/I Wrote About Asexual Dating, And The Internet Responded. Here’s What They Got Wrong.

I Wrote About Asexual Dating, And The Internet Responded. Here’s What They Got Wrong.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for HuffPost about asexual dating. Asexual ― or ace ― people like me experience limited to zero sexual attraction, which can be a confusing concept in an overly sexualized society. And yet, 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) expressing interest in learning more.

Then, in 2021 ― two weeks after the first International Asexuality Day ― the article was posted again. This time, the comments had a different theme: “Why is she even dating?”

The consensus seemed to be that if I didn’t experience 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 ― I was just confused.

Truthfully, I was only confused about one thing: why these commenters were claiming to know me better than I know myself. I’ve never gone up to 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?”

At first, I was upset. Then, I was angry. And finally, I reached a point of, “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 asking if our “parts work,” we encounter a lot of invasive, outright harmful questions and assumptions. And it gets three-days-without-sleep levels of exhausting to field those questions over and over and over. 

Which is why I wanted to write this follow-up piece. While one essay can’t possibly cover all 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 greater world as well.

Misconception 1: You’re only 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.” Instead, it’s always “because you have a hormone disorder,” or “you’ve experienced trauma,” or “you just haven’t found the right person yet.” And sure, hormones and trauma can affect asexuals — just as they can influence people with other sexualities. But in both cases, that doesn’t invalidate what the person experiences. It doesn’t make it any less real. 

We live in a heteronormative, sex-obsessed, white patriarchal society. But I don’t mention these societal influencers to straight people as the reason behind their straightness. So, it seems really weird 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. It’s also weird that my asexuality is a bad thing ― that it’s seen as being in need of “curing” and can only be caused by something with a primarily negative connotation. 

Maybe I ate too much garlic bread or just the right amount of cake (aces have the best memes). Or maybe, like Lady Gaga says, I was born this way, just like how some people come out left-handed, dark-haired, gay/straight/bi/pan. Because sexuality isn’t simple. Asexuality isn’t either, and to assume that asexuality only looks like x, y, z ignores the rest of the alphabet. 

Misconception 2: Ace people can never experience sexual attraction.

Sexuality is a spectrum and while asexuality exists on that broader spectrum, there are a range of asexual experiences as well. I have personally never seen a person 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 really different (just as people in general are different).

Some ace people, called gray asexuals, experience limited sexual attraction or attraction in certain cases. Relatedly — but differently — demisexuals 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. And also, because they say they are — the same way someone bi is bi and someone straight is straight. You wouldn’t seek to undermine a gay person’s label (at least, I’d hope you wouldn’t). So, why is it different for asexuals?

Well, probably because…  

A photo from the author's dating profile. She notes, "I use it in part because I love climbing trees (does that count as a ho



A photo from the author’s dating profile. She notes, “I use it in part because I love climbing trees (does that count as a hobby?), in part because of the plant ace meme.”

Misconception 3: All asexuals are anti-sex.

I don’t know where this misconception started, but it’s made for some bad blood between allosexuals and asexuals. I guess the logic isn’t too hard to grasp: If someone doesn’t feel sexual attraction or want sex, they must not want anyone else to have sex, right? Only, I’ve never met an asexual who felt this way — we’d much rather sit around talking about dragons (another symbol!) than thinking through shitty ways to treat people.

I consider myself somewhere between sex-repulsed and sex-indifferent, but that doesn’t mean I care at all about what you do or don’t do with your genitals. I mean, I’m a stranger on the internet — wouldn’t it be weird if I cared? If I asked a bunch of 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’s a difference between not wanting something for yourself and not wanting it for others. If you enjoy sex, go for it! Because consensual sex can be a wonderful thing — which is why some ace people want it, too.

Misconception 4: Aces can’t want/have sex. 

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

Even without sexual attraction, some people are still OK 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 comparison, for some ace people, having sex is like eating a cracker. They don’t need to eat it, but they’re not against eating it. For others, it’s more like eating ice cream when they’re not hungry — they don’t crave the ice cream, but they can still enjoy the experience. In my case, sex is more like … well, onions. It’s just not my thing. 

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t date someone allo.

Misconception 5: Aces can only date other aces. 

In my previous article, I said options were limited when it came to dating other aces. But the thing is, I meant that 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 aces who were “near” had little to nothing in common with me. 

So, yeah, you can definitely date other aces. But you can date allosexuals, too, and still make your relationship work. In some cases, the allo partner is fine not having sex. Or the partners agree to a poly or open relationship, one in which the ace partner is the primary partner but the allo partner has sex with other people. And then there are relationships where the ace partner is willing to have sex because they actually enjoy the sensations, or they like how it makes their partner feel, or any other number of reasons. 

Each relationship looks different, but communication and trust are serious, core parts of all of them. These traits take time and effort to develop and nurture. And people can be together in spite of differences.

So, as a somewhat sex-repulsed asexual, you might be wondering how I approach this aspect of a relationship. But that’s the thing — I’ve never even 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. And on the few occasions when I didn’t mention being ace, when I tried to act like I was cool with things I didn’t want, I wound up ending things myself (or stopping them before they really started), because I was uncomfortable.   

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want a relationship; I just didn’t want that type of relationship. 

I wanted the romance, but not the sex.

Misconception 6: Romantic attraction is the same as sexual attraction.

I’ve never understood why people view sexual and romantic attraction as the same. If you can have sex without being in love with someone, a la friends with benefits, can’t you be in love with someone without wanting them sexually? Aroaces (or aromantic asexuals) experience limited to zero romantic or sexual attraction, and they’re completely valid and beautiful human beings. So are aromantic allosexuals, who experience sexual attraction but not romantic attraction. Thus, it’s not a stretch to think there are plenty of aces who do experience romantic attraction, just not sexual — people who are willing to write an entire article about their (difficult) dating experience and keep putting themselves out there because it matters to them.

Not all relationships look the same. Some people like traditionally romantic activities like long walks on the beach together. For others, candlelit dinners are just a fire hazard. And others go it long distance — without sex — and find a way to make it work anyway. Sex is certainly not the only form of intimacy, or for some, a form at all. And yeah, maybe I’m over-simplifying sex’s role in a relationship — except, we’re not talking about just any relationship. We’re talking about my own. And if what I want and don’t want is a deal breaker to the person I’m dating, we’ll stop dating. 

Or at least, it should be that easy. But misconceptions disrupt and prevent conversation, which makes ace dating hard. 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 starting to better understand my commenters’ earlier question: “Why is she even dating?” It’s complicated, and it’s not always pleasant, so why not — as several commenters suggested — skip the dating scene entirely and get a puppy instead?

I want it to be easier, not harder, for aces to go out with people. 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 instead of defending how well I know myself.

Misconception 7: Asexuals can’t really want romance, they want a dog/friendship/etc.

First off, as implied in my first article, I plan to have many, many puppies in the future. But the relationship I’d have with a dog isn’t 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, known. As for me? I play fetch with my dogs and rub their bellies. It’s a good relationship, but not the same.

Some commenters also mentioned friendship, and yes, my friendships involve trust and love. But for me it’s different — 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. And that’s totally valid. 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, same as sex. So, for me to so adamantly claim I want a relationship in spite of the obstacles, in spite of the other ways I could be spending my time — doesn’t that mean I really want one? That, for me, attraction and desire are involved?

And if it does — which, let me state clearly, it does — why do those have to be sexual?

I want it to be easier, not harder, for aces to go out with people. 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 instead of defending how well I know myself. 

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

I’m Marisa. I’m asexual, and I want a romantic relationship. 

And I can’t wait to see the comments this time around.

Marisa L. Manuel is currently pursuing her Ph.D. 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 publications are present or forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, Pleiades, Barren Magazine, and others. She runs a column on asexual book reviews through Anomaly, and she is the co-founder of Ace Chat, a platform dedicated to promoting asexual resources, visibility and stories.

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