I’ve been practicing celibacy for five years but, I’m not sure I can continue to do so if I desire to be married.
I know. I can feel the pearl clutches of the #DeepSaints as they read that last sentence. Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise since this is The Unfit Christian, but I literally wrote the book on celibacy as a practice for both singles and partners in a relationship. So this is quite a shock if you have come to know my writing through that avenue. It isn’t as if my encouragement of masturbation and cohabitation in that book wasn’t enough to keep tongues wagging. In the almost three years since writing that book, I have to confess that much in my life and mindset has changed. I must walk in my authentic truth.
It isn’t that I necessarily disagree with or rescind the things that I wrote in Closed Legs do Get Fed. I still firmly believe celibacy is a necessary practice for every adult person at least once in their lives. I think celibacy is a phenomenal choice to become intimately aware of who you are as a person without the clouded judgment that sex can produce. I simply believe, as I wrote in Closed Legs, that you need to be sure about the motivating influences for choosing celibacy.
The (observed) fact is that most religious celibate women rush into marriages to end the latter (celibacy) while satisfying the former (religion). The motivation for celibacy becomes avoidance of religious guilt rather than a desire to deeply connect with one’s self or anyone else for that matter. I’m not ashamed to say that I was one of those women.
I became celibate by default for the first year. After ending my last sexual relationship, I didn’t really have an unction to date anyone else. I didn’t consciously choose celibacy until it was discussed with my partner at the beginning of my last relationship. We’d both been celibate by default and, for individual reasons, decided to practice celibacy in our relationship. And so began our perfect courtship, our deep spiritual connection, and we lived happily ever after! Bulls**t. To say our relationship was rocky is putting it mildly. My ex-partner is a great person, but he was a terrible boyfriend. After 2.5 years of a model Christian relationship, we broke up over irreconcilable differences.
Doing everything the “right” way and still failing
The embarrassment of having embraced this lifestyle, having extolled its virtues to all who would listen, only to end in heartbreak just the same! No amount of “he wasn’t the right man” could serve as consolation. This was a hurt that ran deeper than past breakups. I gave a new level of vulnerability and openness with my ex because the absence of sex required this in order to build an emotional connection. Yet, here I was, still without a ring and a bucket of tears after having supposedly doing it the right way. My feelings were hurt and my ego was bruised.
Even without sex, I struggled with the same insecurities as I had in previous relationships. I dealt with the same negative characteristics in this man as I’d dealt with in other men. Without sex, I still questioned why he was with me and if he was sincere. I still analyzed every action, word, and experience of signs of his insincerity. The absence of sex brought the gift of new insecurity: is he celibate or is he just not having sex with me? I worried deeply that he wasn’t even sexually attracted to me. Overall, after 18 months in, we still were no closer to marriage than we had been on the onset. Wasn’t he just as ready to end this celibacy stint? Why am I not worthy of being chosen as a wife once again, despite all of my prayers and acts of obedience?
I knew long before the two year mark that I shouldn’t be with this person, yet I allowed love to make me blind to the red flags. Celibacy was supposed to remove the blinders from my eyes in my relationship by acting as a barrier to a soul tie. The reality is, once I fell in love and got my heart involved, the soul tie was created just as if we’d had sex. I used celibacy as a bargaining chip with God to get them to bend to my will to be married to this person. For as much as premarital sex has been accepted as a fact of life among Christians, it’s still just as contested as LGBTQIQ people in the church. Though I’ve become far removed from the theology of the traditional church, old habits die hard. I still struggle with my spiritual upbringing and my current identity in Christ. Because, like many people of faith, I just wanted to be free from the religious guilt of shunned choices. I wanted to have sex the “right” way, by any means necessary.
Now, I’m stuck with the task of doing the soul work I should have done when I first chose celibacy. I advocate for women’s sexual agency while struggling to remember that my value is not based on what lies between my thighs. I struggle with anxiety regarding sex and what my identity becomes after I have sex again. The dirty truth is that being celibate gives you a haughty sense of pride and a tendency to value yourself as a bigger prize than those who aren’t celibate. Yet, what becomes of us once we have sex again? We become just like everyone else—which places a deep fear inside of many of us whether we admit it or not.
In each of my relationships, I continued to try to work with and through red flags and deal breakers for the sake of being viewed as a “real woman.” Because real women ride or die, right? I was riding along with people who didn’t match what I desired and dying inside each time I failed to acknowledge that. With or without sex, I was scared to fail at another relationship. I was scared that each relationship would be my last chance to fail. Carrying that amount of immense pressure creates an unhealthy energy in any relationship and, while my partners were in no way blameless, I have to acknowledge it as a part of my failures.
Love is out of your control and, more often than not, you will frequently fail. After all, you’re doing all of this dating to eventually marry ONE person. So, failure is to be expected. The fact is, celibacy cannot and will not insulate you from this nor is the choice of celibacy without its consequences. You can do it all right and still fail. You can wait until marriage and end up divorced. With or without sex, relationships are a risk. It is up to us to decide if the results are worth the risk.
Photo Credit: Bat Sheva Seda