Why is sex so important? I am a 53 year old virgin and don’t miss something I have never had.
As a 25-year-old, I can’t tell you what you what’s important. You’ve lived more life than I have. I should be asking you what’s important.
No teacher is greater than experience, and you have 53 years of experience avoiding sex — no small accomplishment in a world that bombards us with it. If, after 53 years, you haven’t found sex appealing enough to try, maybe it’s not necessary for you.
I don’t know if you’ve avoided sex for a religious reason. If you have, I can’t help. It’s not my prerogative to dissuade anyone from their beliefs. If there are medical reasons why you’ve avoided sex, I don’t know them so I can’t address them.
If you’re capable of sex and not morally opposed to it — if you’re simply not aroused at the idea of it — you may be asexual. Asexuality is an emerging identity we are just beginning to understand. Asexuals do not feel human sexuality and connect to people in other ways. Asexuals often experience romantic or emotional connections but are disinterested in sexual ones.
There’s a lot of information missing from your question. Why have you avoided sex? And what definition of sex are you using? By “sex,” do you mean gay sex? Do you mean oral sex? Does all naked physical touching (mutual masturbation, etc.) fall under your definition of “sex”?
Most the world operates with a narrow definition of sex — the penis-in-hole definition (“hole” here refers to any hole, front or back). I’ve encouraged readers to expand their definition of sex beyond this narrow one to include any experience that makes you feel aroused with someone else. Some people enjoy painting each other with finger paint. Some people like tickling. Some love watching porn together or giving massage. The erotic buffet is endless.
If you’ve avoided all sex and you are a gay man (I can’t tell from your question or email address), I’m going to hazard a guess as to why you’ve avoided sex. Considering your age, you lived through AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s, and like many gay men, you may have decided that sex is not an option — it’s too dangerous — and you’ve avoided it all this time because you don’t want to die.
If that’s the case, I can only assure you that modern medicine has changed the reality of AIDS — thanks to activists from your generation, many of whom we lost. I’m HIV-positive and have an active sex life. With modern meds, my life expectancy is the same as an HIV-negative person’s. We’ve made leaps in HIV care and prevention. HIV is no longer a death sentence.
But there’s still risk associated with sex. The risk of HIV persists and meds are costly, although in most of the U.S. and Europe there are state-funded programs that provide meds to HIV-positive folks for little or no money (I’ve never paid for meds). And the risk of other STIs like gonorrhea and syphilis are higher for sexually-active gay men.
To be sexually active, you must weigh these risks against the value of sex with consideration of the ways you can keep yourself healthy (taking PrEP, using condoms, frequent STI testing, and taking ART diligently if you’re HIV-positive). To me, sex is so valuable and these safer-sex practices are so non-invasive and sensible that I choose to be sexually active, even as an HIV-positive person. Not everyone makes that choice. There’s no shame in choosing differently.
I can’t speak to the trauma you’ve faced — I didn’t live through the plague years — but I hope I at least provide some comfort that the story of AIDS, after so much darkness, got better. We’ve reclaimed our sex lives and taken sex out from the shadow of death. We can celebrate sex again.
Even when AIDS was new, intimacy and pleasure were still strongly encouraged for the very sick. There are many ways to be intimate with another person that don’t involve bodily fluids or penetration, and I count these as sex.
If you’ve avoided all intimacy, I imagine you’ve lived a lonely life, and I’d encourage you to do whatever it takes to experience intimacy as soon as possible. One of my best recent sex nights was with a friend, and neither of us could bottom or top — penetration was not allowed because of his relationship. So we kissed, made out, and touched for hours, and it was beautiful. I’m excited to have that again with him. That’s a powerful kind of sex I think everyone should have, where you simply touch someone’s body and let them touch yours.
Life is meant to be shared, so any way you are able to connect with someone is valuable and valid, and if it brings you pleasure, it’s sex.
I encourage people to do what they want, whether that’s sex or BDSM or making balloon animals. I don’t encourage people to do what they don’t want to do. When so many religious institutions villainize people for wanting, I remind everyone that they are free. That’s my job. So if you don’t sex, I won’t tell you to seek it. And if you do, I‘ll tell you to seek it right now.
The problem is that you don’t know if you dislike sex because you’ve never tried it. It’s easy to say “I don’t like bagels” when you’ve never eaten a bagel. You’re saying no to something you’ve never had, and it would be a shame to be saying no to something you might love.
And this needs to be said: sex isn’t a bagel. Sex is something that connects people all over the world. It drives commerce, weaves our greatest stories, and marks our best experiences. Some people live for sex. It’s inspired the greatest art and is one of the highlights of being human. Refusing bagels is one thing, but refusing all that is something else. That’s a potentially life-defining experience you’re missing.
I can’t tell you what to value, but I think you should experience sex — the traditional, penetrative kind. If that sex doesn’t do it for you after a few tries, expand your definition of sex to include all intimacy, and your options are endless.
Be close to someone. Appreciate their body. Let them appreciate yours. Try not to worry about how your body is perceived. If they give you consent to be close to them and touch them, your body is enough — they want to be there with you. You don’t have to get into penetrative stuff. If you do, communicate your desires, get their consent, and try it. You may get uncomfortable and need to stop — that’s OK. Try all this a few times and, if you can, with a few different partners before deciding it’s not for you.
Try massage. Try porn. Cuddle. If none of that does the job, you may be asexual — that’s OK too. No matter what you choose, you need connection with humans. That’s what living is.
Enjoy my writing? Please support my work with a small monthly donation on Patreon. Patrons receive additional perks, access to exclusive content, personalized gifts from me, and more. Every dollar helps me continue doing this! Image: One of a series of beautiful, intimate portraits taken by photographer Matthew Morrocco of his sexual experiences with older men, featured in The New Yorker.