Credit: GG artist

Resolutions of celibacy

By Ava Scott-Nadal

A return to the Victorian Age of repression?

The clock strikes twelve. Before we’ve even put our glasses down I notice the awkward stares around the room, ready to ask the question.

“What are your New Year’s resolutions then?”

New Year’s resolutions intensify inadequacy. It seems that this striving towards progress is just another way of commodifying the body, another untapped market in the endless markets of late-stage capitalism. New exercise bikes, new gym classes, new diets, all new but nothing really changed. The ‘clean girl aesthetic’ was invigorated by the new year, prompting bulk buys in Zara lounge sets and ultra-mini Uggs. But now an even more troubling trend is underway – giving up sex for the new year. It’s penetrated (excuse the pun) the zeitgeist recently after 50 Cent announced that giving up sex for the new year was his next ‘big idea’. Talking like he’s releasing a new clothing line: 

“I’m going to be celibate.” 

We’ve probably all heard this phrase from 90s sitcoms that made you feel slightly bad about your sex life, but Gen-Z is now scientifically having sex less. The LA times released a statistic detailing this sexual decline is exclusively affecting 18-25 year old men and women. One in four men of the age range had gone without sex the prior year in 2021 and one in four women reported the same. Contextually, this was the COVID year so some decline was expected but it contributed to a trend of an abstinence from sex in general – including masturbation. 

I can’t help but think that Gen-Z twenties are substantially different to Millennial twenties. Having just finished ‘Everything I know about love’ and revelling in Alderton’s escapades of drunken nights, one night stands and casual sex I can’t help but think I’ve missed out on something quintessentially ‘twenty’. Even more troubling is that all my friends have too. What is causing this phenomenon? It seems odd that in the same years that Gen Z reported little to no sex, WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion was on the Billboard Hot 100. Clearly, we still have a fascination with sex, we’re just not doing it. 

Here is my take: Gen Z is in a period of extreme socialisation, we have access to everyone’s thoughts and actions through social media and it’s creating a perpetual surveillance state mentality. Progress, commodification, abstinence have all been given virtuous titles, we are encouraged towards them to live ‘successful’ lives, directing us away from frivolity and hedonism. Think of all the challenges and subgenres that allegedly help you build a ‘better you’ but seemingly only encourage social exclusion. 75-hard, monk-mode, grindtok, all to convince you that drinking on a Saturday night should make you ashamed and sleeping with a stranger is a woeful distraction from a path of 60-hour weeks and DIY finance jobs. 

Foucault posited the idea of normalising power: a way of integrating social norms into the mainstream in ways that are particularly subtle and pervasive in nature. The most concerning thing about this normalising power is not that it makes us police the behaviour of people who are not acting in accordance with social norms but that it makes us police ourselves. As production becomes more virtuous, it gains more normalising power and sex is repressed to encourage more work. Production has paradoxically been the subject of intense scrutiny and subjugation online and therefore takes a new and more intense life form, becoming too taboo. We construct our identities on it and we regulate our behaviour in accordance with it. I think specifically back to times when I called off sex just to apply to internships, the two just felt too antithetical, like playing outside all day when you have homework. 

In essence, don’t stop having sex just because the internet tells you that you should be selling your knitting on Etsy or taking a data analysis course even though you’re a film major. Power and normalising power are invisible and pervasive and scary and can make you think in ways that are outside of your own morals. Maybe sex isn’t something quintessentially twenty, but sacrificing your twenties for the sake of productivity is also not quintessentially virtuous.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments