[Content Note: the following blog post is NSFW and contains very explicit descriptions of sexual situations. I also discuss menstruation/ovulation briefly.]
Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements is collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write. In order to do my own small part to help, I’m sharing my experiences below. It is a response to this Tentative Revisions post she put up, and I definitely recommend you read onlyfragments’ post which was also written for this purpose as well. She discusses her journey toward where she is now: enjoying a sexual relationship with her girlfriend. It’s a very different post than what I am writing, below.
I’m a 25-year-old woman, and by one of the most common definitions of the term, I am a virgin. However, I have consented to sexual experiences at two different points in my life – about 1 week apart from one another. I was naked with my boyfriend both times, and he was wonderfully respectful of my boundaries. For weeks prior to us taking off our clothes together, we’d had conversations, mainly over texting, where he’d told me his fantasies, and asked me about mine. I’d told him I had never in my life had a sexual fantasy, honestly. I… wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be fantasizing about. He knew I’d never seen porn but had read some erotic fanfiction. He of course had seen porn. Again most of these conversations were via text, but we did have a few “real life” conversations too about these topics, and others. It was easier, in some ways, to talk about sexual topics via texting, though. It helped with some of the awkwardness and embarassingness.
We’d talked in person about how I wasn’t “into” the making out with tongue we’d been doing since our first week of dating, and how I thought I might be asexual but I was curious to try more things and see if maybe I’d like other things instead. We also talked about what his experience of kissing me/making out with me had been like, and he’d admitted to me that he had “gotten hard” while we had been cuddling… so by the time we were doing sexual things, getting naked together, we continued to have a very healthy approach to the whole situation. He was careful to keep checking in with me, and to stop touching me when I mentioned that it was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He wanted to be able to provide me pleasure. He had already told me, before the day where we first took off our clothes, that he thought he might already be in love with me. I appreciated him so much, was so grateful he cared so much about me, and I cared about him and his happiness too.
Still… despite all of this… I ended up breaking up with him within a few weeks of all of this. I broke up with him because he wanted to lose his virginity in the traditional heteronormative penis-in-vagina (PIV) way, preferably in the forseeable future, and it may have taken me a while but eventually I figured out that I did not want to be that person for him. I decided that I was sure I never wanted to actually have intercourse, or even ever be naked with anyone again.
After what had been months of anguishing over whether or not I was asexual and hoping I wasn’t, I embraced my sexual orientation. I decided I was sex-averse on the same day I decided yes, I was asexual. I kind of equated the two. I’m not sure why, but at the time I didn’t want to officially call myself asexual if I wasn’t sex-averse.
Also on that same day that I officially decided once and for all that I was asexual, I broke up with my wonderful, loving, sweet boyfriend. I wished him only the best, and that he could find a new romantic partner who this time would be much more compatible with him, sexually-speaking.
Allow me to backtrack.
I’m a 25-year-old white cis-woman from the USA, and by many definitions of the word, I am a virgin. I’ve never had penetrative sex with a man. I’ve never had oral sex with anybody. I’ve never been intimate in a physical way with a woman, nor with any non-binary person. I’ve never even experienced an orgasm. I’ve barely tried masturbating.
The thing is, I don’t have a sex-drive. I’ve never had a libido. I am an asexual woman, and I personally have never experienced the drive to masturbate, never been aroused/”turned on” by anything, and never desired to have sex with anybody. I’m fairly sure it’s not a hormone problem, since I have no other symptoms of hormone imbalances, and I know that in my own case it’s not a side-effect of a drug since I’m not taking any drugs. It just… is. It’s always been my truth. Not all asexual people are like me. Some asexual people have sex drives. I would bet most of them likely do, but I’m unsure of the statistics. But the fact that I count as a “non-libidoist” asexual plays a huge part in how I personally experience my own sexuality (or lack thereof).
I had not even heard of the word “asexual” until I was 20. I grew up assuming that one day, (presumably when I was in my twenties,) I would lose my virginity. I also assumed I’d love the experience of kissing a guy I would’ve fallen for. I assumed I’d experience the joys of good sexual experiences. I assumed so many of these things because of the way heteronormativity, compulsory sexuality, and amatonormativity worked with each other.
I managed to avoid dating, kissing, sex, and all of it until after I’d graduated college. I was a girl, no one was asking me out, and I was not experiencing any intrinsic drive/desire to try to force the issue. I was feeling a bit like a loser for being too old to be so inexperienced, socially pressured to maybe put some effort into dating, but I didn’t know where to begin. I was too anti-social. So I waited till I graduated college, and then I did online dating.
However during college, while online, I stumbled (via the New Atheist movement) into sex-positive feminism. I began to feel, more strongly, like I ought to be masturbating, that only people forbidden to masturbate by their religion or girls/women who have internalized too much sexism don’t do it. But… I just… I didn’t know where to begin. And there are guides to finding your clitoris, on how to do it, but… I didn’t feel like trying much. It was usually painful to use tampons, hence why I mainly used menstrual pads instead when it was “that time of the month”, and I’d been freaked out by my own cervical mucus before Googling it and realizing what it was. (No one had taught me in school that this was a normal part of ovulation). I’d touched my genitals in completely non-sexual ways plenty, way more so once I purchased a menstrual cup and began to use it — a product that has a steep learning curve and is difficult to get right. I even ended up buying a water-based personal body lubricant (lube) for the first time thanks to that cup. But it was like I had a mental block. I just… couldn’t… try to masturbate. Every time I thought about finally trying to figure out how to masturbate once and for all, I would “procrastinate” from that task some more, feeling like there was no rush and I’d rather be doing something fun in the moment — like work on editing a fanvideo. Of course, theoretically, masturbating was supposed to be “fun”, I guess. A high.
Similarly, despite a strong social pressure on me to drink alcohol (despite “knowing” I was missing out,) I desperately avoided drinking it.
Just like with alcohol, I sort of avoided even giving masturbating a chance. I gave alcohol about as much of a chance, eventually, as I ended up giving sex/masturbation. It’s like I have this irrational fear of losing control and feeling a chemical state of ecstasy. I don’t know. But it’s ALSO like I’m physically incapable of experiencing it. Because I’ve been on narcotics as painkillers and they just made me irritable/hyper-emotional and exhausted. I didn’t enjoy the feeling at all. Because I have no sex drive, at all, and have never once in my entire life experienced arousal. Because when I did begin to feel “tipsy” (the early effects of alcohol), I felt negative and not positive about what it was doing to me – slightly blurred vision, feeling tired, even the beginning of a dehydration headache.
So essentially, I decided to try sex with my boyfriend. Even though that was probably stupid of me since I’d never been aroused in my life. I guess I was just hoping, desperately, that maybe if I did just the right thing with my boyfriend… maybe I would experience arousal or even an orgasm! Maybe I could be so lucky. So I took off my clothes. I let him kiss my neck, stomach, breasts and nipples. I noticed that the feeling of him kissing my nipples was… different, a little better than everything else I guess, not really that positive though, not that pleasurable, just… I was more sensitive on that part of my body, and it was an interesting sensation. Everything else I was so completely indifferent to or even possibly mildly repulsed by (like making out with our mouths and tongue) that this was pleasant in comparison. Then he tried fingering me down at my vagina. Him touching/kissing me… it was what I wanted. I wanted to see if some kind of physical stimulus might make me aroused. I was asking him to do it.
My boyfriend was a 22-year-old virgin who had never even kissed anyone prior to his relationship with me. Weeks earlier, he had informed me that his strongest sexual fantasy was for him to “eat me out” (perform oral sex on me) and give me pleasure in that way. So I also suggested to him that if he wanted to perform that act, maybe we should use non-microwave safe plastic wrap as STD protection even though we were both virgins. Just as practice, in case we ever had different, more experienced sexual partners in the future. He replied that he didn’t think the plastic wrap would be necessary. But… we never ended up getting that far.
I think when I first saw his naked body, and he saw mine, he complimented me — and then asked me if I found him attractive. I sort of lied. I didn’t find him attractive, because I don’t find anyone attractive. But what I said was, “Yeah, of course”.
I mean, the grain of truth in there was that of course I didn’t think he was ugly. 😉
He used one finger to gently touch inside me. He was surprised by how “wet” I was, but I’m pretty sure it was just cervical mucus and my ovulation cycle. He asked if I was sure I wasn’t aroused. I wasn’t sure of anything. But I told him I was “pretty sure” I wasn’t. It became uncomfortable quickly, as sticking a finger or tampon or whatever inside a non-lubricated, non-aroused vagina generally is. I told him as such, that it maybe hurt a little, but he could keep trying if he wanted, as it wasn’t that bad yet. He stopped anyway. He didn’t want to keep trying to get me off. But prior to that, I think he might’ve said he thought my clit was easy to find, and touched it? I can’t remember for sure. To this day, I still don’t honestly know what part of my body that is.
He asked if I wanted to take a turn doing the relative equivalent of what he’d done to me – I could try giving him a hand job. He asked, genuinely curious of if I wanted to or not, no pressure, no expectation. I still felt awful about how, as I looked at his erect penis, nothing I was feeling was positive/happy/excited/aroused/attracted. I felt awful about how asexual I clearly was. And I felt really… scared isn’t the right word, but just… I felt like for whatever inexplicable reason, I didn’t want to touch it. So as gently as I could, within a few moments of him asking the question, I honestly told him that I didn’t really want to do that. He then must’ve suggested masturbating while making out with me, because I can’t imagine I was the one to suggest such a thing? But somehow, we ended up horizontal on his bed, our naked bodies touching, our mouths locked in a tongue-heavy make-out session, him masturbating. And I know I had consented, completely to this.
I might’ve been more comfortable with this because we’d made out before and I knew what, exactly, to expect from making out. I knew what it’d feel like. I knew I wouldn’t actively enjoy it, but it wouldn’t be so bad either. While I’d never gotten pleasure out of making out, and usually had pulled away quickly from our make-out sessions because of that fact, if it would make him happy, this time I wanted to do it. He had just tried to give me pleasure. I could actually be a part of giving him pleasure in return! We could do something even more special and make-out naked for once, while he orgasmed! He would find that extra sexy. Of course I wanted to do it.
But… this was an activity where we couldn’t talk. Our mouths were pretty occupied, after all. And more importantly, this was an activity where my boyfriend was consumed by his experience, his eyes closed, he was moaning, he was vibrating so much, and so I would feel awful if I interrupted him. So even as I began to get more and more uncomfortable, more and more like I was forcing myself to keep up the motion of my tongue and mouth, more and more unhappy doing this activity, I stuck with it until he ended the mouth-lock, until he was done. This time, he didn’t “cum”. He purposely stopped early, I’m not sure why. And we cuddled, naked, for a minute or two and I think we discussed how it was pretty nice to feel comfortable in each other’s presence while naked. There was something wonderfully intimate about that.
Overall it was a pretty positive experience, because he was so respectful and understanding, and my least favorite part of it was my own doing, I could’ve stopped it if I’d really wanted to stop, and… and I was glad to have had that experience. I didn’t feel like a virgin anymore. I felt like I’d tried sex. I barely had, but it was so much more than anything I’d ever done before.
The following week, we decided to try it again. This time was more of an uncomfortable mess. I thought his breath smelled like sour milk or something weird when we were making out and tried to gently tell him, because god it was different than every other time we’d ever made out. Luckily we were in his house so he just got up and brushed his teeth, no big deal. Then he was going to try using his tongue to eat me out but he said I smelled down there, even though I’d just showered prior to coming over, so I suppose it might’ve been an unfortunate PH balance type of issue that day, but anyway he didn’t really want to hang out down there with his nose so close to the smell.
We did the “making out while he was masturbating” thing again, and this time he came, in his hand. He avoided getting it on me, but he… had forgotten to bring any tissues or anything into his bedroom before he did this, and his mom was home, and he was messy now and naked so I let him sit like that on the bed while I quickly threw my clothes back on and went out of his bedroom and into the bathroom to fetch him some tissue to clean up the mess.
And then… there was a brief conversation where he said he didn’t like doing sexual stuff like this with me, because clearly I wasn’t enjoying it, so it felt like it was almost-rape, and I assured him even if I didn’t “want” to have sex with him in the enthusiastic sense of the word, I did want to, I chose to have these experiences, and I assured him it definitely wasn’t rape, and he said he knew that, but he didn’t sound convinced.
Not long after, his mom offered to drive me home, I don’t remember why my boyfriend didn’t just drive me himself like he usually would’ve or why my dad didn’t pick me up or any of a number of options, but anyway me and my boyfriend sat together in the backseat of her car and it was awkward and uncomfortable. The rape comment was still on my mind. His mom was there so we couldn’t talk about it. We both were coming to the realization that sex would likely never work between us, and therefore our relationship was doomed. It was an unpleasant thing to be realizing.
I think that was probably the last time we tried kissing, and it definitely was the last time we tried anything sexual. We may have had one more date where we cuddled and just watched TV, I don’t remember, but then I texted him, and broke up with him over my asexuality, and over wanting us both to be happy and telling him I knew he’d likely only be happy in the long run if we broke up, and he agreed and said he’d been thinking the same thing.
I’m really glad I had that relationship and sexual experience, even if now I think I might be aromantic and am definitely a sex-averse asexual. I’m glad because now I know for sure what it felt like, and that even doing that much wasn’t enough to get me aroused. I’m glad to know that “compromising” to give someone else sexual pleasure doesn’t give me enough pleasure of my own to justify me ever choosing to do it again in my future. I’m grateful to be able to have these memories, and to have had such an understanding boyfriend to experiment sexually with. As I texted my break up to him, apologizing to him about the whole way things had to sadly end, he replied in his own text that he knew it wasn’t my fault, it was my sexual orientation, and I couldn’t control it. That was such a wonderful thing to “hear” (to read) and so validating, so kind. That aspect of his personality is so much the reason I wish sex wasn’t something vital to him in a romantic relationship, so much the reason I wish we could’ve worked out. Because he was such an amazing guy. But clearly sex was something vital to him.
I think he approached the notion of having sex with a likely-asexual 23-year-old virgin exactly right, except for maybe that one little comment where I felt pressured to assure him I found him attractive, pressure to feel the exact thing that most asexual people by definition don’t feel.
He went in with no expectations, fully allowing me the freedom to be honest, to only participate together with him in whatever acts that I, in the moment, felt fully comfortable with.
I’d recommend that any person approach sex in this way — asexuality is kind of irrelevant to how important this kind of consent is — but especially when dealing with the prospect of sex with someone who… maybe has no sex drive, who is more likely because of asexuality or other factors to truly not enjoy a lot of even just “simple” foreplay/queer sex type activities… to be completely understanding, and to know, deep down, that it’s neither partner’s “fault”. We all can’t help how we feel, or what our sexual orientation is.
I just wanted to share my experience here, since I consider myself an asexual who has had sex, sex that was consensual. There aren’t many stories from sex-averse people on what having consensual sex was like for them, and I just wanted to add my story into the mix. I hope someone out there appreciates reading my perspective.