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I Wrote About Asexual Dating, And The Internet Reacted; Here's What They Missed.
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I Wrote About Asexual Dating, And The Internet Reacted; Here's What They Missed.


Two years ago, I wrote an article for Stardia about asexual dating. Asexual or ace people like me experience limited to zero sexual attraction, which can be a perplexing concept in an overly sexualized society. Nonetheless, the initial reactions to my piece were overwhelmingly positive, with many ace people saying they felt “seen” and many allosexuals (or allos, i.e., people who do experience sexual attraction) saying they felt “seen.”

The article was then reposted two weeks later, two weeks after the first International Asexuality Day, with a different theme: "Why is she even dating?"

The consensus seemed to be that if I didn't feel sexual attraction, if I didn't want sex, there was nothing for me to desire in a romantic relationship. Romantic and sexual attraction were conflated, and these people decided what I really wanted was friendship.

To be honest, I was perplexed by one thing: why these commenters claimed to know me better than I knew myself. I've never approached a stranger and said, "You don't really want (insert thing they want). Sure, you're saying you do, but come on, who knows better?"

I was upset at first, then angry, and finally, “Well, I should have expected it,” because asexuality is one of the most misunderstood orientations out there. From being told we're all aliens or robots to being asked if our "parts work," we face a lot of invasive, outright harmful questions and assumptions.

That's why I wanted to write this follow-up piece: while one essay can't possibly cover all of the misconceptions out there, it can hopefully provide some asexual basics ("baceics") to help make these conversations easier, and once we have those, we've taken a step toward eradicating these misconceptions entirely not just in comment sections, but in our larger world as well.

Myth 1: You are only an ace because x/y/z.

For some reason, when you come out as ace, people have a lot of opinions on why you're ace. It can't ever just be "because I am," it's always "because you have a hormone disorder," "you've experienced trauma," or "you just haven't found the right person yet." And yes, hormones and trauma can affect asexuals — just as they can influence people of other sexualities.

We live in a heteronormative, sex-obsessed, white patriarchal society, but I never mention these societal influencers to straight people as the reason for their straightness. It also seems strange to me that my asexuality is supposedly a product of my environment, but all other sexualities are somehow inherent and immune to the world around them.

Maybe I ate too much garlic bread or just the right amount of cake (aces have the best memes), or maybe I was born this way, like some people are born left-handed, dark-haired, gay/straight/bi/pan. Because sexuality isn't simple, and assuming that asexuality only looks like x, y, z ignores the rest of the alphabet.

In this regard...

Misconception 2: Ace people are never sexually attracted.

While asexuality exists on that broader spectrum, there are a variety of asexual experiences as well. I have never seen someone and wanted to sleep with them, but that doesn't mean anything about anyone else's experiences. And that's the thing — asexuals aren't a monolith. We're all very different (just like people in general).

Some ace people, known as gray asexuals, have limited sexual attraction or attraction in certain cases. Demisexuals, on the other hand, can experience sexual attraction after forming a strong emotional bond with someone. They're still ace, because their experiences aren't allonormative, or typical of someone allosexual. They're also ace because they say they are — in the same way that someone bi is.

Because, well...

Myth 3: All asexuals are anti-sex.

I'm not sure where this misconception came from, but it's caused some friction between allosexuals and asexuals. I guess the logic isn't too difficult to grasp: if someone doesn't feel sexual attraction or want sex, they must not want anyone else to have sex, right? Except, I've never met an asexual who felt this way — we'd much rather sit around talking about dragons (another symbol!) than thinking about thr

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I'm somewhere between sex-repulsed and sex-indifferent, but that doesn't mean I care about what you do or don't do with your genitals. I mean, I'm a stranger on the internet — wouldn't it be strange if I cared? If I asked prodding questions like, "Has she even had sex?" or "Has she tried pleasuring herself?" or... well, just read the comments on my first piece

There is a difference between not wanting something for yourself and not wanting it for others. If you enjoy sex, go for it! Consensual sex can be a wonderful thing, which is why some ace people want it as well.

Misconception 4: Aces are incapable of wanting or having sex.

I've never been drawn to cooking shows; watching someone dice an onion (which is still a food I despise!) is pretty boring to me. Nonetheless, I've watched cooking shows with several dates; it's not like the occasional episode bothers me or that I'm physically incapable of sitting down and turning one on (pun totally intended).

Even without sexual attraction, some people are fine having sex or even want it, because attraction is not the same as desire or libido. Plus, relationships are about compromise, and to continue the food analogy, for some ace people, having sex is like eating a cracker; they don't need to eat it, but they're not opposed to eating it. For others, it's more like eating ice cream when they're not hungry.

But that isn't to say I wouldn't date someone.

Aces can only date other aces, according to popular belief.

When I said in my previous article that my options for dating other aces were limited, I meant it literally. I've tried two ace dating apps so far, and both had maybe five people within a 50-mile radius of me, and those "near" aces had little to nothing in common with me.

So, yes, you can date other aces, but you can also date allosexuals and have a successful relationship. In some cases, the allo partner is fine with not having sex, or the partners agree to a poly or open relationship, in which the ace partner is the primary partner but the allo partner has sex with other people.

Communication and trust are serious, core components of all relationships, and they take time and effort to develop and nurture. People can be together despite their differences.

So, as a somewhat sex-repulsed asexual, you may be wondering how I approach this aspect of a relationship. But here's the thing: I've never been able to have this discussion because nearly every time I've dated someone allo, they've lost interest based on their assumptions as soon as they learned I was ace.

That's not to say I didn't want a relationship; it's just that I didn't want the wrong kind of relationship.

I was looking for romance rather than sex.

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Misconception 6: Romantic and sexual attraction are interchangeable.

I've always wondered why people consider sexual and romantic attraction to be the same thing.

I've always wondered why people consider sexual and romantic attraction to be the same thing..If you can have sex without being in love with someone, why can't you be in love with someone without sexually wanting them? Aroaces (or aromantic asexuals) have little to no romantic or sexual attraction, and they're perfectly normal and beautiful people.

I've always wondered why people consider sexual and romantic attraction to be the same thing..If you can have sex without being in love with someone, why can't you be in love with someone without sexually wanting them? Aroaces (or aromantic asexuals) have little to no romantic or sexual attraction, and they're perfectly normal and beautiful people..Aromantic allosexuals, who are sexually attracted but not romantically attracted, are also aromantic allosexuals.

I've always wondered why people consider sexual and romantic attraction to be the same thing..If you can have sex without being in love with someone, why can't you be in love with someone without sexually wanting them? Aroaces (or aromantic asexuals) have little to no romantic or sexual attraction, and they're perfectly normal and beautiful people..Aromantic allosexuals, who are sexually attracted but not romantically attracted, are also aromantic allosexuals..As a result, it is not a stretch to believe that there are plenty of aces who do experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction — people who are willing to write an entire article about their (difficult) dating experience and continue to put themselves out there because it is important to them.

I've always wondered why people consider sexual and romantic attraction to be the same thing..If you can have sex without being in love with someone, why can't you be in love with someone without sexually wanting them? Aroaces (or aromantic asexuals) have little to no romantic or sexual attraction, and they're perfectly normal and beautiful people..Aromantic allosexuals, who are sexually attracted but not romantically attracted, are also aromantic allosexuals..As a result, it is not a stretch to believe that there are plenty of aces who do experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction — people who are willing to write an entire article about their (difficult) dating experience and continue to put themselves out there because it is important to them..

Not all relationships look the same. Some people enjoy traditionally romantic activities such as long walks on the beach together. For others, candlelit dinners are a fire hazard. And still others go long distance — without sex — and find a way to make it work anyway. Sex is certainly not the only form of intimacy, or even a form at all.

That simple.

Or, at the very least, it should be that simple. But misconceptions disrupt and prevent conversation, making ace dating difficult. And after writing this second article — after detailing all the allosexual hoops and hurdles I have to overcome, all the invalidation and uncertainties and discomfort — I’m beginning to better understand my commenters’ earlier question: “Why is she even dating?”

I want it to be easier, not harder, for aces to date, which is why I want people to start listening to ace experiences and making room for our stories; that way, I can spend dates getting to know the other person rather than defending how well I know myself.

Misconception 7: Asexuals don't need romance; they just want a dog/friendship/etc.

First and foremost, as stated in my first article, I intend to have many, many puppies in the future; however, the relationship I would have with a dog is not the relationship I want with a partner. I mean, maybe other people trust their dogs to give them advice in their darkest moments; to celebrate their triumphs and share the weight of their burdens; to hold their hand and make them feel grounded, fearless, and known.

Some commenters mentioned friendship, and yes, my friendships involve trust and love, but it's different for me — friendship isn't a lesser relationship, but I don't want to cuddle with my friends; they don't make me feel anxious — in that good-anxious way — like we're the only ones in the room; my mind isn't constantly distracted by thoughts of "What are they doing now? Can I be with them?"

Some people don't want a romantic relationship, which is completely understandable. They'd rather pursue artistic endeavors, form close friendships, or spend their time doing — well, whatever it is they want to do. Romance isn't the be-all and end-all of life; it's just another option, like sex.

And, if it does — and let me state unequivocally that it does — why must those be sexual?

I want it to be easier, not harder, for aces to date, which is why I want people to start listening to ace experiences and making room for our stories; that way, I can spend dates getting to know the other person rather than defending how well I know myself.

I understand the struggles and joys that come with being an ace. I know who I am, what I want, and what I don't want. And I know that even after writing all of this, some people will still have unfounded, hurtful opinions. But that's OK. Because I know my own truth, and I'll say it proudly:

I'm Marisa, and I'm an asexual looking for a romantic relationship.

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And I'm really looking forward to reading the comments this time.

Marisa L. Manuel is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at Georgia State University. She received her MFA from the University of Memphis, where she served as managing editor of The Pinch Literary Journal. Her work has appeared or will appear in Cosmonauts Avenue, Pleiades, Barren Magazine, and others.

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