This has been an interesting discussion... that has inspired a few thoughts in response. I do not know much about men entering monasteries and the challenges they face as grown men entering celibacy from a place of non-celibacy, but I had a few thoughts on what celibacy would be introduced to youth, the boys entering monasteries.
For people who enter this celibacy from when they're children, like the 4-5 year olds that become little monks, I think there is a whole system of support around them to teach them about the nature of desire even before they develop hormonally and their desire takes a sexual form. It seems to me that they are successful with celibacy because they learn to recognize desire's face. When they meet the natural desires of their teenage and adult years in this sphere of life, there is guidance from the teachers, lessons on the nature of impermanence, the seductive qualities of what seems, but there is (at least from what I've seen) always a strong emphasis on letting the student's truth unfold. Monks are taught to meditate early in their years, and this kind of contemplation that the child learns to apply habitually becomes a big tool of noself-recognition. Deep lessons are learned by painful conditions at times. Celibacy like non-celibacy has its hard lessons, as well as its joys.
So it strikes me that the path for those who start out monks in their lives cannot really be spoken for by those who have not shared the same conditions of that path, I could be mistaken, but I would think that unless you are familiar with the culture of buddhist monastic celibacy outside of the Christian cultural matrix, you might mix and match these values which in theory are the same, but in reality play out according to their native cultural environments.
Eastern monks who enter monasteries at young ages have a full social and cultural matrix that gears them to conceive of relationships in different ways than the common judeo-christian cultures where sex bears shame, guilt, and sin. I don't think the support system in the form of teachers, peers, and people outside the monasteries necessarily makes the path of celibacy easier for the monks who are just boys, but the objective of awakening is not always comfortable, so in a way the Vinaya with all its conditions is actually designed to make it so that the boy-monks have the tools to see their own desires for what they are, and not what they seem. I don't even know if that makes sense, I'm speaking from the intuition of what's been inferred about this topic by monks, please correct as needed.
Renouncing something when not ready can go counter to one's intentionality of being, in that your conscious mind might "want" to have a truth be such for you, but if your being isn't there yet, forcing clauses onto your behaviors can sometimes cause the reverse effect than that which was desired or intended in avoiding the negative outcome to begin with, why? If intention is part of the "subtle" mind, if action doesn't emerge naturally from intention, and progress in this way for the person experiencing it, the person's "will" forces one's own being into neurosis, because we all have a little king within that wants to rule the whole of self. And so long as we avoid the tools that allow us to naturally observe and not cling to what arises in us while also using discernment about how to choose to view these desires, we will continue to "do it" and try to realize in other ways that we might be more ready for, like becoming vegetarian for some, or humanitarian for others.
Fortunately for us, the little king can be recognized as such and like a child, this ego can be taught to work with the whole of self. Boy monks are taught to do this by skillful masters who fully recognize their boyhood, so celibacy is not something imposed on the boy against his will, he learns a different way of relating to the world that has the love and intimacy of sex through knowing one's own mind. In this sense, the monks are given good tools to always realizing shedding the shells ignorance in their own struggles or encounters with their own desires... for the celibate monk there will be as many phases of awakening as there will be for any other person who is not celibate who is also on the path to buddhahood.
It's not that any method is intrinsically better, more like which method best caters to what YOU need for your potential to unfold?
What then, is so important about whether or not sex is good or bad for one's practice? You know for yourself, if you stop and look, what you are ready and not ready for. You can know your greatest challenges by what you crave, learning to see and "recognize" the blind-spot of your ignorance on the lens of your being. You will face the most difficult parts of shedding these parts of yourself in turning the wheel of dharma, but it should never be forced. Why do you think teachers are so careful when to speak or not speak? They truly care for their students and use that inner wisdom on how to nurture their students' insights and growth.
Not everyone has such struggles around sex which make celibacy or sexual activity difficult to put up with. It depends, I think, from just a personal observation point of view, that most people whom I've met who've been "past these struggles" have other knots and lumps of neurosis that haven't entirely resolved within themselves yet. The thing is there's no one rule fits all, and Buddha taught this wisdom by making dharma take many shapes, for all the people who are the you and me's of the world. Because you and I may not have the same method, but we seek the same liberation, do we not?
So while I am curious about your responses, at the same time I recognize that this is a speck in the face of being. So I wonder why try to mince words and split hairs with sensual desire. We all know WHAT it is. We're here, aren't we? Isn't being here being human a direct result of sensual craving?
When I contemplate this direct result of my own craving, being here, being me, being everything I will lose at the moment my death greets me in the form of my last breath, I know, somewhere deep within that sensual desire is far more profound than worrying about whether sensual desire is good or bad for me. It is both, it is neither. It is both and neither.
Clearly as long as I'm ignorant and crave, I will keep interacting with sensual desire. When I'm actually realized enough to see it for what it is, the way a toddler sees the diaper for what it is and lets it go in favor of the "grownup" potty (can you tell I'm a toddler's parent who is pottytraining?) then I will just move past the desire, because I will REALIZE its nature and choose my role with it naturally, from my own direct experiential knowledge.
That's (for me at least) the only knowledge that sticks. Everything else, comes and goes. Skills, forms, shapes, it's like I've lived many lives in this one alone. Sometimes it feels that way, so I am always curious about all forms of communication. At a basic level, there is just this inner passion for interbeing, yet the only continuous thread that has punctuated every part of my varied life has been the subtle intention to always realize more of my potential of kindness which I've intuited at some point in my life is often translated in the simple need to just breathe without fear and sadness. So when I think of what monks put up with in celibacy, I think of myself in what I've put up with in the evershifting nature of life, that is a wish to cultivate a tranquil mind, so that when it's time, I'll have mastered at least a smidgeon of human dignity when I'm there on that bed taking my last breath.
I'm scared too like everyone else about that moment, but in the same way that the monk practices celibacy, I practice commitment to the daily struggle that is knowing convention from truth. And translating my intentions through this discernment is probably shared by many a monk in regards to their own celibacy.
Like I said, I don't know what celibacy is for a monk, but if I had to imagine what it was like, I would think monks would be taught to see through the seemings their ignorance takes in the forms of their hopes and fears, so celibacy would be just as much of a thing to deal with as recognizing any desire as a convention instead of a truth... That's as far as I've gotten with this thread, nice bit of thinking it caused... celibate people put their pants on one foot at a time too, so I guess if they're buddhist, their motto would be just to be kind and and live an honest good life...? Monks can return vows if they find at some point that their path diverges from that of the Vinaya, that makes sense too.
Life isn't perfect, and there isn't always an exact match, so by the default nature of reality being series of impermanent conditions, I think Buddhists of all people have a good sense of there being a different path for every spirit, so to speak. If change comes from within, doesn't intention as well?