A guest post from Lauren Wood*
I can still remember his touch. The way his fingers lingered on my skin, the way his breath felt on my body.
It was far from the best lovemaking I’d experienced. He wasn’t particularly special. Just my first after what felt like a too-long break from sex.
Let me explain.
For years my love life had been turbulent. I had a knack of selecting the wrong men and engaging in dramatic romances. I use the word romance loosely.
The escapades made for good stories, but normally ended in hurt, disappointment.
There was the guy who I went on vacation with only to return home heartbroken. There was the boyfriend who partied and drank way too much and who ended things because I couldn’t keep up.
And there was the dude who confessed his love for me, swore I was the one he wanted to spend his life with, and then disappeared – a routine we now call ghosting.
My friends who knew the details said they saw the end to these scenarios before they even begun. And one of my closest girlfriends gave me a prescription she swore would help.
Shut it down.
No sex for at least a year.
I read the books, listened to the testimonials and the theory seemed to make sense.
The idea was that sexual contact deludes us, blinds us to flawed partners and celibacy brings some clarity. Instead of making decisions based on libido, cutting out sex would allow me to focus and make better choices.
I have to admit: I have habitually indulged in rituals of deprivation. I spent time practicing vegetarianism and refraining from alcohol just to prove I could do it. I’ve taken breaks from chocolate, potatoes, and most recently certain social media sites.
I’m not going to say refraining from sex seemed easy at the time. But based on the ‘rewards’ promised, it certainly seemed worth it.
Like most women, I wanted a respectable relationship that could evolve into a lasting partnership. If abstinence could get me there, I thought the sacrifice would be well worth it.
The first couple weeks were the hardest, mainly because I still had options. But as time passed and my one steady bed buddy began to fall back, there was less temptation. I stopped flirting and stopped engaging men as freely. The phone stopped buzzing and as I distanced myself from the singles scene, the opportunities vanished.
As more time passed, it didn’t feel that I was becoming more enlightened. Instead I felt frustrated and cranky and probably a little bit mean and hateful. I’d awkwardly cut men off during the most casual of conversations and at times it felt like I was dodging them altogether. I’d lower my gaze when attractive men passed by.
Once, at a party, I stopped dancing with a man after two songs because I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea and hit on me later.
I don’t know how it is for other women, but for me, managing my deprivation became a chore.
As the weeks passed and the opportunities all but vanished, I couldn’t help but wonder: ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’
I began to open up and learned there were a number of women in my inner circle who had been celibate for months, even years longer than I had.
I started calling it the ‘sexless Black body’ and decided I stand in opposition to it. Sex isn’t just for men. Women enjoy it too. I’m one of those women who likes to indulge. To use sex as a bartering tool to secure a relationship or even get to marriage just isn’t me. And to stop engaging totally felt like self-inflicted punishment.
In the year that I was on break, I realized: celibacy might be great for others, but I’m not with it.
I believe that as humans we need and deserve physical contact with each other.
I’m not advocating for unsafe sex or even pushing for risky behavior. Please be clear on that. And my stance completely contradicts my religious teachings.
Yet during my solitude, I realized just how valuable human contact is. Like so many others, I placed such a value on the circumstances – am I in a relationship? Is this going somewhere? Will we spend our lives together? – that I failed to accept and enjoy sex for just what it is: absolutely necessary human contact.
I don’t care what anyone says: the need for affection, touch and yes, sex is real.
Let’s stop demonizing that fact.
*Wood is a Chicago based author writing under a pseudonym.