Sexless and Proud

ByABC News

March 23, 2006 — -- David Jay has had plenty of girlfriends. But despite the 23-year-old Californian's success in dating, he's a virgin -- and he plans to stay that way. He's not joining the priesthood or taking any vow of celibacy; he said he simply has no interest in having sex -- ever.

"I'm sure that life is really, really great when it's all about sex. But life is also really, really great when it's not about sex," he told "20/20's" JuJu Chang.

Keith Walker of Texas was married for four years, but said he had sex only a handful of times. "I really had no real interest or desire for sex. It was certainly nothing that I would ever think to do."

Nancy Mulligan, a divorcee from Washington state, said her seven-year marriage was never consummated. "We did other things. We'd watch out for each other. We were affectionate with each other," she said.

Victoria Glancy and Karl Hodgetts are preparing for that sort of marriage with their summer wedding. They're prepared to live happily but sexlessly ever after.

"I don't really see any difference between our relationship and other people's relationships, except you know, we don't have sex," Glancy said.

Who are these people? From different ages and walks of life, they share one thing in common -- not low libido -- no libido. They call themselves "asexual" and they proclaim that they are not attracted to men or women.

David Jay said his lack of libido is nothing new. He said he's never experienced attraction -- to either sex. "I realized that I was asexual because when I was young, all of my friends started being attracted to people, and I had no idea what they were talking about," he said.

It was the same way for Nancy Mulligan, who felt isolated for years. "I thought I was the only one in the world. I had just kind of settled into the rut that I was different and decided to do the best I could with it," she said.

But now asexuals are building a community through a Web site -- It has chat rooms, sells T-shirts and claims it has 6,000-plus members worldwide.

Jay is the Web site's founder, and the leader of what some call a new asexuality movement. He explains what's behind the group. "We're told that you need sex to be happy. We're told that the rules are that if you have a relationship, sex has to fit into it this way. And it's kind of fun to break that rule," he said.

But some experts question if asexuality even exists. There's been virtually no research on the subject. Psychologists disagree on how to define it. And there's no certainty on what might influence it. Do hormones, genetics, personal experiences play a part? With no clinical or scientific conclusions on the subject, asexuals create their own definition.

And that definition is a far cry from celibacy, Jay pointed out. "It's not a choice. Celibacy is a choice, whereas asexuality is just the way that you are. Much like being gay is not a choice, or being straight or being right-handed," he said.

Some studies show that asexual behavior does exist in the animal world. Dr. Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Ontario, who has conducted one of the few studies of human asexuality said he found as much as 1 percent of the population may be asexual.

"They may still have physiological arousal experiences, vaginal lubrication, erections, but they may not be able to, or [connect] that arousal to men, women or both," Bogaert said.

Living without that connection can be a challenge in a world fixated on sex.

"What I mind is when the idea gets enforced that people need sex. That without sex, you're somehow broken. And of course, we can be happy without sex," Jay said.

But Joy Davidson, a certified sex therapist, believes Jay and his fellow asexuals may be shortchanging themselves with the asexual label.

"Sex is a fabulous, enormously pleasurable aspect of life. And your saying you don't miss it is like someone in a sense who's color blind saying, 'I don't miss color.' Of course, you don't miss what you've never had," Davidson said.

Davidson cited a litany of factors that may be at the root of an asexual life.

"There may be something, maybe something physiological, endocrine, maybe something that has to do with trauma, or abuse, or repression, or severe religiosity, that has predisposed you to shutting down the possibility of being sexually engaged," she said.

But the asexuals Chang spoke with for "20/20" said they're perfectly happy as they are. They said they're used to people questioning their identity. They've even questioned it themselves. For years Victoria Glancy, who wasn't attracted to men, assumed she was a lesbian.

"I have slept with a couple of women, and it was just sort of, 'Oh, well, OK, we've done that now, so we don't have to ever do it again, right,'" she said.

Glancy ultimately decided that she's asexual -- a label Davidson has called problematic.

"You might as well label yourself not curious, unadventurous, narrow-minded, blind to possibilities. That's what happens when you label yourself as sexually neutered," Davidson said.

Jay said his group is not trying to paint anyone into a corner. "The thing about the asexual community is that we're not a place people come to to stop exploring themselves. We don't want to slap a label on people and then have that confine them," he said.

It's true that even the most vocal asexuals can have a change of heart. To their astonishment, Victoria Glancy and her fiancé, Karl Hodgetts, recently discovered that their passions under the covers had been ignited.

Glancy said she and Hodgetts had been getting very close to having sex recently. And Hodgetts is open to that possibility. "I just feel completely comfortable with Victoria. I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable with someone. And so I'm willing to, you know, try things," he said.

So are Glancy and Hodgetts just ammunition for critics who say asexuals simply haven't found the right partners for themselves?

That doesn't matter to Glancy, because, she said, there's a possibility she won't want to have sex — or have it more than once.

"I could have sex with Karl one time and go, 'Oh, OK, saw what that was like,' and then not like it," she said.

At first, Glancy said, she felt a bit uncomfortable acknowledging her sexual attraction to her fiancé.

"When we were first kind of fooling around, and I'm like, 'Oh, I'm not supposed to like this.' But then that's stupid. I mean, you're just are who you are," she told Chang.

Although they hadn't yet had sex when Chang spoke with them, Glancy and Hodgetts removed themselves from the asexuality Web site. For the remaining members, giving voice to asexuality is still a proud mission.

Chang asked Jay: "If I had a pill that I could give you to make you sexual, would you want it?"

"I would not take a pill to become a sexual person. I'm having way too much fun as an asexual person," he said.