Dear Your Teen:
My daughter says she is asexual. Is this normal? I am wondering whether she is socially withdrawn, or trying to get attention.
An asexual teenager is a teenager who lacks the desire to have a sexual relationship. Some people are advocating that people who identify as asexual—again, those who don’t want to have sex with another person—should be accorded the same respect and understanding as LBGTQ people. In other words, asexuality is an orientation not a pathological state from which a person needs to be healed.
People who identify as asexual may still be sexual with themselves. It also may mean they are romantically attracted to someone, but don’t desire them sexually.
The research is still in progress on this topic. There are people who state their orientation is asexual (no sexual desire at all) and others who have sexual and romantic interests but then lose the feeling. Loss of sexual desire (Hypo Sexual Desire Disorder) indicates that desire was lost. HSDD can be caused by side effects from medications like oral contraceptives or anti-depressants, psychological trauma or hurt, or depression, to name a few. The people who identify as asexual have never experienced sexual desire for another person. (More info for mother and daughter can be found at Asexuality.org.)
What to Do When My Daughter Says She is Asexual
It is possible that someone may identify as asexual because they have never been encouraged to experience sexual attraction within their culture, religion, or family of origin. The other possibility is that they’ve never met someone who turns them on in a chemical way. You should try accept your daughter’s feelings and understand they may change with time. If you struggle with this idea, a therapist who is knowledgeable in this area could be helpful to this mother/daughter dyad. You will both benefit from understanding what your daughter is experiencing, while helping to normalize her feelings. Normalizing can begin to create acceptance.
Sari Cooper, L.C.S.W., is a licensed individual and couples therapist, a Certified Sex Therapist, speaker and writer in New York City. Cooper runs Sexuality Workshops to help parents talk to their children about sex. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.