(Mom, Dad, literally any family members I have – STOP READING. NOW.)
I have not had sex for two years. I’m planning on not having sex for a while longer.
This isn’t a misandrist protest, or a Lysistrata-esque act of defiance. This is just me, standing in front of myself, asking myself what I truly need and want out of life. Right now, that list doesn’t include sex. Or romantic love. Or even dating.
As women we are conditioned to be fully willing to chase sex, want sex, be completely submissive to the idea of sex, but at the same time we can’t be vocal about our desires to have sex because it’s seen as slutty or classless or distasteful. This left me in a difficult bind for most of my adolescent years; I wanted intimacy and love but I was terrified of anybody seeing me naked (probably a bad thing to be afraid of if you want to get laid…I mean I haven’t had sex in a while but I’m pretty sure being naked is still part of how the whole thing works).
For years I was obsessed with the idea of sex. Well, that’s a little inaccurate. I was more obsessed with the idea of the intimacy that springs up from sex. I was starved for some type of attention or validation. Blame the years of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. When the first man I ever loved held my face in his hands and told me he thought I was beautiful, I burst into tears and thanked him even as my brain yelled BULLSHIT. I had never even dared to think that of myself. And now this person, this person I thought was so wonderful and smart and handsome, thought I was all of those things?
Once I became sexually active, it became like a drug for me. I wanted it all the time. I thought I was being selfish, especially if I wanted it at a point when my partner did not, and I would feel absolutely terrible about it. In therapy sessions, I would talk at length about why I needed to be more understanding, more supportive. More silent. More acquiescing. As a result, I never instigated or asked for any sexual encounter during the entire four years of my previous relationship, and the one time I did, I was turned down.
After we broke up, I spent an entire year feeling like I could never experience sexual desire for anyone else ever again. I thought I might as well close up shop. I was thirty, single, childless, and sure my career was on the up and up and I had just gotten a new nephew and my friends were absolutely incredible (one of my best friends literally threw out all of the jewelry my ex had given me, then sat on my lap and held me while I soaked her shirt). But did that matter? Did my successes matter? Of course not! I was alone. Sexually inert.
It wasn’t until last summer, when I ended up kissing a guy after a perfectly nice date, that I realized: Oh. There it is.
Then it became all I thought about, for months. I just wanted a boyfriend. Or rather, I wanted to skip all the annoying parts about dating and get to the ending with a house and a husband and kids. So I chased guys who weren’t ready. Chased guys who weren’t interested. Chased, in general.
Was something wrong with me? Why wasn’t I getting dates? I’m pretty. I’m smart. I’m passionate. I’m kind.
After a lot of thought, a lot of meditation, and a lot of inner demons, I came up with a facsimile of a reason.
I realized that I end up wanting people – wanting feelings – so badly that I forget about myself sometimes. I forget that before I can give any of those feelings and heart to anyone else, I have to do it for myself first.
So, I have made a major decision. I’m not dating or having sex. At all. I’m not even going to look for a date. I am going to stop looking. Not because I think I’ll find someone when I stop looking, because I need to stop thinking that heteronormative love is the end game.
I have never been in a situation where I’ve not been looking for a boyfriend. That brings me back to the conditioning I was talking about at the beginning of this. The idea of constantly looking for someone. The idea of partnership being the end game. That’s the main reason why I was terrified to break up with my ex – I thought being alone meant I’d failed, when really, leaving that relationship and striking out on my own has been the best thing for my overall health and career.
For so many years I thought being single, being a virgin, being inexperienced at sex made me a failure of a human being. Meanwhile, I’ve done more in the past two years than most people do in ten, and none of that had anything to do with sex.
The idea of a husband or a boyfriend has never even really appealed to me, to be honest. I have always latched onto the concept of a partner. A soulmate. Marriage and labels are fine if that’s your thing, but for me, it’s always been about finding someone who holds my heart forever. That’s the most important thing for me.
I am not going after anything unless I am positive it is absolutely in accordance to my standards. I will not accept anything less than what I absolutely deserve. But in the meantime, I need to look out for me.
This summer, I am abstaining. I am saying no to dates. I am saying no to sex. I plan to work on my book, see my friends, get more hours at the bookstore, go to the beach. If I meet someone, that’s fine, but I’m not going to go out there hunting for it. I just end up getting hurt and heartbroken when that kind of thing happens, chasing after something ephemeral because I miss the idea of loving and being loved, or chasing after the wrong people, or the wrong types of love.
I am perfectly loved and loving as I am right now. Men can wait.
I need to cut myself a break, and put myself first for a little bit. That isn’t selfish. That is self-care.
I am thirty-one years old, and I am saying no to others so I can say yes to me.