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Would you rather go without sex or books?

Would you go without sex or books for two weeks?

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At the request of David Rothman from comes the weighty question of whether you would give up sex for two weeks or reading for two weeks.

According to a survey conducted by the New York Times (via online polling which isn’t always accurate), more women would give up sex than access to the Internet. 46% of women would forego the physical activity and 30% of men.

To do a slightly different spin on it, would you rather give up books or sex for two weeks?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Bev Stephans
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 09:51:02

    This is really a no-brainer. Anyone can go without sex for two weeks and in some cases, a whole lot longer. I can’t go without something to read for 1 day!

    Think about it. People in the military go without sex for a long time depending on their deployment, but they have books to read. A woman in the last stages of pregnancy and post partum goes without sex for at least 12 weeks, but has books to comfort her. Those are the two best examples I can come up with. There are many others, but I wouldn’t want to get into them.

  2. theo
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 10:06:35

    Sex, of course! Books last longer *snort*

    Really, I think Bev Stephans covered it. We are forced at times for whatever reason to go without sex, sometimes for months on end. But we read every day, whether it’s a huge novel or the stop sign on the corner. I can’t imagine going without a book for two weeks. It’s just impossible to fathom.

  3. votermom
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 10:09:33

    Ditto what Bev & theo said!

    But if you were to make me pick between books and dark chocolate — now THAT would be a dilemma!!!!!

  4. katiebabs
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 10:23:54

    I cannot give up reading for 2 weeks, just can’t.
    Now if I was dating George Clooney, I may have to rethink this…

  5. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 11:37:30

    Oh, geez, that’s a hard one.

    I can tell stories in my head to keep me entertained…sex on the other hand, not as much fun solo. Yeah, I’ve had to do without it before but I hated it. I rarely have to go without books though. SO if this was an either/or and a short term thing, I’d temporarily go without book. Ouch…man, even thinking it hurts.

  6. GrowlyCub
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 12:01:53

    This being a self-selected sample of readers, I’d expect the majority of folks to answer ‘sex’ rather than ‘books’. But out in the real world, where there are scads of folks who never crack open a book, I expect the percentage would look very differently.

    I logically understand that people have other hobbies and ways to fill their free time, but deep down, it’s unfathomable to me that there are folks who do not read books for pleasure, ever…

    I think a lot of our current disposable sound-bite society comes from the fact that sitting down to read a whole book is not encouraged any longer, neither by the schools nor the parents.

    When I was a kid, I had piano lessons one hour a week, and I was expected to practice, but that was it. The rest of my free time I spent at the local library (or outdoors miles away from home with my friends for that matter). I look at the poor kids today and they don’t have *time* to sit down and read a book, between all the extra-curricular activities they are supposed to be involved in so they can list them on their applications for college and look good.

    That system is wrong on so many levels… and it’s producing almost illiterate students (they can read and write, but do it pretty badly and they have no patience and the attention spans of gnats – that’s an over-generalization naturally, but my few years in higher ed, both as teacher and admissions specialist – really were deeply depressing).

    So, jettison the sex and read a few books… and make your kids do so, too, grin. See, that way we also combat teen pregnancy, rofl.

  7. GrowlyCub
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 12:03:46

    Well, darn, the spam filter ate my erudite comment. :)

  8. Moth
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 12:36:31

    Since I can’t have sex to fill the time between classes in school, or have sex at my desk on my lunch break at work, or have sex to lull me to sleep-readiness at night (least not good sex), I’m going to say I can go without sex sooner than I could books.

    Not for any longer than two weeks, though. Let’s be reasonable. ;P

  9. Jia
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 12:47:51

    @GrowlyCub: No worries, it’s easily fished out!

  10. GrowlyCub
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 13:11:37

    Thanks, Jia. I’m really curious what triggered the spam filter. I didn’t have any dirty words in there, grin…

  11. Caty
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 13:22:01

    Given that I’ve long been managing perfectly well with no sex whatsoever, and I’m currently reading my 175th book this year, this is not a difficult question for me.

  12. Marsha
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 13:36:37

    I like sex and find it a very fun way to pass the time but reading is like breathing for me. I couldn’t *choose* to go without doing either – without books or air I’d be a sad, sad case.

    I feel I should point out that some of my favorite books include wonderful depictions of sexual acts (that are hot/sweet/tender/loving as required by the story) but sex rarely includes opportunities for reading. Giving up sex for books is kind of like having both anyway (for me) but giving up books for sex would result in painful deprivation of both pleasures.

  13. KMont
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 13:51:22

    Definitely would go without sex for two weeks. I have practice in this already though, so hope that’s not cheating. Hubbster used to go out of town a lot on business. More than two weeks at a time. So I’m an old pro at the books for company routine. Piece of cake.

  14. Jessa Slade
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 14:05:22

    I’m with the majority on this one. My sweetie can vouch for my preference VEG. If I’m curled up on the couch all afternoon/evening with an awesome book that MUST be finished before I rise, he knows better than to ask “Are you STILL reading?”

  15. Leah
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 14:11:22

    Let’s see….given childhood, strict religious beliefs, dry spells, late marriage, 3 pregnancies (the libido, it just shut off), 3 infancies and kids who can’t stay in their own beds….I’ve spent most of my life not having sex. But I started reading at the age of 2. There is just no contest here!

  16. Ann Somerville
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 14:41:25

    Two weeks without sex? Pah. Amateurs.

  17. Aoife
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 20:57:26

    Marsha said:

    sex rarely includes opportunities for reading

    The mind boggles. I can think of so many things to say to this, but I think I’ll just move on (snort).

    Going without sex for two weeks wouldn’t be a problem, but reading is what I do.

  18. KristieJ
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 21:39:29

    I’ve gone 3 years without sex (egads!) but can’t go more than two or three days without reading

  19. Samantha
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 23:17:33

    Seeing as how it’s already been over 2 years and a new 6 foot bookcase, I’d say 2 weeks would be no problem. (Don’t even ask how many batteries belong it that list)

  20. Books beat out sex in poll—but is it representative of the world at large? | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 23:32:01

    […] kindly has, with her own poll—asking about books in general rather than e-books. Whatever the language, […]

  21. Tae
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 02:58:35

    2 weeks? Geez I thought you meant forever.
    I love my husband, I do. However, I can adopt kids if I need and there are other ways to getting satisfaction. I’d give up sex much sooner than I’d give up my books.

  22. dfhutch
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 06:11:53

    On GrowlyCub’s

    This being a self-selected sample of readers, I'd expect the majority of folks to answer 'sex' rather than ‘books'. But out in the real world, where there are scads of folks who never crack open a book, I expect the percentage would look very differently.

    I logically understand that people have other hobbies and ways to fill their free time, but deep down, it's unfathomable to me that there are folks who do not read books for pleasure, ever…

    GrowlyCub, I think your suggestion that we’d yield very diff. result with an otherwise “real-world” sample. I’d like to see that graph.

    As far as it being unfathomable, folks who do not read books for pleasure (or informational purpose, I’d like to take the liberty of adding) I can understand. I am in the presence sometimes of individuals who fit this billing. Some struggle with the college program curriculum because they don’t understand the readings, some literally experience an anxiety attack when unexpectedly finding themselves in the public library (true story). The in-between examples are too numerous to name. I find it fathomable, however, based on my unquenchable thirst for “the root cause of all matters surrounding humans “being”. After having placed myself in the trenches, (most times to satisfy my curiosity in general and other times to support my acadmic pursuits) I find there to be a strong correlation btwn. esteem, self-worth, self-value, etc. and literacy skills or motivation to acquire them. Because of the stigma attached to illiteracy or below-standard reading ability coupled with symptom-driven approaches to a solution (a don’t ask, don’t tell) we do have many folks, disproportionate within certain populations) who lack the courage to “expose” themselves and reach out for help–real help–and simultaneously are misdiagnosed by those positioned to exact change but are satisfied with labeling the symptoms as the root cause and, consequently, proceed accordingly.

    Sorry for the long posting:) Just had to comment since I breathe this stuff: the joy of reading…and the fact that so many, unnecessarily, can’t fathom it being enjoyable.

  23. Marsha
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 07:04:27

    The mind boggles. I can think of so many things to say to this, but I think I'll just move on (snort).

    Oh, Aoife, don’t hold back on my account! I specifically wrote that (in that way) to try and provoke a response, snorting myself all the while.

    It’s true, though. I’ve not yet encountered a sexual situation that involved more persons than just myself but included reading. Perhaps that’s a failure of imagination on my part?

  24. Aoife
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 07:38:02

    @Marsha It made me laugh, because, of course, I immediately thought of a couple of instances, long, long ago, when if I could have managed it discreetly, a book+sex would have held off boredom on my part, and at least the time would have been spent enjoyably.

    At any rate, thanks for the chuckle.

  25. Jill Sorenson
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 09:24:09

    I also laughed at the no reading during sex comment. I’ve been there. Furtive glances at the book I put down to give hubby some attention, uh-huh. Sometimes it works the other way, too. The book I’m reading inspires me to give him some attention!

    Hard to decide…

  26. Kat
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 11:48:07

    Made that decision years ago, and haven’t cared about missing sex since. Books are my life!

  27. Lexie
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 13:35:07

    Sex, I can definately do without sex for two weeks (or longer, I’ve had to go longer >.> ). I can barely go a day without a book (not including when I have severe migraines). Sex is a wonderful thing, but honestly its fleeting and its not like you can (legally) have sex whereever you want. If I want to read at 3am while on the way home on the train from the city I can whip out a book, if I want to have sex at 3am, well I have to wait until I get home, hope that my boyfriend is awake and that he will forgo sleep for a while to have sex (its hit or miss depending on when he has class that day).

    In the interests of being fair I asked my boyfriend which he would do it without (substituting video games for books, since he doesn’t read but he cares about video games as much as I care about books) and he said sex as well.

  28. joanne
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 15:21:59

    Another check in the plus column for those of us who can multi-task.

  29. April
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 09:12:59

    This like one of those crazy games my kids are always playing: “Mom. Would you rather eat a pound of earwax or a cup of vomit?” I always say, “don’t give me two impossible situations and expect me to pick one. I would eat neither, end of story.”

    However, being that I have been forcibly celibate for the last 7 months, and have 8 months to go, due to my husband being in Iraq….I know I can endure the lack of sex, and the sex books are helping me through this awful intercourse free existence. I can equally imagine a desert island scenario that includes a hot love slave with incredible recuperative powers and amazing stamina, that happens to be capable of deep philosophical conversations–and no books. But how awesome would that island be if it ALSO had a huge library? Impossible choices.

  30. Kathleen MacIver
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 18:22:17

    Well… none of the other “give up books” readers have commented… but I will!

    I’ve gone two weeks without reading a book plenty of times. As a homeschooling mother of three, I have to steal time to read. I’m a fast or famine reader. I’ll go several weeks focusing on the kids, the house, and projects I’m in the middle of… then get desperate for some books and read four or five straight through while everything crumbles around me. So I know I can do two weeks without it bothering me too much. After all, I’ve still got my imagination and replays of all my favorite scenes.

    Sex? Well… hubby and I both waited ’till were married… so that would have been easy to go without 14 years ago, but since then? We’ve gone longer than that since our wedding day only twice. And once was because I was staying with my sick mother out of state for five weeks. Not even pregnancy stopped us. Heck… pregnancy sex was fantastic, right up ’till the night before the kids were born, and we only waited a week afterwards. We simply miss it and each other if we don’t have some fun lavishing attention on each other at least once a week.

    Does the fact that I write sweet and prefer to read sweet romance have anything to do with my vote? I don’t know…

  31. Shreela
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 23:47:44

    The answer would change depending on which part of my life I was living when asked this question. Fifteen years ago, I was stuck in a sexless relationship, and I’d temporarily escape the suffering with books. But luckily I’m no longer in that relationship, and have been married to my wonderful hubby since 2000.

    So, at this time, I’d give up reading before I’d give up sex for two weeks. Heck, there’s always TV and DVDs.

  32. Nat
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 18:03:47

    I can do without either books or sex!
    The last book was a text book in college haven’t read a book since then. That was
    probably 40 years ago. I actually hate reading. Sex falls in the same catagory married 43 years and we hadn’t had sex in the last 30 years.

  33. Lynn
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 19:09:01

    Definitely books.

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