A pastor, Bob Riler, of All Saints Church in Puyallup, Washington, resigned by sending a three page letter to all of the 1750 homes in his parish, reported Salon, an internet media company in 1999.
His letter expressed his desire to seek intimate female companionship, while deriding celibacy as an “arcane, man-made law … a historical accident.”
However, many personalities in history were famously celibate. Mahatma Gandhi, who is considered the Father of India, took a vow of celibacy at the age of 37, and remained so for the rest of his life.
Isaac Newton, the mathematician and scientist, was a virgin all his life and Cosmopolitan agony aunt, Irma Kurtz, is said to have been a celibate for years and years with no regrets.
Celibacy has also found a home in the ABCs of HIV and AIDS prevention, (Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise). Sunday Standard interviewed three individuals who are currently abstaining from sexual activities.
Dennis Baloi has made a moral choice to be celibate.
“I understand that engaging in sexual intercourse is more than a physical act, it’s also emotional and perhaps spiritual,” he said. Not only is abstaining efficient for preventing sexually transmitted infections, he says, “I also am saving myself from emotional turmoil.”
“Some people can’t cope when a casual fling ends because of the bond that is formed during intercourse,” said the 28-year-old who lives in Mochudi and commutes to Gaborone where he works at the Scripture Union.
“I will abstain till marriage,” said Dennis who also says he is a virgin. “It is inevitable that one might get tempted because you can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t find physically attractive.”
For 4 years he has been dating a woman whom he eventually wants to marry.
“From a Christian perspective you can’t be hopping from one relationship to the next,” he says. “So to avoid finding ourselves in compromising situations, we communicate, defining our relationship.”
Another abstinence advocate, Joyce Oletile, has also been celibate “since birth”, she chirps smiling. And she will wait till she finds the right partner.
“I believe I will find him in due time, and I am not in a hurry at all,” she says.
Joyce, who works at the Botswana Christian Aids Intervention Programme (BOCAIP) in Tsabong, supervises an abstinence programme that recruits children from as early as primary school to well after they leave school.
“Young people are susceptible to peer pressure. In my youth, growing up in a Christian household, I decided to be born again, and also learnt about how I should conduct myself as a Christian,” said the 32-year-old. “I read a lot of literature that informed me about avoiding peer pressure. Which is why, to this day, I don’t ever regret the choice I made to be celibate.
“As teenagers some of my friends indulged in sexual intercourse but I refrained because I felt no pressure to do so.”
Joyce counts her work at BOCAIP as one of the motivators for her abstinence, “because I use myself as an example, it isn’t a case of ‘Do as I say not as I do.’
“One needs to understand and control their feelings,” says Joyce. An idle mind, lack of self-discipline and self-control are vital for abstinence, she said.
However, celibacy is not always a deliberate choice; back at the newsroom, a male colleague admits to having been involuntarily celibate for the last eight months. He says his choice is not based on religion but on the lack of available ‘nice girls.’
“The choices are limited, including those that I would just have a fling with. I would rather have quality than quantity,” said the 28-year-old. “Since what I want, I can’t get, I would rather wait.”
But for younger people who want to make the calculated choice to abstain, BOCAIP runs a programme that focuses on character building, says Daphne Makwepa, a Programme Manager at the organisation. “We go beyond the ‘just say no’ message.
“The programme equips young people with self awareness and assertiveness that will help them not to give in to peer pressure. They also learn refusal skills so that they are not intimidated when saying no to activities they would rather not be part of.” Makwepa says, “One refusal skill included is tactfully offering an alternative activity.”
Young people learn about healthy relationships and values for them to set up their own principles, she says.
“We look at the electronic and print media; they are encouraged to assess what is being sold and what it means to them,” said Makwepa.