A reader commented to me recently that for all the blog posts I have written - for all the topics I have covered - I was yet to talk about self service.
There's a reason for that. And it was not an oversight, but in fact a deliberate avoidance of the topic. This blog is more about my thoughts on life as seen through the lens of singledom, looking into coupledom, rather than specific bodily functions. However on reflection I have decided that there are some things that I can add to the discussion. (as always I reserve the right to poetic licence, and to using broad generalisations for the sake of a good story...).
I grew up in an era with ''those things'' were not talked about. I now do my best to be an enlightened parent, using words like ''if you want to do that go to your room''. Its a whole new world. And it has only been since becoming uncoupled after 20 years of relationship that I have even had the opportunity to discuss this with an adult perspective.
But there is one particular aspect that troubles me deeply. And that is the conservative Christian view of sex (in general) and how it is screwing up singles, particularly those who are struggling with what is probably a completely normal libido.
Unfortunately the populist view in most churches is that sex is something that should be neither seen, heard or talked about. And if it is to be talked about it is almost always in the context of ''the privilege and sanctity of marriage''. Anyone daring to suggest that this area of their life is an unresolved struggle is largely told to be patient, get busy and distracted, and simply ignore their latent feelings - IE deny their libido. Now I am happy to endorse the idea of monogamous committed relationships, and I think most of them work best if they involved a man and a woman. I DO NOT condone the concept of casual sex - mainly because I think that screws peoples (especially women's) heads up even more than trying to pretend it doesn't exist. But to expect a normal man or woman to withhold any form of sexual activity simply because they are ''unlucky'' enough to not be married - or have not yet been ''blessed with a partner'' strikes me as patently...ridiculous.
And so these poor people - mainly men that I know of, but that's probably because women tend not to share the details of their sex drives with other women - end up struggling with the guilt and frustrations of not having an outlet (figuratively speaking:)) for this. Then, piled on top of this rule that tells them sex is to be confined to a marriage, is the extra expectation that not only are they not to be having sex, but they actually need to ignore, deny or distract their sex drive as it is not appropriate until the ring is on. Suddenly the libido is a shameful thing. Which means there's NO WAY they are going to feel OK about a little self service - and yeah I get it's not ideal but better than nothing...Which means if that happens - and accordingly to my informal research it does (which surprised the heck out of me having not had that discussion before singlehood) they are then wracked with guilt about that too.
And then, by the time they are married, sex has become either
- something not to be discussed unless absolutely necessary
- something that still has some shame and secrecy attached to it
- something they are scared of (more common for women) or so...desperate for...it can end up a huge disappointment
- something that is supposed to cure all this pent up frustration - and that opens a whole other can of worms
So what is the solution? I'm not sure that there is one - as it is certainly a slippery slope if we are to start condone freer sexual expression amongst people who hold chastity as a core value (or at least think they should be...), and are not yet equipped to deal with the consequences of that.
But for me, there in lies the key. Encouraging a real, sustainable solution - which is NOT repression or denial. I have heard this story of (particularly) Christian men way to often: my wife was buttoned up about sex. I'm single and I know I should be ''staying pure''. I feel guilty about what I do, how I feel, what I'm thinking.
Getting men and women talking frankly about this stuff - to each other - is a start. Allowing them to feel OK about wanting and needing sex (and not just in the context of the spiritual ''this is an expression of my love for you'' element although obviously that is great too). Moving away from the shame that is attached to self love and accepting that people are going to do it regardless of whether it's considered ''suitable'' or ''moral'', thus normalising natural human thought and desires.