Returning to Myself: Lessons from Sexual Abstinence
The longest I’ve ever gone without being physically intimate with someone was when I was starting to experiment with sex. I first engaged sexually with a person when I was 18 years old. I remember doing it just to get it over with. I did not enjoy it and checked out. I kept trying until I just spent a year when I was about 20 and decided to call it quits for a year. After, I kept doing it because I thought there was something wrong with me for not liking it. I felt strange amongst my peers who were talking about sex like it was all the rage. I quietly disliked it. I wanted it to be more than what I got.
I was raised Catholic. I never got told anything about sex outside of not having it. While everyone in high school began to have sex, I was the only one waiting until marriage to do so. I felt that having sex with someone meant I was giving them everything and I wanted it to be with someone who cared about the gift that I was giving them: myself. I was naïve but now that I think about it, that 17 year old girl was on to something. It was also around this time that one of my male friends told me I needed to be broken in. Without any real guidance on the subject, I went to college completely unprepared.
I can safely say that for many of the sexual partners I’ve had in the last 10 years, I was barely present for them. I was mentally checked out and wishing that I wasn’t there. I would avoid eye contact and turn my head a lot. I understand now that I was ignoring the deep seated desire to be in a meaningful relationship with these people. That I wanted to be understood and known further than just physically. The biggest reason I subjected myself to these encounters was because I wanted to be wanted. Years of low self-esteem and feeling ugly, less than and not good enough drove my need to feel wanted. Many times I knew that the person didn’t care for anything but getting me into bed. I succumbed to it because at least I got that little bit of attention. To my sexual partners’ credit, all but one of them never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I also did enjoy a couple of my encounters so not all was lost or terrible. Though, I forced myself to be in many situations out of a convoluted sense of worthiness. I perceived myself as too intense and overwhelming; reducing myself to just an object was easy.
This rhythm of disrespecting myself and not listening to my heart continued at a steady pace until I experienced a violation of body, mind and soul about 4 years ago. Though I continued to still give myself to others carelessly, something inside me was becoming more and more reluctant to get undressed out of a sense of obligation and the old notion of wanting to be wanted. What finally brought me to a screeching halt was my last relationship. I was on my 3rd round of therapy after my nervous breakdown in 2012 and began to notice that I was checking out mentally during sex. I remember going to the kitchen one day after a session and beginning to cry. My then partner came and consoled me, asking me what was wrong. I told them that I didn’t want to have sex anymore. I wanted to slow down. I wanted to be in my body. I wanted to truly connect with someone else. I wanted to take my time exploring myself and them. I realized that my own sexual trauma was up for review to examine how it affected my views on sexuality. I had a deep sense of shame that I had never taken the space to explore.
Shortly after, I was left with the realization that I wanted to spend time getting to know myself. Without much pomp, circumstance or any elaborate vows of celibacy, I quietly promised my body, mind and soul that I would listen more deeply to them last April. Sitting here almost a year later after, I am experiencing a deep sense of wholeness that I have never experienced before. I’ve been asked and encouraged to just go ahead and have sex. Trust me, I have been tempted a few times to throw caution to the wind and just do it. What has stopped me is the desire to make love and not just fuck. I’ve fucked myself and other people enough. Ultimately, I have also shown a lack of respect to anyone who I have slept with by not being fully present. I have also used their bodies just as much as they used mine. I began to realize that I too would be using someone’s body if I have sex out of a sense of loneliness and scratching the proverbial itch.
In my line of work, the sanctity of human bodies is very real to me. The same care I take in handling a newborn baby is the same kind of care I want to take with any human body. The fact that I am incredibly fertile has also helped curb casual sex. No matter what and how much protection you use, the possibility of creating another human is always there. I have met women who have had condoms, birth control pills, IUDS in place and even tubal ligation done and still got pregnant. There is always a window of opportunity open, regardless. It has made me want to be sexually intimate with someone I would be willing to co-parent with.
This year without sex has also given me ample opportunity to get a lot of self-loving in. I am an even bigger fan of masturbation than ever before. All jokes aside, exploring my own sexual force has taught me what I like and how I want to be touched. I’ve discovered how self-loving is a vehicle to heal myself and release energy patterns trapped in my pelvic area. I’ve learned how to really let go and have the most fantastic orgasms with myself. For the first time in my life, I value my body and my intuition. I listen to my gut feeling and resist the urge to give into mental inclinations to be careless with myself and with others. I don’t know when I will have sex again and while the desire to connect in this way with someone else does not go away, I am in no particular rush to give it up. This year has taught me that I can and will have more sexually healthy experiences.
In a very real way, I have returned to myself. I have come back home to myself and true desires. I don’t mean to write this as some blanket statement that I don’t still have more lessons to learn about my sexuality. I am aware I have a long life ahead of me of getting it on and enjoying myself. This year was a way of purifying my own intentions and spirit from years of ignoring my heart and my body.