How important is sex in your life? Is it just a nice distraction, or does it define a big chunk of your life? Here’s a bit of my story.
There’s a difference between not having sex for a while, and then not having sex for, literally, years, while still in a relationship.
As some of you may know, the last three years with M. were pretty much sexless. We tried once or twice, but to nobody’s satisfaction. I reasoned, begged, pleaded, cried even. I tried instigating date night, sexy times, wearing lingerie, acting flirty… to no avail. I insisted he get on Wellbutrin (well-known to increase sex drive). Still nothing. Was it him? Was it me? I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do.
Sometimes I wonder (and so do my friends, once I tell them) how I managed to get through those years. Lots of wine, much rationalization, plenty of guilt and semi-effective repression helped. But after three years, I was done… really done. Especially since E. had shown up in my life and rekindled that part of me.
Ever since this experience, I’ve been wondering: do we need sex to be fully happy, well developed human beings? Well, aside from our asexual friends, for those of us who do have sexual desires… how necessary is it?
A sexless life is a terrible life…
…at least for me.
I have always, always loved sex. I was hitting the chatrooms on the early internet (think 1996-7) doing cybersex. Although I was a virgin until 18, I have always thought of myself as a highly sexual being.
Sure, I’d been through dry spells before, in my early 20s, but they were mostly because I was single. And still, it wasn’t hard for me to find hookups back then. So even if I was single, I could get laid pretty much whenever.
But a dry spell isn’t the same as a sexless relationship. I don’t recall the same amount of sheer frustration and anger during dry spells, because, well, there was no one to blame. But in a relationship, the quality of your sexual life reflects many other things: intimacy, ability to communicate, desire to spend time together, vulnerability with each other.
And when the sex with M. disappeared, so did everything else. We couldn’t communicate. I didn’t feel intimate with him anymore. I couldn’t show him vulnerability, or trust him anymore. Time spent alone with him became increasingly frustrating, as we weren’t having sex. It was a terrible, disastrous time.
Had I been able to seek sex elsewhere, maybe things would have been different. But ethical non-monogamy wasn’t in the cards for me and M.
I left the relationship feeling desiccated, an empty shell. I was bereft of joy and happiness. I could not find pleasure in much, except forgetting about how terrible I felt (by drinking alcohol). A body that goes without sex becomes more stressed, is more likely to get ill, has less libido, takes longer to get aroused, and is even less intelligent. I very much felt like I didn’t live in my body at all, that I had become separated from a thing that used to give me so much pleasure, and was now the cause of so much grief.
For me, a sexless life is a terrible, no-good life.
So how essential is sex for humans?
I’ve had a pretty easy life overall. I haven’t faced any major challenges, either financially or personally. And yet, I feel this three-year period might have been the worst of my life. They feel like wasted years, years where I could have enjoyed my youth and my body and my time and my money in more joyful, interesting ways.
We know that sex is a healthy function of our body. It’s not dirty or sinful. It’s a normal desire that almost everyone has. But how important it is for someone depends on a lot of things.
- Are they in a relationship?
- Are they on the asexual spectrum?
- Do they have an illness that gets in the way of their libido?
- Does their partner have the same sex drive?
- Do they have a healthy, positive attitude towards their body and sex in general?
How important sex is to you individually can be radically different from your sexual behaviour in a relationship. I could have sex every day, but I generally don’t. Why? Well, mostly, I live alone. I have a few lovers, but only one lives close by and is easily available. I don’t expect him to answer to my every sexual need.
So, although sex is really important to me, it’s not SO important that I pester my partners about it every day.
But, as I explore in a previous post, lack of sexual desire for a person is a big differentiator in my relationships.
Obviously, from writing this blog, I think about sex a lot. Wanting to become a couple’s and sex therapist is another way that shows how important sex is to me. Sex is at the source of some of the most important decisions of my life, like getting sterilized or leaving M. Sex is one of the strongest determinants of my life.
That may not be the case for you. Maybe you’re perfectly fine getting laid a few times a year. Maybe you don’t care about sex at all, or haven’t found someone you really want to have sex with. (I have a friend from undergrad who swore he could live without sex, only to move to Australia and find a wife and an interest in sex and even bisexuality.)
When sex came back–or how important is sex to me, really?
On my first official date with E., it was as if I’d been woken up from a long nightmare. Being able to touch and hold, to kiss and tease, to feel and get aroused: it was like a rebirth for me.
Remember what watering a thirsty plant looks like? It perks up almost instantly. You can see it.
And so could my friends, after I’d broken up with M. and took control over my sex life again. I was full of vitality, replenished, satiated. I could start thinking about my future, about what I wanted from my life, and not just about how much sex I wasn’t having.
Because sex is a little like air: you don’t think about it when there’s plenty of it, but when there isn’t… it’s a life-or-death situation.