When it comes to sexual behavior, history shows a pendulum-like swing from puritanical values to raging sexual revolutions. For example, the era of the Industrial Revolution was basically sexually-free only to be followed by the chasteness of the early Victorian period.
Sexual behavior in the late 20th century became rather muddled as a result of these conflicting views on sexuality. After World War I there was more sexual freedom and indulgence, but for the most part the appearance of adhering to moral values of abstinence before marriage was upheld. At the end of the WW II the importance of abstinence declined rather quickly. Once the first birth control pill and widely available antibiotics came on the scene the consequences of wide and free sexual behavior didn't seem quite as bad. In addition, social morals were changing. While some cultural groups placed a high value on abstinence, celibacy was somewhat lost in a wider reevaluation of sexual freedoms.
However, the 20th century saw its share of celibacy proponents. Prominent feminist and birth control spokesperson Margaret Sanger believed that abstinence led to greater endurance and strength and brought out the best in humans.
In 1920, Sanger stated, “The sex cells are placed in a part of the anatomy for the essential purpose of easily expelling them into the female for the purpose of reproduction. There are other elements in the sexual fluid which are the essence of blood, nerve, brain, and muscle. When redirected into the building and strengthening of these, we find men or women of the greatest endurance, greatest magnetic power. A girl can waste her creative powers by brooding over a love affair to the extent of exhausting her system, with the results not unlike the effects of masturbation and debauchery.”
Of course, things have changed since 1920. We know a little bit more about biochemical processes and masturbation is no longer considered debauchery. But what about the rest of what Sanger said? Does celibacy lead to greater endurance and magnetic power?
Celibacy is often viewed as a conscious decision to exercise self-control over natural sexual desires. The celibate believes this is shows strength of character. Other celibates deny sexual relationships because they see it as a stand against the material and physical world. By abstaining from sex they can reach a higher intellectual or spiritual condition.
But for others, abstinence is a lifestyle choice. They may not care for sex or perhaps are not even interested in it. People in this group may still accept sex for reproduction while others keep sex out of even romantic relationships.
Physical effects of celibacy.
While sexual abstinence reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, it also relinquishes the positive health benefits of having sex. Studies have shown that those who engage in frequent sex have a death rate of one half that of those who abstain. Other studies show that having sex just a few times a week can improve overall fitness, help with weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and depression, provide pain relief, provide immunity to colds and flu, improve prostate function, and even give you better teeth.Psychological effects of celibacy.
A study published by the U.S. Conservative Policy Research organization showed that sexually abstinent teens were more likely to graduate from school, stay in college, and earn higher incomes. Social background factors were taken into consideration.
On the other hand, there have been studies that show repression of sexual desire leads to an overall level of aggression in society. Societies that forbid premarital sex have higher rates of crime and violence. Some suggest there may be a link between sexual repression and criminal behavior, aggression, and insensitivity.
Obviously, celibacy isn’t for everyone. Thank goodness, or the world would quickly be free of human inhabitants! In today's society many have trouble making sense of abstinence but, like other decisions it should be respected as a lifestyle choice.