How Not To Have Sex: Chastity Strategies From Celibates
The Debrief: Deliberately not having sex is more about trying to capture the gusset-soaking excitement of a shag you know you've had to wait for. A bit like doing Dry January just to really appreciate the first pint you have at the end of it.
Illustration by Marylou Faure
When I think about it, I've spent quite a lot of my life deliberately not having sex. That's 'deliberately' as opposed to 'accidentally' not having sex, where I drink two bottles of wine and fall asleep before the good stuff happens. Deliberately not having sex is more about trying to capture the gusset-soaking excitement of a shag you know you've had to wait for. In the past I've banned myself from having full sex for a week or two, if I feel like the excitement's worn off a bit and I want to go back to basics. A bit like doing Dry January just to really appreciate the first pint you have at the end of it.
A lot of celibacy – whether temporary or permanent – comes out of religious control or slut-shaming, or any of those things we consider a bit icky. Tell someone you're not shagging because no one fancies you and they'll tut in sympathy. Tell someone you're 'celibate' and they assume that you have parents who'll march you down the aisle at gunpoint if they see you holding hands with a guy from your work.
In reality, though, often celibacy is a personal choice – sometimes a very difficult one to maintain. Because of this, a number of strategies have sprung up around religious celibacy. Alongside rules such as 'no nudity' or 'no touching areas which would normally be covered by a bathing suit', there are other plans which mostly involve... well... cheating.
Celibacy strategies: the 'loophole'
I was first introduced to the idea of 'celibacy strategies' about ten years ago, when a friend of mine explained the odd logic of her first ever boyfriend. I'm going to call her 'Emma', because that's not her actual name. Emma's boyfriend was a Christian – one of those incredibly devout Baptists that British people imagine you only get in America. He didn't believe in sex before marriage, and his church would have frowned on anything more than holding hands. Emma says:
'It was mostly frustrating for me. I wasn't a Christian, and I was horny and wanted a bit of action. But when he said 'no sex', he didn't really mean it – he used to chat to his mates about things that were and weren't 'allowed.' And would you believe it, it turns out that blow jobs are 'technically' not sex, so it was totally OK for me to give him a blow job.
'The relationship ended when he found some guys in a chat room who explained why the Bible doesn't consider anal sex to be 'real sex', so that was what we were going to try next. Like, yay, you have found a loophole. But where's my loophole? I'm horny.'
She's not the only one. Years ago a video by Garfunkel + Oates (called 'The Loophole' – about Christian girls doing anal to save their vaginal virginity) went viral, and there are plenty of threads on forums like Reddit and Yahoo! Answers where hot Christian youngsters are begging for Biblical answers about whether God's down with this strategy.
Emma's issue wasn't with the loophole itself, but the fact that – surprise surprise – the loopholes her boyfriend thought 'counted' were ones which got his rocks off but didn't do much for her. They're also not particularly awesome sex tips if what you're looking to do is recreate that excitement you felt at school disco age, when sex wasn't on the cards but a partner could have you weak at the knees with purely a touch. Swapping PIV (penis in vagina) sex for anal is – as one Reddit user put it quite succinctly – not exactly rejecting fourth base, it's more like 'running into home and punching the catcher in the face.'
However alongside 'God's Loophole', there are other kinds of sex that can be used to hold off the magic moment if you want to build a bit of anticipation: frotting (either over or under clothes) and intercrural sex (which essentially means thigh-humping) being two of the main ones.
Celibacy strategies: soaking
Soaking is a practice credited to Mormon teenagers, who also aren't really meant to have sex before marriage. It involves someone putting their penis in a vagina and then just... leaving it there. The Urban dictionary describes it as 'Like 'planking' only your dick is inside of a Mormon.' Do people really do it? Well... maybe. According to urban legend it was fairly popular at Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution that insists its students abide by church-dictated rules such as chastity. But although there are some people who say they used to do it, there are also plenty of Mormons who say it's likely to be an urban myth. After all, as far as loopholes go it's a bit of a rubbish one: after all, everyone knows it's still sex even if you don't come. Just ask almost every teenage girl on the planet.
Celibacy strategies: Marriage
Another urban legend chalked up to the Mormons, here: apparently it used to be common for teenagers to pop to Vegas, get married, have a wild weekend in the sack, then get the marriage annulled before they ran home to their families. Again, many Mormon scholars point out that this is unlikely, as even if you could get a successful annulment, the Church wouldn't say this was a legitimate interpretation of their doctrine. In short: you're not going to sneak this one past God in a hurry.
It's not just the Mormons, though: there are other examples of people seeking out 'temporary' marriage contracts for the purposes of sex. In 2013 the BBC reported on Muslim couples participating in nikah mut'ah, which allows a couple to be married for a set period of time. While some couples do this to get to know each other better outside, the practice has received some criticism because it is often seen as a way to legitimise casual sex. You can remain technically celibate outside marriage, because the marriage is only temporary. It's worth pointing out that this is by no means common, though, and there's a lot of debate among Muslim scholars about whether nikah mut'ah is actually allowed.
Of course there are some genuine celibacy strategies that involve not having sex at all. But the stories of chastity belts or self-denial are far less interesting than those which involve these intriguing loopholes. As someone whose deliberate celibacy only ever extends to a week or two's willpower to make the eventual shag more fun, it'd be easy to point fingers and say 'OK, that's ridiculous.' But one of the things I love about celibacy strategies is the sheer ingenuity of people who want to combine their religion with their desire to get naked and bang. God might have strict rules, but he's no match for innovative youngsters. To paraphrase the legendary John Hammond from Jurassic Park - life finds a way.
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