The Abstinent Man
I kind of fell into it by accident.
Abstinence, I mean, or “celibacy” (as I, and others, sometimes jokingly called it). It was abstinence though. I recently learned the difference between those two terms. Abstinence just means not having sex for – usually extended – periods of time; Celibacy is considered more of a ‘for life’ sort of thing. Think of a boxer in the two weeks before a prizefight versus, say, a priest.
Although sometimes, I went without for so long that it felt like I was the latter.
When I agreed to write this, I was asked whether I wanted my submission to be anonymous. I didn’t see the point. Not having sex was never something I was ashamed of. Quite the opposite, in fact: It gave me sense of satisfaction. I was defying the media’s stereotype of the sex-fueled, 20-something male. I felt monastic, like I was successfully fighting a temptation that most of my peers couldn’t resist.
What I was resisting was not just having sex, but trying to have sex. The chase. The hunt. Because as a male I am, of course, the predator, and all those unsuspecting females out there, my prey.
Abstinence started for me as a rejection of the whole idea of going out to a bar to “get laid.” In my early twenties, this was something people were often doing. I went through university with all male housemates, and was often urged to join the pack: “Dude, we’re going out and we’re gonna get you laid!” is how the night would begin. And, “Dude, you’re a lost cause,” is how it would usually end.
I let down many a wingman in my time.
It may sound at this point like I’m making excuses. Maybe nobody wanted to have sex with me, and I’m choosing to believe that I somehow had a choice in the matter. Without sounding too arrogant though, I think that I could have found people who wanted to have sex with me if I tried. I just didn’t care to try.
For the record, I enjoy sex immensely. Good sex is maybe the best feeling a person can have. I don’t have any weird hang ups about it. I didn’t lose my virginity in some shitty or traumatic way that turned me off the whole experience. But when, after a year, I got out of a relationship with the first and only girl I’d ever slept with, I suddenly had no easy access to it–so I just stopped having sex altogether.
At first, I began a pattern of having sex every six to nine months or so. I found that the longer I went without, the easier it became. Having bad sex (which, it could be argued, is worse than no sex at all) also made it easier. And I was having bad sex. One night stands will usually do that.
As I got tired of sleeping with acquaintances and semi-strangers from the bar scene, the abstinence intervals increased in length. The longest approached three years. At that point, not having sex just becomes a part of who you are. If it seems weird to define yourself by a negative, compare it to someone who doesn’t drink. Like drinking, sex is something else society tacitly expects you to do, unless you have a real, most likely religious, excuse not to.
I’m not currently abstaining right now. Instead, I’m having the kind of sex that makes me think I must have been crazy to go so long without it. The long droughts weren’t forever, and the current time of plenty won’t last forever. I may, in the future, go a long time without–maybe three years, maybe even more. Or I may not.
Just like I am not ashamed of whether I’m having sex or not, whether I’m going to have it in the future is just not something I worry about.
[Contributed by: Mark Corbett]