Over the summer, I underwent a slew of procedures after abnormal cells were found during my yearly pap smear. I had two biopsies. High grade squamous cells (due to HPV) were found. So, I had a LEEP procedure to prevent cancerous cells from forming on my cervix.
In short, it was a painful summer, both physically and emotionally. Oh, and I also wasn't allowed to have sex.
When the procedure was initially performed, the doctor told me that I couldn't have sex for six weeks. At the time, I burst into tears. Of course, I knew that there were more important concerns on the table - and in my cervix - but that still didn't make abstinence easy.
I tried to play with toys to alleviate my horny blues, but the pain that ensued terrified me enough to keep me away from any attempt at an orgasm. I needed to nurture my body, to take care of it, and that meant no getting off, at least not in the penetrative way I tend to prefer.
I Focused on My Health Instead of Orgasms
As it turned out, I learned a few things while not having sex, including how to take better care of my body. While refraining from sex, I went to bed early. I didn't focus my energy on when I was going to see my partner again. Instead, I wrote more and worked more to distract myself.
According to Dr. Fran Walfish, a couple and family psychotherapist, your libido goes somewhere else when you aren't having sex. "Your libido can increase your career and manifest in more successful ambitions," she told me. Since I am a naturally manic and energized person, living without sex left me with more energy to pursue other things.
I Learned How Much I Really Love Sex
Despite my increased productivity, I also discovered that I really care about sex. For me, intimacy is held to extreme standards. I'm a bit of a freak, after all. And I don't mean "freak" in terms of my kinks and fetishes. My libido is abnormally high. Imagine nymphomania, but without the ability to act out on it. Now that's a Halloween horror film.
Sex boosts my mood. On a more scientific level, sex boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure. I blamed every slight upset in my life on the fact that I was horny with no relief. I needed my dose of oxytocin.
I Learned What Was Happening Inside My Vagina
Moreover, as a sex writer, I couldn't help but wonder what, exactly, was happening to vagina during my involuntary sex-fast. I knew, clearly, what was happening to my mind but how was my vagina taking the news?
Well, for one, your vagina doesn't get tighter when you don't have sex. That's a myth. I did learn that premenstrual cramping becomes more noticeable, though. Regular sex and masturbation relieves pain and tension. Also, the vagina is a muscle. It needs to be worked a little bit; not using it, means losing it. Loss of lubrication and desire are among the two heavy losses that can result from abstaining. Bummer.
My First-Hand Lesson in Developing Greater Intimacy
In a TED Talk, biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher said that there are "three basically different brain systems that evolved from mating and reproduction. One is the sex drive: the craving for sexual gratification. The second of these three brain systems is romantic love: that elation, obsession of early love. And the third brain system is attachment: that sense of calm and security you can feel for a long-term partner." Even though I didn't want to be intimately separated from my partner, it allowed me to increase my desire for them. Sex was a side-note. I realized our relationship was so much more than an act. That said, I also realized how dependent I was on this person's penis for my happiness. Plus, we did other things to stay close. While I healed, cuddling and keeping our distance made kissing better, softer and warmer.
According to a study in the Journal of Communication, absence does, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. Couples who were in long-distance relationships had a greater intimacy level because they developed a "psychologic closeness - it doesn't include physical or sexual intimacy." While I wasn't physically absent from my chosen partner, I still lusted after the moment when our bodies could reunite in a flurry of sheets, sweat and spit. And, once my cervix was healed, the sex was tearfully perfect.
What Abstinence Taught Me
My two wimpy months without a good romp pale in comparison to other people and their sex-fasting experiences. But hey, sex pays my rent. It's my livelihood. I would like to think that if I had a job writing about anything other than orgasms and BDSM, this would have been an easier experience. I won't sugar-coat it: Going without sex was hard.
My sex-fast was a medical decision - something imposed on me. I still haven't decided if this made it more difficult or not, but it did provide a chastity belt that I couldn't simply take off once I felt a flicker of desire. I was chained to the idea that I couldn't have a penis, vibrator, finger, or even a tampon inside of me for the sake of my health. What did I do to overcompensate this? I did what a writer does, I wrote.
Moreover, I depended on other methods to enjoy my body. Putting a penis in a vagina isn't the only way to get to orgasm. While I abstained from sex, my partner and I played with nipplegasms, clitoral stimulation and even tried anal play.
What I Learned Myself
At the end of the day, I'm still a kinky queer slut. My work as a sex journalist means that my mind is always floating around intercourse, my next conquest, and my drawer full of toys. I'm always horny, but I've gotten better at going without. Normally, if my partner falls asleep before I do, I will lie there, awake with my rapid libido. My two months of abstinence taught me how to calm down, at least a little bit. While sex may rule my career, it doesn't have to rule my entire world.
Last night, I tucked myself under my partner's arm, chilly from the Chicago cold. We cuddled and fell asleep early, waking up to the sun. I still crave an orgasm in the morning, mid afternoon, and night. But I'm learning to work around it. And now, at least, I know that I can go without.