News Flash: Sex is a Distraction

When things ended with Date #4, I made a promise to myself: I wouldn’t get into another relationship for six months. It was clear that I couldn’t handle being in a relationship without losing my momentum in other areas of my life, and I was beginning to see a pattern of jumping from one long-term relationship to another. I’d been a serial monogamist since I was 14. One relationship after another. Some started before others had even ended. It was time for a change.

So, no relationships for six months. I decided that they were simply too big a distraction for the kinds of big things I was trying to achieve – applying to business school, saving for my first house, climbing the corporate ladder, crafting my own business, etc.

Did that mean I wasn’t going to have sex for six months either? I mean, let’s be realistic here. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I don’t really have it in me to sleep with someone I’m not romantically interested in, or rather couldn’t be romantically interested in. I tried the “friends with benefits” thing with GIWS, who actually ended up becoming one of my best friends after our relationship ended, but that got messy fast and I decided for the sake of our friendship that needed to be an “emergencies only” kind of thing.

New Year’s Eve rolls around. And I pick up a guy in a bar. And take him home. Ahem. I. Do. Not. Do. This. OK, well I haven’t done it since like, college. But I sort of figured, why not? I got home at 6 a.m. and slept the whole next day. Then we went out again, and I got home at 10:30 a.m. the next day. And I got a bad cold.

I’ve come to the rapid conclusion that not only are relationships a distraction, but so is sex. You heard me: sex is a distraction.

The pursuit of, anticipation of, before and after of – major distractions. How much time do women spend shaving their legs, bleaching their teeth, plucking their eyebrows, getting or giving themselves manicures and pedicures, shopping for the perfect ass jeans, putting together an outfit for a night out, doing our makeup, blow-drying our hair, posturing at the bar, convincing ourselves we can hunt down a worthwhile guy in a club when we know it’s not true, talking about it with our girlfriends, wondering if he’s going to call, and if so, when? I don’t even know how to figure out how much time guys spend thinking about it, but it’s safe to assume it’s at least 75 percent of their waking hours.

And at the end of the day, you still haven’t studied for the GMAT. You’re too tired to go for a run, and you get such a bad cold from your lack of sleep due to Mr. New Year’s Eve’s snoring that you have to take an afternoon off of work during a critical proving-yourself-in-your-new-promotion phase.

Is it worth it? Is sex just one really big distraction? It’s exciting, enticing, and when it’s good, it’s even a little dirty. But it’s fleeting. And what’s been passed up, what effort has been skimped, that lasts. A lower GMAT score, a lesser business school. A missed run can equal three missed runs since you got out of your groove, then you run a minute-less-than-average mile at your 5K. And being less than 110 percent on your career? Well, I don’t even need to go there.

Perhaps this is really why there’s such a gap between male and female earning after their 20s. It’s a lot more socially acceptable for a man to stay out of relationships while pursuing his career, or in the words of less eloquent men, “getting their shit together.” But that’s not the case for 20-something women. There must be something wrong with us if we’re not doing the sex-dating-relationships thing while pursuing our career goals as well. Somehow, we are less feminine. We become “career ladies” or are seen as ball-busters. We are told that taking our work seriously makes us masculine, and we are given tips on being sexy and career-driven at the same time. Well, that part is actually OK with me. I was clamoring along with the rest of you for Hilary to get rid of the pantsuit (seriously, woman, wear a skirt!).

I think a lot of young women are not necessarily in the settle-down life stage, and yet still feel pressured to date and search for The One in anticipation of the onset of that life stage. Why not embrace that stage? And if you still have too much on your plate, why not take sex off the menu in favor of something that will have a greater impact on your life than getting laid on New Year’s Eve?

So, I’m off it all. Sex, dating, relationships. All of it. At least while I prep for the GMAT this month. When it comes down to it, I’ve got priorities – too many if you ask anyone around me. And sex just doesn’t make the list.

Yeah. Ask me what I think in two weeks.

Photo by Bottom-Feeder via Flickr.

33 Responses to “News Flash: Sex is a Distraction”

  1. Rebecca says:

    I think sex is a stress reliever generally, not a distraction. Unless you’re thinking the sex will lead to a relationship and your hoping and thinking and expending energy on such matters… but if I’ve learned anything over the past couple years, sex first = no relationship. Taking a page from PT’s post today, I think career woman and sex go hand-in-hand unfortunately ;) Great post!

  2. Lance says:

    Great post, one of your most thought provoking, IMO. I’ll respond with my own post tomorrow.

    Cheers! Good luck not having sex for six months…I sure as hell wouldn’t want to happening to me ;)

  3. Truthoughts says:

    Great post. Keep in mind though that its “normally” when we make that decision that Mr. Right walks into our lives. At least that is how it happened with me.

    I was adamant about NOT having a relationship, even after meeting him… it was inevitable though ;-)

  4. Da1starr says:

    Great post. I’m of the opinion that you can have sex and not have it be a distraction, but it is pretty hard if you are one to attached sex to emotions and feelings. People usually do things (in this case sex) because the action means SOMETHING or is meant to lead somewhere. Determining why you are doing it is the 1st and only question you need to ask yourself in regards to if it is or can become a distraction. Are you secretly hoping you’ll like guy/gal enough for a relationship to ensue (Those getting the same FEELINGS and EMOTIONS on a continuous basis), or can you really just let a goodtime be just that, A GOODTIME? The closer you are to your focused goal s(Relationship, Family or Work and Success) I think dictates the answer.

  5. Milena says:

    I remember when I was a single gal in college. I was sort of dating this guy, and neither one of us was in love with the other, but we were quite fond of each other’s company. The sex became quite a distraction, to the point I was always carrying a set of overnight items with me to class in case I bumped into him.

    He found this amusing, I found it horribly distracting and an interference in my goals. All he asked me was, “If I didn’t exist, what would you be doing tonight?”

    I began to ask myself that question every time some sort of male entanglement was about to suck me in. “If this man didn’t exist, what would I be doing?” Reminding myself of my goals, and that Mr. Whoever was not part of them was sometimes the reality check I needed.

    And sometimes not…

  6. Carlos Miceli says:

    When it comes to sex, relationships and such, my personal experience tells me that you can´t choose. Like Truthoughts, i think that the person you need, may come when you least expect it, and that´s when you don’t have to choose. That leads to stubborness.

    I think that just by being focused on your objectives, you’ll do a lot better, but when Mr. Right comes along, choosing won’t be an option. Or at least shouldn’t.

    And yeah, i don’t think you’ll be saying the same in two to four weeks.

  7. hubs says:

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    237 Reasons To Have Sex

    Technically you only need one reason, actually, any reason. But you are so much more complicated than that, aren’t you?

    Well that is what psychologists Cindy Meston and Dr. Dave Buss, professors of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, think. In fact, they have put out a report (pdf) analyzing 327 reasons people have sex. That’s pretty complicated in my book. The reasons breakdown into four major groups, each of the breakdown into 13 subgroups as follows:


    1. Stress reduction
    2. Pleasure
    3. Physical
    4. Desirability


    1. Resources
    2. Social Status
    3. Revenge
    4. Utilitarian


    1. Love and commitment
    2. Expression


    1. Self-esteem boost
    2. Duty/pressure
    3. Mate guarding

    According to the study, the most and least frequently endorsed reasons for having sex were common among the great majority who were surveyed. There were nine themes that appeared to characterize the most frequently endorsed reasons for having intercourse:

    1. pure attraction to the other person in general
    2. experiencing physical pleasure
    3. expression of love
    4. having sex because of feeling desired by the other
    5. having sex to escalate the depth of the relationship
    6. curiosity or seeking new experiences
    7. marking a special occasion for celebration
    8. mere opportunity
    9. sex just happening due to seemingly uncontrollable circumstances

    There are over 237 reasons to have sex. Distraction is only one of them.

  8. Steve Errey - The Confidence Guy says:

    You bleech your teeth? By all means go for the ‘perfect ass jeans’ (us guys love those) but the teeth-bleaching seems like overkill!

    I’m not the kind of guy who picks girls up in bars, and sure, I get less sex as a result. Same with anything – choose the behaviour and choose the outcome. As long as the choice is a deliberate one then it’s all good. That said, I love that you took the lead.

    Anyways, as a guy I think a woman who is clear about what’s important to her and is willing to make choices based on those things is a darn site sexier than a woman who does none of those things. The trick is to still keep your eyes open enough to notice who comes into view.

  9. Andrew says:

    I agree – the teeth bleaching was new info, but this is why I love your blog! Great conversation starter here, though I’d have to say that you might’ve been a little low on your estimate of the % of time guys spend being distracted by sex!
    But really, what’s the point of it all without such enjoyable distractions? Good luck for the next 180 days…

  10. Eathan says:

    Great job here. Sex is a stress relief for me and it’s pleasurable if done properly. Now that I think about it.. It also clears my mind and just makes me chill.

    And for the record.. white teeth always make me notice the perfect ass jeans when a woman walks by.

    Happy New Year!

  11. buildingthelifeyouwant says:

    Hi Holly, what a great thought-provoker, thank you for sharing! :-) I was just wondering, isn’t sex somehow always on our minds? When we get too much, it may come in the way of other things, like our career as you mentioned. What about when we get none at all? I venture it’ll still be on our minds and distracting us, because we’ll be looking for ways to get it again. I’ve a feeling it’s all about balance…
    I’ll look forward to your next post about the topic, let’s see how you experience those next six months. ;-)
    All the best, Dee

  12. StephanieInCA says:

    I’ve never found sex to be a distraction. It’s the pursuit of sex, all of the damn logistics that mess everything up.

    When you think about it, there’s really no reason no-strings sex has to be confined to late, drunken nights and hours of lost productivity. I don’t want to hook up with somebody at 2 a.m.; I sleep then. But I DO have a couple free hours on Sunday afternoon… see what I mean?

  13. Honey says:

    I agree with those who note that the pursuit of sex is the distraction, not necessarily the sex itself (though I suppose it can be in the early stages of a relationship…but in that case the sex is just an outgrowth of the newness of the relationship). Have you tried Adult Friend Finder? Then you can screen and arrange meetups without all the bar-hopping…

  14. Brandy says:

    Wow HaHa,
    I am not sure if I am impressed with the "one night stand" guy’s performance or lack of. If you had wrote this without the fact you did receive sex. I would say "you need to get some." Try some vitamin C.
    Love & miss you ~MOM

  15. JR Moreau says:

    Sex isn’t all bad. I guess it depends if you’re an “all in” sort of person. But, I think you’ll do fine. You’ve got plenty of things on your plate to keep your mind and body busy. Worse comes to worse, socialize a little, but try not to do it in your night life.

    I’ll check in two weeks how yr. doing.

  16. The Dateable Dork says:

    Holly – You said so many things in this post that have been swirling around in my head for a long time, but I never managed to ackowledge them. In my opinion, sex can not only be a distraction, but an addition – the adrenaline rush, the excitement, the chase, etc. You hit the nail on the head with all the prep time women spend – it’s totally ridiculous! When I’m actively dating, it consumes my entire life. And yes, the rest of my life (career included) suffer for it.

    Great post – very well said.

    Then again, glad to hear you had some fun on New Year’s Eve. : )

  17. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think sex is a distraction as much as it is sometimes the main attraction. That’s my problem right now anyways. In my case its not keeping me from pursuing life goals or things as such, but it is one of the only things keeping me in a bad relationship. Sex is good, sometimes too good, and the problem is that sometimes that feeling is mistaken for misplaced love. A love we all need to feel, a love which only exsits with the person we long for. Yes, sex can also be an empty act of self-gratification but thats not a whole lot. O.K. maybe a geat memory and a nice story to tell also, but really, just an orgasm we shared with a stranger. A stranger which we will soon forget becuase they never fill the shoes of the person we really want, whether we have met that person or not. So back to my pathetic reason for staying with someone who has cheated on me. Well its sex, and I not mearly speaking of the verb or the the literal act, the sweaty, messy , wonderful thing we call sex. It’s the intamacy that can’t be replaced with someone you just met. Yes, I just tried that experiment 3 weeks ago and my vision became so much clearer. Not as much to tell me I should stay in a bad relationship, but at least to show me sex is not love and it can never be. Now that I think about it, maybe I am distracted by sex. Yeah, why else would I tolerate a cheating spouse? So I ask the author, is it sex that is distracting or love?

  18. Ron says:

    I think you’re right, on balance. Sex is distracting when you have other things going on. It also has the effect of altering a relationship’s course too soon, when it hasn’t quite found its ground yet. Other flaws in the relationship will often expose themselves shortly thereafter.

    Seems like having life balance is about tipping the scale in the favor of your own sanity and leaving sex to circumstances where it’s part of a full relationship, as opposed to making it the destination is a good thing.

  19. Holly Hoffman says:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    Just to clarify: I am not going celibate for six months. You people are crazy. I just said this month, as in January, while I study up for the GMAT. After that, I’ll re-evaluate.

    And I agree with all of you who said it’s about balance. Right now I have a lot on my plate, but once a few things get cleared off… well, I’ll be back in the game.

    And really? You’ve never heard of teeth whitening? I was raised in dental offices, so I guess a healthy smile is really important to me. Really. You shouldn’t neglect your teeth. Your smile can be your finest asset!

  20. lifeinthemiddlelane says:

    Good Luck on the GMAT!

    When I studied for the GRE and the LSAT that is ALL I did. My boss at work even helped me with the logic games for the LSAT.

    As for the sex/distraction thing…sex is only a distraction if you care (about the person, the relationship, what have you). And it seems that even when you don’t mean to, you do care. Even with the one night stand guy (who wasn’t a one night stand).

    One of the things I like about dating a woman who is as ambitious as I am is that we are in the same boat and our priorities are in the same place. Maybe if the guys that you date are similarly situated, balance would be easier to achieve.

  21. Monica O'Brien says:

    Holly, I have to be honest about your “Finding the One” comment: I’m jealous you get to talk about sex so much on your blog and I’m a little too married to go into anything this detailed. Good luck studying for the GMAT!

  22. Your Ill-fitting Overcoat says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I do suspect, however– based on friends of mine who are in incredibly healthy, balanced relationships– that when you meet the RIGHT person, it isn’t a distraction. He (or she) builds you up, instead of tearing you down, and supports you instead of draining you. You don’t have to spend every minute stressing over why he didn’t call or whether or not you can squeeze in a leg wax.

    But yeah, until that dude comes along? The rest of it’s mostly a waste.

  23. dadshouse says:

    You said sex is fleeting. Well, everything in life is fleeting. Everything arises, falls, and dissipates back to the nothingness from which it came. Sex just does this more quickly (10 minutes, an hour, a night…) than business school, or career.

    Who’s to say what’s more important? When you’re 80, will you look back and say “I’m so glad I gave up sex in pursuit of my career”, -or- “damn, why did I give up sex?”

    As for women putting career first: Pulitzer Winner Laura Sessions Stepp wrote a book about it:

    But her point isn’t to give up one-night-stands. Her point is to allow yourself to enter into relationships. It’s part of the human experience.

    ALL THAT SAID – the most important thing is for you to make your own choices, be at peace with yourself, be happy. It sounds like you are trying to take a more centered and balanced approach to your life, and that’s great.

  24. Just Curious says:

    I really cannot understand how anyone would take you too seriously by your lack of personal boundaries.

    Your posts are not open and honest as much as they lack discretion.

    You seem to be a very intelligent and attractive person. Why are you wanting to mess that all up?

  25. Akirah says:

    Hmm. Do you mean that the emotions that are tied to sex are distracting? I can see that point. Sex and anything resembling a relationship can and will eventually become distracting at some point. I almost started crying in my cubicle today at work because of some things my boyfriend and I are being faced with. Without him, I’d probably be way more successful in the working world…but I’m happy with the balance I’ve found between him and my career.

    Besides, my career won’t keep me warm at night.

  26. Your Ill-fitting Overcoat says:

    Akirah -

    I can’t speak for the blogger here, obviously, but my feeling is that having a healthy relationship with a loving partner is very different from casual, dead-end dating. The former builds you up and provides support, and though you will sometimes have struggles that require sacrifice, it’s worth it.

    What’s probably not worth it are the dead-end relationships with people I know in my heart are not right for me, but I’m too lazy or too afraid of being alone to cut it off. Those relationships go nowhere and they zap time and energy from our lives. I’ve seen it happen to so many amazing women– they start having issues with a flighty boyfriend and suddenly they’re showing up late to work, skipping the gym, cutting out extra-curricular activities, and carving a wedge into their friendships with other women. It sucks and I think that’s what the blogger is talking about.

    If you have a healthy, loving relationship or a drama-free friends-with-benefits– that’s awesome! And you should stick with what works for you.

  27. Akirah says:

    I totally agree. Actually, I kinda assumed that this was a given. I know how exhausting dating people you don’t see a future with can be. I’ve been there, done that and it’s distracting as hell. It’s all about balance…most people want healthy relationships AND stimulating careers, but sometimes we go through seasons of life where we’ll have to put one of those things on the backburner in order to get what we want out of life. And of course, this is a personal decision.

  28. Toxic Brit says:

    I admire your quest, its like 40 days and 40 nights !

    I’ve always found finding someone equally driven is probably the best way to go. Hope you’re well!

  29. Diva says:

    Did you just speak my mind? Yes, you did. I just started a new job and while my career is booming my love life is just doomed.

    Oh well, I would pick my career over a guy anyway. I am already loving your blog. Please blog some more.


  30. Carrie Ross says:

    Holly – great post! I am in a similar position as you. I've been blazing away down the career path for most of my 20's and the past year, I've recognized that work is not the sole purpose for my existence. I've had my own health challenges and after some soul searching, have realized that we each have limits. There are only 24 hours in a day. I work hard while I'm in the office, but my responsibilities in life extend far beyond what goes on inside my cubicle walls.

    I applaud your honesty and your stance on this issue. There is nothing wrong with working hard. But, there does come a point when work can no longer be the *only* aspect of your life. You can be successful in your career without sacrificing everything to have it.

  31. Jacki Welsh says:

    Loved this post. Absolutely LOVED it.

  32. Holly, I think that sex is great, don’t get me wrong. What I do have to say is that it often is used as a replacement for the intimate human connection that we are really looking for.

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