Despite what you may see on TV, there’s nothing wrong with you if you are not having sex all the time. There is also nothing wrong with you if you never have sex.
There are many reasons why people choose to have sex. They may include pleasure, pleasing others, intimacy, stress relief, escape, or self-validation. There are also plenty of ways to meet these needs without having sex.
There are just as many reasons not to have sex as there are reasons to have sex. If sex is just not your thing, you don’t have to do it! Nothing will “break” or “get old” just because you aren’t having sex. Most importantly, whether a person engages in sexual activity or not, they need to be respected.
There is currently a big move toward sex positivity. This has been a great thing for many people. For others, this has created more challenges.
In a time when we’re constantly working to undo decades of sexual guilt or shame, being sex-positive can be an educational balm for many people and their partners. But sex positivity isn’t about pushing everyone into the same bed. It’s about making sure the experience is healthy and consensual.
There are multiple reasons why sex may not be important for someone, or why a person may avoid having sex. There are ways that people can meet their needs and have a full life without having sex.
Here’s everything you need to know.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you never have sex. Mainstream media or other people may tell you otherwise, but it’s just not true.
You may hear a lot of absurd things about not having sex. Everything from it’ll kill you and you’ll have cobwebs in your vagina to you’ll lose your ability to have an erection. None of this is true, of course. These messages can create a lot of shame when it comes to personal feelings about sex and sexual attraction.
Talk about your experiences with a professional
If you find that you feel significantly distressed by your lack of sexual desire, find a sex-positive therapist to validate your experience.
Sexual identity and adolescence
Adolescence is an important stage of life when it comes to sexual development. There are so many emotional and physical changes.
This is a time of figuring out sexual identity. A chance to explore romantic and sexual feelings. At this stage, teens need support in understanding consent, interpersonal relationships, and communication.
Some teens will discover that they just aren’t that interested in sex. Others may not feel sexual attraction the same way that their peers do. It’s crucial that teens get the message that this can be totally normal.
A quick primer on asexuality vs. celibacy
A person who is asexual does not feel sexual attraction to others. Asexual people are a celebrated part of LGBTQIA+ communities.
Asexuality is also a spectrum. This means there are different degrees of sexual attraction that a person may feel. The beauty of a spectrum is that not all asexual people feel sexual attraction in the same way.
Some asexual people feel no sexual attraction. Others on the spectrum will feel different degrees of sexual attraction. Some may feel sexual attraction to someone only after a deep emotional connection develops.
There is also a difference between your libido, or desire for sex, and sexual attraction. People who are asexual may still have sex with a partner or enjoy masturbation. Asexual people often have to deal with some pretty harmful and frustrating misunderstandings about their sexual identity.
In a hypersexual world, people who are asexual might be told there is something wrong with them. There are people who believe that asexual folks maybe just haven’t met the right person yet. Or maybe they just lack experience. This is totally untrue and harmful. Being an “ace,” as asexual people are often known, is a valid and important identity.
There’s diversity in sexuality, and that is a beautiful thing. Everyone is different. It’s best to ask an individual how they experience asexuality.
If you are asexual and want to connect with other like-minded individuals, you can find resources with the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.
But let’s reiterate: You won’t be unhappy for the rest of your life just because you’re not getting it on. Even if you constantly hear about the health benefits of sex, not having sex can also provide similar benefits.
All benefits, no sex
- Get a workout to give yourself an endorphin boost.
- Spend time with like-minded people who love and respect your choices.
- Immerse yourself in nature.
Purposely avoiding sex is a great time to have your own awakening
Not having sex can be a time to let go of social pressures. You can focus on nonsexual activities that bring you pleasure and soothe you. It can be a time to create a deeper relationship. This could be a relationship with yourself or another person. It doesn’t have to be about sex.
Sex can provide feelings of warmth and connection for some people. It’s definitely not the only way to get these benefits.
Below are some of the reasons why some people enjoy having sex. There are other ways to get these benefits outside of sex. Sometimes, a person will make a conscious decision to avoid sex for a bit. This can create space to explore and learn in other ways.
If sex is a way to explore sexual interests with a partner and enjoy another person’s body, try the following:
- Discover new interests, whether through sexual fantasy and self-pleasure, or nonsexual activities that bring you joy.
- Focus on loving nongenital body parts.
- Build stronger emotional connections with a partner.
If sex is a stress reliever for you, try the following:
- Reconnect with yourself, instead of using sex to avoid dealing with what is actually bothering you.
- Prioritize your sleep and self-care over physical satisfaction.
- Practice emotional regulation and mindfulness techniques.
- Find a physical activity that lets you release tension.
If sex is all about performance for you, try the following:
- Practice mindful touching.
- Learn how to increase body awareness and pleasure without pressuring yourself to please someone else.
- Find joyful ways to move your body and be more active.
There are so many reasons why this can happen. Perhaps it’s a time of increased stress or loss, and you need a period to reset. For some, this can be a time to discover the world and have fun in new ways. Or a period of being honest with yourself.
It’s okay if you previously felt sexual desire, made efforts to meet your sexual needs, and now you’ve lost interest. That can happen. You don’t always need to know why your interests have changed.
Not wanting to have sex is not a bad thing, unless it’s affecting your mental or physical health. If other people judge or make assumptions based on your choices, ignore them. Keep trusting yourself. Your sex (or non-sex) life is nobody’s business.
If you’re really interested in figuring it out, remain open, curious, and nonjudgmental. You may discover more if you ask yourself kind questions about why you lost interest in sex in the first place.
If you’re feeling bad about your loss of interest, don’t try to numb the emotional pain. Instead, focus on letting yourself feel whatever arises. Work on compassionately discovering what might have changed that led to the loss of interest.
This is also completely valid. People may delay having sex for any number of reasons. You may decide to spend time learning about your body and experimenting with self-pleasure. This experimentation allows you to have a better idea of what feels good for you if you have sex with a partner at some point.
Sex is best when all partners have their needs met. Open communication about what feels good is an important part of this.
It’s also natural to choose to avoid sexual activity, even after you’ve been sexually active. Choosing not to have partnered sex with someone (or at all) can be an intentional act of selfhood and falling in love with yourself. You can pause, reflect, and learn what interests you.
It’s also a perfect time to deconstruct sexual norms and ideas that have been passed down in order to evaluate if they’re actually working for you.
How to maintain optimal health below the belt
- Maintain regular medical and gynecological or urological appointments.
- Wear breathable undergarments to prevent yeast infections.
- Maintain good hygiene.
- Surround yourself with individuals who support your decisions.
Your sexual identity and any decisions you make about sex are very personal. Sex always needs to be consensual. You should never feel pressured to have sex or do anything you don’t want to. You may encounter people who challenge or question your decisions or identity. Other people have no right to do this.
If someone doesn’t respect who you are and how you feel, give yourself permission to set boundaries — especially physical ones.
Behavioral red flags
- They talk over you, interrupt you, and don’t listen to you.
- They contradict themselves, meaning they say one thing but their behavior says another.
- You set a boundary and they ignore it.
There can be a lot of pressure on people to have sex. It’s unfair to make that the norm. The sex message that the media bombards us with is oversimplified. Sex and desire are complicated and personal. People who do not have sex or who do not experience sexual attraction can still be intimate with others and have meaningful relationships. And staying celibate can be an act of self-love.
Feeling connected with others — sexually or not — can be an important part of life. Find an affirming support system where you can be yourself.
Be honest with yourself about how you feel about sex and your sexual identity. Don’t fall into peer pressure. Take time to know yourself and understand your needs and how to communicate them to others.
Janet Brito is an AASECT-certified sex therapist who also has a license in clinical psychology and social work. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Minnesota Medical School, one of only a few university programs in the world dedicated to sexuality training. Currently, she’s based in Hawaii and is the founder of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Brito has been featured on many outlets, including The Huffington Post, Thrive, and Healthline. Reach out to her through her website or on Twitter.