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“Boysober”: Women give up the “Hot Girl Summer” in favor of celibacy.


23-year-old lifestyle influencer and college student Niy Johnson decided to become “Boysober” at the end of the school year.

She is not alone.

2019 marked the beginning of the “Hot Girl Summer,” which Megan Thee Stallion coined in her hit single of the same name. Five years later, we have entered the era of “Boysober Summer.”

Single women have jumped on the new trend of abstaining from romantic or sexual relationships with men, including dating and casual flings. Therapists say the emergence of the boysober movement is indicative of a general trend of young women withdrawing from sex and relationships, giving voluntary celibacy a new twist.

More and more women are withdrawing from dating. Here’s why.

Trauma and relationship therapist Jordan Pickell says the majority of her single clients have taken an “intentional break from dating” over the past year and even more so in the past few months.

With the advent of online dating, more and more women are experiencing burnout.

“Dating apps cost so much time, money and energy, and people end up having unsatisfying and sometimes even harmful experiences in return,” she says.

Many of her female clients report that they put a lot of effort into maintaining their dating profiles, but receive minimal energy from the men they want to date.

Shadeen Francis, a couples and family psychotherapist and licensed sex therapist, sees “Boysober” as a counterpart to “Boy Crazy,” a narrative in which women are often portrayed as desperate or obsessed with male validation.

Francis says that for young women in their early to mid-twenties, the aspects that are fun about dating have little to do with their potential partner. Especially with online dating, people can idealize a person without actually knowing anything about them.

“(Young women) love to fantasize and daydream about the maybes and possibilities, and often find that when they actually talk to the person, it ruins everything,” she says. “They like to come back and talk to their friends about their experiences, but the actual interactions they have in these romantic or sexual settings are often disappointing, confusing or overwhelming, or sometimes they find themselves in unsafe contexts.”

What is it like to be “boy-sober”?

Johnson and her best friend always joked that they were never single at the same time. When her friend began a more serious relationship with her partner, Johnson realized she was at a point where she wanted to be “the exact opposite of that.”

“I’m a real lover. It’s not that I’m always looking for relationships, but I don’t mind dating and just getting to know people,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’ve had much resistance from my friends, and if I have, it’s mostly because they didn’t think I was capable of it.”

But after three months, she found it easier than she expected – she even described it as “fun.”

Before becoming Boysober, Johnson had been in a two-year relationship and another serious relationship that followed. During her relationship, she was “always the girlfriend who was with her boyfriend” and felt that her friendships with women were suffering because of it.

“I was just so wrapped up in my boyfriend,” she says, adding that he accompanied her to her get-togethers with friends. “It can be a little annoying to have friends like that, and I didn’t want to be that kind of friend. I wanted to be a good friend, not just a friend who was focused on her relationship.”

She was also in unsatisfactory relationships.

Since becoming a boysober, she has learned to set boundaries for herself and to decentralize men and dating in her life.

“I feel so comfortable not talking to men, not being in a relationship, not looking for a relationship, not seeking male validation,” she says.

What is the difference to voluntary celibacy?

For Johnson, “Boysober” was a “fun twist on celibacy” because it involves the same things as celibacy, but “in an exciting way.”

According to Francis, the language we use actually goes much deeper and reflects a communal aspect that makes boyhood abstinence so attractive to young women.

While celibacy is about abstinence, sobriety is about having a “clear head.”

“The language is a lot about reclaiming that energy for yourself,” she says. “You can still be a sexual or sensual being even if you’re no longer chasing or trying to attract a partner’s attention.”

“Boysober” also moves away from the historical context of celibacy, which Francis said was often about “purity, external constraints, and proving or earning something.”

What is voluntary celibacy? Sexual empowerment through saying “no”

Changing the feeling of being single

Women are redefining what it means to be single, says Pickell.

“(Being single) is not shameful. It’s not a sign of lack, it’s an empowering choice,” she says. “By becoming boysobers, women are actively removing men from their lives and taking a step back from trying to please men.”

Through this conscious break, some of Pickell’s clients even became aware that they were queer and were able to begin exploring their sexuality.

“You can get so lost in the game of forced heterosexuality that the thought of dating people other than men no longer crosses your mind or never even occurs to you,” she says.

Does the “Boysober” trend have a future?

Pickell and Francis say that, like most trends, abstinence among boys is likely to come and go, since most people ultimately still want a romantic partnership.

Johnson has made it her goal to stay sober over the summer. She plans to continue to do so, but says she’ll be open to dating again afterward if the right person comes along.

“I really just want to build a strong and meaningful connection and friendship with the person I want to be intimate with in the future,” she says.

Boysoberness has also helped her understand what she wants in a future partner and is more confident about her ability to have more fulfilling relationships in the future.

Even if it’s only temporary, Johnson recommends that anyone struggling with the need for validation stay sober and “put that energy back into themselves.”

Pickell and Francis are also on board.

“When (young women) almost inevitably get back out into the world and start dating and relationships,” Francis says, “they can more clearly define their boundaries and stand up for what they want from a relationship and feel less overwhelmed or trapped by all the drama.”

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