Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Twelve, Q1

Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • Stay off the internet. Porn is everywhere!
  • Focus on my wife; think about our relationship.
  • Do the reverse and schedule time together.

Remember last week when I mentioned our apartment setbacks: critters, hot water, leaks, etc.? Well, one major and unspoken setback was the lack of door locks. Now, I immediately mentioned this upon first inspection of the apartment but received a shrug. Before signing the contract, I reminded my wife, “No locks on the bedroom doors.” Response, “It’s ok.” Turns out, no, it’s not ok, unless of course your goal is chastity. You see, if you want to practice chastity, the combination of children and non-locking doors guarantees 100% success. I love my children but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say we’ve been practicing Chastity well before this week arrived.

During our first week in the new apartment, it was probably the third or fourth successive nighttime invasion that my wife sighed and said, “Ooooh, there’s no door locks.” Yup, kids are ruthlessly effective at squashing intimacy (and sleep). They’re merciless marauders, sapping time and energy, springing traps on you in the middle of the night and ambushing you when most vulnerable. I’m still confused how we created a second child, and even more uncertain how we’ll satisfy my wife’s urge for a third.

The other night, everyone was asleep when we realized we never showered that day, standard Saturday. Making use of the time, we slipped into the shower for a necessary wash and maybe a little fun. Well, before the soap was lathered, one little cupped hand pressed against the foggy shower door, followed by another, and ending with a nose and cheek smushed hard against the glass asking, “Mommy, daddy, what are you doing in there?” In Harry Potter they say mischief managed; in our house it’s chastity chasten.

Since our open door, abstinence as birth-control policy is fool-proof, when this week’s Chastity challenge rolled around, we effectively shrugged; bring it. But that wouldn’t be fair. There has to be some sort of challenge or introspection. Why not look somewhere else? How about porn? After all, porn helped me get through some far longer stretches of unwilling, adolescent abstinence.

I’m old enough to remember when coming home early from school to find a Victoria’s Secret catalog in the mail was better than winning the lottery. Today, the ease and magnitude of what’s available is insane in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, this is no denouncement, I’ve made use of this new found treasure and enjoy watching it, but I’ve never thought anything about porn until now. So what happens when you think about the definition of Chastity while watching porn? Well, pretty much the worst thing imaginable. The whole experience of watching porn was ruined. When I watched, all I could think was “This is degrading.” That revelation was miserable.

Why was it miserable? Because porn is something I’ve enjoyed in one variation or another for decades and now this experiment was ruining it for me. In fact, the conflicting emotions triggered a mini-existential crisis. Who would’ve thought? An existential crisis over pornography? The recognition of degradation, particularly the feeling I was degrading myself, had an effect; I couldn’t watch. Not being able to watch made me sad, but not just sad, conflicted. Half of me thinks this is a victory, but there’s another half that hopes this feeling goes away.

Truthfully, I know this feeling will go away because I’m going to ignore it. Hell, there’s no way I could keep this up! A life of virtue is one thing, but complete denial returned me to the state of a 13-year-old celibate. How can one continue life as an adult when the slightest sight of a woman’s ankle is enough to send me over the edge? Locking myself in the closet is not an option, besides, they have no locks. So let’s return to the core of Ben Franklin’s statement, “rarely use venery but for health or offspring.”

“Health and offspring,” all right, Ben’s giving us an out. In fact, by my interpretation, we need to increase our physical engagement in order to improve our physical and mental health. Yes, one more reason that moving is a good thing. On our “must-have” list, between dishwasher and storage, we’ll be sure to put locking doors. There’s hope for us yet! As for “never to dullness or weakness,” well, come on, let’s be honest, that time has passed. Maybe if the internet existed when I was 16 “dullness” may have been a problem, but today, with my kids running around, all I lust for is a nap.