I was never under the illusion that I was a gift from the stork or that my parents didn’t have sex. By the time I hit puberty, I knew more about the role of sex hormones and pheromones in fuelling desire than most of my peers, male and female. This knowledge didn’t keep my mother from trying to instil in my sister and I evangelical Christian values that promoted abstinence until marriage. The sex act was something sacred that could, and should only be fully enjoyed by a man and a woman in a healthy, committed relationship.
My pragmatic father, on the other hand, urged us to be cautious and fully aware of the consequences of early, sexual activity. Thus when I lost my virginity at 19, I explained to my mother that it was unreasonable of her to suggest that I wait until marriage because we both knew that educated women like myself got married later and had fewer children. Eight years have passed since I had that conversation with my mother, but the disconnect between my father’s pragmatic outlook, and my mother’s evangelical Christian faith still colours my outlook on sexuality.
My closest friends take great pleasure in suggesting that I have “cobwebs down there”, when I’m not seriously dating someone, and I’ve been called everything from an ice queen, to a puritanical nun by men I haven’t slept with. My mostly celibate lifestyle, however, is a direct reflection of my search for a happy medium between the disparate value systems I was raised with, my biological needs, and the liberal prevailing culture that surrounds me. Like most women, I find it near impossible to separate the sex act from my emotions, and while there may be sound biological reasons for this predicament, it does pose an unending source of conflict with the opposite sex.
Recently, a male friend chided my inability to separate my emotions from the sex act, by insisting that although my viewpoint was not “bad or less evolved” it was simply “incorrect”. He firmly believes: “Somewhere, someone created the myth that sex was something women have, and that men are trying to get from them so we should be happy simply for having it. Hence the phrase getting lucky, as most women and men really see sex as something a woman yields or gifts to a man. Few women seem to take ownership of it. It’s why we think that a man’s orgasm is his responsibility and a woman’s orgasm is also his responsibility. The puritanical part of course is that it’s ok to do it, but one shouldn’t talk about it, as if having a sex life is really dirty.”
While I don’t doubt that many of the cultural norms we now take for granted might have evolved from circumstances that no longer apply, I make no apologies for believing that if my body is a temple, sex is akin to entering the “holy of holies”. It may be a biological need, but it’s not in the same category as food and water. As human beings, we would die without food and water, but it is possible to go without sex. Furthermore, given the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and diseases, learning to exercise caution and or restraint is not necessarily a bad thing.
Admittedly, as I’ve grown older and more comfortable in my skin, the desire for sex has gotten stronger. This is partly because I am nearing the age when women hit their sexual peak, and because my sexual experiences have vastly improved with time. I have also discovered that I am far more comfortable expressing and exploring my sexual desires when the sex act is a natural extension of genuine mutual interest, not just physical attraction between myself and a partner. It is possible to have good sex based on physical attraction, but it gets significantly better and easier when I have an emotional connection with a man, and we are both willing to invest time and effort in learning how to best please each other.
When I purchased my first toy two years ago, part of me felt that I was giving up on men and the possibility of creating a relationship. Now I feel that my ability to enjoy the act of self-pleasure – something that comes almost naturally to men – has made me a more confident lover, because I am aware of what pleases me and I am better able to share that with a partner. It (my toy) has also freed me from being solely dependant on a man I like, or my ability to create a relationship with a man as a means to sexual fulfilment.
Now, when a man insists that I too have needs, and therefore should be willing to “hook up” with him, my standard response is usually, “I have a toy, and last I checked it was safer and more reliable”. This is not to say I am immune to the call of my hormones, or that I judge those whose lifestyles allow them to have sex far more frequently than I. On some days, I’m downright envious, but I’ve been through my fair share of trial and error. I know what works for me, and my mostly chastened path fits with my value system.
If nothing else, I think people should stop making themselves unhappy by trying to fit into a particular value system, and instead focus on finding the happy medium and or outlets for their sexuality that keeps them safe and sane.