"I’m celibate, celibacy’s fine"
Lady Gaga has jumped atop some rather interesting trends -- armadillo shoes, anyone? -- but few could have predicted that celibacy might be one of them. Yet last year, the world's top popstar announced that she had turned her back on sex. Given her raunchy on-stage persona, it became a story that gained traction.
"I'm lonely when I'm in relationships. It's my condition as an artist. I'm quite celibate now; I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they're going to take my creativity from me. So it's okay not to have sex, it's okay to get to know people. I'm celibate, celibacy's fine," she is quoted as saying.
"I remember the cool girls when I was growing up. Everyone started to have sex. But it's not really cool any more to have sex all the time. You don't have to have sex to feel good about yourself and if you're not ready, don't do it. It's cooler to be strong and independent."
Gaga's armadillo shoes may have been consigned to the annals of fashion lore, but the same cannot be said for celibacy.
Jedward might be the stuff of fantasy for tweens (and not-so-tweens) up and down the country, yet even they have admitted that sex is off the menu in a recent 'Gay Times' magazine interview. "We know all these girls, but we can't go out with them because it'd be a huge press story," John explained.
This is not a new development. Back in 2009, Edward is quoted as saying: "The thing about me and John, we don't do the cliché thing. Guys think they need to have a girlfriend and say, 'I love you, I love you'. They see it on the movies and think that's what's expected. We say, 'Come on guys, this is Ireland, not Laguna Beach'. There's a lot more to girls than just having sex. It's different caring for someone in a mature way. We think sex is a bit amateurish."
John added at the time: "Lots of girls throw themselves at me and Edward. We could easily. It's just not us, not our main focus."
Clearly, the pair are following in the footsteps of one of their be-quiffed forefathers. Though he is thought to be happily loved-up these days, Morrissey became a role model for the young and the sexless in the 1980s and 1990s, famously quipping: "I'm just simply inches away from a monastery."
His sexuality became a topic of fascination to his fans and critics alike. Adding fuel to the fire, Morrissey had no shortage of soundbites on the subject up his sleeve: "The amount of activity I have actually experienced in my life could be crammed down to a rather pathetic couple of hours. I can't imagine my body ever feeling sexual excitement."
However, he later admitted that he regretted making the claims, unable as he was to shake off the label.
"It did annoy me because it's a terrible word with terrible connotations," he told the 'NME' in 2006. "Working-class males do not ever sleep alone. I was in that environment and I was sleeping alone. So I was an oddity."
Lenny Kravitz, once a poster boy for potent, sexual swagger, has also been avowedly celibate for years. He may have dated Adriana Lima, Madonna and Nicole Kidman, but Lenny decided while touring his album 'It Is Time For a Love Revolution', that he wanted to take a break from sex. At 43, the rocker told 'Maxim' magazine in 2008 that he hadn't slept with anyone for three years. "It's just a promise I made until I get married. Where I'm at in life, the women have got to come with something else, not just the body, but the mind and spirit. It usually trips them out, but that's the way it's going to be," he said.
"For some periods of time it's easy, and then it's really hard," Lenny then admitted in 2010. "It goes back and forth... There are times when I'm patient and there's times when I'm, 'Come on, Lord, bring this for me ... '"
Elsewhere, Stephen Fry enjoyed a 16-year spell of sexual abstinence up until the mid-1990s. Looking back on that period, he reflected: "It was much easier to say, 'I can live without love' and I really thought I could."
And even though the late Kurt Cobain once openly praised his wife's carnal skills on live TV, Courtney Love reportedly took a vow of celibacy some years ago (before being 'saved', according to tabloid parlance, by new boyfriend Henry Allsopp in December).
"I said, that's it, I'm not sleeping with anyone for the next five years and I was celibate, although it wasn't for lack of anyone trying. It took so much energy away from me to be thinking about men all the time," she said recently.
A decade ago, actress Vanessa Redgrave admitted that she had given up sex and has not had a physical relationship for some time. Not that she missed sex: "I think I've always tended to be a sort of platonic person," she said. "I love life so much, perhaps now more than ever before. But that doesn't mean that I can't be platonic. And it means that your ego is at a very abated level, and I don't want to give my ego a chance. Look, I've slept on floors all over the world, with a multitude of different people, but we didn't have sex."
Decades of being bombarded with sexy images seem to have had a curious effect; we've been desensitised and sex has gone back underground. And, because declarations of sexiness and sexual dynamism have become akin to cultural white noise, the 'C' word has become slightly shocking again.
A UK study published last year hinted that Courtney, Lenny and their celibate compatriots are not alone. More than a quarter of women aged 35-plus say they 'never' have sex. The study, commissioned by the Sky Real Lives digital channel, also revealed that 28pc claim to abstain, with the highest figure occurring in Scotland, where 38pc are celibate.
Yet as 37-year-old Dubliner writer/journalist Hazel Larkin admits, being celibate needn't be all doom and gloom. In fact, the scope for emotional self-sufficiency and self-fulfillment is endless.
"I'm so glad I'm out of that dating scene, and I don't have to put up with the crap that some men go on with," says Hazel. "Some women love that stuff, but I'm glad I don't have to agonise over texts and emails. I've lived with plenty of control freaks in my time, and that ship has sailed."
Since getting pregnant with her second daughter Kashmira in August 2003, Hazel has been celibate.
"It was the cruellest thing ever because I was also at my horniest, but there was no one around to fulfil that need. I was married and divorced twice before I turned 30 and I began to think that there was something in me that was attracted to bastards.
"I thought to myself, 'I've to give it two years to figure out what makes me go to bed with these guys'. Because I had two children, I couldn't afford to make another mistake.
"Of course, once I'd had my daughter, there came a 'Right, where are the boys?' moment, but I couldn't find anyone. I've just become much more choosy. I've tried online dating, speed dating, I've been on many first dates and quite a few second dates. I've met quite a few younger men and they seem very needy and earnest," she adds.
Far from being asexual, Hazel observes that it's because she loves and cherishes sex that she hasn't had it in seven-and-a-half years. "To me, it's about quality over quantity," she notes. "Any one of us could go out tonight and play 'hide the sausage', but it's not fulfilling, so I'm not interested.
"If I was having sex with someone, I'd like it to progress into something more intimate and meaningful. Sex is so much better when there's the added element of intimacy. It's the difference between a gourmet meal and fast food. There's something hollow about random sex with someone.
"I do miss the idea of good sex, and I love men, being with men, cooking for them, hugging them. But it's one thing I'm not willing to compromise on."
Naturally, folk are quick to wade in with their own opinions on the subject. "I think people are curious as to how my head hasn't exploded in seven-and-a-half years," she smiles.
"Men think I'm an abnormal aberration. Some have told me to loosen up and go to Ann Summers. Women, for the most part, tend to be a bit more 'fair play to you' about it. I have male friends who say, 'if you're 40 and still single, we should do it'. I'd love to see their faces if I accepted."
Now a devoted mother to Kashmira and her first daughter Ishthara, Hazel has a full and hugely satisfying life. She runs a blog (www.lady scribbles.wordpress.com), does charity work for the Hope Foundation and travels with her daughters at every chance she gets.
"Being a parent is the most humbling, most exhilarating, most rewarding experience of my life. No romantic encounter has ever come close. I always think, 'If a man did come along, how would I even find room for him in my life?'" she admits. "Let's just say that with almost eight years to catch up on, the guy in question will pretty much hit pay dirt. But he will probably have to be very patient too.
"There is that thought from time to time, 'I might never have sex again for the rest of my life'. I worry too that I might never fall in love. I probably worry about that more. If I don't, fine, but that really would be an absolute waste."