I've blogged elsewhere about the principles of chastity, and why I think they are important regardless of sexual orientation. I have spoken and can speak first hand about the ways I've experienced casual attitudes toward sex in the gay community A) making a life-long marital-type commitment more difficult to achieve, and B) generally working in both subtle and unsubtle ways to undermine such a commitment once you make it. I also believe that a life-long marital-type commitment is highly desirable, though it is not always easy to achieve. I believe it offers the greatest potential for happiness within a relationship. But more important than that, I believe it offers us the greatest opportunity to grow into our full spiritual stature -- precisely because of the challenges and difficulties involved in making this kind of relationship work.
I think principles of chastity have the greatest likelihood of working well if we commit to them not out of superstition or legalism, but because we understand the stakes and costs involved in building a committed relationship, and we are willing to make the investment. I believe that our willingness to be abstinent before a relationship does help us to establish habits, norms and discipline that will strengthen our ability to be sexually faithful within a relationship. More importantly, "where our treasure is, there will our heart be also." When we stay abstinent before a relationship and faithful within a relationship, we are essentially making a powerful statement -- both within our own mind and heart, as well as to our partner -- about how we value that relationship, and how we value sex within that relationship. Sex, in other words, becomes special because we are willing to treat it as special. And relationships become special because we are willing to be disciplined in our efforts to cultivate and nurture our relationships in this way.
Chastity is obviously not the only thing we need in order to cultivate a happy relationship. Other values such as communication and a willingness to make sacrifices are essential to make a relationship work. Obviously, chastity isn't even the only thing we need in order to successfully negotiate the sexual aspects of a relationship. In order for sex to be satisfying and mutually relationship-enhancing, we also need to develop traits such as compassion, the ability both to enjoy and to give pleasure, and we need to be able to communicate about sex. (Chastity is good for a relationship but prudishness is bad.) And we also need to have a realistic understanding of the limits as well as the potential of sex. (Sex won't fix conflicts in other areas of the relationship, for instance!) I won't comment a lot on the issue of sexual compatibility (i.e., entering into a relationship with someone with whom you feel a strong mutual attraction) other than to say I think it is very important. Chastity alone does not equal marital happiness. But it is a powerful contributor, and we can learn lessons from cultivating chastity that will help us make a relationship successful in other areas.
Not being sexually abstinent before marriage doesn't mean a committed relationship cannot succeed or even become extraordinarily committed and loving! I know that because, as I have described elsewhere, I certainly was not abstinent before entering into my relationship with my husband. A relationship is nothing if it is not capable of growing, and if it is not flexible. In another post, I used a "dance" metaphor to describe how a relationship works. What makes a relationship succeed or fail has as much to do with one partner's reactions to the moves of the other partner (and vice versa) as it has to do with the specific dance moves. So I feel I ought to temper my comments by stressing that there's no hard, fast formula for success in a relationship.
At the same time, I want to say that gay community social norms encouraging promiscuity and my own earlier unwillingness to commit to principles of chastity, I eventually realized, created problems and issues in my relationship with my husband that needed to be worked through in order for our relationship to become more joyful, loving and fulfilling. I feel there is a lot of damage that was done by some of these attitudes that has had to be repaired. If I had things to do over again, I would do them differently. And it would be my hope that, as future generations of gay men and lesbians begin to establish and build new relationships, they can benefit from the mistakes I and others of my generation have made.
A few members of the Moho Facebook community have started a Facebook group called "Gays Who Favor Premarital Abstinence." This seems to me like a great place for us to explore the issues and challenges related to gay and lesbian relationships in our culture. I see the creation of a group like this as a hopeful sign that we are beginning to transcend the homophobia that has disabled previous generations.