Marie Claire South Africa by Jo Sullivan
I’m taking a leap of faith here and assuming that you’re reading this snuggled up in bed, and not at work. Reading about sex at work makes me daydream endlessly. This piece was inspired when my boyfriend took a long trip for work and left me high and dry for about two months. We usually have sex constantly. We both have stressful and demanding jobs and I realise now that we relied on it heavily. Knowing that I would be without sex for almost two months, I scoured the internet for information, advice and stories and it all inspired me to try celibacy for myself to see what it was like: that’s right, no sex and absolutely no masturbation. After all, I had the perfect excuse to try.
1. Week one and two
Week one with no sex wasn’t all that bad. Many people go a week without sexual contact and I didn’t even think about it that much. I spring cleaned our room, reorganised our closet and drank lots of wine in the evenings.
2. Week three and four
Week three was when the sex monster inside me woke up and it kept screaming “feed me, feed me.” Oh, and did I want to feed it. In all the time my boyfriend and I were together we’d never gone this long without having sex. I felt lonely and restless, and to be honest a little anxious too. I realised that my strongest sexual needs arose from feelings of being powerless at work, being exhausted and placing physical pleasure above mental health. It’s not that sex didn’t mean love for me – but the sheer frequency of our sex, and it’s rushed, frantic tempo made a red light go on.
3. Week five
Pretty much the same as week three, the monster was still screaming. At that stage I was reading everything I could about controlling your body. I was meditating on the fact that sexual needs are a part of the flesh and can be controlled. I started looking for different way to relieve my stress. I tried stretching and reflexology, and eventually found my way into yoga, which interestingly has a lot to say about celibacy.
4. Week six and seven
I started ignoring the monster and focusing on the other parts of my body. I started paying attention to where I felt pain and stress. I realised that I had been using sex as a tool to escape and relieve stress. My mind was starting to clear up and I was coming to terms with what was happening in my deepest thoughts.
My mind was starting to feel alive and I was experiencing a sense of wellness. Showering or rubbing lotion on my body was a near-electric experience and I was finding pleasure in smaller more mundane things.
5. Week eight
I felt a sense of peace and harmony within myself. I was making time to meditate on my feelings. I continued practicing yoga, and made sure to give my body different forms of pleasure: eating well and exercise. I was feeding my mind a lot more through meditation.
The first sexual experiences after two months
I was so happy when I saw my boyfriend again. It seemed like every part of my body was yearning to be one with his. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and it was like all of me, both body and mind, was awake and alert. Sex had always been rushed – a manic race to relieve ourselves. But I stopped the frantic way he was trying to let it happen, and took my time. Instinctively he followed my lead. And what followed was an intense and beautiful sensory experience, that touched our souls deeply.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, there are many reasons that we are driven to have sex. And for all the many beautiful things like love, commitment, pleasure and self-expression, there are many negative reasons as well: social status, stress, revenge, pressure and insecurities.
The physical benefits of having sex and masturbating are clear and undisputed: a rush of hormones and other feel-good endorphins, stress-relief and a sense of well-being. But what really surprised and fascinated me during these two months were the spiritual and mental benefits of celibacy: a renewed sense of self and a feeling of peacefulness.
In a serious longterm relationship celibacy isn’t always an option, but through a period of celibacy I realised that my relationship was relying on sex for the wrong reasons and today I indulge in deeper, more thoughtful and spiritual forms of sexual expression.
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