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Boysober: The rebellious new dating trend?

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Boysober: The rebellious new dating trend?
April 10, 2024
Mia Wallace - LA Post

Coined by comedian Hope Woodard, "boysober" refers to a Gen z men who take yearlong break from sex and dating, almost a celibacy rebrand. From TikTok creators proudly donning "Celibate Club" merchandise to online forums brimming with discussions about choosing self-restraint over indulgence, this unorthodox trend is redefining masculinity and flipping the script on what it means to be a respected, desirable young man in today's dating scene. As the Boysober movement gains traction, an intriguing question arises: When did the centuries-old practice of celibacy become the ultimate symbol of rebellious cool?

Fast forward to 2024, and women aren't just ditching sex – they're ditching love, too. Similar to the rise of "singles tribes' ' in 2022, when friend groups prioritized their platonic relationships over romantic ones, women are now choosing themselves over men. Hypebae editorial intern Pranjal Jain shared her experience: "Being boysober shows me how much I've grown and how I've raised my standards. I won't just date any man for the sake of not being lonely. It has helped me pour into my interests and friendships and reminds me that life and romance are more fun when you're not constantly pining over a partner."

Jain acknowledged that being boysober can get lonely at times, but more so because many of her friends tend to prioritize their partnerships over their platonic friendships, which she finds frustrating. "I don't blame them, but more so a society that tells women we must prioritize our romantic relationships over all else," she added. Hypebae's Instagram community echoed similar sentiments, with one user commenting, "No STDs, STIs, unwanted pregnancy scares, and not having to worry about a partner cheating? I'm loving the boysober life over here!" Another proudly shared, "Going boysober was the best thing I ever did in my life!!!!!"

One user revealed, "Being boysober really lets you see how men operate when sex and romantic emotions aren't clouding your judgment. I told myself I'd be celibate for at least 12 months and only break that for someone who was truly worth it. I ended up making it 15 months before meeting my current partner, and we've been going strong for nine years now." The Boysober movement is essentially Gen Z's updated version of the sex-positive movement, with young women proudly opting out of unfulfilling sexual and romantic encounters.

At 53 years old, writer Dana DuBois chose to go on a "mansober" break instead, feeling the more youthful term "boysober" was a bit disingenuous for her age and life experience. "I remember that dating is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. But it really hasn't felt that way for me, just as these Gen Z women are realizing," she said. After ending a long-term relationship, DuBois expected her re-entry into the dating world to be a bit bumpy. Still, she quickly found herself completely losing her center and becoming immersed in a harsh modern dating landscape filled with unfamiliar lingo and behaviors she never wanted to grasp, like "love bombing," "benching," being "breadcrumbed," or "given the ick."

DuBois described becoming "a dopamine addict, feral for the rush of getting another new message or match, only to be constantly disappointed yet again. Most of my energy and focus got absolutely sucked into this endless dating vortex." Fearing that if she completely gave up on dating apps and putting herself out there that it might mean never finding a partner again, DuBois decided to take a more temporary "mansober" break for just one month in order to regain her sense of buoyancy and to shift her focus back to the hobbies, interests, and platonic relationships that make her who she is - writing, singing, attending events, reading, cooking, and spending quality time with friends.

Three weeks into her mansober journey, DuBois reported feeling a powerful sense of clarity, with a much calmer heart and clearer headspace than she'd experienced in a long time. "I feel so much more connected to my own desires and personal vision for what I want out of a romantic relationship moving forward," she said, echoing Woodard's perspective of "really enjoying living with desire and not so quickly acting on it every time. Instead, I'm asking myself, what does it look like and feel like to let yourself simply think, wonder about, and feel that natural desire without instantly trying to satiate it?"

Without the looming pressure of constant dating app swiping and underwhelming first dates, DuBois's life quickly became abuzz with various enriching activities - she attended birthday parties, live shows, karaoke nights, plays, and even a gala. She was able to be much more present as a parent and took the time to mentor new writers. "It's been absolutely amazing," she exclaimed, "though I will admit I still haven't been that great about actually exercising regularly - which illuminated for me that I can't just blame all my shortcomings on dating. Some hobbies I still struggle to prioritize even without romantic distractions." 

In her interview, Woodard concluded that boysober isn't an absolute state - "You're not truly 'sober' if someone is still constantly taking up brain space and mental energy." However, she separated that from simply putting yourself out there, interacting with potential partners, and doing healthy flirting. The goal isn't to cut men and love out of one's life completely forever but to take an intentional period to discover how to best show up for romantic connections, including as a partner. As Woodard put it, "I'm not so interested in cutting men or the idea of love completely out of my life. I just want to find a way to navigate it all better healthfully."

DuBois wholeheartedly shared this sentiment, admitting that while her mansober month has been incredibly refreshing, she still very much believes romantic love and a fulfilling long-term partnership remain strong possibilities for her future. "Being mansober has given me the mental and emotional tools to hopefully seek that out from a place of confidence and self-respect, without constantly sacrificing the best parts of myself to the quest," she explained. In fact, as a symbolic "show of optimism," DuBois revealed she has already signed up for a speed dating event taking place on the very day her self-imposed month of celibacy comes to an end.  

At its core, the boysober movement centers on women temporarily reclaiming full autonomy over their bodies, boundaries, and headspaces, while reallocating previously wasted dating energy into more meaningful personal development and platonic pursuits. It provides an invaluable period of space away from the pressures of sexual narratives and romantic disposability to reflect, heal, and carefully focus on redefining what one truly wants for oneself and from one's future relationships.  

Though struggles with loneliness and fear of missing out can certainly arise during a boysober period, supporters feel their lives ultimately become far more gratifying and fun without the constant stress of fruitlessly pining after intimacy that lacks the mutual emotional investment, care and respect they deserve. The flexibility of the term's inclusivity also expands beyond just cis, heterosexual experiences.

Perhaps most critically, at its core, the boysober movement fully rejects the insidious narrative of womanhood that posits taking ownership of validating and regulating men's emotions, sense of self-worth, and sexual satisfaction should be a personal responsibility. As Woodard powerfully expressed her past sexual experiences, "I'm a little bit angry at myself and angry at all the sex that I've had that I feel like I didn't truly choose for myself...For the first time ever, I just feel like I have real ownership over my own body."

While the boysober movement's commitment to cutting off all sexual and romantic investment for a period can certainly be interpreted as stringent, it fundamentally differs from the concept of harmful, religiously-motivated celibacy or "purity culture" through its status as an intentional, self-actualized choice for participants, not an involuntary state of being or value system imposed upon them by outside forces. Boysober isn't about judgment, stigma, or rigidity - it's about taking a purposeful pause for prioritization, self-exploration, and gaining a fresh perspective before deciding if and when to re-enter the dating world, but this time with newfound intentionality.

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