Chastity in the modern era

When most people took sex education classes in high school, the concept of abstinence arose as being the only absolute safeguard against STIs and pregnancy. I, like most hormonal teenagers at that age, snickered and passively dismissed such an idea as laughable.

In my opinion, abstinence in itself is a bad word. It’s inherently negative and seems overly concerned with what’s forbidden and what a person shouldn’t do. A person who abstains willfully chooses not to take part.

However, I do not believe this terminology reflects the ideas of those who willfully abstain from certain sexual practices. A more fitting term would be chastity.

For some, the term “chastity” may be synonymous with a big metal belt used to prevent sexual actions that were forced upon women by an unrelenting patriarchy, but this is no longer so. The modern chastity movement is not overly obsessed with what a person shouldn’t do, but rather what they should do. For instance, respecting a person’s dignity, valuing personal relationships and not allowing base pleasures and desires to rule over you.

Interestingly enough, despite the fact that we live in a time where perceived sexual norms are changing and societal views regarding things like masturbation and pornography seem to be universally favorable, there are a rising number of people who seem to forsake such “liberation” in favor of an approach that contrasts with the current sexual climate.

On Reddit, there’s a growing community of around 100,000 users solely dedicated to ridding themselves of the frequent and habitual use of pornography and masturbation. For some, it’s merely a challenge of self-control. For others, the community provides the support they need to give up the habit for good. While the motivations for taking on the challenge vary, the reasons people stay are more fascinating.

People claim that abstaining from porn and masturbation, while initially very difficult and resulting in numerous “relapses,” has more benefits then they initially expected. Men within the sub-reddit claim that abstaining from masturbation, especially in conjunction with pornography, affects the way they view and act around women in a positive way. They find that they gain more confidence and don’t feel as self-conscious. They even claim that they treat women with more respect and not like sexual objects.

These “NoFappers” are dedicated to their cause and will offer all kinds of support to those who seek it. Everything from porn filters, tips on taking cold showers, advice on limiting alone time and words of encouragement can be found within the online community. While I will not agree with everything they say, it seems interesting that even in the modern world, where we know masturbating won’t give you hairy palms or make you go blind, many men have decided to give it up for reasons ranging from religious practices to trying to improve their social life.

While most people hesitate to see anything inherently wrong with masturbating, more and more studies are coming out suggesting that the use of pornography can have many unseen and less-than-favorable consequences on the human brain.

There have been studies linking pornography usage to erectile dysfunction and changes in brain compulsion for compulsive users. It can cause men to become controlling, anxiety ridden, introverted and even depressed.

Aside from these effects, porn itself gives people an unrealistic view of what sex is. It takes away from the human and emotional aspect of sex and focuses a person’s whole attention on their own personal fulfillment. It treats women and men as objects for one’s own self-gratification, which doesn’t foster a sense of human dignity and value. That can be especially harmful if you continue such habits in a relationship.

While pornography will not disappear in the near future, these studies, online support groups and movies such as Don Jon, which seeks to unveil the dark side of using pornography, will hopefully begin to change hearts and minds. For those who have not looked into the issue, I challenge you to look into how porn might be affecting your life and interpersonal relationships. I myself, a proud NoFapper, have not used pornography in over 240 days, and I can honestly say it has impacted my life in a positive and powerful way.

Chastity in the 21st century will take a different shape than it did in past generations. Instead of treating sex as something that is scornful and shameful, the modern chastity movement will attempt to reconcile our human nature with our core virtues and seek a higher standard from one another. It won’t look at sex and porn as something evil, but will rather see being chaste, respecting a person’s dignity and not letting sexual desire overcome us as something admirable and virtuous.

For those who are curious or wish to learn more, I recommend looking at: and Gary Wilson’s TED talk, “The Great Porn Experiment.”