In a world where you can get a sexual partner faster than a pizza delivery, it has never been easier to play the field. Yet, despite all that swiping right, a surprising number of people are not having sex at all – not for religious reasons, or because they can’t get a date, but because they find that celibacy makes them happier.
Some have never had much interest in sex, while others are taking a break to address personal problems, recover from bad dating experiences or change the way they approach relationships.
Catherine Gray, the author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Single, gave up sex for a year in 2014. “Between the ages of 16 and 34, I hadn’t spent more than a few months single,” she says. “I felt incomplete without a plus-one and constantly hunted approval. I reached rock-bottom after being disproportionately crushed by the failure of a six-month relationship, so I decided to give up sex and dating for an entire year.”
Although deleting her dating apps felt like “giving up a drug”, celibacy turned out to be a huge relief. “Instead of doing what my boyfriend wanted to, I discovered what I liked, developing a love for yoga, photography and travelling. I dressed differently and no longer cared about attracting men. I started to see myself as a person – rather than a girlfriend or a sexual plaything.” The period of celibacy changed how she approached dating; she is now in a healthy relationship. “I realised that I had an anxious attachment style and that, if I started dating again, I would need to change who and how I date. If I feel insecure in the early stages of a relationship, I know it’s because I’m dating someone who is emotionally unavailable, so I back away, rather than persist.”
The power of celibacy: ‘Giving up sex was a massive relief’ https://t.co/QhGOHVZ4Jy
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 28, 2020