Sex bans and celibacy are trending.
Over the last few years there has been a rise in young people, specifically cis women, abstaining from sex. The incentive? ‘Hook up’ culture and the toxicity that it involves.
Whilst celibacy, or intentionally abstaining from sex, isn't a new concept, its recent social media fame is. On TikTok, a growing number of people are choosing celibacy in favour of slowing down, making time for self-development and reassessing their relationship with dating.
With the shift of the pandemic, the last few years haven’t exactly promoted the idea of casual dating and sex. In fact, the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions practically inspired a celibate reflection in a lot of us, naturally. With all this time to think, many have chosen or perhaps are now choosing celibacy as a way to slow down and re-evaluate how they approach dating and relationships. A time for self-development.
Social media has made voluntary celibacy (volcel) far more accessible, and appealing to new audiences, detailing the surge behind the movement and the list of potential benefits available. Over the past year, ‘volcel’ has been trending on TikTok, garnering upwards of 11 million views across the popular hashtags, #celibatetiktok, #celibategirl and #celibacygang.
With what started as a trend, dominated by feminist-leaning women, ‘volcel’ has become a movement of its own, outside of the popular app. Research shows that Gen Zers are having less casual sex than the generations that came before them. Even before the pandemic, people found that millennials were having half as much sex as their parents (TMI!).
Whilst celibacy has often been associated with religion, and whilst this is true for some, for others, it is about personal choice and reclaiming sexual independence. And they’re swearing by it. For some, this act of abstinence is the best way to get in touch with their needs and desires. A time for reflection and learn what your boundaries are. They say it’s a step back, to re-evaluate and just focus on you. Makes sense.
For a lot of people, ‘volcel’ is a response to dating app burnout or fatigue from casual hook up culture. And whilst casual sex can be liberating for a lot of people, for others that’s just not the case. The plethora of dating apps on the go makes hook-up culture and casual dating easier, some would say, and forming emotional connections more difficult.
Dating can be exhausting. For some, sex can be viewed as something they’re giving away. It’s a hugely vulnerable act - we know this. With the ups and downs of casual dating, it’s no surprise people take a step back.
In the case of TikTok users, some talk about how in the past they’ve used sex for approval and now choosing celibacy, it’s helped them break that pattern and re-evaluate what they actually want in a relationship. Other benefits mentioned have included increased productivity and using celibacy as a tool for self accountability, in terms of not blaming yourself for someone else's actions.
It's important to remember that celibacy looks different for everyone. If this is a choice you have made for yourself, take the time to define your boundaries, create a support system, and consider what is beneficial for you and your relationship(s).
When talking about this, it’s important to examine and challenge sexual shame. Whilst this may be useful for some - it's certainly not for everyone. And that's totally fine.
A note to remember: sex isn't shameful. A fulfilling sex life shouldn’t be exhausting emotionally or physically, if it is, it may be useful to seek professional support.
Interested and want to delve deeper? Read Catherine Gray’s The Unexpected Joy of Being Single