(This personal essay is adapted from "Anticlimax: A personal essay on desire, and the lack of it" by Mateo Sancho Cardiel.)

"You do have a problem," said my friend Nieves, "but you just don't experience it as such."

For the millionth time, we were looking for an answer to the question of why I didn’t like sex — me chipping in on the emotional side, her in terms of instincts.

When I was a teenager, I was very excited about the idea of having sex one day. But when the moment finally came, I was more than disappointed. I didn’t feel like my partner was the problem — it was me.

Mateo Sancho Cardiel
photo: Mateo Sancho Cardiel

At first, I wasn’t too concerned. After all, everyone had told me first times are always awful, so why would my experience be any different? But a number of partners and years later, sex still wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe I just didn’t like sex?

I started to recognize that my sexual impulses were lower than the ones I perceived in my lovers. The few times I actually found myself enjoying sex were when it was quick and to the point. The sweats, the sighs and the uttering of OMGs that came from my partners never ceased to surprise me. Meanwhile, in my head, I was working on autopilot.

Not liking sex sounds strange to begin with, but it’s even stranger when you’re a gay man, considering how hypersexual we’re perceived to be. The irony was that I wasn’t shy or insecure about my sexuality. In fact, I had told my parents I was gay as soon as I realized it myself. My mother always saw me as some sort of pure being, referring to me as her angel.

gay pride
photo: iStock Photo

Repression or guilt were never the reasons behind my sexual dissatisfactions. And not everything about sex bothered me. I actually really enjoyed the seduction aspect of it, including everything from flirting to honest conversation. It was the actual performance itself that turned me off.

Mind you, none of this actually stopped me from having sex. I had a wide plethora of lovers in my 20s and was having sex pretty often in efforts to “keep up.” It wasn’t that I felt raped or violated, but sex for me was like going to the doctor and allowing sensitive parts of my body to be explored in a very non-sexy way. It was just a procedure, not something that actually turned me on.

Back when I was seeing a sex counselor at my university, she struck off frustration and obsessive tendencies straight away, and quickly came to the conclusion that sex was only one of the areas affected by what was, in fact, my core issue: assertiveness — that is, doing things when I really want to do them, and not at all if I don’t want to. What she didn't expect — and in fact, didn't find out because I never managed to bring myself to say it — is that sex, as generally understood, is something I simply hardly ever feel like doing.

Mateo Sancho Cardiel
photo: Mateo Sancho Cardiel

Years went by, and my dislike for sex only grew stronger. This obviously started to affect my love life to the point where I was essentially hurting the men who dared to love me. So many of them were originally up for the challenge, only to eventually find themselves feeling miserable and insecure because of my unenthused genitals. They wanted to help me, but I felt no need to be fixed.

Is it natural not to love sex? That was the question I found myself asking for years. Originally, I wasn’t missing sex that much, but felt bad because I wasn’t able to meet the sexual expectations of my partner. I also learned it's OK for me to express my needs and wants without being apologetic. It wasn’t until I arrived at that place that I was finally able to be honest with myself and experience true sexual satisfaction for the first time ever.

It’s been six years since and believe it or not – I'm now married. My husband understands and appreciates me just the way I am and was open to discuss how we both can be satisfied. We found our way. It’s not a universal remedy, but it works for us, and it happens to be pretty sexy and satisfying for me.

“Anticlimax: A personal essay on desire, and the lack of it” is available on Amazon.