“This ‘spinster thing’ you’re doing. I get the alone bit, but what do you do about sex?”
“So you don’t like sex?”
“Spinster, eh? I bet it’s been a while right? You know if you ever have the need, I’d totally help you out.”
Since publicly declaring my spinsterhood questions about sex have been posed to me in one form or another by genuinely curious friends, inquisitive blog readers and of course the occasional hopeful potential partner. While the motivation, wording and level of crudeness varies the big question everyone seems to want answered is, “Do spinsters have sex?”
What some of you really want to know is whether or not THIS spinster has sex, to which I’ll respond that despite much of my life being publicly shared across the blog world, whether or not Spinster Jane gets any on a regular basis is really none of your sweet business. I know, I know, you were hoping and it’s still possible that there is a drunk blog post full of all kinds of naughty in my future, but if breath holding is involved you are quite likely going to lose consciousness before that ever occurs. Now, back to the question at hand…
I could go into an entire post about how if I had a penis and this blog was titled Bachelor John, you’d likely not be asking. In fact you’d probably assume that I was having my more primal needs satisfied on a regular basis, but we’ve already had the bachelor vs. spinster debate.
According to various online etymology dictionaries (relax, this post really is about sex...keep reading) the word spinster originally meant just what it sounds like; a woman who spins*. Back in less enlightened times, to remain unmarried was basically unheard of since, social stigma aside, it generally meant that one had no means of support. Marriage in most cases meant survival. However, taking in wool for spinning was one of the very few ways a woman could have an independent income outside of marriage and so for some women who either never found a partner, or who, even in those times, may have chosen to not seek one out, spinning was a way to support themselves financially.
While I can’t claim know that spinster took on the stigma that it did because people may have looked down on these women, (though there were probably relatively few women who were able to do this, and many may have wanted to marry but for one reason or were never able to, they were more likely than not on the fringe of their particular society) by the 17th century it was being used regularly in legal documents to denote a woman who remained unmarried beyond the expected marriageable age. Eventually it came to have the meaning most of us associate with the word, unmarried, lonely, slightly crazy cat lady who, if the thought even crosses her mind, has a sex life that only involves something that needs batteries.
My intent in using the word spinster has always meant to be a reclaiming or redefining of the word that is at least in part inspired by those spinsters of old who were able to be independent and in control of their own choices at a time when a woman being alone was practically unheard of. While applying the word spinster to myself does carry the obvious intent to not seek out permanent partnership with any one person and to embrace living life as a single woman, it also means that I am choosing to live an independent life in which I am my own priority and that all of the decisions in my life are mine alone to make. That includes the decision of whether or not to have sex.
So, to answer the big question, do spinsters have sex? The answer to that is, yes of course they do…if they choose to. Some spinsters have a lot of sex; some might only do it on the weekends; and some might even be downright promiscuous. And yup, some spinsters don’t have sex. Some are unable to find appropriate partners; some don’t like sex; and some are just too busy doing other things.
There you have it folks. Spinsters, breaking the rules for over 400 years…
(By the way…um, your lips are turning a bit blue)
* "spinster." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 18 Jul. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spinster>.