Advice

Sex Advice From Abstinence Pledgers

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Anna, 31

Author of Sexless in the City

How can abstinence add to your sexuality?
"Abstinence" is kind of a tricky term, so I prefer to talk about sexual self-control — because that’s what it really is. And one thing a healthy sexual self-control gives you is a fuller sense of what sexuality is. It’s so easy to think of it as just being about intercourse, but there’s so much more to being a man or a woman than that! Sexual self-control can really open your eyes to all that sexuality entails.

What are the main pitfalls of abstinence?
To talk about abstinence having "pitfalls" implies a somewhat negative view of it, as if it mostly has downsides. But if we talk in terms of sexual self-control, that changes. Certainly we can all think of examples of self-control exercised in an unhealthy way, but also many positive ways, such as the discipline of great musicians or athletes. Is there what economics would call an "opportunity cost" of their excellence? Sure. But no choice, sexual or otherwise, is free of a sacrifice of something else, even if you don’t learn until later on what you gave up for it.

Sometimes the idea of getting a break from my boyfriend’s libido sounds like Heaven. What is the best reason to date someone who has sworn off sex?
Taking sex out of the picture, at least temporarily, can bring a lot of clarity to things. If the person isn’t trying to get sex out of you, it will probably give you a clearer picture of each other’s character. And you can more easily evaluate things like: Is this someone I enjoy being around? Would I want to be with him or her when we’ve gotten lost in the middle of the desert?

My boyfriend caught me looking at girl-on-girl porn and freaked. I’m not a lesbian, I was just curious. How do I talk to him about it?
To talk about it in any kind of productive, meaningful way for the relationship, you’re both going to have to dig beneath the surface a bit. What were your motives for looking? And what’s behind his freak-out? Probably, what’s behind his reaction will be a bigger factor than your motives, in fact, because the real issue is how he interpreted it, and the specters that raised for him.

What’s the best way to introduce my ultra-conservative family to my tattooed, vegan girlfriend? I think they’d get along great, but I’m worried about these first impressions getting in the way.
She may have very different values from your family in a way, but there may be aspects of her character or sense of morality that are actually similar to theirs. Veganism is a pretty ascetic lifestyle and takes some serious discipline and commitment. Is that similar to things your relatives give up or are really committed to? Also, as staid as your family might seem, there are probably things they did in their youth, or people they dated, whom their families found very shocking. If you can get them to acknowledge and think back on that, you’ve laid decent groundwork for shrinking the gap between them and her. 

I lied to a girl I’ve been seeing about my job; I was embarrassed to say I just worked a register. We’ve been seeing each other for over a month now — how should I come clean?
Try to avoid bringing this up in a tense moment, first of all, but I would certainly tell her sooner than later. As long as you take the initiative to bring things up and can own up to your embarrassment, that ultimately reflects well on you. Hopefully she’ll be big enough to recognize that, but be prepared for her to be somewhat taken aback by the deception and take it somewhat badly at first.

Brian, 23

www.youtube.com/BrianDFreedman

How has abstinence added to your sexuality?
Withholding my urge to boink has increased my sexuality dramatically. Anytime you have to say "no thanks" because you have a higher goal in mind, it builds internal fortitude. So, constantly denying sex has made me extremely confident in my sexuality. I own it now.  

What is the greatest myth about people who choose abstinence?
That they are religious and only doing it for God. I don’t attend church, though I am spiritual. Why am I abstaining? I’m doing it for me and for her (my future girlfriend). I only want to be with that one woman who’s worth it. Aside from that, I’m restraining myself in order to grow stronger as a person.

Sometimes the idea of getting a break from my boyfriend’s libido sounds like Heaven. What is the best reason to date someone who has sworn off sex?
They like you for you. It can be hard for women to know if a man wants them for them or what they can give them, but when you know he doesn’t want what is between your legs, he has no hidden agenda — he genuinely likes you! And after a couple years, all the emotional connection and built-up sexual energy makes the first time the best sex you’ve ever had.

My roommate and my good friend were dating, and they recently broke up. As the man in the middle, how do I handle the situation delicately?
Just be there for both of your friends. If either one asks you to side with them and ignore the other, that’s messed up. Just because they don’t like each other any more, doesn’t mean you have to stop liking one or the other. Honestly, now that I think about it, staying out of it might be the best decision you make. Still be friends with both of them and respect each of their feelings, but make it clear to both parties you are not a messenger to convey hate mail between the two.

What’s the best way to introduce my ultra-conservative family to my tattooed, vegan girlfriend? I think they’d get along great, but I’m worried about these first impressions getting in the way.
Invite her over for a dinner that has plenty for her to eat. Go through most of the night before mentioning she’s a vegan. It’s easy to see vegans as people who eat basically nothing, so if she looks normal eating food with the rest of the family when they don’t know she’s vegan, she will be perceived as normal. As for the tats, have her dress in something long sleeved to cover up as many as possible. The important thing is to let your family actually get to know her before they have a chance to judge.

I lied to a girl I’ve been seeing about my job; I was embarrassed to say I just worked a register. We’ve been seeing each other for over a month now how should I come clean?
Just do it. Yes, you lied. Tell her the truth, and why you lied. You were afraid she wouldn’t want to be with a man who worked at a register, which shows just how much you devalued yourself to nothing more than the work you do. She’s dating the man behind the register.

Heather Bell, 26

How has abstinence added to your sexuality?
Delaying sex meant that I was more ready to relax and enjoy it than I would have been because I was better educated and more comfortable with myself. But I think no matter how late you start there’s a bit of a trial-and-error process until things really get rockin’.

What are the main pitfalls of abstinence?
Often people who plan for abstinence don’t take any precautions against what might happen if/when they give in to temptation. So when they do eventually decide to have sex, they’re less likely to have safer sex. Also, I think the idea of abstinence and its importance are often unfairly emphasized for women, leading to the idea that a woman’s value is tied to her sexual purity, which I think is fundamentally harmful to women.

What is the greatest myth about people who choose abstinence?
I don’t know about the greatest, but the myth I’d most like to see dispersed is that people only pledge their abstinence because they’re saving themselves for marriage for religious reasons. I think there are lots of good emotional and physical reasons to delay sex that have nothing to do with religion or waiting for "the one."

My roommate and my good friend were dating, and they recently broke up. As the man in the middle, how do I handle the situation delicately?
This depends on what kind of breakup it was. A mutual, amicable, but sad parting? No big deal, you’ll all be fine. She boiled his cat/he groped her friend/one vandalized the other’s car? You’re going to have to take a side. Decide now, make your position clear, and accept the fallout.

I recently noticed that my girlfriend always keeps her eyes closed when we’re hooking up. Is this something I should worry about? If so, how do I bring it up?
It’s not a problem. There are lots of reasons girls keep their eyes closed during sex/making out — here are some from my personal experience:

1. Guys make weird faces during sex; if I look at him I might laugh.

2. Maybe I’m making weird faces, and he’s silently laughing at me.

3. You’re not supposed to kiss with your eyes open so maybe not for this either? I’m not sure so I’ll just keep them closed to be safe.

4. Ohmygod this feels so awesome I’m completely focused on my body, I don’t want to be distracted by looking at my hot boyfriend.

That said, if it really bothers you, just ask for some eye contact. If there is a specific reason she’s avoiding it, hopefully she won’t mind just telling you.

I lied to a girl I’ve been seeing about my job; I was embarrassed to say I just worked a register. We’ve been seeing each other for over a month now — how should I come clean?
If you were just vague or said you had a similar but not-quite-so embarrassing job, like shift manager, you can probably get through this with minimal humiliation. If you told her you were a CEO/lead guitarist/government spy, you might as well prepare for things to end. As for how to break the news: do it soon, face-to-face, and start with, "When we met I really wanted to impress you because you’re so awesome…"