How Choosing Celibacy Helped Me Find The Self-Love I Need

by Sophia Wu

In our Millennial world of late-night texts and almost-boyfriends, there are more gray areas in dating than there ever were before.

We’re not ashamed of apps like Tinder or Grindr in the pursuit of hookups, and sex is not so much a deeply intimate act, but more of a fleeting feeling.

We’re supposed to be carefree, adventurous and distant. The idea of celibacy isn’t even factored into our dating culture because we believe it simply doesn’t happen. I’m here to say that it does, and it holds a valuable place in a culture of mainstream sex and casualness.

The last time I had sex was a few months ago, and it was with a guy I really cared about, but one whom I wouldn’t see afterward. During that time, my thoughts continuously circled around the idea that it would be my last time having sex for a long time.

I soaked up every touch and each feeling because I knew I wouldn’t have any of it anymore. I wasn’t going to let myself have access to sex after him, at least temporarily.

Sex was so personal, so intimate and so unique that at the time, I couldn’t imagine having it with anyone other than him. It was as if it was “our thing.”

I found myself surprised to have these kinds of thoughts. Only five months prior to June, I was hooking up, nearly blackout-drunk, with a guy I barely knew, and he had no issue kicking me out afterward, point-blank.

I was an active participant in our own hook-up culture, and I pretended not to care. I depersonalized sex as much as I could. At the time, I had never before had a boyfriend or even a steady hookup.

My sex consisted of one-night stands fueled by alcohol and loneliness under the guise of being a liberated, sexually independent female. Unfortunately, the only person this impression was kidding was myself.

I couldn’t have a night out without ending up topless in someone’s bed and barely ever questioned whether what I did was what I really wanted.

But, I eventually learned that casual sex wasn’t for me. The pure amount of energy required to maintain normality in front of my past conquests and the anxiety associated with seeing them outside of the bedroom was not worth the moments of drunken passion that would later translate to averted eye contact.

Sex with someone with whom I ate regular meals felt more appealing. The same went for someone who would touch my knee and ask me how I felt; someone with whom I enjoyed sitting in bed and watching documentaries.

Realizing this expanded my entire perspective on sex; it literally flipped everything I ever believed upside down and buried it underneath my shedding layers of immaturity and dissatisfaction. No other guy was worth sex unless he was worth investing in.

This idea led me into my current state of celibacy. Hooking up was such a constant force in my life that I couldn’t even really remember my life before it.

Since my freshman year of college, I got with multiple guys per weekend (without sleeping with them) and brushed intimacy off my shoulders, even though I would feel badly about it the following day.

At 21, celibacy brought me back to age 17, when I was mostly celibate my whole life. The most I had done at that point was make out with a few guys.

At first it felt strange; my friends in college knew me as a girl who was always hooking up. Remove that from my identity, and what was left? Even I wasn’t sure.

But slowly, as time went on, I became sure. When nights out didn’t end with going home with a guy, I was able to appreciate my time with my friends so much more.

I was so used to ditching them as soon as I found a guy, that I never realized how much more fun we had together, and I thought it was so much better than ending up with a random acquaintance to whom I’d never speak again.

I also had a lot more free time on my hands. I started doing art, mainly drawing and painting. I felt ecstatic the first time I bought my oil pastels.

I was also doing my senior thesis on cosmetic surgery in China. Delving into the topic and progressing more on my project made me feel so fulfilled.

Were there times that I missed sex? Absolutely. I had forgotten what it was like to be touched by another human being. Even a boy grazing my elbow would send a shudder down my spine.

At the same time, I was becoming more immune to it, too. Seeing a couple making began to not affect me.

I realized is that I felt so much more sure of myself when I wasn’t hooking up, which says a lot about who I am and where I am in my life right now.

I don't advocate celibacy for everyone or even regard our hook-up culture with disdain. Rather I'm sharing that my experience with celibacy has revitalized me and brought my life back to my identity, passions and goals.

I've read so many articles where women lament the boys who don’t call afterward articles about how casually sleeping around feels like the ultimate modern sexual independence.

I’ve also read articles where men dissent the hook-up culture in favor of a meaningful relationship, and how the hook-up culture in general has shaped our mindsets and attitudes toward dating life. It’s led me to wonder where celibacy exists in all the frenzy of casual hookups and relationships.

I feel that celibacy is either looked down upon, associated with religion or considered nonexistent.

When people talk about last night’s hookup, it can feel like everyone is having sex but you, but we forget that that’s only an idea.

We only see a fraction of who people truly are; some fractions are larger than others, of course, depending on how well we know someone. But overall, they are still fractions and we never really know the truth.

We speculate and make assumptions that simply sound concrete and factual, even if they aren’t.

Celibacy isn’t simply about not having sex with people. To me, it is a form of reclaiming yourself. When you aren’t sharing yourself and your body with someone else, much less someone who may not even care about you, you’re much more able to focus on yourself and what you actually want.

It’s like breathing fresh air and coming back to life. You don’t need to impress anyone but yourself. Celibacy has taught me the strength in self-control, something I believed I lacked for years.

It’s one of many steps that I am learning in my own pursuit of self-love.

Ultimately, celibacy is a choice and I am thriving in it. In this crucial age where building and shaping who you are is vital, I want to enjoy it as much as I can.