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Sex, celibacy and masculinities: is there a sexual imperative?

Sex, celibacy and masculinities: is there a sexual imperative?

Data were obtained from semi structured interviews with nine men who currently or previously practiced celibacy, talking about their choices and experiences. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, within a social constructionist framework, to identify dominant themes.
Two primary themes – sex as an imperative and sex as a problem – were identified. These were constitutive of a choice to be celibate, yet exist as contradictory accounts around sex. Sex was described as being an imperative, particularly within the context of intimate relationships. However, celibate men’s descriptions of experiences of both sexual relationships and celibacy indicated that sex could be problematic in maintaining particular masculine ideals, such as independence and self-control. These last two features were evident in the men’s talk in defining celibacy as a form of resistance to societal expectations around masculinity and male heterosexuality.

These contradictory accounts of sex resulted in some men describing a need to control the way in which their experience of sex and sexuality was managed. Celibacy was one way of gaining control over something experienced as otherwise uncontrollable, or as giving them a chance to focus on non-sexual aspects of their relationships with other people, and other forms of intimacy. I will conclude by suggesting that counter-normative choices such as celibacy offer insight into how sexually normative choices and practices are constructed.

Speakers: Neil and Dwain
Conference: Demo