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The New Celibacy

I will start by saying that it is not easy to forgo sex; indeed, it is a difficult thing, as sex is itself the height of ecstasy (assuming some modicum of related competency and modest endowment). One may then wonder what purpose or rationale lies behind the decision to abstain from sex? The old celibacy operated primarily within social structures, working as a signaling mechanism to members of the community. This is, however, unjust. The decision to be celibate should not be one which affords social status or wards against wary eyes; rather, it should be borne out of mutual respect and pragmatism. Thus, the new celibacy is formed.

The new celibacy recognizes that many view sex as more than hedonic fulfillment, that sex carries with it emotional commitments and, if those commitments are taken lightly, the potential to cause undue harm. The strongest argument I can present for this would be the case of a single mother or father of a young child. From “The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development”: “Among children born to married parents, those with more family transitions are rated by their teachers as having more externalizing behaviors than their peers with fewer transitions. Similarly, among children born to single parents, those who experience more instability, display more negative behaviors than their peers. Together these findings reveal that even one change in family structure has the potential to be disruptive to child well-being, but each additional change that contributes to family instability predicts worse outcomes. “ Read the full paper here:

For full disclosure, the research article is speaking specifically about cohabiting relationships, but I am of the opinion that the results can be extrapolated to non-cohabiting lovers as well. The new celibacy requires us to be cognizant of these potential harmful effects, and look beyond ourselves to the potential ramifications of our interactions and possibly abstain; not just in the interest of children’s psychological well-being, but that of potential partners as well. In this way, the new celibacy is empathetic. The new celibacy is a rejection of venery. More clearly, one should not arbitrarily pursue sex for its own sake. This aspect is an expression of wei wu wei, the Taoist principle of action without action.

From the Tao Te Ching, 37: Tao abides in non-action 48: The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be ruled by interfering.

When you free yourself from a habitual pursuit of sex, you afford yourself time for self-improvement, but more importantly, your decisions and actions are no longer influenced by ulterior motivations. Readers, I ask you: How many times have you been led on by a potential partner only to later find that their persona was one specifically crafted to enthrall? Would you not prefer that they simply be honest? Be themselves? We all have odd habits and quirks. The only reason to hide them is to seek affection and acceptance. When you stop seeking, you stop hiding. Action without action. Our interactions should not be contrived, but rather come naturally. Please do not, however, mistake me for some sort of evangelical Taoist; the teachings/philosophy of the faith merely coincide with what I find to be a harmonious way of living, and have adopted particular tenets as pedagogically useful. Ultimately, the moniker “celibate” is a bit misleading. It is not celibacy in the traditional sense, rather, it is the rejection of unchecked carnality. Nothing presented here suggests you cannot have sex, merely that one should not compromise lucidity, honesty, and empathy in its pursuit.

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