Dear Level

The Not-So-Crazy Argument for a Sex-Free Summer

After 60 days of celibacy, you’ll be amazed by what you’ve learned about yourself

Aliya S. King
LEVEL
Published in
6 min readJul 3, 2020

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Illustration: Janet Sung

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

The year was 1997. I was 24 years old and dating a few people but none seriously. Truth be told, I was kind of over it. It felt like every single situationship was the same: Date for a while until you feel like it’s compatible; have sex; date a little while longer; watch things inevitably fizzle out for any number of reasons.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I wasn’t ready to get married or have babies, so each relationship was just a freestyle swim back and forth in the dating pool with no real idea of what (if anything) came next.

Sex made things even more complicated. I’ve always had a healthy libido, and unlike some of my friends, I was lucky to have trusting, respectful partners, even as a young woman. I’m grateful that I didn’t have the hang-ups around sex that many do — but good sex with an average guy too often kept me around beyond the relationship’s shelf life.

After yet another six-month situationship that ended up going nowhere, 24-year-old me needed a change — and it had to be drastic. I decided to stop having sex for a full year. Three hundred and sixty-five days. I wasn’t sure what my plan was. I just figured celibacy might weed out the people I didn’t need in my life, and maybe even help me understand what I really wanted.

It wasn’t always easy. Do you know how fast a dude says “check, please” during your first date, after you tell him you’re 28 days into a 12-month celibacy? You’re lucky if you can get your appetizer to go.

That year was eye-opening. The men who didn’t mind abstinence seemed to be the ones I had more in common with outside of the bedroom. One guy, a distance runner, helped me improve my form for a 5K I wanted to complete. Another guy, a chef’s apprentice, taught me how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg. I don’t even remember his name but I’ve retained his cooking tips all these years later. One of the men I met back then is still a close friend 20 years…

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Aliya S. King
LEVEL
Writer for

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.