Reader question: Asexual dating

Sexologist and sex advice expert Dr. Timaree Schmit responds to a reader who wants to know how asexuals can meet each other.

Reader question: I’ve been going through the same cycle every few years. I’m romantically attracted to men, I’ll go on a dating site or app. I’ll get excited about meeting them after chatting, and on most of the dates I’ve been on, I’ll be having a good time and feel like we’re connecting. But then everyone always wants to get physical after only one date. I’m never into it. After the first date or two, the kiss would end pretty quickly and be tolerable. But then as more dates happened, I get more and more stressed about what I’m going to be expected to do.  I’d fixate on it and can’t even relax, let alone be open to enjoying anything physical. And then I grow resentful about it, which I get is unfair on my part because I never said anything to indicate my feelings, and I break it off.

 I know I’m capable of physical attraction because I’ve felt it a few times, but unfortunately, it’s never been reciprocated, so I have no idea where something like that would lead. Or I’ve felt it reading romance novels. I also had a religious upbringing which messed with my head, so I don’t know how much is related to that. I’m not opposed to having sex, I just feel like I need a little time. I recently tried putting demisexual on my dating app profile. But it didn’t really help. I went on a date, and he still was coming after my face after only a couple of hours. I had four drinks and it still didn’t help me. I shut it down with some excuse because I can’t keep doing the same thing as in the past. 

I think the issue is I don’t know when or how to communicate about this. I feel weird about getting into too much detail on a profile without meeting someone first, because what if no one gives me a chance?

That sounds incredibly difficult. It might be helpful to know, however, that you’re not alone. 

As a bisexual, I am abundantly familiar with the sensation of other people acting like they know better than you about your own orientation, so the last thing I want to do is project on you, whether it be a label or how you should live your life. That said, I believe that many insights can be gained from the ace (asexual) and aro (aromantic) community.

While the mainstream allosexual (attracted to other people) population might have made you feel like you’re in need of fixing, the reality is that a small -but substantial and increasing- percent of the population identify as asexual. Within that category, there’s a variety of experiences, ranging from those who desire romantic relationships to those who do not (who may identify as aromantic). The asexual population includes those who have sexual desire in certain circumstances or once an emotional connection is fostered (they may use demisexual as a label) as well as those who have no sexual drive at all, or just not for other people.  This list is far from exhaustive, because as many people as there are, there are unique experiences of desire. 

I sought advice from ace and aro folks about dating in the allosexual world and got a slew of great replies. Check this link to read more. 

“I’ve come to accept that as a demisexual and gray-romantic person I’ll just be slightly confused forever, which is ok. That said, carefully choosing the people in my life was a critical step to happiness. I stopped believing the people who saw my sexual and romantic orientations as something to be fixed and started surrounding myself only with people who respect me enough to believe what I tell them and not push against my boundaries. It allowed me to exit fight or flight mode and heal enough that I could then think clearly about myself – my actual wants and needs, and the kind of relationships I’m interested in. Basically, I started thinking, what if heteronormative societal rules did not exist, what would make me happy? Leaving behind the mindset that romantic relationships are the most important type of relationship ever and genuinely exploring the variety of partnerships out there, is the best gift I could give myself. There are so many ways to have emotional and physical intimacy and life partnerships outside of the narrow heteronormative standard that is sold to us.” -H

“I’ve long thought of myself as a failure and dysfunctional because I never put much effort into dating, even characterizing myself as a coward. The fact that I very much love romantic stories, love writing shipping, and have some sense of arousal about people being “sexy” (getting turned off as soon as it involves me or actual sex scenes) helped confuse the issue. One of my friends pointed out that feeling happy when people are feeling happy with each other is an entirely different thing… A romantic relationship is not necessarily deeper or more intense than friendship. I would really love to see people normalize the idea that friendship isn’t just a consolation prize.” – T

“I am a polyamorous, demi-panromantic asexual, and people do not take well to about 99% of that. Even after explicitly laying out to people on dating apps (where my sexuality is in my bio) that in no way or form I am interested in pursuing anything sexual with them, they take it as a challenge. They assume I mean for the first few dates, but when I have to reassure them that I am not interested in sex ever, even if a relationship is formed, that is when the insults and threats take place…. If I had to give any piece of advice to any ace/aro that may read this: you do not have to compromise for ANYONE. People may try to convince you, threaten you, ghost you or anything along those lines, but as long as you are happy then that is all that matters. I wish I could say the right person will come along eventually, but I don’t make any promises like that (especially because since I came out, I have yet to find my person). Surround yourself with people who love and care for you as you are.” -K 

“Give yourself space to grow, evolve, shift, and live in the nuance. For years I assumed I couldn’t be on the asexual spectrum because I have had sex, I will have sex again and I have a high sex drive. So, while I’ve suspected I was Ace, I just didn’t think by definition I was. Then I learned that Ace is on a spectrum and there are Graysexuals and even that is on a spectrum. Within “Gray,” I found language to understand myself.”- S

Aspecs [those on the asexual spectrum] can have relationships with anyone. We’re not limited to being exclusively with other aspecs…. There always needs to be communication and establishing boundaries regardless of the relationship. With aros and aces, these need to be enforced firmer and clearer. I suggest keeping aro and ace resources on hand. The best advice I could give would be to understand your aro and/or ace identities first and go from there. If you decide you want a relationship, think about your boundaries and what you are and are not comfortable with.  I honestly hate to say it, but you have to be prepared for harassment, ignorance, and rejection.  You should not have to deal with anyone who is antagonizing you for being aspec.  With the rejection, I’d rather see you be rejected for it than to end up with a person who may mistreat you for it.  Never blame yourself for the reactions of others.” – M

This advice is solid for any sexual orientation. First (and foremost), consider what you want and what you do not. Are you hoping for a specific relationship or kind of connection? Does that dynamic need to come within a romantic context? Identify your needs, wants and limitations to yourself so that you can communicate them to others. Anyone who is worth caring about will respect your boundaries, anyone who pushes past them has disqualified themselves from the pleasure of your company. 

There are a tiny number of dating apps for asexuals (not just on Bojack Horseman) but with apps there is less accountability.  Dating is hard for almost everyone, but you are more likely to encounter respectful behavior if you meet someone through your existing social networks and shared activities instead. Best of luck to you!

    • Timaree Schmit Headshot

      Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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