No sex. Is it celibacy or something else?

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‘Sources close to Angelina’ (that’s Angelina Jolie for those not a first name basis with this A-lister) say she’s chosen to be celibate after her separation from Brad Pitt.

The reports suggest something about transforming sexual energy blah blah, channelling her inner yoga yadda yadda…

I’m all for the frou, but I wonder, wouldn’t it be simpler to say she doesn’t want to have sex right now?

I’m not sure anyone who’s undergone a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy and a divorce would feel much like getting it on.

Of course, Angelina’s personal take on her body and sex is really no one’s business, but it comes at a time when the term ‘celibacy’ is being bandied around quite a bit these days.

READ MORE: What it’s like to go to the gynaecologist for the very first time

Celibacy, the choice to abstain from sexual intercourse (and marriage, depending on how old-fashioned you get with the term) has become the latest buzzword dropped in talk shows on radio and TV.

And it’s got me wondering about why and when we use the term, if it’s not for religious or ‘moral’ reasons.

She felt panicky when her boyfriend touched her, and so had avoided this by saying she was celibate.

On a talk show I was invited to the other day, I heard a woman talk about being celibate because she had ‘no sexual feelings’ and so she was telling potential new boyfriends that she was celibate.

I wondered if she knew about the term ‘asexual’.

On the same show, another woman said that she had ‘blocked off’ her sexual feelings and just ignored her body ‘down there’. She felt panicky when her boyfriend touched her, and so had avoided this by saying she was celibate.

I wondered why she wanted to disassociate from her body. What trauma had normalised this response to it?

Another woman said she didn’t want to sleep with the men she was dating. She didn’t tell them she didn’t want to have sex with them, she just said she was celibate.

I wondered why she couldn’t just say ‘I don’t want to have sex with you’; why she needed a spiritual tenet to back her up. What did this say about the balance of power she found herself in when it came to these men?

Of course, people must use the terms that suit them, when they need them.

And like Angelina Jolie, if you’ve gone through a traumatic few years, do you need a recognisable, near-religious term to spell out your ‘no’ for others?

Do we need to make our ‘no’ more comfortable and understandable for them? Do we need to make it safer for ourselves?

Why can’t we just say: ‘No, I don’t want to have sex at this time.’ ‘No, I don’t like sex.’ ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ ‘No, I am hurting and troubled and don’t feel ready.’

READ MORE: Things all single people are tired of hearing

Maybe it’s easier to say ‘I am celibate.’ Of course, people must use the terms that suit them, when they need them. Boundaries are set for a reason.

But when those boundaries cut us of from the deeper conversations of sex and consent, sexuality and orientation, trauma and healing I think we miss an opportunity to heal and grow.

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