Difference Between Celibacy and Abstinence (With Table)

Controlling sexual desires for developing control over the mind is scientifically proven. It is one of those acts which may imbibe psychological advantages to the physical and mental attributes of a human.

The benefits of sexual abstinence in any form have its effect on the thought process in the beginning and it shall continue for a longer time. The thoughts become positive and memory power goes higher.

It is like caging a monkey which is running pillar to post. Sexual refrainment for a cause creates composure. The speed and focus improve invariably. Further, refraining from sexual intercourse is therapy. A treatment to improve self-esteem.

It is always seen and considered mental and emotional control over matters. The energy that is controlled is established as an innovative pursuit of selfless desires. The confusion of desire is clarified. The rational thoughts over substances increase with the noble self of a person is brought out.

There are many ways of controlling sexual desires and there are many names to it too. The prominent terms that come to mind in these contexts are Celibacy and Abstinence. They both are used in the same context however they have their differences in the way it is carried out and understood.

Celibacy vs Abstinence

The main difference between celibacy and abstinence is that Celibacy is a vow or an oath not to indulge in sexual activities for an extended period while Abstinence is a decision taken not to have sexual intercourse or penetrative sex. Celibacy usually refers to a religious act while Abstinence is an act of non-indulgence.


Comparison Table Between Celibacy and Abstinence (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of Comparison




Celibacy is an act of refraining from sexual practices as a vow or an oath.

Abstinence is the decision taken not to indulge in sexual activities because of many reasons.

Purpose/ Reason

Celibacy is mostly followed as a religious practice.

Abstinence is followed because of psychological reasons, medical reasons.


Celibacy is mostly followed for a longer period. At times people follow it for a lifetime.

Abstinence is an act that is followed for the short term.

Physical Contact

Celibacy is a complete refrainment from sexual desires, so no physical contact with the opposite gender is possible.

Abstinence is a choice, people may indulge in physical contact with the opposite gender without penetrative sex.


Celibacy is a religious Mandate.

Abstinence is a personal choice.


What is Celibacy?

Celibacy is an act of refraining from sexual activities as a vow taken towards remaining clean with mind and body. It mostly refers to religious acts and widely seen practiced by religious priests.

The belief systems of certain religious cultures instigate celibacy. It is a belief system brought to their mind, that celibacy can get closer to the religion.

Celibacy is also looked like a voluntary refrainment from getting married too. As marriage is considered as one legal act of sexual practices among husband and wife.

It is observed that celibacy is recorded in history and has been practiced by many as a religious practice. There is no particular religion related to it, although few denounce it.

Certain religions have mixed attitudes toward the act of celibacy. There are a few cults who state celibacy as an act to fight lust and bring peace to society.

The cults preach towards pure and divine. An act of divinity is attributed to celibacy too.

The benefits of celibacy cannot be overlooked. There are indeed deeper thoughts that evolve based on career, friendship, and well being.

The best understanding and filtering of attraction and emotional connect can happen within the self.

Although there are many advantages to practicing celibacy, it has its disadvantages too. Isolated feelings may spring up, a few may also have thought of subduing the key aspects of life like marriage, kids, and togetherness.


What is Abstinence?

Abstinence is referred to as the act of restraining from having sexual intercourse. The reasons can be attributed to many; psychological reasons, medical reasons, social reason, financial reasons, and religious cause too.

Abstinence is majorly inspired by religious acts or even personal beliefs. Abstinence is considered noble before marriage in many cultures.

In a few countries, Abstinence before marriage is under law as well. Abstinence is a choice made by an individual, mostly because of moral reasons.

Sexual abstinence is a voluntary act chosen by an individual. Abstinence can be followed even after marriage.

The act of being abstinent does not confer that the person never had sexual intercourse earlier. It is the lifestyle that an individual has chosen over to live a life of his choice.

There are countries in the world to preach and teach sexual abstinence for various reasons. Sexual abstinence reduces violence among the community too.

The advent of HIV over some time in the past has instilled fear and made many people abstinent who has multiple partners. By saying this, it does not mean that abstinence happens over fear. It is a collection of reasons which a person may choose for himself. As with all the worldly matters, abstinence has its benefits and disadvantages too.

Main Differences Between Celibacy and Abstinence

  1. The main difference between celibacy and abstinence is, Celibacy is a vow or an oath not to indulge in sexual activities for an extended period while Abstinence is a decision taken not to have sexual intercourse or penetrative sex. 
  2. While celibacy is mostly followed as a religious practice whereas Abstinence is followed because of medical and psychological reasons.
  3. Celibacy is a lifetime event for a few in this world. Yes, it is practiced for an extended period while Abstinence is followed for the short term.
  4. There is absolutely no physical contact in the case of celibacy, however, abstinence is an act of choice, any physical contact without penetrative sex can keep the serene of abstinence intact.
  5. Celibacy becomes a religious mandate, while abstinence is a personal choice.



Celibacy and Abstinence are synonymous with their acts. However, what makes them different is the choice. It is more often than not, celibacy is perceived as a controlled and stringent act of religious beliefs while abstinence is a choice made over many and can give many positive benefits.

Celibacy over a religious note can bring nobleness it is practiced over a long period. Abstinence is a short stint in many people’s life. Indeed, being abstinent until marriage is quite a long period. But, it has to be understood that the long period has a lot of innocent periods involved where the child may not even know what it is all about.

Both celibacy and abstinence are gender irrespective. It must be considered as acts of well being and prosperity when practiced it in a longer run.



  1. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1788&context=sulr
  2. https://www.theway.org.uk/back/s077Schneiders.pdf