I Went Without Masturbating For A Month & It Completely Changed My Life

As a sex and dating writer who has been single for the last four years, I need to get my rocks off somehow. But hooking up with strangers? In this economy? That option doesn't work for me. It takes me a lot of time to feel comfortable enough to have sex with someone new, and as a queer person, I haven't quite found that level of security in Brooklyn's dating scene. So on a day-to-day basis, I mostly rely on my toy collection to make sure I'm getting the vibes I need as a sexual being. I was surprised this spring when I gave up masturbation for a month to realize that celibacy helped me better channel my erotic experiences into my art.

This decision to abstain from masturbation wasn't completely intentional. I travel light, with minimal accessories. And when I decided to take a break from the mile-high snow drifts this winter and jet off to the West Coast for a little bit to work on my book, I only brought one backpack and had to decide between bringing my vibrator and an extra pair of shoes. My back hurts sometimes, so footwear is important to me. I left my electronic accessories in my nightstand at home in favor of sneakers and caught my flight to Los Angeles.

Giphy

As I was crashing on a friend's couch for the first few nights I hardly noticed the absence of my toys. Being in a new place and seeing lots of different people kept me so busy that I wasn't even thinking about sex for maybe the first week that I was traveling and writing. But then I started staying in a family's converted garage way out in the L.A. suburbs, where the distractions dwindled down to a murmur and I found myself with plenty of extra time on my hands. I found myself facing a choice: I could fully embrace garage life and spend a lot of time masturbating and watching Gossip Girl when I wasn't working on my novel, or I could go full-blown monk and abstain from any sexual pleasure whatsoever. As suffering and self-deprivation are some personal kinks, it was almost natural for me to choose the latter option. Plus, I wanted to see if not orgasming would be better for other forms of expression.

The first thing I noticed when I held off from masturbating was that I became more sensitive to the way in which I interacted with the world around me. It was like because I wasn't getting off or being touched in any way I was suddenly more aware of my environment stimulating me. The warmth of the sun on my face, the feeling of the wind blowing on my bare arms had the capacity to awaken my whole body and enliven it in a way that I had previously only associated with sex and physical touch. Suddenly it seemed like every sensory experience I had was also an intensely erotic one, whether it was the feeling of juice trickling down the back of my throat while eating an orange or getting out of breath from taking a hike.

Giphy

I found that it became easier for me to explain the specific feelings of these sensations in my writing by acknowledging that my experience of them was erotic. I also found that it wasn't necessary for myself to act on these feelings of arousal. In the same way that I could see someone in the grocery store, find them attractive, and hold back on acting on that attraction if I chose to, I could also change the way in which I got off. Channeling that passion into my creative work actually made me feel like I was getting somewhere with my writing. Maybe my writing was even getting me off.

Sometimes, I do practice masturbation as a way to release pent-up anxiety, but I found that when it came to my art, allowing myself to sit with some minor stress was actually good practice. While I had previously struggled to channel conflict between characters in my work, I was able to take all of that pent-up sexual frustration I was experiencing and allow those emotions to play out on the page.

Giphy

At the end of the month without masturbating, I can't say that anyone from the outside would know the difference it had made for my life and career. But maybe that's OK. Maybe the things we do or don't do in private are meant to be just for us.

What I can say is that spending some time not touching myself was beneficial for learning about how I experience my environment as a sexual being. Re-channeling my erotic energy into my art made me realize the full extent of my sexuality — that it isn't dependent upon another person or even a toy, and that desire can be communicated in signals both seen and not seen. Ultimately, it's still difficult to find the right words to explain. But isn't it always, whenever you're feeling well and truly alive?