Last year, I was engaged to be married. In my eyes, my journey with navigating the intersections of dating and new sexual partners was ending. My jersey was ready to be retired, and I was okay with it. But when my fiancé suddenly ghosted me, amongst a myriad of other thoughts was one that really gave me pause: “Am I going to have to DATE again?!”.
Dating has become such murky and muddied water in the social media age and the idea of returning to it; all but made me want to become a monk. And yet, here I am. There was, however, going to be a significant change from how I once dated — I was going to be celibate. Why in the world would I choose not to have sex when I am free to have all the sex I want?
Taking the time to be in tune with every part of our identities truly can put us in a position of power in every relationship we enter.
The short answer is: celibacy is the ultimate form of self-care. Not only has it forced me to see all the ways I’ve centered men/sex in my beauty routines, but it also has given me incredible clarity in my dating process. In the age of serial dating, thanks to the innumerable ways to meet people near and far, pumping the brakes on getting physical can seem like an outdated and boringly traditional decision. But it is not. Now, more than ever, taking the time to be in tune with every part of our identities truly can put us in a position of power in every relationship we enter. Moreover, I wasn’t doing it because of any fear, shame, or old religious doctrine — I was doing it for me.
In the words of George W. Bush, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…you can’t get fooled again”. And, listen, I ain’t interested in ever being someone’s fool…again. So as I re-entered the world of learning to love myself back to wholeness, I wanted my mind, body, and soul to belong, solely, to this new Iman. But what did this mean? And how, in 2020, fresh off of hot girl summer, do you even introduce the idea of celibacy to new partners? Well…firstly:Not Everyone Has to Know.
It’s not exactly a first date conversation starter. The truth of the matter is most of the people I meet, I have no interest in sleeping with, at all. And, perhaps, that was always the case. But a few shots and maybe a fear of loneliness can sometimes cause us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. In this case, though, no matter what happens, this promise is one I can keep.
Not only because it helps me to firmly steer the first or second date conversations away from sex altogether but also because it gives me incredible insight into the men I meet and spend time getting to know. I mean, how many times have you found yourself dealing with a man you didn’t even really like as a person but loved in the bedroom? Same, sis. It has also enforced healthy barriers and boundaries about what personal things I share, when, and with whom.
The truth is, I am a recovering trauma bond participant, and oversharing has been one of my major addictions. Having a personal pledge that is my own, not predicated upon who someone else thinks I should be, has established a greater sense of autonomy than I’ve ever had in my adult life. This decision is mine, and no one else has to agree with or validate it. They don’t even have to know. But what happens when the conversation inevitably does arise…?
Speak on it Resolutely, Not Conclusively
As a practice, I err on the side of only sharing with people I’ve spent a considerable amount of time around. Someone who, generally by this time, I would be interested in sleeping with. Someone I would like to continue to pursue a relationship with definitely deserves to know that sex is off the table for me at this time. Every man thinks he is the one to change a woman’s mind on just about anything. When I have decided to share that I am abstaining from sex, the questions that often accompany my confession range from “until marriage?!” to “I thought hoes were winning?”— yep, I actually heard that one!
However, what I have found usually silences the noise is how Ispeak on it. If I say it as somewhat of an apology to a sexual advance, things can get weird. But if I say it as a determined fact about myself that has nothing to do with anyone outside of me, it is usuallyrespected as a standard personal choice akin to not drinking or being vegan. It is not something to beat around the bush about with prospective partners – it just is.
Also, not presenting it as an if/when scenario keeps everyone in good spirits. By this, I mean, “if I get married” or “when I’m in a relationship again”—takes the power away from me. It can also seem like an ultimatum for the man. Realistically, I don’t know how long I’ll be on this journey. And I don’t have any desire to put someone in the hot seat of trying to convince me otherwise. I simply want to explore sexuality in a way that doesn’t include the complicated world of actual sex. Now, that doesn’t mean that I never have the desire. I am a 30-something-year-old woman at the height of her sexual peak. So, how do I navigate the horny?
Know Your Limits
By this age, we all know what gets our juices flowing. And complete honesty with ourselves about those temptations is of great importance when it comes to celibacy. There’s no sense in pretending that drinking wine and cuddling with a fine man won’t end in a bedroom bachata if you know that it will. For some people, it’s alcohol. For others, it’s a good meal or that song from a soundtrack.
Whatever it is for you, could you give it up to make things easier? Maybe that means dating away from your type for a bit or making a vow not to do any sleepovers—there is no getting around the sacrificing of something you once attributed to part of your dating process when it comes to giving up sex.
Simply thinking that everything can be the same as you’ve always done it, and you’ll just be able to say “No” at the end of the night is a setup for failure. The best way I’ve supported myself on this journey is by being completely transparent with people about what is or isn’t a go for me. That way, if someone knowingly crosses my boundary—I can register that. The same goes for when they remind me of it.
You tell him you’re not having sex, and he respects your choices but plans to fulfill that need elsewhere. What do you do?
You want to keep people around who remind you of your personal goals and don’t want to steer you away from them. Another bonus of abstinence is quickly deciphering between the two. Even with that said, the truth of the matter is that this is yourjourney. And just because you’re dating someone doesn’t mean that they’re going to join you in celibacy. Which brings me to celibacy is about self-control, not controlling others.
Let’s say you’ve met someone and you like him a lot. The vibe is great. This is someone you can see yourself building something with, whether it’s for a long or short term. You tell him you’re not having sex, and he respects your choices but plans to fulfill that need elsewhere. What do you do?
First, you take a deep breath. It may seem like a betrayal, but, sis, it’s not. Like you have the right to make a decision for your life, so does your prospective partner. And if celibacy is not a road they’ve chosen for themselves, you have to be okay with them being honest about that. Abstinence is not a control tactic to get others to reward you with either a relationship or loyalty—it’s a test of will and commitment to one’s self.
Simply put, doing it because of someone else would be in complete opposition to what it should be. Having honest communication about expectations is a hallmark of a great relationship, of any kind. Therefore, a person being forthcoming about how they plan to approach sex while supporting you should be applauded. As things progress, further conversations can be had, and adjustments made as a result of them. But the moment you make celibacy about someone else’s choices is the moment you betray yourself, and that’s the biggest disappointment of them all.
Is celibacy easy? Hell NO. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. And when I am ready to open myself up to the physical manifestation of love again, this time I spent looking for it in other ways will make that even sweeter.
Until then, my collection of AA batteries is stocked and plentiful.