In two words: GIVE UP.
That probably sounds counter-intuitive. Here’s the thing: asexual people who might be interested in having sex really need to know you are okay with not having sex in order to feel okay having it.
So give up. Genuinely give up trying to get them to have sex. And then you might have it.
Or you might not. But if you’ve genuinely given up on the idea, that won’t be a problem for you.
If you’re trying to “seduce” an asexual person, that won’t work. Seduction is a violent framework for asexual people, NOT a sexy one. It inherently invalidates our identities. So you need to completely forget about that approach and use something different. In this article, I will attempt to present you with a framework that works for us. It’s called affirmative consent.
Contrary to what you may have heard, asexual people can consent to sex. Of course, just because we can consent doesn’t mean we should. If you’re in a relationship with an asexual person, they do not owe you sex. Period. Many of us have had our choices taken away, often by erosion of boundaries. Compromising on boundaries is never okay, and you should never expect the person you’re with to do that. You are not allowed to call it a “compromise” if the only person giving something up is your asexual partner. That’s called capitulation, not compromise. And it invalidates consent.
But sometimes, some of us do want to have sex. Sometimes, we can even enthusiastically want it. Having a mutually satisfying sexual experience is perfectly well within the range of most asexual people’s capabilities. But most of us (~80%) aren’t interested. And even when we are, you should realize that we won’t always be up for it. Still, it’s possible that you might actually find—like my partner did—that you are more sexually compatible with an asexual person than anyone else you’ve ever been with.
Here is how to figure out whether or not you’ve found an asexual person who is interested, and negotiate the possibilities with them.
This guide does not assume you are in a romantic relationship—you very well may not be, and that might be an arrangement that works for both of you. Coming to an agreement on relationship type and style is outside the scope of this particular guide.
[Content Note: This post mentions non-consensual situations mostly in a theoretical way, without going into detail. It is frank, but not very graphic. However, there are links to posts that are more graphic, so click through with caution.]
Please note: above this point, I have made revisions to the original article. Below this point, I have only made minor edits. More revision is necessary but I think new articles need to be written from scratch first. If you are interested in helping out, please click here to find out more.
For those of you wondering why I chose this title, it’s the exact text of a search term that led someone to this blog, and it was the people coming here via such a search that I intended to address. Prior to this article’s publication in 2012, there was nothing like this available to people searching for it.
Step One: DO YOU HAVE PERMISSION?
I don’t mean the “well, they didn’t stop me” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they didn’t say no” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said ‘I don’t know’ or they kind of sort of wanted to” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said they wanted to at some point a while ago, so I assume that means they want to right now” kind of permission. I mean the “I explicitly asked them if they want to have sex right now, and received an unambiguously affirmative response” kind of permission. (That doesn’t mean you have to say it exactly in that way, of course, but there does need to be at least some communication in a language you both understand in the moment about whether it’s (still) okay or not.)
Any kind of sex you have without obtaining that kind of permission? At worst, you’ve just raped someone (who may not have been able to move or speak because they experienced the freeze part of the stress response cycle). Most likely, there was some serious coercion/pressure involved, even though it may not have been intentional on your part, just because sexual people are not typically aware of the concerns that asexual people have. We are embedded in a culture that tells us we should have sex, that we owe it to others and that others expect it from us. And also, crucially, that we don’t exist. If you wordlessly initiate a sexual encounter with an asexual person without ever having any discussions where you pull apart those cultural expectations beforehand, the weight of them will still be pressuring that encounter. Even if it turns out to be consensual (and since you didn’t ask, you don’t know—don’t pretend you’re psychic, because you’re not, and because of the existence of tonic immobility, the onus is on you to ask permission, not on them to say no if you start touching without asking first), if you didn’t actually ask permission you certainly haven’t negotiated any boundaries about it, so the sex isn’t going to be good. At best it’s going to be mediocre, somewhat uncomfortable. Probably quite detached. It doesn’t have to be that way just because someone is asexual. Popular conceptions of asexuals having sex include descriptors like “passionless” or “frigid,” but it IS possible for asexuals to give good, informed, affirmative, even enthusiastic consent (although using enthusiasm as the only indicator of good consent is problematic for asexuals), and “passionless” or “frigid” are certainly not descriptors my partner would apply to me. I’ve read erotica scenes similar to some of the sex we’ve had, although frankly, I think ours was better.
Plus, if you won’t talk about sex before you have it, and you won’t ask permission and make sure everything’s okay for fear of not getting to have sex after all? That just REEKS of desperation. Is it really THAT important that you get to have sex with this particular person? Even if it’s really bad sex that is damaging and traumatic for them?
While you might be able to make a case for the benefits of non-verbal communication about consent with other people, if you’re trying to have sex with an asexual person, that script just doesn’t work. It puts us in a very dangerous position, because we don’t know how you’re going to act or how you’ll expect us to act—or worse, we do know how you’ll act and expect us to act, and we know that your expectations don’t take our feelings into consideration at all. We need to be sure you understand that “spooning leads to forking,” as the popular saying goes, is NOT necessarily true (and likely for us more often false). We need you to understand that wanting to cuddle or make out does not mean wanting to have sex. We need to be assured that you will not start telling us that being aroused means that we are not asexual, despite the fact that arousal is an automatic physiological response not tied to sexual attraction (and can happen during rape* [TW]). So set aside your loaded assumptions and baseball metaphors, and try to rescript sex.
You need to respect what the asexual person wants. Some of us ARE NOT interested in having sex, period. As soon as you find that out, that should be the end of the story. Ask the person you’re interested in if they’d ever consider having sex once, preferably in a friendly way and not in a creepy way, and if the answer is no, don’t ask again.
If you haven’t bothered to get to know the asexual person well enough first, you will almost invariably come off as creepy and pushy, so you should really not do it unless you’ve at least established a friendship. Take interest in who they are as a person. Don’t introduce the idea of sex too soon. When you do introduce it, it would probably be best to ask if they’d ever consider it in a general way, and not specifically with you… unless of course you’re already in a romantic relationship or headed in that direction.
Realize that just by asking this question, you are probing for some very private information, and not every asexual person is okay with talking about it. However, you are at least demonstrating that you know that asexuality is not the same as celibacy, which may give you a little bit of credibility, depending on how you broach the topic. Establishing credibility as someone who actually goes out and looks up asexuality on the internet (as you’re doing now) to find out what it is will really help the asexual person feel more comfortable with you, and will also make the giant hurdle of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t know anything about asexuality a lot less steep. You should read as much about asexuality as you can. Realize that as a still very obscure minority, we are put in the position of constantly having to educate everyone around us, and that’s a huge burden. Doing everything you can to lighten that burden is a good way to start gaining our trust. AVEN has several FAQs. I also have one here, and you can read all the questions that people have asked me here (or ask your own).
So read up on asexuality, talk about what you read, and once you’ve established a good friendship and shown that you’re someone who is interested in learning about asexuality, then ask the person you’re interested in if they’d ever consider having sex.
If the answer is, “I might one day,” then it might be reasonable for you to ask the asexual person if they’d be interested in having sex with you specifically, IF their answer was NOT followed by a conditional that conclusively rules you out as a possibility. If they say, “I might have sex one day, if the person I’m in a relationship with really wants it, so that I can please them,” and you’re not in a romantic relationship with them, drop it unless that situation changes.
If they say they might want to one day without any conditional or other explanation, you can (politely!) ask them if they have an idea of what circumstances they might want to have sex, or if it’s just a way of staying open to possibilities. Don’t press them if they don’t want to answer that. However, if they do answer and seem okay with discussing it with you, and if their answers do not exclude the possibility of experimenting with you, you can then express your own interest in having sex with them. Make it clear, however, that you do not expect them to be interested in having sex with you.
It’s important not to put pressure on the asexual person to have sex with you. You want them to feel comfortable with you. Your actions need to match your words. You need to make good on your promise not to put any pressure on them, and do your best to actually listen to their concerns. Try to understand where they’re coming from. And above all, let them know that if they don’t want to have sex with you, that’s perfectly okay, through your actions as well as your words.
Step Two: What are your expectations, hopes, and fears?
So now you’ve talked about sex with the asexual person you desire, and they’ve expressed an interest in trying sex with you. So far, so good. But before you actually do anything, for your own benefit as well as your partner’s, you should step back and think about what you expect to happen when you actually have sex.
- Are you secretly harboring a desire that by having sex with you, this person will realize that they’re not actually asexual?
- Does the asexual person seem to be trying to “fix” their asexuality or “prove” to themselves that they are actually asexual? If so, have you talked about this with them to make sure it is something they genuinely want to do, not something they feel they should?
- Have you heard other people telling the asexual person that they “can’t know if they haven’t tried it” or similar? How did each of you react to that?
- What kind of relationship do you have with this person, and how do you want it to keep evolving?
- How much do you value this relationship, outside of sex? What are you doing to show that you value it to your asexual partner?
- Do you expect romantic feelings to develop or deepen on either side, and is this something that you hope for or fear?
- If you are in a romantic relationship, to what degree do YOU feel that your partner owes you sex? To what degree does YOUR PARTNER feel that they owe you sex?
- Do you expect this to go well, or do you expect it to go badly? Why?
- What do you fear will go wrong?
- What do you hope for or fantasize about?
- Are you aware of any power differentials that might affect how well your sexual experiences go? Do either of you feel pressured to have sex?
- Has your partner ever made any hints or have you seen any red flags (asexuality itself doesn’t count) that they might have been sexually coerced or abused in the past? What have you done to reassure your partner that you won’t do that?
- What kinds of sex acts have you considered? Are you thinking of sex in terms of having penile-vaginal intercourse (in the missionary position) or does your idea of “sex” also include oral or digital stimulation? What is your partner’s idea of what counts as “sex”? Have you considered other ways that both of you might be satisfied without resorting to intercourse?
Many of the above are potential warning signs, and you should discuss them if you notice any of them. This post has another list of warning signs that you should also consider, which is more focused on obtaining good consent specifically. You should at least be aware of your expectations and have thought about them a little before having sex, and you should probably discuss them a little bit with your partner, and find out what they expect as well. You may want to discuss your hopes and fears as well, if you and the asexual person are in the kind of relationship where you do that, and if not, you may want to discuss them with another friend.
If you are in any way hoping to “fix” your partner’s asexuality, stop yourself and take some time to think about it and learn more about what asexuality is before proceeding. Asexuality is not some kind of dysfunction, disability, or “condition” that can be “cured,” it is a sexual orientation. It means that we don’t experience sexual attraction. That’s all. There is no known cause, and no “cure.” If you are holding out hope that sex with you will change us, then you are in for some serious disappointment… and so is your partner.
Step Three: Care is Not Love
At this point, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed, especially if you are not in a romantic relationship with the asexual person you desire, and neither of you intend to be. I want to take the time to remind you that all of this is caring, not loving. This is just part of having safer sex. You already know (or should know!) that you shouldn’t have sex without protection, because you could catch STIs or (if you’re having that kind of sex) be at risk of pregnancy. You should be having caring sex with everybody you have sex with, even if it’s only casual sex, but asexuals are a particularly vulnerable population and we do have extra concerns to worry about that you should be aware of.
You do not have to have any kind of romantic feelings to have caring sex with an asexual person, and they don’t have to have such feelings for you, although it’s important that both of you know where you stand with regard to such feelings.
Romantic feelings do sometimes have a way of developing unbidden, but if they do, you should know that there is perhaps nothing more obnoxious you can do than blaming it on the sex. While hormones like oxytocin can play a part in it, sex typically happens in the context of some sort of relationship, and if you’re reading this post, you are at least aware that the person you want is asexual, and from that I can infer that you do have some sort of relationship with them, even if it’s only an acquaintance. If the asexual person does fall for you because of your sexual interactions, more often it will be because of the way that you handled those interactions than because of the sex itself. Sometimes romantic feelings can even develop despite really bad sex where there was no orgasm and no being “turned on” at all, or despite coercion, pressure, or general bad behavior, just because of the strength of someone’s personality.
Dealing with it if unwanted romantic feelings do end up developing for either of you is a little beyond the scope of this post, but if that does happen, try to deal with it without being insulting, about asexuality or otherwise. Don’t treat the development of romantic feelings as either a failing or an inevitability. Some asexuals may insist that they will only have sex in the context of some sort of romantic relationship, and that’s a totally reasonable thing to do, but it’s not a requirement for all of us. Showing a basic level of care for your asexual partner, however, is the very least you can do. So do it.
Step Four: Negotiating Boundaries
Okay, now that you’ve gotten permission in general and thought about what you’re doing a little, it’s time to get down to specifics.
Find out what your partner’s limits are. What does he or she not want you to do, at all ever? Are there places on either of your bodies where you don’t want to be touched, or to touch? Are there things that are not necessarily completely off-limits, but do require caution? What acts are either of you particularly nervous about?
It may help to think about this separately and write them down, and then share them with your partner. Some people prefer to do this by email so that each person has a written record of what was said that they can refer to later. It’s an important conversation to have and remember, so don’t do it at a time when you’re likely to forget what you talked about, like after you’ve been drinking or when you’re too tired to think clearly.
Also, you may want to consider a safe word and/or non-verbal signal for the asexual partner to use to show you that they’re not feeling okay. A commonly used system in the BDSM community is to say “Red” (meaning things are NOT OKAY AND MUST STOP RIGHT NOW), “yellow” (meaning things are a little uncertain, so proceed very cautiously and slowly), or “green” (things are going well and can continue, or even speed up). A non-verbal signal can be useful in cases where the asexual partner can’t speak, and one example would be dropping keys on the floor.
Discuss and decide on all of this beforehand. If the asexual person hasn’t had much or any sexual experience, they may not know what their limits actually are, or even if they can go through with sex at all, and that’s okay. In that case, just proceed with extra caution, and reassure them that you won’t push them if they tell you to stop. Follow through on that promise. Always be aware that consenting to sexual activity is a process of continual negotiation, and anything they tell you they think will be fine can change. You need to respect that and be ready to stop. If they tell you that you can do something that wasn’t previously negotiated when it comes time to actually get physical, then as long as it’s not a bombshell that needs a lot of discussion, just ask them, “Are you sure?” first. If it’s something that you find YOU are uncomfortable with, of course you can refuse too!
Step Five: Getting Physical
Don’t forget: you need to warm up first! You should take extra care to make sure that the asexual person is actually aroused if your partner has a vagina and you are planning to have some form of penetrative sex (even with just your fingers—and be gentle with your fingers, because scraping fingernails hurt!). Don’t rely on wetness as your sole measure of arousal, actually ask how things are feeling and whether your partner is ready for penetration yet when you are getting close to moving on to that step. Sometimes it’s useful to try to give your partner an orgasm before penetration, to lessen the pain, so you may want to see if that’s something they want to try.
Whether your partner is male or female, you should still check in to see what they like and what they don’t like. You can tell much more easily whether people with penises are aroused or not, but you still can’t tell what they’re thinking unless you ask. They may feel frustrated that their bodies are physiologically responding to something they doesn’t actually like, so be sure to check in with them.
I won’t spend time here discussing different techniques, as there are plenty of places you can find those elsewhere on the internet. Just try different things out, and see what your partner likes. Ask them if they’re ready to try sex yet (but don’t ask too frequently), and when they say they’re ready, then you can move on. Most likely, you will at some point (perhaps even before you start engaging in what you would typically call foreplay) encounter some sort of resistance before you get to the point where your partner is ready to have sex. This can happen after sex has already started as well, so the order of the steps here is more to keep this coherent than to strictly reflect reality. YMMV.
Step Six: Encountering Resistance
Most of the time, when you start getting physical with an asexual person, especially for the first time, you will encounter resistance. Something won’t feel right to them, and they may pull away, either physically or mentally. You should stay as attentive as possible during any physical encounter, and frequently check in to make sure they’re still okay. You may feel like you’re being annoying by checking in so frequently, but it’s better to be annoying than to proceed without realizing that your partner is feeling extremely uncomfortable (or worse). If you see your partner flinch, or if they seem very distant, hollow, or “not there,” these are signs you need to check in with them. With enough time, you may come to recognize their particular warning signs, and be able to distinguish actual discomfort from simple quietness.
You can encounter resistance at any time, and you should be prepared to stop at any time. You may find that your partner is uncomfortable with even non-sexual forms of physical intimacy, like just touching and cuddling. Some people are particularly sensitive to touch, in ways that make it not always pleasant for them, and that’s something to be aware of if it’s something your partner experiences. Often, asexual people will become afraid of touching in non-sexual ways because they’re afraid that any kind of affection will lead to you wanting—or worse, expecting—to have sex. Reassure them that that’s not the case, and if this situation does come up, demonstrate that you’re okay with cuddling, making out, or just lying in bed together without having sex. Words mean nothing without actions verifying that they are true. You need to actually be okay with it. Don’t call them “a tease,” even as a joke. This is likely to be something they are sensitive about, and even a joke can rekindle their anxiety about it.
You also need to heed non-verbal signals as well as verbal ones. If your partner removes your hand from any part of their body, DO NOT PUT IT BACK. You are not playing a game, and you need to take any form of resistance seriously, unless you have previously negotiated that this is okay. Instead, ask your partner, “Oh, I’m sorry, do you not want me to touch you there?” This gives them the chance to explain to you whether they don’t want you to touch them there at all ever, whether it’s off-limits for today only, or whether they just aren’t ready for that right now. If it happens to be that they’re not ready yet, then either wait for them to show you that they’re ready by taking your hand and putting it there, or ask once a significant amount of time has passed if it would be okay. Don’t bug them about it, though. Only ask if you feel the situation has genuinely changed enough between the time when they removed your hand and now. You’re not on a road trip asking your parents “Are we there yet?” and you’re not waiting for a stoplight to change. There is no guarantee that a “Red” (in the context of a BDSM safeword as described above) will become a “Green” or even a “Yellow.” If you suspect that your partner is in “Yellow” territory, DO NOT push ahead hoping to keep going before they actually tell you to stop. Many men in particular are conditioned to “just go for it” and “don’t take no for an answer,” but that is exactly the WRONG attitude to have in this situation. You should always be respectful of your partner’s boundaries, even when those boundaries have changed from what you discussed before. If it gets to a point where you’re not sure what’s going on, ask, even if that means you need to “break the moment.” If you’re honestly not sure if things are okay, then there’s no moment to break.
This is important: if your partner wants to stop sexual activity, DON’T FREEZE THEM OUT. Stop, but don’t withdraw your affection. Don’t start ignoring them and doing something else. Don’t refuse to touch them in any way. If you’re not sure if or how they want to be touched, ask. Holding their hand, or perhaps rubbing their shoulder or back, can be a way to gently reaffirm that you’re not angry or upset that they don’t want to have sex right now. Ask them if they want to get some ice cream (or some other food you both enjoy) and talk about something else for a while. Let them know that if they want to, you can have a conversation about what they’re feeling right now, but they don’t have to talk about it now if they don’t want to. Find something else that you both can focus on together if they don’t want to talk, like perhaps a TV show or movie. You can take a walk if it’s nice out and you’d both be comfortable with it.
The important thing is that you find some way to defuse the situation, while still reassuring your partner that you’re not upset with them. This will make them, much, MUCH more comfortable with you later. You are trying to establish trust and good feelings. If you do this now, you will have a much better chance of your partner actually feeling comfortable enough with you to have sex another time—and the sex you have later, when your partner is actually comfortable and ready, will be a lot better than the sex you would have had if you pushed them to keep going after they expressed discomfort.
On the other hand, if you DON’T bother to reassure them or show any affection for them after they refuse sex, you will be establishing an environment where your partner feels pressured to have sex. That will only lead to them being more shut-down about sex, or pushing themself past their own comfort level to appease you, neither of which is something that will lead to enjoyable sex. Your affection should never be given out only when you want to have sex. It should never, ever become an exchange of affection for sex. Even if you are not in a romantic relationship, you should realize that asexuals typically value friendship much more highly than most people do, and they may be sensitive to any withdrawal of even non-romantic affection. So do what you can to re-establish that you care about your partner on whatever level is appropriate for your relationship.
You may need to be extra cautious about the signals you are sending out in this situation, because you can come off as sulking when you don’t intend to. In the event that you actually are bothered or frustrated that your partner wanted to stop, acknowledge that. In this situation, disappointment can be very difficult to avoid, and although you may have tried to prepare yourself well for it, you may still feel it. It’s important to be honest about it. Let your partner know gently that you do feel a bit disappointed, but that it’s more important that you never do something that they don’t want to do. Tell them that it’s your own issue, and they don’t need to make up for it. Tell them that you don’t want them to ever push themself into something they’re not ready for.
Step Seven: Sex
Before you do this for the first time, ask your partner if they’re sure they still want to do it. If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no or “I don’t know,” go back to step six. “I don’t know” isn’t good enough.
Always use protection! Unless your goal is to have a baby, I suppose, although I expect the majority of people who read this post won’t be doing this for that reason. Seriously, be as safe as you can. Use condoms or dental dams, etc.
And use lube! It may not be necessary, but keep it on hand just in case. Don’t use oil-based lube with condoms. Some people prefer silicone-based lube because it is silkier and lasts longer (my partner prefers I.D. brand, so that is what we have used), while others prefer water-based lube (my partner uses Pink Water brand for water-based, although we don’t use it together so I don’t have experience with it myself). Water-based is better for use with toys made of silicone. It is extremely easy to wash off, since it dissolves in running water.
Be an attentive lover. You should really be as attentive as possible with all your sex partners, but when you’re having sex with an asexual person, especially a sexually inexperienced asexual person, you need to be extra attentive and cautious. For that reason, it’s probably best to pick a position where you can see their face when you first start having sex, and don’t do it in the dark. Watch for signs of distress, and if you see any or if your partner starts to seem particularly detached, like their mind is somewhere else, check in with them to make sure they’re still okay. If they aren’t, stop immediately.
It’s possible to become so nervous about hurting your partner that you have trouble performing yourself, too, and that’s something you should be aware of. You need to trust your partner when they say they’re okay, but if things really don’t feel right to you, you shouldn’t go through with it. Don’t force yourself if you feel too nervous to do it. You can always talk things over more and try again when you feel more sure of the situation.
Things may not go as you planned, but since you have planned well, it might end up going much better than you thought it might. It also gets much better with time, as you each learn about each other, and learn what works and what doesn’t. Have fun!
Step Eight: Aftercare
What, did you think that was the end?
What you do directly after sex will depend a great deal on what kind of relationship you have with your partner. But no matter what kind of relationship you have with them, you should make yourself available in case any problems arise. There’s always some risk involved with sex, and since you’re having sex with an asexual person, it’s probably quite a bit more risky for them than it would be for a non-asexual person. They are likely pushing themselves far outside their normal comfort zone by doing this. They may want to talk to you about it at some point afterward, and you should be ready for that conversation.
If you’re planning on having a continued sexual relationship, then talk about what was good about the sex you just had, and what you both didn’t like about it, if there was anything either of you were uneasy with. You don’t have to do this directly afterwards unless you both feel up for it, and in fact it may be a good idea to give each other some space to think about it for a while.
If, on the other hand, the asexual person doesn’t want to have sex again, don’t assume that means that they don’t want any kind of relationship with you! If you’re not sure whether they’re okay with talking to you, ask. They may want some space, but still want to be friends.
You should reassure the asexual person that you value them for more than just sex. Don’t just ditch them immediately afterwards. If you don’t make an active effort to hang out with them somewhat soon after, it can seem as if you are now avoiding them. If you need some space after what happened, don’t just avoid them; let them know that you want some space to think about things. If you decide for whatever reason that you don’t want to continue the relationship, you should let them know what your reasons are. This can be scary, but try to put yourself in the position of the asexual person. It can start to feel like your entire relationship, whether it was a friendship or something romantic, was a lie. They may start to feel like they were manipulated and used, and like you never genuinely cared about their well-being. Don’t be dismissive. If you’re worried about either of you becoming too attached, say so.
Even if you really are very busy, try to still set aside at least a half an hour if your partner wants to talk. Make an effort to let them know that you do care, and you really aren’t trying to avoid them. When they talk to you, try to truly listen. Don’t be checking your email or trying to study at the same time. Try to truly understand their point of view, without attempting to reframe what they are saying as an attempt to “rationalize” what happened. Give them as much respect after sex as you did before. Be especially careful to do so if having sex again is now off the table. Keep in mind the points from step three—this is just a part of having safer sex.
Since this has been a very long, in-depth guide, here are some of the main ideas boiled down to bullet points. Hopefully, you’ve actually read this—if you haven’t yet, I greatly encourage you to come back to it when you have the time.
- DO YOU HAVE PERMISSION?
- Read up on asexuality on your own. This builds credibility and trust, and can greatly reduce communication barriers you may encounter.
- Broach the topic of sex carefully, in a non-creepy way. Become a friend first. Show that you are interested in the asexual person for more than just sex.
- If they’re not interested, DROP IT. Not all asexuals are open to having sex. Don’t pressure. Is it really THAT important that this particular person has sex with you? Even if it’s something they don’t really want? If it is, ask yourself, how desperate are you?
- Once the asexual person has decided that they would like to try having sex with you (at some point), you should take time to discuss and plan.
- NEVER rely solely on non-verbal communication. This creates an environment of pressure for asexual people, because we are then forced to rely on mainstream sexual scripts which don’t take us into account at all, and end up being coercive. Direct communication is incredibly important.
- What are your hopes, fears, & expectations?
- Take a while to think about your expectations, hopes, & fears. Try to identify any warning signs. How do you want this to go? What is your relationship like and where do you want to take it?
- Are either of you hoping to “fix” the asexual person’s asexuality?
- Is there any way the relationship is unbalanced such that it might cause the asexual person to feel more pressured? (for example, a mentor/student type relationship, a significant age difference, a dynamic where you “take charge” of everything, etc.)
- What kinds of sex acts are you considering? Are you thinking in terms of penis-in-vagina sex or have you considered alternatives that might make you both happy?
- Care is Not Love
- Remember that care is not love, and that all of this is just part of having safer sex.
- You can do all of this without having romantic feelings for each other, however…
- Be aware of whether you want romantic feelings to develop or not, and if they happen to, don’t blame it on the sex. Don’t treat it as either inevitable or a failure.
- Negotiating Boundaries
- Discuss boundaries, find out if there are things that are off-limits or things that make your partner especially nervous. Some people prefer to do this by email to keep a record of it to refer to later.
- Boundaries can of course change once things actually start happening, but it’s good to have ideas of each of your preferences in mind.
- Discuss safewords like “Red” (THINGS ARE NOT OKAY AND MUST STOP RIGHT NOW), “Yellow” (things are uncertain, proceed with caution/gentleness), and “Green” (things are okay and can continue or even speed up) and non-verbal signals that things aren’t okay in case issues with speaking arise.
- Getting Physical
- When you start getting physical, check in often to make sure that your partner is still okay. Be ready to stop at any point.
- Consent is a process of continual negotiation, not something that is given once and for all and can never be retracted. You should expect boundaries to change. Even non-asexual people sometimes have moments where some parts of their bodies hurt, so things that are normally okay aren’t today. Asexual people are more likely to have extra emotional/psychological issues with sex, because they are probably going far outside their normal boundaries already, so you should expect things to change.
- Try different things, and see what they like and don’t like.
- For partner with a vagina that you’re planning to have penetrative sex with, don’t rely on wetness as your sole measure of arousal. Check in. See if your partner is interested in trying to have an orgasm before penetration, to lessen any potential pain.
- Always ask if your partner is ready before moving on.
- Encountering Resistance
- Be attentive to non-verbal signals. If your partner flinches away or seems mentally distant or “not there,” those are warning signs, so check in.
- If your partner physically removes your hand from somewhere, DO NOT PUT IT BACK. Ask, “Oh, I’m sorry, do you not want me to touch you there?” Then your partner can explain whether it’s off-limits forever, for today, or just for the moment.
- If your partner wants to stop at any point, stop immediately and reassure them that it’s okay.
- DO NOT withdraw affection (even non-romantic affection) if your partner wants to stop. Show them that you still care in whatever way is appropriate for the relationship. Find something fun to do, like eat ice cream together or go for a walk, that gives you a chance to de-stress and talk about what happened if your partner wants to.
- If you are disappointed, be honest about it. Try not to sulk. Let them know that even though you are disappointed, it’s your own issue and you’d much rather deal with disappointment than do something your partner isn’t comfortable with.
- Before you actually start having sex, ask “Are you sure?”
- You don’t have to ask in any one particular way, but ALWAYS be sure to ask permission in some fashion.
- When you finally do have sex, be safe. Use condoms/dental dams, etc. Use lube.
- Remember that it gets better with time, as you both learn what works and what doesn’t, and your bodies get used to it.
- After sex, make yourself available for any conversation your partner wants to have about it. Even if you are busy, make sure to set time aside for it.
- Don’t just stop hanging out with your asexual partner after you’ve had sex with them, especially if you’ve now decided that sex is off the table. If you need time, say so, don’t just start avoiding them.
- If your partner wants to talk at any time during this process, give them your FULL attention. Don’t be checking email or trying to study while talking to them, and don’t blow them off or try to reframe their concerns as “rationalizing” what happened. Always treat them with respect.
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, and by all means feel free to link it to anyone who might find it useful. If you are interested in republishing it on your own website, please get in contact with me. I consider it basic sexual education, much of which could be helpful even in cases where neither partner is asexual, so I’d love to see it reach a wider audience. However, it might need some contextualizing if it’s posted somewhere that doesn’t just deal with asexuality.
* Please note that this article mistakenly says “you can choose to be asexual” instead of “you can choose to be celibate.” Otherwise, it is a good article.
Please DO NOT repost the full text of this article without getting permission from me first. You’re free to repost this, but only AS A LINK. If you have noticed someone doing this or done it yourself, please REMOVE THE TEXT. You can quote, but you cannot include the full text.
The thing is, this is still something I will periodically come back to for refining and editing. When you post the full text, I lose full control over my own content, which I have worked hard on. I want to put the best representation of my work forward. Please don’t compromise my ability to do so.