As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent. -Socrates
The word virgin means not yet used, touched, or exploited—a novel concept. Long soiled by the hedonistic grime of New York City, I’m always searching for paths to purity. Celibacy seems like an insane and viable option. Throughout history artists, intellectuals, and God seekers have renounced the pleasures of below the belt in exchange for something better. That “something better” usually translates to a heightened sense of intimacy, discipline and purpose.
When the carnal drive to wrap your legs around a warm body is suppressed, that energy gets displaced in powerful ways. Which begs the question, to what extent can we harness our sexual restraint to enrich other aspects of our lives?
It’s common practice for boxers to abstain from having sex for weeks preceding a big fight. Not getting off keeps up the competitive flare, blue balls keeps the blood lust burning . Robert Frost has said that writing is an athletic endeavor; working the mechanics of language is labor intensive. A frustrated libido fuels not only one’s athletic prowess but can also spearhead creativity.
Courtney Love, the whip smart and ever wounded chanteuse, recently went on a four year celibacy kick while making the album Nobody’s Daughter. She wanted to put every ounce of her psychic energy into that record. And while Nobody’s Daughter pales in comparison to the cathartic bite of Live Through This, it’s hard to imagine that a prodigious song like Sunset Marquis could have been written in any other state than chaste dejection. Despite her drug battles and fiery whims, Courtney Love has an unparalleled self preservation instinct. Fresh out of rehab, Love intuited that the only way she could properly heal and make a quality record was to embark on a rock’n’roll monasticism.
After a break up that left Tim Gunn on the brink of suicide, he vowed never to put himself in that position again. And with a Gatsby like resolve, he’s been celibate for 29 years. Although his celibacy was prompted by getting his heart ripped out, it seems to have fueled an uncanny sense of ambition, focus, and achievement. Tim Gunn, through hard work and laser focus has become wildly successful, but he’s also a workaholic. His asexuality has freed him to pour himself entirely into his work and create a fashion empire. Tim Gunn has become not only an arbiter of style but also a champion for a robust vocabulary and good manners. And despite his celibacy, he is by no means frigid, stating in a recent interview that “It’s not as though I’m some barren forest.”
Philosophers are notorious celibates, to name a few: Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Immanuel Kant, Simone Weil, Spinoza, Aristotle, and Pascal were all a sex free zone for prolonged periods of time. Even Beethoven shut it down. Many of the top minds in science, mathematics, painting and music found it imperative to recoil from their sexual impulses to create something visceral and honest. Even my beloved Johnny Weir (who yes, belongs in the company of Aristotle and Nietzsche) has spoken about his dry spells when training. Unless you’re Michael Fassbender in Shame, there is simply no time or energy to think about sex when in the midst of intense output.
And so, by muffling down the impulse to dry hump the sexy bartender it’s possible that we can redirect that energy towards more substantive endeavors. Bouts of celibacy can spawn a journey of transcendent inquiry, self ownership and artistic production.
Sex is a way to affirm life, to affirm one’s virility, desirability and youth. To voluntarily reject sex means to welcome a period of personal incubation. And to reject sex at one’s physical prime is like welcoming winter in July-which is perversely romantic. One can emerge out of a chastity cocoon a more potent version of oneself. When making the choice that you will not screw anyone (but yourself, masturbation is allowed) one projects an intoxicating air of self sufficiency. Not to mention that the euphoric rush that comes when the sexual valve is finally released, is well worth the wait.
Nathalia Perozo is a Chilean born poet and LGBT advocate. She received her MFA from The New School, and her BA in Comparative Literature from Queens College. Nathalia lives in New York City.