Skip to comments.40 days? Try 400! Chastity is just another word for the single life
Posted on 03/11/2002 4:48:18 PM PST by SlickWillard
Published: Monday, March 11, 2002 2:59 a.m. EST
40 days? Try 400!
Chastity is just another word for the single life
By CHRISTINE FREY
In the movie "40 Days and 40 Nights," Josh Hartnett plays a virile but vulnerable guy who gives up sex for Lent after a bad breakup. He renounces women, hides his porno collection and eventually has a buddy chain him down to keep his hands off himself.
He avoids temptation until he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon) at a coin laundry, and struggles throughout the rest of the film to keep his vow of chastity without losing her.
Like Hartnett's character, I, too, am abstaining during Lent. But my vow of chastity is not self-imposed. After 400 consecutive sex-free days, I have given it up by default.
I have no reason not to.
Outside of the movies -- where anyone with good looks, a hot body or a pulse is hooking up -- most of the rest of the world isn't.
For instance, the World Health Organization estimates that 100 million acts of sexual intercourse take place each day. Assuming -- optimistically -- that each of those acts takes place between 100 million different couples, only about 3 percent of the world's population will have sex today.
"Forty days? That's supposed to be a challenge?" asked Abby Wilner, 26, co-author of "Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties." "A challenge would be to find sex in 40 days."
With the threat of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases on their minds, most people simply aren't rushing into bed with strangers anymore. Ultimately, many single people say, a healthy relationship is just as important as healthy sex, and they would rather have no sex at all than sex with the wrong person.
The dry spells can last weeks, months -- gasp -- even years.
Patty, 30, hasn't had sex in three years. The Los Angeles finance analyst who, like most people interviewed for this story, did not want to use her full name, won't date men at work and doesn't like meeting them in bars. Though many of her male friends have broadened their dating pool as they have become older, she finds herself becoming more selective.
Despite the apparent lack of prospective mates, Patty is determined not to go another year without some play.
Her first New Year's resolution: Have sex.
Her second New Year's resolution: Have lots of sex.
"I'm still trying to figure out how to launch that," she said.
Alain, a 24-year-old medical student from Chicago, is also looking for a suitable partner, that "one beautiful woman that will just maybe want to settle down and have kids and all that."
In the meantime, he would like to have sex at least three times a week.
He hasn't had any in two years.
Although necessary for the propagation of the species, sex is not nearly as vital as, say, food or water.
"Nobody's ever died from a lack of sex," said Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.
It just feels like it.
People engage in intercourse for a variety of what Hyde calls "high-minded benefits": to express their feelings for someone, exert power over another and simply because it feels good. "There's a distinction between what you need physically, which is nothing, and what you would desire," Hyde said.
To relieve pent-up sexual tension, many fill the void with something else -- smoking, eating or drinking, for example. Others distract themselves by spending more time at work or picking up a hobby.
I tried knitting.
It didn't help.
So I ran a marathon.
"Periods of celibacy may be, for some people, helpful ways to focus on other things," said Howard Ruppel, sexologist and chancellor of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
The longer a person goes without sex, however, the less likely he or she is to want it. At some point, once the dry spell becomes a real drought, some say it just makes sense to wait it out.
"Honestly, it's not a recent memory that I necessarily miss," Patty said. "And the longer you wait, the harder it is to compromise your standards. Anyone who has a full and active life wouldn't be so concerned about this one thing because you had it before and you know that you'll have it again."
Until then, those who aren't having sex are going to have to live vicariously through those who are.
"I'll say this much, if I was getting sex as often as I'd like, 40 days would seem like a long time," Alain said.
And for some, Hollywood reminds us, 40 days is a long time.
To prepare for the film, Hartnett tried to give up sex. But, like his character, he struggled. In a recent interview in Entertainment Weekly magazine, he said he was able to abstain for only "a couple of weeks."
"I wasn't going to go 40 days and 40 nights," he said. "It made me a little bit crazy, you know what I mean?"
Yeah, I do.
I think I saw a new herpes commercial that can cure your sores in 3 days and not 5. This hot young thing says " 3 days instead of 5!! I know what my choice is!".
Really? How many acts of terrorism were committed by men who were getting laid regularly? I rest my case.
That ad makes me glad I'm as square as a box of Corn Flakes.
Then be prepared for a real shock the next time you see American television! ;)