Sexual without sex?
October 4, 2008 6:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I healthily express and engage my sexuality without dating or casual encounters? (nsfw)

[28 straight male, if it matters]

After taking careful stock of my relationships (and the time between relationships) over the past nine years, I've concluded that I am significantly and consistently happier, emotionally healthier, and more engaged in my life... when I'm single.

So, temporarily, no more dating, relationship seeking, or casually hooking up while I take some extended time off to figure this out.

Here's the problem, though: If I go too long without being in a relationship, I get... weird.

At its most innocuous, I start to mindlessly surf porn, facebook, okcupid, etc., way too much. At worst, my behavior, my goals, my thoughts, how I spend my time all gets subtly subverted in service of subliminal drives. I get sort of grid-locked because bodymind says one thing and ostensibly conscious mind is going in another direction. In any case, when I catch myself in this pattern, I take conscious control, I stop the facebook surfing, go out and meet a nice person fairly quickly, and it's all good...

But now I can't, or I won't, go out and meet someone, for now.

So, how can I healthily express, engage, and fulfill my sexuality without dating or casual hookups? Whether voluntarily or involuntarily not dating, what the heck do people do?

Obviously, masterbation (and porn). Of course. That's a part of my sexuality, even in a relationship, but it's only a part.

I've been doing a bit of personal erotic writing. (Exactly what I needed to read? Just for me? Why thank you.) I may do a bit more of that. It's been great, but it's also been exhausting. I already have to write a lot for school and other things, and I can only write so much. Just like mental fantasies, it's good, but it doesn't quite scratch the itch and completely fulfill all the time.

A "platonic" relationship seemed like a possibility, at first, because I think it would remove some of the emotional drain, but I think it would become hypocritical, repressed, and denial-based pretty quick, not to mention a likely huge letdown in the end (i.e., incompatible chemistry when you finally get close enough to feel it).

The first thing that came to mind was signing up for a decent porn pay site, say, abbywinters.com, which I've done before, instead of poking around aimlessly on the internet or settling for youporn or something. All things being equal, that was nice for awhile (though it didn't come close to turning all the knobs and dials of kink, fetish, meh, whatever you want to call it). But, I've generally had the grounding, reality-based influence of another real-live human being around, who sometimes even shared in the internet fun. Or, if single at the time, it was very consciously temporary, because I didn't want to get stuck in weird, antisocial-land. Anyway, does anything of have thoughts about this, specifically? (This was the initial impetus of my Ask MeFi question, actually: Healthy or not healthy to sign up for a less-exploitative-and-creepy-than-the-norm paysite?)

If the advice is, just ignore sex and it'll calm down, I think that would be a really bad idea. In my experience, after months, it never calms down. It's healthy. It's a part of me. It demands to be expressed (hopefully constructively).

If the advice is, deal with this inside a relationship, yeah, I've tried for years. Time for a break.

So, in summary, for a variety of reasons, intimate-romantic-sexual-relationships are a huge drain on me, and I need to take a huge step back, and a long break to sort that out, and I need to take care of myself in the meantime. It's such a relief to have figured this out and to be able to put my foot down and take a break and bask in my life and chill for a while. But, this is emphatically a temporary situation. I adore being sexual *with other people,* obviously, holy crap, like, to die for, and I'm a soppy, hopeless romantic under my cynicism.

How can I approach this without getting all weird (it's already happening, hence this question), and undermining myself, and giving up too soon, even though it'll make me unhappy? (I'm very content right now, minus this issue.)
posted by zeek321 to Human Relations (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, how can I healthily express, engage, and fulfill my sexuality without dating or casual hookups?

What do you have against those things? If you want to have sex at all, one of the few other options you have left is hiring a prostitute.
posted by sixcolors at 6:19 PM on October 4, 2008


*masturbation, dammit.
posted by zeek321 at 6:22 PM on October 4, 2008


Ok, I somehow missed your title. So, you want to be sexual, but don't want to have sex? If you want to have no string attached sex, casual hook-ups is the way to go. Why are you avoiding sex all together?

There seems to be a lot of missing parts to your story.
posted by sixcolors at 6:23 PM on October 4, 2008


@sixcolors

re dating or casual hookups

>> What do you have against those things?

Because of the massive personal emotional/energy drain... I'm working on that aspect... taking a break in the meantime... don't know for how long... did you read the (admittedly long) question? :)
posted by zeek321 at 6:25 PM on October 4, 2008


So, in summary, for a variety of reasons, intimate-romantic-sexual-relationships are a huge drain on me

Yes, I read all of your post. But, I am somewhat confused. Intimate/romantic sexual relationships and casual hook-ups are completely different things. The very nature of the latter type of sex, usually isn't emotionally draining. Maybe we are going by different definitions.
posted by sixcolors at 6:35 PM on October 4, 2008


We get why you don't want to engage in dating or casual hookups, but it looks like you're also ruling out porn, and you called reading porn "weird." Why do you think THAT'S weird? Because -- you asked what people who aren't dating do? ....That's what a lot of them do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 PM on October 4, 2008


The concept of the "friend with benefits" was invented for people who feel as you do. Maybe you could find one.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:35 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If looking at porn seems "weird" to you, and you like erotic writing, have you checked out Literotica? Technically, it's still pornography, but it's all user-submitted writing. There is a very wide range of topics and fetishes covered, and if you like, you could even participate; submit some of your writing, participate in the forums, and so forth.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:57 PM on October 4, 2008


So, how can I healthily express, engage, and fulfill my sexuality without dating or casual hookups?

Masturbate, a lot.

Whether voluntarily or involuntarily not dating, what the heck do people do?

Masturbate, a lot.

Seriously, you seem to be saying you don't want have sex, but your body needs sex. If so, the healthy thing to do would be to have sex, be it masturbation, casual hookups or professionals. If you don't want to deal with another person, there are devices that supposedly help with this. I Googled "sex toys men" and came across this: Top Five Men's Sex Toys, among other things. Explore.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:12 PM on October 4, 2008


Please continue to read erotica. Those of us who write it don't think you're weird, and we appreciate it! ; )

What you want is quality smut, and the kind of porn that doesn't leave you feeling cheap and used. Check out those adult films that are marketed "for couples"--yes, I know it is just you, but those movies have more of a story line and are intended to be more, for lack of a better word, "romantic."

Literotica, as louche mustachio suggests, is a good place to look online.

Speaking of online answers, you might also look into "virtual" hook-ups; for instance, adult chat rooms that allow you to have a quick, sexually-gratifying encounter with no strings attached. Check out bondage.com or similar sites.

Hope this helps--some of the answers seem to want to debate your reasons rather than offer advice, IMO.
posted by misha at 7:18 PM on October 4, 2008


One of the ways I express my sexuality is by practicing sensuality. And by that I mean going out of my way to experience beauty, of the subjective philosophical kind, that makes me feel harmonious and part of something bigger than myself. Whether it’s a book of lush prose, or a painting that resonates with my soul, I indulge my five senses in ways that reflect a positive experience about my existence.

I also make sure that I touch myself a lot -- as well as masturbating to orgasm daily, I smooth my body with a luxurious soap, loofah my skin, and moisturise my body from top to toe. Skin hunger is the hardest part of being single for me, and while self-touch obviously doesn’t resonate as much as the touch of a lover, it aids in my wellbeing and ritualises caring for myself.

Also, I find exercise is essential in maintaining my emotional clarity and warding off cravings for sex. Every day I ride my bicycle for an hour, as fast as I can, until I’m in an almost meditative state. My worries stream behind me, and my body shifts its focus from propelling me into the arms of another to regulating my heartbeat. The added bonus of intensive exercise is that I look good.

While it’s unpopular to admit to, everyone needs other people to co-validate our self-worth. Being single, especially if you live by yourself as I do, it can be hard to get, especially if your friends are busy making babies and lives of their own. So, to validate my sexual attractiveness, I like to look my best daily, and enjoy the resultant admiring glances my efforts receive from men. I also seek validation for my artistic passions through friends and online communities -- encouragement for the essence of who I am. Of course it’s not as nurturing as intimacy with a lover, but it mirrors back to me that I have characteristics that attract love or affection -- something I can all too easily forget when I’m overtired, ill, or upset.

Granted, when I’m ovulating it’s very, very difficult to subvert my cravings for sex. But I also know that this lasts three days or so, and I’ve found that the longer I go without sex, the easier it becomes. For me personally, three months is the threshold. Like a starving woman, this is the time when I am most liable to leap into the arms of a lover, no matter how “nutritious” he is -- or not. But if I can get through the pain barrier, it does become easier. Especially if I channel my frustrations into art, and remind myself that I personally find one night stands only as satisfying as fast food, and I’m holding out for the full meal. For me, the full meal comes with children -- because at 32, I find the overwhelming urge to become pregnant even more insistent than the biological urge for sex.

Further, I find it very important to have an outlet to love unconditionally. For me, this is my family and my nephew -- he keeps my heart open and allows me to be myself unselfconsciously and unapologetically, something that couples take for granted but singles can have a hard time finding in our society that too often labels being single and emotionally uninhibited as “desperate.”

Last but not least, living outside of societal norms is what being single and sexless entails -- so I remind myself of this regularly, and read sociology and philosophy books to better understand the world we live in. I also work on my self-awareness -- one of the reasons I’m “waiting it out” is that I have a tendency to engage in relationships with controlling men, so I’m taking this time to better understand why, and how I can avoid doing so in the future.

It's not easy being single and sexless, but with self-love, it can be done. Good luck!
posted by elke at 7:55 PM on October 4, 2008 [25 favorites]


How do I healthily express and engage my sexuality without dating or casual encounters?

I think many, if not most, people have had to grapple with some variation of this question. Personally, there was a time when I recognized that casual sex was not for me, and it can take a while to find the right person. So it's a pretty normal sort of thing to try and come to terms with.

A really large part of the answer comes from being able to say what it is that you actually want and need. Do you need an extended period of strict celibacy? Or do you need to avoid casual sex while remaining open to a monogamous relationship with the right person? Or something else?

I say that because it sort of sounds like you are lumping baby in with bathwater here:

I've concluded that I am significantly and consistently happier, emotionally healthier, and more engaged in my life... when I'm single.

Do you really need to be single? Or do you need to find the (rare, special, amazing) person who, when you are with them, makes you happier, healthier and more engaged... while being great in the sack every night?

I'm pounding away at this point so much because I think it's something really important to clarify for yourself. If you need to explore celibacy, then I think that the pseudo-intimacy of a pay-for-porn website goes against the grain of what you are needing, and more so if you have shown signs before of getting kind of obsessed or addicted.

But if you are just wanting a relief valve for self-sex while you avoid one-night stands, in the months or years it will take to find a real partner, then that pay-site might be exactly what you need.

Back to myself, I dealt with avoiding casual sex (but also wanting to be in a really good relationship) by being out there as much as I could, and getting that intense social contact seemed to really scratch that intimacy itch I had. Masturbation was the least important part of it all — without being out there and engaged in the social world around me, masturbation was a pretty dull and uninspiring process. For me, at least, my sexuality really feeds off of human contact, and being around other people. A website isn't what I need — smut is, for me, just a tool that helps solve a short-term problem.

But how relevant my experience is to your situation, I don't know. I do think it's vitally important to not deny who you are at an essential level. If you are a sexual being, and that sexuality is outwardly focused, then restricting yourself to porn and your hand is not true to who you are in the long run. So make sure you are really sure of yourself and where you are going, before diverting yourself in this way.
posted by Forktine at 8:55 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am not able to understand how if you are happier single, "Here's the problem, though: If I go too long without being in a relationship, I get... weird."

Maybe you are doing relationships wrong. Maybe you should do a little writing about what relationships are and where they go south and what's good and see if you can figure out what the real-life ideal might be for you.

Unless by "weird" you mean you friend say "we never see you out!" and act like there's something wrong with you even though you feel fine. In which case, you're fine.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:40 PM on October 4, 2008


Seconding the possibility of finding a friend with benefits, also known as a fuck buddy. You feel better when you're having sex pretty regularly? Fine. There's a person of the opposite gender who feels the same way, and if you two are compatible, you could get together and fill both your needs. You just get together to have sex, without all the dinners, dates, romance, falling in love, expectations, jealousies, etc. Just be up front about it all, and of course take precautions about pregnancy and STDs.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:43 PM on October 4, 2008


Still watching this thread!
posted by zeek321 at 2:53 AM on October 5, 2008


Other people have mentioned how many single people find it unbearable to go so long without having someone else touch them. One sensual and yet non-sexual non-relationship way you could try to alleviate this is by learning social dancing. Swing dancing and other types of couple dancing can be really fun and social, and they provide an outlet for this type of touch without any romantic confusion or expectations.

You may also look into massage therapy as a way to receive care through touch, and as a way of relaxing and treating your body well instead of ignoring it.

Healthy or not healthy to sign up for a less-exploitative-and-creepy-than-the-norm paysite?

Relax, you're a mammal. It is perfectly healthy to have a sex drive. By subscribing to a porn site, you're dealing with your sex drive without running the risk of messy relationships, STIs, or pregnancy. Or, say, writer's block. ;) It's a much healthier solution than ignoring your sex drive and hoping it will go away. It's not unhealthy to recognise your own needs and fulfill them in a way that harms no one.

Now, if your porn habits get obsessive and disrupt your life, that's probably a sign that it's not scratching the itch for you. It's not necessarily a sign that porn is defacto "unhealthy", but that it doesn't solve the problem you're trying to solve.
posted by heatherann at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2008


I'm seconding the above!

There are a lot of needs that are met in a healthy, and even in a slightly dysfunctional relationship.

When trying to meet them as a single person, often the mistake is not realising you don't have to have them as a 'combo-deal'.

You'll have a need for touch. Get cheap neck & shoulder rubs once a week or so. I didn't even realise how much better that made me feel.

Find friends you can hug.

Really enjoy masturbation. If you're somewhere where it's legal, sometimes just a *teeny* bit of pot goes a long way.

Emotional connection - see the above friends you can hug. Even better, is having friends you can open up too, hang out with, and be social with.

You may think of a few more of your own. If you're getting all those, it might well work well!

I'd say FWB would work, except, usually, within a few months, one person or the other will have 'feelings' which will have to be addressed.

Such is life *sigh*
It can be fun in the meantime though - and very sometimes, it will work just as a FWB. But that also means short term. If that tides you over for a bit longer, so that you can figure out your own wants and needs, that may work.


The other thing is - if there's something you feel you need to work out before you can be in a relationship-that-is-more-satisfying-than-being-newly-single (because it's sounding like being single isn't ideal either), then - you actually need to WORK on it!
Many people think if you just give something time, it'll get better.
Actually, with things like this, you usually need to give it attention over time for it to get better. Figure out some 'plan' of getting your shit sorted, look into different methods, and then... try it. It's better than sitting back and waiting for it to all get better on it's own. (Speaking as someone in the same boat, but for different issues!)

Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 8:35 PM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Still watching this thread! :)
posted by zeek321 at 3:55 AM on October 6, 2008


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