Other Names:
Voluntary sexual abstention

Celibacy (from Latin caelibatus) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons. It is often in association with the role of a religious official or devotee. In its narrow sense, the term celibacy is applied only to those for whom the unmarried state is the result of a sacred vow, act of renunciation, or religious conviction. In a wider sense, it is commonly understood to only mean abstinence from sexual activity.

Celibacy has existed in one form or another throughout history, in virtually all the major religions of the world, and views on it have varied.

Classical Hindu culture encouraged asceticism and celibacy in the later stages of life, after one has met one's societal obligations. Jainism, on the other hand, preached complete celibacy even for young monks and considered celibacy to be an essential behavior to attain moksha. Buddhism is similar to Jainism in this respect. There were, however, significant cultural differences in the various areas where Buddhism spread, which affected the local attitudes toward celibacy. A somewhat similar situation existed in Japan, where the Shinto tradition also opposed celibacy. In most native African and Native American religious traditions, celibacy has been viewed negatively as well, although there were exceptions like periodic celibacy practiced by some Mesoamerican warriors.

The Romans viewed celibacy as an aberration and legislated fiscal penalties against it, with the exception of the Vestal Virgins, who took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals.

In Christianity, celibacy means the promise to live either virginal or celibate in the future. Such a "vow of celibacy" has been normal for some centuries for Catholic priests, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks, and nuns. In addition, a promise or vow of celibacy may be made in the Anglican Communion and some Protestant churches or communities­— such as the Shakers­–, for members of religious orders and religious congregations; for hermits, consecrated virgins, and deaconesses.

Judaism and Islam have denounced celibacy, as both religions emphasize marriage and family life. However, the priests of the Essenes, a Jewish sect during the Second Temple period, practised celibacy. Several hadiths indicate that the Islamic prophet Muhammad denounced celibacy.


In some parts of the world, people are losing interest in sex.  In Japan in 2017, nearly half of all young people between ages 18 and 34 were still virgins; 64 percent of Japanese people in that same age group have never had a relationship.  A 2013 study found that 30 percent of Japanese men under age 30 had never dated at all. A survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found that 45 percent of women and 26 percent of men aged 16-24 were not interested in or despised sexual contact. There is even a word to describe the disinterest in sex: Mendokusai, which means, “I can’t be bothered,” or “too troublesome".  Another term describes the larger-scale phenomenon of disinterest in sex: sekkusu shinai shokogun, which means “celibacy syndrome". It affects both singles and married people. In the Japan Family Planning Association survey, 21.3% of married men and 17.8% of married women said they didn’t want sex because of fatigue from work, while 23% of married women said sex was "bothersome" and 17.9% of male respondents said they had little interest in (or a strong dislike of) sex. Fewer babies are being born while the population ages, to the point where adult diaper sales exceed baby diaper sales.  The result is that Japan’s population is shrinking; in the one year between 2016 and 2017 it reduced by 300,000. Projections cited by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research show that number set to fall 900,000 a year by 2045, which will reduce the nation’s population by one-third. Between that fact and the country’s aversion to allowing in immigrants, there’s an acute labor shortage. The country is addressing it by using an abundance of robots, even in face-to-face customer service roles, while considering raising the retirement age to 75.

A 2016 study published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior found a dramatic drop since the 1990s in the USA in the number of young adults between age 20-24 who were having sex. Another study in 2017 found that Americans in all demographic groups were having sex 15 percent less often in the 2010s compared to the 1990s. Surveys in Australia and Great Britain found similar declines.

Broader Problems:
Narrower Problems:
Enforced celibacy
Reduced By:
Addiction to sex
Society Sex-related questions
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 5: Gender Equality
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST