Way back in 2004, I stumbled across something which, for lack of a better name, I titled "Unofficial celibacy timeline". You get about 72 hours of glow before the dullness, then the emptiness, then the self-loathing kick in, until you've accumulated a thousand and one nights in an empty bed, and Scheherazade is nowhere to be found.

The writer of that "timeline" he left a comment thanking me for the link seemed more rueful than roiled: if nothing else, he'd retained a sense of the absurd, which I have reason to suspect might be essential for dealing with protracted dry spells. Not so the chap in my original 2012 "Lackanooky Valley" piece, who'd had four times the duration and, by my calculations, sixteen times the resentfulness. I quote from his closing:

If you truly believe that after 2 weeks, 3 months, a year of not having physical relations with the opposite sex is true suffering ... I ask you if you felt your life was in danger. If not ... you're not suffering enough. If so ... TRY IT FOR 12 YEARS and get back to me.

Said a commenter at my place: "Whinging about the amount of sex you get or don't get is so self absorbed it's revolting." I was a bit more perturbed with the idea that having done without for long enough, he was somehow entitled to female attention. I mean, been there, done that, got the neurosis, but still retained a sense of perspective and a modicum of gratitude:

To those few hardy souls who have taken me into their arms, their beds, perhaps even their hearts, I will be eternally grateful. It's a gift that far exceeds anything I could be unwrapping on a day like today. And should I never see it again, as I expect I will not, how much worse might my life have been had I never seen it at all?

Accentuate the positive, as it were. Of course, one is not supposed to be grateful for the crumbs; one is supposed to seize the entire loaf and make it want to be part of the sandwich. Me, I simply state for the record that it was never meant to be, and occasionally mutter dark curses having to do with gluten. ("Well, there's your problem." Shuddup.Ed.)

Still, there are enough aggrieved males (as distinguished from "men") out there to keep the "problem" well in front of the back burner. And occasionally, solutions are proposed, though somehow I don't think this would work:

One man has a suggestion to solve socially-awkward men's dating woes: Institute a government program which would pay women to go on dates with them.

This is evidently not a joke. The blog "governmentsgetgirlfriends" is dedicated to discussing the issues of "incel" men (short for "involuntary celibacy").

This guy obviously has never heard the phrase "You couldn't pay me to go out with him." And there's that whole The Government Can Fix It notion, which some of us have long since outgrown; the Feds are $16 trillion in the hole and has no business creating another fucking subsidy, especially a fucking subsidy, if you know what I mean.

Which is not to say that I am wholly without sympathy for this chap, given my own perpetually blank dance card. For one thing, while he's an atheist, it's not the central principle of his life and he wants nothing to do with the more militant varieties. And he does seem to understand the difference between two easily conflated concepts:

Most of them even refuse to acknowledge that incel exists, simply because it's not a medical disorder, even though 1. A twelve-year old would understand that a chronic near-total or total absence in a person's sexuality of intimate relationships or sexual intercourse that is occurring for reasons other than voluntary celibacy, asexuality, antisexualism, or sexual abstinence does exist, and can't be called a "dry spell," unless you think that being a virgin at 50 is also a dry spell. 2. Nobody ever tried to say incel should be a medical condition. 3. There have been studies made on involuntary celibacy.

It's even worse when it comes to love-shyness. Same old arguments about it not being a medical condition are thrown combined with stubbornly calling it nothing more than social anxiety, when everybody who suffered from it or is currently suffering knows that his fear of approaching a woman or making and kind of romantic advances is much worse than any other fear of any other social situation and that love-shyness should be included in the DSM as a specific phobia. Brian G. Gilmartin is attacked because he talked about astrology and reincarnation, past life regression, and Kirlian aura, which is used to say he lacks any credibility, when in fact it would be useful for anybody to read his book in order to understand why love-shyness certainly isn't social phobia, though it often stands in correlation with it.

Gilmartin's book Shyness and Love: Causes, consequences, and treatment (University Press of America, 1987), based on his original research, establishes six criteria for the love-shy man:

  • He is a virgin.
  • He rarely goes out socially with women more than just friends.
  • He has no history of any emotionally close, meaningful relationships of a romantic and/or sexual nature with any member of the opposite sex.
  • He has suffered and is continuing to suffer emotionally because of a lack of meaningful female companionship.
  • He becomes extremely anxiety-ridden over so much as the mere thought of asserting himself vis-a-vis a woman in a casual, friendly way.
  • He is strictly heterosexual in his romantic and erotic orientations.

Some of those characteristics do not describe me.

I have long suspected that disorders of this sort and I do consider them disorders have an origin in childhood. From Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of Love (Knopf, 1995):

When, through malevolence or circumstance, the early bond between parent and child is damaged, the psychological repercussions are profound. Such a person may end up with marital problems, personality disorders, neuroses, or difficulty in parenting. A love-thwarted child spends its life searching for that safe, secure relationship and absolutely loving heart which is its birthright. As an adult, missing cues that might lead to just such a relationship, it judges people harshly, trusts no one, and becomes exiled and alone. A child that's unsafe, or rejected, or deprived of affection, feels anxious, becomes obsessively clingy, and doesn't take many chances. Assuming that it will be spurned, that it is the sort of person one could only reject, it may try to be self-sufficient and disinherit love, not risk asking anyone ever to truly care. Such a child becomes afflicted with itself, and needs no other accuser, no other lynch mob. It feels as if it has been caught red-handed in the midst of a felony its life.

Christine ChubbuckNow that describes me almost exactly except that I can recall no specific instance of that parental bond being broken or even bent. And it sounds somewhat like the case of Christine Chubbuck, self-described "dateless wonder," whose own dance card was distressingly empty; in 1974, seeing no hope, she took her own life in the middle of the television news broadcast she was anchoring. I have always seen Chubbuck as something of a kindred spirit, not so much because she killed herself for lack of love, but because she left a script to be read by whoever was rushed in by station management to explain the situation: "TV40 news personality Christine Chubbuck shot herself in a live broadcast this morning on a Channel 40 talk program. She was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where she remains in critical condition." I greatly admire that sort of planning. As for the unfortunate scenario itself, Paddy Chayefsky himself couldn't have done it better and he tried.

In the marketplace of life, desirability is just another form of currency. If I don't have enough of it, I can try to accumulate more, or I can make do with what I have. It would never occur to me to ask the government to bail me out. Besides, I am reluctant to embrace the idea of someone being paid to go out with me: I mean, I'd know why she was there, and that knowledge would be depressing in itself. And I'm enough of a fatalist to believe that were there actually supposed to be someone ideally suited to me, she'd surely have shown up by now: God, or the Screen Actors Guild, or Princess Celestia, or somebody would have seen to it.

The Vent

  19 May 2013

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 Copyright © 2013 by Charles G. Hill