Great loves, great sex, happy selves -- it's not a competition

Is it possible for a woman who practices abstinence outside of marriage to compete on a level playing field against a woman who uses sex as a tool in her relationship tool-box? (For a crazy minute or two, I was hit with the temptation to take off the gloves and really compete for the attentions of the fellow I casually dated ... just a harebrained moment of competitive spirit that was quickly managed by rational and decent thought, but still, in that moment I realized my handicap of chastity...) N.W., Las Vegas

I thought about this question for a long time. Something was bugging me. Took me a while to figure it out. But I did.

I hesitate to engage this question because I don't want to embrace the presuppositions in the question's driving metaphors. Compete? Playing field? Tools? Taking off the gloves? Handicap? Ouch.

I'm not going to censor or soften the dramatic reaction that stirred in me: As regards men, courtship, sexual courtship, and selfhood ... I mostly HATE the way western civilization has defined and formed -- and distorted -- women over the last 500 years or so! Maybe longer than that, but that's as far back as I can grasp.

Do you hear my passionate advocacy? Advocacy for the feminine? My respect for you? If I stir defensiveness or umbrage in you, you just aren't hearing me. I'm on your side.

I want to completely rewire pretty much the entire way you're thinking about this issue. If I'm successful, your question will simply evaporate. Null and void. Thankfully unnecessary. Which means we'll replace it with new questions. Questions with lots more room for living well.

Here's a moral mandate for sex. It will set you free. If you faithfully practice this mandate, you will avoid or ameliorate many or most of your concerns about the sometimes unhappy or destructive aspects of sexual behavior. Needle-point this, frame it, and hang it on the wall in your bedroom. Carve it in granite. Tattoo it on your preferred anatomical location.

Never have any sex you don't want to have, with anyone with whom you don't want to have it.

Next -- and I'm mean this -- stop "competing." Please. It makes you miserable, it exaggerates the power of the other women around you, it completely underestimates (and condescends to) the masculine, and misapprehends the task at hand.

What's the task at hand? Selfhood! The passionate embrace of self. Now that's hot!

I'm going to take a shot at describing the sort of woman a real man notices ...

1. She doesn't think of her desirability in relative terms. Ever. That is, she never says, "Well, I'm no runway model but ..." or, apologetically, "Now, I've had two babies you know ..." When she hears women bemoan their inability to compete with a 24-year-old or with women whose sexual mores are, shall we say, less strict, she chuckles to herself, because she knows that neither sex nor morality nor selfhood are a competition. Besides, she has no desire for a man who can't date peers.

2. She decides what's sexy. She decides what's beautiful. For herself. And then she makes it happen. For herself. Because she likes feeling sexy and beautiful. Independent of any man or any woman around her. It is part of her own vitality, which she cherishes, and for which she has sufficient self-respect to desire and pursue with singular commitment. She doesn't pay much attention to whether her entering a room makes anyone else feel vital. That's not her business. Or her responsibility.

3. She needs to do very little to make a man notice, because her very carriage - her energy - turns his head. Real men don't need a lot of prompts and provocations to notice women who love being women, who wield self-respect, confidence, and integrity, who love being vital and alive ... women who love men to be men.

Consider these two sample dialogues:

Dialogue #1
If I let you have sex with me before we're married, will you give me your attention?
BoyDisguisedAsMan: Sure!

Dialogue #2
If I let you have sex with me before we're married, will you give me your attention?
ActualRealMan: Let me? Let me have sex with you? I already don't want to have sex with you, just because of the way you asked the question.