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Dear Demetria:

I am currently dating a minister. (He heavily pursued me.) As a result, we must remain celibate. I, however, was sexually active in previous relationships, so this is new for me. Is it wrong to use sex toys to satisfy myself and remove desires of having sex with him? —Anonymous

To answer your actual question: technically, no. It’s your body, and as an adult you can do what you want with it and please it how you deem suitable. Self-love is not wrong. But how that falls into the parameters of your reluctant celibacy and, perhaps, Christianity, I’m not sure.

There are different forms of celibacy, just as there are different forms of, say, vegetarian diets. Take pescatarians, for instance. They eliminate “meat” from their diet, but seafood is still an option. Vegans, however, eliminate all forms of meat, including fish, and also steer clear of dairy products. Which type of dieter would you like to be? Decide.

What’s troubling about your question is that you seem to have committed to a lifestyle that you really haven’t researched or thought a lot about, and it doesn’t seem that you’ve discussed it in depth with the man you’re dating. It’s as if he said, “We can’t have sex,” and you were like, “Um, OK.”

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Maybe you were impressed that a man of the cloth (who has stature in the community and is perhaps of means) was coming hard for you? I get being flattered and impressed by a man’s attention. I do. But is this really the man for you, and are you really about this life? Or is practicing celibacy a means to an end? Are you hoping to get to first-lady status someday? If that’s the case, I understand the game. But you still need to know what you’re signing up for. It’s clear that you don’t.

Whatever your long-term goal, as soon as he hit you with the “We can’t have sex,” your next statement should have been, “OK, so define sex, and what exactly is in or out?” You need clarity so that you know exactly what’s expected of you. Whatever boundaries he has, you should have given some thought as to whether you want to choose this lifestyle. Celibacy, as you’re discovering, isn’t easy, and the commitment is more mental than even physical. Again, I ask, are you up for that? You do have a choice.

Surely, there’s a chunk of the readership here that will suggest you force yourself to walk this new path or will encourage you to keep up the facade because of Christian ideas about sex. They’ll say something about the man leading, and it’s not as if the minister is trying to turn you against the Bible, so maybe this celibacy will bring you closer to God, etc. I think if you are interested in what the church would say, you already know the answer. Maybe.

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In general, I find that some churches are a little hazy on what’s in and what’s out when it comes to sex and how folks are supposed to handle their very natural, biological hormones.

I recently received a panicked letter from an 18-year-old man who had “accidentally” had sex with his 18-year-old girlfriend. She’s a church girl and was trying to “save herself” for marriage. In the meantime, she and her partner did “everything but.” So he didn’t penetrate her with his penis, but he used toys, sometimes fingers, and at the time of the accidental sex, they were both naked and were grinding on each other.

“I grew up in a Christian house, where we were taught about being pure and holy,” the girlfriend explained to me later. “No one talks about needs or how to be pure if you’re horny. Or even what to do when you’re horny, other than prayer. Nowhere in the Bible does it say ‘No oral.’”

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Sigh.

So let’s bottom-line this: Do you want to practice celibacy? And if so, what are you OK with? There’s no right answer, and you don’t have to go along with the minister’s definition. If he’s not in line with what works for you, perhaps he’s not the match you think he is, despite the prominent title. The title does not make the man.

If your answer is yes, how long are you willing to do this? Has the pastor talked about a timeline for commitment? Giving up sex for the long haul is a big ask, period, especially when there’s no commitment. If there isn’t, you need to have that discussion, too.

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And if you do answer yes to staying celibate, you’d do well to join a celibacy group. They usually have accountability partners, just like in Alcoholics Anonymous. It won’t stop your sexual urges, of course, but a community setting of like-minded individuals can help you manage them better.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “Does My Man Have a Right to Be Upset if I Accept Drinks From Other Guys When I Go Out Without Him?