It's no secret that the Church has long placed a high premium on virginity. Avoidance of sexual expression sometimes seems to made into a virtue for its own sake -- making sexual abstinence holy, and sexual expression far less so. But there is another aspect to virginity -- that of retaining a person's interior dignity and integrity.
It can be argued that the virginity of Jesus is the model for this. Jesus did not disparage appropriate sexual expression, as such. He loved little children, that ultimate expression of sexual love, for goodness sake! And he healed Peter's mother-in-law -- hardly a critique of marriage per se. Yet Jesus seems to have valued abstinence from marriage. As Matthew 19:12 records:
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
There may be a hint here of men chopping off their manly bits, but a better interpretation is that Jesus lauded those who gave up marriage in order to preach the imminent coming of the kingdom. For Jesus, it came down to getting your priorities straight. God is about to convulse creation in the next weeks or months. We need to get as many people to prepare for that change. Do you have other priorities -- getting hitched, raising a family, burying your Dad, kissing your Mom goodbye? -- then you are not committed enough.
Through the ages, men and women have given up marriage and children to follow their calling. Like Mother Cabrini, they founded hospitals and schools. Like Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brébeuf they brought the gospel to far off lands. Like Mother Theresa, they care for the numberless destitute in poor countries.
Abstinence is not what made these people saints -- I can tell you stories of absolutely vile, stupid and mean-spirited virgins. Rather, it is the way that these men and women dedicated themselves whole-heartedly to gospel service, made possible by abstinence and the lack of family responsibilities, that set them up for sainthood. To reduce their lives to a choice about sex is to demean sex and to put the wrong focus on their lives
Over the years, women have been forced to play a role as sexual pawns of men. They are traded for influence between families or nations. They are treated as sexual objects by men of little understanding and sensitivity, like Henry VIII, for whom women were disposable objects in his quest for a male heir. It is a testament to the inborn integrity of women who have resisted being treated as lesser creations. As little more than a vagina and womb on legs. Their resistance has been focused on a refusal to submit sexually to more powerful humans. They have resisted the desire of other to objectify and commercialize them. Their stand has been to honor the dignity of their whole personhood -- emotions, intellect, will and physicality. Reducing them to mere sexual non-objects is as harmful , I believe, then to treat them solely as sexual. It is a sort of anti-pornography that is as exploitative as its mirror image.
The decision to marry or not to marry, to express sexuality or not to, belongs to the individual, in context of their earthly calling. Used as a means of announcing or advancing the kingdom, restrained sexuality is less a means in itself than a freeing to answer one's interior call to holiness.