Why Sex Positive Messaging Should Also Prevent Shaming Of Those Who Choose Celibacy

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We don’t hide the fact that we are a website dedicated to sharing healthy and important information about sex and sexuality. Most of us, especially those of us based in the United States, are well aware that a lot of the problems around rape culture, sexual assault, street harassment, slut-shaming, and the war on reproductive rights comes down to the underlying problem in the way we talk about sex with children from a young age.

We are of the mindset that every child deserves access to bias-free information in a way that will keep them safe, informed and healthy, rather than fearful or embarrassed about their growing bodies. We’ve spoken before about the harmful effects of teaching abstinence only in schools. The statistics show that the states which put funding toward abstinence only programs have the highest rates of teen pregnancies. Where as states which teach comprehensive sex education, and which make contraception and birth control readily available report lower numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

All of this information is common sense, especially when you look at the data. But what about outside the analytical boundaries? What about the emotional part of being sexually active? How do you crunch the numbers when it comes to the emotional ramifications of decisions based around sex? There is no set measurement for it, unfortunately, and aside from being armed with medical information regarding sex, it comes down to personal choice. Some choose to watch porn to get the sexual information at websites like watchmygirlfriend.xxx. This can be really helpful for older teens to discover their sexual preferences in a safe way. Its healthy for them to discuss what they see on these websites as well.
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While there has been an uprising of women taking a stand against slut-shaming, most notably Amber Rose and her Slut Walk events, how do we ensure as a culture we are not totally swinging in the opposite direction? If the point is to eliminate shaming altogether, then that should include those who do choose abstinence or celibacy. The problems start to arise when we take an idea about a deeply personal topic like sex, and force that opinion or ideology on everyone.

We wanted to talk about this with our readers after coming across a book that has been getting a lot of attention in the media. It is called ‘The Wait’, written by actress Meagan Good and preacher DeVon Franklin, who are a married couple. As the name suggests, it details their journey of choosing to remain celibate before the tied the knot out of respect for their faith in God. It has started conversations about the legitimacy and reasoning behind celibacy in a way that is refreshing and much needed.

In an interview with CBS News, the couple talk about why they chose to do this and talk about it openly with their fans and readers. DeVon said his decision came about 10 years ago after not living a celibate life but outwardly proclaiming he was. He wanted to “walk the talk”. Meagan said she decided on celibacy after hitting rock bottom spiritually.

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“I came to the conclusion that I needed to be celibate, I needed to do something different than what I had been doing all the years before. I decided this is what I need to do for me, because I need to heal and I need to focus on myself and I need to advance myself in every area of my life without the distraction of feeling… that I need this man,” she said, while adding it allowed her not to be distracted by sex when getting to know her husband. She knew she had to focus on getting to know him in every other way first.

The couple also pointed out the difference between abstinence and celibacy.

“Abstinence is just, ‘Hey I’m not doing it.’ And we say, well, sometimes you can be abstinent because you don’t have options. But we define celibacy as abstaining from sex because there’s a higher purpose and a higher calling and we believe that it is specifically related to marriage,” they said.

Of course, the book isn’t just about their own personal journey. They wrote it with the intent to share it with others in the hope that they might want to choose celibacy for the same reasons. It can be a fine line to balance, and with a history of using shaming as a way to hammer the point home, celibacy teaching doesn’t always have the best reputation.

In an article for the Huffington Post, writer Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley who is a Public Voices Fellow and associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, talks about how as a queer feminist, she came to respect the choice of Meagan and DeVon. She admits at first she didn’t buy the whole “celibate” thing, but had to check herself.

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“Despite myself, I learned something important from what she had to say: Celibacy — like any other sexual choice — is a black feminist issue. As I followed conversations around the actress, I realized that not taking her message about celibacy seriously would put me in some pretty conservative, misogynoir company. Lots of internet space has been taken up discussing the sexual choices of [Meagan] Good and singer Ciara, who publicized her decision to refrain from sex with boyfriend Russell Wilson until they marry. Sadly, blogosphere buzz demonstrated that committing to celibacy offers these black women no protection from slut-shaming,” she wrote.

Yes she is specifically coming from a black feminist perspective, but she is onto something here that all women can relate to. Omise’eke talks about how the culture of forcing women to appear sexually appealing and available is rampant, no matter which side of the sexual choices coin you look at.

“When Ciara appeared at the 2016 Grammys in a low-backed, high-slit gown, TMZ ran a story entitled ‘Russell Wilson, Your Penis Hates You Right Now.’ Meaning — if a black woman is looking good, some man should be having sex with her or he’s betraying manhood. People called Franklin crazy, too, when he talked about his celibate courtship. But why have spectators been so fixated on what they think Wilson and Franklin should be doing to get sexual satisfaction, and not on what else Good or Ciara are doing in their relationship besides choosing celibacy?” Great point!

“Slut-shaming and hyper-sexualizing black women are black feminist issues: Not only when they relate to publicly sexually adventurous women like Amber Rose or Blac Chyna, but when they relate to celibate sisters too,” she continued.

Ciara opened up about her decision to Glamour Magazine, saying it’s not that hard to do because they both know what they want and have communicated that to each other.

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“We talk about everything, and I think that’s what you should be able to do as people and partners in a relationship…It’s so funny how people put so much pressure on that kind of stuff,” she said.

The way Omise’eke sees it, Meagan and DeVon have framed their choice as a sex-positive decision.

“If Good claims she’s writing to help women find more deeply satisfying, divinely good sex, shouldn’t black feminists take her sexual politics seriously? Being sex positive isn’t just about saying yes to sex all the time. It’s about championing black women’s right to make sexual choices that leave us feeling positive about our sexuality and our lives. So I’m a sex-positive black feminist saying: respecting black women’s celibacy is also part of loving black women’s beauty, self-definition, and sexuality,” she concluded. This is something all women should be able to respect and get on board with.

Meagan and DeVon talk about theirs as a spiritual decision, and although not everyone may share their faith, we all have emotions to take care of within the sex equation. It’s something that should be spoken of more, but equally framed in a positive way that doesn’t shame those who don’t necessarily feel the same way. Feminist sex blogger Ava Bogle who writes at Diary Of A Slutty Feminist, a blog she started to detail her sexual journey, talks about the “heart” issue in a recent post titled “Sexpectations”.

She talks about her experience dating a new guy, where sex was involved, but where she also confesses battling with other feelings which she hadn’t before.

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“I found myself much more drawn to his personality and our emotional chemistry than the physical aspect of our connection,” she says after their third date. At the end of the post, after much deliberation over a number of details about their interactions, Ava says there is so much more to sex than just the physical.

“The culture tells us that sex is casual and no big deal, and even I have spouted this same logic on this very blog. But I think I was underestimating the power of sex, the power it has over me. I have taken it too lightly, and it’s not fun anymore. It’s been a learning curve for me to even realize that by saying this, I’m not slut shaming myself, but actually protecting my heart. No matter how casual and cool I try to act, I can’t deny the effect that sex has on my emotions and my general sense of well-being, not to mention my ability to focus. I think men don’t really understand just how hurt we can get. Because we’re literally letting them inside our bodies,” she writes.

It is an important aspect we need to have more conversations about as feminists, as women who make many different choices, and as sexual beings. In fact, we need to see women from all walks of life, such as Amber Rose and Meagan Good, feel the freedom to express their thoughts toward sexuality in a way that is authentic and empowering. The more we can have many voices speaking about it in a shame-free, unbiased manner, it will go a long way.

We’re glad to see Meagan and DeVon be a voice to their community of believers and fans and hope that on a broader level, we can change the culture of sex in America that isn’t dictated by ideology, backward harmful restrictive laws, or judgmental attitudes. Here’s hoping one day we can live in a world where women aren’t shamed for their choices and blog posts like this explaining the need to judge less are irrelevant.

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One Comment

  1. Nowhere Girl says:

    It’s a pity that there’s no mention of asexuality… To make it clear: I believe in agency, I believe that every reason not to have sex is valid as long as it’s a free choice. I absolutely distance myself from those who believe that OK, asexuals don’t want sex – but everyone else “should”. But asexuality is a convenient way of reminding that sometimes celibacy isn’t temporary, isn’t about “waiting” – but about choosing freedom from sex as a preferred lifestyle. Some people don’t want sex to be a part of their lives, ever – and this choice should be respected as well. For me it’s just a pity that even when celibacy is affirmed as a valid choice, not wanting to have sex ever in one’s life still remains something completely unthinkable.

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