How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person

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.)

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My Planned Parenthood: Five Hours Away

This post is for the My Planned Parenthood blog carnival, hosted at What Tami Said and Shakesville.

The nearest Planned Parenthood facility to me closed in 2009.

It was already about an hour’s drive away from where I live, when it was open. Now, the nearest Planned Parenthood is about a five hour drive from my house, 191.02 miles from my zip code, according to the Planned Parenthood website. It’s in a city that I’m only vaguely familiar with, so once I got there I’d probably get lost trying to find it.

Fortunately, I haven’t needed it. I have health insurance for at least the next two years, and considering my partner is now sterile, there’s no reason for me to be on birth control. Even STDs aren’t a worry at the moment, considering we’ve been functionally “monogamous” as far as sex goes for quite a while, even though my partner has been dating other people online. Before her surgery, my partner and I primarily used condoms, although there were occasions where we decided to forego them because I’d been tracking my fertility through the Fertility Awareness Method (not the same as the rhythm method), and I was reasonably certain I wasn’t fertile at the time, and planned on getting my period within the week. Still, it was never a totally sure thing. Even on months that we hadn’t had that kind of sex, both of us (particularly her, because she is very strongly childfree) would get a bit nervous if my period was late. I had a stack of cheap pregnancy tests that I used on those occasions. Never once did I get a positive reading.

Now I have a bunch of unused pregnancy tests and condoms that I don’t know what to do with. I’d give them to a friend or my sister, but then I’d have to explain why I had them in the first place, which would involve outing my partner as trans. And in some cases, it would take explaining that just because I’m asexual, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a sex life, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not “really” asexual. Those are conversations I really don’t want to get into. I’d bring them to my local Planned Parenthood for them to distribute… except, oh wait. I don’t have one.

Unless my circumstances change dramatically—and I’m very keenly aware that they could, because I’ve been doing an ongoing survey about sexual assault for an awareness project (TW at link for non-explicit mentions of rape; this project is still open so please participate and pass on the link if you want)—I’m not going to need to go to Planned Parenthood myself. But what about the people in my area who do? They’re just completely out of luck.

That’s why I think people should donate to Planned Parenthood and support it in any other way they can.

And since contraception doesn’t get talked about very often in the asexual community, consider this an open thread to talk about it. What methods do you use? Where do you go for STD testing? Even if you’re not sexually active, are you aware of places you can go for testing etc. in your area? Do you have a Planned Parenthood nearby?

Read the rest of the MyPP stories here.

The Vaginal Corona

I don’t have much time to blog lately because I’ve got a bunch of mid-term essays to write, but I wanted to at least pass on this link.

Last year I read Virgin by Hanne Blank (which I highly recommend) and had been trying to collect my thoughts to make a post on virginity, but that never really materialized. Basically, I am convinced that the concept of virginity, or at the very least all the emphasis on the supposed “purity” of virgins, is an archaic concept that no longer makes sense in a society with DNA testing and birth control—and especially not in a world where women are no longer considered property passed on from fathers to husbands. I should hope that we are moving towards a society where women’s choices about their bodies are valued and respected (though we are not there yet), where neither a woman’s choice to have sex NOR her choice not to have sex are something for which she is shamed.

The idea of this membrane that has two possible states—intact/unbroken or damaged/torn—and that first-time penetration inflicts a wound to the woman which can be measured in blood, is extremely problematic, and has been used as a way to sentence countless women (some of whom were undoubtedly still virgins despite the lack of blood) to slavery, imprisonment, rape, mutilation, or murder. We may want to believe that we are more civilized than to kill, maim, or torture a girl because she has lost her virginity, that this just doesn’t happen in our society and that the most that we have to contend with is slut-shaming, but here’s a news flash: in 2004, a twelve-year-old girl was forced to drink bleach by her own mother because the mother believed she had lost her virginity.

So I am all for the idea of changing the terminology we use to describe this highly misunderstood part of a woman’s anatomy. The more education there is about this, the better. And changing the name to something more accurate is bound to catch people’s attention, and allow for more widespread education about what women’s bodies are really like.

Things I Have Learned About Sex and Sexuality

I know I am posting a lot lately, but it just so happens that I’ve got a lot of nearly finished drafts lying around, so all I am doing is putting the finishing touches on them and scheduling them. Enjoy it while it lasts! But just to warn you, this post is definitely not work-safe, and if you’re kinda squeamish about sex talk you probably won’t care to read it.

Anyway. A little while ago, I was interviewed for this article [Edit: link stripped because of this] (I’m identified as Elizabeth Collins there, which is sort of a half pseudonym). The interview was much longer than one might otherwise assume from reading the article, and the interviewer asked some very interesting questions. One of those questions in particular I was at a loss to answer on the spot, but I thought it was certainly worth exploring further.

She asked, “What have you learned about sex/sexuality, from your experiences with it?” (paraphrasing, of course)

“There are so many things,” I said, “I really don’t even know where to start!”

My perspective on sex of course changed gradually. My parents tried to raise me conservatively, and for a while I kind of held on to those values not so much because I believed they were right (in fact, I thought my parents had gone insane), but because there was no adolescent stirring within me to contradict them. I didn’t necessarily think it was wrong for other people to have sex in their teens, but me? I was going to wait. Because I didn’t want to do it, so it seemed right to wait. I always thought I would end up wanting to have sex someday… and I was right. Sort of. Because I don’t want it the same way that other people do. I chose to do it for many different reasons, none of them involving attraction (at least not sexual attraction) or desire. In part, I did it because I wanted to challenge myself, find out where my limits are, see whether I was really so indifferent about sex as I thought I would be. And as it turns out, I can hold out just fine in a sexual relationship, as long as the other person is supportive. And I’ve learned a great deal in the process.

So here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. There is no such thing as an “innate understanding” about sexuality, even though asexuals may be tempted to think that sexual people have this. Attraction or no attraction, nobody knows what sex is or how to do it innately. You have to learn to get good at it. And nobody really knows why they like whatever it is that they like, they just do.
  2. There is an extraordinary amount of things to be learned about sexuality, and some people must apparently be spending hours and hours going through google search results looking for sex tips, because my piddling little blog post compiling some sex tips for asexuals is certainly not listed in the first few pages, with the search terms they are using!
  3. Unfortunately a lot of people who write guides for certain sexual techniques (like cunnilingus) like to (annoyingly) assert that anyone you try them on will love it, without taking into consideration that different people have different preferences. According to them, people who don’t love it are just repressed.
  4. There’s definitely more than just two types of orgasms for women, although some of the ones that are mentioned here leave me scratching my head. I find it kinda weird that she goes off into talking about “energy orgasms” and such but completely fails to mention something like a “nipple-gasm” (orgasm reached purely from stimulating the nipples, with no other stimulation of any kind) which I would imagine would be somewhat more common? I dunno, but it seems like it would be at least worth making a broad category for something like that, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t fit any of the ones she’s described. Anyway, I find the mysticism about orgasms to be really over-the-top, to the point that it’s confusing. They’re nice, sure, but are they really THAT special???
  5. The hymen does not just break and stay open at the same width as your last partner. If you don’t have any penetrative sex for a while, the vagina will gradually tighten up again. Some women even have hymens that will completely regenerate. So for women especially, that kind of sex tends to be easier/less painful if you do it relatively frequently.
  6. But we should also keep in mind that penis-in-vagina sex can hurt for men, too.
  7. Communicating about sex is especially important. Don’t allow anyone who says, “It’s your problem, not mine” to be (or continue to be) a sex partner.
  8. There’s more to sex than just PIV, anal, or oral. It’s not even all about penetration. Going outside the traditional box can be very helpful for an asexual/sexual couple. Or perhaps just for any couple, because intercourse can be used as a sort of standard formula, a way of avoiding discovering what each person likes and how sex might be better… and, for asexuals in particular, it could be used as a way of avoiding dealing with sexuality as much as possible instead of taking it as an active learning experience.
  9. There are some sexual people who are not so much visually (or sonically) attracted to people, but just attracted to certain body parts or (imagined or real) situations. This makes the question of what constitutes sexual attraction a little more complicated.
  10. Male and female genitals are really not all that different. Given the appropriate hormone balance, male genitals will become similar to female ones and vice versa. There’s a limit to that, of course (which is why bottom surgery is common among trans people), but it is way beyond what most people would expect. I won’t go into the details of it unless people ask, but really, it’s impressive.
  11. Yes, sex CAN be intimate! The phrase “making love,” stupid and corny as I still think it is, does exist for a reason. Most people use it to refer to a specific kind of sex.
  12. Dwindling interest in sex can indeed be caused by relationship problems. And sometimes having more sex is a way to facilitate re-bonding, although it certainly can’t be used as a replacement for intimacy or as an excuse not to engage in other, non-sexual forms of bonding.
  13. If something exists, there’s probably someone out there who has a fetish for it. Did you know there’s such a thing as a sneezing fetish? Tickling? Farting?
  14. Power dynamics are very important to consider. Make sure you find a balance (or imbalance) that you’re comfortable with.
  15. Sex is gross. And that shouldn’t be a big deal. There is also a learning curve, so it’s best to have a sense of humor about it.
  16. Different types of lube and condoms most certainly make a difference.
  17. Because C is a sex toy enthusiast, I have learned more about sex toys than I ever wanted to know. Now, I certainly don’t disapprove of sex toys. But you know, every time I walk into a porn store I am still completely overcome by confusion and the desire to laugh.
  18. Totally unrelated to C: did you know there is a Twilight dildo? Creepy! (Check out the comments, they’re hilarious.)
  19. Some people have been so badly educated about sex that a 20-year-old (American) woman will freak out about getting pregnant after only having slept over at a guy’s place. Nothing sexual happened at all, not even clothes coming off. True story! She also believed that guys could die from getting blue balls, and I have a very special story about that, but it will have to wait for another time. She’s a special person.
  20. In that light, I thought I’d link you all here: Stuff Everyone Should Know.

Edit: I totally forgot that I had scheduled this post to go up last night, so I was a little confused at first when I saw the comments, haha. Just to round it out and make it even, and because I thought they were important to include, I added two more points.

Baseball is Creepy!

The baseball metaphor, that is.

While messing around on the intarwebs tonight, I came across this article about finding a positive sexual metaphor. I’d highly recommend that everyone go take a look! In the first part of the article, the author examines baseball as a metaphor for sex in American culture, and just how insidious this metaphor really is:

Baseball is fundamentally oppositional. Both teams can’t win. One team wins and the other loses. As sex, that’s about one partner “gaining” something, and the other partner “losing” something. In our culture, women tend to lose status when they have sex, and there’s a lot of hubbub about women “losing” their “precious virginity.” Men, on the other hand, gain status and respect from sexual experience. This aspect of the model also serves to reinforce gender stereotypes, which are rarely conducive to safe, empowered and satisfying sexual encounters.

Could this have had anything to do with my own fairly intense fear of rape? I was born into the losing team, after all. And the message that I will lose out if I have sex is everywhere, as is the message that the “opposite team” is out to get me–to force or coerce me into having sex without regard for my own feelings about it. In a lot of cases, that really does happen to people, and when it does, doesn’t the baseball metaphor for sex provide the perfect excuse for the assailant? After all, it’s just how you win the game. No wonder there are so many rape apologists!

In its literal sense, baseball can be a fun game, but unlike its literal counterpart, when we’re talking about sex as baseball, there is almost never a switch-up between which team is batting and which is on the field–there is not supposed to be; you are born as either a batter or an outfielder, and that’s where, at least in theory, you stay.  That takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Because if sex happens, somebody loses, and that loser is determined before the game even starts. It’s a predictable, rigid social role. To win the game says nothing about whether the sex was enjoyable for either party. It’s just about whether or not it happens.

This underlying way of thinking has shaped my experiences with heterosexual men, and that’s not to say that they all thought that way themselves, but that this unhealthy power dynamic exists at all has made me extra wary of dealing with “the opposite team”–to the point that I, for the most part, choose to simply opt out of dealing with them entirely, and instead I generally only play with the queer team. It just removes that whole level of uncertainty, that vague sense of wondering whether this person is playing against me, that sense of always having to be vigilant, just in case. Queer people can’t play the game like everyone else anyway; they aren’t allowed to be included in it in the first place.

The article goes into a lot more detail about that, and also proposes an alternative metaphor for sexuality: eating pizza. It’s definitely a much more ace-positive model, since nobody assumes that everybody must eat pizza; while they may be rare, there are just some people who don’t, and that’s fine.

I do think, however, that the metaphor starts to break down a little here:

Eating pizza with a partner is also not a radically different experience from eating pizza alone. The pizza model deflates the myth that masturbation is a lesser sexual experience than partnered sex. Eating pizza alone encompasses the complete pizza-eating experience, just as masturbation is a complete sexual experience. When we do it it with someone else, the fullness of the experience doesn’t change, we simply add communion with our partner(s) to the experience. What’s different is the companionship, intimacy, variety, and possibly the fun of having someone feed you for a change.

I am not sure whether we should classify masturbation as a purely sexual experience. After all, there are plenty of asexuals who masturbate but do not necessarily consider the experience sexual. To some, it may be. To others… the very reason it might be considered okay is because it seems to be a lesser sexual experience (though even then, many find it bothersome). It really isn’t all that involved, when compared to partnered sex, whereas when eating pizza, aside from the initial negotiation of toppings, the actual act of eating the pizza is not different when doing it alone or with a partner. More is required of the person who is having sex with a partner, as opposed to the person who is masturbating. In many cases, a lot more is required. I just don’t think the difference translates well, when we use this metaphor as a vehicle for expression.

I guess the question is really about whether we consider something to be sexual based on sexual appetite, or whether we consider it to be sexual based on which body parts are involved. It seems that people define things as sexual using both of these determinants in different situations. For example, some people think that kissing is sexual–for them, perhaps, it arouses a sexual appetite. But then, to continue the metaphor, people can still eat something even if they have no appetite. Is it the physical act of sex that defines it? If so, which physical act(s) are we talking about, here? Or is it more about the mental aspect of it, the desire/appetite? In some cases, it’s clear how to define it, but in other cases, like this one, it really isn’t.

I also usually have a problem with food-based metaphors for sex because of the idea that having sex is a need, in the same sense that it is a need for humans to eat. I will admit that there is a need for people to procreate, but it is not an individual need, it is only a collective need. Every individual member of a species does not need to procreate in order for the species to survive. However, every individual must eat in order for the individual to survive. So you really have to be careful not to take a comparison of sexual desire with hunger too far. In this case, though, I think the metaphor of sex as eating pizza works okay, on that level, because it refers only to a specific kind of food, and not to food in general. People who don’t eat pizza can thoroughly enjoy other foods, and that’s not weird at all. Likewise, people who don’t enjoy or engage in sexual activities can get plenty of fulfillment from other activities in life!

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Edit from the future: For further reading, check out this post by figleaf.