You’ve heard about the incel, now meet their counterpart, volcel. Republished from Whimn.com.au.
I was 24 when I decided to become celibate.
I was inspired by a friend who had given up sex earlier that year and declared herself ‘volcel’ – or voluntarily celibate, for those not so fond of portmanteaus. She only lasted two months, but I was intrigued about what would happen if I stopped having sex. And because I wasn’t in a romantic relationship, this primarily meant giving up casual sex.
I’ll note here that the crucial difference between ‘incels’ and ‘volcels’ is that while ‘incels’ are often Reddit-loving Men’s Rights Activists who hate women because they can’t get laid, volcels are people who actively choose not to have sex, with diverse and far less misogynistic justification.
I wish I could say my reasons were political but it wasn’t quite that deep. I’d just come to the realization that my sexual encounters had repeatedly left me feeling as though men saw me as a woman – inherently sexual, a source for their pleasure – first, human second.
While volcel, I continued dating, flirting with people on dating apps and masturbating (absolutely fuck the idea of giving up my vibrator, too). But instead of automatically sleeping with someone on the first date because I could – my default setting prior to going volcel – I wouldn’t. Where previously I would linger at social gatherings, waiting up into obscene hours of the morning for someone to finish hanging out with their friends to have sex, I went to sleep.
It didn’t result in any Earth-shattering epiphanies, but it definitely reduced the amount of energy that would go into the rigmarole that can be casual sex, which can often resemble a rollercoaster that leaves you feeling exhilarated initially, but nauseous in the long-run.
And it turns out, more and more women are choosing voluntary celibacy, and for a variety of reasons: as a way of regaining control over their own sexual narrative, in protest of the patriarchal norms that can sometimes mar sex with unnecessary inequal power dynamics and as a way of processing various things going on in their personal life.
It’s the new sex(less) trend that we should probably be more familiar with.
Talking to 25-year-old Sophie, she explained she’d recently gone volcel after an emotional breakup. Discussing the benefits of volcel life, she says “It’s kind of more peaceful in a way. There isn’t the intensity of the highs and lows that come with like, having sex or hooking up. I feel more interior and like I’m giving out less energy, but also not gaining energy from that particular source.
In terms of the drawbacks, she says, “It’s lonelier. I’m not even sure that’s a ‘con’, but I really like affection and cuddles which usually go hand in hand with sex when you have a romantic partner. And I guess another con that’s specific to me is that I’m healing from the grief of my last relationship ending – so when I miss my former boyfriend, I miss that aspect.”
Across the board, studies are finding that young people are having less sex. Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor from San Diego University, told The Atlantic last year that people in their early 20s are on track to be two and a half times more likely to be abstinent than Gen Xers and to have fewer sex partners than the two preceding generations. In another study by Boffins from University College London, they found that teens were also engaging in far less sexual activity now compared to their 80s and 90s counterparts.
Talking to sex and relationship therapist and educator, Tanya Koens, the rise in volcels can be viewed as a natural result of people not understanding women’s pleasure. While she says she hasn’t heard the term used explicitly, she has a lot of clients who decide to stop dating or sex altogether. “I think the people that I encounter who are voluntarily celibate, they’re often, like, ‘I’m tired of dating, I need a break or there’s something going on with my body,” she says. “But they’re not really framing it that way. They might be doing it that way.”
“I meet lots of women that give up on dating sites just because they get burned, treated bad, bad manners, called names, horrible experiences, go on dates, they’re really terrible, and they just get worn down. And they’re like, ‘I will not keep subjecting myself to this. I need to take some time off.’”
Our discussion inevitably leads to the orgasm gap, where men often leave casual sex encounters far more likely to have had their needs met than women. “I’ve read a lot of research on hookup sex and basically guys have a good time and they say they don’t care about their partner”, she says. Koens cites a study that found men would orgasm in 60% of sexual encounters whereas women would reach climax in a mere 4% of encounters.
Obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with casual sex, but when you consider statistics as grim as that, it’s not hard to figure out why some women might be thinking twice about the benefits of simply engaging in casual sex for the sake of it. In a perfect world, communication should be seen as a sexual prerequisite rather than an added bonus. It’d lead to a higher chance of everyone walking away from sex feeling satisfied and perhaps, less volcels.
Featured image via unsplash.com