Hyposexuality and asexuality: what’s the difference?

In the words of Salt ‘n’ Pepa, ‘Let’s talk about sex, baby’. But what if sex was the last thing on your mind and even the thought of it made you uneasy?

In today’s society, people are very open to conversations about sex, especially the younger generations who often share with friends details of their sexual preferences and encounters. Perhaps you give details about your latest flame and openly disclose your sexual orientation whether it be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual or other.

Yet, some people may be less ready to approach the subject as they may be experiencing a medically recognised condition called hyposexuality, often incorrectly referred to as ‘frigidness’.

The term frigid originates from the medieval period and is linked to witchcraft. There was a belief that witches put spells on males to disrupt their sex life by making them unable to get erections.

Even in the 19th century, the term was associated with women choosing not to engage in sexual activities. Medical journals of the period state a lack of desire for a women to have sex with her husband as a pathological condition called Frigidity.

In the late seventies, textbooks on the subject began to label low sexual desire as a sexual dysfunction. It is around this time that sex therapy formed as a profession and sexual dysfunctions were categorised so that appropriate treatments could be developed.

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (Hyposexuality) is the lack of desire to engage in sexual activities which causes distress in the person experiencing the condition.

There are different types including general (general lack of sexual desire) and situational (still has a desire but not for their current partner) which can be acquired or lifelong. It is often mistaken for asexuality, which is an sexual orientation where someone doesn’t experience sexual desire.

The difference with asexuality is that the individual is comfortable with not having sexual desires and therefore define themselves as such. Some members of the asexual community criticise the use of the term hyposexuality as it suggests a lack of sexual desire towards others is a disorder which can be treated. Yet those experiencing the condition may feel upset and wish to gain their sex life back and so treatment would aid them.

Hyposexuality can develop due to a number of causes, including depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. Symptoms can include decreased libido, lack of orgasm and pain during intercourse. However, medical help is available in the form of counselling and sometimes the prescription of medicines to treat the condition. Therefore it is essential those experiencing the condition speak to a medical professional.

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Lucy Burrows

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June 2022
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