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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

The world of dating is a world full of unknowns – maybe you’ll meet the love of your life, or maybe you’ll experience painful rejection. Perhaps your experiences will teach you what you want (or what you really don’t want) in a partner. There’s the potential for happiness, and also for heartbreak. These unknowns can make putting yourself out there an intimidating experience for anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, being an asexual person in the dating-scene comes with a few more challenges.

Just in case you’ve only heard this term in your biology class in relation to asexual reproduction, I’ll catch you up a bit. Asexuality is also a sexual orientation within the LGBTQIA+ community and describes those who experience little to no sexual attraction. It’s often referred to as ‘the invisible orientation’ because it’s less well known in comparison to other sexual orientations and also doesn’t get much media attention. So, for an asexual trying to find love in an allosexual (non-asexual) dominated world, it’s easy to feel out of place and misunderstood.

Before I dive into what dating as an asexual is like, I’d like to clear up two popular misconceptions first:

1) Do asexuals still want to date?

It’s a common misbelief that being asexual (or ‘ace’) means that you aren’t interested in dating, but that isn’t always the case. There is a difference between sexual attraction and romantic attraction, and all people have both a sexual orientation as well as a romantic orientation. While asexual people might not experience sexual attraction, some do still experience romantic attraction. There are different types of romantic orientations just like there are different types of sexual attraction, such as hetero-romantic, (only romantically attracted to someone from a different gender to themselves) bi-romantic (romantically attracted to two or more genders) and more. There are some aces who don’t experience romantic attraction, usually labelling themselves as a-romantic asexuals.

2) So…is sex completely off the table?

Not necessarily! Just because someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in sex. Asexuality is a spectrum, so not all ace people have the same feelings towards sex. Aces usually define their outlook on sex within three categories: sex-positive, sex-neutral and sex-averse. Sex-positive aces still enjoy sex for pleasure, whereas sex-averse individuals would prefer to avoid sex all together. Sex-neutral aces don’t have strong feelings towards sex, and depending on the person, may choose to do it or would rather choose not to. 

There are also orientations within the ace-spectrum, such as graysexuals, who experience limited sexual attraction rather than no sexual attraction at all. Another common sexual orientation on the ace-spectrum is demisexuality, which means that you only experience sexual attraction to another person once you have formed an emotional connection with them. The spectrum is wide and diverse! Every asexual-identifying individual is different.

Dating as an asexual

Dating as an ace person can often feel impossible, especially if you’re sex-averse. The world of dating has been modelled for allosexual people, and many allos struggle to understand asexuality because their sexual orientation is different. I think almost every ace has heard “you just haven’t met the right person yet”, or “you’ll change your mind one day.” My personal favourite (sarcasm) is the charming phrase “you just haven’t let me satisfy you yet.” Gross. Biggest red flag ever. That delightful line (so much sarcasm) was sent to me from the first guy I chatted to on my very short-lived Tinder adventure. I haven’t redownloaded the app since. Not only is that one of the most revolting sentences that my eyes have ever seen, but it was also incredibly invalidating.

At other times, partners have taken my asexuality as a personal insecurity, as if they had done something wrong to make me feel unattracted to them. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that I simply couldn’t feel sexual attraction for anyone, he couldn’t understand, and his confidence was totally shattered. Another really defining moment for me was when I came out to a friend of mine: he laughed and stated, “I feel so sorry for your partner.” I started to really hate myself after those experiences. I felt like my sexual orientation was a burden on my potential future partners, and that even if they understood my sexuality, that didn’t stop the ridicule that would come from their friends and families if they found out. 

I’ve come to realize that these feelings of self-loathing are very common for aces everywhere. We’ve all been invalidated and misunderstood, not only by romantic partners, but by friends, family, and strangers alike. We’ve all shared moments where we think: what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be ‘normal’? Am I broken? Why can’t I experience this emotion that seems so effortless for everybody else? Maybe I should give up with dating altogether.

But I’m not broken, there’s nothing wrong with being ace. Some allosexual people just don’t understand, but there is no reason why an asexual relationship shouldn’t succeed. I’ve had long-term relationships with allosexual partners who have been great, and my sexual orientation was never a point of conflict. There are also many people who don’t feel like sex is a vital part of what they want in a relationship. There are also plenty of other asexual people out there, even though it seems like we’re few and far between. We aren’t alone, aces! And our love-lives aren’t destined to fail in this allosexual-dominated world.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a huge difference between allosexual and asexual relationships. The key to success with an asexual relationship is the same as with other relationship: communication. Communication is the most important tool you can use to determine whether you are compatible with your partner, and whether this relationship is worth pursuing in the long run. Because every ace is different, you can never know what their opinion of sex is if you don’t ask them- so ask! We don’t bite, I promise – although please only ask this sort of question if it’s appropriate in the conversation. Don’t ask us this randomly out of context please, it’s quite uncomfortable, and we may, in fact, bite you.

Film and Television Studies Honours student