I am a 37 year old male who has not had sex. It’s my choice, and I’m happy with it | Paul Dugan

A few days after Christmas 2016, I stopped having sex.

It wasn’t a big statement or lifestyle choice. Nor was it an attempt to find the deeper meaning of life. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision. It happened by circumstance during a breakup. Weeks turned into months, which turned into years. And here I am, six years later, a 37-year-old man who doesn’t have sex.

And you know what? I am happy.

That’s not to say the causes of my abstinence weren’t painful, and my reasons for giving up sex altogether are deeply personal and not entirely easy to explain.

I remember the last time I had sex with absolute clarity. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was on the verge of collapsing my world. I had been with my fiancé for seven years and was very much in love. We got engaged a few months before.

But the last time we had sex – or rather, tried to have sex before he gave up, tired, irritable and with his heart and mind clearly elsewhere – I knew, in a way or another, that it would be the last time.

When we finally broke up a few months later, sex was naturally the last thing on my mind. I did what most people do after leaving a partner and embarked on my career, socializing, and family. Anything but men – and certainly anything but sex.

If I’m honest, though, it’s deeper than that. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with sex and intimacy for various reasons, and I think my reasons for giving it up go back long before this relationship, which was my first.

For one thing, I’ve always suffered to some degree from body image issues. As a teenager, I never felt completely comfortable with my physical appearance – certainly not with my naked appearance. The school locker rooms were a nightmare and I became extremely embarrassed.

Being a gay man made things even more complicated. I lived my teenage years in the closet and sex with men remained a mystery until my early twenties. I lost my virginity late, at 23, and met my only longtime partner a few years later. The sex I knew best was sex with someone I liked.

But somewhere along that relationship, I started associating sex with stress. My partner and I worked long hours in demanding jobs, so our times together were often fleeting. The less we had sex, the more we focused on it, and the more tension it caused when one or both of them felt the other didn’t like it.

The time finally came, at the end of 2016, when we both stopped trying. I left that relationship and entered the single world with my negative views about sex cemented.

Sex as a single man is, of course, entirely different from sex in a relationship, and the way romantic relationships had changed over the years I was with a partner came as a shock. Society’s approach to sex seemed to have changed. Many of my friends were in open relationships, more than happy to satisfy their physical needs with a handsome stranger before going home to the one they say they love.

Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, and a whole host of other apps have transformed the dating world. Sex is more accessible than ever – it has become almost transactional, emotionless, and I instinctively rebel against that. Every time a friend disappears during the evening, returning later to find themselves blocked by the man they had been intimate with a few hours before, I find it depressing.

I know how this all sounds. My friends routinely and relentlessly mock my views on sex – and I fully understand that. To be honest, I’m surprised myself. Sex is, after all, the ultimate pleasure. Why deprive yourself of it? Am I thinking about it too much?

Sex may be one of life’s most pleasurable experiences, but it’s also one of the most intimate. Ruining that intimacy with a stranger seems futile. Sex is better when it’s an expression of love. Until I fall in love again, my abstinence will continue. And I’m happy about it.

  • Paul Duggan is a pseudonym

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