By Imogen Robinson
There are a huge number of misconceptions floating around when it comes to asexuality. People presume you must not only avoid sex, but also relationships, romance, and any sort of romantic physical contact.
This is far from the truth, however. There is a notable difference between someone identifying as ‘aromantic’ and ‘asexual’. Some asexual people are aromantic, meaning they don’t desire sex with another person, and nor do they experience any romantic attraction towards other people. They may have a sex drive, and they may masturbate, or they may not. Others may crave romantic relationships, but not the sex part.
For many asexual people, it may well take several years to work out what they like and don’t like. It is one thing, however, to understand your sexuality yourself, but another to then have to explain that to others, all the more so if you, say, fancy someone, but don’t want to have sex with them. So how do people who identify as asexual, but who also experience romantic attraction to others, go about dating in a hyper-sexualised world, where the (dated but still omnipresent) idea of the nuclear family reigns supreme?
Casye Erins, a 28-year-old actor, writer, and director, who identifies as non-binary femme, asexual, and biromantic, had the relative advantage of realising she was asexual at a (again, relatively) young age, and therefore didn’t date before this. “I had the occasional crush in high school and college, but never acted on any of them,” she says. “There were a few boys in high school that asked me out, but I always found reasons to turn them down.”
When she was 19, someone introduced her to the term “demisexual”, and her research led her to an asexual support network, through which she realised she was completely asexual. Despite this realisation, it also became clear at the same time that there were still hurdles to overcome.
“Up until that time, I dated heterosexuals. I could feel their sexual energy and the feeling of the expectation of sex made me so anxious that I knew I could not date them anymore.”
“Around the time I realised I was asexual, one of my best friends told me she had feelings for me,” says Casye. “I told her that I didn’t think it would be a good idea for us to date because I was asexual and she was not.” At that point, like many others, Casye was working under the assumption that a non-asexual person wouldn’t want to be with her. “I always shut things down myself before it could progress at all,” she says.
Perhaps for this reason, Casye’s first real relationship was long-distance, with a girl who also identified on the asexual spectrum. “This worked well for me,” she says, “and for a long time I figured that was the best case scenario.” However, with time, she has come to understand that it is indeed completely possible to have a romantic relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily asexual.
Sandra Bellamy, a self employed writer from Exeter who has written books about asexuality and runs a resource website for asexual people, realised she was asexual in 2014. She defines as asexual in that she doesn’t desire sex with other people, but does experience multiple forms of attraction to men, not all of which are platonic.
Sandra’s situation differs to Casye’s in that before she knew she was asexual she was in heterosexual relationships for half of her life. “I did have sex, as I thought I had to as part of a relationship,” she says. She found out she was asexual after eventually going to see a counsellor, as she found she just couldn’t date heterosexuals any more.
“Up until that time, from 2012 until 2014, I dated heterosexuals,” she says, and she was in a long term sexual relationship before that too. “I could feel their sexual energy and the feeling of the expectation of sex made me so anxious that I knew I could not date them anymore.”
Nonetheless, the counsellor simply told her she should have sex in order to keep a good guy. “I was horrified,” says Sandra. “But I went home and Googled ‘I love kissing but not sex’ and found the term asexuality, as well as discovering a large online community for asexuals.” After a few weeks of research, she realised asexuality was definitely a term she identified with.
What are the hardest things about dating when you’re asexual?
For both Sandra and Casye, the realisation that they were asexual hasn’t necessarily made dating easier. Like Casye mentioned, she thought for a long time she could only date asexual people, and Sandra struggled to align her asexuality in a mutually compatible relationship with someone who wasn’t asexual.
For Casye, the hardest part of dating as an asexual person is the internal struggle. “I worry that I’m not enough for my partner, or that she would be happier with someone who would be more willing to have a relationship with a consistent sexual aspect,” she says, although she acknowledges that this is mainly due to self-consciousness that stems from being socialised to think that sex is the be all and end all of a relationship.
“I worry that I’m not enough for my partner, or that she would be happier with someone who would be more willing to have a relationship with a consistent sexual aspect.”
Sandra struggles to find the right asexual guy to be in a romantic relationship with, and while she has many heterosexuals keen to date her, she finds getting an asexual match is tougher, and, from her experience, many of her asexual friends feel the same. It is all the more difficult for her because her needs are somewhat nicher.
“I am a heteroromantic, hyper-romantic, asexual, younger cougar, who does not like sex, but lots of passionate kissing with the tongue,” she says. She finds the way she likes to kiss is too sexual in behaviour for some asexual guys, and not sexual enough for sexual people who want and need sex. “I strongly desire the romance and affection that only a genuine asexual guy could comfortably give me without the sex,” she says.
Nonetheless, relationships can and do work out. Casye has been with her (allosexual – someone who experiences sexual attraction) partner for three years. “Just like in any other relationship, communication and compromise are really important to keep us both happy and healthy,” she says. “We love each other enough to make it work. That’s the important thing.”
If you are asexual and struggling with any aspect of your asexuality, there is a wealth of support out there. Education sites about asexuality, social networks, and asexual dating sites are just some of the places people can go for help, and many of these also contain resources to share with friends and family members.