Opinion: I’m a 37-year-old man not having sex. That’s my choice, and I’m happy with it

After a breakup I found hooking up with men transactional and depressing. I won’t have sex until I fall in love again

A few days after Christmas 2016, I stopped having sex.

It wasn’t a grand statement or lifestyle choice. Nor was it an attempt to find life’s deeper meaning. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision. It came about through circumstance during a breakup. Weeks became months, which became years. And here I am, six years later, a 37-year-old man not having sex.

And you know what? I’m happy.

That’s not to say the causes of my abstinence were not painful, and my reasons for giving up sex completely are deeply personal and not entirely easy to explain.

I remember the last time I had sex with absolute clarity. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was on the brink of my world falling apart. I had been with my fiance for seven years and was very much in love. We had got engaged a few months previously.
But that last time we had sex – or rather, tried to have sex before he gave up, tired, irritable and with his heart and mind clearly elsewhere – I knew, somehow, that would be the last time.

When we finally broke up, a few months later, sex was naturally the last thing on my mind. I did what most people do after leaving a partner, and threw myself into my career, socialising and family. Anything but men – and certainly anything but sex.
If I’m honest, though, it’s deeper than that. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with sex and intimacy for a variety of reasons, and I think my reasons for giving it up stem from well before that relationship, which was my first.

For one thing, I’ve always suffered to some extent with body image issues. As a teenager I never felt completely comfortable with my physical appearance – certainly not my appearance naked. School changing rooms were a nightmare, and I became acutely self-conscious.

Being a gay man further complicated matters. I lived my teenage years in the closet, and sex with men remained a mystery right up until my early 20s. I lost my virginity late, at 23, and met my only long-term partner a couple of years later. The sex I came to know best was sex with someone I loved.

But somewhere along the line in that relationship, I began to associate sex with stress. Myself and my partner both worked long hours in demanding jobs, so our moments together were often fleeting. The less sex we had, the more focus we put on it, and the more tension it caused when one or both of us felt the other wasn’t enjoying it.

The moment finally came, in late 2016, where we both just stopped trying. I left that relationship and entered the single world with my negative views of sex having been cemented.

Sex as a single man is, of course, entirely different from sex in a relationship, and the way dating had changed during the years I was with a partner came as a shock. Society’s approach to sex seemed to have changed. Many of my friends were in open relationships, more than happy to satisfy their physical needs with a handsome stranger before returning home to the one they say they love.

Tinder, Grindr, Bumble and a vast array of other apps have transformed the dating world. Sex is more accessible than ever before – it’s become almost transactional, without emotion, and I find myself instinctively rebelling against it. Whenever a friend disappears during the evening, returning later to find themselves blocked by the man they had been intimate with only hours before, I find it depressing.

I know how this all sounds. I am routinely and relentlessly mocked by friends for my views on sex – and I understand that completely. To be honest, I am surprised myself. Sex is, after all, the ultimate pleasure. Why deny yourself that? Am I just overthinking it?

Sex may be one of life’s most pleasurable experiences, but it is also one of the most intimate. To waste that intimacy with a stranger seems futile. Sex is best when it is an expression of love. Until I fall in love again, my abstinence will continue. And I’m happy with that.

Article signed Anonymous in The Guardian.


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