Is it Normal to Not Care About Sex?
“Wait, so, are you a lesbian?”my new co-worker was staring at me incredulously, looking up at down at me–from my face to my outfit and up again. I had just let the words slip out of my mouth “It’s just so hetero. I think we should consider who we’re alienating here”. My co-worker hadn’t understood at first what I was saying, and I, still disarmed and open because of the comfort I had developed at Barnard, backpedaled mentally. I had said something was hetero, so my co-worker was assuming that I was a lesbian because I had that perspective. I smiled weakly– this was not the first time I had gotten myself into an awkward situation like this– how to explain to this man, who clearly would have no idea what I meant when I said “queer, or whatever”.
It was a discussion I didn’t want to get into, mostly because, while I had had sex with men, women, and people who don’t passionately identify with either gender, I just didn’t really feel like boxing myself into any category at the time, because well frankly, I hadn’t even thought about sex in months.
“I like to say that my sexuality is 8 hours of sleep, because that is what I desire most in the world at this point” I told him. He cocked his head to the side again. I was really confusing him. When I realized that he wouldn’t be leaving me alone until I said something like “gay” or “straight,” I settled for middle ground and clarified. “I guess I am bisexual” I told him. And then walked away, because I wasn’t ready to confront my sexuality let alone discuss it with someone who I barely knew.
My 8 hours of sleep answer was the most honest I had been about my sexuality in a long time. If sexuality is about what we desire, what we take carnal pleasure in, that one thing we have to have, what I wanted was sleep. I had been going for weeks without sleeping more than 4 hours a night, working on my senior thesis, writing articles for publications, working at my internship and trying to manage my normal life at the same time. Normal life would be what “sex” fell under, usually. But, with my hectic schedule and chronic exhaustion, my “normal” life and my sex life was falling apart.
Lucky for me, I was in a long distance relationship. And, I really thought that. “Lucky” I told myself, when I would finally get into bed and collapse, that my boyfriend was in Florida instead of next to me, touching me, kissing me. His sexts would go, largely, ignored. And, I could ignore them because they were messages in my phone, not physical advances that I would have to shut down. “I’m so horny” he would text me. “I haven’t slept in three days, I’m going to bed” or “That really blows. Sorry.” would be my replies.
At first I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t even attempted to masturbate in 4 months, then when it hit me on the 5th month, that I hadn’t touched my vibrator or even fantasized remotely about anything other than finally not feeling like shit, I began to doubt whether I was ever a sexual being. Had I been asexual all this time? Had I only cared about sex because everyone around cared about sex? Had I just acquiesced to everyone I had ever slept with–thinking “hey, what the hell let’s do this, I guess”?
Discussions my friends would have about hook ups and sexual encounters bored me. Every now and then someone would talk about a really satisfying hook up. I grimaced at the thought of how much energy sex would take. How much talking, moving, and doing. How much brain power I would need to use in order to actively attempt to please another human being. “I don’t really care about sex at all, right now” I told a friend one day. “That’s not true, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t hook up with your boyfriend if he was here right now can you? You’re just adjusting and coping with the long distance so you put sex on the backburner”. I thought about how I would feel if my boyfriend was there with me right now. I shuddered thinking about how much effort it would take to ride him. How I would sloppily attempt to give him a blow job and pray that he came quickly so that I could devote my last bits of draining energy reserves to cooking myself dinner.
“No. I don’t care at all. I have more interest in literally anything else.”
My friend looked at me, not attempting to hide her confusion. Until this point, I had been a supremely sexual being. I loved sex. I resented monogamy. I wrote a sex and dating column for christ’s sake. “Is this normal?” I began to ask myself. My anxiety about not wanting to have sex compounded my desire to not have it. I was so busy worrying about if my sex drive would ever return that any organic sexual thoughts or desires that may have been buried deep inside me slipped away entirely. Sex became a sore spot. Desire became a point of contention. When the topic would come up, I would will my brain around it, so I wouldn’t worry. I conjured meticulously worded but nonetheless feelingless replies to my boyfriend’s sexts. They sounded engaging and fueled with raw libido, but they were half assed attempts at keeping my boyfriend engaged, happy, satisfied.
“I can’t wait to fuck you” he would send. “Omg I fucking know, bend me over my bed and smack my ass” I would write, accompanied by an old picture of my boobs from months ago. Would he notice? Did it matter? I sent the picture and the text and moved on to crying about my thesis, and how, with two weeks until it was due, nothing was making sense. I didn’t have time to talk to my boyfriend about how I the thought of anyone touching any part of my body in a sexual manner made me want to throw up and die, rather than bend over and get my ass smacked.
And then one day, it was all over. I finished my thesis. I graduated. My parents came to New York, smiling faces patted me on the back, told me they were proud. And I was left in a heap on my bed when they returned home. After university commencement when I went to retrieve my diploma, they told me they couldn’t give it to me because I had ended up receiving higher latin honors and my diploma needed to be reprinted. “Ok.” I said dryly– an anti climatic end to a year long mental and physical marathon I felt as if I had run. I slept for weeks. And waited for my sex drive to return.
And it did. Eventually. After my residual anxiety had dissapated. My adrenaline charged body slowly adapting to not have 18 hour days. And, after I got a whole lot of sleep and started eating regularly again.
It wasn’t until later when I spoke to a doctor about everything that had happened that year that I realized everything I had gone through was normal. “Chronic fatigue zaps your sex drive. So does stress. Anxiety makes things worse. You just need to relax.” she told me. But, what if it never returns? I thought to myself.
And then I stopped caring. Or, rather, decided to stop caring about whether it would return or not. I either wanted to have sex or I didn’t, but not wanting to have sex would not be the end of the world. Hell, tons of people self identify as asexual and resist the medical pathologist explanations for why they rather not have sex. What’s the big deal? So what if I want to eat a piece of cake instead of shoving a finger or a penis inside my vagina. Back in high school, my parents would have been thrilled with that. Whatever my mind and body decided to desire or not desire (murder and assault not included) I was okay with. “Is it normal?” I asked myself. It’s normal for me I decided.