Why Did Bumble’s Anti-Celibacy Campaign Go Terribly Wrong?

Bumble's recent campaign, intended as a "dating wake-up call," backfired. A range of billboards and social media posts discouraging - explicitly women’s - celibacy sparked a fierce online backlash. Critics accused the app of “supporting patriarchy” rather than addressing women’s actual needs in dating. The company issued a public apology and took down the controversial billboards and blog posts. However, Bumble’s marketing failure is just a part of a broader “dating app problem” that blames women - again! - for their apparent lack of activity when it comes to dating (read: dating heterosexual men).
At Flure, we know better than anyone that human sexuality is a spectrum that can evolve over time and that people’s dating lives go beyond binary labels. And that there is nothing wrong with practicing celibacy! You can also actively date while abstaining from sex (or just penetrative sex)! Here are some answers to your questions about celibacy:

What is celibacy?

Before diving into celibacy, let’s define sex here. Sure thing, P-to-V is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind, but apart from that, sex is a sea of various physical practices that include at least one set of genitalia. Now, celibacy as a voluntary practice of not having sex can be different for each person and doesn’t explicitly exclude dating or other intimate activities.

Why do some people choose celibacy?

There are many reasons why people decide to abstain from sexual activities. One of the most well-known is religion, which predetermines certain limits to people’s sex lives (such as only engaging in sex in marriage). But religious reasons are by far not the only ones why some people abstain from sex. Here are some of the rest of them:
  • Healing from a trauma or navigating mental health challenges
  • Recovering from a compulsive behavior or sex addiction
  • Being asexual (a sexual orientation that means you don’t feel sexual attraction)
  • Medical-related reasons (such as prevention of STI transmission or elimination of risks of STI and unwanted pregnancies)
  • Philosophical, spiritual, or cultural reasons
  • Focusing on other non-sexual aspects of life, such as career or education
  • Exploring platonic relationships
  • Depending on your preferences, you might want to have sex on the first date, and some want to wait longer. All options are ok!

Can you date if you choose to be celibate?

Absolutely! Being celibate, just like being asexual, means navigating unique challenges in a society that expects sex in romantic relationships and often pushes individuals to have sex. But it doesn’t mean you must be lonely if you are celibate. Some physical activities you can engage in, depending on your personal limitations or preferences, are:
- masturbation
- outercourse
- kissing
- hugging
- dry humping
- massaging
…and even:
- fingers
- anal sex
- oral sex
- using toys

How do you balance dating and being celibate?

Like in everything else that relates to sex and relationship life, communication and boundaries are the key. Here are some tips from Flure:
  1. Date like-minded people: don’t try to convince someone who doesn’t share your core values.
  2. Be honest (with yourself and with others)!
  3. Focus on emotions and feelings: engage in activities that foster closeness and understanding, such as traveling together, volunteering, going on regular dates, or doing sports.
  4. Set clear boundaries to avoid misunderstandings.

Bottom line

Celibacy can be a rewarding personal choice or a practical measure that helps people cope with trauma or certain medical conditions. Basic awareness of it is a prerequisite for an online dating giant like Bumble. Offensive billboards aren’t the best way to spark a discussion. Even though the company offered its apologies alongside now-vacant billboard time going to domestic violence prevention organizations, the aftertaste remains pretty meh for those who don’t link online dating with patriarchy. Whatever your gender identity or sexual orientation, practicing celibacy permanently or as a phase is a personal decision that deserves respect and thoughtful consideration within the realm of dating. Join Flure if you are looking for a judgment-free zone where you can find like-minded people from all over the world!