Celibacy (from Latin, cælibatus") 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. Judaism strongly opposes celibacy. Similarly, the Romans viewed it as an aberration and legislated fiscal penalties against it, with the sole exception granted to the Vestal Virgins. The Islamic attitudes toward celibacy have been complex as well. Some Hadiths claim that Muhammad denounced celibacy, but some Sufi orders embrace it.
Classical Hindu culture encouraged asceticism and celibacy in the later stages of life, after one has met his 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. It was not well received in China, for example, where other religions movements such as Daoism were opposed to it. A somewhat similar situation existed in Japan, where the Shinto tradition also opposed celibacy. In most native African and American Indian religious traditions, celibacy has been viewed negatively as well, although there were exceptions like periodic celibacy practiced by some Mesoamerican warriors.
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.
The conscious decision not to marry, or, since the turn of the century, not to engage in sexual relationships, denies future generations of an important dimension of the genetic pool.