On the eve of her eve of her thirtieth birthday, Hephzibah Anderson glimpsed her college boyfriend going into a jewelry store with a smiling blonde, and in that moment realized it had been years since a man told her he loved her.
This discovery led her to question a decade of emotionally frustrating relationships with commitmentphobes. As she examined her past, the recognized that most of these relationships went off course at the precise moment sex was involved. Anderson decided it was time to spend a full year without sex to rediscover its meaning and purpose in her life. In Chastened, she shares the results of that year, narrating each month as she flirts, dates, and swoons but doesn’t have sex.
But her year of chastity is not without a little fooling around along the way. By taking sex out of the equation, Anderson allows herself the freedom to explore sexuality and femininity without the pressure and expectation of the inevitable physical coupling. And she finds a surprising and sophisticated sensuality in the mere touch of a hand, a sincere compliment given, a bed shared but not defiled. While sex is everywhere, Anderson muses, it’s only once you’ve sworn off it that you really begin to notice.
In this delightfully confessional account, Anderson chronicles her chaste (not to be confused with abstinent) year with candor and sincerity and provides a refreshing look at what is to be gained by going without. The results – her feelings about femininity, her body, relationships, and romance – are illuminating. Chastened is about using sex not for revenge or as leverage, but with a desire to gracefully (sometimes) and thoughtfully (always) investigate the value of the act. An enchanting and intelligent story, it reminds us just how sexy holding back can be.
Chastened is published in the US by Viking, and in the UK as a Vintage paperback. It’s also available in French translation as No more sex in the city from éditions Michel Lafon.