Tim Gunn’s 29 years of celibacy: Yes, it’s unusual, expert says

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Tim Gunn -- the sartorially dapper mentor on ‘Project Runway,’ the new co-host of ‘The Revolution,’ and an all-around congenial gay guy -- blew the nation’s mind this week with his revelation that he hasn’t had sex in 29 years. And he’s totally OK with it.

Gunn’s comments came during an episode of ABC’s ‘The Revolution’ -- you can watch it above -- and were greeted with cheers from the audience.


Today, ‘Tim Gunn’ was one of the mostly widely searched terms on Google, partly because such an admission was shocking even in a world that thrives on TMI.

It also got us thinking: How weird is it to go without sex for 29 years?

Sexual frequency and sexual desires, it turns out, are among the more heavily studied areas of human sexuality. That’s because sex drives are kind of like snowflakes or autumn leaves. Everyone’s is different, experts say.

And at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is whether a person is happy with the amount of sex, or lack thereof, in his or her life.

Now that we have that caveat out of the way, Beverly Hills sexuality expert Dr. Jennifer R. Berman told The Times that Gunn’s 29-year, self-imposed dry spell was ‘not a natural state.’

If you watch the above video until the end, you’ll see Gunn speaking in halting sentences, holding back emotion, as he explains that his decision to remain celibate by choice followed a difficult breakup and is partly ‘psychological.’ He cites health, and fear of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.

‘Do I feel like less of a person for it? No!’ he said. ‘I am a perfectly happy, fulfilled individual.’ He said he started his self-imposed celibacy as AIDS began ravaging the gay community, and that he and many other people simply retreated from that danger.


He suggested that he has no regrets, adding as the audience applauded: ‘I am happy to be healthy and alive, quite frankly.’

Berman said that, if she were treating Gunn, she’d like to know: Does he continue to be celibate by choice -- or out of fear? For example, she said, if we lived in a magical world where sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS were not an issue ... would Gunn still abstain from sexual intimacy?

‘It’s not a natural sort of decision, nor is it biological or physiological -- we are not wired that way,’ she said. ‘It sounds like there are issues relating to trust,’ she added. ‘There are ways of documenting and proving that people are free from sexually transmitted diseases in a committed relationship.’

Gunn’s refreshing honesty nonetheless might come as a relief to many, especially for the 15% to 20% of American couples who are reportedly in ‘no-sex relationships.’ (That’s the statistic cited by Dr. Tiffanie David Henron on ABC’s ‘The Revolution,’ which in turn led to Gunn’s admission.)

Take a spin through this intriguing chart (about heterosexual couples) posted online by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Gender, Sex and Reproduction: It turns out that lots of heterosexual people aren’t having sex.

The dating website Your Tango notes that there are plenty of reasons people are celibate by choice -- as is the case with the terribly handsome Gunn, who likely would have no problem finding a suitor to end his dry spell.

One reason, the site says, is because it is empowering. ‘Choosing celibacy can be an empowering move.... Eliminating sex from your list of concerns opens up a tremendous amount of brain and emotional space that the strategizing, analyzing and agonizing over our sex lives often fills.’



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-- Rene Lynch