According to contemporary society, married or not, something’s wrong with you if you’re not having sex. Sex is often portrayed as something attractive, exciting and maybe just that little bit dangerous. Often, it is accompanied by images of a blonde bombshell with long, toned legs and tanned, glistening skin.
With such a heavy emphasis on sexual attractiveness, it’s no surprise that the cosmetics, diet and fashion industries, and plastic surgeons reap millions of dollars from our insecurities.
The problem is, while we are constantly hearing about the benefits of having an active, even promiscuous sex life, we seldom hear of the dangers associated with it.
An unhealthy body image
The number of intensely sexualised images of women has soared in recent years and even pictures of ordinary women have increasingly become hyper-sexualised. Just for comparison, a study found that images on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine were 89 per cent more sexualised in the 2000s than in the 1960s.
Assistant professor of sociology at Buffalo University, New York, USA, Erin Hatton, says this is “problematic because it indicates a decisive narrowing of media representations of women. Sexualised portrayals of women have been found to legitimise or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys. Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women.”
Emotional and psychological damage
Sex is much more than a physical act—the emotional and psychological aspects make it distinctly human. Our entire person—mind, body and feelings—are involved. That’s why sexual intimacy has potentially powerful emotional results. Of course, the media doesn’t tell us of this,
instead giving us an idyllic illusion of sex without consequence. Dr Armand Nicholi Jr, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, USA, describes a study in the 1960s: “Not long after the sexual revolution was underway, clinicians observed that the new sexual freedom was creating a psychological disaster. We began to study Harvard students who complained of emptiness and despondency. There was a gap between their social conscience and the morality they were practising in their personal lives. The new sexual permissiveness was leading to empty relationships and feelings of self-contempt. Many of these students were preoccupied with the passing of time and with death. They yearned for meaning, for a moral framework.”
False sense of fulfilment
Women and men lured into the destructive practices of the so-called sexual revolution caused sex to become risky and superficial, rejecting a loving intimacy between caring, responsive and uncritical partners. Not only that, it’s a practice filled with mirages promising fulfilment. This standard has put pressure on us to live up to a false picture of sexuality, leading to many feeling fear and hesitation to engage in sex.
Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfilment While Keeping Your Clothes On, says she had plenty of experience “using sex in the hope of landing a commitment.” It was a lifestyle that left her unfulfilled. That was when she decided to become celibate.
According to Eden, celibacy is a practice that involves “seeing your sexual nature as part of a three-way relationship between you, your husband or if you’re not married, your future husband and God.” If you have sex without one corner of that triangle in place, “the act becomes disconnected from its purpose.”
Eden isn’t the only one finding celibacy to be a refreshing alternative with positive benefits. In a survey, the usually salacious Penthouse magazine discovered that celibacy was taking on a new respectability— and it’s not just because people want to avoid AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Less than half the men and less than 40 per cent of the women surveyed had chosen celibacy because they feared disease.
Instead, their concerns were emotional and spiritual. Further, more than half these celibates viewed their experiences as healthy and 74 per cent of the women and 68 per cent of the men believed they had broadened their view about the opposite sex.
There is something empowering about having control over your body and deciding to abstain from sex. Having sex isn’t the issue, but having it irresponsibly is. It’s important to refrain from something that impacts our life intensely.
Celibacy can be a powerful statement in a culture of compulsory sexuality, in a society that values people according to their sexual availability, performance and history.
The message of instant satisfaction in sex causes self-centredness. Celibacy on the other hand is an expression of freedom, autonomy and ownership of your body. It offers you a way to detach from many false beliefs and expectations.
Later sex, better marriage
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that the longer a dating couple waits to have sex, the better their relationship is after marriage. In fact, couples who wait until marriage to have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20 per cent higher), better communication patterns (12 per cent better), less consideration of divorce (22 per cent lower) and better sexual quality (15 per cent better) than those who began having sex early in their dating. For couples in between—those who became sexually involved later in their dating, but prior to marriage—the benefits were about half as strong.