Re: Chastity

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Posted by Brett on September 03, 2101 at 09:46:45:

In Reply to: Re: Chastity posted by Rob on June 13, 2101 at 15:57:29:

As to the issue of men being exclusively singled out in certain passages for chastity, see Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 118, regarding the "true follower" not feeling "his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire" for the "fairest and most comely of women".

Also, chastity is to be "strictly practiced by both sexes" (quoted in A Chaste and Holy Life, p. 56).

However, though I do not have a source to verify this, there are, as you pointed out, several quotes emphasizing chastity in women, or seemingly indicating its greater importance (e.g., "It should not happen that upon the occurrence of a slight friction or displeasure between husband and wife, the husband would think of union with some other woman, or, God forbid, the wife also think of another husband. This is contrary to the standard of heavenly value and true chastity." (`Abdu'l-Baha, Divorce, p. 236) , including ones referring to the need to teach chastity to mothers and young girls in "spiritual meetings" (i.e., training institute courses) (see Selections from the Writings of ďAbduÍl-Bah˝, pp. 130-132, no. 94.1-94.4 and no. 95.1 for the latter quotations). In my personal opinion, this is not merely a progressive means to educate all people in the context of a culture of lingering inequality of women.

The importance of the education of women, as you alluded to, also sets a standard for future generations, let alone for the men with whom the women come into contact. While it is true that men also can and must set the standard for women (as well as other men), and though as the Baha'i International Community indicates (See, men are not incorrigibly voracious in their sexual appetites, it does seem, as in other species, that men, far out of proportion I believe than could be explained away only by power and socialization (an objective study of all world cultures may shed insight into whether this is indeed a universal or near universal), as with animals (with which we do share some characteristics), do incline toward promiscuity more readily than women (at least in an environment where, as Shoghi Effendi pointed out, there was too great an emphasis on sex, including surely by women themselves), whereas women, in turn, seem more inclined (universally?) to potentially become "playthings of the ignorant" in their dress, whether seeking self-esteem from men or other women by recognition, trying to attract men for partners (for emotional, economic and/or sexual reasons), or just in innocently though naively following the fashion.

While the Universal House of Justice has not wished to set forth rules in chastity and dress, indicating Shoghi Effendi's statement regarding moderation as the standard, "casting the sleeve of holiness" (Advent of Divine Justice on chastity, p. 31), and the pilgrim's note regarding the Western women to adopt the moderation such as women in the East such as Haifa followed, not to bare the neck and bosom (, etc. (let alone Ruhiyyih Khanum's example) might allude to us some not-to-be-enforced-but-available-for-consideration guidance. Of course, it is quite dangerous to add to the authoritative text, except as a matter of opinion and interest, and even the pilgrim's note mentioned above (which again is not authenticated Text) indicates His words should not be passed on to make anyone feel bad (let alone go around seeking to enforce it). Nevertheless, out of compassion for men, both for Baha'i men who are actively seeking to maintain this standard in their own lives and for other men, and in recognition that, as Shoghi Effendi points out, the individual is in fact affected by the environment as well as vice versa, at least this author would hope women would self-impose a more conservative interpretation of "moderation" than one falsely, ala Western extreme individualism, focusing ALL of the locus of responsibility on the men (and no, this is not a rationalization for irresponsible thinking or behavior in men).

It should be noted, however, that the Baha'i International Community in the same letter mentioned above has pointed to studies showing that when women are educated on such issues and men are not, it may have a harmful effect in terms of violence toward women (which is not really contradicting anything here I think).

Though this is more of a lawyerly argument, taken strictly from the viewpoint of the risk of pregnancy (and birht) out-of-wedlock (and thus also the greater risk of being out of financial support), of course, if one woman is promiscuous with many men, it is less of a problem, than if many women are promiscuous with one man.

Of course, the important thing in all of this is that both should practice it, and not make excuses.

As Baha'u'llah has stated, marriage is conducive to fidelity, as 'Abdu'l-Baha states it is good to marry young, and as Shoghi Effendi states marriage allows the individual of the expression of that natural right, so perhaps we could be more supportive of Baha'is looking for partners, especially when the standards are so different than that common in society (though of course, sex is not the primary purpose of marriage).

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