There are a myriad of reasons to not have sex, with the main – and most obvious – reason being that you don’t want to. Whether it’s to refocus your energy on other areas of your life, observe the traditions of your culture or religion, or because sex isn’t something you’re interested in (ever or just right now), choosing not to have sex is a valid and often empowering decision.
But it’s not a choice that has to close someone off from experiencing and exploring pleasure and sensuality. You don’t need sex to feel good – or to indulge in the erotic. Depending on your interests and boundaries, there are numerous ways to experience pleasure, from the obvious (getting to know those wand attachments a little better) to the obscure (paper crumpling, anyone?)
Masturbation might be an obvious addition to this list, but it’s an important one (if you’re into it.) According to Planned Parenthood, “Plenty of research has shown the health benefits of masturbation. Masturbation can: release sexual tension, reduce stress, help you sleep better, improve your self-esteem and body image, relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension, [and] strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas.” Yep – self-love can be self-care!
Masturbation doesn’t have to be a rushed, just-trying-to-fall-asleep experience either. It can be an intimate, affirming activity, allowing you to deepen your connection to your body and sensuality. Ever start off slow and run a tickler across your skin to wake it up first? Or make yourself use the lowest settings on your Satisfyer Luxury or Fun Factory Manta so you can appreciate the nuances of their sensations? I’ve previously written about body positive masturbation and experimenting with submission through masturbation; there are limitless options for exploring your erogenous zones and/or getting off.
Reading erotica (including smutty novels, sex bloggers’ sexcapades, and explicit fanfiction), engaging in text-based role playing with kinky or sexual results, playing erotic video games... These are all ways to immerse yourself in erotic fantasy. And fantasy doesn’t have to be paired with masturbation! Often, the fictional characters’ satisfaction is its own voyeuristic pleasure. A well-written kink scene involving my favorite Star Wars characters is often enough to stir up the same endorphins as an orgasm… and I say that as someone who has orgasms as part of my job!
Some people wince at the idea of indulging in erotic content, and that’s okay! It might not be for you. But there’s no shame in pursuing pleasurable media. People watch horror movies to get scared, follow sports to invest in a team’s journey and share in the celebration of a win, and play video games for the competitive thrill. Watching, reading, or playing porn? Just another outlet for comfortably exploring and engaging a feeling.
Taking a long bath with a bath bomb fizzling away at your feet. Going to a pricey restaurant and letting every heavenly bite linger in your mouth. Propping yourself up in bed and reading an entire book in one sitting. Sprawling on a pool float and drifting under the warm sun for an hour. Getting (or giving yourself) a slow, thorough massage with deliciously aromatic oil. Finally unfriending that person you can’t stand on social media. Self-care – at least the informal kind – can take come in many shapes and levels of indulgence, but the core motivation remains the same: doing something extra because it feels nice.
Although kink can be sexually charged for some people (and is often paired with sex), kink can absolutely be non-sexual in nature. Bondage, impact play, role playing, and more can all be performed and thoroughly enjoyed without involving or even alluding to sex. The thrill of consensual power exchange, indulging in adult creativity and play, and sensory experimentation, can be deeply pleasurable in and of itself. Like masturbation, kinky frolicking has been linked to stress relief and self-image improvement.
“...Scientists have yet to tease out the exact relationship between neurochemicals and S&M. But subspace does exist: Dr Brad Sagarin, founder of the Science of BDSM research team and a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University, has compared it to runner’s high, the sense of euphoria and increased tolerance for pain that some joggers feel after a long run,” writes Gareth May for Vice.
Getting (or giving) a nice thorough paddling can be a toe-curling, satisfying experience all on its own.
What’s more, most public kink spaces – such as local dungeons and conventions – prohibit sex. They’re often a great way to meet potential play partners! But as I detailed in my submissive masturbation piece, kink can be explored on one’s own as well. While bondage is generally unsafe to practice alone, sensory and impact play, chastity/denial, and many fetishes can be played with alone.
Of course, the world of good vibes and pleasant feelings isn’t limited to sensuality. As an autistic person, I frequently indulge in stimming (and amusingly I’ve found my Silicone Dog Bone Gag to be a pretty great alternative to chewable jewelry.) Stimming, for those unaware, is the performing of repetitive actions – like flapping your hands, shaking a glitter jar, or playing with a tangle jr – as a way to self-soothe, express an emotion, or simply for the pleasure of it! And while it’s commonly associated with autistics and our neuroatypical cousins, anybody can pick up a pen and happily click away with it, or fingerpaint just to enjoy the chilled glide of paint between skin and canvas.
Other self-stimulatory pursuits have been going mainstream lately, like watching videos of people whispering, tapping their nails on their microphone, or neatly crumpling paper. These ASMR videos often evoke feelings of delight and euphoria from watchers. “The sensation is widely known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), though there’s no scientific name for it. The phenomenon remains almost wholly unstudied, yet has inspired massive communities that thrive on YouTube and Reddit,” Selena Larson writes for Daily Dot. “Those who are ASMR-sensitive report feeling relief from anxiety, insomnia, and even depression when they listen to the videos.”
Pleasure-seeking can take an infinite number of forms. As long as something feels good and it’s not harming anyone (including you), it’s worth indulging in at your leisure. Your choice to be celibate can be an empowering one – and so can your choice to pursue the things that please you.