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Celibate is an adjective that describes a person who is not having sexual relationships. The term originated in the early 1600s, from the Latin word caelib, meaning unmarried.
The term celibate was historically used interchangeably with unmarried due to its roots. However, this is less common today, when people are often sexually active outside of marriage and marriage does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with an active sex life.
A person may be celibate by choice or involuntarily, because there is no one they are sexually compatible in their lives. Becoming celibate may be a conscious decision or something that occurs due to various circumstances.
Religious beliefs often motivate a person’s decision to become celibate. Religion drives the long-term celibacy of monks, nuns, and some priests. People may also be celibate until they are married if they believe it is God’s preference.
However, some people who are celibate have no religious motivation. A person may decide to become celibate until they are in a committed relationship because they feel sex is more meaningful and pleasurable with feelings attached. Fear of sex or painful sex can also make someone choose to be celibate. Some people may become celibate while they are grieving a break-up. Asexual people, who do not feel a sex drive, also commonly choose to be celibate.
Being celibate can look different to different people. Some reject all sexual interaction while others only abstain from penetrative sex. Some people engage in masturbation for sexual relief while others reject self-pleasure too.
While abstaining from sex may seem unthinkable to many, some people who are celibate say their lifestyle has many benefits. They note that it is easier to form stronger friendships with people of their preferred gender, as they can be more relaxed around them without the prospect of sex. People motivated by religious reasons say they feel closer to God. It can also be refreshing to stop worrying about unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.