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Vow of Celibacy

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Rev. Theo Fobius: My order doesn't do celibacy. We take an oath of chastity.
Schlock: What's the difference?
Reverend: When you are alone in an elevator with a beautiful woman you barely know... (sigh) There isn't a difference.
Schlock: You religious people have too many words for "responsible behavior".

Some organizations require that their members refrain from marriage or sexual relations. It's particularly common in religious groups — some churches bar their clergy from such things, and most monastic traditions forbid them as well. Typically, these restrictions will take the form of a vow of celibacy (although simply making celibacy a rule, without anyone swearing anything, has basically the same effect).

A note on terminology: people can mean different things by the word "celibacy" — sometimes it means not having sex, but it can also mean not being married. The fuzziness of definition may be due to the fact that traditionally, a ban on marriage equated to a ban on sex automatically since extramarital sex was forbidden. In fictional examples, however, this may not be so. "Chastity" usually means refraining from engaging in illicit sex. So a "chaste husband" would be one who doesn't cheat on his wife, for instance.

An obligation of celibacy can be used in stories for a number of purposes. Sometimes, it adds a complication to a love story — two characters may be attracted to each other, yet prevented from pursuing it by such a rule. It can be a cause of inner turmoil when characters are torn between their feelings and their vows, especially if the very fact that they have sexual feelings is something they feel ashamed of. If a character is supposed to be subject to rules of celibacy but has a chance to break them, whether they do or not can be used for the purposes of characterization — it's typically portrayed negatively if they do, such as to help establish a character as a Sinister Minister, although tropes like Dirty Old Monk and Naughty Nuns can be played for laughs or used as a humanizing element as well. Whether celibacy requirements themselves are portrayed as positive, negative, or a mixture will depend on the writer.

Questions about exactly what counts as a breach of celibacy may arise — in these cases, there are often parallels with Technical Virgin. In some settings, celibacy will have a practical purpose, such as to preserve Virgin Power. Being Locked Away in a Monastery can be an attempt to enforce vows of celibacy for political purposes.

Vows of celibacy may become relevant when characters are Hot for Preacher (a particular hazard for a Sexy Priest), although it should be noted that not all ministers of religion are subject to the same rules. A Celibate Hero or a Celibate Eccentric Genius might be celibate because of one of these vows, but more often, their celibacy is just a personal choice or something thrust on them by circumstances. A Pedophile Priest is a character who fails his vows of celibacy in the worst way.

When rules like this are applied to the whole of society, it's No Sex Allowed. See also Inappropriately Close Comrades, where the job-based sex ban applies only to people who share that job, not the wider world. Compare Can't Have Sex, Ever, where sex is prevented by something more tangible and hazardous than just obligations.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Make the Exorcist Fall in Love, Father is a teenaged priest who fights the forces of Hell as an exorcist. Being a priest, he's sworn to celibacy and thus tries to keep his relationship with Imuri professional. But his mentor, Dante, encourages him to fall in love anyway so he can truly love the world that God created. This leaves Father a Celibate Hero who is nevertheless deeply curious about love.

    Comic Books 
  • Averted in the Tales of the Jedi comic book series, which explicitly states that the Jedi Order's ban on marriage and romantic relationships came into effect later than the comics' timeframe (3996 BBY, roughly 4,000 years before the films).
  • Wonder Woman (1942): As the Amazon champion Wonder Woman has taken an oath of celibacy and cannot marry until she's completed her mission, though there are a few workarounds that pertain to her giving her word to a potential partner in a situation where she's allowing them to compete with her for her hand in marriage. This causes a slight strain in her relationship with Steve Trevor as the pair of them would really like to get married.
  • Judges in Judge Dredd adhere to what is known among judges as the monastic code. Judges are forbidden to have relationships, as they are supposed to be Married to the Job and, given the nature of their work, aren't supposed to have the time to engage in a romantic relationship. It's a contentious issue in universe and several Judges, such as Karl Raider and Galen DeMarco have resigned over it. There are two major exceptions: Wally Squad Judges and the Holocaust Squad. In the former case, having sex is often necessary to maintain their cover. In the latter, the Judges in question are expected to respond to the worst disasters and have the highest mortality rate in the department, so they get special dispensations, allowing them to have sex, drink, smoke, and do drugs.

    Fan Works 

  • Displaced (The Legend of Zelda): An informal one. Despite dating, Link and Zelda put some rules in place to keep themselves from going too far. This was Link's idea. Eventually, Zelda asks him why. He explains that he doesn't want to ruin her reputation; even though she's not claiming her throne, she is an important person leading the reconstruction. Zelda points out with some exasperation that everyone already thinks they're having sex. They live in the same house and sleep in the same bed at inns; of course everyone assumes they've gone all the way. At least one of their closest friends thinks they're married. No one cares.
  • Vow of Nudity: The Sister (aka matriarch) of each swiftstride clan in the barrens is forbidden from engaging in sex due to ostensibly being "above such base desires." Fiora takes advantage of this to maintain an illicit affair with her tribe's Sister to secretly learn her magic without anyone (even the Sister) knowing.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Anazapta. The protagonist Lady Matilda Mellerby wears a chastity belt while her husband is away fighting. It doesn't stop her masturbating in one scene, but it does come in handy getting the bishop who's trying to blackmail her into sex to back off for a bit. When she does end up having sex, her lover just cuts free the straps with his knife.
  • The Love Guru, the main character Maurice Pitka at 12 years old is forced to wear a chastity belt with an Elephant head codpiece. It does not protect its contents from groin attacks.
  • I Confess, one of Alfred Hitchcock's films, is about a Catholic priest who is still regularly meeting his childhood sweetheart, now the wife of a prominent politician. The relationship is not actually sexual, but when the priest is (wrongly) suspected of killing a person who was blackmailing the woman in question, the public and the press assume him to have been breaking his vows with her.
  • The Mexican film El Crimen del Padre Amaro deals with priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic church. The titular Father Amaro, although initially trying to keep to his vows, has an affair with a teenage girl (who is herself the daughter of the mistress of Amaro's superior). It ends badly.
  • Love, So Divine is a romantic comedy about a young Korean seminarian who finds himself questioning the celibacy that lies ahead for him as he and the female lead (a Tsundere Hard-Drinking Party Girl) gradually warm up to each other.
  • In Priest (1994), a new Catholic priest starts to question his faith after embarking on a sexual relationship despite his vows (he's also gay, which makes it even more forbidden).
  • In another (but completely different) film called Priest (2011), the titular priests (who are more like warriors than priests as commonly understood, but are still associated with the Church) are required to be celibate. The main character left his lover and newborn daughter behind when he joined.
  • Star Wars: The Jedi frown on having strong attachments, and Anakin Skywalker is not able to continue his relationship with Padmé Amidala openly, which leads in part to him falling to the dark side when he begins dreaming of her Death by Childbirth: he's unable to get the help he thinks he needs for her from the Jedi without jeopardizing his membership, making him vulnerable to Chancellor Sheev "Darth Sidious" Palpatine's manipulations. In Matt Stover's Revenge of the Sith novelization, Anakin tells Padmé that he plans to leave the Jedi Order once the Civil War is over so he can be with her openly (a plan which is Doomed by Canon). Downplayed in the Disney-era Star Wars Expanded Universe, which canonized statements by George Lucas in interviews that the prequel-era Jedi are allowed to have casual sex: it's specifically possessive emotions and wanting to control their partners that leads to the Dark Side. Presumably the Jedi found threading the needle generally too difficult.
  • Keeping the Faith has Brian, a Catholic priest, develop feelings for his childhood friend Anna. He falsely convinces himself that his feelings are reciprocated, and wonders about his future in the church. In fact, Anna is in a secret relationship with their mutual friend (who's a rabbi, but they aren't sworn to celibacy, though extramarital relationships are still frowned upon usually).
  • In Bedazzled (1967) a trickster devil gives Stanley Moon seven wishes in return for his soul. Stanley is in love with Margaret so he wishes for them to be together. The Devil makes Margaret and Stanley's nuns fall in love with each other; they're together in a nunnery, but since they're nuns they're celibate.
  • In Sister Act, when Dolores/Mary Clarence comes to live at the abbey, the Rev. Mother tells her that she is to abide by the rules the nuns live by, including the Vow of Chastity. Dolores/Mary Clarence is not happy about that.
  • From Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Sir Galahad is known as "Sir Galahad the Pure", but the many women at Castle Anthrax eventually convince him to forget it. He's rescued (very unhappily) by Lancelot before actually violating it though.
    Galahad: I am sworn to chastity!
    Woman: Back to your bed at once!
  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we learn Lieutenant Ilia has an "Oath of Celibacy", as she randomly informs Admiral Kirk of when she arrives on the Enterprise's bridge. Given Kirk's reputation as a ladies man it sounds like she's warning him to back off, but the reason is explained in the novelization: Deltans (Ilia's race) are highly sexual and view humans as immature when it comes to sex, and more to the point having sex with a non-Deltan can potentially kill their partner (because it involves a blending of minds as well as bodies). Deltans are compelled to take a vow of celibacy in order to join Starfleet.
  • Ironclad: Marshall took one as a member of The Knights Templar, but he eventually breaks it by sleeping with Isabel, which he feels quite guilty for.
  • Prom Wars: Rupert has sworn not to have sex until he graduates and doesn't have to worry about school anymore. Hamish repeatedly suggests that this is just a way for Rupert to hide his homosexuality, but the ending implies that Rupert is bisexual and that the vow was for more academic reasons.
  • Virgin Territory: Multiple nuns happily break theirs to have sex with Lorenzo.
  • Robin and Marian: Though a nun, Marian doesn't even hesitate about breaking her vow by having sex with Robin when they rekindle their relationship.
  • Stealing Heaven: Though not formally sworn, Abelard is effectively under this as he teaches at the University of Paris, and teachers there are expected to remain celibate. It's one reason why his relationship with Héloïse is kept secret. Later, they both take them formally as part of becoming a monk and nun respectively (despite then being married), which they keep.
  • Red Sonja: Sonja swore to never have sex with a man after her rape unless he beat her in a fair fight.
  • Spotlight: Discussed by Richard Sipe, a clinical psychologist and former Catholic priest who's treated pedophile Catholic priests for decades. His theory is that celibacy has caused grave problems since many priests just can't abide by it. For many, this leads to simply clandestine relationships with adults. In others, though they abuse children, who are vulnerable and easily controlled. It's implied that he himself couldn't handle it, since he left the priesthood and is married to a former nun (who's another probable example).
  • Played for Laughs in Hot Shots! Part Deux. Topper Harley has taken a 10-Minute Retirement in a Buddhist monastery, whose monks have taken a vow of celibacy "like their fathers and their fathers before them". Hilarity Ensues when the Ms. Fanservice CIA agent turns up to recruit him and the monks are all Distracted by the Sexy.
  • 40 Days and 40 Nights: Matt makes one to give up sex (or anything sexual) for the title 40 days (of Lent). When he does this, his friends make bets about when he'll fail, and people conspire to break it.
  • Mythica: Teela is expected to stay chaste by Ana-Sett, who punishes her for having sex by taking away her powers.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness: Among the oaths Grayson swore was apparently one to not have sex. He breaks this through sleeping with Akordia.

  • In the Chinese classic Journey to the West, the monk Xuanzang has a considerable number of opportunities to reject the celibacy that is expected of him, including several offers from supernatural sources, but he doesn't do so.
  • The Three Musketeers has two examples of villains who don't respect their vows of celibacy:
    • Richelieu, being a cardinal and all, is supposed to be celibate. However, he's revealed to have made unsuccessful advances to the queen, a fact used both to illustrate his character and to add to his motivations (since he's bitter at being rebuffed).
    • Milady de Winter is a Femme Fatale who started out as a nun. Her first seduction was of the priest of her convent, whom she convinced to run away with her (and with the convent's sacred chalice).
  • This Side of Paradise: As part of his role as a Catholic priest, Monsignor Darcy has sworn a vow of celibacy and refrains from having sex. This contributes to Darcy seeing Amory Blaine as a son because he isn't allowed to sire children.
  • Claude Frollo, the main antagonist of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is torn between the pious celibacy he is supposed to maintain as an archdeacon and his lust for the gypsy Esmerelda, becoming increasingly unstable as he fails to reconcile the two. (Not all adaptations maintain Frollo's status as an ordained priest, though — in the Disney one, he's a judge, and therefore bound only by his own hangups rather than by a priestly vow.)
  • The title of The Red and the Black is sometimes held to refer to the ambitious protagonist's choice between civil and clerical avenues of advancement (although even among those who accept this explanation of the title, there's disagreement on which color represents which). The protagonist is never actually ordained, but he's sufficiently part of the church that the abbé sends him away to a seminary when he's revealed to have had an affair.
  • Discworld:
    • Wizards of Unseen University are generally expected to stay celibate. The common/official explanation is that it interferes with their magic, but as per the book Sourcery, it's more likely to be a measure to prevent wizards from having descendants, because the eighth son of a wizard that is himself the eighth son of an eighth son is a dangerous super-wizard, and it's considered better to prevent wizards from having kids at all than to risk it. In later Discworld novels the UU vow of celibacy seems to have shifted in the same way as Oxford and Cambridge Universities (see Real Life), in that wizards can have relations with women, but can't get married.
    • Esmerelda Weatherwax never had any (non-witchcraft) relations with men after Mustrum Ridcully left for Unseen University, which becomes a plot point when a unicorn shows up. In her case, it wasn't really a vow since she found it easier being the scary witch.
  • In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, priests and nuns are required to be abstinent. This has a practical purpose: only virgins can receive divine messages clearly.
  • In The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, it turns out that the title character's grandmother was under vows but broke them. This has an actual negative effect due to Virgin Power and causes something of a Broken Pedestal.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: The Cassiline Brotherhood are an order of elite Warrior Monks whose vows include celibacy. This follows the example of the archangel Cassiel, who — unlike the other angels that followed the d'Angelines' precursor Elua — did not lie with mortals. In a society where Everybody Has Lots of Sex and Everyone Is Bi, this is considered at best highly eccentric, perhaps even on counter-cultural enough to be considered threatening. Phèdre's first bodyguard was in training for the order but was disqualified for sleeping with a farm girl, while her second bodyguard, Joscelin, eventually falls in love with her and is declared anathema by the head of the order after he's broken his vows with her. They spend the rest of their lives as a couple.
  • The Redemption of Althalus: Celibacy is either required or recommended for at least some religious organizations. One village priest deals very badly with it, deciding that the women to whom he is attracted must be using witchcraft on him (since a moral person like himself wouldn't struggle so, otherwise). This results in them getting burned at the stake.
  • The Rifter: One of the priests at the monastery is secretly married. By the standards of the monastery, he's not too bad, and the implication seems to be that the rule of celibacy isn't something to defend.
  • The Thorn Birds has an illicit relationship between a Catholic priest and a younger woman as its main conflict.
  • Angels & Demons: One character is the son of a monk and a nun who wanted to have a child but were not willing to do it by breaking their vows and having sex. They used artificial insemination. The mother was expelled anyway when she became obviously pregnant.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Vows of celibacy are required by several religious and military orders, including the Night's Watch, the Kingsguard, the septons and septas of the Faith of the Seven, and the maesters of the Citadel. Some take their vows more seriously than others; in the Night's Watch, it's an open secret that more brothers than not make regular visits to a nearby brothel. While the Faith's vows to include a specifically religious element, the primary drive behind the others isn't so much an avoidance of sex per se as it is one of marriage and children. All three orders serve specific and very important purposes — the Night's Watch guard the realm's norther border against the barbarians and monsters of the Grim Up North, the Kingsguard are the bodyguards of the king and his family, and the maesters act as advisors for noble families and as the realm's main collectors and scholars of knowledge — which at least in theory require them to be completely above and removed from conflicts of interest and involvement in the Seven Kingdom's endless petty quarrels. In a setting where loyalty and power are derived chiefly from nuptial and kinship ties, this means forsaking all existing familial links alongside swearing to never marry or beget children.
  • The Demonata, by Darren Shan: Priestesses were originally forbidden from romance in general since it led to a loss in magic. Over sixteen hundred years, this belief eventually turned out to be false.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain: Cain's Last Stand: According to Amberley Vail, it's actually a myth that the Adeptas Sororitas (Sisters of Battle) are required to be celibate. It's more a question of lack of opportunity. The footnote in question comments on Cain's discovery that Sister Julien, a senior Sister at the schola progenium, is involved with the academy's bursar.
  • Ender's Game: In Speaker for the Dead and later works, there is a Catholic religious order, the Order of the Children of the Mind of Christ, which requires members to marry but remain chaste as a Self-Imposed Challenge. The Order was founded over 3,000 years before the events of Speaker for the Dead by one Saint Angelo of the Mexican-descended colony world of Moctezuma, who was a personal friend of Ender's and who (controversially for a Catholic) had Ender speak his death. By the time of Speaker for the Dead, the Order is deeply involved in both scientific research and Catholic education, and so the colony world of Lusitania (settled by Catholic colonists of Brazilian ancestry) naturally have an Order monastery. Ender interviews two of the members in Speaker, and in Xenocide he and his wife Novinha join it.
  • Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin: Wizards are required to be celibate. However, one entry in the novella collection Tales from Earthsea shows the origins of the Wizarding School on the isle of Roke. The order didn't originally require celibacy and admitted female members, but early in the order's history an extremist faction took it over and added those rules.
  • The Diamond Throne: The Pandion Knights had originally taken an oath to never marry (and by implication never have sex). However, due to a shortage of Pandions and applicants for knighthood, they were allowed by the church to take back their vows so they could marry and have children. That it was originally enforced probably has to do with that Elene priests take an oath of celibacy, and Church Knights (including the Pandions) are technically part of the priesthood.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Various works deal with Jedi rules about relationships in more detail. Different writers seem to have taken different approaches (some of them pre-Phantom Menace Backstory decisions that ended up getting Jossed by the prequel trilogy, with associated retcons to make them fit), with the result that whatever rules the Jedi are said to have had, they must have changed over time or had lots of exceptions. Some characters seem to be married without repercussion, while others are told it isn't allowed. Specific examples:
      • Jedi Trial, set between Episodes II and III, has Master Nejaa Halcyon find out about Anakin's marriage to Padme and keep the secret, as he himself secretly has a wife and teenage son whom he's training as a Jedi. Other works indicate that the Corellian arm of the Jedi Order played by its own rules.
      • The Republic Commando Series has a cameo by Callista Ming from The Callista Trilogy, who is a member of a Jedi sect led by Master Djinn Altis that encourages romantic relations. The mainstream order considers them semi-heretical. Meanwhile, Etain Tur-Mukan takes the Secret Relationship approach and has a son with Darman, one of the eponymous clone commandos.
      • The New Jedi Order founded by Luke Skywalker in the post-Return of the Jedi timeframe has no celibacy requirement at all, and some of their members, such as Corran Horn in I, Jedi, were already married when they joined up.
      • The Darth Bane trilogy shows that the Jedi Order's current form, with a strict prohibition on marriage and romantic relationships, was established 1,000 years prior to The Phantom Menace, in the aftermath of the New Sith War. This was apparently because of multiple instances of Jedi defecting to the Sith because failed romances drove them to the Dark Side. Earlier Legends stories show that this was neither the first time the Jedi Order established such a policy nor was Luke Skywalker's New Jedi Order the first to discard it. During the Tales of the Jedi and Knights of the Old Republic era, it seems to have gone back and forth repeatedly based on little more than the personal beliefs of whoever was Grand Master of the Jedi Order at the time.
      • Ki-Adi-Mundi is actually granted an exception and allowed to marry and have children due to the Cerean species' low birth rates, though he tries not to form too strong an attachment with his wives or children.
    • The Han Solo Trilogy:
      • Bria took such a vow as a Pilgrim on Ylesia, which means she's upset when Han kisses her and they have a mutual attraction. She also later tries to use this when Ganar Tos is having Teroenza marry them but the latter simply waves this aside by releasing her from it. After she's escaped with Han, having already learned that their religion was fake, Bria naturally no longer feels bound by this, and the pair have sex.
      • Soon after arriving on Nar Shaddaa for the first time in The Hutt Gambit, Han gets propositioned by an old Twi'lek woman and claims to have taken a vow of abstinence to get her off his back. She just looks amused.
  • The Obsidian Trilogy: In The Outstretched Shadow Kellen Tavadon casts a Wild Magic spell to escape the Outlaw Hunt, which summons the unicorn Shalkan as a steed. Shalkan informs him that the Mageprice is to remain celibate and chaste for A Year and a Day on pain of castration, which becomes a problem when Kellen falls in love with Vestakia and has to sit on it until the end of the trilogy.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, medicine cats (the healers/spiritual leaders of their Clan) — are not allowed to take a mate. It is also often said that female deputies and leaders cannot have kits, but for them, it's more of a guideline, as compared to the medicine cats, where it's a very strict rule.
  • In The Initiate Brother, Brother Shuyun is supposed to be celibate, which gets in the way of his developing relationship with Nishima. However, both Shuyun and Nishima are aware of older versions of Shuyun's religion which accepted or even encouraged a sexual dimension to religious life, on the grounds that those seeking enlightenment should understand the whole world, including sex and love. Shuyun eventually decides that they were right.
  • In Dragonvarld, the Sisterhood has a selective form. Generally speaking, its members aren't supposed to have relationships with men, but exceptions are made for a breeding program, and they're all quite able to have relationships with women. Melisande, the high priestess, and Bellona, the captain of the all-female guard, are lovers. When it appears that Melisande has run off with a man (actually having been rescued by him from a non-evident threat), it's a big scandal.
  • In The Goblin Emperor, Kiru Athmaza is a cleric of Csaivo and celibate, which makes Maia feel somewhat better about accepting her as one of the four bodyguards who guard him even in his bedroom.
  • The Mental State features a character called Charlie Walter. He is a celibate pedophile who is determined not to let his condition harm anyone. He is arrested for having lolicon imagery on his computer, which he uses to sublimate his urges. His vow is fairly meaningless under current circumstances.
  • The Reluctant King: In order to gain greater magical strength and extended life spans, since for some reason abstinence causes it, many wizards have sworn themselves against having sex.
  • Wizard of Yurt: The clergy in the West are sworn to celibacy (they're a Catholic analog) but so are wizards. It causes headaches for Daimbert, who finds a lot of women tempting. He's at least allowed to check them out or flirt-priests are forbidden even that.
  • Record of Grancrest War: Mages are not allowed to marry while contracted to a Lord, though that doesn't stop many from falling in love—often with the Lord themself, as in the case of Official Couple Theo Cornaro (Lord) and Siluca Meletes (Mage). Lord Villar Constance, Earl of Altirk, makes a practice of releasing his mages from their contracts when they turn 25 for this reason, as he doesn't want them to be kept from romantic relationships permanently. This causes a self-inflicted Star-Crossed Lovers scenario when he and his mage leader Margaret Odius fall in love, but he's kept by his Mommy Issues and her vows from advancing it beyond Courtly Love.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm:
    • Downplayed in the temple. Priests and shrine maidens are forbidden from marrying, but it's apparently not rare for the noble-born blue-robes to have at least one Sex Slave among their gray-robe attendants.
    • Between a recent purge within the nobility that resulted in noble-born blue-robes getting called back home by their families and the practice of selling gray-robes to nobles as servants, priests and shrine maidens leaving the temple for positions in which they are no longer expected to celibate is fairly common. Ironically, some blue-robes have been forbidden from properly joining noble society precisely because they had exploited the "a Sex Slave is okay" loophole.
  • Paladins in The Deed of Paksenarrion are expected to be celibate while questing, and though they're permitted to take lovers between quests, they rarely do. Paks herself is asexual, so this isn't much of a problem for her.
  • Parodied in The Faraway Paladin. When Will gets pressed about his love life by his adoptive grandfather Gus in the two years he's been away from home, he tries to deflect it by citing his oath to the goddess Gracefeel. Gus sees right through him and calls him a loser who can't get a date.
  • The Camp Half-Blood Series: Hunters of Artemis are required to swear off sex and having romantic relationships, in return for immortality and youthfulness. In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the vow only specifies that the hunters are to refrain from pursuing men (Artemis being a misandrist), which, naturally, leads to a lot of fanfiction focusing on lesbian hunters. However, The Trials of Apollo torpedoes this by clarifying that the vow forbids all kinds of relationships, including same-sex. In fact, a pair of hunters were forced to leave because they fell in love with each other.
  • In the Nightside short story "Razor Eddie's Big Night Out", Eddie defends the Street of the Gods from the Holy Trio, who are trying to evict the resident minor cults. The Holy Trio consist of a spirit jointly channeled by a man and a woman, via the psychic strain of lifelong chastity vows. Eddie defeats all three by transporting them to a temple dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, stripping the corporeal Trio members naked, and letting the site's sex-symbol-charged ambience take effect. The abrupt (and public!) vow-breaking that ensues causes a psychic backlash that exorcises the spirit.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: The Wise Men and Brothers both prohibit their members from marrying.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ballykissangel: Father Clifford's standard-issue vow of celibacy becomes a serious problem for him when he falls in love with Assumpta. He eventually renounces the priesthood, only for Assumpta to have a Bridge Dropped on Her.
  • Blue Bloods:
    • One episode has the Reagans' now-deceased minister be investigated as a candidate for canonization. Frank discovers that Father Bill had a secret romantic relationship with a woman for a number of years, but in deference to his Catholic vow of celibacy, it was apparently never consummated. Frank compares this (and Father Bill protecting conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War) favorably to a saint who was a party to what would nowadays be considered genocide, and concludes that "the church could do a lot worse than Saint Bill from Brooklyn."
    • In another episode, Frank gets into a spat with New York's cardinal over the church's stance on homosexuality while trying to save a convent from being shuttered. The nun who put him onto the plot reveals afterward that she's gay, and left her girlfriend when she took her vows.
  • One episode of Death in Paradise has the team investigate the murder of a nun at the convent on Saint Marie. At The Reveal it turned out the motive had to do with Catholic vows of chastity: the priest attached to the convent had previously broken his vow and fathered a daughter, who then came to the convent looking for him and joined to get close to him. The mother superior, who was in love with the priest and was trying to keep him from breaking his vow again, misinterpreted their affection and killed the daughter.
  • In Diablero, Ventura took one as a Catholic priest, but he has a daughter from before his time in the priesthood. He didn't know Mariana was his, though, or that she even existed until her mother called him to her deathbed.
  • In Emerald City, the women of Glinda's order make a vow to remain chaste and unattached in order to devote all their energies to serving the Wizard. One of them breaks this by having an affair and gets pregnant.
  • In Father Ted, Bishop Brennan apparently has a mistress and a son, as shown in a holiday videotape found in his bag. The main characters use this tape as blackmail when Brennan threatens to reassign them somewhere even worse.
  • Firefly: "Objects in Space" indicates that Shepherd Book's religious order is expected to be celibate, though we only hear about half the conversation since the opening sequence of the episode is mostly told from River's rather warped perspective.
    Book: Some orders allow shepherds to marry, but I follow a narrower path.
    Jayne: But I mean, you still got the urge. They don't... cut it off or nothin'?
    Book: No, I'm more or less intact. I just... direct my energy elsewhere.
    Jayne: What, like masturbatin'?
  • As in its literary counterpart, in Game of Thrones, vows of celibacy are required by several religious and military orders, including the Night's Watch, the Kingsguard, the septons / septas of the Faith of the Seven, and the maesters of the Citadel. Night's Watch members, many of whom aren't there willingly, are prone to breaking the oath in a nearby brothel, and the High Septon is humiliated while partaking of Lord Baelish's establishment at the start of the Sparrows arc. The Exact Words of the Night's Watch oath are also examined closely by Samwell Tarly: the brothers vow to "take no wife" and "father no children," but sex itself is not specifically forbidden. Note that this world includes a well-known and apparently-safe birth control herb, and also that characters seem to believe that the pull-out method is far more effective than modern science has shown it to be in our own world. In season three, Jon Snow breaks his vow (and his cherry) with Ygritte, a Wildling woman he falls in love with while infiltrating Mance Rayder's army for the Watch. It's partly to maintain his cover but he returns her affection.
  • Iron Fist (2017). To the bemusement of Colleen Wing, Danny Rand mentions that he took a vow to avoid romantic entanglements when training to become the Iron Fist. He later breaks the vow by having sex with her, but seeing as he'd already broken a far more serious vow by abandoning his duty to defend K'un-Lun, the act of celibacy was presumably meaningless.
  • Millennium (1996). Lara Means tells Frank Black that when she first started having visions of angels it was suggested that she become a nun, but as she'd started to become interested in boys she wasn't impressed by the idea.
  • Pan Am: Pan Am, like most air companies of the period, fires married stewardesses. Some characters have to keep their marriages secret in order to keep their jobs.
  • Implied with the Iron Sisters order in Shadowhunters: Izzy, who is (mildly) an Ethical Slut, remarks when they're first mentioned in "Dust and Shadows" that she dreamed of joining them until she found out she'd have to give up boys.
  • Supernatural: Exploited in "Like a Virgin" when dragons in need of a Virgin Sacrifice start kidnapping high school girls who have taken abstinence oaths. The Winchesters' theory on this is cemented when one girl who was mauled but left insists to them that whatever she did with one boy "didn't count!"
  • Three's Company: in one episode Jack makes a bet with the girls to refrain from having relations with girls for a certain amount of time. The girls then try to find ways to make him lose the bet.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Three goddesses of Classical Mythology: Artemis, Athena, and Hestia, all swore to remain eternal virgins, meaning Aphrodite had no power over them. Artemis was a Tomboy who disliked men. Athena was simply uninterested (she had a couple of favorites, but never had romantic feelings for them). Hestia was an Actual Pacifist, and vowed not to marry so she could stop people from bickering over her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition supplement Book of Exalted Deeds has this as one of several "Vow of X" feats. It requires the user to abstain from both marriage and sex and grants the user a +4 bonus against charm and phantasm effects. As with its sister feats, breaking the vow intentionally costs you the benefits permanently; breaking it because of Mind Control requires an Atonement spell to be cast to regain the benefits. Vow of Celibacy is a class required to take the Beloved of Valarian Prestige Class, which lets female PCs get a unicorn as a mount that will similarly leave them if they ever willingly couple with a mortal.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Some orders of the Sisters of Battle don't actually require vows of celibacy or even chastity, but there are so many heretics to burn that the effect is much the same.
  • Fading Suns notes the difference between celibacy and chastity. Members of the Eskatonic Order are sworn to celibacy, but not chastity, and are known for exploiting that for all it's worth. Avestites, on the other hand, are sworn to chastity.
  • Pathfinder: In First Edition:
    • Paladins can take an Oath of Chastity, which works like an archetype (i.e. subclass): the paladin adds a ban on engaging in romantic activities or sexual acts to their code of conduct, and gains resistance to charm effects and critical hits, and additional spells.
    • Monks can take a Vow of Celibacy, which gives an increased ki pool in exchange for not being able to touch another person ever except to attack them.
    • Downplayed with paladins of Shelyn, the Lost Omens setting's primary Love Goddess. Shelyn is more about the emotions of romance rather than the physical act of sex (that's more Calistria's department), so her paladins generally practice Courtly Love.

  • The Merchant of Venice: A rare non-religious example. If a man wishes to attempt Portia's Engagement Challenge he must beforehand swear to never again court or marry any other woman for the rest of his life if he is unsuccessful. This was created by Portia's father to keep away men of questionable integrity. It's effective as out of her nine suitors only three attempt the challenge. Her favorite, Bassanio, wins and gets to marry her. Whereas the other two, The Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon, fail. They leave not only empty-handed but bound to a life of celibacy as well.
  • In Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto, as in real life, this is why Rodrigo Borgia, not just a priest but a cardinal on the verge of being elected pope, calls his son Cesare his nephew. Here, it's seen as an open secret.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 3 has an optional Side Quest in which a woman wants you to find a certain powerful aphrodisiac—she intends to "convince" her crush to abandon his plans to enter the priesthood since that would prevent them from ever hooking up.
    Diego: Angela, I'm not sure you should spend so much time around me. I am to be married to God soon.
    Angela: Wouldn't you rather be with a real girl? Maybe you should try it before you decide.
    Diego: Lord, give me strength.
  • In Mass Effect, the Asari race has a group called the Ardat-Yakshi who are compelled to live in celibate isolation in monasteries. For Asari, sex involves a connection between nervous systems, but the Ardat-Yakshi have a genetic condition that causes this connection to be dangerous and possibly fatal for the other partner — to protect people from this, Ardat-Yakshi is subjected to monastic celibacy whether they like it or not.
  • Dragon Age:
    • One of Dragon Age II's companions, Sebastian Vael, is a brother of the Chantry and is therefore bound by vows of celibacy. It is possible for players to develop a non-sexual relationship with him, but he won't break his vows. Players can tease him, though.
      Sebastian: What? Why are you smiling at me like that... oh. Ohhhh my. I think I need to pray. A lot.
    • Near the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, both Leliana and Cassandra become candidates to replace Divine Victoria. If Cassandra is elected and in a romance with the Inquisitor, it's technically the end of their relationship, although their actual feelings don't change at all. In the post-game DLC, their continued closeness is basically an open secret. If a Warden-romanced Leliana becomes Divine, by contrast, she not only ignores this altogether but declares that all Chantry members can now have romantic relationships.
  • In Diablo III, the Templar Kormac has taken a vow of chastity as part of his initiation. This combines rather humorously with his crush on Eirena. By the time of the expansion, he's renounced most of the Templar creed, including the vow of chastity.
  • Crusader Kings II:
    • Roman Catholic bishops (including cardinals and the Pope) are supposed to be celibate, though Catholic court chaplains are not (though since ordained priests are the only title-holding characters able to be appointed to the position of court chaplain, there's a lot of overlap). It is possible to appoint a married man to a bishopric, in which case he'll divorce his wife. Appointing a character to a bishopric or ordering them to take the vows also disqualifies them from succession, though not from being claimants to a title. Of course, just because they've taken the vows don't mean the character will necessarily abide by them: with the Seduction focus from the Way of Life DLC, it's not unheard-of for Catholic clergy up to and including the Pope to end up with mistresses and bastard children. (It is not possible to play as a Catholic religious ruler without mods, due to the object of the game being to continue your dynasty rather than any particular title.) Orthodox clergy get a lesser version of this: they're not allowed to marry, but they can freely stay married if they were before their ordination. With Monks and Mystics, characters can also take vows of celibacy by joining monastic societies such as the Benedictines. With the Holy Fury DLC, reforming a pagan religion with the "Monasticism" doctrine similarly blocks priests from marrying or inheriting titles.
    • A random event that may trigger if you were in love with a deceased spouse allows you to forever swear off sex in their memory, granting the trait "Celibate". Alternatively, you can go out partying and try to forget her, giving the trait "Lustful".
    • Once Christian holy orders such as the Teutonic Order are unlocked, nobles in your court (including your own sons) may ask to join them. Agreeing causes them to get the "Celibate" trait and be disinherited (which can be problematic if you were grooming them as your heir). Counterintuitively, this also applies to non-Christian holy orders such as the Jomsvikings.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: Oranguru is incapable of learning the move Attract (which is a move almost all binary Pokémon can learn), which may be a subtle nod to how gurus tend to eschew such earthly desires to achieve enlightenment. They can still be bred like most Pokémon, though, and they are not immune to being attracted due to having genders and not having access to Oblivious.
  • Knights of the Old Republic
    • Bastila Shan and the male Player Character can fall in love and sleep together while adventuring, but Bastila breaks it off and pushes the PC away, feeling it's contrary to the Jedi Code (it's a little unclear whether this is just her personal opinion or if it's the actual policy of the Jedi Order at the time, though signs point to the latter). This relationship can be used to bring her back to the light after she falls to the dark side, or if Revan himself goes dark, they can enter Unholy Matrimony. Canonically the two eventually had at least one child, and Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan in Star Wars: The Old Republic is their descendant.
    • Jolee Bindo reveals that he was once secretly married in defiance of his Jedi vow of celibacy, but his wife fell to the Dark Side, left him, and was killed fighting for the Sith Lord Exar Kun. Despite this, he argues that if you can keep your emotions in check, love itself is a good thing, pointing to its redemptive power. In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the Exile remarks that by the time she was in the Order (a couple of decades after Bindo), "pulling a Bindo" had become a slang term for leaving the Order for love.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • The Jedi Order appears to have a fairly laissez-faire attitude to sex and marriage in this time period: it's theoretically not allowed, but the malenote  Knight and Consular PCs can both romance their apprentices (Kira Carsen and Nadia Grell, respectively) with little objection from the Order, and Jedi Grandmaster Satele Shan herself has an adult son and is a descendant of Revan and Bastila Shan. Theron was born of an illicit love affair with Republic soldier Jace Malcolm during the last war with the Sith Empire and Satele gave him over to the order to be raised; however, he turned out not to be Force-sensitive and ended up joining SIS (the Republic's equivalent of the CIA).
    • During the Imperial Agent's Voss arc, Cipher Nine has to enter a Citizenship Marriage with a Voss in order to gain access to certain relics for the storyline (it's possible for them to have been flirting beforehand). Their new spouse then informs them that Voss traditionally abstain from sex before marriage, and the PC is given the option of taking their virginity during a Fade to Black.
    • Vette somewhat nervously reveals late in her Romance Sidequest with male Sith Warriors that her mother made her promise to save herself for marriage. Vette is a Twi'lek, the main Green-Skinned Space Babe species of the Star Wars universe, and has been enslaved at least twice (her older sister ended up enslaved in a brothel), so her virginity comes as a bit of a surprise.

  • Schlock Mercenary: Company chaplain Rev. Theo Fobius has a vow of chastity and tries to draw a distinction from a vow of celibacy. But after spending 18 hours trapped in an elevator with the very well-endowed, former exotic dancer chief medical officer Edward Bunnigus, he realizes that for all practical purposes they're the same thing. They become a couple soon after.
  • In RetroBlade, Guardians are sworn to celibacy, for various reasons; the main reason being that their powers can be passed on.
  • Oglaf: "Forgofulness" (NSFW) has a knight be rewarded for maintaining their vow of chastity... with an offer of sex. The knight points out they're still under the vow, at which point God pokes His head in and yells, "Will you just fuck her already?!"

    Western Animation 
  • On an episode of King of the Hill, all evidence points to Bobby being the reincarnation of a Buddhist Lama. He's pretty excited about it until he hears that celibacy is a requirement, which means he'd have to break up with Connie. He purposely fails the second test so that he can continue to date her. Except he still technically passed it, but the head monk was nice enough to let him go.
    Bobby: [freaking out] But how do they make new Lamas if the Lamas can't— [suddenly becomes sad] oh, wait... reincarnation...

    Real Life 
  • Some Christian religious denominations require that their clergy be celibate. The most well-known of these is probably the Roman Catholic Church. However, other denominations, including most Protestant groups, have no such requirement and their pastors are free to marry. Some denominations take an intermediate approach — Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, generally requires bishops to be celibate but allows ordinary priests to be married provided the marriage predates their ordination.
    • The Book of Timothy however condemns the sects who enforce this trope, especially those who forbid marriage to all members (something which Gnostic sects often did).
      "They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."
    • This wasn't always a requirement of Catholic priests, and technically is not a dogma of the Church (that is, something held to be an infallible truth, belief in which is a fundamental requirement of Catholicism and denial of which would be innately heretical). Thus, it's technically possible that any future Pope could abolish the requirement (and in fact Pope Francis indicated in 2019 that he might do that). But celibacy of the priesthood has become such a deep-rooted tradition of the Church that's it's highly unlikely this would happen.note  However, men who married before being ordained are allowed to become priests.
    • Much like Eastern Orthodox churches, Eastern Catholic churches allow married men to be priests.
    • Even among Roman (Latin rite) Catholics, married priests are actually more common than people think. As celibacy is merely a rule rather than dogma, exceptions have been granted on case by case basis where married men wish to become priests. Specifically, these exceptions were usually granted when married clergymen convert to Catholicism (usually from Anglican or Lutheran churches) and want to remain as clergy in Catholic Church, until it was made into a formal rule in 1980 that provided for a process through which married clerical converts can apply for Catholic priesthood. (link to National Catholic Reporter story:
  • Even where celibacy isn't required for priests, it is generally considered fairly fundamental to the concept of monasticism, both in the West and in the East, as one component of a generally ascetic, self-denying lifestyle. Except (again, always exceptions) in some schools in Japan and Tibet.
  • There are also some Catholics who practice spiritual or Josephite marriage (the latter name is from the dogma that Mary and Joseph had a marriage like this) where the couple agrees to be abstinent. It has to be a freely-made mutual decision, however.
  • Islam and Judaism have tended to frown on celibacy, though there are exceptions. Some of the Sufi Muslims, for instance, have practiced it.
  • Ancient Rome had the Vestal Virgins, to whom the punishment for the loss of their main qualification was being put to death by live burial. The Vestals' vow was time-limited; they were inducted at the age of 10 or younger and required to be celibate for 30 years, at which point they were retired from the job and not only allowed but expected to marry and have children; the Pontifex Maximus would arrange marriages between newly-retired Vestals and high-ranking nobles.
  • Until the 1880s, Oxford and Cambridge Universities had a vow of celibacy for dons, as people assumed that all scholars would have training as priests. However by the 18th century, the definition of "celibacy" in this context had shifted; a Fellow of the College could have relations with women, but couldn't get married.
  • The Shakers, a Christian sect that thrived mostly in the 1800s, required all members to remain celibate. As you'd expect, they have all but died out. Initially, they got new members through conversion and adopting children, but once that stopped their days were numbered.
  • Some administrations and companies used to enforce the marriage bar against their female workers.
    • In German-speaking countries from the 1880s up to the 1950s, female teachers (and in some regions all female state officials) were forbidden to marry or become pregnant, as they were regarded to be "married" to their profession and the children they were responsible for. How hard or lax this was enforced depended on the surplus or shortage on professional teachers.
    • Until the Seventies, air companies frequently fired married stewardesses.

Alternative Title(s): Vow Of Chastity, Oath Of Chastity, Oath Of Celibacy