Most single mums aren’t getting much sex, but this article is no lament.
Sexlessness is part of the human condition—and it’s okay, despite what popular culture would have us believe: that everyone’s doing it, and if they’re not, they should be.
As a single mother and a sex therapist, I have particular insight into our sex-deficient condition, and I’m here to say that there is more to life than sex, or chasing after sex.
Having a sex life as a single mother is far from easy. There is no doubt that in the imagination of the single hunting man, the single mother is a package, even if not presenting as one, even if the mother is not seeking a father for her kids, but something more personal, romantic, and adult.
For many such women, total mutual immersion, cohabitation, and shared investments are not only not required, but are a bit suss. As Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” A single mother is highly practical: she knows the value of sex, adult conversation, and quality time. And she is great at compartmentalizing.
Full time loving with the trappings of domesticity…maybe one day.
But it’s not required.
I suspect, as do some feminist theorists and evolutionary biologists, that there is still quite a male tendency to equate relationship with ownership, and a man can only own his own woman and their shared biological offspring. An association with another man’s progeny, (even if merely in one’s imagination, when the kids are with their father) violates a very deep, instinctive, genetic taboo.
In my experience, this is the case even when said males sport octogenarian swimmers sputtering away like myopic asthmatics as they squint to see the flags. Swim between the flags boys!
As for being a single, sexually inactive and relationship-free mother, there really is no magic formula to avoid the complexities. One might hitch oneself to the wagon of fate, I suppose, anticipating the maybe-partner, just around the corner in time’s endless continuum. There are plenty of self help programs to help one become a perfectly available person. There is affirmation and aura cleansing…thinking positively, yay!
But seriously, my own approach is headlong immersion in career and the wonder, madness and hilarity of children who will be adults faster than I can say ‘forget the dinner date and take me to bed before that forgotten, tiny lego piece lodges itself in your arse crack, upon which you’ll realize that indeed I shelter progeny who are genetically unrelated to you!’
Otherwise, there is spiritual devotion. Let’s not poo poo it. Enlightenment is a nice panacea to most of life’s shortcomings as well as its shortcummings. The absence of partnered sex can call forth some deep reflection about meaning, selfhood, and life itself. We cannot have sex forever. We may not even find someone to have it with! So what does it mean? Well, nothing, actually. It’s great when it’s there, but even when it is, it’s sometimes bland, and it never changes your life all by itself. When it’s not available, we should be okay with that too. Yet, so often we are not.
There is a cultural myth that everyone else is having more sex than you, and a myth it is, perpetuated by popular culture and the media—specifically by advertising that uses sex to sell. If sex sells such mundane items as clothing, beauty products, and vehicles, then surely it is intrinsic to life, and it’s absence in one’s life indicates that the person has no life at all.
At least not a meaningful one.
Here’s a reality check: a very large swathe of the population worldwide is not having sex. According to a most fascinating chart based on the Durex Sexuality Reports of 2006-1009, it’s almost the case that in the Western world, nearly half of the population is not having regular sex. Greece is the most sexually active country, with 87 percent of its population having sex at least weekly.
At just 55 percent of its citizens bonking regularly, the UK falls way behind. The US is a shocking 53 percent, and Japan comes last at just 34 percent.
According to the latest Kinsey report data, more than half of single people in the U.S. had not had sex in the past year. At all.
Sexlessness is hardly uncommon.
So what does all this mean then? Should we aspire to more sex? Should we chase after it like dogs in heat? Should we set it on the mantle of desire like a small idol and pray for a second cumming?
We can have a sense of humour about it, that’s for sure.
As for me, naturally, I have days when I do feel quite self-pitying indeed. But I also have days when I am quite content with a self-generated orgasm. Some days I am utterly indifferent to all matters coital. Sometimes, though I rarely admit it (perhaps because in my profession we don’t like to diminish the importance of sex), for days or weeks on end I am blissfully and sexlessly happy, in the way one can only be when there is no discernible desire for anything much at all.
As Buddhists, Hindus, Course in Miracle students, Eckhart Tolle, and many other thinkers and spiritual approaches emphasize, so much suffering comes from wanting what one doesn’t have, rather than recognizing the completeness which exists in the moment.
My strong opinion is that if sex is there, regularly, in your life in a way that brings you contentment, pleasure, and connection, be grateful indeed.
If it’s not, enjoy life anyway.
Take care of your lust as it arises, like any other bodily expression. Sit in silence with your heart and accept a truth that some might not learn until they lose a partner by break-up or death, or until they age beyond their body’s expression of sexual desire: sex is not the meaning of life. It too shall pass. It does not define who you are.
In the meantime, if you’re a single mother, there is nothing quite like being present to your children’s love and companionship. Laugh at their stupid jokes; wrestle on the floor until someone is tickled senseless; listen to rap songs with inappropriate lyrics and sing along loudly (seriously, try it); eat ice cream for lunch; tell them about the solar system; name their genitals correctly; read them Greek myths; volunteer at a local RSPCA; and plant veggies together. Hold them when they cry, and grin madly when they tell you they love you all the way to the moon.
And if at the end of the day you occasionally need a hardy German-made vibrator, thank Goddess for that, too.
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Author: Emma Michelle Dixon
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Sarah Scicluna at Flickr
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