Chastity is perhaps the most misunderstood of the virtues, and the force most likely to, if taken up again with great fervor, alter the course of history. If we could but communicate to our culture the splendor of this thing we call chastity, the power and the discipline bred from chaste living, the clarity with which it enables a view of the whole human person... Here's a richness that can be better examined after clearing up a few misnomers, examining what chastity is not.
First and foremost, chastity is not repression. Repression is by its very definition an unconscious and unwilled act, and as a cursory reading of St. Paul's writings will reveal, the real struggle against the temptation to do "things I hate... and not the good I will to do" is an omnipresent reality with which we are all too familiar. Repression requires a necessary ignorance of that which is being repressed, and is by nature an unconscious process divorced from will or reason.
Suppression, on the other hand, is a conscious choice to stuff an emotional or physical reaction, and here's where some of the great moral confusion in the area of sexual purity arises. Suppression is a half truth, which is still half of a lie. Suppression says to the natural good of human sexuality, "I choose to reject this aspect of my person." Whatever the reasoning behind this mentality, whether cloaked in religious conviction or not, it is a false view of the human person, and a rejection of God's plan for sexuality. He desires our ultimate sharing in His union, which is eternal self-offering and complete self-donation within the communion of persons of the Trinity.
Chastity is not frigidity. It is not a rejection of your sexuality and its accompanying desires and goods, but rather a profound respect and reverence for this aspect of your person which makes you most like Him. Think about it, when are we more perfect images of the life-giving Lover and Creator of all than when we enter freely into the marital act, communicating to our spouse the same self-offering and outpouring of love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If that's not hot, I don't know what is...
Chastity is not a refusal of the good of sexuality, but a bowing of the head and a bending of the will before a force too great and terrible to be taken lightly. Purity is a blinding light that the devil cannot abide, and he wants nothing more than to extinguish it completely. The light of purity is dimmed by pornography, sexual violence, fornication, masturbation... all areas our culture has embraced and attempted to hold up as false goods. We've been promised the world and instead have been handed heartache and disease, broken lives and broken families.
Men in particular are being oppressed by this massive cultural rejection of chastity. Embracing a false notion of masculinity and strength, they weaken themselves through sexual impurity and lust. The discipline and self-mastery yielded from a life of purity is a deadly dangerous force that Satan would rather not reckon with. Think about the great saints, the power and the conviction with which they lived their lives. Peter, Paul, Augustine, Francis... Men who embraced and exalted the virtue of chastity, recognizing it for the opportunity to become greater and not lesser men.
If I could communicate one truth to the men of this world, it would be this: a man is most desirable when he is fully in possession of himself. Nothing on earth is more attractive. You cannot give what you do not have, and herein lies the great mystery of Jesus' self-offering at Calvary; a man in complete possession of His very self, able to offer everything. This is the mystery of purity, the wonder of it!
Women, a word of advice. Hold out for this quality in a man, however elusive it may prove to be. Don't settle for weakness where there can be great strength, and don't compromise. We call them on by our prayers and expectations, and deep down, every guy needs something to live for, to battle for, and if necessary, to die for.