Q: I'm finding myself more and more removed from the dating world and sex altogether. Kind of like when you take a break from alcohol or something. I've been single for 7-plus years and haven't slept with anyone in about eight months. The thought of getting intimate with someone almost disgusts me. I enjoy conversation with random people anywhere but keeping them casual is the best part. I feel completely normal and justified doing this but is this affecting me in ways I'm not seeing or understanding? Have I lost my appetite for the carnal pleasures of life? Or am I realizing a new way of living that suits my needs and wants?
A: If I had a dollar for every person who wrote in, convinced they were missing out on some crucial part of life, I would own a Dyson Airwrap. Seriously, every single person you know, you meet, you have a casual conversation with? Yeah, they’re all convinced in their heart of hearts that they’ve missed out on some very essential Life Moment. (I never got asked to a school dance and I didn’t even go to prom, so you know I’m in that group!) For some people, it’s a part of their youth that they feel they were robbed of, and for others, they feel like their peers are growing up and getting their life “in order” (not a thing) sooner or better. Some people feel like their careers are stalled. And for many, many people, love is the arena in which they’re absolutely certain they’re lacking.
Part of this is that romantic love is a deep and pervasive focus for us. It has always been to some extent — look, we didn’t get Romeo and Juliet 425 years ago for nothing. But as family ties weakened and the sexual revolution ramped up, romantic love and frequent sex became parts of life we were told we all deserved and that we should be actively aiming for. The focus of adulthood moved away from being a good farmer who had 13 children in case of war or plague and became about hookups and engagement announcements, apps, and flings. Those things can be great — but we haven’t left much room for people who, like you, find them unfulfilling. Or at the very least uninteresting at the moment.
You ask the question, “Have I lost my appetite for the carnal pleasures of life?” and I don’t know the answer for sure — maybe some physical or sexual things do still sound or feel good to you, but most don’t. But let’s take that a step further: So what if you have? What if you don’t want sex? It’s like you’re writing to me being like, “I really hate crème brûlée, and everyone else says it’s amazing, but I loathe the texture of it, the taste of it, everything. I’m having a great time eating raspberry sorbet, but should I be eating crème brûlée? Am I missing out on it?” NO! You don’t have to eat crème brûlée if you don’t like it. You don’t have to chase sex if you don’t want it. Let me be clear though: you have not lost your appetite for all pleasure. Chocolate still tastes good. Puppies still make your heart clench. Seeing a sunset still makes you feel like, “Oh hell yeah, we’re alive on a planet. Wild.” Sex is not the only or even dominant source of pleasure out there.
I’m not saying you have to, but you may read or research more and find out that the labels asexual, aromantic, demiromantic, or demisexual apply to you. While labels are extremely helpful and affirming for many, they also aren’t necessary. Nor can they paint an entire picture of anyone’s full sexuality. No one’s sexual desires, interests, and experiences can be encapsulated in a word. Whatever the truth is about what you want sexually and romantically is the truth, whether you label it or not. But you may find, if you read about asexuality or aromanticism (or the spectrum that they’re on), that you identify with what you’re reading. Regardless of labels, there are so many people who do not feel like sex and dating are priorities in their lives, or that they don’t fit in their lives at all. And they aren’t missing out on anything. Not doing something you don’t want to do isn’t missing out.
Keep going out, keep talking to people you want to, keep not doing things that aren’t exciting for you. So much of life is about doing un-fun things. You don’t need to add pressure on yourself to perform certain rituals just because other people like them. I don’t like and will never like amusement parks. I hate them. Loathe them to my core. No amount of assurances that they are fun will ever work on me. My friends often don’t want to leave me out when they go, and I am like, “PLEASE GOD, GO WITHOUT ME! I will have no fun. I will ruin your time.” Recently, a friend had her birthday at an amusement park and I went to be A Good Friend and once again everyone was convinced that I would find myself having fun — I even worried that I would have a nice time and have to admit that I was wrong. Lo and behold, I hated it. It’s almost like I know what is fun for me! (Drinking a nice cocktail on a patio.) Please do not feel the need to keep testing it out or making an effort. Let go of the feeling that you’re missing anything. Find fun and connection in the ways you want. Fill your life up with whatever youwant.
It’s A Pleasure appears here every Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, email Sophia at BustleSexAdvice@gmail.com or fill out this form.