One click around the TV dial, one flip through your favorite
magazine, and it's hard to ignore: Sex seems to be everywhere -- with everybody
doing it more often, with more partners, in more ways than ever before.
But what if you're not one of those people having sex on a
regular basis -- and particularly if you are someone whose life is void of
virtually all sexual activity?
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If so, you may be part of a growing group of adults known as
"involuntary celibates" -- otherwise healthy folks who want to have sex
but can't make it happen in their lives.
"These are often people who, for one reason or another,
have put their sex life on hold -- maybe they were shy and plagued with social
anxieties when they were young, or perhaps they were just concentrating on
school and then their career -- or were saddled with other responsibilities or
issues that took priority in their life at the time," says Philip B.
Luloff, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Mount Sinai Medical
Center, New York.
Sex Life on Hold
By the time they decide to open their life to a partner, Luloff
says they can feel so far behind their peers in social skills or even sexual
prowess, it drives them further away from achieving their relationship
"You simply don't know where to begin -- so you just put
off starting, and as time passes, and your feelings of frustration and
isolation grow, self-esteem falls even lower, creating a vicious cycle of
discontent that makes it even harder to find an intimate partner," Luloff
Indeed, in a small but significant study published in 2001 in
the Journal of Sex Research, doctors from Georgia State University found
that folks who are involuntarily celibate are frequently afflicted with
feelings of anger, frustration, self-doubt and even depression -- all
invariably linked to living without sex.
But while celibacy may be the hook upon which many of us can
legitimately hang our cloak of discontent, psychiatrist and sex therapist
Barbara Bartlik, MD, tells WebMD that for just as many people, living without
sex may be more of a symptom than a problem.