Any advice for navigating sex/relationships as an asexual person with people who aren’t ace?
(Asexual marchers at 2014 Toronto Pride Parade / Naoimi Lir)
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Happy Tuesday, lovers. We spend a lot of time on this column talking about sex and the sexual dynamics that can exist in romantic relationships. But what about how romantic relationships can play out for those who don’t experience sexual attraction?
It would be super helpful if you have any advice for navigating sex/relationships as an asexual person with people who aren’t ace?
When I received this question, I was really excited to dive into this topic due to the lack of mainstream conversation about it. Since I don’t personally identify as asexual, I reached out to some community members who do so we could provide a fuller answer to this question.
Please welcome contributing writer Meghan McVey, who works with UF’s Pride Student Union, to share her experience of dating, asexuality and everything in between:
I want to preface this article by stating a few facts that are often overlooked or misunderstood by non-asexual (allosexual) people.
There is a difference between romantic and sexual attraction, hence some ace people experience romantic attraction and want to date.
Asexual does not mean heterosexual; straight is sexual attraction to the opposite gender, asexual is little to no sexual attraction at all. Therefore, asexual is included in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Ace people are not simply celibate, they just don’t experience sexual attraction.
There is a difference between sexual attraction and a sex drive. Sexual attraction means you want to have sex with a specific type of person (gender or other characteristics); Sex drive is the physiological experience that is not necessarily impacted by social factors like sexual attraction. Some ace people enjoy sex, but this does not mean they experience sexual attraction.
As with many things, asexuality is a spectrum.
I’ll be blunt: being asexual in an over-sexualized world sucks. Ace people often have to disclose personal information, such as their sex drive and how people don’t turn them on. This constant need for an explanation can feel very violating and further ostracize ace people.
This experience is even scarier in the dating scene. I’ve been lucky because my partner of three years is extremely supportive and understanding of my identity, but they aren’t ace. We started dating before I came out as asexual, so it was a path that we had to navigate together. It required a lot of open discussion and communication, and I had to be very vulnerable.
It’s also about compromise. Don’t get me wrong: do not participate in activities that make you uncomfortable. Compromise simply means that you discuss extensively to find a middle ground in which both of you are comfortable.
Before I came to terms with my identity, though, I felt as though I should be sexually intimate in order to fit in. I felt broken and unloveable, with no one to talk to because I had no asexual people around me. I still don’t.
In fact, a lot of LGBTQIA+ individuals alienate ace people from the community because they don’t understand it. They incorrectly assume that people who are ace, especially those who are only romantically attracted to the opposite gender, are just straight and celibate, neglecting to acknowledge the difference between sexual and romantic attraction.
If I had other ace people in my life, maybe we would have gravitated toward each other romantically, but I don’t want to limit myself to relationships with only ace people.
There are a lot of people who don’t require sex in their relationships. There are other ways to be intimate.
It may take some time to find those people who are comfortable with little to no sex, but they are out there.
Ultimately, if the general population was educated on asexuality, it could be easier for us to exist in a sexual world. It’s easy to feel alone and invalid, but there are millions of ace people out there who face the same dilemmas that you do. Find a community of ace people, online or in person, to share your experiences with and be supported. I promise that you're not alone, you’re not broke, you’re valid, and you deserve all of the love in the world.
Meghan’s advice for asexual people who are interested in dating:
When initiating the conversation with a new potential partner, disclose that you are asexual. You aren’t required to educate them – they can do that themselves. But if you feel comfortable, offer an explanation. (I.e., Some ace people are sex-repulsed, while others enjoy the intimacy of it. Some like to participate in sex to please their partners. These are all important discussions to have with your partner.)
You should also discuss which role sex plays in the relationship. What is the goal? Is it sexual satisfaction or intimacy? There are alternatives for each of these, but that is up for you and your partner to decide.
For example, alternatives to sexual satisfaction could be things such as using sex toys or masturbation. Alternatives to intimacy can include massages, cuddling, sharing new experiences or sharing a bed.
And finally, don't force yourself to do something that makes you uncomfortable. Many asexual people force themselves through traumatizing experiences to fit in or prove they aren't broken. It's OK ; you are valid and you will find someone who will love you the way you want them to with their whole heart.
[Note: please remember that there is no one universal experience for asexual people; Meghan has written about her personal experience. For more information and resources regarding asexuality, please visit The Asexual Visibility & Education Network.]
Meghan McVey is a contributing writer for Rowdy Magazine.
Morgan is an online writer at Rowdy Magazine and a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies student at UF. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop, petting her latest foster cat or on social media @morgangoldwich.