Is a life of celibacy normal? This is a question increasingly raised in a world increasingly hypersexualised by social media and their influencers. Indeed, the suppression of expression of sexuality has become taboo now — a trend that runs counter to the teachings of traditional organised hierarchies and religion which, by design, frowned upon the subject. Anything goes is the normal now and people who suppress their sexuality (whether it be conventional or deviant urges) risk their “mental health”, we are constantly told.
Recent research reportedly suggests that “the suppression of sexual thoughts among religious people only begets a greater preoccupation with sexual thoughts and fantasies.”
A survey of 661 teens found that religious adolescents reported greater preoccupation with unwanted sexual thoughts and fantasies than secular adolescents.
A second survey of 522 teens found that religious adolescents tended to report lower well-being, which was linked to their preoccupation with unwanted sexual thoughts.
Another survey of 317 teens found that religious adolescents were more likely to report suppressing sexual thoughts and fantasies, which in turn was associated with more self-report compulsive sexual behavior and lower well-being.
The idea that celibacy may not be normal for sexual creatures like human beings and may even be detrimental to the well-beings of individuals who opt into a life of celibacy raises interesting questions. Did the choice to be celibate result from some sort of mental condition? Or did a celibate life result in a mental condition? Which can first, the chicken or the egg?
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Given the possible impact on the character of Catholic priests their celibacy could cause, it becomes disturbing when one considers that these people are significant contributors to debate surrounding important issues to do with sexuality and human relationships. Members of the clergy sit in many schools as guidance counselors, are consulted by politicians when crafting legislation related to reproductive health and divorce, and are even regarded by many Filipino couples as marriage and relationship counselors.
Yet what would a celibate person — one who, much evidence shows, upholds that lifestyle choice at an enormous mental cost — know about matters normal people take for granted? I once respectfully asked a priest this question and here is the response I got…
Do people really need to know what Catholic priests go through? Not really. Theirs is a life of an outlier that most normal people need not relate with. On the other hand, priests need to understand what us normal people go through — because that is their only pathway to relevance in human society. To aspire to understand what normal sexually-active people, many of whom raise families, go through, refuse to be part of that by choosing celibacy, and then go on to presume to preach to then about those subject matters could perhaps be a form of insanity.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.