Not Having Sex in an Overly Sexualized World

Sex and sexuality, in many ways, has come to be a very important part of modern-day culture. Whether it is women sharing their traumatic experiences through the #MeToo movement to bring awareness, LGBTQ+ people advocating for their rights or even the stigmatization around having it being deemed a social construct by many, sex has become an important symbol in our modern culture. However, in a society that seems obsessed with sex and has it integrated into everything from media to social movements, how can one avoid the pressures of engaging in sexual activities and determine when it is right for them?

Across the United States, many teenagers feel pressured by their peers to engage in intercourse in high school and, even in college, will encounter this same pressure in the form of 'hookup culture,' or the idea that one should use college as a time to explore their sexual desires with as many people as possible. By 21, it is often expected that women and men have engaged in some form of sexual activity, or they run the risk of being deemed 'undesirable' or feeling outcast among their peers due to their lack of experience.  According to a 2015 article by Washington Post, "by age 21, 85 percent of men and 81 percent of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse." Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

With this in mind, it can become easy to see how just as sex has become a symbol of power and confidence, it has also become a source of anxiety for the small percentage of people who do not engage in sexual activities and have no desire to. It affects all aspects of life: dating comes at the risk of rejection because of a personal decision; social interactions feel awkward when everyone begins discussing their sex life, and your attraction may be diminished by this seemingly glaring decision. The decision to wait on having sex can invoke many senseless questions, such as "what is wrong with you?" or assumptions that the decision is the result of being manipulated and pressured by outdated ideas. Deciding on abstinence, much like Russel Wilson and Ciara, can also invoke judgment as people question and attempt to analyze the reasoning behind such a personal decision. In my personal experience, it can even sometimes become a game among guys to see who can sleep with you first, an accomplishment to disrupt what someone may hold as personal and sacred.

Does this mean that sex should revert back to being a taboo subject that allows people to shun those who engage in it in order to accommodate those who desire not to? Absolutely not! Instead, we should actively create a society where having and abstaining from sex are both respected decisions that do not evoke shame from any person making either decision. Active sex lives should not signify promiscuity, while abstinence and celibacy should not denote unattractiveness or resistance to modern ideas. Although it seems difficult to reconcile these two views, it actually is very simple. We need to stop attaching judgments of someone's character to their sexual lifestyle, whether it be active or nonexistent. A man or woman is not defined by the way in which they connect with their romantic partner, just as they are not defined by their accomplishments or past. Believing that someone is defined by these things is not only old-fashioned, but a shallow way to interpret people and their character.

HCXO, Keziah