Often in television, film and books, love and sex are a package deal — one in the same. But for asexual people in the real world, there’s a whole realm of emotional connections that don’t involve sex.
Asexuality is a sexual preference that exists on a spectrum, just like most other types of sexuality. Some asexual people have never had sex and don’t desire to; some will masturbate but don’t desire partner-based sex; and some folks on the asexual spectrum are comfortable having sex with a romantic partner.
There are different names for the varying types of asexuality too; demi-sexuals are asexual people who desire sex only with people they have a strong emotional connection to; gray-A or graysexuals have very low sex drives or rare instances of sexual attraction.
Holden Grimes is asexual, and has identified as such since they were around 19 years old.
“It was about the same time I started identifying as non-binary. I had just gotten out of a really bad relationship in which the person had continuously tried to make me participate in sex with him, and I was kind of confused. I had been with a female friend before him, and I didn’t enjoy sex then either. At this point I was like, ‘Something’s weird here,’” says Grimes.
Grimes realized that they felt no sexual attraction to anyone. “You can be romantically attracted to somebody, aesthetically attracted to somebody. There are so many different branches of attraction that people of all spectrums fall into,” explains Grimes. “I’m aesthetically attracted to [people of all genders]; it’s just that I don’t want to have sex with them.”
Grimes is now engaged to a partner who is not asexual, and the two occasionally do have sex.
“There’s this misconception that all asexual people cannot have sex. People hear asexual and just assume you never have sex or can’t have sex, but that’s not true,” Grimes says.
“So many people think that because I love my fiancé, I’ve got to be sexually attracted to him. But my love for him has nothing to do with that — they’re two totally different types of attraction.
Another asexual person, who spoke to City Paper on the condition of anonymity, explains why it’s possible for some asexual people to have sex with their partners.
“It’s like going to see a movie your partner wants to see and you don’t,” says the asexual lesbian in her mid-twenties. “You’ll go and see it, but you don’t necessarily enjoy it.”
But as a single woman, she says dating is difficult.
“When I’m kissing someone, I’m like, ‘This is really nice!’ but as soon as it gets more intimate than that I’m like, ‘I am bored now,’” she says.
“Being attracted to people is strange, because I think people are beautiful, but I never react physically. I just want to be people’s friends or go on a date. I didn’t realize for so long that that wasn’t how everyone felt,” she continues. “I want to stay up all night and talk and hang out, and most [non-asexual] partners want to have sex and cuddle and go to sleep, and then my needs are never met.”
Both she and Grimes are romantics that love cheesy romance-based anime and movies. They love love, just not sex.
“One of the things is that people assume if you’re asexual is that you don’t want to be in a relationship, or you can’t be queer, or your romance and sexual interest are the same thing,” she says. “Humans are inherently social creatures; just because you don’t want to have sex doesn’t mean you don’t crave companionship.”
For more information on asexuality, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network at www.asexuality.org.