Julia Allison on Dating

Julia Allison vs. Ella Good

Illustration: Emily Flake

EDITOR’S NOTE: We at TONY love Julia. But not everyone else does. In fact, if you read media-gossip sites like Gawker, you’ll find that quite a few people really, really don’t like Julia. And a lot of her detractors seem pretty sure they could do a better job as dating columnist.

Knowing how hard it is to be funny and informative about one of the most picked-over topics on earth, we got to thinking: What if we plucked one of Julia’s toughest critics off the commenting rolls at Gawker and gave them a shot to show up our girl? Julia readily agreed to the challenge, so we tapped Ella Good, whose snippy quips promised major fireworks: of Julia, she wrote, “Her thrown-together-in-eight-seconds ‘articles’ while in the greenroom of Red Eye are like the ‘use a scrunchie while giving head’ version of a dating column.” Ouch.

Below, we give you the cage match. Both ladies took on the same topic—Temporary Rational Abstinence (Julia’s choice)—and got the same 500 words to do it. And if you think you can do better still, bring it on: Send us your column at dating@timeoutny.com.

By Ella Good

It happens to most women. After months, if not years, of dating disappointments, we impose sanctions on our sexuality. We start to think that the lapse between the first date and the first night together is some sort of equation that will determine the health of our relationships. It’s a mild form of OCD as we begin to believe that if we prolong the wait for sex longer than we have before, we’ll find the love that has eluded us. Sure, a good man will wait for a woman to be ready, but does that mean the wrong man won’t do the same?

After a binge of bad relationships, my friend Anne has decided that sex too soon is a big reason she’s still single. “When I sleep with a guy after one or two dates, I think I’m sending the message that I’m not looking for anything serious,” she says. “It changes the dynamic too quickly, and there’s no taking back the mystery.” She recently started seeing someone who shows promise, and she’s made the decision to stay celibate for as long as possible. “I’ve vowed not to invite him up to my apartment for at least a month. I also wear old underwear that I don’t want him to see.”

I’m guilty of the same behavior. In the past I’ve blamed my dating failures on being too eager to consummate. “If I’d just made him wait a few more weeks…” is something I’ve said to myself often. But truthfully, would those relationships have worked out if I hadn’t invited the men to spend the night one date too soon? Would it have negated later arguments and disappointments that stemmed from things way outside the bedroom? No. But when people find themselves engaging in any sort of pattern, they immediately jump to the conclusion that it is their own behavior that’s doing them in.

I know a happily married woman who slept with her now husband on the first date. The next morning she thought she had doomed the whole affair, that nothing substantial would come of it. The fact was—and still is—that it wasn’t a bad decision. Sex didn’t destroy their chemistry or make it burn out too soon. She wrestled with her choice for months, always holding on to the belief that maybe not waiting meant the relationship had started off on the wrong foot.

So what does it mean? Is a first date that ends in the morning a bad thing? Does waiting a predetermined amount of time to have sex equal a better future together? I doubt it either way. Temporary abstinence can act as a good charade and make one feel as though one is in control of her own destiny. But the bottom line is, good things don’t necessarily come to those who wait.

Ella Good is a freelance writer. She keeps a blog at take-a-memo.blogspot.com.

  By Julia Allison

Most people think there are two types of abstinence: (1) the no-one-wants-to-have-sex-with-you kind (e.g., 40-Year-Old Virgin) and (2) the I’m-saving-myself-for-God-or-marriage kind (e.g., nuns and observant Catholics).

I think there should be a third type of celibacy: Temporary Rational Abstinence. In other words, you choose not to have sex for a period of time, voluntarily. Women who make this choice generally cite a desire to make emotionally healthy decisions and to focus on themselves (not on pleasing guys). Or maybe they just want to develop a relationship without the complications of physical intimacy. One wrote, “Without the emotional, spiritual and mental parts, sex was meaningless. Like cold cereal. After it was over, I still felt empty.” The length of her TRA? Now 18 months.

But ladies holding off on consummation isn’t a shocking revelation—we’re taught to be careful about our sexual choices from a very young age. (I spent 2001 in TRA mode, as well as this past summer, and no one thought anything of it.) When I sent out a survey asking whether readers had ever made a conscious decision to stop having sex for a period of time, I assumed I would receive eager replies—from women, since, as my friend Matt sneered, “Men never voluntarily choose abstinence.”

Mark, 44, an electrical contractor, begs to differ—he’s gone up to six months sex-free. “I was very unhappy with who I was having relations with and my reasons for having them. I wanted to reflect about where I was in my life. It’s really the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I realized that sex was the driving force in the relationship, when actually it should have been so much more! I’m as sex starved as the bum down the street, but priorities need to be in place.”

Mark isn’t the only guy who feels this way—in fact, a lot of men responded with similar concerns. Brent, 25, a writer, has done TRA several times. “Every female relationship I happened to have at that time was way too stressful. Mainly, my brain was getting cloudy and confused by getting pulled in 90 different directions at once, so I figured if I took a vow of abstinence, then I could reboot.” Did he regret it? Hell no. “Relationships, without question, get simpler when you take sex out of the equation altogether…but it’s not until then that you realize how horny you really are!”Eric, 28, a driver, said something that could have just as easily come from the average XX. He abstained for a time because “there was no meaning in it. When I was younger, that was fine. But when you get older, you want the sex to be more than wham! bam! thank you ma’am.”

One fellow cited an excellent rationale for the TRA he’s explored with his girlfriend. “If she broke up with me today, at least I would know that the reason the relationship didn’t last wasn’t because I was bad in the sack!”

Well, that’s something.

E-mail her at julia@timeoutny.com.

To view the results of Julia's survey on why people abstain from sex, please click through to page 2 below. And leave us a comment on the literary duel between Julia and Ella. We want to know what you think!

Why Abstain?

89% of respondents who voluntarily abstained from sex did not regret it.
73% wanted to have sex with a partner, but waited due to reasons other than religion.
4%abstained from sex after realizing that bas sex made them put on weight. All lost weight during their period of abstinence.
8% found sex distracting and needed the energy for something else.
10% believe they are more productive when they are not having sex (or putting the energy into trying to get sex).
4% couldn't be bothered to put in the energy to look for sex.
6% prefer masturbation.
2% abstained because they were uncomfortable with their body image.
6% abstained due to STDs (while waiting for STD results or out of fear of STDs).
4% waited because they wanted respect.
25%abstained as a cleansing ritual.
—Julia Allison (with Megan Alagna)