Celibacy vs Abstinence – Difference and Comparison

What is Celibacy?

Celibacy is a state of remaining voluntarily unmarried or a virgin for your entire life for the sake of religion. It is due to some religious reasons. Celibacy is practiced in significant religions like Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sufi Islam. It is associated with any religious devotee or official.

However, some people believe and practice Celibacy to feel closer to their religion or are committed to achieving high spiritual powers. Celibacy can be a way to develop a strong relationship without involving physical intimacy.

People with some sacred vows, acts of abandonment, or religious conviction practice celibacy. In the broader sense, it is understood only to mean staying away from sexual activity or intimacy.

Celibacy has existed in one form or another throughout history in virtually all the world’s major religions, and views on it have varied. Celibacy is a religious commitment because it is a belief that an unmarried person without a sexual partner can give more attention and time to God’s work. Sometimes Christians may choose Celibacy themselves without the demand of Chruch.

What is Abstinence?

Sexual abstinence or sexual restraint avoids sexual intimacy for a specific time period. Several factors may lead to sexual abstinence, including medical, legal, social, philosophical, religious, psychological, moral, or other reasons.

Sexual abstinence is different from asexuality is a sexual orientation to which people do not have sexual attraction. Sometimes people use sexual abstinence as a birth control method because when there is no intercourse, there are null chances of eggs and sperm fusion. It can be a birth control measure for some people.

However, Celibacy is a kind of sexual abstinence due to some personal or religious beliefs. In many societies and religions, sexual abstinence before marriage is common and is a social norm. It is a part of innocence, virtue, or purity.

Sexual abstinence may be voluntary by religious, medical, or philosophical factors or a result of some social circumstances or rules of laws or is legally mandated.

Difference Between Celibacy and Abstinence

Celibacy is an act of avoiding marriage and sexual activity for moral, ethical, and religious reasons for life long. At the same time, Abstinence is the intentional rejection of sexual activities for a specific period. It may be due to some medical issue or other social or psychological factors.

Most of the time, abstinence refers to sexual abstinence, a voluntary avoidance of sexual activity, whereas celibacy involves marriage, religious restrictions, and vows or oaths for life.

Comparison Between Celibacy and Abstinence

MeaningCelibacy is a state of remaining voluntarily unmarried or a virgin for your entire life for the sake of religion.Sexual abstinence or sexual Restraint avoids sexual intimacy for a specific period.
ReasonIt may be due to religious demand.It is a volunteer decision due to medical, social, psychological, etc.
PurposeCelibacy is also a personal choice, as most religions do not demand celibacy. People mainly adopt it as a belief that an unmarried person without a sexual partner can give more attention and time to God’s work.Some people choose sexual abstinence due to medical conditions like STIs (Sexually transmitted infections) or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) to avoid transmission.
PeriodCelibacy is a lifelong selection of remaining virgins.It is a short-time activity that people follow.
Sexual IntimacyCelibacy is the complete avoidance of sexual desires, and no physical or sexual intimacy with the opposite sex is possible.Abstinence is a choice in which people may involve in physical or sexual intimacy or contact with the opposite sex without penetrative sex.


  • Alter, J.S., 1994. Celibacy, sexuality, and the transformation of gender into nationalism in North India. The Journal of Asian Studies, 53(1), pp.45-66.
  • Dailard, C., 2003. Understanding ‘abstinence’: implications for individuals, programs, and policies. Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 6(5), pp.4-6.