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Back in January, someone on my Twitter feed reblogged the following message from Dr. Ruth:

click through for original tweet

And I definitely have my friend Minerva to thank for the fact that this set alarm bells off in the back of my skull (thanks M.!). Because I think I understand what Dr. Ruth is getting at here, since she couches it in terms of a “vow”: that making an abstinence pledge or the like might not be the best way of facilitating human sexual intimacy and connection. Drawing a hard and absolute line around yourself and saying “I will remain pure and purity equals not having sex,” might be disappointing to a lot of folks. And I appreciate that she softens her position by acknowledging that not everyone is looking for a partner (“and that can be sad”). So yes, kinda sorta, … but also no.

No, because Dr. Ruth is making some pretty sweeping assumptions about relationships here — namely that “not having sex means not having a partner.” Wait — what? Did you just say — oh, yes. Yes, you did.

*headdesk*

Because me, with no formal training in the relationship advice arena, can think of a number of ways in which “not having sex” can co-exist with “having a partner.”

1. Two or more people who identify as asexual and are comfortable with no sexual activity (or exclusively solitary sex) forming a partnership.

2. The person who doesn’t want sex (either because of identity or other factors) partnering with one or more people who
     a) are content to enjoy solitary sex in the context of the monogamous relationship;
     b) are content to enjoy sex with those in the poly relationship who enjoy sex, and non-sexual intimacy with the person who has chosen to abstain;
     c) or form a negotiated open relationship in which the sexually-active person can have relational sex with other partners, in addition to maintaining their partnership with the non-sexually-active person.

And in addition to this, of course, there’s the many ways in which non-partnered people can have rich relational lives. (And I say this as a joyfully partnered person). They can join religious orders, co-housing and communal societies, nurture their relationships with extended (blood or chosen) families, and generally practice really good friendship skills. Having a “partner” isn’t the only way to be in relationship, any more than being sexually active is the only way to be in a partnership.

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