Sex is a drug, and in today’s liberal culture, where hooking up and friends with benefits situations dominate, celibacy has become an almost irrelevant practice. In fact, on more than one occasion, when I asked if people still practised celibacy, several of my friends assumed it was a trick question. This left me with the distinct impression that very few people on either side of the gender divide bothered to practise abstinence.
The general consensus of most of the men I spoke to was that some men probably practised celibacy, but it most certainly could not be a choice. At least one guy cheekily admitted, “I practise it, but I’m not very good at it”. Another joked that it was something that only HIV-positive people need to concern themselves with, because “man always want to buss they gun unless they little funny”.
Most women will admit that the decision to abstain or indulge in sexual intercourse is far less clear-cut. Several of my female friends admitted to practising celibacy at one point or another in their life. This was either by force because they lacked men who were interested in them and suitable options, or by choice. In fact, a close female friend chose to reveal on Facebook that she had been celibate for over a year, by saying, “I’ve been celibate for one year, ten months and five days. That’s 684 days – 59, 097 600 seconds.
See you won’t die if you don’t have sex”. I even know someone who’s been celibate for six years now, and seems to be unperturbed by what others would consider a sexual drought.
Some of my jaded readers will no doubt choose to believe that anyone who says they practise celibacy is a liar. I mean, if ordained priests can’t deny themselves, how can anyone reasonably expect unordained men and women who have willingly sampled of the “forbidden fruit” to resist temptation?
I think women learn how to go without sex for a variety of reasons. Most of us are acutely aware of society’s double standard, when it comes to sex, so much so that we’re willing to brand the women among us who freely indulge as much as they like, with whomever they like, as whores.
Some women, myself included, often torture ourselves over when to give up the proverbial ‘nookie’, especially when we really like a guy. Give it up too soon and he thinks you’re ‘loose’, wait too late and he’ll think you’re a prude, or even worse frigid. Indulge on a regular basis for pleasure and companionship with a friend, and you might just find yourself addicted, nursing a broken heart when he decides to move on, or just frustrated when you realize you’re not his only source of sexual comfort.
I’m fairly certain that no guy grows up being told to keep his hand out of the ‘honey pot’ or goes through the mental gymnastics mentioned above, before engaging in the sex act. This may be because men – generally speaking – worry far less about becoming attached to their horizontal conquests, although this is not to say it doesn’t happen or that some men don’t practise abstinence.
In conducting research for this article, I spoke to two men who admitted to being celibate, one of whom insists he hasn’t had sex in almost two years. His reasoning was simply, “Using people is wrong in my head. I also wonder what would the person I end up with would think about my many escapades when it came out”.
Personally, I don’t know too many virgins, and firmly believe that people shouldn’t be judged harshly about their previous, sexual decisions. Being good at anything takes practice after all. I do, however, think there’s a case to be made against treating people like “sex toys”. Sex involves way too many hormones for there to be no emotional consequences, for one or both parties involved. As CNN contributor Dannah Gresh asserted recently in an article on today’s hook-up culture, “there’s nothing biologically brief about a hook up”.
As a single woman, I envy my coupled-up friends, and those who are able to do the “friends with benefits” thing, because sex is an immensely pleasurable experience. Going without it is like detoxing from caffeine or alcohol, except the withdrawal symptoms never go away.
In my virginal years, I remember my mother telling me that the sex drive was a sleeping giant best left alone, until you had a regular supply (marriage), because once you woke him up it was impossible to put him back to sleep.
It may be easy to say that Tupac was giving advice for life when he sang, “keep your head up, legs closed, eyes open”, but it is a far harder to practice it on a sustained basis. This is especially true for professionals, especially women who live alone, and for whom real, human contact – like hugging – is a rare occurrence. For individuals in that situation, sex is often the only way to get ‘closeness’ and the occasional back rub, which can make the decision to be celibate, torturous, lonely and depressing.
Everyone I know who practises celibacy has their own coping mechanisms that may or may not involve the use of toys, porn, erotica, and, in my case, caramel frappachinos and extreme fitness challenges. Admittedly, my mostly celibate lifestyle doesn’t fit nearly as comfortably as my friend who boasts that her “panties be locked up like the Dead Sea scrolls”; but like her I have no problem saying that I “ain’t gotta be hard pressed for sex to give it up”.
Where the topic of casual sex is concerned, I don’t want to treat anyone like I treat my toy. Being treated like a sex object may be momentarily satisfying, but I think it pales in comparison to the uninhibited pleasure of communicating with someone you really like through sex. That’s just me, though, and, maybe I’m in the minority here.
Celibacy isn’t for everyone, and although I don’t worry about STDs, pregnancy or messing up my headspace, I still won’t recommend my lifestyle to anyone else. In the meantime, I’ll keep sipping on those caramel frapps, hoping that some mad scientist will create a slow release pill that triggers the same levels of oxytocin and dopamine that orgasms do, so I can have all the fun without the attachment.