In my sophomore year, Ben and I lived next door to each other. I was inspired by my summer internship to start my own theater group. Almost every night I would sleep over but we wouldn’t have sex, just once every few weeks. I was disappointed; it was like getting crumbs off a table.

It went on this way the whole sophomore year. In the summer, I went to see Mike and the theater group again and then I got a job.

I began to realize that none of these three men I’ve been involved with, Ron, Ben, and Mike, were committed to me. I was always an occasional mistress, a secret, an afterthought. In addition, I had 7-8 one night stands.

Even though I didn’t really want those one night stands I couldn’t think of any reason not to. I felt it would have been mean to stop when we had already gone so far, after the guy was already stimulated. At the end of my sophomore year I finally decided that I would never be intimate with someone I didn’t care about.

During that year, I was living in what was the party center of the campus. People would often get drunk, even have sex in our living room. Around Valentine’s Day, I began to have anxiety attacks. It lasted for two weeks. I couldn’t eat. I felt so secluded, alone. School counselors couldn’t help. I had to leave that sickening environment, but I was just surviving, I kept trying to find a source of inspiration.

I started to look to my father. My father is very religious, close to God. He doesn’t attend church, but he reads the Bible often and prays. So when I was getting an anxiety attack, I would pray. I began to feel relieved, more normal, centered.

I met a spiritual group where I felt at home. I was shocked to find that the men and women who weren’t married didn’t have sex. The guys weren’t nerds; many of them were goodlooking, but they weren’t doing it. I looked in the Bible and in other religious books; they all said the same thing: don’t have any sex unless you are married.

My parents had never told me not to. My father, even though he was religious, didn’t bring it up. My mother was never happy with any of my friends, girls or guys, so I never felt that she particularly cared about this issue.

Looking back I realize that I had sex because I wanted to be loved and thought that was the way to attract the men I wanted to love me. I began to understand how little I was settling for, how little value I was giving myself. This only became clear after I separated from that lifestyle, then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve been abstinent for four years. Giving up the sex wasn’t very hard, though sometimes I missed the emotional involvement. But I understood how terrible was my taste in men. Like my mother, I was looking for a man to fill all my emotional needs, and like her, when they disappointed me, I blamed them, even though I was willing to be used by them and tried to manipulate them in various ways. I began to see that I need to be spiritually and emotionally whole myself before I would truly be able to love a man.

Now I’m engaged to Alan. He’s totally different from my old boyfriends. He’s very shy, even awkward. He’s kind and thoughtful. Several women in the theater used to tell me­ don’t go for the popular guys, go for the nerd, he’ll stay with you. Alan is not a nerd, but he is definitely more unselfish, more down-to-earth, less self-centered.

Love comes from commitment, not from chemicals, attractions, and sparks. Infatuation no longer interests me. I am focusing on developing myself, not just as an extension of a man. Being attractive to men, or enticing them with some parts of me, is no longer a source of happiness to me. I want my whole being to be accepted.