Sunday, August 14, 2022

On Chastity

     I have an embarrassingly counter-cultural confession: I don't miss sex at all. I do not want sex, and I never enjoyed sex. Yes, I'm going there, even though yes, it's an uncomfortable subject. Chastity is not hard for me! It's a relief, actually. And another relief is discovering how common my dirty little secret is among people with autism. Not all autistics, by any means -- plenty of them love sex every bit as much as the world says we're all supposed to. But I'm finding that both the low desire for sex, and the sensory processing issues that make it impossible to enjoy sex, are very common among this tribe I never knew I belonged to. 

    Why am I going public with this? Because not knowing that this is just how I'm made, and hearing from all sides that sex is the greatest thing ever, that it is the quintessential definition of pleasure, I thought I must be broken. I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I must be damaged, because after all, I had experienced some significant trauma -- first bullying, which left persistent depression, and then rape. So, I went out and did myself a whole lot more damage, trying to heal this "pathology" of not wanting or liking sex.

    And it has made the world of difference finding out that I'm not the only one, so if standing up and "coming out" can help someone else stop hurting themselves by applying the wrong cure to a problem that actually isn't a real problem, I'm willing to stand up and come out. Because I find that even nowadays, even now that there is so much more information out there about neurodiversity and all the ways it manifests in our lives, it's still kind of hard to find straight talk about sex. 

    There's another reason I kept on trying to get sex right, besides being convinced by my culture that my dissatisfaction with it must be dysfunctional. I was lonely. I was so lonely! I used sex as a surrogate for love and affection ... which, obviously, didn't work. But I'm not lonely any more. And why? Partly, the bonds I formed with the monastic and oblate communities during the years when I was cooking for the monks. Partly, the relationship that developed with my spiritual director, with whom I was able to "unmask" safely. Partly, it's settling into a life of prayer, a more intimate relationship with God.

    But mostly, it's what developed in solitude: getting to know, accept, and love this stranger -- myself. I'm not lonely any more, because I love me. I'm not scrambling for someone else to want me, to choose me, to like me, to love me. I'm not abandoning me, violating my own boundaries, failing to even set boundaries of safety and self-care. I love me. I couldn't love me until I peeled away the layers of confusion, of self-estrangement, of self-criticism, of perfectionism, of societal judgments on what is normal, healthy, acceptable. To know me ... is to love me. It's magic!

    I am so, so grateful for the writers, podcasters, teachers, counselors, and advocates who have taught me so much about what is, and especially what is not, wrong with me. How I can and should or should not work on growing and healing, in ways that do not do violence to my neurocognitively unique heart, mind, and body. I'm grateful for my family, who have always loved me just as I am, with all my quirks and all my drama. I'm grateful, too, to be in a Church that has a place -- lots of places, even -- for celibacy and chastity. And for God, who loves me and delights me, and who delights in me, as I am, in all my weirdness, all my exquisite, fragile rarity.

࿋࿋࿋  PEACE  ࿋࿋࿋

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