[Warning: discussion of coercion, abuse, compulsory sexuality]
When an asexual person is talking about the problems they face, it is not appropriate to start whining about your own sex life.
This is a guest post by luvtheheaven, for my project expanding on and then revising my consent guide, How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person. I am collecting a bunch of posts to link to in my revision, since so many readers have come to me looking for more on the subject, and some ace people felt their experiences weren’t represented well enough. There’s a lot more that could be said, but I’m not the best person to write all of it! So if you have anything that you think would be useful for non-asexual-identifying people who are or might want to become sexual partners of ace-spectrum people to read, please submit! Ideally, I’d like to cross-post these as guest posts here, as a safety net in case the original posters’ blogs eventually move or get taken down, but that’s not required. You can also submit anonymously. Please email me at prismatic.entanglements [at] gmail.com or comment to submit.
Someone has also kindly offered to translate the article into Spanish (!), so I’m going to open my call for supplemental posts to Spanish-speakers, too. Gracias!
Below you’ll find luvtheheaven’s notes about the post, and then the post itself, which was originally posted here.
[Content Note: the following blog post is NSFW and contains very explicit descriptions of sexual situations. I also discuss menstruation/ovulation briefly.]
Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements is collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write. In order to do my own small part to help, I’m sharing my experiences below. It is a response to this Tentative Revisions post she put up, and I definitely recommend you read onlyfragments’ post which was also written for this purpose as well. She discusses her journey toward where she is now: enjoying a sexual relationship with her girlfriend. It’s a very different post than what I am writing, below.
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. Continue reading
Well, goddamn. You Tumblr people. If you like something, that shit gets around, doesn’t it! I came back to check on the blog to find that I’d had just shy of two thousand views in a single day. My previous high record, set only four days before, was a mere 700. If this trend continues for only a little while longer, that post will have become the most popular post of all time by the end of this month. And I’ve been blogging for almost four years already. It’s already #3.
Since I hate hate hate Tumblr’s format and refuse to get an account, I’m just going to respond to some of the comments from there here.
Someone commented that the title of my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post is “misleadingly” creepy. Yes. It’s creepy on purpose. It’s creepy because it’s based on REAL search terms I have repeatedly gotten leading to my How to Seduce An Asexual post, which was itself based on a similar query. It’s actually a toned down version of those search terms. There are enough people out there who google things like “how to convince an asexual to have sex” (that one was just yesterday) that I felt it was necessary to make a guide for it. I was consistently getting these searches, and they are different enough from my old post’s title that I’m convinced it’s not just people who read that post and wanted to find it again. There have also been more and more people searching for this lately, to the point that I was finally convinced I had to do something about it. These are people who actually want to “seduce” asexuals enough that they’ll look for ways to “get an asexual to fuck you” on the internet.
And the best way to do some damage control is to use a post title that will attract those people. Hopefully some of those people will bother to read it, at least a little. Even if they don’t read the whole thing, maybe they will at least gather that you can’t make anyone do anything, and that it’s a lot more complicated than it’s worth to try. I hope this will reduce the number of people who try to pressure asexuals into having sex or go into it thinking they can manipulate an asexual person into “becoming sexual.” Even if most of the creepers ignore it, if it manages to reach a portion of them, then I’ll count it as a success. On that note…
This is great, but I highly doubt there are many guys who would be willing to put so much thought into something like this. ^^;;; Hell, I don’t think I would want to either….it’s too complicated. >.<
Better that someone who is unwilling to put thought and effort into making sure things are okay gives up because they think it’s too complicated than be obstinately, petulantly manipulative. I HOPE my post scares some people off. It should!
The funny thing is, apparently now I’m on the 2nd page of search results for “how to have sex.” Uh… woo? I didn’t realize there were that many people searching for such things. More visibility, I guess?
Should this not be how you have sex with anyone? Unless there’s a roleplay thing going on in which case remember the safety word.
Yes, it should apply to having sex with anyone, not just asexuals. But like I said, the point of making the post is to try to get through to people who really don’t get it. People who use hostile and aggressive tactics, without realizing how wrong they are. People who are specifically targeting asexuals, with the idea that they can “fix” us. Many of the things in section 2 are concerns that apply to asexuals specifically and likely do not apply as much to people who are not asexual. It’s not a completely generalized guide. But really, the vast majority of it, it’s not “special treatment” for asexuals. It’s common courtesy.
Part of me read this and was convulsed with sick laughter, the face of my ex overlaid on the screen, like a parody of all the writer warns against.
I know that exact feeling. I had a specific person in mind when I wrote it. The date it went up is also personally significant.
There were quite a few people who had specific people in mind when they read it, and I feel for all of you. If I could, I would give each one of you a (safe) hug.
I like this; it’s a decent resource, but it definitely made me raise an eyebrow with the “You must obtain verbal consent.” Because, well, that can be problematic for those of us who lose the ability to be verbal, sometimes even before sex.
I am one such person who becomes nonverbal during sexual activity.
Yup, me too. And again, this is an excellent reason to come up with some sort of signal system and to talk about as much as possible beforehand. But I did think the rest of the article was very well-written.
Is this not in the article already? Pre-negotiation, and especially pre-negotiating signals in case you become non-verbal, I mean. I mentioned the keys as one possible signal, should I try to expand on this whenever I come back to it? Perhaps it’s unclear what I meant in some places. Clear nonverbal indicators that things are okay, like a thumbs up, are totally fine—why wouldn’t they be?—but the questions about whether or not x is okay should be explicit and verbal. Always, until it’s been firmly established by prior negotiation what things are okay and you’ve become so familiar with your partner’s nonverbal signals that you are able to tell when things aren’t okay anymore. If it’s ever in question, then you should ask.
There were also some people who commented that not all asexual people will want to take such a passive role. Of course not. But this is primarily aimed at people who are attempting to seduce asexuals, and it’s a relatively safe assumption that the people who get there by actively googling ways to convince an asexual to have sex are going to be taking the role of the initiator at the very least. And an asexual who is able to take the more dominant role isn’t going to be at quite as much risk as one who is passive, simply because it requires more confidence and know-how. For “brevity’s” sake (lol), I didn’t address it. (I considered splitting the post into a series of posts because of the length of it, actually, but decided against it because for every click you require a visitor to make to continue reading, you lose people. I’d rather have someone skim the post than miss important points that weren’t contained in whichever part they happened to read.) I may go back and add something about being dominant, or just add a link to another post about it later.
It’s certainly something that can still be improved. Other suggestions are welcome.
[Note: I’m swamped with work at the moment, so comment moderation and response may be slow. I realize other people have asked me questions, btw, before the last post went up, and I want those people to know I wasn’t ignoring them. The last few posts were all scheduled in advance so that I would have something going on here while I focus on other things.]
Here’s Amanda Marcotte responding to an article by David Wong on misogyny, wherein he claims that men are just so much more sexual than women, that women can’t possibly understand, and so men tend to think women are conspiring to give them boners in inappropriate settings:
Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.
All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?
It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.
I don’t realize if Wong gets this, but he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic, unambitious, and even though he decried treating women like decorative objects, I don’t really see how we fit into this. We don’t have any desire to impress men and get sex, so we’re never going to build and invent, right?
Amanda is right to call Wong out on his assumption that women just can’t feel as deeply sexual as men can. But whether Amanda meant to do so or not, she also plays into a common trope about asexuals that we’re all passionless, uncreative, and somehow lacking that “spark” of life that sexual people have. To her credit, she at least says “What about the gay artists?” a little later on. I haven’t read the comments, so perhaps she challenges this anti-asexual trope somewhere in there, but I wouldn’t make the assumption that she did. In any case, it’s a big oversight.
Now, Wong’s argument is familiar to me. I encountered a version of it several years ago:
9/7/2007 9:13:09 PM M: it’s considered unnatural, because for many people, sexuality is the central driving force behind our decisions, endeavors, and pursuits as human beings
9/7/2007 9:13:17 PM M: and for someone to step and say they dont have that
9/7/2007 9:13:31 PM M: a “normal” person can’t comprehend that
9/7/2007 9:14:08 PM M: and a truly asexual person, will never be able to truly understand what it means to be sexual
9/7/2007 9:14:28 PM M: that person will never know what it’s like to have a mind that is sexually driven,
9/7/2007 9:14:47 PM M: and by no means is it a simple, oh i like women/men and i act on it once in a while
9/7/2007 9:14:54 PM M: it’s an all-encompasing process
9/7/2007 9:15:01 PM M: that drives every single thought
9/7/2007 9:15:31 PM M: to a sexual, an asexual claiming their asexuality sounds like claiming you can have fire without fuel
It’s one thing to feel like your own sexuality is the central driving force behind all of your own behavior. But there are a hell of a lot of people out there who don’t feel that way, even among *sexual people. Ask my partner, for one. Moreover, there are a lot of male *sexual people who don’t feel that way, too. Are they not “normal” because their feelings aren’t the same as yours?
Failing to recognize that other people feel differently from you, failing to recognize that other people can be motivated by things other than the things that motivate you, is an egocentric fallacy. Failing to recognize that creativity and passion can come from avenues other than sexuality is a huge chasm in your ability to understand others.
You want an example of a fantastically creative person who isn’t driven by sexuality? Look at Emilie Autumn. Hell, look at me. I haven’t got much published yet besides this blog, but I am furiously working on it. I have to create, you guys. I have to write. I am passionate about making the world a better place, and to that end I will strive to annihilate misunderstandings and create human connection through my writing, even to the detriment of other areas of my life. How dare anyone call me passionless.
I think a big part of the reason why people think that asexual people are passionless is that they’re unable to conceive of passion in a non-romantic context, and also to a large extent, unable to fully separate love from sex. They’re different processes. I would suggest that love, being a neurochemical brain state similar to OCD, is as much if not more likely to be the motivation behind great works of art. For a lot of people, it’s probably motivated by both, but which is the stronger of the two? I argue that for many people it’s actually love, but it gets subsumed under the heading of sexuality without recognition that while the two often go together, they really are separate processes.
But you know what? Even if the definition of “passion” is strictly confined to sex, I’ve still got it. Don’t make the assumption that asexual people are cold fish in bed. We’re not limp robots, as long as we want to be doing it and have enough experience to know what to do. And if we are? Then there’s something wrong, and you better find out what it is and try to fix it.
Wong’s theory is a bad one, and while Amanda’s response didn’t quite cover all of the reasons why, she is absolutely right to say this:
I have a counter-theory. I don’t believe that men build civilization to impress lazy women who keep saying no to sex, because we don’t understand what it’s really like to want it. I believe men built most things because women were shut out of political power, job opportunities, and education for most of history, and instead forced into servitude towards men in the home. I believe my theory has a lot of evidence for it, in the form of all of history. Plus, this theory doesn’t do much to explain all the gay men who have been creators throughout history, of which there have been many. You know, it’s not like Michelangelo was rumored to be doing the Sistine Chapel to catch a lady’s eye. His theory doesn’t really explain how it is that women, once given the opportunity to be creators, take it.
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.
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.)
Author’s note, August 2015: This is an old blog post that no longer reflects my current views. I no longer find it useful to identify as sex-positive, especially in asexual spaces, although many of my political views still align with the goals of sex-positive feminism.
I regularly see asexuals saying that they don’t identify as sex-positive because they don’t see sex as an inherently positive thing. They often feel alienated and attacked by people who identify as sex-positive, because sex is good and people who aren’t interested in having sex therefore must have something wrong with them. But while I know that people who say this do exist, I think they’re wrong about what being sex positive actually means.
Sex is not inherently positive. It CAN be positive. It CAN be a fantastic, mutually enjoyable experience. It can even be something that inspires feelings of transcendence in people. But it isn’t always. A lot of sex is painful, coerced, deeply terrifying and traumatic. And sometimes sex that feels good at the time can bring all kinds of awful consequences.
The point of sex positivity is acknowledging that sex isn’t inherently negative. It’s not saying that ALL sex is positive. It’s saying that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how Carol Queen, one of the leaders of the movement*, defines it:
It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.
Emphasis in original. This quote is from wikipedia, as access to the original interview is restricted.
There are cultural forces out there that are strongly anti-sex. To people who buy into them, sex is seen as inherently bad, dirty, and shameful. It is only acceptable within a very narrow set of circumstances. That set of circumstances is seen as being narrower or wider according to different people, but it’s all relatively narrow. Primarily, the people who see it this way are religious. It makes sense, right? They want to make you feel guilty for sex you will still be having anyway**, so that then you’ll feel the need to keep coming back to confess your sins to them.
Sex positivity is a response to that. It’s a philosophy that says that, hey, there’s nothing wrong with having sex before marriage, or sex with someone of the same sex, or a million other kinds of sex, as long as that’s what you both want. Consent is key. And so is the idea that everyone is different, and it’s totally okay for different people to want different things.
If you don’t want to have sex, then don’t have sex, because having sex that you don’t want is bad for you. That is what a sex-positive person should be saying.
So those nominally sex-positive people who say that everyone should want sex, because sex is good? They’re doing sex positivity wrong, because they’re forgetting about both consent, and the tenet of individual preference.
I see these people as a breed of Disingenuous Liberal, essentially. These are people who have thought about sex positivity just enough to start labeling themselves as such, but not enough to have actually thought through their positions and arrived at a reasonable, logically consistent conclusion. These are people who are still having knee-jerk reactions against religious conservatives saying that sex is inherently negative, and as such, their reactions lack nuance. They are basically saying, “NUH UH, SEX IS GREAT!” without considering how it isn’t always the best thing for everyone. They have challenged whatever sex-negative attitudes they previously held enough to start identifying as sex-positive, but not enough to actually stop telling other people how they should feel about sex.
These are the people who tend to assume that asexuality is the same as being anti-sex. These are the people who are likely to equate asexuality with a “purer than thou” religious attitude towards sex, and attack it on that basis. They are still fighting their own battle with sex-negative conditioning, so they assume we are saying that we’re somehow “better than” them, for not feeling sexual attraction.
These are the people who are most likely to say we’re “just repressed” and push concern-trolling ideas like how we should go get our hormones checked.
But, as Natalie Reed said yesterday, people who see themselves as liberated and enlightened can easily fall into the trap of thinking that they are much more so than they actually are, and stop actually examining their words and actions, because of course they are so enlightened that nothing they say can actually still be enforcing sex-negativity. They have fallen for the Dunning-Kruger effect, and they genuinely think they know our feelings about sex better than we do.
But sex positivity is about cultivating positive sexual experiences, and reducing harmful ones. Pushing asexual people to have sex that they don’t want is pushing them to have harmful, deeply negative sexual experiences. Telling us that we’re “just repressed” is an aggressive attempt to frame any conversation about asexuality through a lens in which we don’t actually exist. It’s an attempt to marginalize us based on our different sexual preferences. It is not an act that is in any way sex positive.
Then there are other disingenuous liberals, like this recent commenter, who insist that they think that asexuality exists, but that our definition of asexuality is wrong, because it’s “too broad.” This is still an attempt to marginalize. It’s still a direct attack on someone’s identity, despite her attempt to cloak it in the abstractions of semantics. When you’re the signified, discussing how the signifier is wrong to include you is still pretty personal. And, unsurprisingly, she replied once and then after that didn’t bother to come back to see what else I said. This isn’t someone who is actually interested in interrogating her own biases. This is someone who is only interested in telling me how I’m wrong.
Like I said to her, it doesn’t matter whether you see a need for someone to identify as asexual or not. What matters is that THEY see that need. And asexuality is not only entirely compatible with sex positivity, but sometimes understanding yourself as asexual is what it takes to be able to have positive sexual experiences.
Before I realized I was asexual, I was celibate, and completely closed off to the idea of having sex until such time as I started spontaneously wanting to have sex (which has still never come even though I’m in my mid-twenties, because I’m not a “late bloomer”). Realizing that I’m just not attracted to people in that way has allowed me to think about whether or not I wanted to have sex anyway, and under what circumstances. When I had a partner who didn’t accept me as asexual, the sex was bad. Like, the stuff of nightmares bad. But when I met C, she actually listened to me and tried to understand what my experience was like. She didn’t pressure me. At times I still felt like our relationship was moving too fast, but we always negotiated what was and wasn’t okay sexually, and we’ve been able to have some very positive, mutually enjoyable sex.
Sex isn’t for everyone, though. Some people just don’t want it. And that’s okay.
Sex positivity is all about recognizing that different people have different preferences, and that’s okay. It’s about recognizing that sex isn’t always bad, but not all sex is good sex, either. Sex has to be entirely consensual, or it won’t be any good, and people also need to understand and have access to ways to prevent negative consequences of sex like STIs and pregnancy. Sex positivity is about recognizing that when those criteria are met, sex has the potential to be very positive. Living a sex-positive life means finding ways to have a positive relationship with sexuality in your personal life, even if that means saying, “Hey, it can be great for other people, but it’s not for me.”
** Researchers have found that religious people have sex at the same rates as non-religious people. Abstinence-only sex education is ineffective. There are plenty of studies about this, but one particularly interesting one compares the sex lives of secular people with those of religious people.
This month’s Carnival of Aces has been a blast, thanks everyone for participating! If you have a post that didn’t quite make the deadline, you can still post it here in the comments, and I’ll edit it into this post. I’m pretty sure I got everyone who commented or emailed me added in, but if I’ve somehow missed your post, I’m sorry! If you commented later than a certain point, it may be that I just didn’t get a chance to edit the post again between when you commented and when the post was scheduled to go up.
Also, if I got your pronouns wrong, please let me know. I did my best to check which pronouns people use, but sometimes that information is not obvious/clearly marked in a location that’s easy to find.
The topic was Sexual Exploration, which I chose intentionally to be a “double entendre” of sorts, so that we could have posts from both asexuals exploring sexuality (directly or intellectually), and posts from *sexual partners of asexuals exploring their relationships with their partners.
I think the topic was a big success—we’ve had many excellent posts on a wide variety of subjects. Here’s the full list:
From Ace-spectrum folk:
From *sexual partners of aces:
Thanks again for your participation, everyone! I hope those of you who didn’t submit have enjoyed reading along. The next Carnival will be hosted by Pip over at Hobbit Activism.
The following is a guest post for the Carnival of Aces by Olivier, who has been a very insightful and eloquent poster at AVEN for the past five years. I personally have found his and his wife’s story quite inspiring, as I find my own attitude/tendencies to be somewhat similar to his wife’s, and had I not discovered asexuality so early in life, I suspect my own story would might have ended up sounding a lot like theirs. Here is how he describes himself:
I’m a heterosexual in a 22-year relationship with an asexual. Like many longer term sexual/asexual relationships, my wife and I had not heard of asexuality until relatively recently (2007), and for many years struggled with the failures of other theories, such as sex-aversion or libido-mismatch, to adequately describe the dynamics of our relationship. I’m incredibly indebted to AVEN for helping us put a name to something that we’d known about – lived – for decades, but had always misunderstood by looking at it through weird normative lenses instead of just seeing it for what it is.
The post is pretty much as he sent it in, but I chose the title.
So. Sexual exploration. I’d been banging around, looking for an analogy (‘cos I like analogies!) when the one I wanted sort of slapped me in the face: exploration! Or in a less 19th-century-pith-helmet way, finding somewhere nice to go on holidays together.
First, a bit of personal background. I’ve always got the impression in asexual spaces that sexual exploration is seen as something natural for sexuals to do lots of, and very much an optional thing for asexuals. I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s not really been my personal experience. I have pretty vanilla tastes, and so in some senses I’m pretty easy to please sexually – not much exploration required. Just pack me off to the nearest beach, or city full of theatres and museums, or rainforest with waterfalls, and I’m happy. My wife on the other hand, knows that these sorts of things are generally regarded as good holiday experiences, but they do nothing much for her. Some people might decide that they’re basically a homebody and leave it at that. But not my wife, her natural reaction is to go exploring.
And so it was for us at the start. We’d do sexual stuff that I found really quite fabulous, and that my wife was putting a lot of effort into. As people who’d never heard of asexuality, and who saw both ourselves and each other as heterosexual, this seemed to me to be a perfectly normal way to approach sex and relationships. But then it would stop. And when it started again it would be something different, approached with gusto. Until it stopped. In hindsight it’s easy to see this for what it was – an asexual who thought she was sexual trying to find the thing that would do it for her. At the time however, it just seemed like the girl I was crazy about was just way more sexually adventurous than I was. Now, that’s not a bad thing, at all, but it is really, really, really, the wrong expectation to take into a long-term sexual/asexual relationship. Drama and confusion, of course, ensued.
While I was wondering what was wrong with that nice beach town with cool places to hang out, my wife would be planning a few weeks in Afghanistan to see if an element of danger made travel more fun, or a month in a place where nobody spoke a word of English, just for a challenge. And some of these places I enjoyed, and others not so much, but being with her certainly broadened my horizons. Problem was, and is, that even places that ticked all the boxes for her in theory, she didn’t much enjoy in practice. For all that drive to explore, there turned out not to be anywhere she particularly enjoyed going. And while she liked some of them well enough once she was there, she still thought that none of them were worth what you had to do to get there – airports and expense and lots of boring standing in queues.
So what’s a guy to do? My first tactic was to deal with all that boring stuff for her. Spend weeks planning. Get all the details sorted. Have things she liked – good books, tasty food – on hand for every step of the way to make all the transit fun. But when you’ve planned the perfect holiday in your head, there’s only one possible outcome: disappointment. And so with our sex life, until we finally admitted what we knew all along – all that exploration and adventure is basically not going to work for us.
So what to do?
Firstly, take a deep breath and get some perspective. For all the fact that sex is not what either of us hoped or planned, we’re ridiculously well matched and happy in every other department. In travel terms, we may not to get to travel much, but we’ve made sure our home is a great place to be, too.
Secondly, our compromise is to do stuff sexually that’s quick and not very adventurous, but is still something. Ironically, this is what works best for my adventurous wife, and leaves less adventurous me wanting more. Not at all what we would have predicted, but it works well enough for us. So it’s like taking a short drive to a beach we both like instead of spending a week in a resort, which would be torture if one of us didn’t want to be there.
And, you know, that’s not the worst, or most uncomfortable way to live. Sometimes I still get the travel bug, and sometimes even a drive to the beach is too much for my wife, but on the whole, it works, and it works well – simply because it’s shaped by the sort of people we both are. Sometimes all that exploring just makes you want to stay close to home.
I planned to write my post for the Carnival of Aces quite a while ago, but something came up this month that made me reconsider what I had planned to write about. I’ve decided to go with the original idea, but make it more generalized than I had originally planned. My blog is receiving a lot more attention lately (by several orders of magnitude!) than it normally does, so I’m being more cautious about what I talk about here.
Today, I want to talk about having sex with friends, and how while it may not seem intuitive, it might be a choice that some asexual people do want to make, and they can come out of it just fine. But the language we use to describe relationships like that tends to exclude asexuals, so it can be an even more difficult minefield to navigate than engaging in sexual activity while in a romantic relationship.
Back when this blog post by Snowdrop Explodes* about the phrases “friends with benefits” vs. “fuck buddies” was written, I stuck a link to it in a draft and decided to come back to it later, but then forgot about it until now. In it, Snowdrop says that he prefers the term “fuck buddies” because it is more honest than the euphemistically named “benefits” that also imply that friendships don’t normally come with benefits. In his words:
So how come the only “benefits” that are worth mentioning, or making special mention of, are sexual favours? Why is the rest of it considered not to be benefits of friendship, such that the only friends who come with benefits are the ones who’ll let you fuck them? Do you think that it is too literal-minded of me to suggest that “friends with benefits” means that all other friends are “friends without benefits”?
I don’t think it’s too literal-minded at all. At the very least, it shows that everything else in a friendship is being taken for granted. I think it’s very much worth considering the implications of the language we use to describe relationships like this on a literal level, because it says something about how we value certain things and devalue others. If on a cultural level we truly valued friendships as highly as sexual relationships, the phrase “friends with benefits” wouldn’t sit right with most people, and it would fall out of use.
I disagree with Snowdrop’s use of the term “fuck buddies” as basically a synonym for FWB, since I think (and he does note that this is how he sees others using the terms) they do indeed refer to different kinds of relationships, or at least, the same relationship viewed with very different emphases. If you say you have a “fuck buddy,” then you are saying that the primary activity that you do with that person is fuck them, just like if you say you have a “drinking buddy” or a “knitting buddy,” you’re saying you primarily drink or knit with that person, respectively. The activity is the focus, not the friendship itself. If anyone describes a friend as a “_____ buddy” to me, I will assume that they do hardly anything else but [fill in the blank] together. With the phrase “friend with benefits,” however, you indicate that the friendship comes first, and the “benefits” are an added bonus, although the fact that this particular thing is the only thing that gets to be called a “benefit” still devalues friendship.
The other term that I think really needs mentioning is “casual sex,” which wikipedia informs me has no set, commonly agreed-upon meaning. The way I tend to view it is as a wide umbrella term for different kinds of sex outside the context of a romantic relationship, including both one-time encounters with strangers and, on the other side of the spectrum, habitual encounters with friends. So both fuck buddies and FWBs are engaging in a type of casual sex, and while the relationships may be similar, the two phrases have a different emotional tenor.
To demonstrate… if I were in a relationship that I considered basically a FWB-type arrangement (for lack of a better term), I would be hurt if I found out I was being described as a “fuck buddy” to others by my FWB. Because to me, that means they consider the rest of our friendship to be shallow, nearly meaningless. It strongly implies to me that should the sex ever stop, so would our friendship.
I personally can’t imagine a situation in which I would be okay with having a relationship that focuses solely on sex. I always want to be friends first and foremost, and that includes in romantic relationships. I’m not the type of person who would be comfortable having sex with strangers, since there are so many considerations that I need my sexual partners to keep in mind about me in order to have a truly positive sexual encounter.
But with a friend? Maybe that’s possible.