When Rihanna sat down with Vanity Fair for its November issue, she disclosed something about herself that some might have found shocking. Although Rihanna self-identifies as extremely sex-positive, she admitted she just isn't into the whole casual sex thing.
"If I wanted to I would completely do [casual hookups]," the sex symbol told Vanity Fair. "I am going to do what makes me feel happy, what I feel like doing. But that would be empty for me; that to me is a hollow move. I would wake up the next day feeling like shit."
With that one sentence, Rihanna championed a revolutionary idea: Even a total sexpot isn't always DTF. And because her public image is so sex-positive, that's a tough idea for us to wrap our brains around, even though clinical psychologist and sex therapist Marianne Brandon says there are "lots of reasons why a sex-positive woman might stop having sex for a period of time."
"[Women] tend to get more of the raw end of the deal during casual sex in that they give more oral sex than they receive in under these circumstances, and they are less likely to have orgasms," Brandon told Mic, citing the oft-discussed orgasm gap as an example of why women simply wouldn't enjoy casual sex as much as men do.
There's also another, slightly more general explanation. Just as even professional gourmands don't want to eat lobster and filet mignon, women who love sex might not want to have it all the time. As writer Alana Massey recently wrote in a piece for the Guardian, our culture has a tendency to equate sex-positivity with promiscuity, even though some women simply aren't interested in having a slew of mediocre sex partners. That doesn't mean they're any less empowered than women who do — it just means there's a wide range of reasons for why a woman might not want to have sex all the time and every single one of them is valid.
Mic wanted to find out what these reasons were by highlighting the voices of sex-positive women who, for whatever reason, simply aren't interested in sex. So we put out a call on social media and Tumblr to women who self-identify as sex-positive but are taking a brief or extended hiatus from sex regardless. Here's what they had to tell us.
Some women abstain from sex after a bad breakup.
"Don't get me wrong, I love sex. I love sex with myself, with a partner, with multiple partners. I am not particular on gender either, though I prefer women over men. I pretty much enjoy the majority of the sexual spectrum. But last year I went through a hellacious break up and thought having a fling would make me feel better but it didn't. I couldn't even go through with it. It turned out I had no interest in sleeping with people without having an investment in their life. I want intimacy without necessarily having commitment. I want to court, to woo, to invest time and energy into another human being and likewise be invested in." — Lizzie*, via Twitter
"Years ago, at the end of a relationship, I abstained when I became aware of my dysfunctional pattern in relationships. I decided to take the time to learn, grow and understand why I kept being involved with the same type of person. It was healing." — jazzynurse, via Tumblr
"I'm coming out of a relationship that almost destroyed me. I thought he was the one and he turned out to be anything but that. So for me it's about waiting and protecting my heart. I'll occasionally date, but sex is off the table. It's the first time in my life that after a relationship I didn't immediately jump back into casual sex and I feel good about it." — Samantha*, via Twitter
"In August, someone who I thought was my soulmate left me. At first I was entirely set on the idea of 'to get over someone you must get under somebody else.' I never could bring myself to that point though, the idea of sleeping with someone after being so in love felt dirty to me. So, I am currently abstaining from any sexual contact until I have fallen in love again ... [but] I'm completely pro-sex. I'm all for getting out there and 'getting it in' if that's what makes you happy." — Gabrielle*, via Tumblr
"Divorce from a man that I loved fiercely. I tried to have sex after, but it was lackluster. So I'm just waiting until either I am bursting with need or I meet someone I feel something, anything about." — sexpoleandmma via Tumblr
Some women (or their partners) temporarily or permanently abstain due to various medical conditions.
"I have literally never willingly abstained from sex from the moment I began having it, but I do abstain for medical reasons, like when I was recovering from cervical biopsies and a miscarriage surgery. I am currently abstaining because my husband is having low T issues and has zero interest in sex and I refuse to guilt him into doing it right now." — Colleen*, 31, via Twitter
"As soon as I became sexually active, I would get frequent UTIs. The antibiotics that I was taking led to other problems including three yeast infections and two case of bacterial vaginosis. After getting a UTI once a month for six months, I went to a urologist, who told me that my sexual activity and the UTIs were undoubtedly related. I'm in a LTR, but have abstained for having sex for about three months now. Sex has never really been that important to me." — Margaret*, via Tumblr
"I have vulvodynia, chronic pain of vulva. I take celibacy breaks because sometimes sex just hurts so badly it becomes impossible. Society expects us to be hyper-sexualized, so relationships can be tricky territory, with partner's needs unmet, or mine." — doyoubelieveinvagic via Tumblr
Some want a relationship that is about more than sex.
"I'm abstaining from sex currently until I feel I have an emotional connection with someone. I've always been sex positive and loved it but I'd rather just be doing it with one person that I trust and cherish." — Emily* via Tumblr.
"I've been abstaining from sex for the past two years. I feel like in my last relationship we were TOO dependent on it and now I feel like I should just get my mind off it and focus on myself and school." — Chloe* via Tumblr.
"I have had a lot of guys interested in sleeping with me, but none interested in actually being with me as a boyfriend. I support women who want to have casual sex, but that's not me. I'm sex-positive, but not sexually active because it's not right for me." — personnumber4 via Tumblr
"I was coerced the first time [I had sex] and continued the relationship. We have been broken up for over a year now. I am still very attached to him. The last, and only, time we have talked in the past year was when he hit me up for a booty call. He didn't ask how I was doing, or anything like that, he just wanted my body. Now in the dating world, I find myself waiting way longer than usual to have sex. It isn't because I don't like sex, I just feel like I have to wait as some sort of an insurance plan so when if/when he leaves it isn't as painful." — Ellie* via Tumblr.
"I have had three boyfriends in the past. All tried to get in my pants to the point where I felt like that's only what our relationship was built on. I haven't dated in 6 years. I haven't cared to." — Jenny* via Tumblr.
Some want to only have sex with people who are worthy of them.
"It's been about two years since I've slept with anyone, and that is 100% by choice. The opportunity has presented itself within that time, but I've chosen to not have sex with someone unless we're dating or we've been seeing each other and I at least know they aren't also sleeping with anyone else. Even in college, I could never have a one-night stand — I have no issues with those who do, just not for me! In no way do I need to be in love, but personally I want to know that I am not compromising my health in any way and that the person I'm having sex with respects me." — Steph*, 25, via Twitter
"In college, I was casually dating a guy I really liked. After a few months of seeing each other, I decided to have sex with him without having the 'Are we official?' conversation. At a frat day party following a night we spent together, I found out that he slept with another girl before me in the same night. After running to the health center to make sure I was clean, I realized I never wanted to be in this type of situation ever again. From then on, I knew I would protect my body, and my heart, as best as I could. Although you can't control everything, you can control who you choose to sleep with. Sex, to me, is serious and meant to be shared only with men that are worthy." — Sarah*, 26, via Twitter
Some women are asexual or just not that interested in sex.
"I am completely sex positive but I don't have sex because I don't enjoy it and it doesn't feel right to me. I always avoided it when I was younger but then I decided recently to try it, and I discovered I was definitely not into it." — Alison*, via Tumblr
"I have a drawer of vibrators that get me off more than any man, so I don't see the point in complicating things with sex at this juncture. I'm just sort of over it at the moment and have been for almost six months." — Annie*, 33, via Tumblr
"I tried to have sex with two different partners and felt awful and violated in both cases, despite being in healthy, comfortable relationships that didn't put any pressure on me (aside from the heavily socialized expectation). The sexual act itself repulsed me. It's why I finally googled 'asexuality' when I was 27." — Jill*, via Tumblr
Some are recovering from a history of sexual assault or domestic abuse.
"I have chosen to obtain [sic] from sex before because I needed to recover from an assault. Although I think sex is great and sex is positive, ever since I was assaulted I tend to use it as a form of feeling control over my body, but then regret it later." — lifedreamsandcoffee, via Tumblr
"I abstain from sex because I was raped as a child which left physical damage to my hymenal ring. But I still engage in oral sex and I am definitely sex positive." — Rachel*, via Tumblr
"I've been abstinent for a few years following the end of an abusive relationship. I need to heal before I open myself up to someone else physically again." — opentheyear, via Tumblr
"Sex isn't unnatural or immoral. I have a high sex drive. However, I abstain to protect myself from the public's terrifying lack of knowledge regarding consent. I experienced sexual assault and refuse to be involved in a 'gray area'. I am never consenting." — Patricia*, via Tumblr
Others abstain for religious reasons.
"I identify as heterosexual yet I am abstaining for religious and personal reasons. Even though sex is a great way for bonding and sexual pleasure, my religious guidelines help me and controls inherent urges." — feliciaescandon, via Tumblr
"I was abstinent for nearly seven years. In regards to one specific relationship, we abstained out of love and respect for one another. We believed that crossing that boundary before marriage would distract us from cultivating a loving and intimate relationship. This was based on our spiritual beliefs about the purpose of sex, marriage, and love." — Tara*, via Tumblr