Skip to main content

What's Driving the Growing Abstinence Trend Among Young Americans?

Share This article

It’s tempting to look at the so-called “Great Abstaining,” as The Cut put it, and think it’s a notch on the belt of those preaching biblical morality in a culture run amok.

But I don’t think that’s what’s happening, unfortunately.

I think what we’re seeing now — this growing (and, on its face, encouraging) trend toward sexual abstinence — is just the flip side of the same counterfeit coin: the siren sound of the world, of our own fractured morality. It’s the same voice that has told us: “Sex is just sex.” “There’s no harm in casual hookups.” “What’s the problem if it’s consensual, with or without marriage?”

Listen to the latest episode of “Quick Start” 

Now, apparently, many are choosing to abstain from sex (ironically) for what I believe to be the very same reasons they opted to have sex indiscriminately.

Scripture urges abstinence outside of marriage because God calls us to keep the marriage bed “undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4-6). In the beginning, God made clear His design is for man and woman to join together in marriage and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Those principles — the spiritual bond solidified by the act of sex — reverberate throughout the biblical narrative. The Apostle Paul urged believers to practice lordship over their bodies and fleshly desires, even going so far as to write that, to the man who has sex with a prostitute, with her he has become “one body” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

Sex is a gift from God intended to bring about a beautiful spiritual oneness expressed in the physical world.

So what’s the issue, then, with this burgeoning “Great Abstaining?” Well, it’s rooted not in recognition of just how important and sacred sex is. Rather, it’s just the opposite; it seems tethered to the errant belief that there is no real value in sex and its ultimate, tangible purpose — procreation.

People are choosing to opt out of sex because they are rejecting the value of relationship, of romance, and, finally, of marriage.

Rather than finding satisfaction in husband-and-wife relationships, younger Americans are choosing themselves over sacrificial love. The Cut’s Kelsey Osgood wrote the next generation is “deemphasizing traditional romance.” They aren’t just choosing to shun marriage; many are actively arguing it’s no longer valuable.

As for sexuality, they are opting to gratify their own urges in the same hedonistic way our broken world has always encouraged, just with a new spin. This is entirely unsurprising, given our culture’s years-long celebration of so-called “self-love.”

“The benefits from a period of celibacy are endless because, ultimately, it’s about self-development,” The Independent reported last year.

The societal shift toward abstinence isn’t moral; it’s egotistical.

Porn use, for example, is soaring. For context, see this from Psychology Today:

Xvideos, the top-ranked pornography site, had 700,000,000 more total visits than Amazon and 900,000,000, 1,100,000,000, 1,300,000,000, 1,500,000,000, and 1,800,000,000 more total visits than TikTok, OpenAI, LinkedIn, Netflix, and The Weather Channel, respectively.

Then there are those who see abstinence as just the next wave of “sexual liberation,” another irony.

Models like Julia Fox are choosing to forgo sex as a way of “protesting” the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court, she seemed to argue recently, has — in her view — taken away her rights to abortion as birth control, so now she’s going to abstain from sex altogether because it could lead to pregnancy. (Shouldn’t that have been a consideration all along? But I digress.)

“I felt like, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, if they were gonna take away our rights to our body and our reproductive rights, well, then, this is my way of taking them back,” she said. “And I feel like more women should really get on that, because we hold the power.”

All of this to say: this is so often how Satan and our own deceitful hearts work. They take a modicum of truth — that abstinence is a good thing — and twist the motives in a sinful direction.

If there is a silver lining here — and I believe there’s always a Gospel opportunity in every cultural conversation — it’s that such a trend could pave the way for fruitful conversations about why, in actuality, abstinence is good, why God designed sexual expression to be enjoyed within certain parameters, and how sex is a gift that should be celebrated and is profoundly redemptive when enjoyed within God’s boundaries, rather than destructive.

Share This article

About The Author

Tré Goins-Phillips Headshot

Tré Goins-Phillips serves as a host and content creator for CBN News. He hosts the weekly “Faith vs. Culture” show and co-hosts “Quick Start,” a news podcast released every weekday morning. Born and raised in Virginia, Tré now lives along the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he has built his career, often traveling to meet and interview fascinating cultural influencers and entertainers. After working with brands like TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, Tré began his career at CBN News in 2018 and has a particular passion for bridging the chasm between the secular world and the church