His year without sex

JILL STARK
Last updated 09:27 06/01/2014
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PAT SCALA/Fairfax Aus

A CHANGED MAN: This former player's year without sex truly transformed him.

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PAUL JEFFERS
ONE LAST KISS: Pete giving his friend Rachel a quick peck before his celibate year began.

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By his own admission, Pete Lynagh was ''completely shallow''. Picking up women was his thing. Weekends were a blur of parties, clubs and one-night stands.

But a lot can change in a year. After swearing off sex for 12 months on New Year's Day 2013, the 33-year-old has discovered a version of himself he's happy to see in the mirror. His vow of celibacy led to a spiritual awakening that transformed his outlook on life and love.

''My attitude now with relationships is about sharing a life, whereas before it was sharing a bed,'' he said. ''I could definitely say I was addicted to that need for validation from getting lots of sex. I felt empty inside. I didn't like myself. I felt good whenever I was feeling wanted from multiple girls. 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?''

But this is more than a tale of one man's year without sex. Through ''Pete's Chastity for Charity'' Facebook page, the Northern Irish-born boxing instructor and DJ raised more than $50,000 for Free to Shine, an Australian-founded organisation that rescues Cambodian children from sex slavery and provides them with educational scholarships.

The money has been used to set up an office and employ staff, allowing the charity to boost the number of girls it is supporting from 70 to 150.

In September, Mr Lynagh made an emotional journey to Cambodia to visit the children who, thanks to his efforts, are now in school instead of working in brothels.

''I was so inspired by the kids over there. Some of the stories are horrific, but they're the happiest people I've ever met in my life. One of the girls was found in a bin. One was tied up in a bag and thrown in the river by her dad. One kid had HIV; she was 11. Her parents died of HIV and people in the village wouldn't go near her so she had to fend for herself,'' he said.

''These are kids who were at high risk of being sex trafficked because nobody was looking out for them. It was overwhelming at times to think that something that started out with my housemate betting me I couldn't abstain from sex for a year, created all this stir and made this money to help these kids. It was so humbling I cried.''

His self-imposed chastity posed a number of challenges, which he documented in a blog and video diaries. Kissing was allowed, but no physical contact beyond that. When he found himself in a two-month relationship early in the year, ''animal attraction'' took over and he nearly broke his abstinence.

In hindsight, he sees it as a test. ''I was really attracted to her, but she wasn't interested in me. Again, I was just looking for external validation so the relationship was never going to work. I really didn't like myself due to some issues in my childhood and I really had to work through a lot of heavy stuff to get to know my true self.

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''Now, I have a purpose in life - to serve others - and I love myself warts and all. I'm excited about the prospect of finding a partner in the future.''

While he jokes that his original plan for New Year's Day 2014 was ''waking up in the Playboy mansion high-fiving Hugh Hefner and a dozen of his play bunnies'', celebrations were low-key. He had dinner with friends on New Year's Eve and was home in bed, alone and sober, by 10.30pm.

This year, rather than chasing women, his focus is a new role working with Melbourne-based NGO The Big Umbrella, which funds projects in Australia and overseas to help children live free from poverty and exploitation.

He doesn't know when his ''drought'' will break, but he knows what he wants.

''I'm craving companionship and intimacy, but I'm actually looking for a connection with a partner and then the sex will be a bonus. Going out and having meaningless sex just doesn't even appeal to me any more. Now, I'm attracted to depth and a woman's mind and her outlook on life and if she's genuine and honest and has a good heart. I've grown up.''

- FFX Aus

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