“On celibacy,” or why I’m not having sex for the sake of my own spiritual growth or something.
Back when I was in middle school, I thought I would be the type of girl who would wait until marriage to do it. That was when I was in all honors classes and stayed after school to learn things like crocheting and kickboxing and astronomy and I still didn’t know how to comb my hair. I wasn’t religious, but I did listen to everything society told me about being a good girl. The girls who stayed virgins until marriage were mostly good girls.
By the time I hit high school I was still in honors classes, but I’d learned how to straighten my hair and cut my own bangs. My best friend had f*cked the neighborhood bad boy three months into our freshman year, and that seriously rocked my 13-year-old world. I realized that sex and love and respectability were less straightforward than I had originally thought. I was still a virgin, but I had evolved.
By the time I graduated from high school I was completely untouched and frustrated. I wanted nothing more than a boy to look at me. I thought I was maybe the type of girl who would fall in love slowly with a nice boy and after a year of dating—you know, the respectable amount of time to wait—we’d have sex in a candle-lit room on a bed of roses or some sh*t.
When I was a sophomore in college, I learned that I was the type of girl who would have sex with her first, older boyfriend after one month of dating because he pulled that tired line: “This is what girlfriends do,” and it worked like the cliche it is. I was naive and felt guilty and wanted to keep him. So we did it. That was when I decided that I was the type of girl who loves sex a lot, unabashedly.
Since that pivotal moment, I have basically taken delight in making people uncomfortable by talking about sex and how much I like it in explicit detail. I internalized what happened in my first relationship as a lesson that taught me about the dangers of putting sex too high on a pedestal. I had learned the truth, which is that sex is really nothing more than a carnal reality of adulthood—something to check off a list while getting to know someone.
I’m 28 now and at the end of yet another failed relationship. I can’t help but think it’s time to reevaluate my attitude toward sex and intimacy. This is probably a hilarious read for many girlfriends I’ve had throughout the years because I am always the girl encouraging other women to embrace their sexuality, but here it is: I have decided to take the vow of celibacy.
I’ve done some research on celibacy—Google-searched it twice and spoken to the people I know who have tried it firsthand. I want to be clear that I’m not feeding into any puritanical sensibility that sexuality is linked to sin. I am not interested in celibacy in order to strengthen my relationship with God. I don’t want to be a born-again virgin, and I do not think my precious flower needs to be protected until marriage.
What I really want to strengthen is my relationship with myself so that I can get rid of that unremitting stream of thought looping in the back of my head, questioning if this is real or will it ever be real or was it ever real. I will never know. As an embarrassing example, I have an ex who always talked about how I gave him a blowjob on our first date as if it was the best thing ever and how that was the defining moment in our relationship. While I didn’t necessarily feel ashamed—I wanted to do it as much as he did—it didn’t sit right with me. That’s definitely not what I want him to think of as our “turning point.”
I want the pivotal juncture in my next relationship to be the moment he falls for everything I am, inside and out. I’ve realized that for all my talks of “no such thing as a slut, only sexually-liberated women,” my behavior has mostly been a defense mechanism to keep me from getting hurt. Rather than investing feelings in someone to realize they just want to stick their dick in me, why not flip the script? Why not pretend I only wanted sex too? I can romanticize the rush of skin on skin and how it’s a surrender like none other. But I have to admit that without a deeper emotional bond, it is just empty. It is empty and it is keeping me from building something of substance with the potential partners I meet.
I want the kind of love that comes from loving yourself so deeply that you can’t help but attract that kind of love from other sources. I want the kind of love that is based on friendship and respect. I want the kind of love that isn’t clouded by the intoxication of physical intimacy. I know exactly what kind of softness and grit and romance and utter realness I have to give to someone else, and I want them to take the time to see that in me before seeing my naked body. I can try to put the onus on my past partners for pushing things too fast, but I also have to take my own responsibility in my relationships. My vow of celibacy is my first step to taking responsibility for how my future relationships play out.
I have always balked at the idea of abstinence, and I still do. I think of it as something that is pushed upon young people by the church. It is not a choice, it is an edict. A condemnation for anyone who chooses differently and is banished to hell or whatever. In comparison, what attracts me to celibacy is that, rather than being a commitment to society or God or parents, it is a commitment to myself.
I know that in reading this, my words may be misconstrued as holier-than-thou or even pick-me type shenanigans, but I encourage you to look at this a little closer. I’m trying to get at something deeper here which is something about my own transformation from girl to woman. There are so many opinions out there about what women should do with their bodies, and it is easy to fall prey to the pressures of society without even realizing it, as evidenced by my own perspective on sex-changing over time—changes solely based on outside sources rather than my own inner compass for what feels right.
What celibacy offers me is not only agency in my sexual choices but an opportunity to go back to my girlhood and adolescence—to my own needs and wants and aspirations for sex and love before anyone else f*cked it up for me.
Author: Alexandria Adair Vasquez
Image: Noel Foglia/Flickr
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
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