Would you give up sex? Could you?
My best friend has decided that she will no longer have sex. Not forever, just until she meets the man she is going to marry.
Rachel* just turned 32 and is currently single. After numerous one night stands and a few boyfriends, she has chosen to use abstinence for protection.
Not just protection against STIs or babies, but protection from herself.
Over the past six months Rachel has been dating a few guys on Tinder. She enforced this ban only a couple of months ago.
She has never felt better about men and believes the difference in her mental state after giving up sex with these guys is incredible.
She no longer spends hours pining over these men, wondering if they’ll ever call back. Her confidence, self-love and worth are at an all-time high.
These days, Rachel dates a little differently.
After they wine and dine, she now chooses to go home separately. If they’re lucky, or in her words, “special” — they may get a little kiss.
I know myself and my girlfriends would agree when we’ve had one night stands in the past or meaningless sex, the next day we’ve felt deflated, used and insecure.
Men, from experience, on the other hand find it much easier to detach themselves.
I recently read an article that supported this — Anne Campbell, a psychologist from Durham University, surveyed more than 3,300 people between the ages of 17 and 40.
When male and females were asked about their experiences and feelings after one-night stands, 80 per cent of men had overall positive feelings about it and were OK with them.
I don’t mean to suggest that men don’t get emotionally beaten up by their actions as teens and I’m sure there are plenty of guys who have had horrible teen years on the end of rejection and heartbreak.
Perhaps the remaining 20 per cent of men had the same feelings as the 46 per cent of women who felt it was a shameful experience.
This 46 per cent of women said they felt “regret at being used.”
They said things like: “I felt cheap”, “horrified afterwards”, and “I felt degraded. Made myself look cheap and easy. Total regret.”
Rachel informed me that all these feelings had vanished for her and she felt happy and secure within herself since giving up sex.
For years, she and I had both lacked self-confidence and worth.
Recently, as we chatted over a few wines, a light bulb went off. Perhaps we had created this in our teenage years. We had, at such a young age, locked ourselves into a vicious cycle.
Both of us grew up in a small country town in NSW, where we went to an all-girls high school. With hindsight, I can see now how young and impressionable we were.
We chose to follow the crowd and had meaningless sex because that was the cool thing to do in our final years of high school.
I remember feeling the pressure to be like everyone else. I hooked up with a guy on a regular basis. I really liked him. Thinking about it now, I meant nothing to him and that made me want him even more.
Why? Because I was completely insecure and he had showed me a snippet of interest, so I fed off that.
I was just so desperate for him to like me back that I gave up something so sacred.
Sex is a beautiful intimate act between two people. I know that now.
I don’t blame anyone for my mistakes. Nor does Rachel.
We both made conscious decisions to sleep with different men over the years.
I’m not saying that you can’t have casual sex throughout your single days nor am I judging you. I’ve been there and at times I found it really enjoyable.
What I’m trying to say is that I wish at a younger age, like when I was back in high school, that I placed more value on sex.
I’m only speaking from mine and Rachel’s experience here but we feel parents could play more of a role in discussing the value of sex with teens.
I’m not sure if mine were too embarrassed to have this conversation or I’ve blocked it out and completely forgotten about it. If so, sorry Mum and Dad.
But looking back, I don’t remember either of my parents telling me how special making love was and it should be cherished.
When Mum had the birds and the bees chat with me, she took me to the Women’s Health Clinic where I was educated on protection, sex and how babies are formed etc.
I don’t remember anyone ever teaching me the importance of intimacy and why I should value sex like Rachel or myself do today. I wish I knew then what I know now.
If someone had told me I would struggle with self-worth and respect by sleeping with men at such a young vulnerable age… I might not have done it.
I can’t change the past and to be honest I don’t want to. All we can do is grow and learn from our mistakes.
*Not her real name.
This article originally appeared in Perth Now and was republished here with full permission.