Suppose my child is asexual, how to talk about it?

Mother: “I try to talk about sexuality with my daughters, who are almost 10 and 13. I then emphasize the wonderful pleasure that sex can give. My almost 10-year-old daughter still listens with interest, but my 13-year-old always says ‘ew’ and ‘gadverdamme’. It probably has something to do with her age, but it got me thinking. There are of course also people who are asexual, who have no desire to have sex with others, and who do not enjoy it. I always try to be super inclusive in my education, I always take lgbtq things into account, always say: ‘If you have sex with a boy or girl’, but how do you take possible asexuality into account? You also don’t want to force them to have fun all the time.”

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Respect your daughter’s boundaries

Laura Baams: “Asexuality is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Some people experience no sexual attraction to others, others only experience that attraction in a committed relationship. It is often used as a label to community because it is quite lonely if your sexual development is different from that of your peers.

“I don’t think this is an issue with your daughter, it could be, and it is good that you are paying attention to this, but she is now only indicating that she does not want to talk to you about sex.

“Besides talking about the fun of it, it’s important to mention the more difficult aspects: how do you indicate what you do and don’t want, how do you set limits? You can immediately see this in the conversation with your daughter about this subject: she indicates that she does not want to discuss this with you, which is an important boundary to respect. You can say, “I notice you don’t want to talk to me about it. That’s all right, if you have any questions, you know where to find me.’

“Being clear about what you want in terms of intimacy is an important skill, regardless of what that sexual experience looks like.”

Broader Approach

Daphne van de Bongardt: “It’s great that you want to discuss sexuality in this way. Indeed, it does not have to be the case that the expressions of your eldest are a signal of asexuality. They are also somewhat age-appropriate: teenagers sometimes find it uncomfortable to talk to adults about sexuality. This is due to the development of autonomy whereby their own bodies and thinking about sexuality become increasingly private. In addition, there are many individual differences in how quickly children and teens develop their interest in sexuality.

“It is in any case advisable to approach the conversation about sex more broadly, namely as sexual and relational education. The broader relational context of sexuality is often overlooked, including in education in schools. We often define sexuality too narrowly, namely as sexual acts, but it is about so much more, including intimacy. Many people who are asexual have less or no need for sexual acts, but they do want other forms of physical intimacy, such as kissing and hugging, and also emotional intimacy, such as security and connection.

“There is no guarantee that your eldest daughter would not say ‘ew’ about these aspects, but this broader approach to relationship and sex education will contribute positively to your daughters’ future developments and experiences.”