Celibacy: The Second Time Around

There has long been a barrage of tween pop stars touting their commitment to abstain from sex until marriage. From Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears back in the day, to Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas brothers today. Even Justin Bieber said in a recent interview that he did not believe in sex outside of a loving, committed relationship. This is really not all that surprising; it is easier to get parents to shell out money on products for their children if the stars behind the products are good role models, people that parents would want their children to emulate.

What I personally find far more compelling is the number of celebrities who are taking another shot at celibacy, post-divorce. In 2008, as he was going through his second divorce--having remarried his former wife--Terrence Howard pledged to abstain until marriage. He claimed that sex “ends up masking your real feelings because you're able to get some satisfaction, when what you really need is a lifetime partner and friend“. To remedy that, Howard stated, “Now I'm completely chaste through a relationship unless I get married. I don't believe in premarital sex.” When she was on Dancing with the Stars last fall, R&B singer Brandy revealed that she had been celibate for years, telling Life & Style magazine, “I tend to abstain if I’m not in a relationship.”

After my own divorce, I struggled with this issue. On the one hand, I had (of course) been sexually active throughout my marriage--I was no longer ‘untouched’, so, did it really matter? I couldn’t really un-ring that chastity bell; it would be like closing the barn door after the cow got out. On the other hand, my husband was the only man with whom I had ever had sex. Did I really want to rush out there and literally double my number of sexual partners by sleeping with the first guy I dated? I am not going to lie, it was initially a difficult decision. As a healthy, normal woman, I have needs--needs that I had gotten used to having met. Giving up sex after years of having it regularly seemed daunting.

Ultimately, I have chosen to put my personal values above my physical needs. Meaning, I intend to be celibate until such time that I marry again. And this will not happen anytime soon, given I have two young children at home, and I don’t intend to even consider remarriage until they are much older.

So, why did I decide to join the ranks of those who are holding off on sex until (re)marriage? After months of weighing my options, there were four primary areas that influenced my decision.

1) My faith--The Christian faith calls for abstinence until marriage. I realize that I have been married before, so I am no longer a virgin. However, I am not married anymore, and just because I’ve ‘done it’ before doesn’t mean it is no big deal. I value sex as an expression of intimacy between two people who are committed to each other. Even though my first marriage did not last forever, it doesn’t mean I abandon my personal belief systems. My faith in Christ has led me to a lot of important decisions in life, including abstaining from sex outside marriage.

2) My children--I strive to be a good example for my children. We have talked about making positive decisions for our lives already: not smoking, eating healthy foods, balancing time on the computer with time outdoors running around, etc.   My kids know that our faith puts a priority on sexual purity until marriage. How could I possibly encourage them to be celibate while engaging in sex outside of marriage myself? I know I won’t be perfect--no parent is. But I can do my best to make positive choices and to show my children what is important to me through actions, not just words.

3) Emotional Health--It has been repeated to the point of becoming a cliché, but it is also the truth in many cases: women tend to become emotionally attached to men with whom they are intimate. I know I cannot separate the act of sex from emotional connection. Sleeping with someone I do not have feelings for would feel cheap and empty; sleeping with someone I care deeply about--should I be lucky enough to find that again--would lead to expectations of commitment and exclusivity on my part. And I know I am not alone in this.

I have a male friend who, post divorce, has built up a so-called ‘harem’ of women whom he dates; he has sex with many, but not all, of them. Despite telling all of the women up front that he is not interested in a relationship, several of them have recently told him that they love him. He is genuinely surprised by this, but I am not. It just shows how one half of a dating duo can look at sex as an entertaining diversion, while another looks at it as a solid step towards an exclusive, love-based relationship. There is no way I could feel comfortable sharing so much of myself with someone I barely know, or even with someone I care about, but don’t love, who has not expressed the desire to commit to me fully and exclusively.

4) Physical Health-- According to information posted on the website for the Kinsey Institute, at least 65 million people--more than one in 5 Americans--are believed to be infected with a sexually transmitted infection other than HIV. The report goes on to say that by the age of 24, one in three sexually active people will have contracted an STD. These numbers are not encouraging for a single person out in the dating scene! The number of individuals infected with an STD is so large that there is actually an online dating service exclusively for individuals with STDs. Choosing to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage is just another way for me to limit the chances of ever getting one. As Gwyneth Paltrow‘s character said recently on an episode of Glee: Whenever you have sex with someone, you’re having sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with. And everybody’s got a random…

For these reasons, it just makes sense for me to wait. It is the best way for me to honor my God, my family, and ultimately, myself. I realize not everyone shares my views. I get that. But I also know that there are other women out there who have found themselves single again, and they are inundated with messages from the media that it’s sexy for women our age to become pumas or cougars, out on the prowl for a new boy toy. I just want them to know, they do have other choices. Besides, having the confidence to live a life that honors their personal convictions is sexy, too.