Celibacy. The idea of refraining from sexual activity in our highly sexualized culture likely seems like an extreme and unwelcome notion for most people.
Everywhere you look, sex is being sold to us as the ultimate goal of everything we do. Advertisements tell us if we wear this outfit, put on this perfume or cologne, drive this car, follow this diet or exercise in this way, we will land the sex life our of dreams.
Celibate people make a choice to not have sex.
The practice of celibacy is a concept often misunderstood in Western culture and thought of as purely being related to religious devotion. There isn’t much in the media that suggests celibacy could lead to a positive and fulfilling experience, so the confusion isn’t surprising.
However, celibacy can have different meanings for different people. Likewise, celibacy is practiced for different reasons and most of them have nothing to do with religion.
What Is Celibacy?
Celibate people make a choice to not have sex. For some, this means never having sex and never getting married (or entering a long-term relationship).
For others, it could mean not having penetrative sex or oral sex, but still having outercourse, or choosing to become celibate for a certain period. (Outercourse is typically defined as anything that doesn’t involve penetration of any kind.)
For most, it is a very personal choice. One focused on bringing positive change within themselves. The key here is that celibacy is a personal choice and is generally focused on the positive.
These Are 5 Common Misconceptions About Celibacy
As with anything considered different from ‘the norm,’ there are many misconceptions about celibacy. These are the common misconceptions around what celibacy is or is not, and what it does or does not actually entail.
Brahmacharya is one of the five Yamas (a set of moral disciplines to live by) developed by Pantanjali as part of the well-known text, the Yoga Sutras.
While Brahmacharya is often translated as meaning celibacy or chastity, the Sanskrit word Brahmacharya actually translates to “behavior that leads to Brahman.”
Brahmacharya Explained: Your Guide to the Fourth Yama From the Eight Limbed Path of Yoga
In Hindu and Yogic terms, Brahman is thought of as “the creator.” So, the idea of Brahmacharya is about behavior that leads you towards your higher power.
In Western culture, Brahmacharya is often translated as the “right use of energy.” If you read Brahmacharya as the right use of energy, this leads you to consider how you use and direct your energy.
Brahmacharya asks you to look inward and determine if you are using your energy properly. Are you doing things that fulfill you? Are you allowing your energy to become depleted too often? Are you reserving energy for your priorities and passions?
Thus, while the principle Brahmacharya could include celibacy, it doesn’t always have to.
If you’re operating in a way that allows you to pursue your passions, take care of your priorities, provide service to your community, and have sex every day, you’re following the principle of Brahmacharya.
Does Practicing Brahmacharya (The Fourth Yama) Mean a Life Without Sex?
2. Asexuality Is Not the Same as Celibacy
Asexuality and celibacy are often confused as being the same thing. However, asexuality is a sexual orientation whereas celibacy is a choice. Asexuality also isn’t abstinence.
Asexuality is an umbrella term for a sexual orientation. Asexual people exist on a spectrum. Some do not experience sexual attraction at all where others may experience some sexual attraction depending upon the context and the people involved.
3. Abstinence Does Not Equal Celibacy
Celibacy and abstinence are often conflated as being one in the same, but they have different meanings.
Generally, abstinence refers to the choice to not have penetrative sex and is typically limited to a specific time period. For example, “I won’t have sex until after marriage.”
4. Celibacy Doesn’t Have to Be Permanent
Celibacy is also often misunderstood as being a permanent decision. Choosing to become celibate does not mean you must remain celibate forever. The only constant in life is change after all.
You can become celibate after being sexually active. You can even go back to celibacy after a while if you feel it is best for you.
5. Masturbation Isn’t Off Limits
Lastly, there is a common misconception that masturbation isn’t allowed during a period of celibacy. But, in fact, it is normal and healthy to engage in masturbation while practicing celibacy. In fact, many people find masturbation being an important component of celibacy.
The key is that this is your life, you get to decide what is best for you at any given moment.
Why Choose Celibacy? Here Are 5 Common Reasons
1. Religious Reasons
For some, religion is a factor in practicing celibacy. Some religious figures such as nuns, priests and monks take a vow of celibacy for life.
Other people following a religion may become celibate in order to feel closer to a higher power and to further develop their relationship with that higher power.
As mentioned above, the principle of Brahmacharya is all about the “right use of energy”. Some people find focusing on living in alignment with Brahmacharya to be beneficial for their overall wellness and happiness.
It is the focus on finding balance that brings about the feelings of wellness and happiness.
When you’re spending too much energy on any one aspect of life, other areas of your life are bound to suffer. This includes exciting and fulfilling aspects of life like sex and relationships.
3. Unhealthy Relationships
If you feel like you have an unhealthy relationship with sex and/or your own body, taking a break from engaging sexual activity can give you the time and space to reevaluate the role sex plays in your life.
It also gives you time to discover what you really want and need when it comes to sex and sexual relationships.
4. Personal Growth
Let’s face it, dating and sex can take up a lot of our thoughts and emotional energy.
That isn’t to say sex isn’t a beneficial part of our lives. It absolutely is. However, many people have found that a period of celibacy gives them the opportunity to focus on personal growth and mental clarity.
13 Ways to Tell If You Are Emotionally Healthy (And How to Get There If You Answered No)
When you have the time and energy to shift your attention inward and focus on personal growth, you will get to know yourself better.
It can be incredibly rewarding to spend time exploring who you are without the influence of sex and relationships. You will undoubtedly discover things about yourself you never knew existed.
This focus on yourself will not only allow you to discover more about your likes, dislikes, wants and needs when it comes to sex, but also how strong and powerful you truly are.
5. Lower Stress
Pregnancy and STI’s are undeniable and, in many ways, an unavoidable risk when it comes to sexual relationships. These risks can be quite stressful for many people. Some people choose to become celibate to remove that stress from their lives.
Benefits of Celibacy
- Overall, there is very little risk of contracting an STI or STD when practicing celibacy. There is a small risk for those who practice outercourse that includes genital contact though
- There is very little risk of pregnancy
- It gives you time and space to get to know a new partner without sex involved
- It frees up time to focus on other aspects of life such as career, friendships and hobbies
- It gives you the opportunity to develop a deeper connection to yourself
- It may help you to see and feel the difference between physical and emotional attraction
3 Tips to Managing Celibacy With Dating or Marriage
Some people who practice celibacy avoid dating and marriage completely. Other people continue to date and marry while limiting their sexual activity if they engage in sex at all. This can cause complications. Read on for tips to help manage.
1. Communicate Your Needs and Expectations
Even if all partners involved in the relationship are celibate, it can be difficult to find a comfortable level of intimacy.
Communication is key to finding a comfortable spot for all. It is important all partners are open and express their wants and needs. Being this vulnerable can be intimidating, but it is absolutely worth it.
2. Explore Other Ways to Be Intimate
While our culture focuses on sex as being “the” way to be intimate, there are plenty of other ways to develop intimacy with your partner/s.
It is important for you and your partner/s to explore other ways of being intimate such as cuddling, deep conversation and adventuring together.
Beyond Sex: Explore These 12 Types of Intimacy With Your Partner
3. Seek Out a Support System
As with any challenge in life, it is important to have a support system that can help you work through your feelings and challenges while providing unbiased advice.
Search your area for support groups or meet-ups focused on celibacy. Of course, friends and family can be a great form of support as well.
Celibacy Can Be a Great Way to Explore and Grow
While the practice of celibacy certainly isn’t for everyone, it is a great option for many.
Sex is such a big focus in so many aspects of our culture, especially in the media. This hyper-focus on sex within our culture can make it difficult to know what you truly need and want when it comes to your own sex life.
The ability to dive in deep and figure out your own likes, dislikes and needs is one benefit of a period of celibacy. Regardless of your reason to consider taking a period of celibacy (or a lifelong commitment), the reason you do it should be for you.
This is your life, you get to decide what is best for you at any given moment.