Sunday, March 3, 2024

I’m 36 & Haven’t Had Sex in More Than a Year. Here’s What I’ve Learnt

Guest writer Laura on why she hasn’t had sex in more than a year – and how her entire life has changed through her self-imposed celibacy.

Pressed up against the back wall of the local pub, I sighed as a man I just met fumbled around my lady garden like a desperate man trying to find Waldo.

Sure, this was *technically* sex. But it wasn’t enjoyable. It wasn’t pleasurable. It wasn’t stimulating. And old mate definitely, 100%, did not find Waldo.

Then 34 and in the last stages of the pandemic – I remember us taking our masks off before we began pashing, Jesus Christ – this kind of behaviour was somewhat risky but very on-brand for me. I’ve always been the sexually adventurous one in our group, the one who’ll try anything once and proudly talk all about it over a bottle of chardonnay, whether or not my friends asked.

Relationships weren’t the goal, in fact it was the opposite. As a lawyer at a high-flying firm I never had the time nor the inclination for a ‘special someone’ when I could trot out of the office in my good heels and in about four hours’ time (and a couple of shots later) I was bringing home a new bumpy cuddles buddy for some stress relief.

But it was out the back of that pub when I was being so unsatisfyingly grinded on (I’m sorry, I genuinely can’t think of another word to describe what was happening) that something in my brain clicked.

This, surely, isn’t what sex should be. And am I depriving myself of something much better by not being open to more – or indeed, less?

Richard Dreyfuss Oscars GIF by The Academy Awards

As soon as I could shake myself free of my unfortunate lover and bolt from the pub, so began a still-ongoing sex strike.

I wanted to see if one, I could do it. Two, I realised I was beginning to display some unhealthy and frankly dangerous behaviours around sex – who was I putting out for? And three, I knew deep down that no-frills one-night-stands weren’t actually what I wanted.

So, almost 15 months on, here’s what I’ve learned:

I’ve prioritised my own pleasure

I’ve had to do a whole mental readjustment on what I think sex actually is. Despite my sexually-adventurous attitude this liberal view didn’t extend to sex toys or self-love. Honestly, and I know this sounds so awful now, I thought it was cheating when you couldn’t get the real thing.

So I had to dive deep to understand what self-pleasure actually entailed. I read erotic fiction. I took a couple of wrong turns on the internet before I discovered ethical porn (God help humanity). I listened to audio erotica – Dipsea is fantastic – and I bought my first vibrators.

I spent time with myself. I set the scene with dim lighting and a glass of chardonnay and some candles and figured out what felt good to me on my own timeline, unrushed and uninfluenced by someone else’s needs. It almost became part of my daily self-care – moisturise, masturbate, repeat – and I liked it. My sex life was better without sex.

The orgasms were off the charts while there was no post-sex anxiety afterwards. My time to myself became like a treat as I figured who I was sexually and what I actually needed to fulfil my own desires.

I realised what I was running from

I used my job as an excuse not to develop any significant feelings for a very long time. But there are plenty of lawyers and other busy professionals in the world that enjoy delicious romances and meaningful relationships. Why couldn’t I do it?

In short I was afraid. I’ve never been good at expressing my feelings when it comes to ‘soft stuff’. Give me a contract and I’ll articulate the hell out of it, but telling someone that I liked them? Ew. But after three or four months without sex I realised that I was using it like a shield – no feelings, no worries, just instant gratification and stress relief.

I proudly wore my self-administered ‘slut’ badge to cover up the fact that I was terrified of commitment. Deep down, I was so insecure about not finding a ‘special’ person (despite the fact I’d never let myself even look). Sex gave me an ego boost because surely if I could pull from an overcrowded bar, there’d be someone out there who might be a bit of alright that I could connect with.

It was when I realised all of this that I had a mini-meltdown and consulted a therapist for a first time to professionally dig into these deeper fears and insecurities, and over the course of six months we did some work that’s completely changed how I view myself, and how I present myself to men especially.

I’m more content in myself

These *revelations* have fuelled something in me that’s really amped up my self-confidence. Knowing now that I don’t need sex is a truly liberating feeling and I realised that most of my desires, goals and motivations centred around men. Now they’re firmly centred around me.

I don’t miss it anymore but weirdly, I feel more sexually confident

When I tell people I haven’t had sex in a year their reactions are normally surprise, scepticism and then curiosity, and the most common question is definitely ‘do you miss it?’. In the first few months the answer was definitely ‘yes’ as I tried to break the habit, I guess, as I wasn’t getting those feelings of gratification. I remember standing in the staff room at work and staring at one of the partners and just imagining ripping his clothes off and dragging him into a boardroom – this being a guy who I never found attractive but just happened to be standing in front of me.

But now, it’s not something I need in any way, shape or form. Do I want it? Sure. But the parameters have changed.

I don’t want just sex – I want intimacy and connection

I’m not saying ‘no’ to sex in the future, in fact I very much hope that I’ll find myself in the bed of a wonderful man soon. But now it’s intimacy and connection that I crave more than the physical act of sex, and for the first time in my life I feel like I’m in a place where I can healthily seek that out.

So for the first time I’m on the apps with the ‘seeking relationship’ tag and it’s wonderfully terrifying. I actually have a third date lined up with a lovely man next week and fingers crossed we may be coming to the end of the abstinence period soon – but if not, that’s totally ok too.

Whatever happens, wish me luck!

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