Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sexual anorexia

When researching Sensual Celibacy, I came across the term 'sexual anorexia'. What a loaded term! I'm still trying to unpack this idea. Although there are tremendous benefits to be had from celibacy, I have to admit there can be some swamps, too.

Anorexia is most commonly understood as an eating disorder characterized by the refusal to eat to the point of starvation. Could this term apply to celibacy as well? Could depriving yourself of sex for too long create a famine-like condition in your body, your soul, your sexual being?

This may be mixing apples and oranges. You can die without food, but you won't die if you don't have sex (contrary to popular belief). Still, we can understand ourselves a little more by exploring this idea.

This is such a complicated issue that I can only try to do it some justice in this post. Admittedly, I've got a long way to grow here.

I believe you can experience a famine in your soul, a starvation-like condition during celibacy. That's why I so strongly advocate a sensual approach. The focus is not sex starvation but filling ourselves up with sensual pleasure (especially touch), love, and womanliness.

Paradoxically, the easiest way to know if you're suffering from sexual anorexia is if you're eating too much. You're using food as a substitute for sex. I gained a lot of weight because of it.

Because I, like so many, have been hurt in the past by a failed marriage, abandonment, etc., I first used my celibacy to become a hermit. I went to work and cared for my children, but my mind and heart were lightyears away. This form of sexual anorexia created a tightness, a dryness within me. All my sassiness just disappeared. I became a serious mother and provider of my household. I tried to be a virtuous role model for my children. My hemlines dropped below my knees.

But I wasn't happy, and I definitely felt starved. My womanliness was skeletal. Over time, however, sensual celibacy, my music and writing passions, and especially my Christian walk have filled me up so much that I don't feel like I'm dying inside anymore.

A lack of trust for the opposite sex and my own ability to choose wisely may have created some anorexia in my celibacy practice. A male friend and I talked about this at length, and I had to admit that because I haven't trusted myself to be a good judge of character when it comes to men, I have used celibacy to make my decisions for me. This has been subtle and largely unconscious. My friend suggested that I learn how to "discern the spirit of the man," meaning my spirituality, not celibacy, should be used to judge character.

He also suggested doing due diligence: check out the man's past, his family, his friends, etc. Don't just rely on his sweet words and winning ways.

He's right, but let me tell you: telling a man that you want to be celibate for now, for awhile, until marriage, whatever, will quickly reveal his true heart and intentions.

Obviously, I'm still working through this one. As I get more insights, I'll post. Would love to hear your thoughts as well.


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