real life

This is what it's like to live a life with no sex.

As long as I can remember, I’ve never been interested in dating.

When I was 14 and my friends started talking about boys, I decided that my own lack of crushes and infatuations meant I was a lesbian. I happily ignored everything to do with romance and relationships and sex.

It’s easy to say you don’t date when you’re a teenager and busy with high school, but after that you start to wonder. Despite my disinterest in the opposite sex (and as I soon realised, the same sex as well), I’d always assumed that one day I’d start dating and fall in love and explore sex. Because that’s just what happens to everyone eventually, right?

Johanna

But there I was, 19 and now in university, and still not getting how it was all meant to work. I felt like I was meant to have all these feelings – attraction, romantic love, desire – that I just didn’t have or understand. I felt like there was something wrong with me.

And so I found myself in my dad’s study well after midnight, panicked and combing the internet for an answer. It didn’t even take long for me to find the one word that made everything fall into place: asexuality.

On the most basic level, asexual people (colloquially called aces) don’t experience sexual attraction like the majority of people do. Because asexual people differentiate between sexual feelings and romantic feelings, some aces still form romantic (but non-sexual) relationships with other people. Others have no desire for romance. Some asexuals will engage in sexual behaviour for someone they love. Others again are repulsed by the very idea of sex.

Though I’ve been curious about sex on occasion (and have experimented with sexual pleasure myself), I’ve never been able to make the jump between intellectual curiosity and actually having sex with another person. My brain can’t really compute the idea. Whatever it is that actually drives people to have sex, I don’t have it. And it really doesn’t bother me anymore.

‘Whatever it is that actually drives people to have sex, I don’t have it.’

‘But what about love?’ I am often asked. Funnily enough, I fell in love almost two years ago – just after I’d come to terms with the idea that normative relationships probably wouldn’t be a part of my life. It was a bit of a surprise, but a wonderful one nonetheless.

My partner and I are deeply committed to each other. We talk constantly, we feel at home with each other. The level of emotional connection we share sets our relationship apart from any others in our lives. We don’t go on ‘dates’, or kiss, or have sex – we don’t feel any desire to. My partner (he is also asexual) and I are both perfectly happy with it that way.

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People sometimes react strangely to my asexual identity. People find it baffling that I’ve never had sex and don’t plan on having it, because we’re taught that sexuality is natural and inevitable.

On a few occasions, people have tried to convince me that I’m actually just sick or repressed, or asked me if I was asexual because I was assaulted.

Jo.

Another feminist once accused me of furthering the patriarchal idea that women shouldn’t have a sexuality. And of course, there’s the common ‘I wish I was asexual – your life must be so much simpler and easier!’ exclamation. It isn’t, of course. Sure, I don’t spend much time worrying about being attractive to other people, or constantly thinking about getting laid. But it can also be frustrating, because asexuality is still so invisible and misunderstood.

When it comes the things I fill my days with, being asexual doesn’t have all too much of an impact on my life. I have great friends, love my studies, want to get a PhD and write a book. At the same time, it’s an inherent part of who I am, and it helps shape how I see the world. I like being able to share that. And perhaps one day, I’ll be able to say ‘I’m asexual’ without anyone batting an eyelid.

Sex therapist and director of Sexual Heath Australia, Desiree Spierings has some advice about supporting asexual young people:

Desiree Spierings

“When discovering you do not feel sexual feelings towards anyone when others around you all seem to, it can be a very confusing and lonely time. Research has shown that [asexual people] are more likely to suffer from lower levels of self esteem and more likely to suffer from depression. Additionally they are prone to more prejudice, dehumanisation and discrimination than other sexual minorities such as gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

It is about creating awareness that this is just like any other identity. That besides homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality, you can also be asexual.

Fitting in feels good for anyone…. If they know they are not alone and that this is also just another form of sexual orientation or identity, they may feel less confused, lonely, or misunderstood and they may feel like they belong and are just another normal like the many normals we have.”

This week is Asexuality Awareness week.

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