I've got a another great question for you this week – These Q&A posts are usually for premium subscribers, but this one is free for all. If you enjoy it, I hope you'll consider subscribing.
A: You’re definitely normal. Wait, let me qualify that: if you’re experiencing unwanted pain, find a great medical provider who will listen and take your pain seriously. Evidence-based, effective interventions exist for treating a wide variety of sexual pain disorders.
If you’re not experiencing pain, and if, during the sex you have, everyone is consenting, you’re normal. Period. Done. You’re normal. Did you hear that? Normal. Even if you have what diagnostic criteria would categorize as a “sexual dysfunction,” you’re still normal. Sexual functioning changes as our bodies and lives change. It’s not that there’s something “wrong,” per se, it’s that there’s a change.
The super-important sneaky trick that our brains pull is that the belief that we are broken hits the brakes and so our sexuality does not function the way we expect it to or wish it would. That means that an essential step in improving your sexual functioning is to stop viewing yourself as “abnormal.”
This is the Confidence and Joy Newsletter. Confidence is knowing what is true about your body, heart, mind, soul, culture, partner, life circumstances, and more. Confidence is knowing what is true, even when it’s not what you were taught is “supposed” to be true. It’s knowing what’s true, even when it’s not what you wish were true.
Confidence is easy, because it’s most of what education does. Ethical sex education teaches you what is true and supports you in developing skills to be your full sexual self, whatever that looks like for you. (Unethical sex education tells you what your sexual self “should” be.)
Confidence is difficult, too, because all of us have learned a lot about sex over the course of our lives, sometimes from formal education or from our families or faith communities, but mostly by the mainstream culture we’re surrounded by. So we walk around feeling like we know a lot about sex. And we do. We know a lot. Alas, nearly everything our culture teaches us about sex is completely, entirely, wildly, dangerously incorrect. So to develop confidence—that is, to learn what is true—you must also be willing to let go of the untrue things you’ve spent decades of your life believing.
And then there’s joy. The hard part.
Joy is loving what is true. Loving what’s true about your body, heart, mind, soul, culture, partner, life circumstances, and more. Loving what is true, even if it’s not what you were taught is “supposed” to be true. Loving what’s true even if it’s not what you wish were true.
The difficult part of confidence, the letting go of all the untrue things, is a major skill to help you get to joy. All the many untrue things you were taught provided a kind of “measuring stick” against which you have measured your own sexuality to see if you’re doing it “right.” And if you believe these things are true but you don’t match it, then you believe there’s something wrong with you and how can you love your sexuality if it seems like there’s something wrong with you?
Let go of the untrue things and you let go of the bogus measuring stick. This creates space for what’s true: there is no measuring stick. There’s just you, in all your glory.
Confidence and joy are the foundation of all effective treatment for any sexual “dysfunction.”
Now, there are a lot of different kinds of diagnoses for sexual dysfunction. They’re primarily categorized as arousal difficulties, orgasm difficulties, and desire difficulties. The fact that you’re wondering if you’re asexual suggests to me that you’re not so much distressed about arousal or orgasm as you are about DESIRE.
And it’s a common misconception that asexuality is about a lack of desire for sex; it’s more precisely understood as a lack of sexual attraction. If you’re thinking asexuality may describe your sexual orientation, I would refer you to my conversation with Aubri Lancaster, the asexual sex educator. The ultra-short summary is that asexuality is a sexual orientation, like being gay or straight or bisexual or anything else. It’s about who you are attracted to. Gay people are attracted to people of the same gender; bisexual people are attracted to people of more than one gender. Asexual people are attracted to… no one.
If you have never experienced sexual attraction toward anyone, you might find that the asexual identity is a good fit for you. There are other ways to be asexual of course. There are “microlabels” about degrees of asexuality—demi-sexual, graysexual, fraysexual, to name a few. There are microlabels about attitudes toward sex, like cupiosexual, meaning people who don’t experience sexual attraction but do want to be in a sexual relationship. There are microlabels about reciprocation and about sexual attraction and fantasy. Asexuality isn’t just one thing, and—hear me really loud and clear here—all experiences of asexuality are NORMAL. Check out my conversation with Aubri and the resources she recommends, for more reading.
I hope that helps explain why I know you’re already normal and how you can come to understand your sexuality better, which will allow you to love your sexuality better, just as it is.
If you have Netflix, I was interviewed for a documentary series called Principles of Pleasure. I hope you enjoy it!
Stay safe and see you next time.