Uninvited celibacy

Veggie-womanRelax, this is not a woe is me story. It’s more of a story of discovery of what it has been like to be loverless for the longest stretch in my life since I lost my virginity. (OK, I actually didn’t lose it. I know where it went.)

Not making love for so long has given me new insights about what the experience is all about.

Celibacy is more than not having sex, which is to say that not having sex is more than not engaging in sexual activity — which is to say that sexuality itself is more than mere orgasm production. It’s a cornucopia of body, mind, heart, and spirit.

SEX IS WHOLISTIC

Sex combines both physical/sensual and nonphysical ingredients. There are the words that flow before, during, and after. The tender words, the hottie words, the encouraging words, the silly words.

I dearly love my female platonic friends, but I have noticed that not being lovers limits communication to certain safe areas. Sexual relationships afford me a free pass to be more spontaneous. Being sexually uncensored appears to give me permission to be less controlled and sanitized in general. I don’t watch my words as carefully.

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Many people raised in our culture of erotic cliches do not see sex as an energy exchange, but I do. I notice myself as being much more rigid, subdued, serious, and deliberate without the lover energy present. You could say I take on the persona of an English butler (too bad the domestic skill set doesn’t come with it.)

I have noted with some dismay that the removal of sex from my life has taken out a huge chunk of life’s fun. Sex frees us to be joyously undignified. We can let our emotions romp. We can soar out of the box. We do not have to be so unfucking appropriate. We can giggle, slobber, moan, coo, scream, cry, writhe, and in the most wondrous sense of the word, feel. We don’t have to be cooped up into our cages of conformity (unless that’s part of your schtick.)

I look at life as a flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air. Being celibate is like the lazier section of the wide, slow-flowing river where nothing much happens. Sex is more like the grand rapids, the awesome waterfalls, even the happy babble of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink brook. I miss the wild water.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

In our society with our social training, uninvited celibacy feels like a disease. It feels as if there must be something wrong with me. I feel abnormal. I harbor feelings of being rejected, even when I rationally know it’s not true. I feel less than complete, even broken. Part of the pain is the uncertainty about my future—is this it? Am I done?

Of course I have received friendly advice about being happy with myself, comfortable in being alone. I am my own best friend, companion, even lover. Then there is God and assorted cosmic buds. We are never truly alone, they say.

But I hate any idea that the answer to this drought is trying to find sexual opportunity, like popping aspirin for a headache. Sex to me is too precious a human experience to be downgraded as a commodity—as physical release, as it is often called.

I find a big irony here: if I just wanted to scratch an itch, it would be relatively easy to find physical release. The real full meal deal is more complex. It would require meeting a kindred spirit and a deeper conection.

SEEING WITH NEW EYES

Not having sex in so long has removed so many of the assumptions and habits of yesteryear. I have noticed within me a strange mixture of awe of sexual possibility and resignation of the passing years. Now everything seems so magical, starting with the most basic and usually taken-for-granted among sensual doings. Loving gazes seem magical. Kissing seems magical. Someone reaching for my hand seems magical. Petting seems magical.

Reminiscent of the trick parents of toddlers pull, simple erotic joys all seem hidden away in a shoebox stored on the top shelf of the closet, out of my reach. Like a little boy wondering what Santa will bring me for Christmas, I ponder and fantasize what lovemaking would be like if it ever shows up in my life again. Will I ever hear “I want you” again?

At the same time, as a social observer, I am saddened by the portrayals of sex I see in the media. It is so often mechanical, grim, rote, scarcely a shred of humanity in it. I often think, “if that’s what I am missing, I am not missing much.” I also concur with one of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life when the old guy on the front porch grumbles, “Aw, youth is wasted on the wrong people.”

Sex in the movies so often misses simpler joys such as the rapture of cuddling. (Really? Rapture? That’s my point. It sounds foreign because it doesn’t get star treatment. Cuddling is frequently dismissed as dull compared to wild woo-hoo!)

WATCH WHAT YOU WATCH

The other day I watched Hope Springs, a story of a married couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The Streep character was suffering dearly over her husband’s constant sexual neglect and denial of romantic affection. It was hard to watch as it reminded me of my own loneliness. Especially difficult is knowing that I would have treated her so much better, lavishing her with the love she craved, and yet the senior bad boy got the girl, not me. (OK, it’s just a movie. I get that. But we project ourselves into movies, and that’s what I was feeling.)

I also watched a BBC-produced documentary on grizzly bears. It had nothing to do with human love relationships. But watching these big male bears attempt to beat the crap out of each other to win mating rights (and mating rites) became an unintended reminder of my own nature. Involuntary celibacy is a stark reminder that some form of instinct and conditioning drive me into mate hunger.  Watching big bears growl and swipe at each other reminds me of the competition for love, and in scenes like this they usually show the beaten male limping and bloodied in retreat. Not helpful.

The Internet opens the door to insights and dialogues with strangers, and I have seen various blogs on the theme of sexless marriages. I have seen both sides. I have seen people express their deep sorrows and feelings of failure that uninvited celibacy brings. I have also seen people in sexless marriages ridiculed and demonized as shallow, needy, and immature, like if they simply pushed the right button everything would be fine. Sexual hunger is not taken seriously. Not helpful.

Regarding my own unexpected vacation from lovemaking, I like to say that it is what it is. It has given me new awareness and appreciation for what I had, and sometimes for what I took for granted. It has restored a sense of awe and wonder over the magic of it all. It is one of God’s greatest gifts — and someday we might treat it as such.

UPDATE

A subsequent post continues on this theme — Sexual Dry Spells.

113 thoughts on “Uninvited celibacy

  1. nikkir1972 says:

    Fantastic blog!!!
    “I notice myself as being much more rigid, subdued, serious, and deliberate without the lover energy present.”

    I completely understand this…butler part aside. (I think I fulfill my maid role well already.)

    I have been physically celibate since for about 4-6 years now (becoming more difficult to recall “the last time.”) and I know what it has done to me physically and emotionally. Sex is not just about an orgasm, but about a connection with someone on many different levels. It’s about sharing the deepest part of yourself with another person and that is a beautiful thing.

    I agree that many displays of what is called sex now it crass and almost depressing. The magic and spirituality of sex isn’t the same and to many people of both sexes are finding a sexual “connection” with a quickie in the parking lot.

    That being said, I have experienced intimacy and sex in the forms of writing, of verbal conversations, and of personal stories. It is a fulfilling, loving, tangible energy that in many ways is way above some of the physical sex I’ve had. Currently, it’s reached a bump in the road, and I experience that loss as keenly as I did when it happened with my husband so long ago.

    I suppose I could have said much more simply…everyone needs that sexual connection…in any form or way that works for them and their partner. I’m just wordy….grin:)

    Ooops almost forgot…great picture!

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Excellent comments as always! Thanks for being wordy.

      For decades I have been a huge lover of the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of sexuality. This is true both in in-person lover relationships and in virtual lover relationships that have jumped into the deep end of the pool. Sharing intimate consciousness is one of the most profound experiences there is, in my opinion, although I get that a lot of people freak out with sharing their gooey, juicy secrets too openly. I have also experienced the sudden disappearance of someone I held near and dear to me in a virtual relationship, and I agree that it can be incredibly painful. When we find someone who hears our voice and then reflects it … and then goes away … it can be devastating. (People who enjoy that kind of writing can be quite rare … precious gems.)

      You said something else that made me grin; the idea that certain forms of shared sexual energy can be even more fulfilling than some physical sex. True for me, too. I wish this was more commonly understood. It hoists intimacy into a whole new dimension when it *is* understood. Sounds like you’ve got the magic!

  2. nikkir1972 says:

    I would say that I approach “gooey juicy secrets” with a little caution at first. I like to know the person I’m speaking with has the intelligence and creativity to appreciate what I want to share. I’ve run across those other types in the past where they don’t want to know “me.” They wanted someone to entertain them in the short term.
    I don’t do “short term” well, lol.
    It is painful when your expectations in a relationship change and you’re not sure what is going to happen next or how to define the relationship now. I think I’m working through it, but to say it’s been without extremely difficult moments would be a lie. I have time and feelings invested and that’s what I look at in determining what direction I go now.
    Absolutely….I wish I understood better as well…then again maybe knowing it would remove some of the magic. The written word, the well put verbal word…time and again I’ve learned that it’s a step about actual touching. However…I like the touching also, lol.
    It’s definitely an energy and it feels great!:)

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      I approach literary lovemaking as I would physical lovemaking … with a slow hand. No need to play rush and gush with the gooey juicy secrets. A very slow drip works wonders in the beginning. Like you I want to know that the recipient of my words will respect that I am sharing my soul stuff. I, too, have found at times that some people out there just want to be entertained more than share. That’s not for me.

      I think the absolute best is to be able to merge a virtual relationship (one where there is a lot of written communication) with an in-person relationship. I think the sexiest thing alive is knowing what’s on a lover’s mind so the two of us can play with that consciousness in a dance. But that takes a mountain of trust and a mutual desire to share.

      And yeah, I am enthusiastic about sensual touch, too.

      • nikkir1972 says:

        “No need to play rush and gush with the gooey juicy secrets. A very slow drip works wonders in the beginning.”

        I appreciate the double entendre and visual imagery…even if unintended:)

        Agreed. The absolute best is a merge of both:) I like your mind!

  3. sortaginger says:

    Wow, I relate to a lot of this, especially this part:

    “Now everything seems so magical, starting with the most basic and usually taken-for-granted among sensual doings…Will I ever hear “I want you” again?”

    Where sex and love/partnerhood can be two separate things, it seems that a lot of value is placed on the latter because that is what is presented to the world. The thought that “anyone can find a sexual partner, not everyone can find love” is annoying because that isn’t always true and is demeaning to the person who is alone and/or celibate at the time.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thanks for the comment. Currently I am without a sex partner or a love partner. Every situation is different. Sometimes “sex partners” can be just the basics — without emotion or even friendship. Not for me. Sometimes love partnerships can be sexless. Not for me either. I have also been offered sex from women who are in relationships that they present as rock solid (and polyamorous.) Often problematic and disappointing. I think in general society is cruel to people who are lonely and just want to feel loved and included in something special.

  4. heraldinthewilderness says:

    I have a question for you, do you think sexual relations between human to human is different than the relations between animal to animal?

    One of the reasons I ask is because though the sexual instinct is a natural impulse I believe there is a higher form of sex for humans. I would say maybe that would involve the soul connection. I agree with what you said about sex being more than a physical activity but one that has emotional and soul ties.You are truly giving of yourself, which is why I believe you shouldn’t just give it away to any Joe Blow. You should give it to someone who is committed to you, someone who desires not just your body, but your mind and soul as well. This is why I believe marriage is the best and truly only worthy context for sex.

    Thank you for the read, you are a good writer.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      I appreciate your comments. Thank you! I personally believe that we are sexual rookies as far as our understanding of its potential goes. It can create quite an amazing spiritual connection. (It’s fun to think that maybe animals have a higher consciousness than we assume! But that’s another topic!) In my lifetime various sexually charged situations have led to a kind of religious ecstasy, an energy blasting that transcended ordinary or normal sexuality.

      I think of marriage as more of a legal contract and binding agreement, and it does not always follow that marriage opens a door to exquisite sexual union. But I definitely agree that a sexual union (the way I want to have it) is a union of body, mind, heart, and soul. If I got married again, I would do so only after I was assured from experience that we both were emotionally committed to each other. Emotions first, then legal.

  5. Minty says:

    My celibacy was uninvited at first but after awhile I found that I could not share myself in meaningless encounters.
    The period became a period of growth and it was right for me.
    This was a great blog piece !

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Rami, I have always preferred “wholistic” to “holistic” because I like the inclusion of “whole.” It was more popular in the 70s and 80s.

      The story of sex as an energy connection has barely been integrated into any mainstream erotic writing, but in my personal life it is front and center. It’s a delicious area of exploration. The problem as a writer, though, is that if people (readers) have not experienced it in their physical lives, it is hard for them to grasp what you’re saying. Good luck!

  6. Red Hen says:

    Following your blog now. Some really interesting insights here and, I note, someone who has an appreciation for the vast potential of a sexual relationship to grow well beyond mere mechanics into something perhaps not even fully understood my the participants.

    I wonder do we go through certain phases with this-grief, longing, acceptance, and enjoyment of current status whatever it may be.

    I`d rather uninvited celibacy to meaningless sexual encounters any day though I understand that loneliness and desperation can play a part in driving some people to that. Its some folks preference, of course. And I`m not judging peope`s stance on this either.

    And I`m with Minty in seeing uninvited celibacy as am opportunity for great growth, a time to learn other tactics in dealing with loneliness, and growing beyond what may perhaps have drawn one into unhappy relationships in the past.

    Anyway, great, thoughtful post. Looking forward to more of them.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Red Hen. I think that age and experience play a big part in this equation, too. Having experienced various ecstasies through hugging and sexual situations (clothed and unclothed) in my years, the bar got set very high, and “meaningless” sex would do very little for me. I would probably end up more disappointed than fulfilled.

      I think there is a hierarchy that goes with uninvited celibacy as you suggest. Sounds kind of like the stages in accepting the death of a loved one … denial, anger, etc.

      Thank you for the follow.

  7. quickstepp says:

    Interesting insights. When you attach worth to something it becomes instanlty more valuable and of course, the counter is true as well.

    And I totally agree with your stance on intimacy yielding comfort. Great post!

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you for the compliments. It is truly all about intimacy for me, and intimacy is all about being real and authentic and letting the feelings flow in an uninhibited way.

  8. Ellie Young says:

    My goodness…as I began reading this, it never even occurred to me that a male would be writing this. I suppose that is an indicator that is has been altogether much too long. Perhaps my woman-ness could stand another go ’round.

    I make this statement with an actual ache in my heart and a tear welling up in my eye. Resisting the lump in my throat, I am confronted for the first time in a very long time with something too sweet to remember.

    Not sure if thanks is appropriate. Kiss

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Ellie. You will never know the value to me of feedback like this. I am always questioning whether these kinds of messages are important to share. I sense within you a being of deep feelings. I am very feeling-oriented for a man (an INFP in Myers-Briggs if you know that) so feelings are my language of choice. And writing, of course!

      • Ellie Young says:

        Hahaha! Yes, I know what that is! In retrospect, a person living in uninvited celibacy would be fairly evolved. Maturity is prerequisite to forego lapse in judgement…like a one night stand!!! LOL LOL LOL!! Peace and Love

  9. commeants says:

    The best ever is being celibate and absolutely self-assured about your good looks. Sex is at its base a barometer of physical looks to the person concerned. To frumpy people it’s “am I at least able to arouse someone?” and if you’re an insecure good looking person, it’s “will sex make me feel better looking that that other good looking person?” I read the other day that sex is more about having other people think you’re getting some than actually getting some. It’s about insecurity regarding physical appearance. If you’re good looking and know you are, you won’t be having sex. There is no motivation at all to measure yourself in Nature’s little way to keep you always a little bit bothered and the babies to keep coming…

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Commeants. My own sexual path over the years has been to veer away from being focused on physical beauty, our cultural obsession, and focusing on nonphysical beauty and energy. I do a lot of writing on this topic. I think one of the biggest social tragedies is how people who think or have been told that they are less than gorgeous have to process it. My experiences with ecstasy (natural, not the drug) were proof positive that there’s much more to great sex than looks. This is in addition to the issues you bring up. I think there is so much more to sex than the social norm and media presentations purport.

  10. gliderpilotlee says:

    Not wordy- sorry. One word stands out, Complex!
    great post, nothing like the precious bump and grind while walking around of the evening with my special one. The touch on her shoulder – the arm taken with gently expressed pride.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Lee. For me know, every little gesture of affection that I receive from anywhere is magnified in importance … touch on the shoulder, the face of heartfelt laughter, the sweet word of caring.

  11. T L thompson says:

    Extremely well done on a very meaningful topic for me. Health issues with my mate of 52 years have forced ‘uninvited celibacy’ on me before I was ready. Thank you for your insights and putting into words what I could not.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you T.L. My heart goes out to you. Much of the reason for my own “uninvited celibacy” is that I am care-taking for my elderly father 650 miles from my home, but I am not in a relationship either at the moment. I have seen in other relationships situations like yours, and it is tough for the partner who is still eager to be sensual and sexual.

      • Claim Your Beauty says:

        It’s strange I just wrote a blog today about dating wisely, not settling because of loneliness. With all that said I have been dating the same man off and on for the last 2 years because it is easy. I feel relived when we are off but eventually I cave when he calls. I do love him even though our relationship is confined to a few hours a week. Somehow this dating failure is justifiable because we share a sacred intimacy. I love his company, his silly texts, his ability to be vulnerable with me, his bare bum when he fetches post sex ice-cream from my freezer. We have a good thing. Still, I wonder if my fear of sharing myself with someone who is unfamiliar keeps me going back.

        You are correct there is a tremendous amount of societal pressure to couple up. Ironically there is very little in our fast culture that praises the intimacy many of us desire. We are not encouraged to cultivate the self love intimacy requires.

        Your blog has left me thinking about many things.

        Thank you again,

        Lisa

  12. John Hayden says:

    My opinion: When an adult’s life generally includes sexual intimacy, but also includes some extended periods without intimacy, that is not “celibacy.” That is simply the human condition. I think it is a rare human life that is blessed with uninterrupted sexual intimacy throughout adulthood.

    Celibacy is when a person does not have sexual intimacy for the greater part of one’s adult life, either by choice or by misfortune. Again, just my opinion. Chronic failure to know a significant other is a lonely and hurtful condition.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      John, thank you for your perspective and valid opinion. Perhaps had I given it deeper thought, I might not have chosen that word. However, it is a word that gets the point across quickly enough for people to decide if they want to read further. Classically I presume that celibacy is more of a choice one makes and honors rather than it being foisted upon him or her. In my case it is somewhat voluntary and somewhat circumstantial.

  13. lawrenceofcanadia says:

    I have recently become single myself after seven years and it is a little scary.
    You’re right about how society views single people. If you’re not single because of a high powered career then there’s something wrong with you.
    Again you’re right there is two types of sex. The itch scratching or the love making and the former tends to leave one feeling unsatsfied mentally.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you for your comment, Lawrence. I believe that when you have savored the type of sex that is filled with love and mental connection, the other holds much less appeal.

  14. patyogi says:

    Love the post, love the interactive replies and the photo, this is what blogging is all about. The subject is inspiring and and thought provoking, more power to your pen. Namaste.

  15. Nadia says:

    This… “The real full meal deal is more complex. It would require meeting a kindred spirit and a deeper connection.” I agree. Thought-provoking post, and looking forward to more of them.

  16. moodsnmoments says:

    commendable post. brilliant absolutely. so true that it combines the physical and the non-physical aspect and leads to a connection unknown otherwise. …you’ve got me thinking. congratulations on being freshly pressed, well done.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you! Becoming freshly pressed was a complete and joyous surprise. I have always been “wired” to perceive of sexuality as a wholistic encounter of body, mind, heart, and spirit, but it has also been a position that has drawn yawns when I was trying to earn money writing about it in that way. That was back in the 1980s though.

  17. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    Joshua, what a poignantly fantastic post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. It is incredibly refreshing to read a post(s) from a man who is comfortable writing about emotional intimacy, its importance and the many benefits that accompany emotional intimacy. The big “O” isn’t orgasm. I’m glad I came across your blog(s) today and acquainted myself with several other posts of yours. You have a gift of insight and articulation. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
    Victoria

  18. madaboutyoulady says:

    I am two years and three months into uninvited celibacy. My lover of three years suddenly decided not to make love to me anymore although she gets it two to three times a week. I am told, ‘I just don’t feel like it anymore’. And my answer is always, ‘Wow’. Because I never not feel like it. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I think about it in the middle of working, in the shower, just about anywhere I am, I’m thinking about “it”. I want to ‘cut her off’ but I’m just not built that way. I’m a giver at heart but dang. And I don’t want anyone else, not short term or long. I figure if I leave her eventually, this will be the main reason, and I will not seek another partner.

    Loved your post, by the way, and the photo is phenomenal.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      It’s definitely a challenge when the one you want does not want you in the same way, and if I read correctly it sounds as if she is feasting elsewhere. It sounds as if you are taking an advanced course in the pros and cons of romantic love. It definitely offers an opportunity for you to confront your values. Was polyamory part of your agreement?

  19. Charity says:

    Joshua, thank you for being so candid on the importance of sex and all the connections we make through such an amazing act of intimacy. Your article reminds me of a “Scrubs” episode when Turk and Carla are trying to make a baby. Turk’s complaining about having to have sex, and JD yells at him for being so insensitive because he’s not getting any.

    My husband’s a very macho man, a retired sailor at that, but he is really sensitive. Sex is seriously how he feels loved. I know that I had been taught for years that women were that way, but he’s much more like that than I am. He requires so much more affection and sexual interaction than what I do. Grant it, it’s hard for me to imagine that he still wants me that way after all the health and body issues I’ve had in our nine years together. He just wants to be close to me, and that’s what’s important to him.

    Thanks for putting it all out there for the rest of us to examine. I know it’s difficult to be so real and tender with others, especially on such a public platform. I hope you find an amazing partner who understands you, and appreciates you. I hope your dry season is on its way out of your life.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Charity. I think it is true for many men that a woman’s sexual desire for him is a sign that she approves of him or loves him (depending on what he wants to see!) Men often crave touch and the only way they have been taught how to ask for it or experience it is through more conventional sex. In my case when a woman withdraws sexually or does not want to be sexual in the first place, I assume that she does not love me fully or does not want me completely. That is my first thought — whether or not it is true gets revealed later. On the other hand, I have acute intuitive radar for when a woman initiates sex with me and as it turns out doesn’t love me or doesn’t want to be fully intimate.

      You bring up a huge other point about “health and body issues.” I am 64, and so now body image is pretty huge for me. I am in wide-mouthed awe about the physical changes that occur beyond 60. On the other hand, when I was sexual a couple of years ago, it was the best ever. As it turns out, the answer is that I perceive beauty in largely nonphysical terms. Beauty is intelligence, love, wit, sass, sensitivity, loyalty, friendship — not just body beautiful. Most of this goes against the grain of the media youth and beauty culture that mocks and degrades older people from having any joy not induced by big pharma. I guess it is too late to say “don’t get me started!”

  20. godtisx says:

    I enjoyed reading this, I consider it a gem among gems on Freshly Pressed. A real unique perspective. But I wondered how long you had been celibate to have come to these conclusions? I thought celibacy was self-imposed, even if upheld due to inability to find the right match. So I wondered how long you had been alone.

    Either way your insights and value of sex are moving. It’s not something you see in men commonly. But beautiful when you find it.

    It’s a grounded and connected view in a culture that values actual disembodied-disconnected expressions of sex. But I view sex as wholistic too and being separated from the availability of more conscious partners, has bought me back to myself.

    I’ve been handed over to my natural instincts and preferences concerning sex and have exited the media laid track and societal herd thinking about my sexual expression/inclinations.

    This still period makes you respect what you are more and develops you from there in my opinion. Like a blooming flower (I just hope to be plucked again by the caliber I once attracted).

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you for your comments and sweet compliments. My celibacy (as I am calling it) has only been a couple of years, admittedly not a huge time out; however, I have been devoted to merging sexuality and spirituality for decades. By that I mean that I have always seen sexuality as much more than the herd-consciousness has it, certainly much more than about looks and mechanics.

      While I would still love to explore a high-conscious sexual relationship with a mate, my last couple of years have inspired me to conclude that I am done with sex without feeling/intimacy. My period of stillness, as you put it, has taught me that I don’t want fast food anymore.

      • godtisx says:

        Yeah. Fast food gets old, as do fast food people.

        I know you will find something very special because I believe in the addage, we attract who we are. 🙂

  21. Food For The Journey says:

    I just read your post with great interest (and with my jaw on the floor!). This was the very topic in my therapy session this morning. I might as well have just taken your post and read it to my therapist. I was married for 26 years to a man who was only interested in conventional sex. I learned that on our wedding night. I had wanted that night to be magical, spiritual, delightful. It was over in 2 seconds and I was left singing, “Is that all there is…”? We never grew in intimacy or knowledge of each other and that was the one thing I desired desperately. So, I too, am celibate until God chooses to do something different. Might I have permission to copy your post and make it available to my therapist? I look forward to reading many more of your posts. You appear to be a wise soul and I will find joy in learning more of what’s in your mind. Thank you, Joshua.

    Jane

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Jane, thank you for the compliments and most definitely you may make a copy and share with your therapist. Over the years I have heard accounts of marriages or love relationships where physical intimacy seemed to end before it began, often a most startling development for one of the partners. Someplace recently I saw this written up in a Christian context, because religion is often a key issue in the choices people make around sex.

  22. Karen Ruehl says:

    Joshua. your blog was fantastic as usual and it made me smile.. As a woman who has been married for almost 36 years, I can tell you that lovemaking waxes and wanes.. In the early years you just can’t seem to get enough and then there is the child raising years when finding the time and energy to ‘connect’ is sometimes difficult at best… My Children have grown and moved on to begin their own lives with loves of their own.. My husband and I have all the time in the world to do our thing but, the best part about this time of our lives is that it’s ok to just have the appetizer instead of the entire meal every once in a while.. I feel a deeper connection to my husband than ever before and I relish each and every time that we share our love in whatever form and frequency that we desire .. I consider myself so very blessed to have the “Real full meal deal” Much Love to you Dear Joshua…(((((((Hugs))))))

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you, Karen. ((((Hugs))))) I am very acutely aware of and into the various forms that sexuality and/or intimacy can take, which may look nothing like the traditional variety. As I said in my piece, I am into gourmet cuddling, which when combined with meditative kinds of consciousness can be incredibly satisfying. It can often be more satisfying and even more intense than “sex.” Even quiet and intimate conversation can be wildly wonderful. So many things (so many articles to come.) I would love for this stuff to become more commonly known and appreciated as I think it would make people happier.

      I am so glad that you signed up for and got the “Real Full Meal Deal!” Every now and then I see a post from you on Facebook where you say something sweet to or about your husband, and I smile. I love seeing that, and I love seeing it openly acknowledged, too. Love and hugs to you.

  23. A.K. says:

    Sex is such a complicated subject. Plenty of my peers just go at it. I can’t do that at all. I have to have an actual connection with my partner – intellectual, emotional, spiritual, whatever you want to call it – there has to be something there. Looking back, I’ve never been with someone who I felt for in “that way”, and that makes so much difference. Without a connection, without a feeling of love, sex is just mechanical, an act without any meaning after the orgasm. And how do you find that connection? It’s not as easy as going to a bar or a club.

    Okay, this is kind of weird for me to talk about. But it’s rare to see someone writing in such a straightforward way about what sex really means and rarer to see so many other people responding in a positive way. Thanks for writing this insightful post.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you for your comment. You know, I think that many men are perceived of and are programmed to “just go at it.” Like we are machines. I could usually not do that even when I was much younger.

      I am currently facing the challenge of where do you find someone to connect with — even if it is not a romantic connection. My house is 650 miles north of where I am staying with and caring for my dad. Maybe through this blog we can come up with some ideas; I think a lot of people struggle with this owing to lots of different scenarios for why we feel isolated or disconnected..

  24. melanielynngriffin says:

    Thank you, Joshua. You don’t see a lot of blogs dealing with sexuality in a mature way. I appreciate it and even more appreciate that WordPress chose to Freshly Press this post — congrats! Well written and well felt, it that’s an expression. Of course it’s well felt, coming from an INFP. I’m one as well.
    I’ve been happily celibate for many years now. I am on a spiritual journey that has been my priority, and I find I haven’t room for a “significant other.” I totally disagree with the comment above that “chronic failure to know a significant other is a lonely and hurtful condition.” Perhaps that’s how it feels for him, but it certainly doesn’t feel lonely or hurtful or in a way like failure to me! It is a luxury and blessing to take time for myself. Pure bliss, for the moment.
    Bless you for taking time to be with your father. Time with an aging parent is every bit as sacred as sex. Treasure your time.
    Blessings,
    Melanie

  25. Joshua Bagby says:

    Thank you, Melanie! I am highly motivated by intimacy, whether it is sexual or not. Intimacy makes my world go round. I love venues or encounters that encourage people to share from their heart — their feelings, their stories, their aspirations, their unique views. That said, I also love my privacy and alone time.

    I can see from my experience that celibacy is not as difficult as I thought it would be from the standpoint of erotic sexual activity. But I am having more trouble with the lack of cuddling/hugging and intimate conversations with a lover. I am learning more about that at the moment. Ultimately I think that this whole situation (a complete change of scene to be with my dad and the resulting physical distance from friends) is an Earth School lesson.

  26. girlseule says:

    Facinating and honest post. There have been long, sexless stretches in my life. I really relate to the line “sexuality itself is more than mere orgasm production. It’s a cornucopia of body, mind, heart, and spirit.”. I could always go out to a pub and find someone to take me home, but sex is more than having sex. I miss the intimacy as much as the orgasms.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      The more we start to see that a sexual encounter is a date with consciousness, the more, I think, we will seek to make our experiences worth remembering happily. Just getting off usually doesn’t do the trick.

  27. shaylawiggins says:

    Wow…ok.I tend to resist reading about sex because it seems to get irreverent…just dumbing it down to being a physical release.This post really encouraged me, validated my thoughts and desires and causes me to reflect. Thanks.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you Shayla. For years I have appreciated sex as connected to my spirituality and mindfulness, and this “time out” for me has revealed much about how I embrace the nonphysical aspects of a lover relationship.

  28. tdizzledum says:

    I completely agree with you on this! In my experience the recent entry of more sex has had the opposite effect on me, so I can understand where you are coming from!

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Life takes us through different journeys. Having virtually no sexual stimulation is one. Having lots of it is another. Both scenarios bring lessons. I have had my feasting periods, too. I cannot say that one is better than the other because each situation has pros and cons.

  29. Charity says:

    Reblogged this on Nice Atheist and commented:
    I found this article on Freshly Pressed a few days ago. I just want to make it clear that though I am for women I am not against men. As a wife and mom of two little boys I support males in our society personally. I feel that Joshua offers a beautiful male perspective here regarding sexual relationships, and I wanted to share his insights with all of you.

      • Charity says:

        Thank you, Joshua! I actually get to do something positive regarding men as I’m married to one and raising two boys. I don’t have to gripe and moan ALL the time about the condition of women because of men. I instead can help the three males in my life by being a good listener, nurturer, and provider of good conversation and affection. Is it tough with my past? Yes. Is it still doable? Yes!!!!!!

  30. thecleanhippie says:

    Great blog! I love that you are unafraid to comment on the more private aspects of life that most are prone to hide. Even though I cannot completely understand what you are going through I feel able to empathize. At young ages, as well as old, we are told to hid any sexual feelings and that it’s just part of the process. I do not whatsoever advocate young people engaging in intimacy, but I do think the public should recognize and address the adolescent age group’s inevitable sexual frustrations.
    Thank you for being open and talking about the things you do, please keep it up!

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      It’s a huge irony that all sorts of concerns are marketing to young people using sexual imagery and suggestion, and yet there is no major public attempt to educate young people about sexuality (intimacy, the relationship between spirituality and sexuality, relationship responsibility, etc.) I just wrote a similar blog post on loneliness and whether we should consider that an individual or a social problem. Compared to when I was growing up, young people are getting a bunch of really bad “sex education” in the form of porn and mainstream depiction of sex as recreation without consequences. I don’t see much education about what it means to be intimate.

  31. ssreddy says:

    Joshua,

    I fully endorse your views on forced celibacy.

    I have been a forced celibate for the last two months, for the first time since I started sex when I was married at 18 (now, I’m 64). This is due to health issues of my partner since one year. We have had a very fulfilling relation till then. Thereafter, we have been having it once in a month or so & then, suddenly she put a full stop to it. Now, she doesn’t even allow the “other” things involved in sex – like cuddling, the sexy talk, the touch & so on. I feel it’s because, she’s afraid these things may lead to the actual act. She has Lumbar disk prolapse & is afraid sex may precipitate it. Not having intimate relation makes the entire relation very hallow, very frustrating & depressing.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      I have lots of compassion for you, and since we are the same age, empathy besides. No question it’s tough when the door to sex closes, and doubly tough when a great deal of intimacy is included in the shutdown. I am left to wonder if your partner has offered you the option of finding intimacy elsewhere. From my point of view, a great deal of intimacy can be enjoyed and satisfaction derived from what might be called sex without sex. I’ve had some amazing experiences just holding one another. But it sounds like your partner is not welcoming sensuality. Do you find you can talk through this situation with her or are you guessing what her withdrawal means?

      • ssreddy says:

        ” …a great deal of intimacy can be enjoyed and satisfaction derived from what might be called sex without sex…”

        Even for that, she isn’t ready. may be I can talk through the situation but I too went into a shell.

        Thanks anyways for the reply.

  32. andimal23 says:

    I have never read a blog on WordPress before until today. I started writing my own “diary” so to speak on a journey through my dad’s cancer, and for some reason I ventured out of my admin panel today and came across this. As a married woman of 14 years, there have been many times in my marriage where we have faced the drought due to my husband’s disabilities or a recent health crisis of my own. At times we have gone a full year without the actual act of intercourse, but we’re both ok with that because we share intimacy in so many other ways…the cuddling, the holding hands, the staying up until 4 AM talking about whatever. But when the time comes and we are both feeling well, we can share a moment that we might not otherwise have enjoyed so much if we were a “regular” couple…you know, the ones who “say” they have sex 3 times a week even though they work two jobs, have three kids and somehow manage to find 7 minutes to get together? Even though my husband and I may only connect a handful of times each year, it’s very magical each and every time it takes place because we haven’t tried to keep up with “the status quo”. Of those couples who allegedly have sex 3 times per week, how many of them actually ENJOY it? How many women are actually caught up in the “flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air” without thinking about their “to-do-list”? How many men are actually feeling the intimacy and closeness without adding another conquest to their list? For me and my husband, we’d rather take those 3 or 4 or 5 times per year of pure intimacy then the 3 times per week to entertain each other.

    Anyway, great blog, very well-written. I hope that your “flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air” returns again soon!

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      You make some great and profound points here! Thank you! In my own world I discovered the wonders of “sex without sex,” which is to say feeling an absolutely delicious intimate connection that does not follow the traditional erotic script set forth by movies and romance novels. With consciousness, cuddling or hugging can become a spiritual journey. I have experienced tremendous energy exchanges that on a few occasions produced amazing bursts of ecstasy more intense than traditional orgasm. As someone who dearly loves intercourse, I can also say that it is over-rated in the mass media because intimacy is not usually taught and rarely shown. You and your husband are definitely on to something wonderful!

  33. mwanthi says:

    Wow, its a nice feeling when you realize that others are experiencing the same things as you. I can truly relate to this blog on every level. kuddos!

  34. greatbooksdude says:

    The one thing I’ll say here is that sex does make you freer, but it does not lead to happiness. I see too many people who are getting laid too often but remain total assholes to fall for that one.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Sex and intimacy/connection are not the same thing. The media seems to teach that hot sexual chemistry is the main ingredient to love, which turns out to be a huge fallacy unless that “hot” part includes a lot of nonphysical, personality attraction and qualities like devotion, friendship, empathy.

      • devendra says:

        Well said.

        In the wholistic expression of sex, physical sex (intercourse) is only one component which is not even essential for the fulfillment of sex.

  35. Joshua Bagby says:

    I think we have barely scratched the surface culturally as to the ways in which loving couples can find intimate joy. I agree that intercourse (and any other genital stimulation) is just one variation on a theme. Most of us are not taught how to make love with the mind, which is another HUGE area of fulfillment, a virtual wilderness to explore.

  36. Amina Wadud says:

    Great blog! but if I might venture a thought.. you are still in the Romantic phase of celibacy… it’s a bit like having a crush. EVERY thing is hyperbole. Trust me after decades it gets to be about as boring as some partners’ habitual sexual encounters.. But I hope you never get to that phase… else what would there be to blog about then lol!

  37. authorjanebnight says:

    Uninvited celibacy helps a person not take sex for granted for sure. I have been with my boyfriend on and off for 13 years. One of the biggest issues we have is that he isn’t interested in sex. He might be convinced to do it once or twice a year. If I am pushy.
    It is one of the reasons we have been off and on for so long.
    During one of our off times I was in a relationship that resulted in the birth of my twins. The relationship failed and I ran back to the true love of my life.
    Now, we are together and he is my kids dad in all but blood. Most days, I accept that what I get from the relationship is so much more than I give up.
    But some days I also feel very strongly that we are missing the very special connection and depth that sex creates

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Thank you for sharing. I have heard a lot of stories like this over the years; we often have to make choices like this. Sometimes the choice we have to make is between security versus passion. Some people have tried dealing with this through open relationships, with varying degrees of success. Others have given up on expressing and receiving sexual affection because the rest of the relationship fulfills enough of their needs and they don’t want to lose that part.

      Are you and your boyfriend able to talk openly about this? Can he express why he is not interested in sex? I am quite capable of platonic friendship and even sexless relationships, but they are not my preference if given a choice.

      • authorjanebnight says:

        My boyfriend and I have talked about it extensively. He has a very low sex drive and has since about a year after we got together. There is no cause that he can pinpoint. He just isn’t interested.

      • devendra says:

        Sexless relationships, in my experience, lack the depth. U can always make out a couple having a satisfactory sexual relation from the one without it by the space they keep from each other. The former look coupled where as the latter, look detached.

  38. Ambrosia Jones says:

    I’m both sorry and glad to know that I’m not alone. I’d stumbled across the “diagnoses” of uninvited or “involuntary” celibacy before, and I was so moved to know that I wasn’t the freak that I feel like I am, but still so sad because there were others suffering and no solutions to be found. You didn’t mention how you came to be celibate against your will; you may not know how. I’m still not sure that I know what the problem is exactly, and I haven’t had sex in 13 years. I haven’t kissed a man in almost seven. My last sexual relationship was also my first and it was abusive, so I guess I can place the blame there. I’ve struggled with my weight, but I’ve been told that I’m the “good kind” of fat or not fat at all depending on who you ask (I’m fat; what those people mean is that I don’t fit the negative stereotype of fat that they have in their heads.). I’m black and live in a relatively white area. I’m told how beautiful, smart, funny, charming, young (early thirties) I am, and yet, nothing. I don’t know. But to not even kiss or date? How do I not go through life, not only suffering from the lack of intimacy, but suffering from the feeling that something is desperately, inherently wrong with me?

    Sorry to hijack the comment box here. It is a relief to come across another person in the same predicament, even if it’s the only thing we have in common. I saw myself in your post and again, it was a comfort to know that I’m not alone, but it pains me to know that someone who seems to be kind, intelligent, and compassionate seems to be suffering from the same fate. May we both see an end to our starvation very soon. Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. Well done.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Ambrosia (love the name) my heart goes out to you. I feel your pain, and I can empathize with it, too. I am nearly twice your age, so I bear a lot of “maybe it’s time to be put out to pasture” thinking, but it still triggers this underlying feeling that there must be something wrong with me that no one is willing to share .. because if there wasn’t something wrong with me, someone would desire me as a lover. I need to emphasize that this is a FEELING or a fantasy that flows through me, not my final self-judgment and not a perpetual pity party I engage in. I am simply noticing what it is like to be living a life without a lover. It is a condition that brings up a lot of self-doubt above and beyond missing the kind of stimulation an active love life provides.

      I suspect I will be writing a lot more about this because I can see from the comments I have been attracting that it is something many people are dealing with in various ways. In a nutshell, after my mother died in 2011 I have been taking care of my elderly father about 650 miles from my house. My life is in a strange limbo state. With my father’s care center-stage, I have not felt too free to open up to a love life, thus I have been in a shutdown mode.

  39. layshrink says:

    Reblogged this on layshrink and commented:
    Damn, yes, yes, this is the whole thing. When those that need to hear the physical language of love, this is what they mean. Sex is great, but sex is not just the mechanics. Read this post, read the comments; especially if you don’t think sex is important in a relationship.

  40. blissluk says:

    Beautifully written, your post has so many truths I share with you. Since I started to regard sex as an exchange of energy it feels so much more fulfilling to me. To me sex is so much more: it is connection, it is expression, it is freedom. Too many times I have seen people crumble inside, because they negelected their sexuality with all their energy. Express yourself freely, make love, live happy.

  41. mrsdarlings says:

    beautifully written!!! I love the energy between sex. I also love the spaces between exchanges.I entered a whole new world the last 6 months. The terms Alpha male, beta male, submission are fun stuff to look up and read about. The results for me were fantastic. May or may not be for you. But, it might be fun to read about. ! again good job!

  42. Bella says:

    Yes, we grieve. No, I don’t think the stages are linear. I do a complete Kubler-Ross several times a day. You might want to look up ‘chronic sorrow’ and see if that fits you. To me, it makes better sense than anything else therapists want to diagnose us with.

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