Welcome to a collection of questions that are near and dear to my queer heart! Asexuality and its fifty shades of grey, how do you figure out whether or not you fall into the valley of asexuality? How do you navigate dating and weirdness if you’re asexual? How does it fit into questions of coming out? And something that, sadly, is a common question: am I asexual or just terrified of sex? Asexuality doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, so pardon me in advance for inevitably rambling on and on.
I’ve always considered myself asexual and I’ve never kissed someone but I thought that I would want to! Today a guy that I enjoy spending time went to kiss me (as was appropriate I believe for the time in our relationship) and I didn’t want to do it. I have no experience so I don’t know if it’s normal to not want to be physically involved at all at the beginning of a relationship and if that comes or if I might just not like him / like kissing people at all. I’m so confused.
Write the word “normal” on a sheet of paper, crumple it up, and toss it in the trash. Or something else decidedly dramatic. Don’t judge yourself based on the norms of others, create your own norms. Maybe not liking kissing is a norm for you! That’s really not unheard of! Assuming you want to pursue a relationship with him (but seriously, don’t beat yourself up over it if you don’t), this is going to be a conversation that you need to have with him. Establishing boundaries is hard but it’s really important in building something that’s healthy and supportive and just generally not awful. Is kissing something that you actively don’t want to do? Or are you apathetic to kissing? Does it gross you out? Could you care less? Do you like one way of kissing more than others? I’m going to use myself as an example, only because I think you’ll benefit from it a bit. I don’t always like kissing. As of recently, I really don’t. I’ve only been in one relationship where I actively wanted to kiss/ be kissed/ etc, and in that relationship that made me feel really, really good. Outside of that one case, though, I don’t mind kissing. Nothing about it makes me uncomfortable or unhappy, so I’m almost always game to kiss a partner of mine if I know it’s something that would make them happy. And I like making my partners happy! I feel good knowing that there’s something I can do that will make them feel good, even if it’s something that I could care less about on a personal level.
That’s me, though! You need to assess your own feelings, your own needs, as well as his feelings and his needs in order to sort out a situation that makes you both pretty happy. Put yourself first, but in healthy relationships you absolutely need to think about how your partner’s needs interact with your own. I’m almost positive I’ve linked to this video before, but I really like it and I think it’s something that should be applied to relationships in general, not just sexual ones. There are an infinite number of ways to be intimate with someone. Those ways can be physical, emotional, whatever. But your comfort is more important than trying to force intimacy when you’re not feelin’ it. If you like this guy and want to work out some ways for you all to become romantically (?) closer, that’s an ongoing discussion worth having. Don’t let the question of your comfort leave the table, establish with him what to do if you begin to feel uncomfortable, figure out what makes you feel safe, etc. All of my past partners asked me before they kissed me for the first time, and then proceeded to check in on me throughout the remainder of our relationships. It’s something I will never, ever take for granted and it helped me feel safe and happy in those relationships. Create a tone for that kind of communication. If you do some soul searching and come to the understanding that what you want and what he wants out of this relationship just doesn’t line up, don’t force it. Process and then compromise, or don’t, or whatever, but communication is vital and you could get something really nice for the both of you out of it.
Now that that’s out of the way, there actually is a word within the asexual community for people who find their desires and likes changing after having established an emotional connection. On the romance side of it, people who experience romantic attraction after developing an emotional connection use the term demi-romantic. There’s a parallel in the term demi-sexual, which boils down to people who experience sexual attraction after having established a [romantic] emotional connection. It’s a thing, so don’t stress out. Asexuality is as much of an umbrella term as sexuality is. Your individual experience is your individual experience, and that’s what you want to focus on. I hope you come out of this feeling a little more settled and a lot less like you need to figure out whether you’re “normal” or not. Just focus now on working out what it means for the two of you.
For as long as I can remember I’ve thought of myself as being strictly asexual but still seeking romantic relationships. Recently I’ve started to think that maybe I may be fazing out of asexual into more demi-sexual. It feels like such a weird middle place because dating someone strictly asexual feels weird but dating someone who might be uncomfortable with me not wanting to go there hasn’t gone well either. I’m afraid that if I decide to try it and conclude that I never want to do it again I could end up getting hurt. Do you have any advice about how to talk to potential partners about this in a way that helps them understand?
I hope it’s not too forward for me to say that this is something I can actually come at from a very personal place, because everything that you’ve said pretty much mirrors how I’m feeling right now. So, I’m going to talk about this from a personal place and from very personal experience, but I don’t want to make this NOT about you, and I hope I succeed in that. I’ve never dated anyone asexual, but this has never been a problem for me. My asexuality has always been on the table; I’ve had two significant relationships, and both of my partners knew that I was asexual before we starting dating. However, the fact that this was understood from the beginning only really helped us break that initial barrier of talking about it. If we hadn’t continued to talk about it after the fact, these relationships would have been far less healthy than they actually turned out to be. Both of my serious partners read through a lot of stuff on AVEN (two great subsections of the forums that I think you might find useful are the ones on relationships and “the gray area“), which I think really helped them get a more flexible understanding of what it meant that I was asexual, but more than anything, the question of “is this okay?” and “are you comfortable with this?” was always on the table – and not just in regards to me! I mean, that’s a huge part of being in a healthy relationship to begin with. Whether it’s romantic or not, casual or committed, you and your partner should be doin’ whatever you’re doin’ in a way that’s mutually beneficial. I know I keep linking to stuff, but Dr. Doe’s video Sex Is Not Black & White really rings true to me and I think is especially relevant just with the concerns you’re having. Regardless of whether or not a member of a relationship is asexual, everyone’s wants and needs are different. Some differences are smaller and less pressing, but they’re still there and your relationship will be all the better for recognizing that and addressing it.
My biggest piece of advice would be to set the pace for communication of any potential relationship you have. If you start dating someone you like, take some time to tell them your reservations. I don’t think the word “asexual” even needs to be a part of this conversation, but that’s completely and totally up to you and how you want to talk about it. Honesty is important when it comes to something as potentially uncomfortable as sex, so maybe say something like this: “I have historically not been interested in sex. I think I might be interested in having sex in the future, but it’s something that makes me nervous and I want to be able to talk about it openly and honestly with you. I still don’t know if that’s something that I want, how do you feel about this?” Asking for their response is what will make the communication healthy. You are 100% entitled to have a healthy sexual relationship on your terms, and believe me when I say there are literal boatloads of sexual people who won’t be too bothered about moving at a glacial pace when it comes to sex. That said, there are also sexual people who want something more their speed, as I can infer you have a bit of experience with. It’s okay if a relationship doesn’t take off because of this disconnect. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and wouldn’t you rather come to the mutual understanding of “maybe this isn’t the best idea for us” rather than stumble through a relationship where both parties are uncomfortable and frustrated? Keep a stress of consent (I’m seriously so sorry for all the links, also that one has nudity) on the table where it belongs, because that’s also a huge part of healthy relationships that is criminally overlooked. Be open about the fact that yeah, sex is kind of a big deal for you! That’s okay, dude. It’s a big deal to a lot of people.
I hope this helped some. I know that it wasn’t super asexual focused, but this is a conversation that I think exists in its own right. Starting a conversation about something that can be so serious is very difficult, and it will probably take a bit of pumping yourself up, but it’s so worth it. Both you and your potential partner will be better for it if you work with each other to break down the assumptions you both have about relationships and sex and build up something that is best for you both.
I think I’m asexual but I’m not exactly sure. I do still have a sexuality, as in I want to date girls, but I don’t want anything sexual. Is this still asexual or is it another thing entirely?
I’m gonna go ahead and say that you PROBABLY rest within the realm of the asexual spectrum, just from what you’re giving me here, but I really don’t want you to just take that away from this response. Note the use of the term “spectrum” in addressing asexuality; I have a lot of problems with the way asexuality is talked about (half-heartedly) and taught (note: it isn’t), but one of the things that bother me most is the way that Sexual vs. Asexual are so heavily locked into opposing binaries. It’s just so inaccurate and pigeonholing and frustrating! Within the asexual community (and there’s a pretty strong one! check out the forums on asexuality.org), there are a few different terms thrown around to differentiate the flavors of being ace. Demisexual, greysexual, aromantic, etc. etc. Take from those what you will… I always feel like relying too heavily on words is dangerous when talking about something very intrinsic to your individuality, but there is definitely solace in seeing that this thing you feel is felt by others! One thing that a lot of people find very useful is discerning between sexual and romantic attraction and seeing how this plays out for people who AREN’T asexual. For example, someone who doesn’t have a very strong preference when it comes to hooking up with someone but only has interest in getting seriously involved with girls. With this in mind, it’s definitely a Thing for you to want to date girls but have no interest in becoming sexual with anyone. Asexuality in its simplest form is a person who does not experience sexual attraction; not a person who doesn’t date, not a person who has no libido, not even a person who doesn’t have sex! Just someone who does not experience sexual attraction, or even just experiences it in such low amounts that the lack thereof is noticeable. I really recommend checking out AVEN, there’s a lot of good discussions happening all the time and I think you’ll find you really are not alone in this one! Hope this helped!
How should I tell my mom I’m asexual? I feel like she won’t understand that it actually exists or she’ll just think I’m trying to get attention or something.
So AVEN actually has a great FAQ section for family & friends, and a lot of the questions presented are questions that you might encounter in trying to explain how you’re feeling to your mom. It might even be a good resource to hand over to her if you’re having trouble getting your point across and are needing to step away from the conversation. I didn’t have to do this with my mom, but a few of my partners have looked at the relationship FAQ in the past and it was really helpful for them. As I’m sure you know, asexuality is horrendously underdiscussed in any popular medium, even within the Q community (and especially in the LGBT one, because I do find a distinction there). It’s a strange topic to broach in the context of queerness because most people don’t have preemptive associations with it as an identity, but that doesn’t mean there’s no judgement, as you are very cognizant of. I think the best way to handle this is the same way I handle any coming out/re-education (my last entry might be helpful for you for this reason): start at their level and build your way up. Introduce asexuality at its core, and gauge her response. Move from there! If you know your mom responds better to statistics, hit AVEN up some more and show her the community. If your mom responds better to very personal sincerity, just try to have a candid conversation with her about what it means to you that you identify as asexual.
If she says something that hurts your feelings, take a deep breath and tell her it did and why, and what is ACTUALLY correct. For example, the bit about identifying as asexual just to get attention is actually mentioned in the AVEN link, but if she accused you of that what I would say (and this is very much from my actual perspective, I just want you to get the idea of what I mean), “It makes me uncomfortable that you think my identification as asexual is something I fabricated for attention. It’s something I’ve been very aware of since 8th grade, and it never went away. It’s never been something I wanted attention drawn to in the first place; finding out that asexuality was an actual thing helped me through a lot of internal struggle, but I feel very safe in the community. I shared this with you because I love and trust you, and I need you to respect that this is what feels right to me.” Again this is very much based on myself, but I think there’s a good mixture to find in being candid about your experience and introducing this very new idea in a somewhat logical way.
I hope this helps, I have had to explain asexuality to so many people under so many different circumstances and it is never not tiring and frustrating. It just takes patience and perseverance and a lot of focus on mutual respect. Good luck!