Thinking about giving up sex? Here’s some expert advice

31 May, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Kelle Salle

Image via Pinterest

Attitudes towards sex are changing. Celibacy has gone from being something that people were embarrassed to talk about to something that people are openly talking about. According to a study by dating app, 20% of Brits are choosing celibacy – soaring from 12% in the past decade. Recently, voluntary or intentional celibacy has become a trend, with the celibacy hashtag having more than 195 million views on TikTok. In January, there was a 90% increase in searches for the term ‘celibacy’ that month according to Google data. The choice to become celibate is influenced by a number of factors but what are some of the things someone should consider beforehand? We’ve asked Alice Child, sexologist at SheSpot and founder of Vulva Dialogues for some insight. 

What is celibacy?

Celibacy is an individual choice to not have sex over an extended period of time.

Why might someone choose to be celibate?

There are many reasons why somebody might decide to try an ongoing period of celibacy but ultimately it is your body and your choice! Common reasons I hear about are:

– wanting more time to focus on platonic relationships/friendships
– wanting more time to focus on their own needs/work/mental health/attachment style,
– wanting to take a mental break from the whirlwind of casual dating or religious reasons
– wanting time to recover from a negative sexual or romantic experience or a breakup

While you can still do all of the above and keep having sex if you want to, celibacy can feel like an empowering choice for many people.

What are some things you should consider before becoming celibate?

Do it for yourself and nobody else – What you do (or don’t do) when it comes to sex is always your choice. Never have sex or choose not to have sex due to peer pressure, slut shaming, obligation or other people’s values and opinions.

Sex is a good thing – Sex and pleasure are a normal part of life that can have huge mental health and physical health benefits. Despite what some people believe, there is nothing wrong or dirty about enjoying and wanting regular sex/masturbation. It teaches us a lot about ourselves and our bodies! Only give it up if you think it is the best choice for YOU.

How important is sex to you? – Some people feel that sex is a big part of their identity, relationships and self expression. For other people, sex really isn’t that important to them. Everyone has different needs when it comes to sex, and it can fill many different roles. This could be physical intimacy, love, connection, trust, orgasm, stress relief, better sleep, self expression, playfulness, pleasure, orgasm, release, community – anything! Consider what role sex plays in your life and whether you are ready to give that up.

If you’re in a relationship, what are your partner’s needs?  – If you are in a relationship (especially a monogamous relationship) you also need to remember that your decision to be celibate affects them too. If you want them to stay monogamous, your choice to be celibate is in effect forcing them to be celibate too. Your partner’s needs when it comes to sex are likely different to yours, and it is important to realise that it could have a negative impact on them. Talk to your partner and explain why you want to try a period of celibacy and be willing to understand what needs they have too – you might need to renegotiate the parameters of your relationship over this time to make it work for both of you.

You can change your mind at any time – You’re not signing a contract! You can decide to take a break from sex, and then change your mind at any point.

How should celibacy be discussed in a new relationship or a long-term relationship?

In any relationship, having an open, honest, non-defensive, respectful conversation is key. The goal should be to understand each other’s point of view and personal needs when it comes to sex & intimacy, and then work out if/how the relationship can continue with one or both of you practising celibacy. If one partner wants to be celibate and the other does not, but both people both want the relationship to continue, ethical non-monogamy is a great option to discuss. If this is new territory for you, consider booking in a session with a sex-positive sex & relationship coach/counsellor to help you navigate these conversations.


IALH Editorial Team


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