I have wanted to write something for some time about my celibacy, but I have been unsure about where to write it (here, on Hevria.com or on Geeks vs. Loneliness – each has advantages and disadvantages) or what to say.  This probably isn’t it, but maybe, depending on the reaction it gets, it will nudge me in the right direction.  I’m very worried about how people will react to it.  I know I have a few religious Jews and Christians reading who will probably ‘get’ it, but I know I also have some less religious people (including a couple who blog about sex and relationships) who might not.  Please be gentle with me.  I don’t want to offend anyone with a different lifestyle, just to be open about my feelings.

First, it might be worth looking at this Hevria post I wrote a while back about being scared of sex and also my comments on this recent Hevria post about being abused for background about my sexuality.

Tehillim/Psalms 56.9 states that “You [God] have put my tears in Your bottle”.  It’s a lovely image and a surprisingly vivid and innovative one.  I wonder if those are just tears from sadness and suffering or also from frustration.  I’m not sure whether I have ever literally cried from being single and celibate, but I would hope that my frustration is stored too.  Not that I want reward, but that I don’t want it to be wasted.  (I don’t want my tears from my depression, OCD and social anxieties to be wasted either, but it seems less likely that they would be somehow.  Like those were deliberate tests and this is just a side-effect of halakhah and my unattractiveness, as if there were something God does not consider.)

We live in a world where sexual satisfaction is seen as essential for psychological functioning and as a basic human right and that is probably correct.  At any rate, Judaism is not hostile to sex.  Sex is a mitzvah (positive commandment) and one of the physical delights that one is supposed to use to celebrate Shabbat (the Sabbath), alongside good clothes, sleep, meat and wine.  On the other hand, it’s only supposed to happen within marriage.  Which in theory I don’t have a problem with, but it’s hard when one is as unmarriable as I am.

I can see the reason for remaining celibate outside marriage.  I do believe that marriage and sex are holy, although it’s hard to describe why to anyone who isn’t religious; not only is sex seen as mundane (which is the opposite of holy), but the whole concept of holiness doesn’t really exist in the vocabulary of the Western world any more.

I also know myself.  I know I tend to fall for women easily and that while I find it hard to open up to people (I’m talking in general, not just romance/sex), when I do, I bond quickly and strongly, so the last thing I want to do is have a fling or a one night stand, hook up with someone, bond with her and then never see her again.  I know I could never have a one night stand, even if it were somehow halakhically permitted.  That would be the most painful thing for me (I’m thinking of the Billy Joel song All for Leyna about this exact topic).  Plus given the uncertainty I have about dating, the last thing I want to do with someone is flood my brain with hormones that alter how I perceive her before I’ve decided that I want to spend my life with her.  Even aside from what Judaism teaches, by this stage I’m definitely dating to find my life partner, not just to have “a good time” and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my main goal for the sake of a night of pleasure.

What doesn’t really get talked about is how difficult this all is, living in perhaps the most sexualized culture the world has ever seen (as someone with a degree in history, I usually avoid such generalizations, but here it’s unavoidable.  Unlike some ancient pagan cultures, we don’t have sacred prostitution, but that’s about it).  It’s hard to walk down the street sometimes without being bombared by sexual images from the media.  I disapprove of Charedi Judaism’s avoidance of Western culture, but sometimes I can see their point.  It seems like sex is used to sell everything and no film or TV programme is complete without eye-candy (I hate that term).  It sometimes feels like society is trying to create a permanent sense of arousal.  But where does all that life-energy go if you don’t have an outlet for it?

It’s hard to talk about this.  In Westen society, being a prude is about the worst insult you can throw at someone.  Orthodox Judaism preaches early marriage and doesn’t really talk about what happens to those who can’t get married in their late teens or early twenties (non-Orthodox Judaism has no problem with non-marital sex so far as I can see and has basically adopted Western sexual mores).  Anyway, as I say, Judaism isn’t anti-sex, it just wants to tame it by keeping it within marriage.  I look forward to the day when I can have a meaningful emotional and physical relationship with the woman I love and to whom I have consecrated my life.  But it seems very far away.

There is, I guess, a fear of sexual inadequacy which I touched on in the Hevria article I linked to above, beyond my general fears of being unattractive physically and in terms of personality.  The fear that just getting married wouldn’t be the end of my troubles.  I worry about being able to satisfy my wife.  It seems difficult.  I’m not good at emotional stuff (borderline Asperger’s again) or, for that matter, physical stuff (I mean physical things in general, like sports), and I worry about not being good enough for her.  About being inadequate, on multiple levels.  I want her to be happy more than I want myself to be happy.   I know that losing my virginity is going to be awkward, but I wonder if it will ever get easier.  As I said, I care less for myself and more for my wife.  I get nervous about the whole thing.  A while back two Orthodox sex therapists produced this book, a sex manual aimed at Orthodox couples who would typically be virgins at their marriage.  I think it looks really good; it deals with the emotional and mundane sides of sex as well as the sexy stuff.  My therapist advised me to buy the book and read it to put to rest some of my anxieties.  I actually bought it, but Amazon didn’t despatch it and I got nervous that I was being told not to buy it before I get married so I didn’t try to buy it again.  I would like to read it with my wife, though.

There is probably more to say, but I think I’ve said enough for now, both in terms of this post being quite long and also because (a) it’s possible someone I’m dating might see this one day and (b) I’ve been writing this piecemeal since waking up to try to deal with feeling lonely and frustrated today, but I think it’s making things worse.  I’m conscious that I overslept (I woke up about 12.30, having slept for over eleven hours, but being too tired and down to get going, which was all very bad of me) and I am wary of losing the whole day to this post, so I’m hitting the publish button now.  Like I said, please be gentle with me and just as I don’t judge people with different lifestyles, please don’t judge me.  I’m just trying to do the right thing by myself, by God and especially by my future wife (if she exists),  however difficult it seems.

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