Thanks to the proliferation of dating apps serving up a seemingly endless platter of potential hook-ups, it’s never been easier to have casual sex. More so, to specify what kind of sex you seek. Kink-friendly dating app Feeld, for example, which is marketed at “kinky, curious, and open-minded couples and singles” includes a ‘desires’ section for interests beyond Sunday roasts and travel.
Increased popularity of apps such as Feeld, which has grown by 160 per cent since 2019, alongside the post-pandemic surge in sex parties, which have swiftly gone from niche to mainstream (“Beware the sex party bore,” The Spectator recently cautioned) has led some to suggest we’re living through a sexual revolution. And it’s one in which the many shortcomings of sex education offered in schools is fast being filled by Insta-ready sex educators like Ruby Rare. They are as adept at discussing ethical non-monogamy and how to explore threesomes safely as they are at addressing issues concerning sexual health and consent.
Have sex with who you want, when you want, in whatever relationship structure works for you… and for God’s sake don’t feel bad about it.
But is this true sexual freedom?
While I’ve been doggedly striving to overcome my own intimacy issues (read: shame! Sexual trauma! A disconnection from my body!) through sex therapy to have more and better sex, a growing spate of largely Gen Z-ers has been taking a different tact: abstinence.
Long associated with religious doctrine, celibacy has had a serious rebrand – largely thanks to social media. #Celibacy now has 117.2m views on TikTok, revealing a stream of videos featuring young, often cool and markedly un-monk-like proselytisers, decrying the myriad benefits of forgoing sex. And while some fall into the religious category, many focus on abstinence as a tool for self-improvement.
Drew Barrymore, the latest celeb to publicly celebrate celibacy, recently wrote that in abstaining from sex she has ‘the honour… to actually work on myself.”
“In a world in which sex has become so casual, so disconnected that it’s now a race-to-the-bottom as to who can care less,” a friend recently said to me, “I can understand why people are just avoiding it altogether.”
Sex educator and award-winning erotic writer, Scotty Unfamous, went celibate following a particularly painful ‘situationship gone horribly wrong’. “I was over giving myself to the wrong people,’ she recently told me, ‘and so I vowed to steer clear of men until someone came along who was worth my time.” The three years in which she abstained from sex were transformative, “a pocket of peace where I got comfortable being alone. It gave me space to work on myself and decide exactly what it was I wanted from a relationship.”
Would she do it again? “Absolutely.”
Still, I can’t help but feel cynical in the face of this rebrand and the sexual moralism that seems latently, if not overtly, imbued in much of the discourse surrounding it. After all, women have never favoured well in the face of sexual puritanism.
Perhaps sexual freedom is not to be found in more casual, emotionally disconnected sex, but surely we needn’t make a virtue (again) of avoiding it altogether?
After several months of involuntary celibacy myself, I have felt neither enlightened nor spiritually recharged, just increasingly desperate to get laid. But maybe I’m missing the point.
How important is sex to you?
Need a sex question answered? Email Emma-Louise at Emma-Louise.Boynton@standard.co.uk