Reader Question: Is Abstaining from Sex Healthy?

I know someone who says she plans to be non-sexual through her life. Can this be considered a healthy choice?

Thank you for this question! It raises some very complicated and very interesting issues. The first thing that comes to mind is that the person you are referring to may be asexual. Asexuality is a fascinating but, unfortunately, little-researched identity. It’s complicated, and there’s no one-size-fits-all description of how asexual people experience and understand their (a)sexuality. Put simply, an asexual person is someone who does not experience any desire for sex. Sex may be actively repulsive to an asexual person, or it may simply seem completely uninteresting. For an asexual person, not desiring sex is not really a choice, in the same way that people generally aren’t able to choose who they’re attracted to.

Given how unique and individual we all are, I would not leap to a label or any assumptions. If the person wanted to discuss sexuality, I would validate everyone’s right to make their own decisions about their sexual identity and sexual behavior. I would get curious about what she thinks, feels, and prefers. There are lots of good reasons to choose not to have sex for awhile or for a lifetime; asexuality is not the only possibility, and this person is the only one who can speak for her own reality.

If your friend is asexual, she could still choose to engage in self-pleasure, partner sex, semi-sexual relationships, purely romantic relationships, purely platonic relationships, or whatever she and her partner/s want. Willingness is enough. If a person feels willing, desire is not necessary for a healthy sexual experience.

If she does not have any desire for sex, certainly abstaining is much healthier than having unwanted sex. She’s the expert on her own desires, and it’s up to her to decide what’s best for her. The same is true for all of us, by the way. The healthy choice is the congruent choice, meaning actions match with thoughts and feelings. There’s nothing inherently healthier about desiring sex than about not desiring it.