I’ve already written at length in the past about what my personal celibacy means to me, but the following list is something a little bit different. Objective reasons why celibacy–the choice to NOT have sex, no matter what your sexual orientation–is awesome.
- No chance of unwanted pregnancy.
- No need to get an abortion.
- No need to take birth control (or spend money on it).
- No need to spend money on condoms or worry about them in any way.
- No chance of contracting an STD or an STI.
- No need to go through the potential physical trouble and expense of treating an STD or an STI.
- No chance of having unsatisfying sex.
- No chance of having sex that negatively affects your self-esteem, your body image, or your sense of being worthy of love.
- Virtually no need to worry about sexual partners, ex sexual partners, or anybody else talking smack about you for your sexual behavior. (Note: nobody has a right to talk smack about a person’s sexual behavior unless that behavior directly harms someone else, but the fact of the matter is, people are assholes about sex all the time. Celibacy as a way to avoid being insulted or gossiped about doesn’t excuse the insulting/gossiping, but the wrongness of the insulting/gossiping doesn’t make celibacy any less of an effective way to avoid it.)
- No opportunity to mistakenly base your own self-worth, self-love, or self-image on your sexual performance or anybody else’s sexual interest in you.
- No chance of being used sexually by someone else.
- If you are a heterosexual woman: celibacy is a way out of the ever-present sexist and potentially misogynistic dynamic of heterosexual relations, a relief from men exerting power over you–sexual and otherwise, a relief from the potential disrespect and cruelty of straight men directed at their female partners (whether to their faces or behind their backs) related to sex.
- Celibacy can be deeply healthy on a psychological level, precisely because sex in a cultural context is fraught with problematic and pathological issues that cannot be single-handedly dismantled even in a personal relationship between two people. Celibacy can also be deeply healthy based on an individual’s past experiences with sex and romance or their relationship with themselves.
- Celibacy for a man can serve as a powerful opportunity to disentangle his sense of manhood and his performance of masculinity from his sexuality. (Men are conditioned to entwine their masculinity with their sexuality, to their own and their sexual partners’ detriment.)
- Celibacy can provide extra energy or a clear mind to focus on creativity, on self, on friendships and family relationships, on one’s own physical health and mental health, etc.
- Celibacy removes you from the volatile and dramatic landscape of sexual activity: sexual competition, sexual infidelity, unrequited sexual desire, sexual incompatibility with partners,
- No chance of coercive sex or sex under dubious consent with a romantic partner, in the context of a relationship that is normally sexually active.
- Celibacy is the kind of decision that requires conscious, in-depth reasoning, in a way that choosing to become sexually active (or staying sexually active) usually doesn’t. Choosing to be celibate because you know exactly what benefits you’re after, as opposed to having sex simply because that’s what you’re supposed to do and because everybody you know does it, is a way to become intensely conscious of your own sexual lifestyle and your relationship to sex.
- Celibacy can be a beneficial time-out in which you clean up any problematic attitudes or ideas you have about sex. (Or romance.)
- If you’re an asexual, celibacy is awesome because 9 times out of 10, it’s your default setting. Living according to your nature feels great!
- Celibacy can be a powerful political statement in a culture of compulsory sexuality, in a society that assigns social market value to people based on their sexual availability, performance, and history. Celibacy is the only way to completely withdraw from that system, whether temporarily or permanently.
- Celibacy is an expression of freedom, autonomy, and ownership of your body. The world tells you, for a myriad of reasons that are pretty much all self-interested on their part, to have sex as soon and as much as you can. Choosing to be celibate is a way of saying, “Fuck you. I think for myself, and I do what I want with my body.”
- Celibacy can be a pathway to real intimacy with other people, whether romantic partners or friends/family. Too many people erroneously believe that all sex is intimate–English-speaking people fucking use “intimacy” as a ridiculous euphemism for sex, for God’s sake–and thus end up having plenty of sex but no intimacy. Intimacy is not innately or exclusively sexual. Sex is not automatically intimate. Sometimes, taking sex out of your life is the perfect way to get at real intimacy.
- Celibacy can be a catalyst for exploring alternative relationships and relationship systems.
- Celibacy can actually be the only way to disengage from a lot of false beliefs and expectations you have of sex, particularly the ones about sex resulting in romantic love or meaning romantic love.
It bears saying that the fact of celibacy’s beneficial status does not automatically designate sexual activity as a purely bad or wrong choice. That kind of illogical reasoning is a smoke screen that some sexually active people, certainly the Genital Myth Makers of our culture (as Sally Cline calls them), use to derail any conversation about celibacy as a positive lifestyle because they are staunch supporters of compulsory sexuality. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion, in our society where sex moralism is very much alive and well, that saying “Celibacy is great for so many reasons” unavoidably translates into “Sex is bad, wrong, evil, and sinful!” But that’s lazy thinking, no different than interpreting the statement “Not having children is awesome” with “Having children sucks.” This may shatter your world, but most things in life are not conducive to an either/or attitude.
Religions teach that circumstantial, temporary celibacy is good because having sex outside of marriage is bad. Mainstream society has never, to my knowledge, framed celibacy in any other terms or conducted a conversation about celibacy in any other way. Celibacy, thus far, has not been considered objectively outside of a sex moralist framework. Sexual people either claim that celibacy is good in the short-term because having the wrong kind of sex is a sin or makes you a slut, or that celibacy is “uncool” and synonymous with “repression.” Sexual society doesn’t want to acknowledge celibacy as positive on its own steam, as a lifestyle choice that moves toward positives instead of away from the negatives of immoral sex. Talking about why celibacy is good is not the same conversation as talking about why sex is bad. The difference may be subtle, but it’s there.
I’m not telling you to be celibate because having sex is categorically sinful, wrong, bad, etc. That would make me a douche bag akin to all the douche bags who tell you to have sex because it’ll make you cool, mature, grown up, progressive, free, etc. I’m simply pointing out that regardless of who you are or what you think of having sex, not having sex actually does come with a whole lot of benefits. I can vouch for those benefits because I enjoy them on a daily basis.
I’m also saying that there are a lot of shitty consequences or potential consequences to being sexually active. I know, several ranks of the “sex-positive” crowd just gasped in horror, but seriously. Being sexually active does have its cons, like pretty much everything else. When you have sex, you’re taking a risk in more ways than one. That doesn’t necessarily mean you ought to be celibate, but it does mean that a sexually active life is not some glorious, problem-free deal. And if you ask me, denying that there’s anything fucked up about the sexually active world doesn’t do anyone any favors. If your real mission is to create a world where people have healthy attitudes about sex and healthy sexual behaviors, then you have to be real about sex. Sex starts out neutral and becomes either positive or negative depending upon how you use it.
Bottom line: celibacy can be awesome and I would like to see the broader social dialogue acknowledge that fact.