For the first time in my adult life, I am sexually barren – and, for the most part, without desire. My libido seems to have died – or at least to have slipped into a coma from which it may or may not recover.
I am torn between mourning and an odd kind of relief.
Let me explain.
Convinced, by my mid-twenties, that I was fundamentally unlovable, I sought – with a desperation I can now see – to be desirable, sexually available, open to anything which would turn a man on.
As a result, my relationships, until fairly recently, have been predominantly about sex, about giving satisfaction, about being inventive (and desperate to please, to be loved) and agreeing to acts which would keep the man on my side.
I didn’t think I deserved to be loved, to have companionship and warmth and shared interests and mutual respect.
On the one hand, I genuinely took to sex during my first partnership – and so I miss that element terribly. I miss the joyousness, the spontaneity, the laughter and freedom and strange combination of innocence and lust which so characterised that first delicious bite of the sensual cherry.
On the other, I came to dread – and do not miss at all – the cynical, jaded, to me painful, sex-ships which so dominated my life, and I feel grief for the Alienora I was who was unable to see that these men did not want anything other than the thrill of the chase and ‘…another young woman willing to drop her knickers for me…’ I feel deeply saddened that I could not see what married men sleeping with single girls actually said about both sides of that particular sexual coin.
I allowed it, and worse, because I saw myself as a being without value. I believed, at some level, that all I had to give men was buried between my legs.
Somehow, between my first boyfriend and the age of twenty-five, all sense of myself as being worth more than a quick fuck had disappeared.
Not having sex has clarified things for me. It has opened my eyes to a few harsh home truths. And, ironically, it has opened the door to a small handful of truly lovely Platonic relationships with men.
Initially, I was jittery and anxious around these guys, habits so hard to break that I felt I ought to be at least trying to be seductive, trying to make myself sexually available. But, in truth, I did not want to. I did not want my worth as a woman, as a human being, to be measured solely in terms of my willingness to remove my underwear and open my legs.
I wanted to be liked, and loved, because I am me, Ali, and not just because of what I could be persuaded to do in the bedroom.
Not having sex with men has opened up the range of communication hugely. It has deepened relationships in a way I would never have expected. Because sex is off the agenda, in my mind, other things have blossomed. Because I am now relating to men just as friends, there is an ease, an equality, a relaxation about the whole thing which I relish.
The twenty-nine months without sex have been an eye-opener, and a healing experience. It has helped me to see that my male friends respond to, and want to see, me because they value who I am, because they enjoy my company and have a fondness for me – and, perhaps most crucially, that there are warm, loving ways of giving which have nothing to do with the meeting between genitals: That giving of myself goes far deeper than the one expression of it which has dominated my life for so many years.
Platonic Love is a love which does not include sexual involvement. I do not think this necessarily means the absence of sexual desire. More a choice not to take that chemical reaction into the physical realm.
Sex is a vital component of the male/female bond – and I would not deny that. But, sex by itself does not a relationship make. I hope that, eventually, I will have another relationship which includes sex, but at the moment this is not my main pre-occupation in life. I suspect my libido is taking time out to repair the damage, to reassess its priorities, to reconfigure the system. I suspect it is protecting me from making the same mistakes I have made in the past.
I love my male friends (and my female ones – but this post is about the former) – and take great pleasure in their company. Three of them are especially dear to my heart. Not one of them is an ex-lover in that narrow, sexual sense. The bond goes beyond that in some odd way. The lack of physical joining together has allowed a joining of mind and spirit. By transcending sex, the communication has climbed to the next level.
Some of the more cynical comments upon Platonic Love see it as, in some way, a cop-out, a cowardly response to the whole tangled weave that is human love. I do not agree. Nor do I see it as love from the neck upwards. I think that the heart-love and the loin-sparkle operate just as strongly. The difference lies in the path one chooses to travel down – and it is a choice. No one has to have sex.
‘I love you!’ means exactly that. The emphasis is on the second pronoun – and is not qualified by conditions. The longer version would, in an ideal world, be, ‘I love you because you are you!’
And not, as we so often translate it, ‘I love you because you will swing from the chandelier dressed as a French Maid for me!’ or, ‘I love you because you are wealthy and will buy me whatever I want!’ or, ‘I love you because you are pretty/handsome and make me feel good when we are seen together!’
A man’s bank balance does not interest me. Never has. Looks? Sure, it is great to feel sexual desire for (and to be desired by) a good-looking guy – but that alone does not make a real relationship, and, if there is nothing behind the generous handout of genetic handsomeness, I am not interested anyway.
I love my Platonic male friends because of WHO they are; because they have wonderful, life-affirming qualities; because we relate at all sorts of levels; because they can see who I really am; because we are kindred spirits; because having them in my life makes the world a better place.