Sex. It’s the perfect juxtaposition. Enjoyable and painful, priceless yet sold, glorified but taboo. No person is safe from the corruption of sexual desire. Marriages, money, careers can all be sidelined when chasing three seconds of ecstasy. Valuable time is spent in this pursuit and for what? Sex is marketed and socially upheld to the point where it is often mistaken as being life’s “ultimate goal”. So why is it that after six months of surrounding myself with sexual partners, I felt completely alone and unfulfilled?
In 2014, I lived at a university residence in Wollongong with almost 150 other students. Having tussled with anxiety, near suicidal depression and some classic Daddy issues in recent years, I viewed my relocation as a chance to start over and move on. Like many first years I was hopeful of a bright future and eager to see what difference I could make in the world. However the reality of financial stress and loneliness soon overcame me and I spent the better part of my first six months drunk on both alcohol and lust. I had over twenty sexual partners many of whose names I struggle to remember. I found myself often choosing to have sex rather than study or look after my health. I used sex as a coping mechanism for the issues in my life which I was not yet ready to face.
Being the object of another person’s desire brought me an egotistical form of self-satisfaction with which I used to verify my avoidance of issues and manipulative use of my partners. This along with the pleasure of nourishing my own cravings led me to explore new Barney Stinson-esque ways of seeking sexual company. I often lied about my age and grades or took advantage of the loneliness of other students in order to gain companionship for one night. Reassurance for my actions was further derived from the social status I gained from my peers not only for sleeping with people, but for the inventive ways sex was achieved; as if it was a trophy to be won.
By the end of semester my hook-up tally was higher than most of my grades; an award in which all that was won was loneliness. I was proud to be living independently. However, I was embarrassed that I had little to tell my family and friends about; sex being a distasteful topic to discuss with your mother. I compared my position to that of my high school years, particularly my days as the Dux. During that time, I enjoyed the challenges of study and was only beginning to discover the opposite gender – but not yet on a sexual level. At the end of each semester I was proud of my grades as they reflected my hard work and enabled me to look positively toward my future. My future being my goal: moving away to study at university, living my own life and becoming my own person.
To an extent I had now achieved this goal. I had moved out and was studying at university. However, I did not feel as though I was living my own life or becoming my own person but rather living the illustrious “single life” and being a person who others would want to have sex with. I’m not saying that being myself means other people won’t want to have sex with me, but rather that I would change the way I acted and presented myself if I thought it would lead to sex.
These realisations led me to make a conscious choice not to chase sex. I began choosing a good night’s sleep and a long day of study over a hard night and a hangover. My grades only improved marginally however I found myself to be self-assured rather than egoistic. This in turn made me happier and I found new friends were more interested in who I was rather than the people I could sleep with. This didn’t mean I became celibate, or that I no longer enjoyed sex – I just spent less time pursuing it. When I did have sex, it was with people whose personalities I was attracted to rather than just their body. This was more enjoyable and fulfilling.
So there it is: sex. A completely natural phenomenon which we have manipulated into being a tabooed act. But it doesn’t need to be. Yes, it’s amazing when you’re in the moment but there is more to life than that instant gratification. It may sound cliché to say so, but if my experience has taught me one thing, it is that sex is not just a little fun on the side; it’s an art of expression and appreciation, not corruption.