Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Don’t I Want Sex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have never really had a problem meeting women. Most of my best friends have been women. I have had women ask me out, which I must add was quite nice. However, I have problems feeling attracted to women who are not friends. It is rather difficult to explain. I am attracted to women, but I don’t feel the same level of sexual attraction as my male friends. I notice how nice she looks or her eyes, but that is about it.

There are exceptions: with some of my female friends.

I don’t feel that spark unless I have known someone for a long time - several years. I don’t feel sexual attraction except in the confides of a relationship. There is just no twiddle in the pants or brain otherwise. I don’t feel chemistry or the other things people describe about dating except when I date one of my best friends. Even then, the feelings are pretty low.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t develop friendships with the goal of dating. I fear dating will ruin that close friendship; been there, done that. But, for me to feel sexual attraction, I have to be able to know a person, converse, and have few walls between us. 

It may sound like bulls

t, but psychology is starting to study asexuality. The little information available describes me. My sex drive is very low and almost nonexistent. My sexual interest is focused upon her: pleasing her, helping her feel relaxed and happy. I don’t really care about my own sexual release. In fact, I vowed to myself to remain a virgin until marriage out of religious and personal conviction. 

As a 30 year old, people who know about my virginity either hold me in awe (especially when they know I have had a few girlfriends who attempted to seduce me) or view me as a weirdo.

I honestly don’t feel strong attraction except toward female friends. I have tried standard dating, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was leading my date on because I had little to no attraction for her. I asked them out because they where interesting, but I felt little beyond intellectual interest. This happens every time I ask a non-friend to date. My lack of sexual attraction has hurt people, and my slow development of attraction toward my close female friends has hurt many friendships.

I think I need emotional intimacy before my physical attraction revs up. Obviously, this leads me to be friend zoned and frustrates my girlfriends. I go out of my comfort zone to meet my girlfriend’s attraction, but mine is a slow burn that requires months and even years to develop despite my efforts to force it. As much as I try, making out and all that other stuff doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather cuddle, cook her dinner, or give her a massage. I especially enjoy giving girlfriends massages. 

In any case, what your thoughts? 

– Slow Burn

DEAR SLOW BURN:I think there are a couple of issues at play here.

First of all, what you’re experiencing is… not exactly common, but hardly unknown. What you’re describing is what’s commonly known as “demisexuality”: you don’t experience sexual attraction without a strong emotionally intimate relationship with another person. The first thing I would suggest is to visit and the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network to learn more.

But even allowing for your possibly being demisexual, it sounds like you have a low libido under the best of circumstances. This isn’t entirely unheard of; some folks just have a low sex-drive, period. Even as someone who’s demisexual, you may well lean more towards the asexual end of the spectrum, with little to no sexual drive over all. After all, even when you do feel desire for someone – your various female friends of long-standing – it’s not terribly strong.

What you do about this depends on how you feel about your generalized lack of attraction. If it’s something that bothers you – you want to feel physical desire, but don’t – then it might be worth talking to your doctor and getting a physical; sometimes a reduced sex drive is a symptom of an undetected physical problem. Sometimes it can be psychological – stress, for example, is a known boner-killer.

It could also be external to you. There are a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that can reduce the sex drive in people, especially men. Being overweight, smoking and certain drugs can cause issues both with libido and physical arousal… and then the additional stress of the potential of erectile dysfunction can kill your libido deader than disco. Similarly, antidepressants, especially SSRI’s, can screw up your sex-drive and leave you both uninterested in sex and unable to have it on the rare occasions you are.

On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with your sex drive as it is but feel awkward about how it affects you socially – which I suspect is the case – then you really should look to the asexual community for support. AVEN has a wide variety of resources, not just about asexuality in general but also help with common dating issues as well: after all, just because you’re not interested in physical intimacy doesn’t mean that you’re not interested in emotional intimacy.

But the fact that it happens consistently — and exclusively — with friends gives me pause. It doesn’t seem as though you’re up front with the women you date about the fact that you take time to ramp up towards sexual attraction, and that’s information that they deserve to have.

The fact that you only start feeling sexual attraction when you have an emotional relationship with someone means that sex — or at least, the traditional forms of it — aren’t likely to be on the table for a while, and people should know that in advance. That’s the sort of information that people would want to have in order to make an informed choice about whether they want to date you or not.

This lack of communication — both with your potential partners and your friends is what’s ultimately causing you problems. While I’m not questioning the legitimacy of your sexuality, I’m guessing that much of your tendency to fall for your friends is exacerbated by your feeling uncomfortable about your lack of desire.

I’m not entirely surprised that you feel abnormal and fear the rejection and strife you’ve had before. You’ve dealt with a lot of relationship drama and a lot of it was focused dead-bang on your sexuality. I can imagine that this left you feeling like a freak or a weirdo because of your low sex-drive… and that in turn makes you feel as though you don’t “deserve” a relationship. As a result, your female friends likely feel “safer” in a way, because you’ve already built up this long-standing emotionally intimate relationship but at the same time they’re off-limits; you know that they’re not interested, so you don’t have to face trying to negotiate the tricky issue of your slow-burn libido if they did decide to date you. This way you can have your neurosis cake and eat it too.

I think that the sooner you become more comfortable with who you are – that you’re perfectly normal, that there’s nothing wrong with you and that you’re certainly not the only demisexual person out there – the fewer problems you’ll have when it comes to emotional attraction. You may still take time to get interested in someone, but I think you won’t keep unconsciously punishing yourself by pursuing relationships you know won’t work out.

While your sexuality can make things inconvenient, inconvenient isn’t the same as impossible. There are women out there who also prefer to take things slow and build up comfort and security with their partner before they get sexual. And if you’re ok with being what’s known in some circles as a “service top” and pleasing your partner sexually (hands, toys, oral, etc) without expectation or need for reciprocation at first, you may find more than a few folks who’d be down with that while you build the connection that you need for physical attraction.

Good luck.

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