The Art of Mirriam Neal

Confessions of a Sexual Celibate

SPOILER ALERT-SLASH-WARNING: This blog post discusses sexual topics. If you’re a kiddo, you can skip it – you don’t need it yet anyway, trust me.

I figured out what sex was before anybody had to tell me. (And I’ll be honest, The Talk kind of made my eyes glaze over because words like ‘ovary’ and ‘uterus’ didn’t mean much to me. But I saw an over-zealous rooster getting it on with half a dozen flustered chickens once and that was the real eye-opener.) I was six.

Unlike most six-year-olds, however, the idea never grossed me out. I was intrigued and curious, and whenever something piques my curiosity,  I do my best to discover everything I can about it. (In my case, that involved reading through my aunt’s dime-a-dozen romance novels even though I was told not to. Which was…probably a little too much knowledge for a kid, but you know, I’m still here and didn’t die. But if you’re an aunt and have an entirely too-curious niece, keep your romance novels on higher shelves.)

I remained curious, of course, although it was never exactly my first and foremost focus. I knew it wouldn’t have anything to do with me for a while (besides putting me on the planet in the first place) so I moved on with life, only to discover the fact I was a flirt. I didn’t realize it, of course, but I remember very clearly flirting coyly with the male species, whether they were thirteen or thirty. I didn’t know I was flirting, necessarily – let’s just say that, whether I had the word for it or not, I have always been heavily attracted to the opposite sex and I’ve never been terribly shy about showing it.

That said, it’s rarely a conscious thought. As I got older, I flirted with everyone by virtue of being friendly. I have two settings – either I’m flirtatious and friendly with you, or I’m stiff and awkward. As someone determined not to go through life stiff and awkward, you get the picture. ‘Even your SMILE to other people is flirtatious, you just can’t help it.’ ‘You are, in fact, a bawdy wench,’ are things I’ve been told in good humor, and they make me laugh because I’ve never minded being this way. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed it.

Once I entered youth group, I was met with two opposing dynamics. On one hand, you have what’s virtually a breeding ground for teenage hormones to manifest themselves in awkward ways. On the other hand, you have lessons telling you how you should be saving yourself for your future spouse and remaining pure – although without giving you any good examples.

As a teenager, I was able to mostly shrug and say well, whatever. I’m a virgin because I’m a Christian. In the real world, though, that doesn’t really fly, and you quickly discover that Single Christian and virgin are not, in fact, synonyms. You find out that, whether you have excellent intentions or not, you don’t stop being a sexual person because you’re determined not to have sex with anyone. Sexual energy doesn’t simply ‘go away’ because you want it to.

I wasn’t fond of telling people I was ‘saving myself’ for a future spouse, so I tended to say ‘I’m single.’ Neither response really did the actual answer justice, but I didn’t know how to approach the subject when people would ask or bring up the topic. Even as a teenager, I was 99.9% sure nobody there was a virgin, technically or otherwise. Mentally, I felt experienced. Physically, I felt left out and like I was lacking something.

At twenty-three, I’ve never been in a romantic relationship. Either I’m not romantically interested in the guy, or he doesn’t have my spiritual beliefs (which is basically the same thing). It’s not something I mind, or something that makes me unhappy (aside from a few days every month or so. Come on, gals, we all have them) – and when people ask how many relationships I’ve been in, I never particularly mind saying ‘None.’ It’s not for lack of offers.

Yesterday, a guy shot me a text about how he’d dated women with beliefs similar to mine, but they’d been very sexually active in their relationships with him. It hit me, in that moment, how badly the purity movement has messed up the Christian ideas of sex. Mentally I listed the issues that came immediately to mind –

• Your purity is tied to another flawed human being you may or may not ever meet

• If you mess up, your purity is damaged forever

• Everything sexual should be avoided straight up until your honeymoon, where suddenly you’re supposed to know everything and have a great time, even though

• Sex is bad*

*If you feel this way, I urge you to read Song of Solomon. Seriously. It’s in the Bible. It’s pretty great.

Let me tell you something: My ‘purity’ is not, and has never been, tied to a potential future spouse. That human being I may one day fall in love with and marry is just as messed up as I am, has made as many mistakes as I have, and probably isn’t a paragon of Virtue. My purity is between myself and God. I don’t refuse sex with guys for some shadowy future husband who may or may not exist, I refuse it because my purity is a commitment to God. Not to another man.

I feel this is where the purity movement misses the mark so badly, because if your purity is tied to another human, you remove God from the equation. Once you remove God from the equation, then it’s easy to think well, that person won’t be perfect, either, so I don’t have to be or well, I’ve made a mistake. I experimented with porn, I went to second base with this guy, I’m ruined and no matter how much I wish I could take it back, I’m already damaged so I might as well give up.

It’s why guys like this one – we’ll call him Fred – assume women like myself are going to be incredibly ‘technical.’ Why, for some reason ‘abstinence’ means ‘everything except vaginal penetration.’ That’s not what it’s about. That’s never what it’s been about. You can’t make something spiritual something technical, because that tends to remove the entire point.

I’m going to show you part of the exchange between myself and Fred.

Me (in response to his past relationships with women who supposedly held ‘similar beliefs’ to mine): I get that, but I don’t do those either. I’m open with touch (hugging, leaning, affectionate gestures, all that mild stuff) but not sexual activity. It’s not that I don’t find you super attractive.

Fred: That makes you a non sexual person dear haha

This is about where I paused to laugh my head off, because anyone who really knows me – my family and my closest ladies – is aware of how sexual I am. I’ve always been that way, see the earlier half of the blog post. Some days I feel like 60% water, 40% sexual energy. When I relayed what he said to aforementioned people, the general response was hysterical laughter.

I regained control of myself.

Me: My beliefs keep me from behaving how I’d prefer sometimes. Non-sexually active as opposed to non-sexual.

Predictably, he asked how many relationships I’d been in, and I told him none. He then asked how old I was, and I told him twenty-three.

Fred: Better hope you meet someone at church I guess.

Me: I’m not in a rush.

Fred: Clearly

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this relationship was over, but I was curious.

Me: Are you unused to being in platonic relationships?

Fred: I don’t really have time for them. I don’t really bother with things that don’t proactively have a use in my life. Relationships are a distraction, I don’t really need those.

Well, clearly I don’t have a need for you in my life, was my thought; but I replied amiably and that was that. I wasn’t angry – I thought I might be, but I wasn’t. (I thank God for that one.) It got me thinking – I had described myself to Fred as celibate before, and the more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with the word. The word ‘celibate’ has always evoked the image of a monk or a nun in my head, of a secluded monastery, a tonsured pate, a brown robe, and peace. For me, the word ‘celibate’ put God back into the equation of physical purity.

And suddenly, it was like the knowledge I was celibate empowered me. It wasn’t between me and anyone else, it was between myself and God. I wasn’t ‘saving myself for a future spouse,’ I wasn’t even just ‘waiting’ – I was sexual, I always had been and I always will be, and I was celibate until marriage, a choice between myself and God.

So this is me — a twenty-three-year-old, never-been-in-a-relationship, God-loving, completely content sexual celibate. And you know what? I’m great with that.

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