Mandy Stadtmiller opens her piece on young New Yorkers "going celibate" with a description of one Katie Jean Arnold's anonymous hookup. She writes, "It was then that she made her Big Decision. No. More. Sex. She's led a sex-free life ever since." Except that was two weeks ago. And while Stadtmiller acknowledges that that's "not a long time to remain chaste," her piece treats anything less than constant sex as a little anomalous. She quotes Arnold: "Not having sex is like giving up junk food. Sex in New York for me had become like the 99-cent package of Ding Dongs on the corner." And "media personality" Julia Allison, after a breakup: "I decided to codify my unofficial gut reaction of ‘I really don't feel like dating' into an official ‘No Dating, No Sex' stance, at least for the next month, and perhaps beyond that."
Eschewing dating or sex for a month following a breakup just sounds like "taking a break" to me, something relatively common in the dating lives of people young and old. And despite talk of sex being as easy to pick up as a package of Ding Dongs, most single people I know have had dry spells longer than that. The word celibacy connotes a big, life-altering decision, but many of the people in Stadtmiller's piece seem to simply be going through normal fluctuations in their sex lives. What's abnormal is assuming that everybody's getting it 24/7 unless they make a formal pledge not to.
Slate's Jessica Grose, who has called millennials "generation scold" when it comes to sex, also sees young people today as tending toward celibacy — or at least restraint. She writes that "a handful of women bloggers [...] are sobering up quickly after their youthful indiscretions, and lately, the sober seems far more prominent than the indiscreet." One such blogger, 22-year-old Sex and the Ivy scribe Lena Chen, helped organize Harvard's Rethinking Virginity conference — at which, Grose writes, "It was striking to hear young adults call for a government-mandated safe area to save a hypothetical virgin from the risks-and the joys-of youthful trial and error. That abstinence was even being considered as a solution to the young adult sexual minefield is a surprisingly conservative shift."