What Happened When I Went ‘Boysober’

As comedian Hope Woodard’s live show makes headlines, Georgia Aspinall unpicks why her rebrand of celibacy has become 2024’s hot new trend

Samantha Jones

by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

The first time I took a year off dating, I was 23 and had just realised the guy I was friends-with-benefiting with didn’t actually care whether I lived or died. I had pretended for too long that I didn’t want him to fall in love with me and my pride simply couldn’t take the hit that he didn’t. I had also realised that one-night stands weren’t all they were cracked up to be, female orgasm often an afterthought (or rather, an after-he-leaves), so I did what any slightly dramatic 20-something would do and swore off dating entirely, resigning myself to celibacy for the next year. It was the most peaceful year of my life.

Now, 2024 is ushering in a new celibacy era, but with a rebrand. Going ‘boysober’ means abstaining from romantic relationships to unlearn toxic dating habits. Popularised by Brooklyn-based comedian Hope Woodard, who has a show of the same name, she says it encompasses all genders.

‘To me, the word “celibate” is so religious and not at all modern,’ explains Woodard. ‘There’s a purity aspect to it that still centres men, like you’re celibate until you find someone, whereas “boysober” means to really detach from men and male validation.’

Photograph by Jennifer Wagley ©Jennifer Wagley

It comes as figures show a rise in celibacy among Gen Z. In 2021, researchers found that 18 to 23-year-olds were having significantly less casual sex than people of the same age a decade earlier – and a recent Bumble survey showed 34% of users are not having sex. The hashtag #celibacyjourney has nearly 40 million views on TikTok, and #boysober already has four million. The French aren’t at it, either, as, according to a new study, France is suffering from ‘an unprecedented decline’ in sexual activity.

Woodard committed to going ‘boysober’ – a term coined by her sister – last October after a series of failed ‘situationships’. There’s a wellness aspect too: she points out that to say you’re ‘boysober’ also suggests you were at one time ‘boy drunk’. ‘I’ve definitely been drunk with romantic attention and validation,’ she says. ‘And I’ve had experiences where I’ve relapsed with men, where I’ve been obsessed with someone and then once it ended been like, “Wait, I wasn’t even his girlfriend, why was I constantly waiting on him to ask me to hang out?”’

In going boysober you can prioritise platonic love instead. ‘I’ve learned a lot about my female friendships doing this, because for so long I relied on romantic love to give all my emotions and vulnerability, but now that’s not there I’m leaning on my female friends,’ Woodard says. ‘And I have more space in my brain! Romance and sex take up so much of your time and energy, you get on the phone to a friend and you’re usually just talking about the guy that’s ruining your life or trying to decode his “signals”. Now, I just think about what I want, what to work on, the friendships I enjoy.’

But it also doesn’t mean giving up on love entirely. ‘The point is to break old patterns and find myself in a place where I can choose a romantic partner and not need one,’ Woodard adds. ‘I do want a life partner one day but, emotionally, I want to be in the best place I could possibly be to make sure that’s long lasting.’ Sign us up!

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us