Celibacy is not the pearly-gated Utopia that so many Americans think it is. It's been a hit in our puritanical country for centuries, but with Lady Gaga on board it's enjoying a new hipness. This is a very bad idea.
Thanks to the Gaga's comment that she's enjoying a life without sex, there have been a handful of stories about celibacy on college campuses, like this one from CNN which charts one girl's journey from "hooking up" at frat parties to keeping her legs crossed tighter than Carrie Prejean at an Indigo Girls concert. It also brought to our attention the Love and Fidelity Network a group that promotes college kids keeping it in their pants. Staying celibate makes the collegiate experience totally boring, but there are better arguments against the idea.
College is a fantasy world. It is a wonderful dream universe where children get to party their way to a degree, get graded on an easy curve, survive on meal plans made entirely of fast food, and live in comfy dorms way nicer than anything they'll be able to afford once they graduate and enter the stagnant job market. Trying to get them to give up the sexiest part of their extracurricular activities is just making it worse. While these kids may not learn that much about French existentialism or the importance of The Wealth of Nations, at least they're learning a little bit about how to be a grown up. They have a bit of responsibility, they're learning to do laundry and live on their own, and, most importantly, how to navigate adult relationships. They're hooking up, breaking up, having short-lived monogamous relationships, being disappointed by their mates, discovering what they do and do not like in the sack, and learning where a clitoris is. This is all very important later in life.
Celibacy is a fantasy, too. Yes, it will keep everyone safe from STDs, unwanted pregnancy, and (possibly) heartbreak, but it's solitary shelter will just cause more messiness later on. Just when are these people going to learn the important lessons that only come from trial, error, and hard-won experience? Sexual experimentation and disappointment is kind of like chickenpox—the earlier it happens the better. No, it shouldn't happen when someone is too young, but it's better to learn these lessons in the safe confines of a university when the messes are easier to clean up and the nubile psyches of the young can rebound that much faster.
The problem with celibacy is that its advocates are either people who have never indulged in a taste of the flesh and have no idea what they're missing, or are people whose sexual activities have caused some kind of trauma they're trying to repair. Just ask Bristol Palin, the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do PSA queen who only started pitching abstinence after she got pregnant at the age of 17. It's hard for anyone in either of these situations to make a good case for keeping one's belt fastened.
Nor can the Catholic church, that bastion of celibacy that is currently being attacked on all sides for covering up institutional sexual abuse of children. That it's keeping priests away from any sort of sexual activity is what many believe causes the abuse in the first place. So as we talk about what life-long withdrawal of sex can do to folks, why are some calling for people to have even less sex when we should be bringing back another summer of love?
Strangely enough, thanks to Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and Charlie Sheen, we're also seeing the destruction that being overly generous with affection can bring. We're not advocating for people to go sticking it into every hole and having a retinue of partners that revolves more quickly than the naked crotches during a session of Chat Roulette. All we're saying is to let things happen naturally, find a bit of moderation, and be frank and honest in discussions about sex. Kids, get familiar with condoms and birth control and then go out there and have a good time. Have a drunken hookup you regret the next day. Make out with every guy on the lacrosse team in one night. Get your heart broken so bad you can't get out of bed for a week. Find out that you don't really like hooking up and wait for a relationship. Slap a guy in the face for getting too fresh on the first date. Discover the one lady who really rings your bell and settle down for good. Just do it for yourself without taking the word of some pop star, religion, or conservative group (or stupid blogger's) word for it. Go out there and learn your own lessons the hard—and often fun—way.