Threesomes, sex with props, role play, open marriages, indeed and hating your partner, all are discussed more readily than what is perhaps the last taboo in a marriage: no sex at all. Talking as a citizen to a country like India where there exists no such thing as sex education, to discuss a rather new taboo in sex is a kind of irony in itself. Thus, Celibacy remains an unsaid taboo in our country.
We believe in pureness, often relate sex with purity, and turn victim to superstitions that have been raised from our own cultural beliefs. Even though India takes the credit for being the land where Kamasutra was born, it still remains a kind of guilty pleasure for us. The reason to refer it as a ‘guilty pleasure’ is simply because of the fact that even though we are proud of it, we aren’t really open about it or sex in general.
What is Celibacy?
Celibacy is a voluntary vow of sexual abstinence. In some cases, it can also be a promise to remain unmarried. This term is often associated with religion-based persistence from sex. The extent up to which a person practices celibacy varies from abstaining all possible sexual activities including both intercourse and outercourse to restraining only to outercourse and not following penetrative sex.
According to this article by Healthline, Potential benefits to becoming celibate include:
- Overall, there’s very little risk of contracting an STI or STD. There’s still some degree of risk for those who practice forms of outercourse that include genital contact.
- There’s the little-to-no risk of unintended pregnancy.
- It may reduce the amount of money spent on contraception, such as condoms. Other forms of birth control, such as the pill or hormonal IUD, may still be needed for other medical reasons.
- It may provide space for you to get to know your partner outside of sexual activity.
- It may help you further understand the difference between physical and emotional attraction.
- It may free up more time to focus on your career, friendships, or family.
And, Potential drawbacks to becoming celibate include:
- It may be challenging to engage in romantic relationships, even if your partner is also celibate if it introduces physical desire or pressure to engage in sexual activity.
- Some might feel as though they’re missing out on key life experiences, such as marriage or children, by eliminating or limiting sexual activities.
- Some might feel as though others judge their decision, which can lead to feelings of isolation.
Asexual or Celibate?
Asexuality and celibacy are related but not the same. People who are celibate might not be asexual and asexual people might not be celibate.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation, while celibacy is a choice. Some people who are asexual do not desire sex at all, while others occasionally experience some desire.
An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction and does not feel a desire to have sex. Celibacy, on the other hand, refers to the abstinence of sex for a specific period or forever.
Celibacy and Mental Health
There is a widespread idea that having regular sex is an important part of a person’s emotional well-being. While this is true for some people, it is not the case for everyone.
When sexual abstinence is involuntary, some individuals may feel negative effects on their mental health. Conversely, people who do not feel sexual desire may find these feelings distressing. Not having sex when in a relationship can make a person feel insecure or anxious. Talking about these emotions can help remove any sense of discomfort.
For others, abstaining from sex is important for good mental health. People may abstain from sex for many reasons, for example, because they have a low sex drive, are asexual, or simply choose not to engage in it.
However, research reports that sex is a good way to relieve stress, which can boost a person’s mental health. According to a study that surveyed 10,429 women with low sexual desire, 27.5% reported that it caused them distress. However, among those who had a current partner, the figure was much higher at 81%.
Types of Celibacy
While resorting to celibacy is a person’s own choice. There is a classification based on the reasons due to which the decision of taking celibacy might be related.
- Sacerdotal: The celibacy of priests and priestesses.
- Monasticism based celibacy: The main purpose of the monk’s celibacy is moral and spiritual advancement, not the ritual purity required for sacerdotal rites.
- Institutional celibacy for women: Typically conceived of as an aid to spiritual advancement.
- Individual noninstitutional and nonsacerdotal religious celibacy: Practiced by the layperson or the occasional clergyman in a faith not requiring celibacy who makes a vow to remain unmarried out of devotion or to allow the performance of some special religious service.
Celibacy probably is derived from taboos that regarded sexual power as a rival to religious power, and the sexuality of the opposite sex as a polluting factor, especially in sacred or crisis situations.
“I find that young people are choosing celibacy after periods of sexual experimentation,” explains Olivia Orley, LMSW, a New York City psychotherapist with experience in mental health and women’s issues. “There has been a loss of intimacy with the advent of dating apps, and a lot of young people who are choosing celibacy are doing it in response to the hyper-sexualized nature of dating these days.”
Orley explains that celibacy can be a way for people to “cultivate a different kind of intimacy in their lives.”
While this topic is extremely personal and exploits an issue-based out of a person’s own choice, the awareness about such things is not very diverse and when we ask or talk on such topics, we see a stigma around people. Conservative society we live in is really adamant about making sex or anything related to it a thing of taboo.
Different type of intimacy is still intimacy and whether a person should feel the need of it is the choice for that person to make. The effects of being celibate have both pros and cons, but not talking about this or talking about all this as a thing of shame is not really a way to go.
Well, according to recent research, millennials may actually be having less sex than you’d think. More and more young people are choosing to abstain from sex for reasons ranging from personal growth to religious beliefs to dating burnout. Yet, society is the one that puts pressure into believing this as a thing of taboo.
And how LGBTQ+ has a whole new definition and what this ‘+’ stands for is something that should be discussed more openly, a part of which is discussed here. To read more check out HOMOSEXUALITY: Not a Crime or a Choice and Transphobia: When your Identity becomes a Taboo.
Lastly, a poem to describe how a celibate person might actually feel
Extremely personal, these intimate moments
I don’t feel getting physical, makes me a maniac?
It’s my own choice, which I don’t desire
The thing called sex, that most people aspire
For me, it’s all about connection
That a person is there for me
Accepting me for all that is
Mind, soul, heart and not just body
Some look down, say I’m not capable
For lust, my stubbornness is impeccable
But what they don’t realise is I’m capable
Of laying down a connection, not at all physical
Celibacy was my own choice
For me, I find it right
What’s the use if my conscious doesn’t allow
In this world full of one-nighters
I’ll find someone to stick around