What I’ve Learned From Three Years Without Sex
The last time I had sex was three months shy of three years ago.
I was in Bali, in a thatched roof bungalow overlooking the ocean, draped atop a fluffy white comforter, in a mosquito net wrapped bed. My heart melted, throbbed, and bled for the London boy beside me, yet I struggled to relax myself open.
His flight left in three hours and it was clear that this was the end. Over the month since we met traveling in Thailand, I had grown attached despite the clear expiration date of our romance. I didn’t want him to leave, yet I couldn’t rip the band aid off fast enough.
Had I known it would be the last time I’d have a man inside of me for the foreseeable future, I probably would have gushed beyond my fear and savored his taste for as long as possible.
But I didn’t plan to not have sex again.
It just happened that way.
‘Cause you see…
I’ve got the sex drive of a teenage boy, but until I really trust a man I’m tighter than a nun. I’m afraid of love without stability and commitment, but in truth I choose sexy and unavailable because I get bored easily. I rarely meet men who turn me on, so when I find one I want it takes me years to let go. I’m slow to open up, yet I bare my soul so readily I scare most men away.
Layer my paradoxical, intense nature against the transient landscape of travel, and you quickly see why I’m single and celibate. Besides, a man has really got to be worth it for me to want to spread my legs.
Not to say that I don’t love having sex with men.
Quite the opposite.
In my pre-nomadic life I had never gone more than a few months without sex. From the time I was fourteen years old I was in committed relationship after committed relationship, so I always had a guaranteed source of sex. And sex fed me in so many ways.
Sex made me feel connected. Sex made me feel desired. Sex made me feel passion. Sex made me feel alive. Sex made me feel worthy. Sex made me feel love.
Sex was in fact the easiest way for me to feel love.
But I didn’t want to have sex with just anybody.
I’ve always known my body to be a sacred gift, and I’ve never wanted a man to come inside who I didn’t want to worship me.
Heck, I don’t even want to kiss them unless they give me shivers.
And that doesn’t happen for me very often.
I watched my friends and television characters have one-night stands and meaningless flings and wonder what was wrong with me.
Why couldn’t I take sex casually? Why couldn’t I separate sex from love?
Since sex and love are inextricably linked for me, I stayed in some pretty unhealthy relationships because they offered me a guaranteed dose of the love drug. The oxytocin high carried me through all of our apparent incompatibilities. And the thought of being single and having casual sex, or worse not having sex at all, did not sound like an option for me.
When I hit my quarter life crisis, my relationship had dragged me so low I could hardly breathe. I needed the space to find love outside of my ex boyfriend’s bed.
That’s when I flew to Costa Rica hoping to get some air.
In Costa Rica finding love was easy.
It lived everywhere.
In the ylang ylang perfumed air on a balmy afternoon. In the sensual caress of the warm Caribbean ocean. In the wild embrace of the jungle trees. In the heart of a young coconut and the juice of a mango. I found love. Passionate orgasmic love. Costa Rica made love to me.
That’s also when I first experimented with sex outside of love. Specifically, with sex outside of a conventional monogamous relationship. Everyone else was doing it, and I wondered if it was unhealthy for me to be so prudish. Maybe sex didn’t need to be such a big deal.
But that didn’t work out the way that I hoped it would.
Since I’m a woman who feels love in sex, instead of casual I fell in love. Only unlike the monogamous relationships of my past, I experienced unrequited love. Love that ached and yearned. I spent years longing for him, unable to even find another man attractive because he possessed my heart so fully.
So I went looking for love around the world.
I found it in the smiles of innocent children who waved at me as I flew by on my motorbike. In the adventure of taking chicken buses and living on pennies. In the humbling moments of shattering everything I ever believed to be true. Through the stories I told with my camera lens and the ink in my journal. In the magic of synchronicity. In the ultimate freedom of the road.
Though because I ached for it, eventually I found love in a man again. With the Brit I met over a smoothie in Bangkok and kissed goodbye under the sheets in Bali three years ago.
It hasn’t felt right to let a man in since then.
So I haven’t.
During those three years I’ve met a few other men my heart pulsed for. But each time when the moment arose, I always said no. This one was leaving the next day. That one just wanted sex. The other one was looking for a rebound.
No matter how loudly my body screamed yes, I said no to protect myself from falling in love. I was afraid of getting hurt.
Meanwhile, I focused my attention away from having sex with men, and into finding love in myself. I had never chartered that territory, and it felt like a much safer place to start.
Like a modern day monk with a heavy dose of naughty, I channeled my devotion into discovering the love I had tasted on the lips of my unrequited lovers in myself. It wasn’t enough to like or accept myself, I wanted to fall in passionate sexual love with myself. I made my own healing, my own spirituality, and my own physical sensual human pleasure my greatest priority.
In those three years…
I devoted myself to yoga, treated my body with conscious loving kindness, learned how to breathe and open my body to the sensation of love.
I brought awareness and compassion to my patterns and let go of the beliefs that kept me stuck in unproductive cycles.
I got over my fear of not being a “great singer” and opened up my voice. I sang my emotions in love songs at the top of my lungs and chanted prayers for global compassion.
I reawakened my passion for dance, spinning in my underwear through the jungle, undulating my spine while riding my bicycle, and remembered that it’s the easiest path for me to divine sexual bliss.
I looked at myself naked in the mirror, told myself I was beautiful, and truly meant it.
I stood naked in front of a group of practically strangers, men and women, and revealed my insecurities and all of my sexual shame.
I held space for myself through a whole range of messy emotions with the tenderness of the one who loves me most.
I became intimate with my own body, and allowed myself the pleasure that I had withheld in the hands of the men I couldn’t trust with my surrender.
I tapped into sacred femininity and began using my sexual energy to empower and inspire me to take my place in the world as a woman.
I discovered the path of tantra, healed so much of my shame, and activated my energy to experience orgasms in my heart. Yes, literally, orgasms in my heart. And throat, and solar plexus, hell orgasms in all the chakras.
I created my own art of lovemaking, seducing myself in the sweetest way I know how, and holding myself afterwards in the most sacred loving embrace.
I became an absofuckinglutely amazing lover.
And I don’t think I would have taken that journey if I still had an endless supply of love drugs juicing my veins through the body of a really sexy man.
I don’t think I would have learned how to make love to myself, if I was still preoccupied with loving someone else.
I may have been celibate for the last three years, but I’ve been having the best love affair of my life. I may not be having sex with men, but I’ve never felt so sexual.
Simply, what I’ve learned in three years without sex, is how to love myself.
Still, as beautiful as that is, and trust me it’s really beautiful, I know it doesn’t stop there. ‘Cause I’m not a monk, nor do I want to be. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life enraptured in fantasy, monogamous with myself, only sharing my body with the silkiness of the sea.
As delicious as that is, I want more.
This love, this sweetness I’ve cultivated wants to be shared.
As scary as it is to share something that sacred, that’s what the nectar is meant for.
Which I realize means, when desire comes knocking, I’ve got to be a little more willing to get messy. I’ve got to be a little more willing to be vulnerable with my heart. I’ve got to be a little more willing to crack open and bleed. I’ve got to be a little more willing to get hurt.
(photo by Sarah Landolt)
but until that day comes
I’ll keep singing and dancing and touching myself to ecstasy.
I’ll keep breathing my heart wide open.
I’ll keep falling in love with the world.
I’ll keep learning how to love.