Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Batty on a hot twin bed

It wouldn’t be arrogance these days if I told you I was hot. Thanks to a nicely humid heat wave we’ve been enduring, this city has turned into a place I like to call Sweatsville. Center of which may just be my not-air-conditioned pad in Brooklyn. We do have ceiling fans in each bedroom, but last night that wasn’t much comfort. So what to do, as I lay there, trying to fall asleep in the tepid excuse for a wind tunnel created by my ceiling fan and open windows?

With a mind like mine, it’s not hard to conjure up a vivid “fake world” nicely suited for such escapism. But last night I realized something. That fake world no longer consisted in steamy tableaux of intimate congress. Once it did for sure, don’t get me wrong. What easier way to cope with boredom?

But I’ve not sought that “solace” for more than seven months now. And I find my head is finally clearing. (Which may be why innuendo is less and less a feature of this blog.) If I’m honest with myself, I want more than sex. Sex is only an escape and in its best moments, a unitive, creative dialogue. But not even at its best does it have the power to mend all that’s broken in the world. And that is the ultimate stuff of dreams (dare I say, hopes) — not a temporary escape from pain, but its end. After all, on a day like today, which do I really want more — the temporary reprieve of eight hours in an air-conditioned office (after which I get to go back home and melt again), or a milder mercury as the outside condition? Do we want a comedy that lets us forget about war for two hours, or a sudden and real peace?

As all these non-satiric “deep thoughts” suggest, I’ve had some changes in my reasons for staying sexless. Sure, I can say that it’s a God-thing — but I’ll be honest; if the O-zone King had pursued me, I was considering a fold … in the blankets so as to accommodate not one but two; isn’t that what a twin bed’s made for after all?

The real reason that, for much of my life, I didn’t take T-Rex up on his offer to “bang a gong” had more to do with my romantic than my spiritual ideals. There simply wasn’t a guy I liked or trusted enough that such intimacies were conceivable. Sure, I knew God said sex was an essentially marital act, but I probably would have fudged those conditions had I met a man I felt I could marry.

Such thinking is not unlike the rationale a non-religious person might have for practicing abstinence, which one reader asks about:
I have not had sex, but I’m not totally convinced that I will wait until I am married. I think I believe in waiting until marriage right now because I have never been in the position where it has come up. […] I’m not a prude and I desperately want to meet a guy who I become close with, but sadly that has not happened yet. Anyway, part of me thinks I believed in waiting until marriage because I have never been torn between rather or not to take part in sexual activity.

[… A]re there people who are waiting who are doing it for non religious reasons? My beliefs do not have anything to do religion, but instead I want to be able to wait so that it will be really special.
-Uncertain Virgin
Dear Uncertain: There are lots of reasons one might be cautious in having sex. Frankly speaking, self-control is the most body-friendly birth control a woman can practice: no messing with your hormones or bad reactions to a pill, no difficult surgeries, no rubber interference with your quality of sex. I doubt regrets over the sex one didn’t have are as common as those for sex had.

The downside is, having that standard — whether you’re a marriage-only hold-out or an I-must-love-you romantic — clears the potential-boyfriend field pretty fast. In economic terms the secular demand for sexless dating is almost nil. The “cost” of sex has come down so far — with the majority of women — that you’re at a distinct disadvantage looking for a relationship where the price of sex is love, a ring, or a license. I at least had the option of switching “markets” from the secular pool of eligibles (as a sociology teacher used to term one’s options for dating) to the Jesus freak pool of eligibles, where the market conditions are quite different. I’m not saying sexless dating is impossible, but until a sufficient bloc of women become choosy enough again to drive the “price” upward, you’ll find your reticence a tough sell with most men. Slightly better odds might exist with sites like eHarmony or Soulmatch, but you may not find a man who lives nearby you.

Whenever and however you do have sex, don’t forget the constraints we as women have to face. No matter what birth control you use, sex and procreation are particularly interconnected for us. Having sex in view of that will always exert a toll on our bodies, whether it is lessened pleasure or something else. We’re also subject to a risk eight times higher than for men of contracting an STD (see Steven Rhoads, Taking Sex Differences Seriously for more on this), so don’t rely on a pill and the trustworthiness of your partner’s face as sole protection.

Note to all readers: Dahlings, though I’m happy to answer your questions about me, this is really the sort of question I’d love to be fielding. Don’t be shy now!