I knew it was a popular show, but when I sat down to watch Jane the Virgin, I had no idea it was also going to teach me a real life lesson about chastity.
Jane the Virgin is a TV show on the CW network and now on Netflix. It is about a young 20-something hispanic girl who is accidentally (the doctor was a hot mess that day), artificially inseminated and (though still a virgin) finds herself pregnant.
So… that’s awkward.
Don’t Have Sex, Jane
One of the main plots of the show is the fact that when she was young, Jane’s Catholic grandmother made her promise to remain a virgin until marriage. In Season 1 of the show, Jane has kept the promise, much to her grandmother’s delight.
Every time that Jane feels tempted to break her promise and have sex outside of marriage, we see her have flashbacks of her grandma’s strict face, or a symbolic white flower getting crushed and discarded.
The message that Jane received was that virginity is a prize, the best gift you can give to God and your spouse, and that if you mess up you are ruined forever… and God is used as the reason for all of that. The show paints a sad picture of a Church that’s outdated and eager to shame the sinner.
And I couldn’t help but think about how that is exactly how so many people view the Church in regards to sexuality. And that is exactly why chastity motivated by fear is not a fulfilling and sustainable way to live virtue.
The Real Chastity
Chastity is a lifelong decision to see others as souls and not objects for our pleasure. Chastity is a choice to choose the greatest good in every circumstance when it comes to how we love one another.
Before marriage, that means not saying with your body, what is not reflected in your being/soul. And after marriage it means giving yourself totally and completely to your spouse as an act of self-gift and true love.
Chastity is also about choosing words that don’t lead others to sinful thoughts because if you truly love those around you, you don’t want to lead them to sin. It means dressing yourself and carrying yourself in a way that doesn’t say “look at my body and what I’ve got” but instead says, “see me, and get to know who I am.”
It is not just a pledge card you signed when you were 13 and keep in your wallet. It’s not just a promise made to your parents, or grandparents. It’s not just a vow to a mean, angry God because He doesn’t want you to have fun and feel good.
Chastity is a choice you make daily because you want what’s best for yourself and those you love.
If your purity is motivated by fear you are not living a virtuous life — you’re living a repressed life.
Sexual Repression vs. Chastity and True Love
I know that the false idea that the Catholic Church tries to repress our sexuality is what drives people away from the Church. The message a lot of us have gotten from our parents or grandparents is that sex is bad before marriage, and the best thing ever after marriage and if we mess up, we’re forever ruined. We’re the crushed white flower.
But just because that’s how your parents or grandparents may have presented it to you, that does not mean it is accurate.
What’s missing from that picture is the fact that God made sex and He made it good… but it’s not the greatest good. It’s not the highest and most important goal of love and relationships. If Christ is our model then self-sacrificial love is the highest expression of love — and while sex is one way to say “I love you” and yes, it is a beautiful thing, there are still many other ways to express self-sacrificial love.
If we only get the message that “sex before marriage is bad” it can leave us thinking that God wants us to repress our sexuality — a part of who we are. That wouldn’t make sense, would it? God wouldn’t create us to be something He also wants us to repress.
When I look at the teachings of the Church I see a beautiful proposition. I see a question that asks, “do you trust that God knows best?” And in my life, I have chosen to answer yes.
I do believe that God wants good things for me, including for my sexuality. He made me and He made me with attractions – it’s who I am, not just a part of me.
Where repression would have me deny that part of my being, chastity demands something greater. Chastity is the integration of our sexuality into our being. It isn’t repressing it and it isn’t abusing it and using it however we want. It is understanding that living within the proper boundaries for sex makes us free… so instead of being controlled by my desires, I am free to choose what is best for me. And I choose true love.
A Message to Every Jane Out There
If you can relate in the slightest to Jane’s experience, I want you to hear this: God wants what’s best for you.
The message that Jane the Virgin received was that her virginity was a trophy not to be messed with and that as long as she carried that trophy in tact, she was a good girl.
The message the Church actually gives us is this: you are precious and deserve true love, and if you fall into sexual sin, you are still loved by God and can seek His mercy and start fresh.
God says to you, “therefore, there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
We have to stop talking about sex as the greatest good, and virginity as the mark of a good Catholic girl because that is a lie.
A good Catholic is one who trusts in God and chooses to surrender their life to Him, saying an emphatic (or sometimes weak and whispered) “yes” to His will for us, even when it’s difficult. A good Catholic is one who wants what is best for themselves and those they love.
A good Catholic is one who strives for virtue but knows where to seek forgiveness and mercy when they fall.
Your virginity is not a prize for your future spouse to win. To practice the virtue of chastity is a choice you are free to make every day of your life. It’s a choice for true love because God wants what’s best for you. And that true love is expressed the most beautifully in self-sacrifice.
Chastity is a beautiful invitation from God to a life of freedom. The choice is yours.
I’m praying for you.
*Editor’s Note: This blog illustrates one lesson taken from the show “Jane the Virgin,” it is not in any way an endorsement of the show or a recommendation to our readers.