lifestyle

Asexuality taught me to love the sentimental side of romance


I’m much more a fan of affection that doesn’t implicitly lead to sex in some way (Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm Premium)

Late at night, I rushed to open the group chat for help.

Up until that moment in 2017, my experiences on dating apps had been somewhat unsuccessful but I finally had some good news for my friends – I’d received a match.

The bad news, however, was that they were sending sexual messages and I didn’t know how to respond to them.

I identify as asexual – meaning that I experience little to no sexual attraction – but back then I hadn’t realised it yet. Confused and anxious, but desperate not to seem awkward to someone I liked, friends suggested responses for me to reply with.

As I hit ‘send’, I saw messages that couldn’t be further from who I was.

Soon enough, I learned that looking for a serious relationship on an app famed for hook-ups wouldn’t get me far. The conversation with the match soon dried up.

However, university was a hotbed for the brand of groupthink that prioritised sexual connection above all else. Clubs were the place to go to leave with a potential partner and to me, it all just felt… nauseating.

It was only when I graduated in 2018 that, away from the rush of student life and studying, that things started to clear up a little.

I had more free time on my hands and I could hang out more with internet friends in London, who I hadn’t been able to reach during my time in Lincoln. A few of them were asexual and I could continue having conversations with them about how I was feeling, as well as ask questions.

I had always known that I was disillusioned with sex; I just didn’t know if sexual attraction was something I would never feel or something I’d only experience after forming a strong emotional bond (known as demisexuality).

‘You just haven’t met the right person yet,’ they would say. I hadn’t met someone I was sexually attracted to back then, and I still haven’t now

It took another year for me to understand that either of these would place me somewhere on the asexual spectrum. The realisation came, of all places, in a Five Guys.

It was the day of London Pride, when crowds were still a thing, and I was marching with the deaf charity Action on Hearing Loss to highlight the often-forgotten intersection between disability and sexuality.

Before Pride, I was growing more and more confident in identifying as asexual, but I still had my doubts. I didn’t know if it was still just a case of meeting the right person, something clearly influenced by the typical response I’d get from people when I told them I was wondering whether I was asexual.

‘You just haven’t met the right person yet,’ they would say. I hadn’t met someone I was sexually attracted to back then, and I still haven’t now.

So, marching down the streets of London, I felt a little apprehensive and uncertain about whether I really belonged to the community. Asexuality has a pretty strong presence online, but it’s hard to put faces to avatars, or fully imagine its size in a physical space – that is, until you go to Pride.

The atmosphere itself was welcoming, accepting and natural, with people wanting to learn words in sign language and others waving their ace (a shortened term for asexual) flags. There was an overwhelming sense of joy and a lack of judgement that, at a time when I was still unsure how I identified, felt incredibly reassuring. 

This helped me to fully realise that I was asexual and after the march, I came out to my friends in a fast-food restaurant.

The feeling itself was almost contradictory. I felt like a part of me finally made sense, while at the same time, I thought it wasn’t much of a big deal.

The reaction from my friends was the same. It was understood and accepted, without them making a big song and dance about it.

Interestingly, understanding my asexuality has been a different process to that of my other identities. At 17, my deafness soon saw me connect with local deaf clubs, learn basic sign language and make friends within the community.

Understanding my ace identity, however, has taken longer – no doubt as a result of a lack of education and visibility around asexuality in mainstream media.

One organisation that has certainly helped with this, though, is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Last year, I was lucky enough to be asked to chair their panel on asexuality and disability.

Many still assume that disabled people are inherently asexual and devoid of sex lives, which simply isn’t the case. If not that, then they are hyper-sexualised. There is no in-between, and when you’re both ace and disabled, it’s rare for the two things to be viewed as separate identities in their own right.

The panel led to me meeting many other people on the asexual spectrum. For any identity, finding your community is a great step on the path to understanding yourself.

It’s this, together with the lack of sexual attraction, which finally taught me how I wanted to date.

It allowed me to feel comfortable side-stepping hook-up culture and focusing more on the sentimental.

I was looking for experiences, gifts and mementos – things I could remember and hold.

Through this, I could freely explore deep platonic and romantic relationships with people, without implying sexual attraction too. It was liberating and helped form the close connections which are a big part of my life today.

Now, I’m in a romantic relationship (with another asexual person, I should add). But even when I was single, I just knew I wouldn’t find my crowd on dating apps. Matches on there felt short-term, while I was hoping to find a connection to last.

I’m much more a fan of affection that doesn’t implicitly lead to sex in some way. Valentine’s Day seems to be the rare time of the year when flowers, chocolates and general romantic cheesiness are accepted and appreciated.

Any other day of the year, people would rather skip ahead, straight to ‘Netflix and Chilling’.

Compared to the awkward messaging with failed Tinder matches at university, my relationship now – which focuses on the sentimental – allows for conversations to flow much easier. The anxiety disappears and, thanks to us both being asexual, the rapport is stronger too.

Some may call it cheesy, some may brush it off as wholesome, but our love feels much deeper as a result. And there’s no shame in that.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk 

Share your views in the comments below.

MORE: As an asexual, the search for true love is a game I don’t understand

MORE: I’m asexual but didn’t know how to tell people until I was 37

MORE: I used to think asexual meant fancying yourself





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more