At the time that I lost my virginity, I was dating a guy who was a few years older than me. There was another girl who he had dated previously who was still pursuing him, and I always felt that if I didn't keep him satisfied, I was in danger of losing him to her. I felt like I was in constant competition with her in my head; and frankly he leveraged this in his favor. He would regularly make comments about her and compare things about the two of us, always subtly hinting at the fact that he had other options, should the need arise. That's why I decided to have sex with him. Not because I wanted to have sex, or because I felt particularly sexually attracted to him; but because the other girl had done it, and I was afraid that if I didn't, he would break up with me for her. Due to the fact that I had not previously been very popular with the guys, in combination with a childhood that left me with severe insecurity and a deep seated need for validation, I coveted the attention of any man who even remotely showed interest in me. That in mind, the validation I felt as a result of having a boyfriend was NOT something I was going to readily give up. At that point in time, that was of far greater value to me even than maintaining governance of my own body,
From that point on, most of my sexual encounters took place out of a sense of obligation. I felt like I had a duty to fulfill a certain expectation that men had; as if sex was the price I had to pay in order to be deserving of their attention. I felt almost as if I wasn't worthy, or valuable enough, to warrant the attention, affection, or even friendship of a man without paying for it in some way. I never learned how to view sex as something that was intended for me, as well as my partner. I couldn't conceptualize sex as anything more than an obligation, a task, necessary to complete in order to fulfill my own desire for attention and affection. The idea that it was as much for my enjoyment as my partner's, and that I should be able to exercise control over it, was completely foreign to me. Sex was never a desire for me as much as it was a tool.
By the time I got to college, I had convinced myself that I just someone who didn't really like sex. I understood it as something I would probably have to do to maintain a relationship, but it was not something that I ever desired. So much so, in fact, that I had never even masturbated. I internalized this concept of myself so much so that I would openly share it with my friends, and told my first college boyfriend. It didn't occur to me that this was out of the ordinary,
Unfortunately, this conceptualization only became worse when I was raped my freshman year. I had known this guy from my hometown, and had been seeing him for several weeks; he was someone I considered to be both a friend and romantic interest. Much like my first ever boyfriend, he was also romantically interested in another girl. She lived in Puerto Rico, but nonetheless, he often pitted me against her in competition for his attention. He had come to visit me at school before, and we had hung out outside my dorm, but this one particular evening he came up to my room to hang out. Shortly after he arrived, he began soliciting sex from me. I told him repeatedly that I didn't want to, but after some time, he forced himself on me. Feeling, to a degree, that I owed it to him for him having spent time with me, and fearing that if I didn't give it to him, he would choose the other girl over me, I submitted. After a few moments, I began to protest again, and tried in vain to push him away. After this failed attempt, I closed my eyes and waited for it to be over. Even though I already believed that I didn't like sex, something about this particular incident felt particularly more detestable. But I didn't call it rape.
Now, it's important to note that many people believe that an encounter such as this would result in an individual being much more guarded, and much less willing to engage in sexual behavior. This, however, is frequently not the case. For me, after that experience, sex was not only something that I felt I had to readily give away in order to receive attention, but also something that could be freely taken in exchange for it. So much so, in fact, that not only did I not recognize what he had done as rape, but I continued to see him. It wasn't until he raped me a second time, that it became clear to me what had happened on both occasions.
At the time of the second incident, I had gone to visit him at his home, where he forced himself on me in his bedroom. This time around, my protest was much more marked, but even still, it wasn't until he called me the next day to apologize for what he had done, that I realized that it wasn't just my imagination telling me that there was something fundamentally wrong with this situation. Still, I did not fully understand these experiences as rape, or at least was not able to verbalize it as such. All I truly knew was that at this point, sex had lost all of its significance to me. There was no longer, if there had been at one point, any value in it. It was not something to be shared, or even enjoyed on my behalf. There was no intimacy, no connection, no substance or meaning. Sex was not meant for my satisfaction or pleasure. This was the perspective from which I functioned for the next five years of my life.
After this, I find myself in one sexually satisfying, but extremely dysfunctional relationship, which I desperately cling to for 4 years out of a dire fear that I will never enjoy sex again (after discovering for the first time that it can, indeed, be enjoyable). Fast forward to 2013. two years post-dysfunctional relationship, I arrive at the realization that I am only (semi) comfortable discussing sex with people I have absolutely no intimate connection or relationship with. Moreover, I struggle to even verbalize to the people close to me how uncomfortable I am talking about sex with people who I love. I ruin at least two potential healthy relationship situations because I bolt at the slightest hint of anything sexual in nature. As I realize how serious of a problem this has become, I start to finally start to examine my sexual past. Six years after the incidents have taken place, I finally fully accept the fact that I was raped and begin counseling. My goal at the time was to regain, or gain once and for all, control over sex, rather than allowing myself and my relationships to be controlled by it. While counseling proved to be helpful, in more ways than I had anticipated, and I was able to work through much of the trauma that was associated with my rape experiences, I still never felt like I gained control over my feelings around sex. I was still skittish and uncomfortable. I still felt a good deal of shame and guilt around it.
I've given you a tremendous amount of backstory, and by this point I'm sure you are wondering when the hell the celibacy part comes in. Wait no more. In the same year that I had begun counseling, I had also begun to get more heavily involved in my church. Several months after I had started counseling, the church started running various classes, one of which was a singles group. It sounded like something I might be interested in, considering my pitiful relationship track record, so I signed up and started attending the Wednesday night sessions. In it, we were collectively reading the book "True Love Dates." The book discusses many aspects of Christian dating and courtship, but one particular chapter really captured my attention; it was a chapter in the middle of the book on celibacy. Up to that point, I had never understood celibacy, as a Christian principle, and didn't really buy into it. I had always said that if I found someone I loved who was celibate, I would be fine with it, because I didn't really care for sex anyway, but I couldn't commit myself to it personally because I just didn't understand the purpose. Then I read this chapter. I was away in Long Island for a work conference and was reading in my hotel room; When I started reading this chapter, I almost dropped the book. I had never read something that made so much sense to me. The author explained the foundations of authentic intimacy, which are based in mental, emotional, and spiritual connection. These connections, and this kind of authentic intimacy, takes time and energy to cultivate and build, and sex is intended to be the culmination, and physical expression, of this authentic intimacy. It is the physical joining of two individuals who have already become otherwise intertwined. However, we live in a society of instant gratification, and many people become quickly disenchanted with the process of developing authentic intimacy and so they substitute physical intimacy for authentic intimacy (mental, emotional, and spiritual). This becomes problematic when issues arise that require authentic intimacy and vulnerability to work through, as those things have not been developed because of the substitution of, and subsequent reliance on, the physical. This, the author purports, is one of the causes for such a high divorce rate today.
In the moment after reading this, I put the book down and had a very serious conversation with myself. Celibacy was something I had always been scared of, I admitted, because from the time I was 16 years old I was afraid that if I did not have sex, no one would ever date me. I was petrified to end up alone, and was certain that saying no to sex was a sure fire way to end up that way. But in that moment, I realized, if a man decided not to be with me because I would not have sex with him, than his desire was never about me, but about the sex. It would mean that to him, the sex alone was more important than me as a whole person; and someone with such intentions was not worthy of ME and what I had to offer. This was also the first time that I was able to fully acknowledge that I had much more to offer than sex. So much more, in fact, that I was worthy and deserving of love, even without it. It was the first time that I realized that my value far exceeded what I was able to offer physically, and that anyone who would sacrifice experiencing authentic intimacy with me because they could not first experience physical intimacy, was not someone who I wanted, or who deserved to be, in my life. After talking to myself, I talked to God. In talking to Him, I was reassured that He would not forsake me, and that He would honor His word. More than anything, I have always wanted a family, and I knew that in my obedience to Him, God would fulfill this promise. At that, I committed myself to celibacy.
...You know when you go on a diet, and all of a sudden you want to eat things you never even liked before? That's kind of what celibacy was like for me. After making my decision, I never wanted sex so badly. And what a strange experience that was. But more than it was strange, it was totally liberating. For once, I could think about sex without this looming sense of obligation, duty, or guilt. I wasn't mired in dread and anxiety at the mere mention of it. Sex was no longer a chore, it was a choice, that I finally had agency over. I was now free to decide for myself that I was, or wasn't, going to have sex with someone, and not feel guilty about it. I was unapologetically celibate, and it allowed me to have a whole new outlook on sex, and what it meant for me. It is no longer something that is given or taken, but something that is shared between two people, mutually. Because of my experience with celibacy, sex is something I now look forward to sharing, with someone who knows me, who loves and appreciates me, and who I have developed authentic intimacy with. It is something I intend to enjoy, and enjoy participating in. It is still a tool, but in a much different sense. It is a tool for me to express to my partner how much I care for them, without shame or fear. It is something I can finally feel safe doing; and that is the most gratifying and freeing thing I have ever known.