Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Dating Sexuals

Part 1
Re-defining the Sexual Language

                At this point in my discussion of asexuality some people are still willing to be tolerant.  Whether they believe me or not, they’re still willing to play along. “So, you don’t experience sexual attraction, but you do experience romantic attraction? Got it; but you can’t possibly act on that attraction with sexual people in normal relationships.”  Err, that would be incorrect.  I can and I do, but before I get into any personal anecdotes I want to explain how all this works for me.  I think many people, including asexuals, make the assumption that asexuals can only succeed in relationships with other asexual people.  The idea of  a person who doesn’t want sex being in a relationship with someone how does want sex seems like a recipe for failure because a romantic relationship (RR) is supposed to involve sex, or at least sex expression, at some point.  Sexual people express their sexual attraction through sex.  Asexuals don’t, driving the question; how can you have a sexless RR when one of the partners is sexual?

                This question is completely fair and logical and presents serious obstacles to tackle.  Most people will at some point in their lives start having sex because they want to.  It’s what makes them sexual people.  This doesn’t make them more ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ than asexuals or anyone else; they’re just the majority.  Part of being a sexual person means using the language of sex to express yourself, and naturally this flows over into relationships.  It can also be argued that sexual people need sex.  It is after all just as much a part of their make up as asexuality is mine.  On the contrary, most asexuals don’t want sex.  Sure, we could have it, and could even enjoy it, but we don’t have a need for it.  There is no inner drive making us want it and we can get along just fine without it.  It’s simply not a part of our language of how we express ourselves with other people.  This is all fine and dandy within our individual spheres but when we come together, a sexual and an asexual in a RR, it can feel more like a collision.

                Remember, most RR are following the romantic blueprint, the romance manual for sexual people.  When you toss in the asexual factor the game changes.  In my experience here are some of the things that can happen; Sex can be expected from me, the asexual partner.  The sexual partner has sexual needs, yes, but they also have adapted the sexual language, meaning that sex becomes a part of how they express themselves not just in bed, but in areas of love, affection and intimacy.  For sexual people this fine, but when paired with me, an asexual who doesn’t follow the sexual language, it can create a position of uncomfortable compromise.  I can either have sex to make the sexual partner happy, while doing something that is not natural to my own wants, OR I can not have sex and leave the sexual partner feeling unsatisfied, unloved, or undesirable (Granted, some asexuals don’t mind having sex to please their partners, and some actually enjoy it, and there are also those who identify as demisexual.[1]) I see both of these as being equally troubling and challenging hurdles.  I am not one of those asexuals who is willing to make sacrifices for my partner. I don’t believe in compromising myself in order to satisfy someone else.  I don’t think its fair for someone to expect me to sacrifice such an important part of myself for them.  At the same time I don’t think it’s fair for the sexual person I’m with to be expected to sacrifice their needs or forms of expression either.

                Sounds complicated right?  That’s because it is. So why bother with the relationship at all?  I read a lot of asexuals seeing these exact complications as a reason to feel guilty for being in RR with sexual people, or even having so much a crush on them.  I’ve read that we shouldn’t trouble sexuals with our sexlessness or bother leading them on; that its somehow wrong to want to be in a RR if we can’t, or aren’t willing, to give them what they want; that we should instead stay within our own kind and seek comfort and romance amongst ourselves.  I find this way of thinking incredibly damaging not just for how we see ourselves as asexuals, but how other people see us and respond to us.  It’s based on the theory that the only component of an RR is sex; that sex expression is the only way to show someone you love them, that you’re attracted to them, that they turn you on, or that you’re appreciating a moment with them.  (And if you have an argument there’s always make-up sex.)  In this way sex becomes the central language and means of communication in most RR.

                Part of this is due to the romantic blueprint and all the 'appropriate' sexual cues we are introduced to from birth, but I think there is another layer to it; the fact that intimacy is becoming increasingly distant in our culture.  In a lot of ways sex is easier than intimacy; it can be less vulnerable and less challenging.  We all know what the sexual language is and what to do with it but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone or that it needs to be used all the time.  The real challenge is in figuring out what you do in a RR when you don’t use sex as the primary language.  Human beings are not just about sex.  Yes, sex is an important part of any species because of reproduction, but it’s obvious that human sexuality has excelled stratospheres beyond a primal need to continue the species.  We use sex for pleasure.  We use it as means of identity expression.  We use it as a weapon.  We have fetishes and cultures built around it, therefore I refuse to accept the argument that as an asexual I cannot be in a relationship with a sexual person because it’s not natural or because it isn’t’ supposed to work that way.  It can work whatever way you want it to, you just have to be willing to but the effort in.

                For me to seek out an RR with a sexual person might sound unrealistic or delusional or overly optimistic, but I don’t think it is.  I know that humans are a social species.  We need to interact with each other.  Some of us need to interact romantically and those connections are not just about sex.  We’re smarter than that.  So, to the asexuals reading, I want to say that for us to decide not to play with the ‘normal’ kids, to not fight for what we want and redefine what we know, to not dare to be more than what we are being defined as by the rest of the world, is cowardly.  Yes, we might fall on our face (I know I have,) we might make a mess of a few relationships (guilty again,) and we and the people we’re involved with might get hurt.  But we might also succeed.

                If we don’t start putting in the work, sexuals and asexuals together, then we are all, regardless of our sexuality, continuing to let the status quo define us, and we are all better than that.  As I’ve said before, we’re innovators.  Why should that stop when it comes to sex and romance?

 Demisexual -  a person who does not experience sexual attraction until they form a strong emotional connection with someone, often (but not always) in a romantic relationship.


  1. Well put. There seem to be a lot of posts cropping up on this, especially personal stories of positive ace/sexual relationships and how the couples navigate it. Hopefully this will set other aces on solid ground, and show that you don't have to sacrifice or compromise your identity to be in a successful relationship.

  2. I have often wondered if I'm a demisexual but whenever I've tried to mention this to my current partner I'm told I'm thinking too much.

    I'm always stressing intimacy so that when the 'sex' factor shows up and I feel I owe it to them I can at least be invested in their personality enough that it makes me happy that I pleased them. Granted, I no longer feel I have to subject myself to such a circumstance. But I have always wondered...

  3. I'm very bored cause I have found out your blog just now! I really enjoy your argument. I think I agree in many topics.

    But I do have deep problems with worlds... When it all started to me I also tought I was a aromantic... well... nothing really changed... I just realized that some labels are VERY VERY VERY confused.

    For example... this whole romantic thing... WHAT THE HELL IS 'ROMANTIC'? I've got really frustrated when I found out that in my language I use to translate the term "romantic relationship" as "affective relationship". I said "WHAT?!"... Am I saying that I don't have AFFECTIVE relationships with others?

    Holy Jesus... no! I DO have! It's impossible to not have... If it's a personal relationship (not a commercial, professional, etc. one) I ALWAYS HAS affection - in a negative or positive form.

    How can I say that "Joan" is a aromantic girl? Because she doesn't enjoy kissing? What the SENSE of this thing?! GOD! IT'S CRAZINESS!

    Well... getting back to me... After some time I understood that it's almost perfect like this Simone's incredible phrase (that you also have in this blog): "In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.".

    The idea of romantism may not be (actually... it isn't) about... how can I say?... LOVE... affection... or anything else... Romantism is not much different from this other craziness that we call by "sexual orientation".

    Well... I hope you write something new soon! I'll be waiting.