"sex so good..do you remember?"--Marsha Ambrosius
So, while perusing Jezebel yesterday, I came across an oh-so-lovely piece (sarcasm) about one of the topics closest to my heart...wait for it: celibacy. Surprise, surprise. Jezebel, whom I love but in all fairness treats the topic of abortion with all the weight of a drinking game, was attempting a stab at the sensitive topic of what I like to call pillow-cradling, or the showerhead sales pitch.
Well, I have some advice for Jezzy and their prize writer, Anna North. Keep your opinions to yourself.
One of the best things about topical non-fiction is the chance to write about what you know. So why get someone whose labium are probably still swollen from the weekend to handle the topic of keeping it in your pants? Admittedly I'm hating, but honestly, this journey is one of the hardest things I've personally ever done.
I make jokes, but I can't wait until this is over. It's been just about two years. Two. Yeah, yeah, I enjoy the clarity, the sureness of self, and most especially the choices I don't have to make in this time waiting; I also totally understand what is meant by the "sensuality of celibacy". Truthfully, I feel sexy all the time, and don't have to be having sex to feel that way. Sexiness is something that comes from inside, from knowing your intrinsic worth and knowing what you're sitting on (pun somewhat intended, but not quite as intended as it sounded). Celibacy is not for the faint of heart.
Anyhow, the chick who decided to pick up a pen and delve into a topic that I happen to actually live every day did a cute little piece with the appropriate jargon and the appropriate tongue-in-cheek tone that screams "just go get laid already and put everyone at ease!". Because, like it or not, people freak out when they find out that you're not riding the bone. They have a motherloving cow most of the time. And I'm not just talking about men, who are used to hearing women say they don't or have never had sex (and be lying through their teeth a large percentage of the time) that when I tell guys I'm celibate it's almost always received with the requisite "oh but wait 'til you see my dick" look of curiosity and intrigue.
But the women? The women lose their minds, like my choice is somehow an affront to theirs. I've learned to take it in stride, but I was personally never that woman. When people told me they were virgins and/or abstinent, I always shrugged it off even though I was turning down absolutely no opportunities to hit the pipe. Bygones, I suppose.
I picked my favorite phrases that North picked of the book she was reviewing, a tome on going a year (pttth, just a year!?) without sex, appropriately called Chastened and written by an author named Hephzibah Anderson, whose name sounds eerily like her sexual choices are made by a minister from the Hebrew Israelites. In any case, they are not; and I'm sure Chastened is just great, but I won't be reading it--for obvious reasons. The only time I want to hear a discourse on celibacy is when I'm commiserating with one of the many friends whose sex lives have also been put on the proverbial shelf.
On the one hand, the idea that guys will only do cute things if you dangle sex just out of reach is both clichéd and depressing — what does romance really mean if it's just an extended ploy to get laid? But on the other, maybe Anderson's year of chastity helped her focus on men who would give her what she wanted, who wouldn't leave her "emotionally frustrated."
There are several things wrong with this statement, but the glaringly obvious is the comment about romance. Um, romance is pretty much by definition just an extended plot to get laid. All male-female interaction is; and I don't mean that in a jaded, carnal way, but in the practical sense. All sexual/romantic interaction between men and women is about getting laid. Even and especially when you love someone to the moon and back, that desire for the sexual connection is always there. As humans and sexual beings, we do romantic things as expressions of that desire, which is not bad or wrong. Why else do men do what they do? The "just to see you smile" rap? Yeah, to see you smile, because your smile makes him wanna hit. We shouldn't be so coarse in mind; it doesn't change love to say "I desire copulation with you". True, when you love someone, you can deny yourself something you want in deference to what makes them happy, but it doesn't mean that your desire shrinks or goes away as a result. It's incredibly naïve to think that "cute things" are done without consideration for the oochie-coochie that follows.
The second issue I take here is that people expect far too much from plain old celibacy when they have no experience with it. North's comment that maybe the year helped Anderson focus on "men who wouldn't leave her emotionally frustrated" is idealistic at best. Celibacy isn't a magic fairy that makes you good at relationships, draws all the right men to you, and leaves everything right with the world. It helps. But it doesn't do the hard work for you. When I got off the proverbial pot, I already, as my priors will tell you, had major issues with intimacy and was notoriously horrible at interpersonal communication in a romantic sense. Therefore, my relationships always imploded after being punctuated with television-worthy performances of the dreaded "what do you want from me??" -"I dooon't knoooooooowww!!!" scene.
No longer having sex to cover up just how awful my relationship-building skills were has been a major plus, but as I found out in the three substantive relationships I've attempted in the past two years, it did not magically take away my issues. I've naturally gotten better at certain things due to age, self-awareness, and putting in the work and self-analysis. But it wasn't the refraining from sex that did that for me; it was the honesty I decided to give myself. The "emotional frustration" North mentions has definitely appeared during my celibacy--and I didn't have sex to relieve it.
Anderson leans a little hard on the notion that women want more commitment and less casual sex than men do — there are lots of women who don't want marriage or babies, who don't fall in love when they have sex, and who have only benefited from the (as yet incomplete) sexual liberation of modern life.
To this, I'll take a leap and say that there is a significantly large portion of women that want commitment and not casual sex, and an even larger portion of women who don't want to admit that's what they want because it's not en vogue in this day and age. To be fair, I can't totally thumb my nose at the "sexual liberation" argument, because I've had my fair share of casual sex. There was a time in my life when I didn't even spend the night, or allow guys to spend the night at my place. I was disaffected and uninterested and it actually felt quite good.
I was young and having a good time, trying not to think about consequences. But when all was said and done my extended teen years slammed into my young adulthood, and the screeching halt left me with a desire for the real, the grounded, and the stable. Trying to combine a casual sex life with this need was a recipe for disaster, and ultimately created a sneaky, oversexed, and overly self-concerned person I didn't like--and wouldn't want to know a woman who did.
As women, we should treasure our role as the rock. We were created to be the bottom line, and it's a valid hypothesis that men run around chasing their own dicks because we're overly concerned with freedom and project that onto them. I've learned by watching those I love that choosing the one, right person will actually free you, and that's the current goal.
But Anderson's right that women and girls are often encouraged not to be "clingy," and to act, at least with guys they're seeing, like they don't want a relationship — even if that's exactly what they want. And what they do want, whether it's love, sex, or a combination of the two, often gets lost amid what they're supposed to want — an ever-shifting standard that usually has something to do with guys wanting them.
Even though this statement is mostly spot-on, it's high time women screw the "what we're supposed to want" or "I don't want to be seen as clingy" jive. That was my whole intention behind this website, it's time women stop apologizing for being a little left of the center that men created. We are different--we desire different things and are wired differently, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Though I consider myself a feminist, I find the movement thoroughly flawed because so many women still want to act as though there's no difference between the sexes, as though they're interchangeable. Well, they're not, and thank God for it. I love being a woman, with all the crazy thoughts, and mood swings, and complexities that men couldn't imagine. That's why they love us, too, whether or not they'll always admit it. Women need to lose the egos and concern about looking "normal". We're not men's idea or patriarchal society's idea of normal because we're not men.
Women have been writing about these problems — about the meaning of sex and commitment in a world where women are supposed to be sexy but not slutty, and to act carefree about relationships while still managing to get married before they're over the hill — for long enough that they've come to seem like exclusively female issues.
Women have always written about these issues because they affect us so much more. Even just physically speaking, we bear the larger brunt of the burden where sex is concerned. If there's a pregnancy, guess who's up to bat? Guess who doesn't have to be? And then emotionally and spiritually speaking, there are such things as unwanted attachments and there are such things soul ties. Women write about this because biologically speaking, we come to a crossroads where we are forced to make decisions about these things, even if our choice is not to engage in the discourse and to continue down a path illuminated by the bathroom light of quality casual sex indefinitely. For a woman, who was created to give life, and whom, societally speaking, is more expected to settle down (read: marry) than a man, even opting out is a decision. Men can be bachelors until they're 50, and sure it's odd, but not half as odd as a 50 year-old woman with no children. One is treated with the shake of a head, like a petulant playboy who just hasn't made a decision, and the other is treated like a sad sack, or someone whose decision was made for her. This, of course, is wildly unfair, but it's the truth of the matter, and writers are all after the truth. So of course women write about it more--the burden of truth leans far more heavily on us.
Overall, I think it's interesting and lovely that celibacy has become such a topic of discussion lately. On Jezebel over the weekend, there were five different posts on celibacy, which is more no-sexing than I've ever heard in a feminist discourse at once. There was even a post about celibacy being "hot" right now. As much as I recommend it for a number of reasons, and as much as it's done for me spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, it's not child's play. There is a physical, carnal consideration that is beyond navigation. Celibacy doesn't remove desire from your life; in fact, at times it greatly intensifies it. But the lucidity with which I can approach my decisions about love and relationships are sans the 'dickmitization' I faced in the past, and I can't be mad at that. When I stop and look at the decisive, confident person I'm becoming and the examined life I'm living, the valorization gains a little more clarity.
So no, as someone who thoroughly enjoys sex, I cannot say celibacy is 'hot'.
But sometimes, it's cool.