FROM the moment I lost my virginity to a friend at 16, I thought real relationships fed off sexual desire, and that sex was the way to keep your partner happy. Sex

FROM the moment I lost my virginity to a friend at 16, I thought real relationships fed off sexual desire, and that sex was the way to keep your partner happy.

Sex became the key to happiness – and I was soon mistaking lust for love, having five lovers in my teenage years.

 As a teen, Jess says she spent too much time worrying about looking sexy
As a teen, Jess says she spent too much time worrying about looking sexy

I spent countless hours thinking about my body, how I could manage my weight or post the right way to look like an Instagram model because I worried otherwise I wouldn’t be ‘sexy’.

I splashed cash on lacy underwear I knew was uncomfortable and I’d barely wear.

And after beginning to suffer with depression and anxiety, I used the endorphins from sex to try and ‘cure’ the pain of my mental illness.

When I was sad, sex was the answer – because it makes people happy and it’s fun, right? 

But now, at the age of 21, I haven't had sex for almost two years - despite having a boyfriend who I fancy the pants off.

I met Josh, 20, at college, and on our first date, I found myself head over heels.

But just an hour into the date he said something that would change my opinion of him for what I thought would be forever - that he'd never had sex and he wouldn't do it before marriage.

 Jess lost her virginity shortly after she turned 16 - and thought sex was the key to happiness
Jess lost her virginity shortly after she turned 16 - and thought sex was the key to happiness

As a then self-confessed 19-year-old wild child, I found myself in stunned silence as he explained his reasons, which were part religious and part moral.

He explained that he was a practising Christian - which didn't bother me, despite being a hardcore atheist myself back then.

But the idea that of pursuing a relationship in which we couldn't have sex did not sit well with me at first - I didn't even think it was possible.

But 18 months on, we are in a serious relationship where we kiss and cuddle but sex is off the cards - meaning we sleep in separate beds and we will until we get married.

 Jess, now 21, says she spent too long in the past worrying about being sexy before giving up sex
Jess, now 21, says she spent too long in the past worrying about being sexy before giving up sex

Having been celibate for this long, I wasn't surprised by new research that shows young Brits are having less sex than a decade ago - with less than half of men and women aged 16 to 44 have sex at least once a week.

Experts have blamed digital distractions such as Netflix - but I think there's more important reasons than that.

'I was obsessed with being sexy'

After my first date with Josh, I spent time thinking about why sex was so important to me.

If I'm honest, I was pretty sure it wouldn't work out long term if we couldn't be intimate.

On our next date, he told me that being abstinent his whole life had led to him being called everything from ‘broken’ to ‘gay’ by other guys.

When I asked him what his beliefs were founded on, he said ultimately he felt sex was too important to be thrown away in his teen years.

 Jess says she's happier and more confident than ever with Josh
Jess says she's happier and more confident than ever with Josh

Of course, like anyone, there would be times that were tempting and he too has urges, but he simply dealt with it by walking away and removing himself from any situation that could lead him into temptation.

What he said made sense - but for weeks, I would slip it into conversation to see if he’d changed his mind.

As we continued to date, I tested his boundaries to see how far I could take it and asked questions about why his beliefs about it were so strong. I was his devil’s advocate.

I now think back now and laugh at how I protested because I didn’t understand why he’d make a pass on sex.

SEX! The be-all and end-all of relationships, the happiness in everyone’s life, right? I couldn't have been more wrong.

 Jess with boyfriend Josh, who she has now been with for 18 months
Jess with boyfriend Josh, who she has now been with for 18 months

'He has urges like everyone else'

But as our relationship progressed, I realised that not having sex actually made our relationship better, and I was happier than I'd ever been.

In today’s day and age it’s hard not to base your life around sex as a young person - because from what I witnessed at schools and University.

Those who don’t are often looked down on as if there’s something wrong with them or even bullied.

Josh says:

When Jess first told me about her history, I'm not going to lie I was apprehensive at best, especially when I explained my own personal beliefs.

But as we started dating and learnt more and more about one another, sex was one thing I was not prepared to make any compromises with and if we were going to work, it was Jess that would have to.

Of course, this was certainly tough for her at first and being honest I'm sure it was almost a deal-breaker.

But looking back we're so glad we stuck by it - we are better off for it, closer as a couple and our relationship is built on love and not sex.

So I’ll admit, it took me a while to get used to the idea that this new relationship would work without sex - and I had plenty of tantrums along the way - often telling Josh that he didn’t really ‘love’ me without it.

I’m now 18 months celibate, and I’m happier than I ever could have imagined.

No, being celibate doesn’t mean I had to run off to a convent to become a nun and swear myself off sex for the rest of my life - at 19, to respect my boyfriend's beliefs, I simply chose to put it on hold until I get married.

 Jess and Josh - pictured with Jess' pet dog, Buddy - won't have sex until they get married
Jess and Josh - pictured with Jess' pet dog, Buddy - won't have sex until they get married

Giving up sex is something that’s clearly on the rise - with recent studies across the globe showing that people in their 20s are now twice as likely to go down the road of abstinence than their parents were.

And while experts put the phenomenon down to a litany of negative influences like stress, social media and even watching too much Netflix - I think it’s about time we started talking about the positives behind making the decision to abstain.

'My mates are jealous that I don't need a bikini wax'

I now can say I’ve never felt so confident in myself.

When the pressures of life made me gain weight, I no longer worried that I have to look a certain way in order to keep a man interested - instead, my current relationship is more about our emotional needs than carnal ones.

I’ve come to realise that loving someone isn’t about what you both can do in the bedroom, it’s about how you cope with the pressures of life, working together rather than shying away from them between the sheets.

Like many other couples we still cuddle, kiss and spend time together - we just don’t share a bed to prevent any temptations, and we keep each other in check to never take things further than we can handle.

In fact, so many people, once I’ve fully explained it to them, have praised our arrangements, with friends telling me how jealous they are that I don’t need to get a bikini wax.

 Jess says she spent a fortune on expensive underwear in a bid to be more attractive
Jess says she spent a fortune on expensive underwear in a bid to be more attractive

Some have even admitted that they too sometimes feel pressured to perform when it comes to the bedroom, or that they worry they spend too much time at it rather than talking and getting to know each other more.

And while I’ve had the occasional obvious probes from people asking me what I’ll do ‘if the sex is bad’ when I do get married, I just give a gentle reminder that anyone’s first time isn’t exactly magical.

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Sex is a big commitment, and giving up your body in an intimate way to someone should not be something taken lightly, or just for the sake of popularity and acceptance in the modern world.

Naturally, if it’s something someone feels ready for, enjoys or is confident in, I am nobody to tell them how to live their life - and I never judge friends or even strangers on the choices they make in their sex lives.

But for youngsters who may be struggling as they give too much of themselves away to others because they think it’s what everyone does - I want to share my story to let them know it’s okay to give it up.

So while some people might just find what I’m about to say just a little too hard to handle - giving up sex was one of the best decisions I ever made."

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