Friday, November 13, 2009

Celibacy (by Suzie)

I’ve been flirting with the idea of celibacy. A year ago, I retired from sex for medical reasons and found other benefits as well. I haven’t taken a vow of celibacy; I’m free to change my mind. But my experience has opened my eyes to attitudes about abstention.

Many religious people oppose premarital sex, especially among women, although most don’t go as far as Purity Balls or killing rebellious daughters. Marriage is expected, with men wanting sex and women complying.

In the dominant culture, celibacy is suspect. A man cannot be a 40-year-old virgin. He needs to hire a prostitute or be taught how to get laid. Sex is used to prove his masculinity.

To prove her femininity, a woman needs to try to be attractive to men. If she isn’t overtly sexual, people may think of her as repressed or too damaged to snag a man or a closeted lesbian. (Many men will be A-OK if she’s a lesbian with a sexy partner, however.) An older woman may be called a dried-up hag or prude. We have swung from the idea that women don’t enjoy sex to the idea that women should enjoy sex. (But not with a lot of different men, or else they’ll be sluts.)

At times, sex – not just heterosexuality – can feel compulsory.

Because of moralizing conservatives, many liberals equate abstention with conservative politics. Some are so opposed to teaching only abstinence in sex education that they can’t say a good word about it at all.

Apparently, you can’t be hip and celibate, unless you’re the Dalai Lama.

I realize this post reinforces stereotypes of feminists, who have been characterized as sexless. To make up for me, perhaps you readers can have extra sex this weekend.