The youth of the sixties were thrown into a world of indulgence and free love, but by the eighties teens were told that sex would lead to AIDS and certain death. Even for us kids of the nineties and noughties sex comes back to haunt us, and the wise sages of the tabloid media routinely warn of our ‘culture of excess’ leading to a nation of obese Vicky-Pollard lookalikes, fornicating at the drop of a bottle of VK Blue.
I read of a woman who, to combat this lax approach to sex, became celibate for a year. She said it was an eye-opener; she appreciated men more emotionally, reassessed her past relationships and even realised that she had doomed many of them to failure by having sex too soon.
What a load of balls, I thought. Surely abstinence would do nothing but make girls unnecessarily reliant on Ann Summer’s latest electrical appliances? Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, said the Impact staff. And so myself and another brave writer, in the true spirit of investigative journalism, donned our metaphorical chastity belts and threw away the key (only for a month – my commitment to Impact isn’t that strong.) One of us in a relationship, and one single but very much sexually active, we set out to see how abstinence would affect our lives – whether we would change socially, and perhaps even become better people.
Case Study #1: In a Relationship
Representing the ‘healthy relationship’ side of the experiment, I had to inform my boyfriend of his impending sex-less month. The look on his face changed gradually from laughing disbelief, to incredulity, to sheer horror. It’s not like we’re reliant on sex, but it’s a pretty big change. But for a month, how hard could it be?
Going celibate made me ponder why, for some people, this would be the norm. The concept of waiting to have sex with someone you’re going out with has always baffled me. You like each other, you want to have sex, you assume you’re going to do it eventually – why not seize the day, for God’s sake? Perhaps I was jumping the gun a little by sleeping with my boyfriend six months before we started going out (no pun intended), but I don’t think this has affected us negatively. Waiting begs the question of what is ‘too soon’; sex on the 5th date is fine, but on the 4th and he’ll never call you again? Admittedly, I’ve never really tried waiting, so I suppose this month could be classed as a slightly delayed attempt.
The thing that annoys me most is that it’s always up to the girl to keep her knickers firmly on. Surely we’re past the days when cheating husbands and errant sons could use the excuse, “But I’m a man. I have needs.” I’m female and I like sex. That’s the whole point. The days of lying back and thinking of England are long gone. Since it’s firmly established that the female orgasm far surpasses the male version, it’s insane to expect us to be the ones who resist.
My irritation at the perceived absurdity of celibacy led to a slight, er, mistake on day 19, but none of us are perfect and I tried to persevere, despite my growing frustration (peeling labels off bottles is one thing, gnawing the legs off lecture desks is a whole different ball game). I began to feel like a 14-year old boy – I couldn’t focus on anything because I was thinking too much about sex. Thank God I’m not male; I would have had a permanent erection for the past two weeks. I wouldn’t say I was particularly promiscuous, though on occasion I have had amazing sex with men who I knew weren’t potential boyfriends. But as a rule I am a hopeless romantic; I genuinely believe in happy endings, I cry at ‘Love, Actually’, and if Mr Darcy was to tell me he ardently admired and loved me I’d probably orgasm on the spot. I know that if you want a decent relationship you should celebrate love, not sex. But by making sex something forbidden, you give it a centre stage that it shouldn’t really have. In a happy relationship it’s just the icing on the cake – but fucking awesome icing.
So as this educational month draws to a close, I’m not convinced of the power of celibacy to add a higher spiritual or emotional dimension to a relationship. A Christian friend once confided in me that she and her religious friends talk about sex constantly, and I definitely realised that when you actively try to give something up you think about it more than ever. She also laughingly added, “Why do you think Christians get married so young?” This highlights the very problem with chastity: you’ll rush into a marriage for all the wrong reasons, hit 30 and wonder why the hell you thought you could spend the rest of your life with that person. It’s not a bad thing to want to get laid, and it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of existence, or even love.
And so at the risk of being slightly offensive, I’ll end by advising against chastity. It’s frustrating, mentally damaging, makes you think about sex more than ever, and is ultimately pointless. The orgasm is a fantastic thing. Go have one. Preferably in company.
Case Study #2: Single
A few weeks ago a woman named Mabel Meadmore, at the grand old age of 105, declared that the secret to a long and happy life was celibacy. According to Mabel she was always ‘too busy’ to partake in sexual activity. One word Meady: bollocks. How busy, exactly, can one person be? Clinton definitely found time, and even Stephen Hawking probably cracks one out in his lab from time to time.
My favourite story of the month was that of the disgraced vicar Chris Brain. Allegedly Mr. Brain, dubbed ‘Rave Rev’, gave a rather different meaning to the phrase ‘Nine O’clock Service’. His unorthodox preaching involved adultery, light shows, bikini-clad dancers, and electro music. Chris, I take my hat off to you. I haven’t been so full of admiration since my mate drank a bottle of wine in three seconds.
Do you remember your first kiss? (If this doesn’t apply to you, Mabel’s website is www.sortitout.com) Your lips met, it was confusing and weird but ultimately you were left feeling happy, satisfied but most of all: cool. So there you are, the Don. You strut around as if your glance alone is enough for someone to know. This is the best feeling in the world. Until it gets really sodding boring. You spend hours eating each other’s faces and then one day you think of something better to do.
Enter the world of sex. For many of us, the first time was distinctly shit. Bear with it, we thought – if this doesn’t get good we have been grossly misinformed. And my God, it didn’t disappoint. And yet, some people intentionally go without. What follows is an account of my attempt to live like Mabel…
Week one: Enthusiasm. Have you ever had one of those moments of enlightenment so intense that you just have to make a list? These are usually due to a new and very definite gym routine or some ridiculous diet consisting of two Ryvitas a day. This was one of those moments. I watched Rocky for some inspiration. Dedication, that’s all I needed.
Week two: Anger. The Church condemns sex before marriage. Most of us are gracious enough to sit back and say fair enough, your choice; in fact many of us would even applaud its purity. But really, it’s terrible for people to feel racked with guilt after performing a natural act, which they’re forbidden from doing only because of this outdated concept of pre-marital chastity which was only bloody well introduced, thousands of years ago, to stop the spread of syphilis and lend assurance to families’ claims over land. Repression of sexual urges is not healthy – just look at Catholic priests! What if I walked up to a Christian and declared that they should definitely get a shag now and again? (Obviously not Rave Rev – legend.) I would probably be drowned. There’s only one place I regularly scream ‘Oh my God!’, and it definitely isn’t in church.
Week three: Insanity. I’ve done something terrible. I decided that a night out with the girls was in order. Unfortunately they were all going on beautifully romantic dates with their boyfriends; bloody typical. After a bottle of red I decided that actually I didn’t need anyone else to help me have a good time (not in that way, the editors ruled out everything of such sordid nature.) By the time I’d finished off some left over Lambrini and half a bottle of Becks I was stumbling out of the door and towards the Bag. With severely blurred vision and a sex drive to rival Ron Jeremy’s, I honed in on a target: my tutor. Cue me sauntering over to him, slapping my hand against the wall next to his head, edging my face alongside his to slur, “Hey you. How’s about me and you do something about my grades?”
Week Four: Acceptance. I got a third. This experience was supposed to make me see whether or not I would become a better person. I haven’t.
Maybe Mabel was right, maybe I could live longer without sex. Maybe if I didn’t smoke I wouldn’t get lung cancer and maybe if I didn’t drink I wouldn’t get liver failure. But you know what Mabel, I’ve done it your way for a month, and after a minute of deep contemplation, I’m off for a shag.
Both writers wished to remain anonymous (for some reason)