Asexual Explorations

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Victoria says:

‘My husband, Karl, and I have the perfect relationship. We’re that annoying, twee couple who are always holding hands and talking about how much we love one another. We do everything together, laugh constantly and never argue. I call him my Big, Giant Englishman and he calls me Hey, You… which probably doesn’t look romantic in print but is quite sweet, really.

At the weekends we’re parked on the sofa, both on our computers or engaged in private pursuits (me reading and him drawing). The chief thing we do together is play with our dog—she’s our baby.

We’re a perfectly normal couple except for one thing that many people find shocking. We never have sex. Not even on our wedding night, which we spent at home, after our small wedding.

And we’re happy with the state of our (non) sex life—sex is about as interesting to us as lint collecting, you see.

Karl was the first person I slept with, a couple months after we were married, when I was twenty-eight. In my early twenties I’d fooled around with women, but I wouldn’t say I’d had proper sex, as I’d always got bored during the early stages and stopped the sex train from leaving the station, as it were.

My friends had always been brilliant about my physical indifference to sex (as opposed to intellectual interest, which I do possess) but there was some curiosity about whether Karl and I would have sex once we were married. Sex is so closely tie to the wedding night in most cultures that some people seemed to think the wedding ring would magically make us want to have sex. Apparently we didn’t get the magical rings, though, because we remained as uninterested in sex after our wedding as we were before it.

As a teenager I somewhat bought into the media’s message that sex was a life-changing experience—that there’d be fireworks and orchestras and that. I didn’t have the urge to try it, though I thought perhaps I was a late bloomer.

My hormones were in perfect working order—I had a fairly raging libido, but that was satisfied by masturbation (‘double-clicking my mouse’ was my favourite euphemism)—I never saw anyone I was sexually attracted to. A sexual friend of mine calls it Asian Man Syndrome, because she’s sexually attracted to black men and white men but she’s never been attracted to Asian Men. She equates asexuality with living on a planet of Asian men—she’d still have libido, but no one would interest her.

At that time I was romantically attracted to women. They were very aesthetically pleasing and if I liked a particular woman I wanted to have her to myself in a way couples are, as more than a friend. But sex never occurred to me—‘I like you a lot so I want to touch your genitals’ didn’t seem like a rational line of reasoning to me.

Since I was a woman I figured other women weren’t interested in sex either—oh ho, was I mistaken. I was happy by myself, so I rarely attempted to date but when I did dip my toe in the dating pool I usually didn’t wade in very far. Every potential relationship turned into her asking me for sex and taking it personally that I wasn’t interested so when I was twenty-two I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and quit trying to date.

A month prior to my twenty-fifth birthday I discovered a website called AVEN through a link from a Dan Savage article where a young man had asked for advice on how to tell potential partners he wasn’t interested in sex. Savage had said, ‘Good luck, bucko!’ and someone had written in to say that perhaps that young man was asexual and had given the address for AVEN.

The home page proclaimed: ‘Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction.’

I’d first seen the word ‘asexual’ when I was sixteen on a book called Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians by Esther D Rothblum and I knew it applied to me. Until accidentally finding AVEN I hadn’t known there were others in the same boat. I immediately bought one of the ‘Nobody knows I’m asexual…’ t-shirts and excitedly read through the site.

A couple of friends had said, ‘Perhaps you’re asexual,’ once they’d known me for awhile and saw that I was completely indifferent to sex. I wasn’t repressed or repulsed—I was simply not interested. So coming out to friends after I found AVEN was really easy (I was lucky, some asexuals have a difficult time).

Finding the site made me realize that I could perhaps have a relationship without the pressure of sex. I could have the sort of relationship I’d fantasized about as a teen—two people closer than friends but not physical lovers. Prior to finding the site I’d figured there must be other people like me out there—I figured I was simply on one end of the spectrum (no interest to high interest) but I hadn’t thought there’d be a group online.

When I was doing national (U.S.) publicity for asexuals I came out to my mother so if she saw me on TV she wouldn’t have a heart attack. Her response was, “I’m asexual, too.” I’d thought so, based on various comments she’d made when I was growing up. She’d said she’d never been that interested in sex on more than one occasion.

There were no asexual couples on AVEN when I joined, though there were a few asexuals on the site who were in relationships with sexual people. Their experiences showed me that a mixed relationship, as we call them, wasn’t something I was interested in—it didn’t seem fair to either partner.

I’d been on the site about six months when Karl joined. I was first interested in him because he was English (I was writing a novel set in England) and he liked Portishead, which wasn’t a super popular group in this country. It was nice to have someone to talk to who liked the same (English) TV shows and music that I liked. We started chatting on instant messengers and hit it off right away. He put up with my myriad questions about England, ‘Do people still say “yonks”,’ and ‘What the hell is a malt loaf—it sounds repellant!’ and we sent each other small gifts through the post like CDs and chocolates.

We’d been chatting for a year when I went over to England to do some research for my novel, which was set in Oxford. We met up in his hometown, Hereford, and took a day trip to Hay-on-Wye.

When we first met I was surprised by his size—he’s 6’4”—but thought he looked like a teddy bear. He seemed like a really sweet guy. At the time I was still identifying as lesbian, though so I figured this heterosexual phase would pass. I also thought he saw me as a little sister so I didn’t bring it up for another six months.

Finally, a year and a half after we’d first met on AVEN—six months after my trip—I told him I liked him over instant messenger (ahh, romance in the 21st century) and he said he liked me, as well.

The following autumn Karl came to the States for two months, with the plan to travel down the East coast and stop in to see me for a few days. We met up when he first arrived in New York City then we wanted to spend more time together so he cancelled part of his trip to come to Wilmington early. He wound up staying three weeks. During that time we decided to get married and started the massive piles of paperwork involved.

The most surprising thing about that experience was that I never got tired of being around him. Prior to meeting Karl, I’d quickly grow bored with anyone’s presence. He was my best friend, though, and it seemed like he’d always been around. It was during this time that we first kissed and cuddled and that was quite nice. It was such a relief to be able to express affection without worrying that the other person would expect sex to follow.

Because we were so comfortable with one another we experimented with sex a bit—knowing that he wouldn’t be personally offended if I said I didn’t like it was a huge weight off my mind. Even with the pressure off I still wasn’t interested (and neither was he). Halfway through we both said, ‘This is nice but I’d rather be doing something else.’ I was glad it wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t interesting to me, either.

So that was that. It was nice to know that it wasn’t about me ‘meeting the right person’ because I had met the right person and he wasn’t interested in sex, either. If we suddenly became interested in sex in future we’d do it again, but as we don’t want children (if we did, we’d adopt) and we’re not hormonally driven to it, sex isn’t an issue at all.

We’re comfortable with one another naked and often shower together. It’s nice to cuddle before sleep and we’re quite the affectionate couple. Being asexual doesn’t mean being uninterested in all forms of affection. We’re just like any other couple except we don’t have sex.

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been—I couldn’t be happier.

Karl says:

‘Marriage had never appealed to me until I fell in love with Victoria’

Victoria and I were married in May 2006 in Washington, North Carolina, in the presence of just a handful of Victoria’s immediate family including her grandfather who - as a preacher - carried out the ceremony for us.

Victoria looked beautiful in her above-the-knee length, white silk, Asian-style dress with her then ankle-length hair worn in a complicated braided bun. I was very proud to be marrying her. She is not only my wife but my best friend and the funniest, most intelligent woman I have ever met. However, even though I am very much attracted to Victoria - physically, aesthetically and emotionally - I don’t want to have sex with her. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Clearly, I’m not your average bloke: I don’t use porn and I very rarely masturbate; I’m not at all interested in sports; and I’d rather be curled up on the sofa with my laptop and a cup of tea at the end of the day than having sex with my wife.

All of the people I have come out to as an asexual have been curious but supportive - I have been very fortunate that the people I know are so open-minded.

When people find it hard to understand what I mean when I say I’m asexual I try to explain it to them this way: a heterosexual can look at a beautiful person of the same sex as themselves and appreciate that they’re attractive but they wouldn’t feel sexually attracted to them. For me, it doesn’t matter who I’m looking at - no matter how pleasing they are to the eye, I never feel the urge to have sex with them.

Granted, as a teenage boy I was as hopped up on hormones as anyone else and masturbated frequently, and the idea of sex very much appealed to me. I had several girlfriends in my teens and experimented sexually, and got some pleasure from the experiences, but I never really experienced the drive to go ‘all the way’ with anyone. In fact, after I’d lost my virginity at the age of 18, I never really wanted to do it again. I didn’t find it traumatic, or disgusting. It was more a case of, “Okay, that wasn’t anywhere near as good as everyone says it is”.

However, I didn’t just give up on sex straight away. I entered into a couple more sexual relationships after that and tried to keep an open mind, but it began to dawn on me that I really didn’t have the animal-like sex-drive that most of my friends seemed to have. Ultimately, most of my relationships during my adolescence ended because of my lack of interest in sex, but it was usually me that ended them. I believed that all women wanted sex as part of their romantic relationships, so I began to avoid getting emotionally involved with anyone.

I remained single for 7 years, but I began to feel the need for some kind of affection and companionship in my life. I began to search for other people who I could relate to by looking for celibate people on the internet. I found a few communities but most people I spoke to were consciously abstaining from sex for spiritual or religious reasons, or else they had medical conditions that prevented them from having sex. I didn’t feel that I had made a conscious decision to abstain - I felt rather that I’d never really had that drive in the first place.

So I kept searching until, in November 2003, I stumbled across the AVEN website. As I began to read what other members were posting about their experiences on the discussion boards I felt that I’d finally found a community of people who I could relate to. I joined the site that very night and, within a week or two, I exchanged my first messages with Victoria. Soon, we were chatting via Instant Messenger every day.

I was initially very attracted to her personality, as she seemed very intelligent and had a very dry sense of humour. She seemed very interested in England and we soon discovered that we also had very similar tastes in music. We started exchanging CD compilations and other gifts on a regular basis, and also exchanged photographs via e-mail. The first thing that struck me about Victoria’s appearance was her ankle-length red hair which she often wore in thick braids on either side of her head. I thought she was incredibly cute and grew to look forward to our daily chats very much (often waiting online for hours hoping that she’d sign on) but I knew that she was romantically attracted to women, so I accepted that what we had was a good friendship and that nothing else could happen between us. Until, that is, she confessed that she had a crush on me.

We’ll always remember the first time I told Victoria that I loved her. I was visiting her in North Carolina at the time and we were cleaning her apartment. One of the cats, Mildred, had thrown up a fur ball on one of the bookcases we were moving and it had obviously been there for a while. As I stood there, scraping the mess off with a screwdriver and trying not to vomit I looked her right in the eyes and said “You know, THIS is love”. We laughed but, at the time, I didn’t realize the significance of what I’d said. It was only many months later, when we were married and living together, that Victoria told me that it was the first time that I’d confessed my love for her, and that she’d actually thought it was really sweet at the time. I know it wasn’t the most romantic of scenarios, but it was at least very memorable! And I think it also reflects the type of relationship we have: no matter what mess there is to deal with, we’ll always love each other, unconditionally.

We have a lot of friends online who are asexual and we know two other asexual couples like ourselves. Over the last 5 years, we’ve both met up socially with dozens of other asexual people in the UK and US and we’ve done our best to help raise public awareness and acceptance of asexuality. I also run a website for sex-positive asexuals and supportive allies called, where we discuss issues of this relatively un-researched orientation in a broader context.