Asexual But (Sometimes) Romantic

AsexualityBy Trent Law

All my life sexuality has been like a joke I don’t understand.

I am asexual but demi-romantic.

That means I have no desire for sex but I do feel romantic attraction to people I form a bond with.

As a male I do randomly have erections. But they don’t feel much different from how I normally feel. For me, a “wet dream” can be as simple as dreaming about eating cereal in the morning.

But men always want sex — Don’t they?

But men always want sex, right?

If I ever utter distaste at a sex scene, or at the whole concept of porn, I must explain myself.

Disclaimer: I am an asexual, feeling no sexual desire.

(Redundant, I know. But this sort of thing takes saying twice.)

Interestingly, most of the women I’ve dated are completely fine with my asexuality — at first. Then they gradually lose interest and leave.

The two men I dated were different. One was put off by my lack of desire but decided to try a relationship, anyway. It didn’t work. The other thought I was joking and constantly tried to coax me to bed.

So now I’m looking for an asexual partner who can understand my needs because, otherwise, it’s too confusing and too hard to hold onto each other.

What causes asexuality?

I “get” the biological benefits of sex. But at the same time I’m deeply annoyed. Especially with how society sexualizes everything. Really, must sex be placed in EVERYTHING?

Asexuality, defined

Asexuality, defined

And why is asexuality seen as something to be fixed? That’s annoying, too.

Does sexuality stem from biology or social construct?

I think society plays a heavy role and that instinct only makes up a portion of it.

For me, sexuality is, itself, a societal imposition.

BroadBlogs thoughts on Trent’s question

Is sexuality biology or a social construct?

Answer: both.

Hormones and genes affect desire and anatomy affects what we can do. But questions of who you have sex with, how you can, where you can, and what’s sexy — etc. — vary from place to place.

We are a mix of three things:

Our natural personalities + our social interactions + our culture

This mix varies among people. Some asexuals seem to have always been that way, so the cause is more biological for them. Others develop a loss of interest because of cultural repression or bad experiences, or both. I can’t tell from Trent’s description where his comes from.

This was written by a friend of one of my students. “Trent Law” is a pen name.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 20, 2016, in LGBT+, psychology, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Ok–what are we to make of this statement from the author:

    “If I ever utter distaste at a sex scene, or at the whole concept of porn, I must explain myself.”

    I don’t mean to pathologize the author’s experience (I really don’t! If they are satisfied, I’m ready to give an enthusiastic thumbs up, if my opinion matters one little bit to them), but it sounds as though they experience a visceral, negative response to depictions of sexuality. That sounds to me more like repression than asexuality.

    Wouldn’t an asexual person respond to a sex scene with “Meh. Whatever.” rather than “distaste”?

    I don’t doubt there are asexual people in the world. Believe me, as I get older, I’m feeling much more asexual than sexual. 🙂 But this post strikes me as being written by someone who is absolutely longing for intimacy, otherwise they would find more satisfaction in their platonic relationships.

    I’ll probably unleash World War III on this blog for commenting 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I’m wondering if I wasn’t clear on the note I attached to the end of his piece. Because two people have commented on this and both say he is repressed and not asexual.

      If someone has no interest in having sex, what are they other than asexual?

      The cause may be biology or repression. Either way, the person has no interest in sex, and “asexual” is how they understand themselves.

      Here is what research experts and the asexuality community have to say on the topic:

      Researchers generally define asexuality as the lack of sexual attraction or the lack of sexual interest, but their definitions vary; they may use the term “to refer to individuals with low or absent sexual desire or attractions, low or absent sexual behaviors, exclusively romantic non-sexual partnerships, or a combination of both absent sexual desires and behaviors.”

      The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) defines an asexual as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction” and stated, “[a]nother small minority will think of themselves as asexual for a brief period of time while exploring and questioning their own sexuality” and that “[t]here is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity – at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so.”

      And asexuality is completely different from a desire for closeness and connection. They may want both but just want closeness and connection a different way. Here’s more from the urban dictionary:

      does not desire sexual activity, either within or outside of a relationship. asexuality is not the same as celibacy, which is the willful decision to not act on sexual feelings. asexuals, while not physically sexual-type folks, are none the less quite capable of loving, affectionate, romantic ties to others.

      I will add that plenty of sexually active people don’t feel close or connected. The sex frequently has nothing to do with closeness or connection.

      • I’m not suggesting this person should not consider themselves asexual, but I’m still coming back to that word “distaste” that the author chose to describe his feelings toward sex scenes. I mean, that’s a pretty strong word, and it’s not a word I would think someone who has absolutely no feelings about sex would choose. Sounds like he’s got pretty strong feelings about sex, but maybe it was just a poor choice of words and doesn’t accurately describe his feelings.

      • It doesn’t matter whether or not he has a strong reaction to sex. In terms of defining himself as asexual, the only thing that matters is that he has no interest in having sex.

        No interest in having sex is the definition of asexuality.

        See my response to “deloquence” too.

        But thanks for your comments because there seems to be a lot of confusion on the topic and this dialogue is really helpful in clearing some things up. 🙂

  2. I think there is a tendency to interpret asexuality as repression or frigidity. When both are completely different things. Repression maybe due to fear or avoidance, whereas asexuality is just lack of interest in sex, or placing too much emphasis on it (some asexuals do have sex, but don’t place so much importance on it). Maybe this is too much of a generalization, but repression seems to me a conditioned, behavioural response, while asexuality a personal sexual preference.

    • A lot of people don’t understand either repression or asexuality, as I’m beginning to see. So that’s helpful to know.

      Asexuality simply means a person has no interest in sex. And Trent has no interest in sex, so he fits the definition.

      I wrote more on this point to Karen, above. You might want to take a look.

      It doesn’t matter how you got there. At the end of the post I add my two cents saying that someone can get there either via being born that way or they can lose interest in sex due to bad experiences.

      People’s understanding of repression is confused too, which may help explain why women are constantly insulted at the notion that they are repressed. When in fact most American women experience some level of sexual repression.

      A lot of people think that sexual repression means the person really wants to have sex, but is consciously trying to repress those feelings. That’s just the first stage. After a while the person has less and less sexual interest or feelings. This person is repressed but not repulsed. And may get to the stage of being completely asexual.

      Or, a sexually repressed person may simply have more difficulty enjoying sex. For instance, they may enjoy sex quite a bit but need a vibrator. In cultures where women’s sexuality is more positively viewed, and not constantly punished, women easily orgasm and they don’t need vibrators. So in fact, our sex-negative culture for women has left almost all of us sexually repressed to some degree.

      If we don’t get that we will never change the culture.

      Or, negative experiences may lead to a sense of repulsion. So no interest in sex + even repulsed by it. And hence they are asexual. Please read what I wrote to Karen, above.

      I really appreciate your comments since they help me to understand how people outside the asexual community often understand asexuality. 😊

  3. I can see how difficult it is to be Asexual, given that it isn’t something chosen either, Trent Law literally has to reiterate his asexuality in order to highlight how people misinterpret his sexuality. People longing for platonic/romantic relations rather than sexual relations is becoming more apparent as people age, and especially for me as well.
    A couple years ago I’d baffle at the idea of people being disinterested/disgusted by sex, but now that I think about it, the act of sex is a very odd and immensely intimate idea. With that idea it makes sense that people become more romantically inclined as they get older while others are the inverse.

    • I have been both in and out of asexuality, So I “get” both sides of it. In my case asexuality was created by repressive forces — of which I have had more than my share, so our repressive culture has been especially detrimental for me — which I have had to fight to overcome. I’m still not completely out of it.

      And the truth is that our culture of sex-negativity toward women has had extensive effects with nearly half of American women showing signs of sexual dysfunction. And even those who enjoy sex often need a vibrator — a sign of a sexually repressive culture (women don’t naturally need mechanical equipment to have an orgasm).

      Others seem to have been born into asexuality.

  4. If someone has no interest in having sex, what are they other than asexual?

    I don’t know. I think it’s possible to have no interest in having sex and yet still find people sexually attractive – although defining what that means is an interesting challenge. For example, I respond to attractive women very differently to the way I respond to handsome men, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with any of them. I certainly would not say I am asexual.

    On the other hand, being asexual doesn’t necessarily imply having no interest in sex. Some asexuals willingly have sex with varying degrees of enjoyment, some have no interest in it, and some react very negatively to it – imagine being pressured into having sex with someone you don’t find attractive…

    Western society has become highly sexualised, and there is a clear expectation that people in love will have sex, and that sexual desire within an established relationship is an expression of romantic desire, something ‘good’ and ‘natural’. Which is all very well, except that people who do not wish sex, for whatever reason, are then perceived as broken or repressed or acting ‘holier-than-thou’. Partners cry, ‘Why don’t you want me? Am I not attractive? Don’t you love me?’

    (Which, really, is quite bizarre. When was sex ever a proof of love?)

    • Ok, but if you have no interest in sex, you are asexual. It’s one kind of asexual.

      And if someone labels him or herself as asexual because they have no interest in sex, that clearly fits the definition of asexual. See the definition as promoted by the asexual community which I copied under my response to Karen.

      What I was trying to say is that if someone labels themselves asexual because they have no interest in sex, how can you say that they are not asexual?

      • I have no wish to police labels. I just wanted to say that ‘no interest in sex’ does not imply asexuality, nor does asexuality imply ‘no interest in sex’. Although I accept that these two populations have significant overlap. Usually asexuality is defined as ‘not experiencing sexual attraction’, or similar; someone recently translated this as ‘not thinking anyone is sexy’.

      • It’s not that last one, for sure so we agree on that one point. Otherwise you’re wrong.

        Here’s how researchers and the asexual community define it:

        Researchers generally define asexuality as the lack of sexual attraction or the lack of sexual interest, but their definitions vary; they may use the term “to refer to individuals with low or absent sexual desire or attractions, low or absent sexual behaviors, exclusively romantic non-sexual partnerships, or a combination of both absent sexual desires and behaviors.”

        The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) defines an asexual as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction” and stated, “[a]nother small minority will think of themselves as asexual for a brief period of time while exploring and questioning their own sexuality” and that “[t]here is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity – at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so.”

      • I’m not sure what we agree on now, but I would caution you against relying on AVEN and researcher definitions of asexuality. (As you know, research terminology and public usage often differ significantly in meaning.)

        Perhaps the best article I’ve read on the subject of sexual attraction is The Ace Theist’s Differentiating Sexual Attraction and Sexual Desire, which was brought to mind again recently by Is ‘lack of sexual attraction’ the best way of describing asexuality? at A life unexamined and this response, On Libido and Sexual Desire, Attraction.

      • Good tip. Much better to listen to you than to researchers and the asexual community. Or to the many self-labeled asexuals who belong to that community and who disagree with your definition.

      • I wasn’t asserting a personal definition. I was making the point that there are multiple definitions and subtle disagreements between different parts of the community.

        If a person wishes to identify as asexual because they have no interest in sex, I’m certainly not going to argue. But nor will I label a person as asexual just because they have no interest in sex.

        As an aside, and speaking now as an academic lecturer and researcher (though certainly not of sexuality), I know very well that ‘researchers’ are not a single voice and opinion, and that statistics and conclusions are, all too often, horribly biased.

      • Why wouldn’t “no interest in sex” make one asexual?

        And what sort of academic lecturer are you?

      • If, say, a heterosexual person loses their libido for medical or psychological reasons, and thus loses interest in sex, does that automatically make them asexual?

        Well, maybe, maybe not, but that’s for them to decide.

        By day, I am a mechanical engineer with a background in maths, physics and computer programming. I teach stress analysis and do railway-related research.

      • So this man says he is asexual. A couple of readers said he’s not asexual because he 1) clearly wants connection or 2) he has a negative reaction to sex. Neither of those are reasons why someone shouldn’t label themselves a sexual. And then you come along and say something that is basically irrelevant to the conversation.

        Asexual literally means Without sex. So it is a perfectly good label for him, and also both researchers and the asexual community call someone who doesn’t want to have sex asexual. But if for some reason a person doesn’t want to label himself or herself asexual, fine.

      • If you go to my original post, the relevance is stated explicitly. At no point have I questioned anyone’s right to label themself as asexual or not.

        The point I have been making all along is that ‘sexual attraction’ and ‘interest in sex’ are two distinct things. It is possible to not experience sexual attraction but still be interested in sex. Some asexuals have sex, but they are no less asexual for doing so. (Quoting literal meanings of words is not useful to the discussion. Just look at the bi vs pan debate.)

        ‘Researchers’ may choose to define all non-sexual relationships as ‘asexual’, but how is that different from describing all female-female relationships as ‘lesbian’? But at least researchers are clear and consistent about their definitions, whether or not the subjects of their study agree with them.

        You keep talking about the asexual community’s definition of asexuality, as if there is a single agreed definition. AVEN has one, certainly, but the asexual community is a deeply philosophical one and there has been intense discussion on Tumblr and, increasingly, WordPress blogs.

      • sexual attraction’ and ‘interest in sex’ are two distinct things.

        Of course. No one has said otherwise. So you’re making up an argument that no one is arguing against.

        It is annoying though to have someone who’s specialty is math and who is not part of the asexual community telling people who are part of the asexual community and people who specialize in the topic that they’re wrong. It seems both ridiculous, and patriarchal too. Men, even those who aren’t qualified, often tell women, who are qualified, that they’re wrong.

        Oh yes, I will be sure to be cautioned by a mathematician against the views of social scientists Who study the issue, and members of the community in question. Seriously? Who does it make more sense to listen to?

        Shedding more heat than light. No need to continue this thread.

  5. as always, interesting post! (Sorry I don’t get to comment on more but time is always an issue!) I was asexual until I met my soulmate. I just wasn’t interested in sex because I hadn’t met the right person. I was often asked if I was a lesbian because I didn’t date. I never did get that – I just wasn’t interested, and, I suppose, society just doesn’t understand that.

  6. I understand where his view point is coming from. It must be hard to explain to someone you’re dating, or anyone really, that you are not interested in sex. Especially since men are socialized and almost programmed to “want” anything that has to do with sex. I can see his dilemma on how it ends relationships, because sex for a lot of people can be special and a way to bond. But I can also see the other’s side perspective because if his girlfriend’s lost interest they might have taught he wasn’t attracted to them and that might played into it. Like a little insecurity from all his partners even though it’s far from the truth. I really enjoyed his point of view.

  7. I will give Trent credit in the fact that he knows what he wants and is content in saying it. He doesn’t seem confused or upset about the way he is. I think that him finding a partner that is also asexual is what he needs to do to make himself happy. In the long run it might just work out for him.

    Sex means very different things to everyone. There is sex for pleasure, sex for fun, sex for love, and so on and so on. What one person needs mentally and physically in regards to sex can differ from person to person. Even if that means no sex at all. As long as you are true to yourself and are doing what makes you as a person happy, that is all that matters. We do not have the right to tell another person what they should think or feel. I commend Trent for standing up for what he believes in and not giving in to what society thinks he should think and feel.

  8. What a lucky guy !! Most , especially young , men would love nothing more than to have no sex drive !!

    • I’ve heard guys say that. Meanwhile nearly half of American women have low or no sex drive, like it or not — largely due to a society that represses women’s sexuality.

  9. I agree with BroadBlog’s answer to this question. The lack of a sexual drive can come from not only biological reasons but also from a combination of social interactions. A common cause to the lack of a sexual drive stems from a bad sexual or social experience. A close friend of mine suffers from asexuality as well which he attributes to an experience he had with the opposite sex. Now I’m not talking about a bad sexual experience, he was affected by abuse from his significant other on the emotional level. The abuse sparked a lack of desire for sexual activity and created a concrete image in his mind about the intensions of the opposite sex. Now it is important to note that all people who are asexual may not have gained their asexuality as result of a bad interaction or incident. It is perfectly normal for asexuality to result from other social experiences from ones childhood or their biological differences. I speak only about one case that has affected a friend of mine that I thought should be shared.

    • In fact, nearly half of US women have no or low sex drive. That high of a number is not natural. It comes with exposure to constant repressive forces. You don’t find this rate in sex-positive societies (for women).

  10. I was happy to find a post about asexuality on this blog, as I myself am asexual. It can be very isolating to be asexual, so it’s always nice to see asexuality acknowledged and talked about. I strongly relate to feeling that sexuality is a joke that I don’t understand. It’s as if everyone’s in on some inside joke, and I’m left out. Sexual attraction is a concept I have quite a lot of difficulty wrapping my head around. I agree that sexuality is both biological and a social construct. Particularly the labels and divisions people create are socially constructed. But there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with labels; it helps a lot of people to understand themselves, and to be able to talk about their experiences.

    Some asexuals identify as asexual because of past experiences, but many identify as asexual because that is how they’ve always been. There is no wrong reason to identify as asexual; if someone feels that label suits them, then they should be able to use it.

    • I agree. I have experienced myself as both asexual and not. Definitely experiencing the “feeling that sexuality is a joke that I don’t understand.” In my case due to strong repressive forces, I ended up less interested in sexuality in my 20s than at age 10 (when I didn’t even know what intercourse was). It doesn’t matter how you got there. What matters is the complete disinterest and sex and how you understand yourself.

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