A look at an author’s attempt to find love without sex
British journalist Hephzibah Anderson’s memoir “Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex,” follows her year-long experimentation with celibacy after she realizes that she has misunderstood the relationship between love and sex.
Following the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Anderson sees her college boyfriend buying an engagement ring for another woman. Anderson realizes that in her efforts to find love, she has only found lust.
“Sex and its pursuit seem to have become such blood sports, their rules so confusing and their standards so exacting, that it is hard not to wonder occasionally whether it’s worth it,” Anderson said.
This revelation sparks the beginning of her experimentation as she vows to date and write about defining the difference between love and sex and what a relationship can succumb to without intimacy.
Anderson’s book is far from a lecture on feminism. She mostly writes that women can live without sex or the co-dependency of a male, but that life would be better with it.
The book offers a profound argument on the female psyche and libido, allowing women to look at their own relationships and see that maybe they didn’t work out because they were blinded by the idea of love and that sex has become a counterpart in relationship woes.
Throughout the first couple months of Anderson’s vow of chastity, she struggles to have a non-physical relationship with men. She writes that her inability to find romance is because she is conning herself, allowing the memory of her sexual exploits to become the one thing to keep her relationships with men afloat.
She realizes that she has not been listening to what men are telling her, believing that she can make any man fall in love with her once they have gone to bed. In the end, she finds that she is the only one who has fallen in love and mocks herself.
Her struggles can seem almost exhausting at times as Anderson seems to be completely blinded by the fact that she is not having sex. She becomes disinterested in quiet, romantic types of men that she ironically says would be a great change from the over sexualized men of her past.
Her account follows the ins and outs of her thoughts as she frets and worries about her appearance. Although her story is honest, most women might find themselves puzzled as to how Anderson’s story can even provide insight to other women.
The book ends leaving us to wonder if the vow has taught Anderson anything. It seems that she is still trying to sort through her own confusion with love and sex.
However, in a short epilogue Anderson writes that looking back on the experience, a new sense of understanding about dating and the freedom of a non-physical sensuality have been found inside her. She realizes that romance has been within her relationships all along, if only she hadn’t been so blind. The biggest thrill, she said, came from the touch of a hand on her arm, a gaze held across the table or a light goodnight kiss at her doorstep.
This revelation is one that any woman can take to heart. Anderson’s memoir proves to us that if we stop blaming men and ourselves for our failed romances, we would realize that romance isn’t perfect and that what we have in front of us is what we have been searching for.