Living celibate, and social reactions to it


#1

I have always been shy, quite reserved, pacifistic, very slow to condemn someone, and always feeling sorry for people- who hate my guts. On the other hand, perhaps you could say that I’m cold hearted, aloof, and distant. In any case my take on what I was hearing about the Bible, when I was little, was that God took a dimmer view of a sexual thought than of an act of murder. And I also got the impression, in my old southern family, that all women were basically of the same status as Nuns; pure, virtuous, untouchable, supra-humanly perfect.You should stay on the opposite side of the room from women out of respect - and so that they won’t get the wrong idea about your intentions, and that if it was unavoidable to address one of them, I had this powerful urge to genuflect. Now that I am much older, and have long since been introduced to the real world, I am still confused, and, honestly, I MISS and I PREFER that BEAUTIFULLY ROMANTIC perspective and context of my childhood.
So I have lived a celibate life.

  • I have no intention of entering the religious life, obligations to my parents preclude that.
    I am constantly being disgusted, frustrated, and depressed that most people obviously assume right off the bat that I must be homosexual, or worse deviant, or physically defective.
    Come on now! Is celibacy-chastity REALLY that unusual or rare? And what of this implied notion- if not stated outright- that ALL males are potential rapists or sexual monsters or homosexuals? ( and where does that leave the pope for example?) What might the potential long-term corrosive effect of that notion be if it goes unquestioned and unchallenged?
    I have this theory that the western world is so given over to sexual excess that in self-defense / self-justification it must foster the notion that chastity is peculiar.
    The lack of self-restraint is so EMBARASSINGLY ubiquitous that semantic gymnastics must be employed to prop it up, like, for example , to argue that dressing women up in peter pan collars and knee length skirts and idealizing them is objectifieing them and demeaning them. ( but if we dress them in bikinis and drape them over chevrolets we have made them our republican equals! )
    I know how protestants see it these days; chastity is strictly for the under-18 crowd .( and to tell the truth, the reasons for that are not theological, philosophical, or idealogical; we don’t want pregnant 13 year old girls, we don’t want 15 year old boys in hospital with AIDS. ) Otherwise, you should get married 5 times, you should leave your heirs with hopelessly confused geneologies, but NEVER should you ELECT TO REFRAIN because you think it’s noble and romantic!
    Do Catholics in general feal that way too?
    Any other old maids out there? what do you think?

#2

Do Catholics feel that way is a loaded question, I’m sure many do and many don’t.

I’m not that old, still in college, so my experience is limited.

Most people go on autopilot, assuming one day they’ll settle down get married. It doesn’t matter how much they sleep around or mess up their lives, it doesn’t matter if they never have the guts to ever ask a girl out, they just don’t put much thought into it.

Serious Catholics look at their lives, and are influenced by priests and nuns, those who have chosen to live their celibate life publicly. They see there are people good people who chose that life. They look at their own lives and see maybe God calls them to married, maybe to religious, maybe celibate single, but that is God’s call, there is nothing wrong with it.

Many who don’t think about it, who just assume they’re going to get married and everyone else is too, may think something is wrong to prevent the other person from getting married. Why didn’t he get married, thats what people do? Perhaps hes gay, perhaps hes a pedophile, etc.

I think people have that reaction to celibacy not because of their disrespect for women, but because they never thought about what celibacy, or maybe even marriage for that matter, is.


#3

Well, to look at it the other way around, there are drawbacks.I suspect that old maids like myself tend to be cranky as mules, emotionally volitile, and I tend to not give people the benefit of the doubt even at the same moment when I am trying to give them the benifit of the doubt. :o


#4

It would be interesting to hear more thoughts on living chastely in a very unchaste world! I do feel a bit of an identity crisis at times. Because truly, the rest of the world sees us as prudes.

Hardest to be around are my friends my own age, those whom I’ve known a long time, who have chosen a different, non-faith-centered path in life. Typically they are proud of their “spiritual” path (and are very sensitve to implications that there is more to spirituality that what they are seeing).

Their spirituality consists of vague fascinations with chakras and reincarnation, also feminism and then there is a common interest in the whole “goddess” thing. Also Oprah or any spiritual guru who was on Oprah, like Marianne Williamson. Flaunting your sexuality in is big. I don’t mean my friends are tarts, either. Just that I was always in contrast to them, as my outward appearance reflected my life as a long-time Evangelical, a home-centered, husband-centered wife, then full-time Mom, living in the country, canning and homemaking. And I looked the part!

Things have changed and now my home-centeredness competes with the need to also be out working in the more stylishly-dressed world, and I’m not a country wife anymore. Its time to forge a new identity. And that needs to come from a place of being comfortable in my own skin, and with a contentment in who I am.

Also I need to have the feeling that chaste is beautiful! When friends who have no resepct for chasity bring up unchaste references, I need an alternative reaction to “uncomfortble.” Because anyway that advdertises “prude” to them and really thats no one’s business, anyway. I think instead I should look off distractedly, as if I were daydreaming on some other peaceful, happy topic of my own mind. Perhaps on how Jesus truly loves and cherishes me, just the way I am.


#5

I wonder if others’ reactions to a celibate person could be due to the reasons that person chose celibacy. I chose it because it gives me the freedom to live the lifestyle I do. My reaction to the opposite sex I think is quite healthy and I have male friends as well as female friends who know I live a celibate life and there is no adverse reaction to my choice. Some are taken aback on a first meeting more or less to discover that I have chosen celibacy and may treat me “strangely” at least at first and usually initially find it a very funny choice literally… but once they get to know me my relationship with them is perfectly normal…whatever normal in essence is.
Often the adverse reaction of another person to one is not that other person’s problem if there is a problem for one…the problem is how I am coming across to them and they are reacting to that - in other words, the problem is mine not theirs.


#6

**I am unsure what a “celibate life” is. I know that the Catholic church says that you are not to have sex before you are married. Are choosing to not even date or look for a potential spouse? Is that the “celibate life?” - you choosing to not date or look for a husband ever. I am not judging you at all, just curious. What you choose with how you live your life is fine by me - celibate, married or whatever.

I am open to anyone’s response on this. I just don’t know what the definition means.

Thanks. **


#7

celibate:

1 One who abstains from sexual intercourse, especially by reason of religious vows.

That being said, I would be made fun of and mocked by most of my friends if I ever mentioned that I was considering this life style. Of course that probably is because I am in high-school and it isn’t cool to not want to have sex before or without being married. Luckily, this is never a topic of discussion, so I doubt I would ever mention to my friends that I am considering it.:stuck_out_tongue:


#8

It should be a non-issue. I don’t think that you’re not cool for this. I think it’s commendable! :thumbsup:


#9

#10

I am not debating it at all. I see how it could free up a person’s hands by not having a spouse with kids and all that responsibility. I just wanted some clarity on the Catholic Church’s text book definition of "celibate life.’


#11

Um, do you mean not having sex? And shouldn’t that be a given if you’re not married anyway?

If you’re venting about how people react to your self control, I really feel your pain. But there are two very good ways to stop setting yourself up:

  1. Stop TELLING people. Or at least, stop telling people and expecting a good response. Did you know 45% of MIssouri Catholics voted for Amendment 2? Do you know that more than 1/3 of the women who abort call themselves Catholic? Can you even hazard a guess on how many use birth control? You are surrounded by people who believe sexual intercourse is as casual and simple as eating a meal.

  2. Surround yourself with like minded people. Of course you can’t hide from the world, but you need a solid, strong refuge after being in the ocean so to speak. It is refreshing to talk with people who are steadfast in their faith and who agree with you. Where are your family members and friends?

Also, are you Catholic? I noted in your post that you had some interesting reasons for refraining from sexual intercourse. Is this God’s will for you? Are you called to a religious life? Or a married life? Have you prayerfully asked for His guidance? Our sexuality and sexual intercourse is a beautiful, amazing foreshadowing of God’s love for us and not something to hide from or shun because God views it dimmer than murder.

Have you studied Catholi sources on sexuality and sexual intercourse? Christopher West is very informative and enjoyable. His site is www.christopherwest.com.


#12

Celibacy is obviously mandatory for unmarried people, and choosing a celibate state of life “for the sake of the kingdom” is indeed biblical.

However…

The following statement of yours raises a red flag:

That statement leaves me with the impression that you are choosing a celibate state of life not “for the sake of the kingdom”, but rather because you are afraid of getting into a relationship. If I am incorrect, please forgive and correct me. But if I am correct, it may not be sinful, but it is also not psychologically healthy.

Also, are you a male or female?


#13

Hi Dapper…I have not taken any sort of offence nor feel you are judging me -so rest easy:) . I have in fact under advice from a priest, in fact two priests, privately vowed the evangelical counsels of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience in order to live a lifestyle that unfolded in my path which I simply call Bethany - it sorta means “open house” to all without distinction in hospitality and friendliness - and assistance if at all possible if such is needed. At times Bethany (also the name of my residence of 21 years) is quieter than any monastery (I have been in monastic life) and at other times akin to a busy airport. Some twenty five years ago I felt drawn to commit myself entirely to this life and quite joyfully and willingly - sort advice - and did so. At first my vows were renewed on yearly basis and about 10 years or so ago I made my vows for life, again asking direction from a priest first.
Yes, celibacy and in my case celibate chastity means that I do not date nor seek a life partner. The lifestyle has its ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and at times has been extremely difficult - somehow I have persevered finally and glad I have done so. There has been no negative foundation to my choice, rather quite positive in that I viewed a lifestyle such as Bethany as a positive contribution to my own life and those of others. By choosing the lay state under private vows, I have retained an element of freedom not possible in religious life. This freedom enables me to move in any direction which may call to me almost. I have a spiritual director.

Thank you for your question…blessings…Barb


#14

Thanks for the clarification. That sounds like quite a life!


#15

Kesa,
I am a 43 yo woman who was divorced after 13 yrs of marriage, single mom for 7 yrs, then married last year. I constantly got criticized for living a chaste life by co-workers, friends, family etc. Why was any of this their business? I know I could have kept my mouth shut when everyone was making sex comments, but I got sick of people assuming that if you date you are having sex. I would have co-workers say I needed to “get some” if I was in their opinion, uptight about anything. If I mentioned going out on a date… the guys would announce to the entire office that I was going to get “it” But I think the absolute worst work place experience was when my boss asked if I hurt my back having rough sex!!! Can you believe it!!! I looked at him and said, “I am not married” and left it at that…He was confused (and he is Catholic?) Later, after he heard I was going to quit over the incident, he did apologize, again, I was shocked. My family didn’t support my decision to embrace chastity either. When my sister found out that my then fiancee and I had dated for 6 yrs and didn’t have sex… she admonished me that I was wrong and I was going to lose him…wrong…we are married now. Even one of the nuns at my kids school made a comment about my relationship with my fiancee without knowing, I was really annoyed at that one! My priest knew, my fiancee knew, I knew, my kids knew, and as far as I was concerned it was nobody elses business. You could argue that it wasn’t my kids business either and I would normally agree with you. I was very honest and open with them because they were teens (still are) and it came up when we were discussing marriage and relationships, sex, and feelings as pertains to the Catholic Church.

This is what I learned:
Don’t get upset with these people, but don’t give them fuel either.

It is OK to say it is none of their business.

If you feel you are strong enough to live through their condemnation, what a witness you are to them.

Never let teens think extramarital or premarital sex is OK

People who make rude comments are usually the ones who feel guilty about their sex life.

God knows the truth and that is what counts.

Sticks and stones…


#16

What you described is workplace sexual harassment. You have grounds to file a complaint with your HR department and, if that doesn’t work, a lawsuit.


#17

Thankfully I no longer work at these places. The place I work at now is awesome. The boss would never tolerate it here. Heck, he has fired guys for cussing out on the farm part of his business… One of those places wrote me up for complaining about it.


#18

Gee, I’m sorry, but in the time alloted I can’t respond to every question, sooo… I’ll say ;
Well , obviously ( ? ) I couldn’t provide for every case and detail within the limits of my brief essay.
I DO think I’m a bit thin-skinned. On the other hand, it does , still, seem to me that EVERYWHERE you look the message is SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX…
So much so that, to take TV for example, to avoid the constant litany I’m basically limited to watching Barney the purple dinosaur and EWTN.
( though that’s not so bad come to think of it! )
And then, too, my basic social millieu is lower class -blue collar,now, with many exceptions of course, the 'net, and by extension this forum, is white collar / middle class - those are the people who can afford computers!
Most blue-collar lower class people I know do not own a single book, and they do not frequent 'net forums.
AND most of these people - and I will again point out that these are the people I work with, are , uh, " earthy, lusty, conventional", and not generally given to much in the way of long-term abstract ruminations or introspection.
For example, despite what you may see on TV, or what is happening in polite society, in THIS culture if, for example , you were homosexual , you BETTER NOT say so publicly. These people, believe it or not ,still unabashedly throw around the word fa–ot with casual malice.
Certainly, among this group conventional heterosexual marriage is THE ONLY way - although that also- conventionally- involves pre-marrital sex as a matter of course, and it also typically involves two-or-more children with different last names.

  • I have just started RCIA. I grew up in NC, now I noticed there were Catholic churches on every street corner in New Orleans. But in NC? Nooo! BAPTIST churches on every street corner in NC. I grew up Baptist.
    Today I live in my beloved mountains of east Tennessee - also not a great Catholic stronghold.
    Up until LAST WEEK I have never met any number of Catholics. ( except in books. )
    There are very many reasons why I have come to the Catholic church. Without exxaggeration I can say that I could easily write a 500 - 800 page essay on why Catholicism.
    So I won’t get into that.
    If you are really interested, feal free to read my other posts, and I’m sure I’ll be posting more. That should begin to give you some idea.
    Now, I have some secular, humanistic, selfish reasons for celibacy which I did not go into.
    I was born into a family of four children. My parents were far from neglectful, but the budget was stretched to the limit. As a child I had dreams of becoming an Army officer, later an artist, later a teacher. I liked academics, and just about every year without fail I would get a crush on my teacher anyway. I even developed a crush on the hyper-critical " witch" that all the other kids despised. So I was eager to please.
    BUT ( and it can be argued either way that this next is either explaination or excuse, I don’t care to debate it ) I developed a problem with math, my parents couldn’t afford a tutor, the teacher invariably had 30 other students to see to, I fell behind, I never caught up.
    Then too my younger sister was born when I was ten, and what with my mother going to college and working, I was the one who primarily changed diapers , rocked the baby to sleep, vacuumed the floors, did the laundry for 6 people, etc.
    I didn’t have time for school.
    And in any case my parents wanted me to become a farmer.
    Like I said, there weren’t exactly legions of Catholics where I grew up, but there was a nice Catholic school in my neighborhood.
    And I looked at their college-prep track,
    and of course there were fairly affluent kids in my own public school - and I’m sorry but you still can’t convince me to this day that their lot isn’t " easier" or, at the very least , MONEY DOES GIVE you OPTIONS.
    I vowed I would never raise a child, I would never put myself in any position other than that possition where I could afford to put any child of mine in the best college-pep private school.
    Well, so much for theory and the plans of men.
    I became a 6 dollar an hour blue collar worker.
    For all but 3 of my adult years I have only barely been able to feed myself.
    Sure, plenty of people in my position raise kids on food stamps.
    SORRY, NO WAY!
    For one thing , while I admire the charitable offices of the churches, I DESPISE the BASIC PREMISES of the public school, and I HATE the Bolshevik welfare state.
    As you can see for yourself ( ? ) I am not an ignorant red-neck.
    Now honestly, after the first 30 minutes, what would I talk to an ignorant redneck girl about?
    Honestly now, when was the last time you saw a respectable educated girl marry a menial laborer?

#19

Now, lest you think the preceeding is my sob story, on the contrary, I think now, in hindsight, that becoming a common laborer was the best thing that ever happened to me !
If I had become an army officer or a teacher I would have become 50 times the vain, arrogant *&$%#@ that I am anyway.
Indeed, I’m convinced that God has an especially ironical sense of humor, and that fully 100% of the time when “bad” things happen to us God is actually BLESSING us.
And, indeed, even the worst kind of poverty isn’t necessarily bad for a child.
Indeed, if I could sum up in one sentence what is wrong with the US it would be this : " Too much affluence, for Too long ! "

  • But I still despise the welfare state.
    Do I " fear a relationship with a woman? “
    Hmm, that strikes me as complex and subtle.
    It APPEARS to me that people generally have some kind of “connection” with each other ( and sorry I cannot articulate it more precisely than that. ) which I simply don’t have even with people I have known all my life.
    I don’t mean to offend, but clearly even in the case of people I really like, I look at them in basically the exact same way I look at an insect under a microscope. I like them, I feel sorry for them or idealise them but… something just isn’t there.
    My parents were the best possible parents I could have gotten.But I’m convinced that even the saints had terrible faults. In my parents case, even when I was five years old they were already set in the habit of saying very harsh, terrible, things to me, incessantly. To this day I hate weekends, because that means I literally get to hear it for as much as 16 hours at a stretch.
    So, at a very early age I learned a cold, reptilian, " apart-ness” in order to handle it. ( or perhaps that’s just some half-baked Fruedian ****? ) It does, however, have a positive side,
    if you are a serial killer for example, I’m probubly not going to hate you with quite the same gratuitous relish that others seem to exhibit, because to me all humans look like three-eyed giant green cockroaches.
    One more - perhaps informative - anecdote. In 6th grade I saw a girl in the hall one day, Kelly -------. I never shared a class with her, but we attended the same school 6th through 8th grade. I decided she was perfect - and even if she really wasn’t perfect, I would consider her life the perfect model anyway - if that makes any sense. ( in this case , “perfect” is not in fact the right word, but I can’t think of the right word.) Now I have never had much of a probublem with hating people. My particular cross has been that I have very often really liked people who did not like me at all. I was afraid that kelly would be the same, so I never spoke to her, not even “hello.” Enstead, I thought I would waite until we were both 60, when she could no longer have any possible doubts as to my motives or my genuine devotion, and THEN I would approach her. Well, I have since grown up and realised that probubly the result of my fantastic effort would be - she would think I was a total psychopath. This society is so dismal in perspective I could weep for a month.
    Anyway, so now, I just pray every day that I will see her in heaven, and that we will be friends there.
    I’m 38 years old now, and believe it or not I have prayed for that every single day for 25 years.
    Kelly was the only person I ever loved in that way, and still do.
    I love Jesus christ, Philomena, Dymphna, Joan of Arc, my parents, and the academy of the sacred heart in New Orleans, but that’s a different kind of love of course.
    And that’s all- finally ! I hope I have clarified some points.
    obviously I love to write.
    God bless you all !

#20

Excuse my “butting in”:o …often I think we start out in a lot of things for all the wrong reasons including romantic notions (and this includes the marital state - or any state of life)and we either get out when the going gets rough because the foundation is not sound or our motivations and foundations are purified and strengthened…“all things are possible to God”. But the first step and in this I agree with your comments is to recognize (usually) that our motivation needs to be purified and this is always ongoing in any state of life I think even if we have chosen the celibate state for the “sake of The Kingdom”…quite a few nuns and also priests I hear take sabbaticals from their vocation and often to review why exactly they are in the state of life they are and whether to continue - i.e. purification is ongoing through life whether one takes a sabbatical or not…also I think that no matter the state of life to which God calls us ideally we should be it “for the sake of The Kingdom”…I know many married people doing wonders and also are people with high spiritual ideals and witness to them …what a crazy and on the way out world it would be if we were all celibate…God calls each person to a particular state for “the sake of The Kingdom” no matter what that state in life may be…be all that as it may your Post Norseman has valid points - which I am qualifying only…Blessings - Barb:)
As St. Therese wrote that it is not the state of life one is in but how one fulfills the state of life they are in…words to that effect.


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