Does sex threaten romance, and people? And if so, what is so transformational and ominous about the act of penetration, if we table STIs and unplanned pregnancy for just a moment? The decision to go on a "sex detox"—often made hastily, perhaps a few hours after not getting a text back from the person you just fucked—can be rooted in a number of factors. The essence of the exercise, it would seem, is to put the self first by eliminating the distraction of sex and, more crucially, all the societal garbage that surrounds it; by doing so, the theory goes, you might be able to see yourself and your motivations more clearly. A self-professed sexually liberated radical feminist, for example, might realize that sex really does mean something to her, after years of trying to convince herself she was chill with casual hook-up. Alternatively, a man who has hopped from long-term relationship to long-term relationship throughout his 15-year sexual career might decide he wants to give being alone a try. Maybe he buys a fleshlight and takes up a hobby like needlepoint or Krav Maga.
The logic is similar to that of forgoing alcohol for a month, à la Dry January: The idea isn't that alcohol is inherently bad, but that such a detox might improve your relationship to alcohol by illuminating the unhealthy ways you needed it or used it as a crutch. But for some people, it's not always easy to disentangle sex and alcohol. Visual artist and writer Molly Soda didn't think sex was a vice when she sort-of consciously decided to be celibate for 2016, but she did notice that many of her sexual encounters had been motivated by alcohol or a need for validation.
I wasn't having sex because I actually wanted to have sex, but because I wanted validation or because I was bored and I wanted some sort of distraction.
More importantly, Soda said she realized that sex didn't actually feel that casual for her, even if it can be for other people."I think a lot of the time we're told that it's supposed to be [casual] and [we] then kind of shove our feelings inside," Soda said. "Everyone is different and wants to be touched differently and at different times. For me, I found that a lot of [the time] I wasn't having sex because I actually wanted to have sex, but because I wanted validation or because I was bored and I wanted some sort of distraction."Soda says she eventually reached a point during her year of celibacy when she didn't need to sleep with someone to feel connected to them. She learned she'd rather stay up until 5 AM talking. "When I actually talk to someone, I'm still in control and still have power—which is probably a weird hang-up that I personally have," she said. "But I don't know—it allows me to feel a little more focused about the situation."Armed with renewed self-awareness, Soda is ready to fuck again. She's made herself a Tinder profile and everything."I'm going to have sex," she says. "I just don't know when."