Finding Freedom in Celibacy: My Journey of Self-Discovery

by Deja L. Jones

Growing up, sex was always a taboo subject in my family, particularly with my parents. I can remember the day my parents sat me and my older sister down for “The Talk,” one of the most awkward experiences as we listened to my parents explain the technicalities of intercourse. As devout Christians, they consistently reinforced the idea that sex was a gift from God, intended for a husband and wife to unify their marriage. Sounds beautiful, right? Maybe even poetic?

Likewise, my parents—a minister and a deaconess—constantly preached the dangers of premarital sex. I grew up believing that if I indulged in sex before I was married, I would automatically get a disease. (I didn’t learn about protection or how STD's are actually spread until later in high school). My parents' motto was, "JUST DON’T DO IT." They painted a picture of virginity as the Holy Grail and if anyone “took” it, I would decrease in value or end up with a bad reputation, and what girl wanted that?

I couldn’t help but think that if sex was supposed to be as beautiful as they said, why did they need to use fear tactics as the best way to keep me abstinent?

Of course as I got older, I began to discover sexuality for myself outside of what Christianity (or rather, my parents) said. If sex was only for marriage, why was my body conditioned to respond in such a sexual way when I first experienced love?

I didn’t have my first sexual encounter until I was 18, a freshman in college and in love with my first long-term relationship. Fortunately, I believed that I had gotten it right because we remained together for 6 years and I was convinced I was going to marry him. It was my way of justifying having premarital sex, because we were going to get married eventually. My sexual experience with him was beautiful, but I couldn’t shake the dark cloud of guilt that rained on my parade.

I began to wonder why something so beautiful made me feel so wrong.

I was sexually content with this man, but felt spiritually empty. It wasn’t until after the end of my long-term relationship that I started to examine myself in terms of sexuality. I realized that when it came to love, dating, relationships, and sex, I was a very old-fashioned girl. I didn’t want to have multiple sex partners attached to me. It was at that moment when I began to reconnect with my spiritual life and God on my own terms. I started to see how sex—even a beautiful thing—can be very emotionally and mentally damaging. I realized how much it clouded my judgment on several occasions. However, it wasn’t until I took a vow of celibacy a year and a half ago as a woman in a relationship transitioning into single-hood that the real struggles began. My celibacy changed things in my relationship. Once the physical aspect was taken out, we had to reevaluate what was else was important. The absence of sex highlighted bigger issues, and things ultimately fell apart.

Being in a relationship throughout my entire undergraduate career and graduate school, I had never had the opportunity to really discover myself or make a name for Deja in this world. I couldn’t make up my mind on what career field I wanted to go into even though I had two degrees. I realized I didn’t know how to be social or date as an adult. But when I broke out of my shell, celibacy became extremely hard—now I had to struggle between my free-spirited personality and being labeled a sexual prude.

A month after my relationship ended, I began date again. This new guy was everything I believed I wanted. He was someone I could connect with creatively. He was someone who could teach me things, someone I believed that I could grow with. He was exactly what I was looking for in a partner. You can imagine how much harder my commitment to celibacy got. He appealed to me in a way no one else ever had. He captured my mind before my heart, and that was a huge turn-on for me. And he was also celibate.

Some days I felt like woman raging with hormones, a panther always ready to pounce. But he held me accountable to my vow of celibacy. It was very frustrating because he had the willpower equal to that of Samson’s strength, and I felt like Delilah trying to sell him out. Or like Even tempting Adam with the apple. I felt guilty about how hard I had to fight to stay true to the vow that I had made. I felt guilty when he also began to struggle with his vow, and I did not want to be a reason he broke it. I feared he would resent me if he did.

This made me to go back and examine what sex really meant for me. It also made me think about why I made the vow in the first place. I realized that I needed to take a step back from dating and all the temptations that I was struggling against. I needed to step into myself and just be with Deja for a while.

Now that I am truly a single woman in her twenties, I am discovering the world and all it has to offer. I am meeting men at my sexual peak and learning how to stay strong. I’m learning how to say “no” in a world where sex is everywhere. This is the hardest battle I was never prepared to fight. But I am also a feminist in the midst of a sex-positive re-awakening, even if I don’t have sex. I am redefining what it means to find sexual liberation, because for me, liberation means being free to abstain.

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Deja L. Jones is a writer and communications professional. She received her B.A. from Rutgers and her M.Ed. from Liberty University. When she's not writing, she enjoys being a mentor to youth in her community. For more of Deja's work, visit her website.

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