Celibacy, it’s a practice that has existed throughout the ages, though historically has mainly been associated with some form of religious doctrine. However, the act of abstaining, and more so for secular reasons, seems to be building steam. Listen in to some of the current conversations taking place surrounding celibacy, and you’ll hear that people, and a surprising amount of young people, are taking this path as a route to personal reflection and empowerment.
Could this be a burnout from the proliferation of online dating, Tinder, Grindr, and its many variations? Have we gorged ourselves on too many empty calories, and are now craving something more substantial?
In Hinduism, sexual energy is considered to be one of the most potent energies given to mankind by God. By storing this energy, it is thought that it can be directed towards finding our truest nature and selves, and moving towards enlightenment. The focus becomes much less on short-term fulfillment, and instead on investing our energy and attention on seeking purpose in life and the things that instill a feeling of peace and contentment.
In 1980, Gabrielle Brown introduced a similar concept in her book, The New Celibacy. In her book, Brown advocated for celibacy in order to reclaim a sense of self-sufficiency, freedom, and exploring new dimensions in relationships. For some, this seems to be a path worth exploring not because of religious associations, but as a means to deepen their personal relationship with themselves, and to discover what role sex plays in their lives. How does sex limit us, but also free us? How does it influence our choices and actions? Can it be used to deepen our connections, to explore vulnerability, or does the intimacy shut us down and steel us against feeling anything too risky?
Historically though, the act of abstaining was frowned upon unless enacted for purely religious reasons; The Romans declared it an aberration and legislated penalties against it, Ancient Judaism denounced it, and even Daoism and the Shinto tradition were strongly opposed. When the continuation of your race depends upon procreation, this is an understandable stance to take. But flashforward to present day, and this will never be a concern in our lifetime and likely lifetimes to come. We’ve come to a place where we now have the luxury of choice – to fornicate, or to forego?