This is a guest post by onlyfragments, reposted with permission for the purpose of making more resources available to people reading my How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person post, which I plan to revise. I will be collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write, and linking to them from that article when I fully revise it—ideally I’d also like to cross-post them here on my blog. If there was anything you wished had been covered in the original article, please consider submitting something, even if you are only writing about your personal experiences and not making an expert’s guide. I can give you feedback and help you edit before publishing if you feel your writing could benefit from that as well. You can reach me at prismatic.entanglements [at] gmail.com.
This article is cross-posted here at onlyfragments’ blog.
[ Warning to friends/family/others: I’m going to discuss my sex life below. If that’s TMI for you, I suggest not reading this. ]
After reading PrismaticEntanglement’s post about the topic of sex between allosexuals and asexuals, I decided to write my own post about how my girlfriend and I navigate this difficult topic. I’m going to try to impart some advice based on our experiences; that being said, this is based solely on my personal experience and what worked for us. I’m not an expert – just a person with a blog.
A note before I begin: The advice below is geared toward two sets of people – aces who for whatever reason are considering having a sexual relationship with their partner(s), and allosexuals in relationships with aces who are open to having sex. This is not geared toward sex-repulsed or sex-averse aces; nor is it geared toward allosexual partners who want to try to convince or force their ace partners to have sex. Nothing I say below will work if you’re not both 100% open and willing on your own to enter into this kind of relationship for your own benefit.
Now, that being said, here’s what I have learned during my journey from, “I will never date and never have sex” to “oh my gosh I want to marry this girl and have sexy time with her.”
I know communication is always the number one relationship rule in these kinds of articles, but that’s because it is the number one rule. You have to communicate. Constantly. About everything. No matter how uncomfortable you might be discussing emotions, past trauma, previous sexual experiences, physical wants and desires, and everything else you bring to the bedroom, you have to spill your guts. An ace/allo relationship has to be especially founded on trust and communication to minimize the opportunities for hurt feelings or crossed boundaries.
One area of communication that I feel requires specific focus and emphasis is your shared terms and definitions. When you say “sex”, what do you mean? Do you two have different ideas of when being intimate crosses into sex, or when being affectionate but not sexual crosses into sexual territory? Do you both consider kissing to be sexual, or just romantic? Until you’re both talking the same language, so to speak, it’s easy to think you’re on the same page when you’re really reading two different books. Being open about how you define things like sexual versus non-sexual physical affection, physical intimacy, and sexual intercourse will ensure you understand each others’ wants, needs, and boundaries. Therefore, this rule and all the ones below apply not only to the actual act of sex, but to any physical intimacy between you two.
2) Set Boundaries and Rules
I want you to do something for me. Set aside the notion that “all aces hate sex” and “all allosexuals love sex” right now. Go put it in the trash and take the can to the curb. Wave goodbye. It’s gone. Yay!
In an ace/allo relationship, you both will have certain rules and boundaries when it comes to physical intimacy. The ace isn’t the only one who will have hangups, insecurities, and individual needs. The better you both understand your own relationship with sex, the easier it will be to come together in a physical way. For example, I don’t enjoy giving oral, so while I may change my mind about that in the future, right now its understood that isn’t something I’m willing to do during sexy time. Likewise, my girlfriend has certain hangups due to past experiences that I work around in order to make sure she feels 100% safe and in control the entire time. Also, we’re both very conscientious when initiating anything so that the other person can back out without feeling pressured or guilty.
Take it from me: consent is sexy. My girlfriend always ask permission before going down on me, and that simple recognition of my control and agency is to me one of the most beautiful moments we share.
3) Set Aside Expectations and Assumptions
I know every ace has heard the phrase, “you won’t know unless you try,” when it comes to sex, or its second cousin, “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.” I’m not here to tell you either of those is true; I hate hearing them as much as anyone. But I am here to say that… well, they might be for some people. And that’s okay.
I’m literally a cliche; I never wanted to have sex until I met my girlfriend and fell head over heels in love. Now she’s the only person I can imagine ever being physically intimate with – but we didn’t start out that way. When we first began dating, I was very clear I wasn’t interested in sex and needed her to be okay with that. She was, and respected my boundaries. When we first began exploring sexually, it was always my choice and at my speed. And as our physical relationship developed, I discovered I enjoyed being intimate with her. A lot. I only discovered this because I set aside my assumptions not only about what I wanted (or did not want), but also what physical intimacy would be like for me.
So keep an open mind as you move forward in your relationship. Don’t assume you’ll hate having sex, or hate not having sex as often as you want. Don’t assume your partner’s needs if they haven’t voiced them; likewise, be open to questioning your own needs and assumptions, and the fact that they may change over time. Don’t expect to enjoy the same physical activities – not even partners of the exact same orientation will always like the same things when it comes to sex. Everybody is different, and what you like may surprise you – I know I’ve surprised myself on a number of occasions.
Lastly, don’t expect to be sexually compatible and in sync right away. My first kiss with my girlfriend was super awkward (we counted backwards from 3 and had our eyes closed). Neither of us really knew what we were doing as we became more intimate, so the first months involved a lot of giggling and asking, “How does this feel? No? Okay, um… how’s this?” The silly awkwardness is actually a blessing, though, because it removes a lot of the pressure to make the moment super serious and sexy. Sometimes you just need to giggle over the ridiculousness of it all – especially if, like my girlfriend, you’re super ticklish.
4) Take Chances
If you’re asexual, please hear this loud and clear: nothing you do or enjoy physically will ever invalidate your asexuality. You shouldn’t be afraid that trying new things in the bedroom makes you less of an asexual because it doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So if you find yourself wondering about new practices or toys, go for it! As long as you and your partner are both open to the new experience and understand you’re just experimenting, and may decide you don’t like it, you should follow your curiosity.
If you’re allosexual, what I have to say to you is this: please try to be open to your partner’s experimentation. I know there are risks involved – it can be hard to divorce your own self worth from something your partner dislikes. You may wonder if it’s you they actually don’t like, or your body, or something else out of your control. But if you can understand that your partner’s likes and dislikes have nothing to do with you as a person, and have no bearing on your partner’s love for you, then experimentation can be a good way to find what you both enjoy.
One last thing I’ll add here – don’t be afraid to ask questions at sex stores (the respectable ones, at least). I’ve spoken to many knowledgeable employees at Lovers, from the one who answered our most basic questions about lesbian sex to the one who helped us pick out our first toys. We’ve even stumped a few with questions about working around physical disabilities. Every time we were treated respectfully and professionally, no matter how awkward or obvious our questions. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your lack of experience, turn ons and turn offs, and emotional or physical barriers. The employees are there to help and they really do know what they’re talking about – or at least the ones at Lovers do.
5) Give It Time
The virtue I lack most abundantly is patience, and especially so when my relationship is going through a rocky time. I want everything to be fixed and happy and perfect immediately. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t how things work. Even when it comes to sex, finding a happy balance between what each person wants and needs is difficult and takes time; maintaining that balance amid all of life’s stressors is even harder. What I thought would take weeks or months has instead taken years. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade a single day away to speed up the process. Working through problems and finding what makes you both happy serves to strengthen your relationship, both in and out of the bedroom. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you get hurt? Of course. But if you choose to see each bump in the road as an opportunity to work together, not against each other, you’ll find the perfect balance.
6) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Did I mention communicate?)
Communication is an on-going process in any relationship, and especially one between an ace and allosexual. You need to constantly check in with each other, both during sex and outside of intimate moments. Ask how the other person is doing, how they perceive the relationship is going, and if there’s anything they feel is lacking or causing an issue. Don’t assume that because a certain physical act was okay with your partner two weeks ago, it’s something they still want to do. Check in. Is this still cool? Are we being physical enough? Are we being too physical? Do you want to take a break for a while? Sometimes these conversations can be awkward or difficult, but they’re so incredibly necessary. It’s easy to feel hurt if your partner doesn’t want to engage in something physical, but that hurt can be alleviated by finding out why: maybe they’re tired, or feeling sad, or have a headache. If you don’t ask, you don’t know. So check in, ask questions, and be vocal about your own feelings and needs in the moment and overall.
As I stated before, these are some of the things that work for myself and my girlfriend. I hope they can be of some help to others out there who want to be in an ace/allo relationship involving physical intimacy. I know these kinds of relationships seem daunting, and often get a bad reputation, but with the right partner and hard work they can be incredibly rewarding.