Dear Weary Unmarried Woman,
Let’s talk about sex.
In most rooms, especially those filled with Christians, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to do this. I’m not supposed to know enough to contribute to the conversation, and if I do, it’s not something that is held in the same regard as the words spoken by those safely ensconced in marriages.
Whatever you have to say on the subject, you can sit with me. Maybe you’re sexually experienced and you regret it (or you don’t). Maybe you’ve never been kissed, never held hands with someone you thought was pretty cool. Maybe the entire question of choice was taken from you by force and the thought of sex fills you with dread. Whatever story your body and mind tell about sex, this is a safe place.
Whatever way you’ve settled your sexual ethic (or the ways that it’s still in flux), it’s a challenge to be single in the world. Once, a married friend shared with me that for her sex wasn’t as exciting as she’d expected. “It’s an appetite like any other,” she said. “It’s like when I’m hungry or thirsty and I eat and drink.” I wanted to tell her that I get hungry and thirsty (and horny), too. I can go to the grocery store or pour myself a glass of water (or wine), but the rest of the equation isn’t as straightforward.
I don’t know about you, but the churches of my youth didn’t talk much about desire (certainly not female desire). It’s amazing how much shame about sexuality I’ve internalized over the years. That shame has seeped into my body and mind and I’ve had to learn to fight it. Sometimes that means that I go to dance class or really let loose at the funky casino club my roommate likes to frequent. Sometimes that means that I put on the the high heels, or the dress that makes me feel curvy and beautiful. Sometimes that means that I buy myself the lingerie I really want even though it’s “just for me.”
Maybe you’re a single woman who would love someone to spoon with, who longs for human touch. I still remember an experience from several years ago when I brushed past a waiter at a restaurant and it stirred up a deep haunting ache in me. Maybe you relish your physical independence or wonder if you would even enjoy sex. Just like it’s incorrect to say that men only want one thing, it’s also incorrect to say that all women do (or do not) want something. When I do enter into conversations about this topic, I’m always amazed at the wide variety of thoughts and feelings about sex. There is nothing one-size-fits-all about this topic.
In Christian culture, it’s easy to feel like sex is always up for discussion. You’ve probably seen two or three articles about it today. Maybe you scroll to the bottom and see that it’s written by yet another married person, even though it’s directed at single you. Here is what I want you to know: whether or not you are having sex says nothing about your worth, your chosenness, your adorableness, or your successfulness. I’m sure you know that, but it’s easy to say and harder to believe sometimes (at least for me).
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we took just half of the energy that we spend talking about sex and used it to create art, set up single friends, or simply make them meals.
Remember this: you don’t have to engage in conversations that you don’t want to. You don’t have to nod and smile when people complain about being touched all the time. You don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to have sex, or for not wanting to have sex.
Let’s level the playing field a little bit, shall we? Your sexuality is an important part of who you are, but it doesn’t come close to fully describing you. You and I are made up of all of the experiences, conversations, hopes, talents and desires that we have and have ever had. You can’t be reduced to the sum of your physical parts (and neither can your married friends).
I don’t know about you, but I thought that by this time I would be married. I thought that my sex life would no longer be up for discussion, scrutiny, or concern. I thought that sex would be a team sport by now. For me, some days, that’s really hard, and I’m guessing that if you’ve made it this far, it is for you, too. I hope you can find someone close and supportive to talk about this with, someone who won’t tell you what to feel. I hope that you’re creative with the ways you express yourself in public and private. I hope that you always remember that sex is about you, not the other way around.
I welcome your comments, emails and following along by subscribing (you’ll get my free book on telling your story, too!). Posts in the “Letters to Weary Women” series are linked to the first post in the Write 31 Days Challenge.