There’s not a single thing wrong with taking a break from sex. Face it, there’s more to life than getting down with the freak-nasty antics whenever you have a free moment. Having a healthy, active sex life is important to many people, and there should be no shame in embracing the importance of sex in your own life. But part of being healthy means knowing when engaging in sexual activity isn’t serving your best interests, and taking a much-needed break.
Reasons for taking a break from sex will vary by individual, but they shouldn’t include any feelings of shame if you truly enjoy what you’re doing. You also want to avoid making such a decision based on what other prescribe as “right” (read: morally correct) for you.
I recently came across an article that listed “10 Reasons to Take a Break from Sex” and I cringed at how shaming—and flat out ignorant—some of the reasons were. Here are a few situations when taking a break from sex might be the best choice you can make in the moment, and they’re not based on arbitrary rules dictating how you should feel about yourself.
You Have Moments of Poor Judgment
I am not easily embarrassed, and it’s important to me that when I do anything, I am willing to stand by it or be open to correction. Even when I’m dead wrong, I rarely feel embarrassed; I accept that I made a mistake and keep it moving. I have made sexual decisions, though, when I felt embarrassed by how far off my judgment of the person was and I opted to take temporary breaks to clear my head a bit.
The psychological impact of sexual decisions is often a lot more serious than we think. I can’t say I was ad-dic-ted (ahem) or anything like that; I don’t believe another person’s genitalia can force you to make personal decisions. I do think that I may have not been paying attention to the warning signs when the flags went up. As they say, “hindsight is 20/20,” so it was only after things went sour that I was able to look back over our interactions and pinpoint the problems. The sex was, of course, turnt all the way up, and since I was more focused on getting laid then, I ignored things that could have done way more damage in the long run.
When you feel that the sexual aspect of your relationship with someone is clouding your discernment in other areas, you might consider falling back a bit and working on staying focused and aware.
It’s Too Risky Right Now
The article says that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) “love casual sex.” I don’t think the fact that there are infections you can get from sex are a standalone reason to not have “casual sex.” I understand that the risks of contraction are greater with an increased number of partners. But I am also aware that STDs also love long-term relationships in which one person is not being fully honest with the other about external sexual activity.
African-American men and women are at greater risks for contracting HIV for several reasons, mainly the segregated nature of our much-smaller communities. We’re more likely to engage in concurrent sexual relationships, which increase risks of STD-transmission, particularly for African-American women. We can, however, minimize these risks by educating ourselves about our own STD statuses and that of potential and current partners.
When you’re sexually active, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of the harms that can come from having sex. One step is to not have sex, and I will add that it’s worth it to take a break if you feel you may have been exposed to some type of disease or infection. How do you know? You might notice discolorations, weird blemishes, or even pain in your genital regions or mouth after having sex with someone, or the person tells you that they may have given you something. Stop having sex and get yourself to a doctor or clinic. (If you don’t have insurance, contact your local free clinic or your city’s health department.)
Another step is to get tested with a potential partner and wait until the results come in before you engage in sexual activity with each other. Taking a break from sex during that time will help you feel better about going forward with that person, and it will give you both a bit more time to get familiar with each other. Spend that time conversing more, hanging out more, and asking more questions that are pertinent to where your relationship is at the time and where both of you see it going. If the answers don’t satisfy you, you’ll likely think longer and harder about having sex.
You Just Don’t Want to Do It or You Can’t
Sometimes, you just don’t want to have sex and there’s no particular reason you can point to other than you just don’t feel like it. There’s nothing wrong with being completely indifferent to the idea of sex, so you should never feel as though you need to be having sex just to have it. You could be in a relationship or be single: if you don’t want to have sex, don’t have it. When you cross over into the territory of having obligatory sex, you’re likely to being resenting your partner after a while. Is it worth all of that? No way. You might also experience mental health struggles like depression that nearly eliminate your libido, and forcing it might only make things worse. It’s perfectly fine to take a break in this case.
You also may not want to have sex because it might be physically uncomfortable for you to do so, or your doctor recommends you take a break after a procedure to give the body time to heal. I’ve had several surgeries and I’m a mom—I know all about having to take a break from sex for physical reasons. I can admit that I jumped back into having sex too soon a few times and I absolutely paid for it. Take my advice: just wait it out. Sex will be there when you’re back on your feet, and it will probably feel better than ever since you waited so long for it.
Telling people to take breaks from sex out of fear of some bogus “walk of shame” or because they can avoid cleaning their apartments or wearing cute underwear is vapid at best; there are far more significant reasons to take a break from sex. You’ll always have the right to make the best sexual decisions for your mind, body and spirit, regardless of what others think you should do. Healthy and safe sexual decisions are what we should all strive towards, so don’t be afraid to put more consideration into your decisions about whether or not you’re going to get buck wild this weekend.
Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.