Having tired of attempting to engage with abuse from anonymous commentators over at Titus One Nine, I will dare here to draw in some background text to further support my reflection on a more expansive understanding of chastity.
One classical Christian text on chastity is from St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, esp. III.12-III.13 (page numbers here are from my recently purchased copy of the 400th Anniversary Edition published by Eremitical Press).
While Francis’ treatment of chastity clearly begins with chastity’s recognizable technical definition of sexual purity, his opening on the subject in III.12 includes this lovely and undeniable springboard into wider meaning: “Chastity is called honesty, and the possession of it honor; it is also named integrity, and the opposite vice, corruption. In short, it has its special glory to be the fair and unspotted virtue of both soul and body ” (121-122).
Francis articulates the need to pursue chastity even while in the married state, even while enjoying sexual pleasure with one's spouse! The conclusion to be drawn is that there is much more to chastity, then, than merely the container (in this case, marriage) of sexual relations. Francis argues chastity demands a context of moderation and avoidance of abuse (123). This I interpret to mean abstaining from the realm of domination and control, which are arguably forms of abuse, however subtly they might be employed.
Late in the same section, he articulates the necessity of chastity for “all classes of people,” as chastity is inexorably linked with holiness and cleanliness of the heart (124) and he references three distinct parts of the New Testament to support his argument. To amplify Francis’ point further, I would add Jesus’ teaching that it is the heart from where all relational vice and violence come, as in Matthew 15:18-20. Chastity, Francis clearly argues, is not simply a matter of sexuality, but fundamentally and most importantly involves the human heart and the quality of all its relationships.
In III.13 (125-126) Francis takes this yet further by asserting that loss of chastity is possible even outside of sexual relations. A quote he attributes to Basil through John Cassian may very well be at the root of a teaching on chastity I was offered by a celibate monk: “I know not what belongs to a woman, yet I am not a virgin.” The implication is clear – it is possible for even the assiduously celibate to be unchaste. There is, simply put, much more to chastity than sex.
Again, I will concede there are disagreements in the wider church at present over what constitutes chaste sexuality. I might even dare to quibble with Francis on what defines chaste sexuality. But that is not at all to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. By Francis’ standards, the underlying -- and more important -- virtue of chastity is found in its direction for all forms of human relating, and that is relating not through abuse (domination, control) but rather through the purity of love, integrity, peace, etc.