- About Shae Collins
- 3. Avoid Pressure and Blame
- 4. Open Communication About Sexual Needs and Boundaries Is Vital
- 5. Expand Your Definition of a Relationship
- Dating an Asexual Person: Everything You Need to Know
- Keeping Marriage Alive with Affairs, Asexuality, Polyamory, and Living Apart
- Here’s what it’s really like to be asexual and married
- A little openness can be a good thing
- Dreams can come true
- It can be quite a shock
- It’s okay to feel a little blindsided
- The frustration is super real
- Communication is key
- The truth will set you free
- Searching for a solution
- Emotional distance does not make the heart grow fonder
- Talk to your wife!
- There is always an answer
- Open hearts and open minds
- I’ll say it again – communication!
- It’s difficult to do the right thing
- Revelations can be hard
- There is never a perfect time to come out
- Love will find a way
- The first baby step can feel like a giant leap
- Congratulations for coming out!
- Sacrificing for love
- We feel for you
- Don’t knock it ’till you try it
- Finding Love As An Asexual Person
- Sparks weren’t at all expected, but is it normal to come out of a kiss feeling bored and a little grossed out?
- Don’t worry. It’s a hard road to take, but at least there’s a road.
- A lack of interest in sex does not equate to a lack of interest in intimacy and companionship.
- Before you continue…
- How Verizon Media and our partners bring you better ad experiences
- I’m Asexual, & Here’s How I Make It Work With My Partner
- Do asexual people want to be married, and if so, why?
- What It’s Like to Be in a Relationship With an Asexual
- Signs Your Partner May Be Asexual
- They say that they have a very low libido.
- They come up with excuses not to have sex, or get snippy when you ask for sex.
- They love holding hands and hugging, but aren’t sexual with you.
- They might not pick up on sexual innuendos.
- They may ask you if they’re “broken,” or they may actually feel depressed or guilty about their asexuality.
- They ask, “Why does everything have to deal with sex?”
- They insist on taking things unusually slow.
- They don’t really seem interested in sex, you know for a fact they aren’t cheating, and they don’t watch porn.
About Shae Collins
Many people forget, or perhaps, don’t know that there are various types of attraction. Maybe your partner is romantically, aesthetically, or intellectually attracted to you. These other forms of attraction can be just as, if not, more important in your relationship.
3. Avoid Pressure and Blame
In any type of relationship, pressuring a partner to have sex is unhealthy. Asexual people in relationships with sexual partners sometimes face a special type of pressure based on the stigma that says asexuality is not normal or unnatural.
Because the common narrative in our society is that sex is healthy and required for intimate relationships, asexual people are sometimes pressured by partners or by internal pressure to aspire to society’s idea of a “normal” and “healthy” relationship. And aces are often blamed when problems related to sex arise in the relationship.
No one tells my partner he needs to see a therapist to do something about his heterosexuality or his desire for sex. But therapy has been suggested for me several times. No one says, “Wow, he wanted to have frequent sex? How horrible!” But people have responded to articles I’ve written about asexuality with, “Wow, that must suck for your boyfriend.”
This type of thinking within a relationship can cause partners to place harmful pressure their ace partners and can lead to partners coercing and crossing sexual boundaries.
Instead of pressure and blame, opt for open communication.
4. Open Communication About Sexual Needs and Boundaries Is Vital
While it’s important to avoid pressure, non-asexual partners in relationships with aces need to be clear about their sexual needs.
For a while, my boyfriend had a difficult time bringing up his sexual needs because he didn’t want to seem like a jerk. He equated talking about his sexual needs with sexual pressure. So for a long time, he was very frustrated, and I would always wonder why he was so testy. His attitude affected other parts of our relationship.
A lot of drama could have been avoided if he would have been more open about his needs from the beginning.
He and I now have monthly check-ins to make sure we are both comfortable with our sex life. We talk about his needs, my boundaries, and what is or isn’t working for us. And every now and then, we have to discuss how his needs are not being met, or I have to school him on what is and isn’t appropriate to say to an ace (like referring to my feelings about sex as “childish” – do not do that to your ace partners!). It’s a learning process for both of us, and we’re constantly talking through it.
Partners should be able to address their sexual needs and their boundaries. Both are important. While non-aces need to understand their partner’s asexuality, at the same time, aces need to understand their partner’s sexuality.
However, it’s important to know the difference between sexual needs versus sexual entitlement. The former is a valid experience a person has, while the latter plays into our society’s normalized oppressive beliefs about who is “owed” sex. Sexual needs are okay in a relationship, entitlement is not.
The goal is to find the middle ground where sexual needs are met while boundaries are respected.
Sometimes, that involves getting a little creative. That’s where my last point comes in.
5. Expand Your Definition of a Relationship
When finding the sweet spot between sexual needs and boundaries is difficult, you may have to get a bit more creative.
Some kind of compromise is important in relationships where people have mismatched sexual needs. Some aces want sex with their partners, while others are willing to compromise and have sex every once in a while. Every ace is different so every relationship will look different.
Additionally, people in relationships can explore many alternatives to the “traditional” relationship: Maybe you can try out open or non-monogamous types of relationships. Maybe you’re willing to participate in other forms of intimacy. Maybe you connect in other ways (sexual compatibility isn’t the only factor that keeps relationships together).
Your relationship doesn’t have to conform to a certain expected standard. It’s your relationship, so it’s up to you to create the rules.
Again, this all depends on what partners in relationships are comfortable with. Sometimes this involves going back to the drawing board several times to revise a compromise or agreement in the relationship. Sometimes there is no compromise to reach and the relationship ends. Every relationship won’t be successful, and that’s okay.
Truth is, these five points are true for many relationships, not just those involving aces. So really, our relationships may not be too much different from any other relationship.
Yes, relationships where partners have mismatched sexual needs are challenging. Finding the compromise between fulfilling sexual needs and respecting boundaries can be tough. My partner and I haven’t gotten it down to a science yet. But we are trying and have been working it out.
It helps to remember that sexual compatibility isn’t always the glue that holds relationships together. I’ve seen tons of sexually compatible partners end relationships for various reasons.
All relationships require effort. But some are worth that effort.
So, good luck out there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all the aces looking for fulfilling relationships.
Shae Collins is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She enjoys educating and uplifting by aiming a black feminist lens at pop culture on her blog, awomynsworth.com. She’s been published in Ms. Magazine, For Harriet, and Blavity. Laugh with her on Twitter @ShaeCWrites.
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Asexuality is a sexual orientation that many sexual people still don’t understand. There are so many misconceptions about asexuality. Unlike celibacy (where someone opts not to have sex), asexuality isn’t a choice.
Asexuals – also known as ‘aces’ – are able have intimate and loving relationships in exactly the same way that sexual people can. Here, five asexual women explain the varying ways they experience intimacy in their relationships.
“It’s like a ‘normal’ relationship, except when you go to bed you actually sleep, and there’s less genital-grabbing. You still love each other and think each other are pretty and cute. Still cuddle and touch affectionately, happy kisses and look forward to spending time with them. Still do favours for them, and go out on dates. Still dream about a life together, and argue about who was supposed to do the dishes. Still share their joy and pain, encourage them to do their best, sympathise with a bad day at work. Still play small jokes on each other, or make small sacrifices to see them smile. Still wake up early for work and watch your partner sleep for a bit, feeling peace and adoration in the quiet morning. Really, aside from the lack of sexual undertones and active genital mashing, I don’t think there’s a difference.”
Eakachai Leesin / EyeEmGetty Images
“Our intimacy comes from love, not lust”
“In a long term long distance relationship, almost three years. Visits every three to five months. We love each other and spending time together, near or far. When we are intimate, it’s out of love, not lust, and that type of intimacy isn’t our primary thing (lots of hugs, kisses, cuddles, I love yous, etc.)”
“We have a great lot of fun together”
“I am currently in a committed long-term relationship, going on two years. It’s great to be totally honest. He’s got a sort of low libido and while he is sexually attracted to me, he says he was always annoyed with the focus on sex in his past relationships, so he’s super happy with the setup too. We have a great lot of fun together, we write role playing characters together and he watches me play Sherlock games because I’m a puzzle/Sherlock nerd. I watch him play horror games because I’m terrified of everything and couldn’t play them on my own, and we take my dog out places and we just… we hang. We have our mushy romantic moments, but mostly it’s just getting through life one day at a time with my absolute best friend in the world. I find it relieving every day that he doesn’t find sex important, and because I have anxiety I double check that all the time (he knows why, and he understands).”
“We have more than just a friendship”
“I’ve been with my partner for over seven years, and sex just doesn’t really happen. I’m also not a very touchy feely person. Making out does nothing for me. He has a lower libido and feels there is more than just sex in a relationship. He likes our connection and we have more than just a friendship (neither of us define relationships/friendships as having sex/no sex).”
“I get emotional gratification from bringing them pleasure”
“Asexual and polyamorous woman here. My current long-term relationship works out particularly well because my partner has a low libido. My asexuality is usually a non-issue in my other relationships because while I don’t desire or benefit from sexual contact, I’m also not repulsed by it, and I get a great deal of emotional gratification from the idea that I can bring pleasure to someone else. I’m more affectionate with my boyfriends (I don’t mind a limited amount of hugging, cuddling, and kissing), and I have sex with them as and when they want to (unless I actively feel unwilling, of course). With my partner(s), I hurt when they hurt. I would do just about anything to pick them up when they’re down, and I’d work myself to the bone to support them if they were going through hard times.”
Dating an Asexual Person: Everything You Need to Know
Some people still find it hard to believe that not everyone wants sex. Their main task is aimed at finding a sexual partner in order to improve the quality of their sex life. Meanwhile, the number of asexuals around the world is growing. And even a special movement of people who are far from sex, but remain loving and warm personalities, has arisen. Now asexuality is considered the fourth sexual orientation. So, what does it mean to be asexual? Let’s figure it out!
What is an asexual person?
What does asexual mean? To answer this question, you need to know that this type of people has existed for thousands of years. The term itself was established in the 60s of the 20th century. Many people at the sight of this word immediately begin to think about abstinence, that is, the so-called celibacy. However, this is a mistake and now you will understand why. Asexuality is the complete absence of sexual desire in a person or its extremely weak presence.
Accordingly, asexuality shouldn’t be confused with intentional abstinence because asexuals don’t refuse sex for any specific purpose. They do this because they don’t want to have sex, that is, they have no sexual desire. However, this is not all that you need to figure out to fully understand who asexuals are.
Many people ask questions about how to become asexual. However, this kind of questions has no meaning and can often offend the feelings of other people. The fact is that many people still have a perception that people who fall in love with people of their own sex are abnormal. Similarly, they consider the absence of sexual desire as a deviation from the norm. But these views have long become obsolete and have been refuted because both homosexuality and bisexuality are absolutely normal orientations, no different from heterosexuality.
The same applies to asexuality. After all, the lack of sexual desire doesn’t depend on a person in this case – a person is born that way and this is not a congenital disease that should be treated as soon as possible. This is a normal condition that we just need to accept. And such questions such as “How do asexuals live?” are rude and tactless. So, you should refrain from such statements.
Types of asexuals
What is an asexual person? It is worth noting that there are types of asexuals, even if there are only two of them. There are no specific names for these types, but according to the description, it is easy to understand the difference between them. So, the first type of asexuals – these are people who don’t perceive sex in any form, don’t experience sexual attraction and never have sex in their life. But there is not only them. The second type includes those people who don’t have a particular sexual desire but allow themselves the possibility of entering into sexual intercourse, in most cases, with the aim of procreation. So, do asexual people have sex? Yes, but such people still don’t get any pleasure from sex and don’t really want to engage in it, but they can also have sex if they have a certain motive. The most common of them (procreation) has already been mentioned above.
Possible causes of asexuality
1. Psychological trauma. An unsuccessful parental example, dominant role of a mother in a family, the desire of parents to shame any of child’s sexual manifestations, terrifying stories of a mother about sex as something indecent, dangerous and even unpleasant, as the source of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, unsuccessful sexual experiences, physical and psychological abuse;
2. Obsessive thoughts can lead to a decline or lack of libido. For example, before having sex, a person begins to feel disgust for a partner, fear of contracting some kind of infection, fear of pregnancy, etc.;
3. Features of the human sexual life, hormonal disorders, and other dysfunctions. Being asexual, people can make their asexuality a life credo, although the true reason is not in philosophical convictions at all.
Asexual relationships don’t have rules that dictate how to manifest non-sexual love. The possibilities of non-sexual intimacy are different. Some asexual people like physical intimacy – for example, hugs and strokes. Some asexuals express closeness through conversations, for example, sharing the most intimate thoughts, secrets, and fears with partners or making each other laugh.
Others achieve intimacy in their own, unique ways or combine all, some or none of the methods described above. Such a relationship format can remove the main problem of standard mixed relationships (because a partner can satisfy sexual needs somewhere else), but, of course, only if it is comfortable for both partners. But what to do if you met an asexual woman?
1. It’s not because of you
You meet a beautiful woman, you have a date, everything is fine, you go to her, and here she is: dear, I am an asexual, so don’t offer sex! So, the rule number one: don’t look for a reason in yourself. Asexuality is a fairly common phenomenon and it is not a mental disorder. Many scientists even consider asexuality to be the fourth type of sexuality along with hetero, homo, and bisexuality.
2. Understand and forgive
Asexuals can be divided into those who have never experienced sexual desire and those who have gotten rid of it through conscious suppression or prolonged voluntary abstinence. Asexuals shouldn’t be confused with people who adhere to celibacy (they simply take a vow of celibacy). In short, if you fall in love with a person, then just understand such a way of life.
3. Take it easy
Often, asexuals have sex with the purpose of procreation and don’t see anything wrong with that. But don’t flatter yourself because asexuals are born and die and it can’t be cured by meeting with the right person. You will have to come to terms with this and stop hinting to a woman that she needs to become “normal,” which is pretty offensive.
4. Don’t insist
They don’t become asexuals as a result of some kind of upheavals like rape or extremely unsuccessful sexual experience. This is a congenital feature. They are not at all against romantic touches, hugs, and kisses. The only thing they don’t need is sex.
5. Mark the boundaries
Dating an asexual, you will have to talk with a partner in order to understand the scope of what is permitted and clarify what kind of joint perspectives you have. If this life is not pretty for you without sex marathons and experiments, then, alas, you will have to say goodbye to asexuals. Or you can develop your own format of relationships where you will look for sexual satisfaction on the side. History knows such cases, we are serious!
6. Leave the right to happiness
Most often asexuals are completely self-sufficient, happy, and satisfied with their own lives. They don’t consider themselves to be flawed or deprived of something, don’t suffer from lack of sex, but, on the contrary, enjoy it very much.
7. Be ready for difficulties
If you decide to unite your life with an asexual, then be prepared for some difficulties, sometimes even developing into discrimination. It is customary for us to persistently and unceremoniously take an interest in personal life all around and ask tactless questions regarding relationships, children or the desire to give birth to them. People will never get used to the fact that what happens between two people is their own business and doesn’t concern us. So, be ready for this.
How to know if you’re asexual
What is characteristic of asexual? It’s time to look at the specific signs of asexuality, which will allow you to understand whether you are asexual or not. Also, it will help you distinguish between an asexual and impotent, antisexual, celibate person, and so on. You know, sexuality is like skin – an integral part of a person (part of even those who consider themselves asexuals). How to tell if someone is asexual? For example, this can be done noticing how people respond to you. Therefore, the feeling of sexuality often depends on the feedback from other people.
Sometimes people can either randomly or purposely give very harsh and rude feedback. Because of this, an asexual person begins to think that something is wrong with him or her. If you feel repulsive in the field of sexuality, it is worth analyzing the feedback from your partners or random people, to understand how you are evaluated. This method really works. But is there any special test for asexuality? Is it possible to “scan” a person and understand that an intimate relationship for him/her is an empty sound?
Answers to important questions will help understand whether you are asexual:
- Do you think sex is shameful, dirty business?
- Is it possible to live without physical intimacy?
- Can a man and a woman spend time only in a platonic relationship?
- Is it possible to live without sex at all?
If you give positive answers to all the questions, then, most likely, you are asexual. Is it wrong to be asexual? Don’t worry, relationships with an asexual category of people are possible, moreover, they allow you to look at a new type of romantic relationship, to feel a close connection in terms of emotional feelings. Asexuality is not a disease and it doesn’t require treatment. A joint discussion of further actions will help you figure out whether to continue further communication or not. If asexuality doesn’t cause problems to you, this is normal. Abnormal asexuals may be considered by people around or partners. In this case, it is important to work to ensure that there is more acceptance in a relationship.
Famous asexual people
There are accurate and detailed evidence of the asexual behavior of many famous people (by the way, not all of them rejected platonic love). However, with respect to many of them, it is possible to come across unsubstantiated statements that their behavior was allegedly the result of the suppression of certain sexual inclinations, subjected to religious and moral condemnation. And here is the list of famous asexuals:
- Hans Christian Andersen
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Jorge Luis Borges
- Nikolay Gogol
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Salvador Dali (doubtful)
- Henry Cavendish
- Immanuel Kant
- Franz Kafka (doubtful)
- Lewis Carroll
- Soren Kierkegaard
- Howard Lovecraft
- T. E. Lawrence
- Isaac Newton
- António de Oliveira Salazar
- Benedict Spinoza
- Nikola Tesla
- Frederic Chopin (according to his early love to George Sand)
- Bernard Show
As you can see, even famous people were asexual.
To work with your own manifestations of sexuality, you need a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, and also enjoyable and safe sex, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.
Keeping Marriage Alive with Affairs, Asexuality, Polyamory, and Living Apart
In my previous post, I introduced you to the first part of Pamela Haag’s provocative new book, Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules. The 21st century, she argues, is a post-romantic age of melancholy marriages. The couples are not acutely stressed nor entangled in constant conflict – they are just melancholy. They signed up for the marriage pact and lost a vital part of themselves in the process.
In that first post, I reviewed some of the problems that Haag diagnosed as plaguing some contemporary marriages. Here, I will go through a few of them and tell you about some of the solutions Haag learned about in her research and interviews. Remember, her goal is not to generate alternatives to marriage but alternatives within marriage that have the potential to keep the marriages together. To longtime readers of Living Single, I bet you will anticipate the conclusion I am leading up to before you get to the end of this post.
1. The problem of the insularity of many modern marriages (the “Marriage as a Bomb Shelter” issue). From Haag:
“Marriage is touted as the ‘building block’ of civilization. But what civilization, if all we do is tend to our own, important though that is? We’ll end up with a million building blocks and no foundation.”
Pamela Haag has discovered that married couples are already exploring options to living in their single-family moat-encircled private castles. They range from co-housing to living in homes with separate master bedrooms to continuing to cohabit even after divorcing to living in separate homes while staying married.
2. “The underwhelming crisis of infidelity.” Yes, that’s what Pamela Haag has concluded about the supposed crisis of extramarital affairs – it is underwhelming. In theory, we abhor affairs – and in fact, some truly are extraordinarily cruel and hurtful. But more often than we might guess, Haag finds, spouses react with little more than a shrug. She offers some thoughts about what this is about:
“…perhaps infidelity is about what it appears to be able: sexual ennui if not desperation in an otherwise not-bad marriage, and/or lust….Perhaps it’s about wanting to get back the complexity, depth, and richness of your character again, but within the boundaries of a marriage that otherwise ‘works.'”
So how do today’s couples deal with affairs without divorcing? Haag founds lots of arrangements and understandings. Some maintain that ‘everyone gets at least one free pass.’ Others have ‘only when traveling’ or ‘only 50 miles away’ rules. There are “don’t ask, don’t tell couples,” tell only so much couples, and tell-all couples. One wife told Haag that when she discovered that her husband was a philanderer, she “banished him temporarily to a nearby apartment, but had him come back every morning to get the children off to school and pack their lunches, and then return in the evening to cook their dinner.”
3. The challenge of the married asexual. Pamela Haag realizes that a sexless marriage is not the same thing as a marriage that includes an asexual. Referring to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), she describes married asexuals as those who
“reject the prioritizing of monogamous sexual love over friendship. Asexual marriage doesn’t mean not being intimate, or even not having sex; it means not wanting to have sex, and coveting an ideal of platonic intimacy.”
What’s a married couple to do if they want to stay married but only one of the two people is asexual and the other really, really likes and wants sex? Haag describes one couple who tried compromising on sex once a week. When that didn’t work, the asexual wife persuaded her husband that he should just go ahead and have his affairs, and she would help him pick out his girlfriends. He, of course, thought he was being set up. He wasn’t. As the wife explained:
“Say you like Ping-Pong. I hate Ping-Pong, you love Ping-Pong, so go find someone who will play with you and have a good time doing it.”
4. The couple who wants intimacy from more than one person. Enter polyamory. There are different meanings of the term but Pamela Haag uses it to refer to the new open marriage, or ‘ethical nonmonogamy.’ The ethical part is the “scrupulous standard of telling the truth.” Partners are honest with each other about what they are doing, and they engage only with people who are honest with their partners. This version of polyamory is not just about sex – “the intimacies are real but circumscribed.”
5. The problem of married couples begrudging one another the time they spend with friends or anything they do for fun without their spouse along for the ride. Haag offers the analogy of what she calls the desiccated American Beauty marriage:
“It offers the husband, played by Kevin Spacey, two roles: to live either as a sexless, soul-crushingly dutiful and henpecked husband, or as a pot-smoking, self-absorbed adolescent who lusts after the high school cheerleader. There is no authentic nonparental role for him in between, no option of being a multifaceted adult.”
Among the possible lifelines Haag tosses to those trapped in American Beauty marriages is this one: the marriage sabbatical. Maybe the couples just need some ‘growth time’ apart.
I wanted to end with the notion of the marriage sabbatical because that’s how I ended Singled Out. Quoting an author who had described what she loved about having time to herself and a space that was only her own, I said this:
“Jarvis was married but craved a sabbatical from her marriage. She wanted long stretches of solitude, where she could bask, uninterrupted, in her thoughts and in her work, in her own special place. What she really wanted – at least for a while – was to be single.”
So have you anticipated my conclusion – why it is that I think this book, which is all about marriage, actually furthers the cause of single people?
Consider again what Pamela Haag sees as unnecessary to marriage:
a. Children (noted in my previous post)
b. Living together
d. Having sex only with each other
e. Having intimacy only with each other
f. Spending all of your time – including even stretches of time that last for months or longer – with each other. (You can instead take a ‘marriage sabbatical’ and spend as much time on your own or with friends or anyone else, doing whatever you want, for as long as the sabbatical lasts.)
I see all this as spelling out not (just) an alternative within marriage, but an alternative to marriage. This is single life. If you can choose a combination of these options and still call what you have a marriage, why bother? (Except, of course, to run away with all the federally-bestowed loot, and the prestige of having membership in the Married Couples Club.)
Maybe Pamela Haag would say that marriage is different because you value that lasting bond with your spouse. But many single people value and cherish deep and enduring bonds with friends, siblings, and other relatives. And since sex and living together are optional, and having very close relationships with more than one person is permissible, how is this not a description of a fulfilling single life?
To me, what Haag is describing is the best version of friendship. You can have a friend you have known for a long time and with whom you have shared everyday experiences and deep intimacies. You can have more than one such friend and (in theory) the various friends don’t get to feel too possessive about that. You and your friend(s) can have different sexual preferences, including not much interest in sex at all. Your friend might have multiple sexual partners and you figure, “well, if she likes Ping Pong, she should go find some people to play with and have a good time.” Even if you don’t totally approve, you might try to be supportive or understanding because you care about your friend’s happiness.
There are two other points from Marriage Confidential that I see as very pertinent to single life, even though Pamela Haag doesn’t frame them that way.
Here’s the first, in Haag’s words:
“I think of Nicole’s husband and other serial monogamists who divorce their wives because they’re ‘in love’ with a mistress. What if they had an alternative to this romantic narrative? What if they had a narrative that there are varieties of attachment, passion, and love in which passion isn’t certification of ‘true love’? I suspect that we end up feeling, assuming, and thinking what our prevailing stories and metaphors of marriage condition us to feel, assume, and think.”
The key point is about the power of the prevailing narrative. The conventional wisdom about single people and single life is the series of degrading myths that I write about so often (for example, here and here and here). Part of the power of the myths is in their prevalence and their taken-for-grantedness. One of the preeminent goals of much of my writing is to describe a new narrative about single life – one that is more accurate, because it is grounded in research rather than singlism and guesswork.
The second and last excerpt of Haag’s that I want to critique is this one:
“Betty Friedan had to expose and second-wave feminism had to remedy basic legal, economic, educational, social, and cultural inequalities that made marriage all but imperative for all women. Today we have a different, secret, and often internal struggle, to make good on the promises of our own liberation….we have unprecedented latitude to do marriage differently.”
True, it is important to broaden the way we do marriage. But even more fundamental is the achievement of genuine freedom in the ways we organize our lives so that living single is a real and respected and viable life path. If our only option is to improve on marriage, then marriage is still the imperative that it was in Friedan’s day.
Sometimes people ask me how my notion of single at heart differs from Sasha Cagen’s quirkyalone. As I explained before, quirkyalones proclaim:
“We are people who are happily single, with friends and passions and full lives, but we are also romantics. We love those silly love songs, even as we recognize their silliness. Once we find that one perfect person, ‘oooh la la.’
“The qualifier – we’re happily single but we’d love to be coupled with the perfect person – made all the difference. Quirkyalones are not threatening to people who are coupled at heart.”
Once Cagen had popularized quirkyalone, single-at-heart was less of a shock and a stretch. It became understandable (at least to some) in a way that it wasn’t before.
Let’s say that Pamela Haag can persuade a matrimanical society that, in the service of staving off divorce, it may actually be a good thing to condone couples who have separate living quarters or no sex or extra sex or extra intimacy. The path to accepting, respecting, and maybe even celebrating single life would then be shorter.
Here’s what it’s really like to be asexual and married
Image zoom Viktar Vysotski/
According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, an asexual person is”someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” The organization explains, that unlike chosen celibacy, asexuality is an intrinsic aspect of who they are. It is just a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently”. There is one way to determine if someone is asexual. It’s like other identities it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out.
Finding out your partner is asexual after being together for years, it can be tough. When a partner comes out as asexual there are a lot of things to work out and a lot of adjustments that need to be made on both sides. The key to making things work, like in all relationships, is open and honest communication with each other.
A little openness can be a good thing
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Dreams can come true
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It can be quite a shock
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It’s okay to feel a little blindsided
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The frustration is super real
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Communication is key
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The truth will set you free
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Searching for a solution
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Emotional distance does not make the heart grow fonder
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Talk to your wife!
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There is always an answer
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Open hearts and open minds
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I’ll say it again – communication!
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It’s difficult to do the right thing
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Revelations can be hard
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There is never a perfect time to come out
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Love will find a way
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The first baby step can feel like a giant leap
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Congratulations for coming out!
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Sacrificing for love
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We feel for you
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Don’t knock it ’till you try it
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To find out more about being Asexual, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network for FAQs and more information.
- By Amanda Malamut
Finding Love As An Asexual Person
Let’s get some things out of the way before we dive into this, shall we? Asexuality is a concept that eludes a lot of people. There are many resources available to define and discuss asexuality, but for this article, we’ll simply say that asexuality is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. It’s on a spectrum. The people sheltered under the umbrella of this term have varying romantic and sexual orientations. Some may have romantic inclinations; others may not. And, yes, some asexuals might even like sex.
When I was younger, the phrase “I love you” was enough for me. Romantic comedies always featured lips pressing, sure. But I believed that the culmination of feeling came with its confirmation. Kissing, for me, was an afterthought, a pleasant bonus in the process.
Everyone goes through a stage of disillusionment. I certainly outgrew the expectations of feeling magic with a kiss. It was still odd, however, when I finally got my first kiss.
There is a difference between a sexually liberated person considering a kiss as “just a kiss” and an asexual person trying out kissing and finding nothing.
Sparks weren’t at all expected, but is it normal to come out of a kiss feeling bored and a little grossed out?
This is but a small part of the confusion that comes with the process of realizing you’re asexual. While there are asexual characters in media, they are few and not perfectly representative of the experience. As such, asexual people find familiarity with heteronormative media. And when it becomes clear that they feel differently from what’s portrayed, they tend to feel isolated and less than normal.
The inability to want sexual interaction, which seems like such a crucial part of things, could lead to the belief that love is out of reach.
But it’s not.
Don’t worry. It’s a hard road to take, but at least there’s a road.
A sexual person may find it difficult to imagine a life completely devoid of sex or even of the desire to have sex. Likewise, an asexual person may have trouble coming to grips with the idea that sometimes kissing and sexual forms of intimacy are at the forefront of a relationship. This difference immediately results in a disconnect between the two, thus making it hard for an asexual to date unless they can find a partner that’s on the spectrum too.
There are a lot of difficulties that come with mixed (asexual/sexual) relationships. For an asexual, even if they force themselves to participate in physical and sexual actions, there will be moments of insecurity. They may like some physical contact but are reluctant to be in a relationship unless their partner expects more from them. When they do find themselves in a relationship, they’ll wonder if their partner is happy with the level of sexual interaction. Sometimes, you can’t help but wonder whether your unconventional method of loving may be lacking. And then there’s just no denying that some feel repulsion at any contact.
So what then?
You Might Also Like: On Coming Out As Asexual
Outside of these concerns, when your sexual partner finds out about your orientation, it could hurt them. They may feel bad for not being sexually attractive enough. They may take their partner’s aversion personally and blame themselves for not making them happy.
There are success stories of mixed relationships, but it comes with effortful communication and compromise for both parties. So, a romantic relationship is possible for an asexual person who wants one. However, they need to define their boundaries and state their feelings to avoid pain in the long run.
A lack of interest in sex does not equate to a lack of interest in intimacy and companionship.
When you’re a romantic and come from a background that leaves you with a positive idea of marriage, then even as an asexual person, you might want to marry, too. And these marriages either break, or each couple finds their way of surviving.
There are some couples who survive their mixed marriage by having a non-conforming relationship. They may be comfortable with an open or polyamorous marriage. In certain cases, asexuals may permit their spouses the freedom to satiate their sexual needs with other people.
Other marriages work with compromise. The couple discusses their needs, and each finds a way to try and satisfy the other. These marriages may include a previously agreed upon number of times they have sex per week. Or the asexual partner may find more comfort when they focus on giving rather than receiving pleasure. Each couple is different, and it is important that the partners discuss their boundaries with one another.
Asexual people may choose to have children too. In that case, they may have sex for the sake of reproduction. Or, if not, then there are alternatives such as in-vitro, adoption, and surrogacy.
Love and relationships may seem like distant dreams for an asexual person. But there is a lesson we can take away from heteronormative media: a happy relationship could easily be achieved with proper communication and the right partner.
Asexual Awareness Week: What IS Asexuality Anyway?
When My Husband Told Me He Was Asexual
Ask Erin: I’m Asexual; How Do I Get Him To Back Off?
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People wonder why asexuals bother to get together, but Amanda and I have been happily married for nine months now and we’re both still virgins. Some people even think asexuality doesn’t exist. It’s so underrepresented, I can understand why people are skeptical. I was too, even though I was perfectly used to thinking of myself in this way. For years I just thought I was the only person in the world who felt like this.
My parents are agricultural scientists, so I’ve lived overseas since around the age of 10. I was in India until I was 16, then Zimbabwe for two years, and then Kuwait. I studied in China and New York, before settling in London. Even at 10, I had a sense that I didn’t want to get married and have children. I know a lot of kids say things like that, but I didn’t change my mind about it later on. I wasn’t interested in relationships or finding a girlfriend, and was very sure I didn’t have an interest in boys either.
Gradually my school friends spent more and more time talking about girls and pursuing relationships, but I could never grasp what they were expecting to get out of it. There were family parties in India where all the kids would gather outside in the garden.
I was 13 and had a best friend, Kasim, who was a year younger than me. He had a crush on an Australian girl called Jessica – everyone seemed to think she was the prettiest. We had lots of whispered discussions about what he could say to her, and even though I thought it was a ridiculous game, I wanted to fit in, so I pretended I had a crush too – on a French girl called Sylvie. She was a safe bet because she was so unlikely to reciprocate. I knew she wasn’t at all interested in me. I’d just discuss her with the boys.
There were times as I got older when girls did seem interested in me, but I always deliberately ignored their signals. I wanted to avoid getting into a situation I’d feel uncomfortable with, so I never even kissed a girl. The first girl I kissed became my wife.
When I was 13, my father gave me a book on sex education. I felt as if I was reading about a foreign culture; I just couldn’t see why anyone would go to so much trouble just to have sex. I tried looking at pornography on the internet. I wasn’t disgusted or appalled – it was just boring, like looking at wallpaper.
Masturbation was another topic of conversation in those days, and I did masturbate. It wasn’t a sexual urge for me, I didn’t fantasise, it was just something my body decided to do. People say about asexuals: “But if they masturbate doesn’t that make them sexual?” It’s hard to explain, but if you’re asexual you don’t necessarily feel an explicit connection between masturbation and sexual orientation. It’s just part of having a human body – a physical, biological process.
After we moved to Zimbabwe I went back to visit my old friend Kasim. The last time we’d seen each other we’d been into computer games, drinking Coke and going for pizza. Two years on, it was a shock to see how much Kasim had changed. Sex was his major preoccupation. He had a girlfriend and was on the brink of going all the way with her. One afternoon we were with some of Kasim’s friends, and he began goading two of the girls into kissing each other in front of a camera. The whole atmosphere was really charged, and I felt out of my depth. I’d fallen behind. Kasim had been my friend a long time, but he’d entered this different world without me.
By the time I went to university, I was happy to let people wonder about my sexuality. I wasn’t pretending to talk about girls any more. Some people assumed I was gay, but my best friend Simon was the first person to confront me directly. We were studying in Hangzhou, in China, just south of Shanghai. It’s a very beautiful city, on a lake with mountains, and we were walking through the streets when Simon asked me outright. First he made a joke about whether “I liked girls … or boys?” I laughed but he persisted and said “So what are you?” I just said, “I’m not straight and I’m not gay, and that’s it, full stop.” Back then I didn’t know what term to use.
The following summer I was surfing the internet when I read a post from a girl who wasn’t attracted to anyone. Someone had suggested she should be aware of “asexuality”, and gave the address of a website: asexuality.org. When I went to the site and read the material, I was quite dismissive at first, because you just don’t hear about other asexuals. Since Freud and Kinsey, and even to an extent the sexual revolution of the 60s, we tend to believe anyone without a sexual orientation must be repressed or delusional. Asexuality is therefore an impossibility. Kinsey labelled us “X”, a statistical throwaway category for anyone damaged to the point where they can’t express any sexuality.
Gradually, though, through visiting the site, I came to realise that these were just ordinary people; people who were writing things I’d thought myself, but had never heard anyone else express. It was such a relief. Finally I had a label – a way to explain myself that could settle all the awkwardness and questioning.
I told my close friends straightaway. Only one female friend didn’t really believe me. I think she thought I was secretly in love with her.
Back at college I decided to get it over with in one day by wearing a T-shirt saying: “Asexuality is not just for amoebas”. I was nervous, but I’d already told a dozen or so people, and was used to answering the same questions over and over. No one has ever reacted really badly to me – I’ve been lucky.
I told my mother shortly after finding the asexual website, and she said: “Well as long as you understand the possibility that one of these days you’ll meet someone and want to settle down with them.” I wasn’t so sure. I’d already resigned myself to a solitary existence. I’d convinced myself I could form strong friendships and was independent enough to fare OK. Luckily my mother always ends up being right about everything.
When my studies took me to New York, I got more involved with the asexual community there. I posted messages on their website and there were regular meet-ups in a little pink tea shop in the East Village – I guess you could call it the asexual equivalent of a gay bar.
One day I got an email from Amanda. She was asexual, living close by, and offered to show me around the neighbourhood. In case she was cruising for an asexual boyfriend, I responded with a warning that I was “vehemently anti-romantic”. But we met up anyway, for tea and ice-skating, and we took to meeting a lot.
I loved Amanda’s attitude to life and enjoyed hanging out with her. And she was pretty. At first I tried to treat it like any other friendship. Then I found myself travelling four miles downtown to deliver sandwiches when she told me she was hungry. Two months in, we were at a gig and it seemed like a good idea to hold her hand. I felt cautious about it but just wanted to. I wondered if I could. Then I found I couldn’t let go.
That evening ended with us agreeing that our friendship was an important thing. We wanted to commit for life. In the asexual community we don’t form relationships lightly. If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with a person, there’s no reason to make such a special commitment.
When we announced our engagement, our families were happy for us, and our friends in the asexual community were particularly pleased. On our wedding night, my mother-in-law insisted on booking us into a honeymoon suite, so we invited all our friends to an after party. We played Scrabble late into the night and everyone stayed over and slept on the hotel-room floor.
People always ask how our marriage is different from just being friends, but I think a lot of relationships are about that – being friends. We have built on our friendship, rather than scrapping it and moving on somewhere else. The obvious way we differ is that we don’t have sex, though we do kiss and cuddle. We like to joke that the longer we’re married the less unusual this is. By the time we’ve been married five years we’ll be just like everyone else.
Do I feel as if I’m missing out on something? Not really. We’ve decided that if either of us wants to try sex out in the future then we will see what we can do. We would both be willing to compromise because we’re in a relationship and that’s what you do.
When it comes to the future and to children, we’re big advocates of adoption. We’re not so fussed about passing on our own genes. Right now we’re quite happy with what we’ve got. After moving around so much, I can say now that wherever Amanda is – that’s home.
· Paul Cox was interviewed by Bridget O’Donnell. Some names have been changed.
· Do you have a story to tell about your life? Email it to [email protected] If possible, include a phone number.
I’m Asexual, & Here’s How I Make It Work With My Partner
My husband Jon and I have been married for four years. We were together for 10 years before that. We got hitched at the courthouse, while both of us were wearing cut-offs and nondescript T-shirts. We sealed the deal with a high-five as our 2-year-old ran around us in circles. Marriage itself was never a hugely important thing to us (we only got married so he would have health insurance), but the commitment is real and the love between us is there.
Jon and I started dating the fall semester of our freshman year at college, which was almost 14 years ago. A lot can happen in 14 years. We’ve been together for our entire adult lives. Part of that means that we grew up together. Part of that means that we uncovered surprising things about ourselves over the course of those fourteen years.
For me, I came out to Jon on three separate occasions. First, as a non-binary transgender person. Then, almost immediately after, as queer. And then, about a year later, I came out to my husband as asexual.
Courtesy B R Sanders
Like most things having to do with sexuality, asexuality is complicated and can be defined on a spectrum. But according to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), an asexual person can largely be defined as someone who does not experience sexual attraction in any form. Being asexual doesn’t mean you don’t experience love, or that you’re incapable of having an intimate relationship. It just means that you’re not interested in having sex.
When I told Jon I was asexual, I was happy to discover that he didn’t make it about him. He didn’t fret about his sexual prowess or my lack of satisfaction in bed. He didn’t make me prove my asexuality or qualify it. He accepted it.
It’s complicated and scary to come out as asexual when you’re married, especially because Jon married me with the expectation that we would be having sex. Hell, we had been having sex — enough sex that I’d gotten pregnant and had a kid. Unlike many other asexual people, I also enjoy having sex, and I’m not weirded out or repulsed by it. But I don’t crave or desire it.
More often than not, when Jon and I had sex, I was doing it because I knew he wanted to, not because I wanted to. I mostly liked that he liked it. We had sex maybe twice the whole time I was pregnant, because pregnancy made my entire body far too sensitive for me to enjoy virtually anything, especially sex. But I found that not having to think about sex during my pregnancy was, oddly, a reprieve for me. I also knew that while my body was hypersensitive while I was pregnant, my sex drive hadn’t changed dramatically. For the most part, it had always been that low.
Courtesy B R Sanders
After Arthur was born, Jon and I had a lot of frank conversations about sexuality. I came out as a non-binary transgender person, and then I came out as queer. Throughout those discussions, my asexuality lurked just under the surface. By the time I started reading about asexuality and put a name to my nonexistent sex drive, Jon was pretty used to the coming out conversations, so he handled this one beautifully.
There are a lot of myths surrounding asexuality. Some people believe that it’s not a “real” sexual orientation, or that people who identify as asexual are just terrified of sex.
When I told Jon I was asexual, I was happy to discover that he didn’t make it about him. He didn’t fret about his sexual prowess or my lack of satisfaction in bed. He didn’t make me prove my asexuality or qualify it. He accepted it. He said it made a lot of sense, given how mismatched our sex drives had been since we started dating. He said that he understood if I wanted to change something about our relationship. And then he gave me a hug. He said we’d figure it out, because we always do.
But I was scared of how the conversation could have gone. I was scared he would say that because we’d had sex before, and that he wasn’t asexual, that I should just keep having sex with him anyway. I was scared he’d say I was just frigid and needed to get over it. I was scared he’d say I was clearly just a lesbian, since I’d recently come out as queer. There are a lot of myths surrounding asexuality. Some people believe that it’s not a “real” sexual orientation, or that people who self-identify as asexual are just terrified of sex. I was scared Jon would believe those myths, because those were the things I’d been telling myself while I’d been trying to convince myself I wasn’t actually asexual.
Courtesy B R Sanders
That said, I am a lot happier since I’ve come out as asexual. My marriage feels more stable and more comfortable for me, and intimacy feels much less performative. Jon and I are in an open relationship. We opened it up at the time when I came out as queer, and it stayed open. I date only occasionally. He has a committed girlfriend, who is lovely. We are still very much together, and our relationship is still evolving, even though we’ve been together for 14 years.
Do asexual people want to be married, and if so, why?
Let me begin by saying, “I see where your question is coming from. Perhaps I am just so used to the question because many have asked me this question. Whatever may be the reason, the question now sounds like a valid question to me”
That said, some of the people ask this question out of ignorance. For example, often this question is followed by, if there is no sex involved, how is it any different from friendship? Why do you need to marry then? As everyone agrees marriage comes with lots of downsides too. The answer to this is, asexuals can have sex. They are just not sexually attracted to anyone. More importantly, many asexuals are romantically attracted. They are interested in having romantic relationships the same way as other non asexuals. I urge people who are not aware about such things to read more about asexuality.
However, there are aromantic people. So, the natural continuation would be the question: Do aromantic people want to be married? If so, why? Again, I would answer, I do (I am aromantic asexual). Here your question “why not just be friends?” is very valid. I will explain my reasons.
I would like to stress, though it may be obvious, that these are just my reasons and need not be the case for other asexuals. Asexuals like sexual people are individuals and will have different reasons to marry or not marry. I felt like saying this because of the way the question is asked. Sorry for being pedantic.
I never dreampt of being in a romantic relationship. But, ironically, I dreampt of marriage. Till marriage almost became a reality. From a very long time ago, I used to say, I will get married the day I finish my PhD. And my friends were surprised when that didn’t happen. For some reason, I started panicking when the time drew close. And slowly, I realised, my asexuality. It is more like I always knew about it, but the tag helped me understand it is normal. For me marriage and relationship are not the same. Marriage to me was an end to a family. And family was always of prime importance to me. After my parents eventually leave me, i would still like to have a family I could call mine.
That said, if that was the only motivation, I would have given up on marriage, given how difficult it is, to find a girl for someone like me.
The second reason is, everyone else around me is getting married. They are getting busy in their own life. Soon, they will have lesser and lesser time for me. So, there is the fear of eventual loneliness. In fact I might actually prefer a “lifelong hostel-life with same set of friends”, than married life. Notice one thing here, the hostel mates being the same set of people is really important for me. I believe relationships get better and deeper with time. So, I am perhaps romantic in the sense that I crave for a “happily everafter”.
So, friendship is enough for me and I am looking for a bestest friend for everafter in marriage.
What It’s Like to Be in a Relationship With an Asexual
Is sex the sole basis for a relationship? That’s a problem if, according to one study, an estimated 1 percent of the population is asexual, even if they don’t (yet) define themselves as such. VICE India spoke to Shambhavi* and Jamie, two 24-year-olds whose relationship isn’t and can’t be about sex.
Writer, Youth Ki Awaaz
I’ve identified as lesbian from the age of 16. I had been reading a lot about asexuals on Tumblr. One time I was discussing something with my friend and she said “Hey man you are probably an asexual.” It wasn’t in any dismissive or rude way. I was attracted to women but not sexually. I went away from that conversation feeling very confused, but also relieved. And that’s when I looked up some more stuff. I talked to few more people. And it was like when you go to a shoe store and find a shoe that fits.
Two years into being open about my sexuality, my best friend’s sister once asked, “So, asexuals only have sex with other asexuals then?” I found it pretty adorable actually. If gay people have sex with gay people, then ace people should be having sex with ace people. But people kinda forget that that’s not what we do. I don’t experience sexual attraction.
This is my first relationship. I do sometimes have sex with my partner. You know Cosmopolitans—they serve them everywhere. I don’t know why people keep raving about it, it is not that great. You try it out but you would never stand in a queue for it, or spend all your money for it for an Instagram photo. Sex is like that for me.
Shambhavi (l) says that discovering she was an asexual was like “going to a shoe store and finding a shoe that fits.” Image: Vijay Pandey
I am not like sex negative. It is just not on the top of my list. I often joke that if James Bond was asexual, the villains’ plan would always fail.
When we started dating, I sometimes would feel guilty. I thought I should do it for . Initially, I did things just to make her happy, but she eventually told me, “Cut the crap, you don’t need to do it.” In our hypersexual culture, we attach body to sex. It works for some people while it doesn’t work for others. We both like cuddling dogs and have long conversations with each other. She is also my best friend.
Masturbation was my only way to understand sexuality in a very clinical, closed, private space. It was my first entry into sex as an activity. It was also coming from a place of doubt. You start wondering if there is something physically wrong with you. In order to test that out, I started masturbating. If you have an itch, you gotta scratch it. I do it for a couple of reasons—I do it if I am bored, or if I have read something like “orgasms are good for your health.”
I am from a small town in Uttarakhand. Nobody was openly queer around me. Everybody was straight.
“I realised I was involved in homosexual behaviour ever since I was in class six. I don’t know why I found women attractive— sexually, romantically and aesthetically. Because my family is Orthodox Christian, I believed homosexuality was a sin. Thankfully I had internet so I went online and read about it. Fuck this shit—the Bible makes no sense. It is crap.
For Jamie* (R), romantic and sexual attraction coincided until she met Shambhavi. Image: Vijay Pandey
I met Shambhavi at work. We were attending a workshop on LGBTQ, sexuality and well-being and weirdly we were the only two queer people there. We just started talking and it happened. The fact that she was open and also the fact that she is from Delhi, it made more sense. Coming from a small town and not having gay friends did hamper my growth but after I met her now all my friends are gay.
I knew there was ‘A’ in LGBTQIA++ and for the longest time I thought it stood for Ally. Till I met Shambhavi in 2016, I didn’t know that A meant asexual. I think a lot of people don’t actually come out as asexual and there is not a lot of asexual representation.
Not having sex, for her pleasure, is not really a compromise for me. Honestly, I realised that my previous relationships began because I wanted to have sex with them. With Shambhavi, it was never about sex. The first time we met, she was open about the fact that she was an asexual.
The only thing that she has changed in me is that I eat lots of vegan stuff now. Everything else is same.
Sex for me is like watching a movie, if both of you are really not into that movie, why would you make the other person watch it.
Jamie* says, “The best part about dating Sham is I don’t have any sexual performance pressure.” Image: Vijay Pandey
“It’s not like we never have sex. We do have sex at times—I get horny and I am just like “do me”. Instead of just masturbating, I’ll be like “help me out”.
“I had this conversation with Shams and she told me how romantic and sexual attraction are different. For me, for the longest time, they coincided stereotypically. The best part about dating Shams is I don’t have any sexual performance pressure. Like, I don’t have to do certain things in order to please her.
Once I was having sex with Shams, and I realised she was not at all into it. I asked her if she was not into it, she can say it! Sex for me is like watching a movie, if both of you are really not into that movie, why would you make the other person watch it.
*Shambhavi wants to be identified only by her first name; her partner is pseudonymous.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included identifying details that a source wanted removed after publication.
Follow Maroosha Muzaffar on Twitter.
Published in partnership with Scarleteen.
I’m Asexual and currently engaged in a romantic relationship with a woman. She really wants to have sex, I’m not really into it. We’ve done other things I really like, like making out and heaving petting. How do I tell her that I don’t want to sleep with her without making her feel inferior, undesirable and bad about herself? I’m scared to hurt her. Should I just compromise and sleep with her?
Heather Corinna replies:
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Based on everything I know and have learned working in sex and relationships for many years, people don’t tend to have or sustain healthy relationships when they do big things for or with partners they don’t also want to do and feel good about themselves.
Taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, giving someone a ride or watching a certain movie when you don’t want to or would rather be doing something else is one thing. Creating babies, converting to a given religion, making legal agreements, moving in together or having sex when you don’t want to do those things are all something else entirely.
My very best advice for anyone, when it comes to any kind of sex, is to only engage in what you truly want to, for yourself, not just for someone else because it’s what they want from you. That doesn’t have to mean that your motivations for sex have to be the identical: since we’re all different people with a wide array of sexualities, they often won’t be. That also doesn’t have to mean you and she have the same experience with any kind of sex together: since you’re not the same people, it isn’t even possible to have the exact same experience. Nor do any people choosing to engage in sex together have to be seeking the exact same things from it: what’s vital is that whatever those things are, they’re in enough alignment that whatever sex you do both agree to feels right for each of you, and on the table enough that when anyone is consenting to sex, they know what it is they’re consenting to.
You’re expressing that you enjoy making out and heavy petting. It sounds like those are sexual things you want to do and feel good about doing, and not just because she wants to do them or enjoys them. Who knows if what you enjoy about those things is the same as what she enjoys about them, or if you’re both seeking the same things with those activities. It usually doesn’t really matter so long as you both want to do them when you choose to do them, for yourselves, not just for the other, and you’re both down with what the other is seeking and asking of you.
I’m not sure what kinds of sex don’t feel like things you want to engage in now, or period (or what you or she mean when you say she wants to have sex, especially since “heavy petting” historically has tended to anything or everything besides genital intercourse), but whatever those kinds are, I’d suggest holding those lines for yourself.
You sound like a pretty caring person, so I’m willing to bet that you’d want her to hold her own lines, respect and honor her own limits and boundaries, with the kinds of sex she doesn’t or wouldn’t want to engage in, right? No kind of sex, or any sex at all, is ever required of people: none of us are ever obligated to have sex with someone else just because it’s what they want or because they’d feel stung or bummed if we said no or not now. That’s as true for you as it is for her or anyone else.
You know, ideally, someone who has what it takes to really be someone’s partner, romantically, sexually or otherwise, is able to understand that however close and connected they may feel, they’re still separate people. That certainly includes each person’s sexuality. Partnerships usually aren’t made of identical people: we’re almost always going to have some differences, including sexual differences.
Any of us who are going to enter into any kind of sexual relationship or interaction needs to be able to accept and understand that if and when someone doesn’t feel the desire to do any given sexual thing or things, that even if that is in part about us — after all, sometimes people won’t want to do those things with us very specifically and it is personal — it’s really mostly about the other person. Someone else’s sexuality is always their own, and mostly about them, and that includes the sexual things, interactions and relationships they do and don’t desire; do or don’t want to enact or be part of.
If we’re earnestly ready to handle and conduct healthy sexual relationships with other people, we also have to be ready to and expect to deal with — or dole out — sexual rejection sometimes: after all, even in partnerships where both people generally do like and want the same things sexually, they don’t often always want the same things at the same time, and over time, people’s wants and needs often tend to change, as well. We need to have a resilience, and a strong enough sense of self that we can deal with that without it being some giant thing, both for ourselves, but also so our partners don’t find themselves in the spot where they don’t feel able to say no, not now, or maybe later to us at any time without feeling like they will gut us utterly. We also need to be able to have a strong enough sense of self to say no when we feel no, even if we think our partners won’t like it.
It’s very difficult to be in a healthy sexual or romantic relationship with someone and maintain healthy limits and boundaries if we feel that we have to say yes to what they want in order for them to not feel “inferior, undesirable or bad about .”
When it comes to real readiness to be in any kind of healthy sexual or otherwise intimate partnership or interaction, something else all of us — and any partners we may have — need is to not have our own self-worth too wrapped up in what a partner does or doesn’t want from us sexually or affectionately; will or won’t do, does or doesn’t feel. Sometimes people have a hard time finding that balance between a healthy level of sexual validation from people and a level that isn’t sound, and doesn’t tend to benefit them, other people or their relationships. This can often be one of the pieces of our sexual and interpersonal development as people, especially for anyone or any group of people who have been taught or told that their sexual value has a lot to do with their value as people. But ultimately, if we’re going to get sexually involved with others, we need to be okay enough that when someone doesn’t want what we do, we can mostly just figure we’re different from each other, not that we must completely suck and be worthless. If and when we feel like we really can’t deal with that, the onus is on us not to pursue sexual relationships, not on people we’re in them with to try and walk on eggshells through.
If she were to feel inferior because she wants something sexually you don’t, or because, to her, you having sex with her is the way she feels she can be sure she’s desirable and of value, the problem there wouldn’t be you not wanting what she does, and nixing what you don’t want, it would be her being in a seriously suboptimal space for a healthy sexual relationship even if the person she was having one with did want what she did sometimes. In other words, if this was truly the way that played out, it would be clear she had some of her own work to do, work she’d need to do to have healthy sexual interactions and relationships she felt good about no matter what.
I don’t think having sex with someone we don’t want but they do protects them from hurt. Not only will emotionally healthy people not want anyone to have sex with them when they don’t want to, if someone will be hurt because you don’t want to have sex with them, I think “want” is the key word to keep in mind. Even if you do it, that want still isn’t there if it isn’t there. And while, certainly, some people are amazing actors who can fool a partner into thinking sex they don’t want or enjoy is sex they do want and enjoy, I think we can probably agree it’s a given that that’s a pretty sad scenario that ultimately benefits no one in any real way. And on top of all that, someone still probably would get hurt here, even if you fooled her: you.
I can’t know if these worries about what will happen if you say no to the sex she wants are about your own fears, from your own head or previous experiences, or about your sense of how she will react coming from her, directly, so far. If it’s just about your worries, and she’s not said or done anything to give you the message she will react that way, and you two have an awesome relationship so far, I’d give her the benefit of the doubt instead of projecting these fears onto her. If these are things you’ve picked up on from her, then I think they need to be addressed rather than avoided, and I’d say that even if you felt you might want to have the sex she wants sometime, but just not yet. Either way, I’d be honest about what you’re thinking and feeling, rather than trying to avoid conflict or upset by having sex you don’t want to have and creating a barrier to very real intimacy, and a relationship of quality, by keeping your real feelings and wants a secret.
It sounds like you haven’t yet talked with this person about being asexual, however you define that for yourself. It sounds like it’s well past time to do that. I think explaining that to her, having some real, candid talks about it — and it’ll probably be more than one, especially if asexuality isn’t on her radar, or how you experience it doesn’t fit her understanding of it — is the best thing to do at this point. I think that avoiding those conversations and that honesty and instead pretending to have an interest in sex you don’t really want is something that is more likely to make her, and you, feel crummy in both the short and the long-term than being honest. Honesty, even when it’s hard, demonstrates more respect for someone, I think, than just trying to appease them. And it certainly does a better job at building relationships of quality.
Now, it may turn out that this person really wants sexual things you don’t in a romantic relationship, and doesn’t want a romantic relationship without them. Both with people who are asexual and people who aren’t, that will happen: not every partnership winds up being compatible sexually or otherwise. Often enough, we’ll connect with people in one area but not another. Often enough, we might be a great romantic fit with someone, but find we’re not a sexual fit. Trying to fake a fit, or pretend we fit isn’t a sound answer in those situations. Trying to instead seek out the relationships where we DO fit better and figuring out what kind of relationship we can have with someone that is a for-real good fit for everyone involved is the way to go. can it be a bummer when that happens? It sure can. But again, if we’re in the kind of emotional space to even have the capacity to have healthy intimate relationships, it should not be the end of the world.
Like I said at the top of the page here, some compromises are sound, and others really aren’t. If a compromise feels like we’re stretching ourselves a bit in a way we think we’ll benefit from stretching, that’s one thing. If a compromise asks very little of us, relatively-speaking, and also still allows us to be who we are, compromising can be okay, and some compromise is always essential in ongoing relationships. But if and when a compromise feels like we’re not being true to ourselves or others, or like we’re compromising who we are in very core ways, that’s the kind we can know isn’t a good idea. That kind of compromise is the kind that doesn’t foster healthy, happy relationships in the long term, feeling good about and with ourselves.
I can’t tell you which kind this kind of compromise would be for you, because only you can know that. “Not really into” for some people might mean that they’re not there yet or that they need certain things first, or that with some changes, they could be into it. For others, “not really into” means “absolutely do not want.” But from the sounds of things, right now, I’d advise against it. I think no matter where you’re at with this, there’s an elephant in the room you both need to know and talk about regardless, and I think you need to get that out there so that you both can have the information you need to each make your best choices here, let alone to not continue or further a sexual relationship where she’s likely making some assumptions that aren’t sound because you haven’t given her the information to understand why. Plus, it seems to me that someone you really want to connect with and who really wants to connect with you wants to get to know who you actually are, not just have you be who they think you might be. I think taking the chance that someone we like will accept us as we are offers us and them a lot more than pretending to be who we aren’t.
I can’t possibly predict how this will go. It’s possible that you’ll have a few talks about this, and even if they have their sticky spots, it’ll go well and you two will figure out a way to work with your differences that you both feel good about and where no one is making compromises that ask much too much. It’s also possible that won’t happen, and one or both of you will come to the conclusion that you just want different things and aren’t going to be a good fit for what you both really want (and don’t). I don’t think one of those outcomes is automatically better or worse than the other. I think that what kind of relationship we discover is the kind that’s a best fit between us and anyone else isn’t better or worse, or more or less important based on what kind it is — platonic or sexual, romantic or not, what have you — but based on if it, whatever kind it is, feels a good fit for everyone involved. And often enough in life, we will find that relationships we started off sexual were better off not in the long-term, or were good monogamous once were better open later, or that once-friendships made for great romances later.
If it does turn out that what she wants and you don’t means you part ways, as you move forward seeking out other relationships, I’d suggest you put your asexuality on the table sooner rather than later, probably before there’s more sexual or affectionate kinds of contact than say, kissing or hugging, particularly since a lot of people tend to assume, even though it isn’t always sound to, that if and when someone is engaging in something like heavy petting, they can expect things to eventually progress, with the desire to on both parts, to activities like oral sex or intercourse. That expectation probably seems unreasonable to you, and it does to me too, since wanting one kind of sex never means anyone wants others, but it is common enough that it’s something you should generally expect many others will be thinking.
You also probably already know this, but it will likely be helpful for you to connect with asexual communities about issues like these as well as speaking to someone like me. If you don’t know where to do that online already, you can start with AVEN and, since it sounds like you do feel desire for and enjoy some kinds of partnered sex, maybe with a space for Gray-A’s, like this tumblr feed.
There are opinions among asexual people (and other people, too) about “compromise sex” that differ from mine: you might want to check those out. Seeing a range of thought on something can often help us best identify what feels most true for us. I think it might be especially helpful if you can find someone to talk to who also identifies as a sexual and has experienced, ideally in long-term relationships, both “compromising” like this and having romantic or sexual relationships where they didn’t do that.
(I don’t put compromising in quotes to be a jerk, for the record. I do because from the framework of consent I work with as a sex educator currently and have for a long time, having sex we don’t want to only because someone else does flirts with non-consent — and on both sides when we’re not honest that we don’t want to — and the word compromise obscures consent issues for me in a way I find problematic. This might be an area where sex educators need to make some adjustments, as we often do with things as frameworks change or have identities or behaviours added to them, or it might not be: as of right now, I’m still figuring out where I land with this and how I can best address it.)
But I think you also really do need to put all of this on the table and include this person in your process, and that doing that now, not later, is important, for a whole lot of reasons, including because what she wants might also change a lot once she knows how you’re really feeling. She very well might not want to have sex with someone who is only considering having it with her as a compromise, and I think that on top of how being honest is important for you and a sound relationship, her knowing the real deal is also important for her. You express concern nixing sex might make her feel bad about herself, but I think finding out she’s been engaging in sex with someone who didn’t really want it is way more likely to result in bad feelings.
Above and beyond all else, though, this is one of those things, as any personal sexual choice is, where you’re going to have to take advice and information from someone like me and anywhere else you seek it, but then let your own gut feelings about what’s right for you have the biggest vote and weight. I think the only right choice here is the choice that feels right to you and that anyone else involved is also okay with.
Lastly, just a reminder: I feel confident saying that we are always asking more of someone else or ourselves when we ask them to do something then when we are asked to accept they won’t or don’t want to. Someone not getting something they want sexually from someone else — and sex is a want when it comes to sex with someone else, not a need — is way less of a big deal than someone doing or opting into something they don’t want to do. I also want to make sure that you know that your sexuality isn’t something that takes hers away, or makes hers unavailable to her. In other words, it’s not like you’re withholding partnered sex from this person if you say no: you’d simply be saying no to her engaging in it with you. It’s always okay not to share the same desires as someone else, so I hope you don’t feel guilty about your sexuality in this respect because it doesn’t square with hers, or think you have to try and be someone you really aren’t because she wants you to be that person right now.
I’m going to leave you with some links that might help, including to a few places where you can see conversations I’ve had addressing people who want sex their partners don’t. The way I talked with them might give you some cues for having these conversations with your partner.
Topics and Tags:
asexual, Dating, relationships, Scarleteen, sex, Sexual Health, Sexuality education
Signs Your Partner May Be Asexual
At one point in my life, I have dated an asexual. For the sake of this article, we’re going to call him Mack.
Mack and I had met shortly after a breakup with my ex. I was feeling desperate for attention, and Mack admitted that he felt sorry for me. He asked if I just needed a date to get back on my feet, and in a moment of shocking honesty, I said yes.
“Just giving you a heads up, I’m asexual and we’re not having sex,” he said.
I didn’t care, but I was curious. Though I have met hundreds of people out there, he was legitimately the first asexual I’ve ever met. I wondered what it meant, how he knew he was asexual. Being curious, I asked him what it meant.
“Sex just has no appeal to me,” he explained. “I can have sex, it feels okay, but it’s just really not something I crave. I don’t see sex in the same way as others do.”
We went out for a date and cuddled. We also had fun insulting each other, and just ended up cracking up and laughing at each other. But, there was no spark. However, it wasn’t sex that I was looking for; it was intimacy and care, and Mack provided that in droves when others could only provide sex.
Mack could make another person very happy, as long as she was asexual. He does want a relationship, but he realizes that sexual people need sex if they’re going to be happy in a long term relationship. So, he doesn’t lie to anyone, which is why we never ended up being a long term item.
One thing Mack told me was that asexuals will lie about their sexuality to get a relationship—even if it ends up in a breakup. There are plenty of asexuals that are in relationships with partners that want sex but aren’t getting what they want.
Worried that your partner is one of them? Take a look for the following signs your partner may be asexual, and see if anything sounds familiar.
They say that they have a very low libido.
Most asexuals either do not realize that asexuality is a form of sexuality, or just don’t believe they’re asexual. More often than not, they’ll often just say something along the lines of them being a “very low libido person,” or that they’re “just not really that sexual.”
If you have heard your partner say that they aren’t very sexual, we got news for you. Hearing that is one of biggest signs your partner may be asexual. If you hear this and want a sexual relationship, there’s a good chance that you will never get that, or be able to continue to get that after a certain time.
It’s up to you to decide whether you want to date an asexual, but that doesn’t mean you should delude yourself. Asexuality isn’t something you can change.
They come up with excuses not to have sex, or get snippy when you ask for sex.
Though this could be a sign of something else, such as infidelity or a loss of interest in you, we’d be lying if we didn’t say these aren’t signs your partner may be asexual. Asexuals do not really want to have sex, and often will have a “neutral at best” stance on the deed.
In many cases, asexuals view sex with anyone as a chore. They might find it to be somewhat boring or just a waste of time. As a result, they often will get annoyed when they get asked for sex.
They love holding hands and hugging, but aren’t sexual with you.
Asexuals can like physical contact. Mack ended up being really happy to give hugs and cuddles. Most of the time, he just liked “observing me” when I was dancing.
Every asexual tends to have their own “personal limit” as to how much contact they want to have. From what I’ve heard, many asexuals will draw the line at kissing, but some are just cool with looking at you. That’s how many asexuals show affection—much like how sexual people may show affection to their partners via sex.
As a result, one of the more noticeable signs your partner may be asexual is if they tend to be very affectionate but not sexual with you. In a dead bedroom that’s caused by contempt, infidelity, or some other breakdown of love, there won’t be affection of any sort.
They might not pick up on sexual innuendos.
One of the subtler signs your partner may be asexual deals with how they react to sex jokes or sex innuendos. Most sexual people will react to innuendos by picking up on the double-entendre immediately, especially if it’s being said by a flirtatious individual.
Asexuals, on the other hand? Well, since they tend not to think in sexual terms, it might go way over their heads. This actually used to happen quite a bit with Mack.
They may ask you if they’re “broken,” or they may actually feel depressed or guilty about their asexuality.
This sign of asexuality actually broke my heart to learn. I’d say it was just my ex, Mack, who had this, but to date, both asexuals I’ve met had this issue. Because of how society treats sexuality, aces often become deeply depressed. They may even worry that they are not dateable or lovable because they don’t want sex.
At one point, Mack asked if there was something wrong with him for being unable to be attracted to women or men. Later on, another asexual I became close friends with had texted me asking if “anyone could love someone who hates sex.”
If you notice that your partner struggles with the feeling that they need to force themselves to have sex to keep a partner, then there’s a good chance that you’re also seeing other signs your partner may be asexual on this list.
They ask, “Why does everything have to deal with sex?”
My other asexual friend, Carl, would regularly ask me this. It was, to a point, a sore spot for him. People would tell him he’s “weird for not wanting sex,” even at the place where he worked.
Unlike Mack, who was just very neutral about sex, Carl’s sexuality oscillated between disdain and desire (without a need to act on it). Even so, he identified as demisexual—a form of asexuality.
Generally speaking, a lot of asexuals just don’t see the big hullaballoo about sex. They don’t get why it’s a theme in life that people get obsessed with. Since it’s not really that interesting to them, they often will ask this among friends.
Some will also use this as a way to try to avoid sex with partners, making it one of the more reliable signs your partner is asexual or just really disinterested in sex with you.
They insist on taking things unusually slow.
This isn’t always one of the signs your partner may be asexual, as some people legitimately can’t handle taking things at today’s pace. Some people really do believe that they shouldn’t have sex until marriage, and others really do get nervous just talking to the opposite sex.
However, I’d be lying if I said that a lot of asexuals didn’t try to avoid sex with a romantic partner through similar means. Mack actually admitted to me that he used to do similar when he was struggling with his asexuality. Carl also said the same thing.
It makes sense, if you think about it. If sex was so unpleasant to you, wouldn’t you want to make excuses to avoid it? I know I would, and it’s heartbreaking that they feel they have to do this just to “be normal.”
They don’t really seem interested in sex, you know for a fact they aren’t cheating, and they don’t watch porn.
Most people who are sexual just can’t go for too long without getting laid or at least masturbating. While asexuals might masturbate, the fact is that if they are seriously low libido, even masturbation will be a rare act.
If you notice that they don’t even get aroused at porn, or if you notice that they really, truly seem to have zero interest in sex, chances are that they are asexual—even if they don’t want to admit it. Asexuality isn’t something you can easily hide, after all.
There are many signs your partner may be asexual that you might see, but at the end of the day, there’s a good chance that you already have an inkling that something’s up.
Should this be the case with your partner, please have some empathy when you decide what to do with the relationship. It’s not easy to be asexual, and no, it’s not a choice.