A vow of celibacy

    I have an old flame with whom I keep in pretty regular contact. He lives on the other side of the country (on the better coast — I’ll let you decide for yourself which one that is). As someone I’ve dated, he offers unique insight into my life (love life, sex life, just life…) that I can’t get from anyone else. I call him whenever I need an unbiased, outside perspective.

    “I give up,” I told him in our last conversation. “Pat Benatar was right. And this girl is war-weary.”

    “Well, kiddo, that’s no good,” he said, appropriately sympathetic. “That’s how I felt a couple of weeks ago. Not anymore, though.”

    “No?” I said bitterly. “Wait, let me guess. You found the love of your life… again.”

    “Oh, no, nothing like that,” he said, cheerily. Too cheerily. “I decided to be abstinent for the next couple of months.”

    What? I had to ask him to repeat himself, just to be sure I’d heard correctly. He confirmed that, like a Buddhist monk or a Catholic priest, he’d taken a vow of celibacy. Something about giving himself “time to think.”

    I was dumbfounded. Until I started to think about it: Perhaps a period of self-seclusion isn’t such a bad idea. Especially following a period of turmoil. Imagine all of the bad rebounding decisions that people could avoid if they gave themselves “time to think” after a breakup.

    But post-breakup isn’t the only time when sex makes things more complicated: What about being up to your ears in classes or focused on some other important goal which requires no distractions? Muhammad Ali famously abstained for six weeks before a big fight. Perhaps he was on to something.

    Sex can be affirming, incredibly positive and good for your mental health. And then there are those times where you mentally kick yourself during an early-morning walk of shame.

    Maybe taking a break brings better decisions and new appreciation. Which is why, my devoted Carnal Knowledge readers, I’ll be taking time off from writing this column, effective Spring Quarter.

    Writing about sexuality since the beginning of my sophomore year has been a fascinating and often hilarious journey. The point was to educate — a one-woman crusade against abstinence-only sex education. Carnal Knowledge: showing you where the clitoris is located since 2006!

    The decision has come partly because I’m going to be doing Medill’s required journalism residency this spring. And partly because, well… I need a break.

    In a phrase, readers, it’s not you. It’s me.

    As a breakup gift (no, no breakup sex for you), I’ve made a list of the most important — and the stupidest — things I’ve learned since I started writing this column:

    • Your college relationships will not last forever. Even if you’ve found “the one,” you’re still only 20 years old. Isn’t the point of school to learn some skills before entering the real world?
    • College students really do think they’re somehow exempt from getting sexually transmitted infections. Northwestern’s $48,000 price tag apparently gives your genitals super-immunity. Know what else it gives you? A complete lack of communication skills.
    • The vast majority of college students can’t name the most common STIs.Or even know how they’re transmitted. Even the biology majors. Especially the biology majors.
    • The two “P” words people are most squeamish about: prostates and periods.
    • Strip clubs are not brothels. Well, maybe some.
    • College students think having a “friend with benefits” is going to be fun. They’re almost always wrong.
    • Writing a sex column gives people license to think absurd things about your personal life.

    In the end, what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Here’s an oldie but a goodie: Northwestern students are supposed to be really, really smart. But when it comes to sex, we can be really, really dumb. If we applied the same determination that we do in the classroom to our sex lives, we would be protecting ourselves better, communicating more openly and getting laid more often.

    It’s been swell, kids. Play nice next quarter.


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