For the first time, there are more single women in the United States than married ones.
Lots of these women are out there, going on dates, hooking up on dating apps, and maintaining an active sex life.
But some aren’t.
Some of them, despite liking sex, and perhaps wanting it on occasion, are perfectly happy to forgo it in the short-, medium-, and long-term.
They are voluntarily celibate, and not for religious reasons. They are not asexual. Although there are plenty of women who are not now, and never have been, into sex, it’s not the case that every woman who decides to forego is doing so because she has no interest or doesn’t like it.
Sophie Fontanel, a novelist and fashion writer, was celibate for 12 years, from the age of 27 to 39. She wrote a memoir about it that was published in France in 2012, and the United States the next year, called The Art of Sleeping Alone.
“I wanted to recover my body. My real desire was to re-want having sex. When I stopped, I was so excited to be alone in my bed. I immediately bought a bigger bed, and for me, it was freedom,” Fontanel told The Cut.
Fontanel is not alone.
“As soon as my book came out in France, a lot of people—a huge amount of people—began to say that they had the same experience. A lot of women, but a lot of men as well. I had a lot of people tell me that they’ve had the same experience as me, but they haven’t been able to tell anyone.”
She’s right, there’s plenty of women out there abstaining, and for many reasons.
Here are just a few.
“When I made the decision to take a break from sex I had come to the end of a difficult four-year relationship—I was trying to be a stepmother and it wasn’t working. I had compassion burnout. The compassion and creativity I did have left I decided to put into new businesses,” Suzie King told The Telegraph about her decision to go celibate.
When King spoke to The Telegraph, she’d already been celibate for over six years. Her business, a website that set up celibate adults with friendships has over 6000 members. She certainly isn’t alone in her desire to leave sex out of the equation.
Writing for Bustle in February 2016, Amanda Chatel outlined seven reasons someone might stop having sex. One of them was her own.
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“I haven’t had sex in a long time. Longer than I’d care to admit actually. The sole reason for this is that I’m done with mediocre sex. In fact, I’m so over ‘meh’ sex, that I’m content to live the rest of my life, if I have to, totally sexless than cave to mediocre sex. I’m better than that,” she wrote, echoing every woman who has ever identified with that When Harry Met Sally salad-ordering moment.
Chatel wasn’t the only writer to admit sex wasn’t on the menu anymore. Sophia Wu penned a first-person celibacy tribute for Elite Daily in 2015 that recounted her decision to switch from being a college student fully-immersed in hook-up culture, to a celibate woman.
“Celibacy isn’t simply about not having sex with people. To me, it is a form of reclaiming yourself,” Wu wrote.
“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.”
Women have also shared their reasons for abstaining on Reddit.
“I was abstinent for eight years in my 20’s,” one wrote.
“It was really, really awesome and clarifying. No drama, no attachment to people I didn’t want to commit to, nothing holding me back, no heartache.
“I heard stories of my friends having all these issues with dudes, and ill-aligned expectations and being dragged along or led on and…I experienced none of that.
“No worries if my period was a day late. No disease. No emotional baggage. It was definitely the right choice for me and, when I met someone that I wanted to fuck, and date, and eventually marry, I did so with very little holding me back.”
Another said celibacy “just made things simpler”.
“I haven’t really chosen to be celibate as much as that’s kind of the way it’s worked out for the last few years, but it’s also meant that I haven’t beaten myself up over one night stands (which stopped suiting me after university) or short term relationships.
“I really miss the companionship and intimacy of sex, but I haven’t worried about pregnancy, STDs, whether they actually like me or whether I’m spending my twenties pining over yet another unobtainable guy.”
The theme of uncomplicated living is a common one among celibate women.
Maybe they are focused on their career, or just on getting to know themselves better, but women who choose celibacy seem to do so because they want to keep their focus on themselves.
Which is a pretty good reason to do anything, really.
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