Q. I recently graduated from college and will be attending grad school in the Fall. I have always had a lot of close friends, both male and female, but I have never been in any kind of dating relationship. I am comfortable around guys, and enjoying hanging out with guys and girls, but that is as far as it goes. I have been to many dances/functions with guys, and I have fun, but everything has always been completely non-sexual. I have been asked out by guys in the past, but I don’t want to lead them on, because I have no evidence, even after spending quite a bit of one-on-one time with them, that I will ever be physically attracted to anyone. I don’t think I am a lesbian; I seem to have no attraction to men or women.
I never went through the normal teenage crush experience. I have never had a crush on anyone—friend, acquaintance or famous person. When my friends talk about guys we see when we are out I rarely can relate to what they are talking about. It is kind of hard to explain, but I don’t think I have any awareness of physical attraction and I have never had any desire to be in a physical relationship with anyone. People have told me that I just haven’t found the right person, but I don’t know how I will find the right person if I’m not physically attracted to anyone. I don’t mind being close to people and I don’t mind my friends touching me, but even when I try to be, I am completely unaware of physical or sexual attraction.
I had an experience in high school involving inappropriate touching by an authority figure, but I worked through that with a therapist, and while I know that will always be a part of my life experience and it makes me more aware of touch than most people, I don’t think it has much of a hold on my life anymore. I recently spoke with a different therapist about my lack of dating relationships. I asked her if a person could be “asexual” and she immediately dismissed the idea and told me my lack of interest in the physical aspects of relationships was due to my experience in high school. I had no interest before high school, either, though. I felt very invalidated by her response and every time I tried to bring it up after that, she changed the subject. I have mentioned this to a few other people, and I get a blank stare every time. People seem to think this is a choice that I’m making, but it is not. I’m not afraid to be in a relationship; I would like to be in a relationship with someone.
I am very active and healthy, and this is not something I have been too concerned about, but as more and more of my friends are in relationships, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really missing out on something. It’s becoming more and more of a concern. Can a person be “asexual?”
A. There could be a number of explanations for your lack of physical or sexual attraction to others. One reason may be that you have yet to meet a person who you are physically attracted to. Conceivably, if you tend to be isolative and unsocial it is possible that you were never in the presence of an individual whom you felt attracted to. This explanation is unlikely the correct one but it is theoretically possible.
Your lack of sexual desire may be biological. You might have a weak libido. Some individuals have a high sex drive and others do not. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone and others partially dictate an individual’s level of sex drive. When women experience menopause, for example, many are often faced with the issue of decreased libido. Some women lose all interest in sex during this time. Decreased sex drive during menopause is thought be caused by a decrease of the aforementioned hormones. I am not suggesting that you are entering menopause, this has been an ongoing issue throughout your life but it is plausible that you have a decreased level of sexual hormones and that is to blame for your lack of sex drive.
It is also possible that you are not asexual but rather you are sexually inactive. Following this logic, the inactivity leaves you with limited opportunities to engage in sex with others and over time you have lost interest. For some, it takes engaging in sexual activities to actually become interested in having sex. In other words you have nothing to stimulate you sexually and thus you lost interest in wanting to have sex. The behavior that you have not discussed is masturbation. If you have a normal sex drive that you are satisfying with masturbation, then we are dealing with a potential psychological problem, since you have a sex drive but are not interested in sex with others. This is common with some individuals who have schizotypal disorder.
If you view an adult film, see a sexually explicit photo or read a sex-themed story and can become aroused, then it is likely that you have the ability to be sexual. You might want to try exploring one of these activities, if you feel comfortable, to see if you become aroused. This exercise may help you to answer the question you have asked which is “are you asexual?” If you are able to become aroused then it’s unlikely that you are asexual.
Part of why you feel asexual may also have to do with fear. You may be focused on the sexual aspects of relationships and possibly worried that you’re not “sexual enough” or that you may not have enough sexual experience. Your fear may be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. In your mind, entering a relationship may mean that you will have to at some time engage in sex. If you fear that you’re not sexually experienced enough then this fear may stifle your desire to want to enter a relationship. Thus if you’re not attracted to another person then you do not have to face the prospect of having to engage in sex.
You also mentioned that you had an experience in high school that involved touching but you said that you have worked through this. Because you recognize this as a problem that you’ve worked through, it is unlikely that this is contributing to your lack of sexual desire. The fact that your therapist insists this is the reason is a bit worrisome, from a therapeutic perspective. It shows that, at least with respect to this issue, she is not listening to you when you say that you have worked through this. This disagreement may indicate that you may need a new therapist but it also may mean that she understands this situation differently than you do.
I’ve attempted to explain your situation using several different theories all of which are speculation. There may be other explanations that are not included here. If this issue continues to concern you, you might want to consider making a therapy appointment. Perhaps a therapist can help you to better understand this issue and help guide you into a relationship. Thanks for your question.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Jul 2008
Randle, K. (2008). Could I Be Asexual?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/21/could-i-be-asexual/