When sex is so much fun, why would anyone choose to be celibate? Dr Charmaine finds out more.

If you’re in a happy sexual relationship, it may seem surprising that not everyone is ‘doing it’. But for a percentage of the population, life minus sex is a very real thing. Here are some of the main reasons why people abstain from sex.


With the prevalence of STDs these days, many people are wary of casual sexual encounters. It is recommended that condoms are used between all lovers, even if in a relationship, until such time as a monogamous commitment is confirmed. Even still, there are always inherent risks and possible mistakes. Some people are simply not prepared to gamble on their health and maybe their lives. Casual sex can offer dangers – emotionally and physically. Guys are generally less likely to choose a celibate lifestyle as such but it can happen by default as a result of other factors such as shyness, emotional baggage or lack of social opportunity.

Bad health, too, will put a person off physical activity, including sex.


Without a regular partner, celibacy is a very real option for 21st century men and women. The alternative is casual sex with various lovers, which doesn’t suit everyone, either for moral, religious or personal reasons. Being single can be an attractive lifestyle but only if you are mature, optimistic and have a healthy self-esteem. Some people, unfortunately, see it as an enforced prison of loneliness and ‘sexlessness’.

If celibacy is not chosen, it can seem a cruel imposition. Of course, self-pleasuring is a real option and is a positive strategy to deal with sexual frustration and physical tensions. Celibacy is generally thought to be an absence of sex altogether but I think of it as being without physical sexual activity as
there are other ways to find satisfaction.


All of us lose our interest in sex from time to time. This can be due to stress, fatigue, relationship problems, poor health, sexual dysfunction, even work issues. When it happens, celibacy can be the natural response. It’s usually temporary and exists only as long as the problem does. Very few people adopt celibacy as a permanent way of life.

Women have an interesting cut-off mechanism which amounts to withdrawal, both sexually and emotionally. As female sexuality is more internal and contained, it’s a lot more possible to shut down physically. Sexual desire is then sublimated into other activities/interests.


Sex is part of the life-force, and is therefore natural and intended for pleasure. When the pleasure principle is reduced, loss of interest quickly ensues. Whether you’re in a relationship or are single, if there’s no joy, there’s no sex, or maybe just bad sex. Addicts might very well rev up the amount of sex when generally unhappy, like using comfort food, I guess, but many just opt out. Depression can set in and sufferers give up on life, including sex. Boredom too can be a contributing factor. Sex is no different to any other activity – if it’s no longer enjoyable, participants just give up.

Relationship problems can also cause cessation of sexual relations. This is an interesting difference between men and women – men will often use sex as a cure-all for quarrels and arguments, whereas women will be turned off by those same things and either withdraw or reject advances. It may not actually be celibacy or at least, very short-term, but it still amounts to no sex. It’s a surprising fact that many married people are actually celibate, i.e. they live within their partnership sexless. They may still like or even love each other, have no desire to part but no longer fancy each other physically and do not seek out other lovers.


Many people practise celibacy for religious reasons or because of personal morality. The obvious example of this is nuns, brothers and priests who take vows that say they will not indulge in sexual pleasures as part of their daily lives. But even lay-persons sometimes decide they will not have sex outside the prescribed structure of a committed relationship. In recent times, it has become common for young couples to decide they will stay virgins until marriage. If an individual’s moral code dictates that they cannot have casual sex, then what are they to do if they’re not in a long-term relationship? I remember a radio caller telling me she kept waking up with spontaneous orgasms because she didn’t believe in casual sex or masturbation. I had to explain to her that her body was naturally releasing sexual tension. This is a difficult one to reconcile and it has to be done by each person for themselves. Is celibacy a hardship? Only if it’s not chosen. As a way of life, it need not be a burden if sexual tensions are released in some other healthy way. It is unusual for the average person to choose celibacy as a permanent lifestyle.
We are all sexual beings whether we engage in physical activities alone or with another.


For some, all casual sex is bad sex. For others, it’s far more exciting than routine, regular sex with a partner. Either way, bad sex constitutes boredom, irritation, relationship breakdown, stress, unhappiness. Who would want it? Celibacy suddenly becomes a very attractive option. The attitude soon dissolves into one of indifference. The solution – if celibacy is not considered – is, of course to improve your sex life. There are many ways to do this within a relationship, keeping things fresh, communicating, being happy; if single, being selective with choice of lovers, having fun but staying safe; if alone, enjoying your own body and finding ways to be intimate and sensual in other ways, for example, laughing, love
of nature, creativity, music and so on.

Sexual dysfunction either in oneself or in one’s partner adds another complicating dimension as it’s easy for one or both partners to simply stop trying.