Most of the time, when asexuals talk about sex, we’re engaged in the task of pointing out why it’s overrated, and why sexual people are wrong to dismiss our perspectives as being the result of several d-words: delusion, denial, disorder, disability, disease, dysfunction, or damage done by some kind of (apparently dis-remembered) abuse. Sometimes we get caught up in discussing how our perspective on sexuality can add to the collective scientia sexualis, but rarely do we ever talk about actually doing it.
And when we do talk about it, most of the time it falls into an identity-reinforcing narrative, an “I tried it but I just didn’t like it,” or “I tried it, it was okay I guess, but I really don’t care.” Among the asexual community, sex is just an oft-repeated “So what?”
But there are asexuals who, for whatever reason, decide to have sex anyway. For those who don’t absolutely hate it, it may be an acceptable compromise to help maintain a relationship with a sexual partner. But it seems a lot of asexuals in that situation run into a problem:
“What the hell am I even supposed to do?”
For us, the instinct to have sex with our romantic partners is not there. It’s not something that would ever occur to us on our own, so how can we know how to act in a situation like that, beyond the vague basics of what goes where?
When I started having sex, I was quite lost. Everything was blurry, and I mean that literally–I had my contacts out at the time, and I couldn’t see three inches in front of my face. I’m not sure if M was even aware that I was basically blind. Probably not. But I think it turned out to be quite an apt metaphor. I could only see shapes and colors, and every once in a while, when he brought it close enough, I could catch a glimpse of M’s face. I mainly relied on sound and texture, but even that was fallible, because whatever I was listening and feeling for was alien to me. There was a point where he tried to get me to get on top, but it was too painful, and I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be doing there, or how it could possibly be enjoyable to try. I didn’t want to drag it out. It felt unnatural, and I wanted it to just be over with.
Such was my experience, and so was my understanding. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I even could get through it, which was one of my main reasons for trying. I felt it was the right time to find out. Still, that’s not a very fun attitude to have for either partner, as it is likely to take the enjoyment out of sex for the partner who does like it. Even though we weren’t romantically compatible, I wanted to establish a relationship with M that would have allowed me to get used to sex and adapt to it to the point that I could be comfortable enough with it to actually get some enjoyment out of it, so that I would be able to deal with future partners without a huge barrier between us. I thought that with time, I could do that, but he proved to be incapable of providing a safe space for me. I doubted, for a while, whether I would find someone else who could (at least for a long, long time), but as it turns out, I found a girl who is excellent at it. As time has gone on, I have indeed adapted, and learned how to, in my own roundabout way, “do” sex.
And since there’s not a whole lot of material out there written for the sexually active asexual, I decided to do a quick write-up of some of the things that I have learned which have helped me.
- COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE! This is the number one rule of sex, and it’s extra important for asexual people. You can’t expect others to have any idea about what your needs are unless you tell them. If they won’t listen, do yourself a favor and take it somewhere else. If you’re not with a partner who is willing to be patient with you, you will not even have a chance to get past the awkward, painful “lie back and think of England” stage.
- Educate yourself. Obviously you need to know how to be safe, but there are other things to learn as well. (For example, learning your partner’s name. Not that that would be too much trouble for asexual people, but you know.) Hopefully your partner is more experienced about these things, and can (or is willing to) show you the ropes. My own policy is the more knowledge you have, the better off you are. Be curious, ask questions.
- Know your own body, and know your mind too. Of course, you will need some time to figure this out, but it’s good to take some time to figure out what you’re okay with, and what you have problems with. And then, be sure to communicate that to your partner, because that information is useless if you don’t.
- Be careful about going past your limits! This can be a really easy trap to fall into, if you don’t know your limits well enough. You need to go slow, and be SURE that you and your partner are on the same page. Any doubts will cause problems, and you might freeze up and be unwilling to show any sort of affection, for fear that it will lead to sex.
- Find out what your partner likes. Maybe dressing up in a certain outfit helps. Maybe they like bondage. Maybe they like using toys. Ask them what kind of things they like, and if it’s something you’re all right with, see if you can find a way to work that into whatever sexual activities you engage in together. Also, don’t be afraid to explore your partner’s body–very likely, they have sensitive spots that they want you to find. Try new things, even if they wouldn’t occur to you normally, and just mess around.
- Realize that sex is not just limited to intercourse, and be creative. The vast majority of the things my partner and I do in bed do not involve things going in holes at all. For example, I can hold her and play with her nipples while she masturbates. A lot of things we do are not even sexual for me at all. Sometimes sex is more in the mind than in the act, and if you can figure out what turns your partner on, you can manage to give them pleasure without having to go through anything distasteful yourself.
- Be playful! I have just recently discovered that playfulness and flirting are very closely related. Although I still don’t understand flirting, if I act playful while touching my partner in a more intimate way (I don’t necessarily mean naughty bits, though since she enjoys that I am willing to do that too), she tells me that’s basically the same thing as flirting. I treat the sexual things I do with her (especially the things I do to her) as a game. I don’t have a point system or anything like that, I just feel rewarded whenever she is really enjoying herself, and that makes me more likely to enjoy myself, too.
- Realize that there is an emotional component, too. If you are one of those people who has sex mainly because their partner enjoys it, then you should understand how your partner feels when they enjoy you enjoying yourself. It seems a lot of asexuals fall into the trap of thinking that sex is purely a physical, animal drive. In some ways it is that, but it is also something that a lot of emotions get channeled into, and you should try to be sensitive to that. It may seem counter-intuitive to you, but try to listen to your partner about it, and try to make them feel that you don’t feel you are wasting your time.
- Find reasons to enjoy it. You don’t have sexual attraction and instinct at your disposal, or the intuitive understanding of and desire to engage in sexual activity that that would bring. So, come up with some reasons why you like having sex with your partner, even if you don’t care too much about having sex in general. Focus on those, rather than the other things you could be doing with your time.
- Talk the talk. Talking about sex is important, and I know I already mentioned communication above, but this time I mean it in a different sense. It’s one thing to talk about sex from a distant, intellectual perspective, but if you’re actually having it, that’s probably not really going to go over too well all the time. Talking during sex is not always appreciated, and if it is welcome, usually it is only a specific kind of talk that your partner will want to hear. It’s good to try to listen to people when they’re being seductive and try to match their inflections. Learn what words people think are sexy, and which aren’t. This is especially helpful if you do any role-playing scenarios with your partner, or if you use a slightly different persona to try to get into the mindset of what you’re doing. Keep in mind, too, that there are many different kinds of “sexy talk” and that not all people like every kind. Some like to have vulgar words spit at them, others like soft murmurs that flow water-like over the ears. Find out what kind of thing your partner likes, and either try to learn it, or at least keep chit-chat to a minimum.
These are all I can think of right now, but feel free to add your own in the comments. I hope these will help some of you!