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sex & singles overview

Being single is not the social stigma it used to be.   I teach a university class which looks at what it means to be single in our society, and the first point I make is that we who are single must not let society label us as misfits, undesirables or losers.

There is a general perception that unattached men and women, particularly those who have never married, must have something wrong with them.  'But why haven't you ever married?' is the question they're constantly asked.  The usual assumptions are that they're gay, weird or unattractive.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The students in my class are vibrant, intelligent, good-looking, all ages and both sexes. Sure, there's some bitterness about broken relationships and lost friends, where that applies, but that's to be expected.

Not all of them want to be attached.  That's another common myth — that all single people must be dying to get married, or meet someone special.  Marriage is no stroll in the park, as those of us who have been there can attest to.  There is a lot to be said for running your own life and looking after yourself.  Men in our society can have marriage and fully pursue their careers, but women are still somewhat disadvantaged when it comes to professional freedom, especially after they become mothers.

When I ask my students what are the advantages and disadvantages are of being single, the main advantages quoted are freedom and variety, and the main disadvantages are loneliness and not having someone to share the good and bad times.  Sexual deprivation too, is regarded as a major drawback but I always remind them that sexual satisfaction is a personal responsibility.  If single people are willing to get out and meet each other and possibly form casual liaisons, that's one way to go; if not, then they must look after themselves sexually.

Keeping in mind that sexuality is a general human impulse, there are other ways for it to be expressed besides intercourse and/or orgasm. Sexual energy can be rechannelled into creative pursuits, spirituality, music, art and positive work.  'Frustration' only features when we focus on what we're not getting in life, and very often, people who continually complain of sexual frustration are those who are not in harmony with themselves.  If orgasm is desirable, then sex aids are readily available, or there's the choice of using a prostitute.

Celibacy is not only for nuns and monks these days.  Many are opting for it as a way of life because of AIDS and the breakdown of relationships.  Staying single, and seeing that as a positive state and remaining celibate, is an attractive package for many who don't want to risk their physical and emotional health.  I'm all for people making their own choices and doing what feels right.  One note of caution — don't stay single and celibate just because you're afraid of being hurt.  Taking risks of all kinds is what keeps us alive.  When we're crippled by fear, we're already dead even if we're still breathing.  There is no security outside ourselves and only by giving up the false attempt to control our lives can we find true security and peace.


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