Over the last week, you might have heard of a guy called Pete Lynagh. His story? On New Year’s Day 2013, the party-boy gave up sex for a year, all because his housemate bet that he couldn’t do it. And while he abstained, he used that lifestyle change to raise money for a charity that works against child sex slavery in Cambodia.

And a year later as 2014 begins, the 33-year old feels that he is a much better man for it – despite how corny that may sound.

To most, this would seem like a lovely feel-good story; a little bit of inspiration to kick-start the New Year. To me though, I feel like it sums up one of the “elephants in the room” of our society – the ramifications of casual sex. It gives a personal example of how sex, used outside of a loving relationship for meaningless entertainment, really has a way of taking over life, obscuring the things that are important and preventing us from being our best. 

For one, Pete was using sex to deal with other emotional issues.  He says it himself in a Sydney Morning Herald article: “’I felt empty inside. I didn’t like myself. I felt good whenever I was feeling wanted…It’s not a good place. It’s a pathetic, sad place really, looking back. It was all ego-driven. How many players out there are doing the same thing because they feel empty?” By swearing off sex for a year, he was able to actually face the fact that he was empty and unhappy, and proceed to do something about it.

That wasn’t the only area in which Pete gained clarity. This choice also took the focus off him and allowed him to be aware of the needs of others. Instead of living a purely selfish lifestyle geared towards seeking his own desires, he started to look beyond himself and realise that there were others in need. It really is admirable that he was able to do this, and in the process raise so much money for charity. 

Pete’s outlook on relationships was also given a bit of a shake – and definitely for the better. He’s quoted as saying, ”My attitude now with relationships is about sharing a life, whereas before it was sharing a bed.” Considering that this is a misconception that a lot of people have, it’s nice to know that at least one more guy out there has realised that a fulfilling relationship is not just physical.

Another result was that Pete used his time in a much more useful and fulfilling way. Think about it – had he stuck with his old ways, his 2013 would have just been another year of drinking, clubs and one-night stands. But instead, look at what he achieved! Who knows the number of Cambodian children that he’s helped with funds raised; children who probably would have never crossed his mind otherwise. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about how many more people are wasting their lives on seeking themselves and only “having a good time”, when they too could be doing their bit for the world.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.