Celibacy is underrated.
This statement may sound hypocritical coming from a person who makes her living writing about the antithesis of abstinence, but my life is often controlled by sex, so I understand the importance of taking time away from it and focusing on other things.
Like learning to play bridge. Or crocheting. Or, you know, actually dealing with the fact that you watched your brother bleed out and die in front of you.
Shit like that.
There’s something to be said for taking sexual energy and aiming it somewhere else. Queen Elizabeth, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, these women put their sexual frustration to good use. I’m not looking to run a country or fight a holy war, but I bet I’d finally finish my memoir about sex if I quit spending so much time having it.
Monks and priests have been known to levitate, survive being set on fire, and heal the dying. Give up sex and all that extra energy can go into performing unbelievable feats. Just last week, instead of going on the two dates I had planned, I cleaned my whole apartment, washed every article of clothing I owned and neatly organized my extensive sex toy collection: a bonafide miracle.
Like most lesbians, I’ve dabbled in hippy, new-age, touchy-feely emotional exploration, but as much as I love a good drum circle beating out Ani DiFranco’s greatest hits, I’m more of the in a dungeon beating on a stranger type.
Or I was.
Now I don’t really know who I am and what I want. Two years ago this week, my sister and her baby came horribly close to dying during premature labor. A month later, my brother was diagnosed with cancer. A month after that, my grandmother had a stroke at my law school graduation. Ten days later, I watched her die. About once a month after that, my brother had some tumor removed from or poison put into his body. Then he had his jaw removed. Then a month later, I watched him die.
After that, all I wanted to do was get drunk, fuck and shoot guns, so that is what I did.
Then my grandfather, Poppo, one of the most important people in my life, a man who shared my birthday and taught me to paint, died. For the last week of his life, I helped feed him morphine, sang him songs and held his hand, watching the light slowly fade from his loving eyes.
Soon, we were planning yet another funeral, the third for my family in 18 months and nothing could be said or done to make me feel better. Including sex. Instead, the thing I love to do most in the world has become a chore, yet another emotionally painful thing to endure.
The vulnerability that having sex caused in me was destroying me and I was destroying any chance of a solid, healthy relationship with someone in return.
It was time to be consciously celibate, to take sex, and the horrible insecurities it now caused in me, out of the equation.
This realization scared me. We live in a sex dominated culture and I make my living being right there in the heart of it, experiencing every bit I can and sharing my findings. I’ve engaged in a plethora of pleasure for the sake of a good story. I go for the risqué and raunchy because it gives good headline.
It’s hard to purposely give that up, but give it up I am, until June 6, the day my completed memoir is due.
I’m still going to attend all the porn conventions, sex worker get togethers, BDSM play parties, dominatrix gangbangs and tantric workshops I have planned between now and June 6, I’m just not going to be quite as participatory.
I almost didn’t say anything to anyone, but then Jenn, an amazing radical, fat, femme blogger colleague of mine reminded me that, “Intentionally not engaging in partnered sex is political and complicated and worth talking about.”
So here I am, a kinky queer sex writer, making a statement by not having sex.
I’m not quite sure what that statement’s going to look like yet, first I have to figure out what exactly I’m giving up, what celibacy means to me. One of my closest friends gives up sex all the time, taking vows of celibacy from hours to months depending on what he’s looking to accomplish in his life at that moment. His celibacy attempts to delete all sexual thoughts from his mind and therefore masturbating is not allowed.
When he asked me if I would do the same, I replied “I’m a not a fuckin’ saint here.” However, as I think about it, if finishing my memoir and writing more is one of my goals, I may have to give up masturbating as well. I spend (sometimes waste) a big portion of my days reviewing sex toys and porn over and over again, you know, for work. If I gave that up, or limited it at least, I’d have a lot more time to work on projects that pay my bills.
But who am I kidding, I’m not Joan of Arc. I haven’t gone a week without masturbating since I discovered the joy of a vibrating toy at age 6. Masturbation is staying on the table.
Romantic dates, however, are off the table. Way too time consuming, trying to get to know someone new. If I want dinner, I have to call a friend. Penetration is obviously off, including any oral sex, but I’m going to play kissing, cuddling and non-sexual BDSM interactions by ear.
I feel like I’m missing something, but all I can think about is fisting.
This may be more difficult than anticipated.
I once took a vow of celibacy for two months after a bad split from a long-term relationship. About two weeks into it, I was heading to go break that vow when I broke my foot and ankle instead.
I don’t believe in a vengeful God judging from above, but I still feel like he was punishing me for my sins that night, angry at me for attempting to break my promise to myself. If thinking about having sex caused a cast, I’m worried about ending in full-body traction if I fuck up this new vow.
It always seems like the minute I decide to stop looking for sex, sex comes looking for me. I’ve had three offers in the two days since I made the decision to take a break from sex, all from people I really want inside of me. I’m currently writing this sitting at a house on the beach in a bikini next to a hot butch, who is testing my resolve by looking quite dapper in an outfit set for captaining our invisible yacht.
It’s harder than it sounds, to not have sex. To not reach over, grab his hand and lead him to the back room, or better yet wait a few hours until it’s dark and lead us to the shoreline, waves crashing our bodies together.
When your brain is constantly an erotica novel, it’s really hard to not act out these fantasies.
Sure, the butch and I are just here as friends, simply enjoying a sunny San Diego day together, but I know how good he feels against me, I know exactly what I’m missing out on.
Unfortunately, that includes emotional instability right now as well. I haven’t felt this way about someone in a very long time, but I changed that moment I saw my brother die and now I have no idea what I want from sex or a relationship, making navigating both impossible.
Once I gave up sex with the person I was seeing (and liked) the most, it was surprisingly easy to give up the others, sending them back into friend zones, explaining to them that I’m just not there right now, that too many funerals have left me with no energy for sex, no ability to be vulnerable in yet another way. It was shockingly simple.
Now I want to hump everything that moves, rotates or vibrates in any way. If I’m going to be serious about this temporary break from sex, I’m going to need help, so naturally I turned to Twitter and Facebook for advice. Soon my inbox was flooded with stories from my amazing followers of what they did, learned and changed through consciously and purposely abstaining from sex.
I started with the stories from people who, like me, quit having sex because their grief was too overwhelming. A woman who first met me through my online dating profile explained why she quit having sex after her father and friend died close together:
“I didn’t feel inclined to share any part of me with any other person … I’d worked so hard to put all of my pieces back together, and I was afraid that if I let anybody in, they’d just shake those pieces loose and I’d be a crumbling mess again. My abstinence acted as my mortar for a strong foundation.”
The theme of building a solid emotional foundation through abstaining from sex was present in almost every story I read. In a society with an arguably unhealthy obsession for quick pleasure, it’s not surprising people would feel a need to give up sex to feel emotionally stable, fulfilled even.
There are times in your life when a quick fuck can be beneficial, but sometimes all sex does is add to the confusion that is life. Sex with others muddies the emotional waters, take sex away and there’s a better chance of finding clarity within yourself.
“I spent approximately 4 years without having sex during my mid 20’s. At the time I was sure I shouldn’t be dating vanilla girls, and I did explore the possibility that I am gay because of my cross-dressing and pegging desires. It took me a while to both realize and accept that I am a sissy who needs a naturally dominant female, and those years of not having sex helped me by avoiding further confusion of trying to be something I’m not with the wrong women.
Once I realized what I needed, I sought it, found it, and am happier than I’ve ever been … I attribute much of this to those years I had to discover myself.”
This story from a Twitter follower of mine reminded me that I’m not new to the act of abstaining. After bad and boring sex with men in high school, I didn’t have sex for three years. I had absolutely no interest in it, which was sad and shocking to me at the time, until I had sex with a woman and WOAH there’s what I was missing.
Counting up all the periods of abstaining from sex, both consciously and consequentially, one-third of my sexual life has been marked by a lack of the act. Looking back, those were the most productive years of my life. They were also the most lonely ones as well. There has to be a balance, but I’ve yet to find it, and when faced with sex or sleep, I choose the latter, which is why I’m single but my skin is fabulous.
One thing I’ve learned is that there’s a detox period and it gets easier with time. It’s not that you forget what you’re missing, you just learn to live without it consuming you. I’m not alone in this feeling. A twitter follower of mine wrote:
“If I’ve learned anything from not being active for a while it’s that sex just really isn’t that important to me in the long run, especially if I’m not dating anyone. I have a friend who dates regularly and has a rolodex of partners to choose from. She has an active sex life and is used to it. She recently visited her parents for a week and upon her return she was almost frantic from not having any while she was gone … I enjoy sex and all, but I’ve never understood the physical craving for it that (I suppose) comes from engaging in it regularly.”
I understand that craving all too well. I’ve understood that craving since I was six. I explore that craving religiously, both personally and professionally.
I’ve never been one for religions with puritanical teachings, never thought of pleasure as a bad thing, but I’m learning to respect religious people who abstain for their own emotional and physical benefit.
Jenny, a blogger buddy of mine, wrote to me about her choice to find herself and God during her self-induced abstinence period:
“It was hard at first … but when I got accustomed to it, there was actually a lot of freedom in it. When I met a guy at an event, through a mutual friend, or at church, there was never that thought of ‘what will he think of me?’ and a tendency to perform as there had been in the past.”
Maybe that’s what it is, maybe I’m just tired of performing, pretending I’m ok when I’m really not, feeling especially like I have to be ok with sex, the thing in which I am a supposed expert. The question “how are you doing?” is impossible for me to honestly answer these days because I have no clue how I am doing, I haven’t even begun to figure that out.
As much as I wish sex were the answer, it’s becoming glaringly apparent that it’s not. It helped at first, letting my grief give way to pleasure, shutting off and shutting out, but eventually I imploded on myself and now I’m even messier than before.
I’m not sure what this break will accomplish. I’m not even sure what I’m looking to get out of this sexless period. But I do know that I already feel a weight lifted from my shoulders at knowing I can guiltlessly stay in and write Wednesday instead of going to the local lesbian night to try to get laid.