Hester: Abstinence-Sometimes Education

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Although I am the very same columnist who wants to reclaim the word “slut” and is completely willing to discuss her forays into the wild world of group sex, I am writing about not having sex this time around.

There are many reasons why simply not fucking is a good idea sometimes, whether you’re in a committed relationship, completely single, or somewhere in between. When the time comes (inevitably) that you don’t want to have sex, not even a little tiny bit, embrace it! This may be a long period of time, brought on by any number of factors, or it might be just one night. There are times when lack of desire might be a red flag, for you or your partner, but this article is going to focus on the good times, the nights spent cuddling, the nights spent alone in bed wearing your retainer.

Most of my experience around this phenomenon is relationship-based. The best case scenario is thus: you, your partner, in bed. You glance at each other. You half-heartedly make out, maybe. Finally, it is admitted: neither of you feels particularly sexy, and it’s totally bedtime. It’s important that sex is never an obligation. If you’re starting to feel that it’s a chore, or a necessity, it’s time to reevaluate. And so, when it can be acknowledged that going without partnered sex for a day or a couple of days or even a week is a perfectly fine thing, you’ve probably got a good relationship on your hands. This can come in a couple of forms — it can be a spur of the moment decision that sex is not the best thing that night, or it can be a conscious decision between you and your partner.

This voluntary eschewal of sex is especially valuable (and probably more necessary) in relationships that have been chugging along for a while. The standard advice is usually to, like, test out a brand new toy, or try a new role playing scenario… but I would venture that the exact opposite is just what the doctor ordered a lot of the time. If both partners are into the idea, taking some time away from partnered sex gives both people the opportunity to reset. The keyword there is “partnered.” This isn’t about denying yourself any sexual release at all (although that can actually be a lot of fun, maybe give it a try) — definitely masturbate! A lot of times masturbation is thrown out the window once a boyfriend or girlfriend is successfully secured simply because it’s “no longer necessary.” But it still is! Remind yourself what you really like. Seize some alone time and use it to pleasure yourself. Take your time, be as selfish as you please. Plus, once your vacation from sex is over, it is far more likely that you’ll be excited about jumping the bones of your partner. This freshness is what keeps sex good.

Going without sex for a bit is important for the single people, too. There is a certain joy to singleness that I’ll sometimes miss. You are in control of when you’ll be having sex next. You don’t answer to anyone. You can pull out your vibrator or you cannot, you can go out on the town searching for a one night stand, or you can stay home. Without a partner’s feelings and needs to concern you, there is a huge amount of freedom that is inherently different from the kinds of freedoms enjoyed within relationships.

These things are not always a bed of roses, though. There is always the potential for hurt feelings, especially in the context of relationships. The dream scenario I laid out a few paragraphs back isn’t always going to happen. Personal statement: when I get drunk, I get horny. My SO is decidedly not at all turned on by drunkenness (I guess I’m not shocked by this). This has led to my feeling rejected, my SO feeling guilty, and the next morning being full of apologies. Rejection and guilt are key players. The horny partner’s internal monologue is like, “I wish you wanted to fuck me! Oh man, this is such a let down, ugh, blegh,” and the non-horny partner’s internal monologue is all, “I really don’t feel like having sex at all but maybe I can find in me somewhere because now I feel bad…” And everyone loses. In these situations, you just have to be honest. Say that you feel rejected, or guilty, or whatever it is that you’re feeling. While this won’t instantly fix everything, at least all the cards are on the table and you can work out ways within your relationship to deal with these not especially harmonious moments.

So there you have it! The importance of not screwing. Maybe you’re too stressed out to be having sex right now. Maybe you’re feeling like your relationship is getting a tiny bit dull. Maybe you want to read a book on Saturday instead of finding a make out partner. By all means: own it, and let your not-sex-having lead to better-sex-having in the end.


  1. Finally! Swat needed a column like this. People seem to forget that having sex is a POSITIVE thing, not an obligation

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