What were Søren Kierkegaard's views of virginity?

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Kierkegaard wrote 'The Diary of a Seducer' but nowhere are his views on sexuality, virginity, chastity fully stated or worked out in fine detail.


Kierkegaard does not regard sex as sinful, so he would not regard virginity as a way of avoiding sin. His own formula is that sex and sin came into the world together. ('Concept of Anxiety', 1844, ch. 1.6 and ch. 2). There is no antagonism to sexuality. Rather, the idea is that sex and sin can easily become intertwined and that the task of spirit in each individual is to evolve sexuality 'from a raw, unintegrated instinct into a work of love which is shared with a commitment partner and dedicated to a transpersonal Power. It is this evolution which is a task for spirit in each existing individual' ( M. G. Holly, 'Sexuality and Spirit in Kierkegaard's Thought', Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Summer, 1984), p.115).


'Existential sin' is not Kierkegaard's phrase (I borrow it from Holly, p.115) but the distinction emerges clearly in 'Concept of Anxiety' and 'Sickness Unto Death'. In 'original sin' one is faced by the endlessly different roads of life, a fear of taking risks, a mass of conflicting desires, and one opts out of the plethora of possibilities by adopting a fixed social role. In this unusual sense of 'original sin', sex would be taken as just a given that one carries into one's social role. One becomes a mother, a partner, a serial seducer or whatever. 'That's just how or what I am', as it were. One's sexuality doesn't develop as part of a lifeplan of self-transformation.

In existential sin one is actively self-dissatisfied. One dislikes the way one is. Why am I short ? Why don't people like me ? Why did I have to be born to poor parents or in a powerless country. In existential sin this self-dissatisfaction, even self-loathing, is simply surrendered to and becomes depressiveness and self-defeatedness. One's sexuality is stuck at whatever level one finds it.

One escapes from or avoids both original and existential sin by seeing oneself, as it were, as work in progress - as a self-transforming person capable of evolution into someone who takes responsibility for their choices. One's sexual relations are treated as part of the task of self-transformation.


Virginity can be an authentic personal choice, as suitable (say) to a vocation or as a stage in one's integration of a crude, surging instinct into the love involved in shared commitment with a partner. But it is hard to see virginity as a part of that commitment once it is achieved - or at least hard to see Kierkegaard as recommending it. Sex would appear to be one plane on which such commitment would proceed. Virginity does not interlock with this in any obvious way though it is not excluded.


How far Kierkegaard's own sexuality served the task of spirit is a matter for speculation and plainly of no philosophical concern.

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