What Does It Mean To Have No Interest In Sex?

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Reader’s Question

What is it called when one has generally no interest whatsoever in procreation? For instance, heterosexual is sexual orientation for the opposite sex, homosexual for the same sex, and bisexual for both sexes. What about no sex?

There are numerous explanations for a lack in sexual appetite, but what if one has a general disinterest in sexual activity altogether?

Psychologist’s Reply

Asexuality is a term we use to describe a lot of what you are referring to. Asexuality poses a very complex challenge to what most of our fundamental beliefs are about people and their traditional feelings about sex. The AVEN (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) describes:

An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.

Although rare in the population, some studies show around 1-2% of the population are asexual. Asexuality is rarely talked about as a sexual orientation. The asexual movement has begun to challenge the way we see sex drive and libido and acknowledges that it still receives disbelief and derogatory responses from the mainstream. Asexuality first received attention when we started to look at the sexuality and drive of those in later life and now is acknowledged as something that is seen throughout the entire development of one’s life span. Asexuals are likely to report that they are people who don’t experience sexual attraction. This definition refers to the feelings or desires one has or does not have about sexual contact/attraction. However, it is now starting to become more of an identity as legitimate as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Asexuality is traditionally often seen as a sexual dysfunction. However, this is far from the truth nowadays. Sexual Aversion Disorder was once used to describe individuals who reported these feelings. We need to keep in mind that sexual disorders often have significant distress associated with them for the individual and can be quite incapacitating. Asexuals often do not report this level of distress. Unlike celibacy, we are now beginning to see asexuality as a sexual orientation. Similarly, a disinterest in romance and touch is not necessarily part of being asexual either. Many who are asexual still engage in relationships and hug, kiss, and touch.

Asexuality challenges the widely held assumption well embedded in our society that everyone is sexual. We almost intuitively believe that everyone experiences sexual attraction and that it is a very powerful force inside us all that affects everyone in the exact same way. Our assumptions about sex are so engrained that sexual people might not even recognize them, while asexuals confront them head on. Given that the issue has not seen as much light in the media as other sexual orientations, this can often leave asexuals feeling alone and like there is something wrong with them. If you feel like this, know that there are many others out there too who are just now beginning to organize and speak up. As psychologists, we need to begin to better understand the unique problems and politics that asexuals face that are quite different from those of other sexual orientations. Asexuality struggles still to be seen as a legitimate sexual orientation. Most people still believe that one cannot love without sex and that asexual relationships can’t be seen as healthy and bring forth happiness. Finally, sex and sexuality are more complicated than we originally thought. We need to give time and understanding to those who are still trying to make sense of theirs.

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