Getting people to have sex with you is like exercise: when you're doing it all the time it feels super easy and fills you with endorphins, but if you stop for a couple of months it's basically impossible to start again.
We've all had dry spells, but what does it feel like when you find yourself in a period of involuntary celibacy for months or even years? Does it help you achieve a monk-like state of zen, forcing you to focus your finite energies on more wholesome activities? Or does it just turn you into a serial cry-wanker spending consecutive days on your sofa swiping right on everything with a pulse?
I spoke to some people who experienced long-term dry spells about what it was like and how they eventually broke the seal.
VICE: Pablo, talk to me. How long did your dry spell last?
Pablo: About two-and-a-half years. I'd just come out of a serious long-term relationship and felt the need to be a hermit.
How did you deal with the sexual frustration?
It was pretty intense, but I had a few hobbies I could let my rage out on. Skating was my main channel, but I was also smoking a ton of weed, cycling and was re-united with my right hand, which I was pretty content with at that point, to be honest.
Were you trying to hit on girls or did you just not care?
After being in a long-term relationship I really did not give a shit about girls and was content just hanging with my boys.
Having sex after so long felt euphoric, like losing my virginity again.
How did you eventually break the spell?
At the time I was living somewhere that was really close to a skate spot by the river. I had noticed this girl – she'd been hanging out there for a few days – and when she approached me for a lighter I thought, 'Fuck it,' and just told her I lived 15 minutes up the road and had weed and asked if she wanted to come kick it and smoke. We went back to mine and it went down pretty much as soon as we got in.
What was it like having sex again after so long?
It all happened really fast, but it was pretty good. The next day I felt euphoric, like I'd lost my virginity all over again.
VICE: Okay, how long are we talking?
Beth: Well, I'd just moved away from London and had slept with someone quite quickly in my new city, but had decided I was disinterested. When I realised that I actually really liked them – their nose, their music taste and teeth – they'd completely changed their mind and gone off me. What then followed was seven months of absolutely nothing.
Were you heartbroken and hiding, or just having no luck?
The city I moved to was populated by really contented couples in walking shoes who make tabbouleh together. I didn't know anyone single, and was finding that maybe because it's smaller there wasn't such a breezy culture of meeting someone while out and going home with them. Either that, or no one fancied me and I was just trying to make excuses. I fancied a few people but it was all unreciprocated. Also, Tinder in that city was just full of boys riding ostriches, which I don't find attractive.
How did you deal with the sexual frustration?
Not so well, because my best friend and flatmate really enjoyed mocking me about it. It also makes you such a melancholy drunk. I think one of the weirdest side effects of it was that you don't necessarily realise how much of female small talk is based around people asking about your love life, so when you have nothing to offer in a club toilet conversation it makes you feel super dull, like you're not any longer privy to that level of female bonding.
Did you not throw yourself into any exciting new hobbies or activities to take your mind off it?
Looking at boys on ostriches on Tinder.
After seven months you lose all your inner thigh sinew so being on top feels like acroyoga
Can it be a self-perpetuating cycle? Like the longer it went on the harder it got to break ?
I think I was having the problem that a lot of people our age have. In your twenties, the rate at which you meet people stagnates.
How did you eventually break the curse?
I came back to London and went to a house party where a really unattractive man who looked like a butterbean was flattering me with a lot of coke, and despite being really repulsed by him, I went back to his and ended up having sex with him, drunk as a lord. Incidentally, I ended up having sex with two different people the week after, and then someone else the week after that.
What was it like having sex again? Did you regain your confidence afterwards?
The first time with the butterbean was more for the sake of self-esteem, which obviously backfires when you are repulsed by the person. In a way, it felt like losing your virginity, in that you are just doing it for the sake of sakes. Also, in seven months you lose all inner thigh sinew, so being on top feels like acroyoga.
VICE: Tell me about your dry spell.
Robbie: I'd been sleeping with my friend's sister. I'm generally quite shy when it comes to girls and it had taken me months of encouragement to make a move, but I eventually did it and we started sleeping together every time we saw each other, but she lived down south and I was at university up north. She put a stop to it when we started acting like a couple and getting closer. It was the right thing to do, but I took it badly and my dry spell started soon after that. In the next two-and-a-half years I slept with one person, once.
Why was it so hard to break?
I spent most of university mainly sitting in my room getting stoned and listening to music. I didn't go out much, and if I did, I would go to a club and get fucked up, so I wasn't really looking to pull, or in a suitable state to be taken home by anybody. Also, I showered once a week. I was pretty gross, to be honest.
How did you deal with the sexual frustration?
A lot of wanking. I also started going to the gym, but I would go after getting high and would spend most of the time in the gym being prang as fuck and concentrating on what other people were doing instead of actually working out.
It sounds like the celibacy was related to other stuff going on in your life…
Yeah, in the long run it really fucked with my head and partially led to a mental breakdown in the summer after I graduated. One of the things that was on my mind a lot was my sexuality; I was starting to doubt it and think that maybe the reason I wasn't getting with any girls was because I wasn't attracted to them, and that they in turn weren't attracted to me because they somehow knew my real sexual preference which I had not realised yet. My head was fucked.
How did you finally break the dry spell?
I moved back home and hit up this girl who I'd dated before I left.
What did the sex feel like?
I was really unconfident and worried. I remember asking her if she wanted to and my voice cracking from the fear of rejection, but also the fear of actually going through with it. I was worried I wasn't going to enjoy it, which in turn would mean my sexuality had changed or something. Physically it felt OK, but it was pretty soulless. She came over, we watched a film, we had sex, then she left to go on a date.
How do you feel about your sexuality now?
The doubts over my sexuality came back even stronger after that. It took me a while to accept that I just don't know what my "true" sexuality is, and I don't need to be concerned about it.
VICE: What led to your dry spell?
Kiera: After being rejected by an older guy following a short fling, my confidence was crippled. The rejection put me in a really unhealthy headspace, and coupled with the pressures of my final year of university, it meant that I ended up not hooking up with anyone for well over a year.
Did you withdraw from wanting to have sex or did you try but get turned down?
Well, I moved back into my family home after university, which wasn't exactly the most conducive space for casual sex. I'm fine with one night stands, but I just never found myself in a situation where the opportunity presented itself, probably because of how closed off I was both consciously and subconsciously. I definitely craved intimacy, but the longer it went on, the tougher it was.
Did you feel sexually frustrated?
Obviously, who wouldn't be? But the worst part was feeling pissed off about the fact that I was young, free, hot and not getting laid. That just made me more closed off and bitter.
Is it harder to break a dry spell when you're a woman?
I went out a lot in the hope that I would meet new people, but in my experience, a lot of guys aren't used to a girl hitting on them and typically don't like it and have no idea how to deal with it when it happens. Rather than just taking it at face value I would come off as desperate or like I was super into them when really I just wanted to fuck someone.
How did you eventually break the cycle?
I was on holiday and being in a situation where I didn't have to be concerned with any "who knows who" stuff or the consequences of my actions, I had fewer inhibitions. I went to a bar on my own and ended up hooking up with the first cute French guy I saw. We started flirting, but neither of us spoke much of the other's language, which actually ended up being a plus – you don't end up learning anything about them which might be off-putting, and it meant there wasn't much else to do but have sex, which suited me fine.
How was it?
The sex was great – he was great and super into it, which made me feel amazing both during and after.
Did you feel like your confidence was restored after?
I felt so much better about myself – it was validation that it wasn't just me being totally inept and that people do actually want me. I was relieved that I wasn't going to be celibate for the rest of my life, which I genuinely thought might happen at one point.
VICE: What was the longest you ever went without having sex?
William: I'd been living in Leeds and had a thing with this girl I was living with who I was super into, but these were the mephedrone years and I was doing drugs basically every day. She was really special, but I had to get away, so I moved to Norwich to get clean. I don't know if you've ever been to Norwich, but it ain't saying shit. I also got super into boxing, to the point I was training twice a day five times a week, and before I knew it I just went 18 months without fucking anyone.
Did you care or were you just engrossed in boxing?
I was so focused on training that it just kind of passed me by. But on a deeper level I was a bit sad about life, which is why I think I decided to put it all into boxing. It was a good way of dealing with the sexual frustration as well.
Did you ever unsuccessfully try to hit on people?
All the time, but I guess I was just such a boring dude at that time – honestly, I just thought about boxing 24/7. I had a banging body from all the exercise, but my personality was so lacking that chicks just weren't on it. I think they could smell the desperation. I don't think I really cared, though; Norwich chicks are dead-out – they didn't have the magic.
How did you finally get lucky?
It was actually the best friend of the girl that I loved in Leeds. It was her birthday and I went into her room to see if she was cool, and she just jumped me. She was super hot and had a massive back-off, so I wasn't complaining. It was pretty quick, I think – we were both smashed.
Was it a boost in confidence?
Massively. It made me feel like I was attractive again, but also just normal. Boxing is pretty manly, but there is nothing more manly than fucking a really beautiful girl.
More on VICE: