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Hi there. I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost a year now. We are not u-haul lesbians because of where we live and the fact that we’re Asians. We started out great. We used to have very regular sex (at least once a week), and we hung out, went on date nights regularly for the first six months. Now, I know that honeymoon period doesn’t last forever, and I know that very well. It’s just that I feel like I’m not wanted or desired as much anymore. Once a week sex turned into once a month sex, and just earlier this month, we had a short getaway. Sex happened but after two months of not having any, it felt like I wasn’t missed or desired or yearned for. Now she wants more space and time alone, and I’m okay with that. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like I’m just at the mercy of whenever she wants sex, and I’ll just have to wait for that. Whenever I try to ask for more time together, to be more intimate with each other, I’m given indisputable reasons that I can’t be upset or disappointed about like being tired, wanting more time alone, other limitations, etc. Am I’m being unreasonable for feeling like I’m not desired in this situation? Is it right for me to feel this way?
Sex and dating isn’t usually my beat, but I wanted to respond to this because I think the topic of Asian desire doesn’t get nuanced attention often enough. There are a few things that are at play here, in my view, and most of my answers will likely involve more questions for you (and also, possibly, your partner) to consider, than anything else.
First, I think there is a lot of value in being able to express your sexual wants and needs. This may not be your or your partner’s experience as Asians, but for myself and many others, Asian cultures across the board (and especially in really conservative families) can make even the idea of desire so taboo, so cloaked in shame, that it becomes even harder to learn to express our needs in healthy ways. As they say, there’s a kernel of truth in every stereotype, and there’s a reason why Asian women are stereotypically docile and passionless, having sex done to us rather than being active agents of our own pleasure. So, I think it’s important that there’s space in your relationship — and any relationship, really — to be able to express your sexual wants and needs in a healthy, non-coercive, non-toxic way with your partner, even when those wants and needs don’t match.
I’ve said it twice, and I’ll say it again a third time just to be really clear: the key here is healthy communication on the part of all involved.
And to that end, I want to share a reel from consent educator Sarah Casper that friend and fellow writer mat shared with me when we were recently talking about desire. What I love about this is that Casper goes beyond saying, “Your wants are not anyone else’s responsibilities to fulfill” — which, of course, is a must — and also emphasizes the point that the people we are with need to be able to hold space for us to express our wants. I really think that both of those are critical to having healthy communication around consent, intimacy, and sex.
In my first relationship, I was with a person who had a lot of boundaries around physical intimacy, and so, like you, I often felt at the mercy of her desires. My self-imposed response to this was to not voice my own sexual wants and go along with whatever she wanted to do. At the time, I said it was because I was respecting her space and boundaries, but after the fact I realized that it was also rooted in my own deep fear of rejection. And later still, I realized that the impulse to silence my own desires ended up recreating the sexual suppression of the culture I was raised in.
So, what does it look like to be able to express your desires in a way that is just about stating them without any expectation of change or action? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I do think that there’s room for work here on both your part and your partner’s. It’s hard, and in some ways, I feel like I can relate to your situation but also may be just projecting my own experiences onto them, so take what I say with a grain of salt, of course.
In my case, part of the issue was my own work around getting comfortable with my own desires. It seems like that may not be the case for you, but I would ask you to consider what “feeling desired” means to you? Is it just about having sex with a certain amount of frequency? Are there other things that are either present in your relationship or, possibly, missing from your relationship that leave you feeling undesired or, even, undesirable? Can you verbalize them clearly as your own wants?
Because the thing is, I’m not sure this is entirely about how often you and your partner have sex, and I think focusing on that may be a bit of a red herring. Sexual needs are real, of course, and I think it’s valid to want to have your sexual needs fulfilled, but that’s separate from feeling desired and, when it comes to sex specifically, as you know, your partner isn’t responsible for that, either. But, there are a couple of other ways you can have your sexual needs met: masturbating or possibly opening up your relationship, if that’s something that would work for you and your partner.
But I really would encourage you to think about what different types of intimacy (besides sex) would make you feel hot and wanted, and whether those exist in your relationship? Do you feel like you can have a conversation with your partner about them? Again, not from a lens of changing anything, necessarily, but as a simple statement of wants. Approached this way, this line of exploration may open up valuable conversations about other ways in which you can feel desired in your relationship. It might also lead you to really take time to reflect on the things that are special and fulfilling in your relationship that you maybe aren’t valuing right now because (based on the letter you shared, at least) you seem to be primarily focused on sex, specifically.
The other side of this is your partner’s ability to engage in this conversation without feeling the need to problem solve or explain why they can’t meet your wants. This has to start with you in the conversation — frame things in a non-coercive way by, for example, stating clearly, “I’m not asking you to change anything, but I need to feel like I can express my wants and desires and that they can be heard as such, and not taken as any expectation from you.” If you feel like your partner may not be able to hear your wants in this way, then it might be helpful to start by sharing that Instagram reel and engaging in a conversation about it. What resonates? What feels right? What feels wrong? How can you apply this lens to the way you approach communicating about intimacy, desire, and sex in your relationship? Do you both even want to?
The final thing I want to say, is that after having these conversations, you and your partner may find yourselves at an impasse. Maybe you’ll find that your wants are misaligned, and there isn’t really a path forward. Sometimes, the history of the conversations that have already happened — especially if there were any serious breakdowns in communication along the way — make it hard to approach intimacy and sex from this framework of stating wants without needing to act on them. And so maybe, your best and kindest option for each other is to break up.
Part of being able to name and also sit with your own wants is recognizing when you need to take action and take responsibility for fulling those wants yourself. If you’re not getting what you want out of a relationship, and that’s becoming a deal breaker for you, then you can also say the relationship is no longer working for you, end it as kindly as you can, and instead look for one where you feel more desired and have your sexual needs met. That’s also completely valid.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.