love and procreation; and men, especially, are required to refrain from commenting, having no legitimate voice in the choices women are called to make. But Jesus felt no such compulsion.
Our Lord mixed freely with women from all walks of life and spoke clearly about their choices. From holy women to harlots, he gazed with sincere affection at those whose very femininity called them to receive love and give love in return. He clearly outlined the sins that inhibited that exchange—the very exchange meant to enrich them and all they touched.
The contemporary phenomenon of sexual license in the developed world is simply another form of sin that keeps women from being truly free. From the abuse of divorce from Moses’ time, to the harems of antiquity, to female infanticide rampant in many cultures, women cannot find their true dignity in cultures that do not value chastity.
Mulieris Dignitatem cites many examples of indignity towards women, and stresses that the Gospel was in their best interest. “Christ speaks to women about the things of God, and they understand them; there is a resonance of mind and heart, a response of faith. Jesus expresses appreciation and admiration for this distinctly “feminine” response” (MD, 15).
Never did he indicate that women were “the weaker sex,” in fact, his purifying love and message of hope so attracted them that they stayed by his side even during his Passion. “As we see in this most arduous test of faith and fidelity, the women proved stronger than the Apostles” (ibid).
Knowing full well that the vulnerability of women often placed them in difficult situations, he held them to the very standard which would be both their refuge and their salvation. “Consequently, the women who are close to Christ discover themselves in the truth which he ‘teaches’ and ‘does,’ even when this truth concerns their sinfulness. They feel ‘liberated’ by this truth, restored to themselves: they feel loved with an ‘eternal love,’ with a love which finds direct expression in Christ himself” (ibid).
God’s standard of chastity is the path to authentic liberation. Despite the siren call of sexual license and intimacy without consequences, love isn’t free. The price of our redemption—which is the measure of God’s love—was bought in blood and swamped with tears.
Nice girls may have been buoyed by convention at one time, but at this point strong women are what are needed. We must reclaim that “feminine response” that Jesus so appreciated and admired—for there we will find our dignity, our vocation, and true liberation.