“No man is worth losing yourself over. Ever.” – Chidera Eggerue, How to Get Over a Boy.
I last had sex 364 days ago. I know this because the last time I had sex was on my 31st birthday and I turn 32 tomorrow. And when you haven’t had sex for a year you are all too aware of it. The last time I even kissed a man was at Christmas. I haven’t had sex or kissed someone since the last decade. I’m basically a nun. A horny nun.
It initially started after my breakup with B, as I didn’t want to have sex with anybody else; I didn’t want to have to ‘move on.’ And so, six months passed celibate. The country then went into lockdown due to the pandemic and I couldn’t meet anyone to have sex with, even if I wanted to. So, nine months passed. I suppose once lockdown lifted, I could have had sex, but meeting someone seemed like effort. I had become accustomed to not speaking to men; I liked not having the drama. 10 months passed. My competitive side sparked; It was now a personal challenge. I didn’t want sex because I was so close to hitting the year mark. I was on the home straight! And I’d be damned if was going to let a lousy shag with a lousy man stop me from winning, and so I consciously abstained.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is she really winning, if she’s the one not getting any for a whole year?! But it wasn’t really about the sex (or lack of), not really. Despite what a lot of men think, you don’t need them for your own self-pleasure. There are toys for that. The real nature of my personal challenge was to test for the first time in my adult life if I could be truly content without a man. Since I was 16, with the exception of a couple months scattered here and there, I’d always had some form of romantic involvement with a man. That is 16 years of longing, loving, cheating, fighting, crying, hurting, and losing. I was exhausted. For half my lifetime I had spent days, weeks even, of my precious energy on men (mostly with no equal reciprocation) and I couldn’t help but think what else in my life would have benefitted and flourished more if I had just invested that energy elsewhere. It was finally time to see, and what better time to test it than whilst lockdown in the countryside for six months. So, it was decided. No sex, no kissing, no dating, no texting, no flirting, no contact of any romantic nature. Nothing. Nada. For the first time in my adult life I had the emotional capacity to contemplate other things outside my romantic status. Here’s some of what I’ve learnt over the last 12 months.
What I’ve learnt about society (in relation to women)
Since the day we are born women are conditioned by society to believe that we need to be married and have children by a certain age, and if we don’t then we’re classed as a ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid,’ whereas men are the eternal bachelor. For my whole life, whenever I’m asked the question: do you want to get married and have children? I’ve always automatically responded ‘yes’, as that was the answer I was meant to give, right? Only, when I really think about it, I’m never quite sure. I love the idea of marriage. I love the idea of the ring, the wedding, the honeymoon and growing old with the love of my life. But in reality, it often doesn’t work out like that. There are annoying habits, mundane domestic chores, late nights feeds, family fallouts, financial worries, diminishing libido, job losses etc. Life gets in the way.
Children are a whole different ball game. That is one thing that completely alters your life, for the rest of your life. Sometimes I see a mother holding her baby and rocking it in her arms whilst maintaining eye contact, a blissful bubble of the purest love. And I feel an overwhelming sense that yes, I do want to have my own children, eventually. But at what cost? Some women claim that they were born to be mothers and would want a child no matter the circumstance. And I appreciate that, I do. I’m just not one of them. As a race, humans are living longer with more opportunities open to us than ever before. I know that if I were to ever have a baby, I would love it more than anything in this world, but there is still so much I want to do before having the responsibility of a child. And what about the women who don’t want to get married, or have children, who are perfectly fulfilled in living life on their own terms and to their own timeline; let’s normalise that! Let’s normalise women doing whatever the hell they want, whether that’s husband, or no husband, babies or no babies, without facing judgement.
So, do I want children? Yes, I think I do. But do I want children no matter what? No. There are certain conditions personal to me in which I would want to have children. I understand that not everyone is given the luxury of choice, that some circumstances are taken out of a person’s control and they have to deal with the responsibility regardless, and for those people I have the upmost respect. My desire for marriage and babies is constantly in a state of flux, because if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that no one really ever knows what’s going to happen in five years or even a year! I think I’ll only truly know how I feel about marriage and children when/if I meet someone who makes me believe in it, but the one thing I won’t do is settle.
Over the last few months, I have learnt and continue to learn a lot regarding the society we live in. Mostly around the systemic and institutionalised racism that still exists and the damaging patriarchal systems we live in. Some may argue that these are urgent but separate issues. In many ways they are not. Racism and sexism intersect for a huge number of people. Black women and women of colour, who face discrimination daily for being both that, a person of colour and a woman. So much so that the term misogynoir, was coined by black feminist, Moya Bailey, to describe the prevalent hatred that black women face in pop culture today. I admit that I did not know until recently, some of the different levels of discrimination black women face daily. Whether that’s being told to style their hair differently as it’s deemed ‘unprofessional’ for work. Or being labelled as ‘aggressive’ when raising a point assertively. Or often being fetishized and dehumanised by men on dating apps, in addition to all the other atrocities that women are subjected to.
Women are consistently sexualised by men and the media, often against our own will and resulting in damaging and dangerous repercussions. But when we attempt to own our sexuality, we are reprimanded. We are labelled as a ‘slut’ ‘slag’ ‘whore’ and ‘too easy’, for merely admitting that women enjoy sex too (shock horror). This is why I love Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s latest song, WAP. An acronym for ‘Wet Ass Pussy’, or how I also like to refer to it, ‘Women Against Patriarchy.’ One of the first mainstream songs that consists of two women Hip Hop artists singing about and owning female sexuality. I applaud them. Not only for the memorable lyrics and addictive Tik Tok dance sequences, but for sticking two fingers up to all the misogynists who will happily sing along to a man rapping about fucking a load of women but are outraged when a woman sings about receiving oral sex.
Women do not exist as an accessory to a man’s pleasure, we have our own wants and needs. Recently I was on holiday and overheard a conversation by the pool between two men roughly my age. They were boasting about how many fingers their girlfriends like inside of them and saying, and I quote, “all women basically just love a whole fist up there.” I shook my head but refrained from interrupting their conversation and instead smirked from behind my book. They had no idea. And this has become so apparent over the years that so many men have no clue on how to really pleasure a woman. In an open question on Instagram stories an artist and influencer asked men how do you make a woman cum? ALL of the answers involved how many fingers they would fit in her vagina and how hard they would penetrate her. Not one of them even mentioned the clitoris. Seriously. The only human body part designed solely for female pleasure! And since 75% of women cannot orgasm from penetration alone, a pretty crucial body part to forget. So really boys, you probably want to spend a little less time watching Fruity Female likes Fisting on Pornhub and dust up on your clitoral stimulation skills. And whilst I’m on the topic, cut and clean your fingernails.
What I’ve learnt about men (in relation to women)
Do I miss the company of a man, physical touch, and the excitement of new beginnings? Whether that’s the flutter in my stomach when receiving a text or the contented smile when being spooned on a Sunday morning. Absolutely. But I know over the last six months I’ve also slept better at night knowing that my mood couldn’t be altered by something a man did or didn’t do. Despite the uncertainty of living through a pandemic, for the first time in years I became the master of my own emotions, with zero interference from a man determining my mood, and for that, I slept like a baby.
Never doubt the power of female intuition. If that’s one thing I’ve learnt is that my gut feeling on something is almost always right. Even when my ex-boyfriend, Seb, cheated on me whilst on holiday (amongst the others), he consistently denied it, but I knew he had. He finally admitted to it a couple years later, a few weeks before we broke up. These type of men are very good at gaslighting you and making you feel like you’re the ‘crazy’ one or ‘overreacting’ for even bringing it up. Rather than admit they were wrong they’d rather project the blame on to you instead. But that’s a blog post for another time.
I like to think that I’ve gotten better at picking up on any ‘red flags.’ In the past I would either be naive to any red flags or otherwise clock them and choose to ignore them anyway. But really this is just a form of self-sabotage. By ignoring any issues in the beginning, you are only in denial and setting yourself up for upset later down the line. Examples of red flags I’ve ignored in the past include (but are not limited to): a man being rude to waiting staff on a date, a man not texting to see if I got home OK after leaving his house in the dark, a man’s reluctance to call me his girlfriend despite us dating for 10 months. I could go on.
I don’t claim to know the inner workings of a man, God knows some things they do and say quite honestly baffle me, but I do know this. If a man wants to be with you, he will be with you. It really is as simple of that. If a man ghosts you or only responds (begrudgingly) days later after you’ve doubled texted and claims he has ‘been busy with work’, then it speaks for itself. Everyone is busy, but people will make the time for those they genuinely care about. He is just not interested. Move on. The time I have spent over the years overthinking, analysing text messages to try and decipher hidden meanings and attempting to double guess a man’s actions, is beyond ridiculous. When really, I could have used that same energy on someone who was actually interested or better yet, on myself!
So yeah, if a man wants to date you, he will ask you, if he wants to see you, he will make plans (and stick to them), and if he wants you in his life then he will make the effort to do just that. I honestly think most men unapologetically go for what they want, whether that’s romantically, professionally, or otherwise. If he’s acting shady or distant than that’s a huge red flag. Run. Do not waste your breath or tears on this man, because he certainly isn’t with you. And if I’d have known this simple fact years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of anguish and heartache.
What I’ve learnt about myself (as a woman)
Over the past 12 months I’ve learnt more about myself than in the last 12 years. This personal challenge was more than just about sex; I wanted to find contentment in other things outside of my ‘love life’. Because despite what society tells us, women are so much more than our romantic status. I wanted to push myself and see what new things I could learn and do and question my own thinking. I’ve tried to diversify my reading, whether books or online articles, listen to various podcasts and begin to challenge my own unconscious biases and toxic behaviours. All whilst acknowledging that this is a constant evolving process.
I decided to research Attachment Styles to begin to understand my relationships with others. There are four identified Attachment Styles: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant/Dismissive and Fearful. If you don’t know yours yet, I recommend Googling, it’s an eye opener! I could quite clearly see myself in the Anxious category, where I’m hyper-aware of the other person and overly focused on small details. Interesting. Well they say the first step to solving something is the acknowledgement of the issue, so I’m working on and aiming for the somewhat healthier category of Secure attachment. That’s not to say that my attachment style is alone fully responsible for the breakdown of all my past relationships; although I acknowledge that it may have played a part. The men did a pretty good job of fucking it up at their end too. No, as humans we are complex creatures with a multitude of intricacies. We adapt, change, and grow all the time and sometimes people grow apart. And sometimes it’s just about the timing.
I also looked into Love languages to gain a better understanding of my personal needs and who I might be most compatible with. The five Love Languages are identified as: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. These categories describe how an individual expresses their love to others and/or responds well to. Despite liking elements of all the languages, I knew instantly what my top two Love Languages were. Physical Touch is a high priority, as I’ve always shown affection physically. I love kissing, cuddling, holding hands, having my hair stroked, and I like to have an active sex life (usually!). It would also explain why my previous relationships with men who’s love language wasn’t Physical Touch have always been strained.
I also put great emphasis on Words of Affirmation. No real surprise there considering I enjoy blogging, writing poetry and keep birthday cards that hold sentimental value. I’m known for my transparency and wearing my heart on my sleeve. I tell people how I feel about them, and I like to know how they feel about me in return. Obviously, all things in moderation, I don’t particularly like the idea of a man draped over me 24/7, hanging on to my every word! And as I’ve gotten older and more cautious, I will probably hold my cards a little closer, to avoid getting hurt as much.
I’m still continuing to learn and like every human I will inevitably make mistakes along the way, but it is the willingness to learn and take accountability where warranted which is important. The other day I did an exercise where I sat down and wrote lists of all the people in my 32 years who have impacted my life in one way or another. Nowadays it’s so easy to get caught up in life that you may take family and friends for granted, and I wanted to remind myself of the people I’m most grateful for. Afterwards I looked back at my list and interestingly there were 30 women who I consider as actively having a positive influence in my life, compared to just 10 men. I then consulted my list of people who have impacted my life at some point (but not necessarily for the best) and there were four women compared to eight men. That isn’t to take away from the men who have brought so much to my life (and I can count them on two hands!) because those are the men who give me hope and remind me that amongst the fuckboys and egotistical maniacs, good men do exist.
It’s been almost a year since I packed up my belongings and moved out of my South London flat, to escape to Mexico for a few weeks after my breakup with B. After a couple months commuting in from Kent at the beginning of the year and then spending lockdown in the countryside, I am finally moving back to London next week. Despite the still uncertain times ahead, I am ready for this fresh new start. I’m also ready to start dating again, albeit with a new, and hopefully healthier perspective. I can’t say downloading the dating apps again fills me with overwhelming joy, but I am looking forward to meeting new people again (if Boris so allows it!). And if not, Rihanna is 32 and reportedly single, and if its good enough for Rhi Rhi, then it’s good enough for me.