Sex Therapist Q&A

Is sex something that some people can simply live without? "20/20's" JuJu Chang reported on a growing number of people who classify themselves as asexual. They say they're living happy lives without any sexual activity.

Sex therapist Joy Davidson suggests that asexuals may want to explore underlying psychological or physical issues, before labeling themselves asexual.

Lisa in New Jersey Writes:

I am 19 years old, and I've been having a lot of trouble convincing my parents that I do not experience sexual attraction. After watching the asexuality story on "20/20," my father looked at me during your comments and gave me a very snide "See?" as if he feels that I should force myself to do something that I have absolutely no interest in. Is there anything I can say to my parents that will make them understand that sex just is not for me?

Davidson Responds:

I hope you can see the weird humor in having a dad who says, "Be more sexual!" while most of your friends' folks are probably saying, "Wait!" But I would hate to think you're rebelling against your father's pressure. Rebellion may be part of growing up, but knowing when someone has a good point, (even if it IS your dad!) is part of being a grown-up. In this instance, your dad is picking up on the idea that lack of interest in sex can be based on something other than an irreversible condition called asexuality.

I totally believe that you're not inclined toward having sex right now. But do I know for sure that you will never be interested? Not without a crystal ball. We all develop sexually at different paces. Some of us are sexually precocious, and some of us are late bloomers. Just because someone is in her late teens or early 20s doesn't mean she is necessarily in full bloom. What you feel now may not be who you are so much as where you are in your own unique cycle of development. By labeling yourself too soon, you run a serious risk of mislabeling yourself, then feeling duty-bound to live up to it.

There's no doubt that when you feel like an outsider, when all your friends seem boy crazy or girl crazy and you're not, you'll want to gravitate to a group that better reflects where you stand. I'd be down with that 100 percent if the group in question stood for accepting how you feel right now but also supported the possibilities for change. I'd be more comfortable, too, if the group offered education instead of an "if you think you are, you are" approach to the matter of asexuality. Lay psychology is sometimes intuitive and smart, and sometimes more about inclusion than pure wisdom.

In addition to the timing of sexual development, there are plenty of other legitimate reasons that someone could feel asexual without being in a permanent or irreversible state. The short list includes endocrine imbalances, history of trauma or abuse, subconscious negative attitudes about sex, fear of being swept up or losing control, depression, anxiety, and the effects of undiagnosed medical conditions. Some people might even just like feeling "special" or "unusual." In fact, there are so many convoluted possibilities that only a trained person can help you sort them out.

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