You Need Help: So Your Girlfriend Never Ever Ever Wants To Have Sex

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Q:

My girlfriend and I have been together for eleven years now, and she doesn’t want to have sex with me. It’s not as though she wants to have sex with anyone else either, but her sexuality is very personal to her and she is more interested in masturbating than being with me. She has also been uninterested in oral sex throughout our entire relationship. We have a lot of deep love for the other, and we get along very well, but I don’t know what to do with this lack of desire. It feels very fundamental for me. My girlfriend does understand that it’s important to have sex, and she sometimes will have sex with me in order to keep me kinda sorta (not really) satisfied, and she can bring me to orgasm. Neither of us are interested in an open relationship, but we’re not interested in breaking up either — because of the aforementioned love and care we have for one another. We have been in couple’s therapy to try to deal with this, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting better. I don’t see a way out of this. I’m in complete despair. Do I continue to sacrifice my own needs in order to stay in this relationship where I am undesired, or do I end a relationship with so much love and care for the other?

A:

Babe… you have to end it.

Love and care is great! It really is. I love and care for so many close friends who I also get along with “very well.” I imagine that most of these friends don’t want to have sex with me, and I don’t want to have sex with them, and that’s one of many reasons why we’re friends and not girlfriends!

Before we even get into the sex part — can I tell you something that stood out to me in your question that you may not have noticed when you wrote it? You said that you love your girlfriend, but you didn’t say that you’re in love with your girlfriend. You said you get along “very well,” but you didn’t say that she makes you laugh, that you’re crazy for her, that she’s your favorite person to spend time with, that she “gets you” in a way nobody else does. You didn’t really sell me on this relationship being so amazing that your very fundamental human need for sex might be worth sacrificing. Although it’s totally normal that your sex life would be a little less intense after 11 years together, it sounds to me like this has been a problem since the start. You also say that you’ve been to counseling and counseling didn’t help, but you’re still together, which suggests that you’ve both surrendered to the illusion that your lives and your romantic relationships will never get better than this. I want you to know that that’s not true, and that leaving is opening yourself up to the possibility that things could be better… for both of you.

I’m sure at first it felt like a little compromise, ’cause relationships do involve a lot of sacrifice and compromise in order to work. But sex is a big (and one-sided) sacrifice to make! Plus it doesn’t sound like this compromise is making either of you happy, and a good compromise should make someone happy. Personally — and this isn’t true for everybody, but it might be true for you — I think a mutually satisfying sex life is a necessity for a healthy relationship between two allosexual human beings. What “mutually satisfying” means depends on the couple — it could mean once a month, it could mean twice a day, it could involve kink or not, it could involve oral sex or not. Sex is also a huge part of your Special Private Relationship World, which’s another thing I think is necessary for a healthy long-term relationship — the private jokes, the shorthand, the weirdo things you do with each other that you can’t do with anyone else (or don’t have as much fun doing with anybody else). The things that bond you to each other even when you’re on opposite ends of a crowded room.

That’s just me, though: many humans are totally happy in relationships that don’t involve much sex, although I suspect those relationships at least still involve intimacy and romance on some other level. As I said, there’s no rule for how often any given couple has to have sex and it’s not unusual for sex to grow infrequent over time or for one partner to have a higher sex drive than the other. But that’s not what you’re dealing with here: your girlfriend literally never wants or wanted to have sex, and you do want to have sex. When you do have sex, it’s framed as a favor she’s doing for you. You feel (kinda sorta) satisfied afterwards. You never have a chance to satisfy her, either, and you’d probably like to!

This is not sustainable.

You cannot be satisfied by something unsatisfying.

I think what drives couples apart most intensely are Unsaid Things. Unsaid Things can take many forms: they can be secrets you’re keeping (you cheated, you started smoking again, you have feelings for someone else), feelings you’re afraid to share (“I’m not attracted to you anymore” “I think you drink too much” “I think you love me more than I love you” “I hate your friends”) — and they can be things you’re not allowed to talk about because your partner won’t let you, like “when are we gonna get married?” and “when are we gonna have sex?” These unsaid things pile up like bricks in a wall you’re building between the two of you until you can’t see over it anymore. You can’t be wide open to loving somebody and connecting with them when you’re constantly censoring yourself, when you can’t even tell your partner “that thing we just watched turned me on” or “I want to fuck you in those sweatpants.”

You deserve to feel not only loved and cared for — but wanted, desired, fulfilled and ALIVE. Eleven years is a long time, and you’re probably scared of life without her. It’s so easy to get used to something and let inertia take over, but fear is an arm of laziness. I’d argue that it’s far more terrifying to feel your human needs will never be met by your partner than it is to not have a partner at all. Ultimately, being alone is probably really similar to being with someone, in that sometimes it is sad and hard and sometimes it isn’t. Feeling lonely because you’re alone is, believe it or not, a much easier feeling to work with than feeling lonely despite not being alone.

Otherwise, it’s probably only a matter of time before you meet somebody who will make you feel desired. I’m pretty sure that “I didn’t feel wanted by my partner” is the #1 reason people cheat, so it’d be easier for everybody if you prepared for this possibility by becoming single right now! She’d also be a lot happier, I imagine, with somebody who’s sexual needs are more on par with her own.

There is a huge wide world out there beyond the couch you sit on with her. You can decide what to do with it, who you love and what you want. I promise you that as soon as you do find somebody else — whether that happens this year, or next year, or in five years, you will look back on this relationship and have no clue how you dealt with it.

In conclusion, you deserve to get eaten out. Go forth and clam dive!

Love,

Riese

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2689 articles for us.

187 Comments

  1. This is so spot on. I feel like sometimes (not saying this is necessarily the case for the asker) people get complacent and don’t believe things can possibly get better for them or that it’s too much of a struggle to keep trying and looking for the relationship that truly fits and fills us up in all ways.

    Demand more for yourself, asker. You deserve it and you’ll find it.

  2. Awww…so sad to hear that things are that way but I have to agree that yes if things have been that way for a while then maybe yes, things need to end. Like Riese said unsaid things build that brick wall. Its true. When there was that bad time in my relationship I found out later on that IT WAS UNSAID THINGS. She felt like I had been busy with work and I had so many things going on leaving her in the dust. Certainly I didnt feel that way because I thought we were just fine but werent.

    For me, being in a relationship no matter how long…if its really THE ONE…sex is always going to be intense fun and amazing. I have no other word for it. Its really good. When I dated this other girl I wont lie, the sex…. Kiss and tell you know…but its different.

    And for the person asking..im sorry you know. Because your relationship is like this. Yeah it sucks but theres probably someone better out there for you.

    • I think from the description, that seems possible. But my interpretation was that one person being asexual wouldn’t somehow make their problem not a problem. It would be wrong of the writer to pressure an asexual girl into having sex if she didn’t want to. It would be wrong of her to pressure a homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual girl who didn’t want to have sex. But if the writer needs sex to be satisfied and fulfilled in a relationship, she’s not obligated to stay and be unhappy. I have guy friends who I love a lot, but I don’t want to have sex with them, and they aren’t asexual, so we wouldn’t be happy in a monogamous relationship.

      • i think so, which is why i couldn’t really find a place to work in that into my answer — it wouldn’t really change the outcome for this girl. it’d probably lead to a different moving-on process for the question-asker’s girlfriend? but she didn’t ask me for help, this girl did, so

      • I think if she is asexual (which you never know, everyone and their relationships together are all different, maybe them together are just not good for the sex) but IF she is asexual, it’d take a lot of communication to sort that out with a sexual person (or even another asexual person everyone should communicate in a relationship) and the question is, do you want to put the effort in? Sexual people need sex, asexual people need to not have so much sex. Just like hungry people need food, not so hungry people need not so much food, you probs communicate about that when you get groceries. But you need to sort out where the sexual person is going to get that extra sex from. Open relationship? Porn? Strip club? The relationship? And communicate about how these options makes everyone feel and why and if they’re really sustainable, healthy things for this individual relationship (and maybe with the idea in mind that asexual relationships require a little more sacrifice and are a bit queerer than usual).

        But it sounds like this girlfriend is not even at the point where she realises she might be asexual (if she is). I know when I was at that stage I did not want to communicate about asexuality, I wanted to ignore it. Ended up having to leave my sexual gf and it allowed me the time to really grow into my sexuality. You never know, breaking up might be the only thing to do anyway.

        • Sophie, I’m a long time lurker on AS and have never commented but you have just motivated me to join. Is there any chance you might be open to an email chat with me? I am struggling hugely at the moment and have just broken up with the most wonderful girl I know because I haven’t been able to admit to being asexual. It sounds like you are so much further down the path. If anyone here has some help or advice…I so need it. Being gay was never an issue for me – potentially being asexual is throwing up feelings that I don’t know what to do with.

  3. This is a very important matter to me, being that I was in a relationship with someone I did not want to have sex with. Initially we had sex and it was fine and sometimes good and enjoyable, but 5 years in and my nearly complete lack of desire hurt both of us. Sex became this kind of traumatic thing. None of this happened because there wasn’t lots of love and respect- there was lots of love and respect. But at the end, there were other issues and my body was telling me so. For about a year and a half after that relationship ended, I thought something was wrong with me, or that I was undesirable (because I never felt desired, which definitely played into my scenario), or that my sexuality changed.

    It turns out that NONE OF THESE THINGS WERE TRUE. I now have a partner of a year and a half, and we have sex regularly, and it is fantastic! Even if someone doesn’t climax or someone gets distracted, sex is still this really amazing space that we share with just us. AND now our issue is that I want to have sex more often than she does, which BLOWS MY MIND, and that experience is certifiably different than in the previous relationship I had, because when we have sex, neither of us has hard feelings or does it begrudgingly.

    So…all that to add to the echo chamber and say that I, too, think it’s time to move on. It’s not easy to give that advice to someone I don’t know, but I definitely think that ending things should be up for discussion.

    AND, sorry to keep going, part of couples counseling is that everyone shows up and works together to make things better or to see each other’s perspectives on things better. If counseling didn’t at least improve communication about this issue outside the counseling office, then I think you’re in trouble, babe.

    • I can’t tell you how important this comment is to me right now, I could have written your first paragraph word for word except that I’m right at the end of the 5 yr relationship and facing the months or years ahead feeling like maybe there’s something wrong with me or maybe I’m actually grey-asexual and how will I ever find anyone else to be with. I live in a small town and there aren’t that many people I find attractive to begin with, and when I do I usually have no idea how to connect with them anyway, so if I’m broken sexually too I might as well just give up. Your story gives me a little bit of hope.

  4. I feel like this post opens up a million questions for asexual people. I know there were some other aces on the “do I call myself bisexual” post, so if there are any here, maybe some others can give feedback: is this how it usually turns out when aces date allosexual people? Because it doesn’t give me much hope 🙁

    I have had very poor luck when it comes to dating, and I know my asexuality is part of it. Even though I’ve not come out with the actual word “asexual” (and I’m still not even sure if I’m straight-up ace or demisexual), I’ve never had a “relationship” last more than a handful of dates, because I’ve indicated I’m not comfortable having sex until we know/trust/love each other, and I’ve never found anyone willing to stick it out that far. I fear actually coming out and saying “asexual” would do an even better job of scaring people away than just “I want to wait” does.

    So, any asexual ‘straddlers out there with more life experience out there who can share success/horror stories? Can asexual/allosexual relationships be successful (and is it common?), or does it usually end up with situations like the one here? Trying to brace myself for grim reality…

    • P.S. I know we don’t know whether the asker’s girlfriend is ace, and I’m not trying to assume or police her identity. The question itself just made me, as an ace, start to wonder about myself and other aces in similar situations. 🙂

    • It can work, but it often takes a lot of effort :\ When I was with my ex we both compromised and it was okay, often it’s a matter of finding other things to do that your partner considers to be on an equivalent level of intimacy? Or figuring out what your sexual boundaries are – e.g. I was fine with getting her off, but any attempts for her to do the same were just boring and a bit weird, which she found pretty stressful. The best thing to do is just make sure you’re communicating! Make sure she knows you /don’t want to/ get off and she isn’t letting you down, and make sure you know how she feels about it. Sometimes allosexuals seem to feel like you pleasing them and them not reciprocating is rude or unfair – make sure she knows it’s not, and if she feels bad about it, suggest other things she can do to make you feel good. Cup of hot chocolate, watching your favourite show with you, doing something else fun together, that sort of thing.

      If you’re actively sex-repulsed I think it’s a lot more complicated – I can’t speak from experience so if anyone else can please weigh in here. It’s a much bigger compromise for either side to make. Open relationships are often a good way of handling this but that can also make both parties feel pretty insecure. As always, communication is key and it’s best to just be honest instead of trying not to hurt each other’s feelings. Chances are if you’re worried about hurting them with something you say, it’s something that will fester and cause much bigger problems and hurt them more in the end.

    • I’m not sure I qualify to answer this question but I’ve often wondered if I’m demisexual because I don’t have sex with people I’m not dating and even in dating we’re only going to have sex once we’ve reached a certain level of trust/intimacy and emotional connection. But once I’m comfortable having sex with a partner I’m super sexual with them, I love sex and being sexual, which hasn’t matched up with anything I’ve read on demisexuality. Anyway…being how I am with sex it tends to be harder for me to find partners who are willing to wait if I’m actively seeking a dating partner through like okcupid or something but it goes really smoothly when I have a friend that I’m attracted to and it turns out they like me as well so we decide to date. If we start as friends and then discover we want to date I find I’m comfortable having sex way sooner with them than others I wasn’t friends with first. Friends tend to be more accepting of your quirks and needs then random dating people in my experience. My most successful relationships have followed the formula of “hey we have shared interests and you seem fun so let’s be friends, yay friends…are we flirting too?, we *are* flirting…do you want to go out on an official date?, yay we’re dating!, we’ve only been on a few official dates but we already know each other really well cuz we’re friends sooo sex?, SEX.

      I think I kinda rambled so I’m gonna stop now.

      • Thank you, this made me feel enormously better. I’m on the same page as you about attraction – I think I *might* be demisexual because I start to feel the attraction the longer I know someone, but it’s never gotten far enough (i.e. to actual sex) for me to know whether I would actually enjoy sex or not. I do know, absolutely for certain, that I do not want to have sex until there’s commitment, love, and trust, and the handful of people I’ve dated have been like, “yeah, MAYBE I would have a relationship with you, but we’d have to have sex right now to make sure.” Which is like lol no.

        And I’ve been feeling for awhile that it would be better starting from a “knowing/being friends with beforehand” standpoint than from online dating sites, so this was great validation. I feel much less panic-stricken now 🙂

    • I’ve never been in a relationship long enough for it to become an issue, to be honest. While I was dating my ex, things were fine re:sex but there was definitely an expectation of reaching some “eventually” where we’d have sex. Which, on one hand, yeah, I think I could have reached a point where that wouldn’t be terrible to at least try, but it might have also been a “well that was fine but let’s never do it again” which would have ended the relationship (one of many, many reasons that it’s fantastic that things did not work out regarding us dating but did work out with us being friends).

      Of course, my experience is limited because I’ve had a few people who pretty much turned tail and run when I told them I was ace. Also, this gender thing isn’t something that a lot of people are down with. And also, part of it is also me being not really attracted to a lot of people to the point where I’m debating if I’m some sort of gray-aromantic person.

    • I am in the same boat as you, except I tend to make it even worse with myself because of my social anxiety. Often I was the one who pulled the plug after a few dates, because I was too scared to explain that I don’t want to have sex until I’ve developed a strong bond with someone. I’m identify as demi not asexual, because I definitely am capaple of strong sexual feelings, they just don’t kick in until I feel really connected to someone.

      I ended up just coming out as demisexual on my OKCupid profile and stating that I’d prefer to start out as friends, which has reduced my stress about this a lot. I do get fewer messages than before, and I have yet to meet a partner this way, but it hasn’t been that long and it has allowed to meet interesting queer women without having to worry that my sex drive will be an issue.

    • I started dating my ex with the understanding that my ace/demi/graysexuality was a thing and wouldn’t change, and she said she was okay with it. Two months later, she realized she wasn’t okay with it, and started asking for sex. Seven months after that, I ended things because I couldn’t take the 1) guilt and shame for saying no and feeling broken and 2) anxiety attacks if I would try.

      It’s made me really hesitant to believe the allosexual people who say they’re okay with my ace-ness.

      • I’m so sorry that you were treated so poorly. I think you did the right thing by discussing it up front. I honestly believe she thought it would be okay, but it turned out it wasn’t something she wanted. The part that appalls me about this is that she tried to ask for something you weren’t comfortable with giving. That isn’t okay. Sometimes things don’t work and that’s fine, but that’s when you part ways and move on. Do not lose hope! There is someone out there that is right for you and will treat you with respect. Advocate for your comfort and needs too, don’t take a back seat. Hang in there!

    • I’m in the same situation actually. It bothers me a little that this question assumes that being asexual/gray-asexual is the same as “not desiring” your partner. If you don’t work that way, you don’t necessarily lack desire for someone. You can desire them in every way you are capable of, but simply not experience the kind of desire they want you to, or perhaps you experience that desire but it doesn’t translate into actually wanting to go through with those acts.

      I consider myself allo because I experience sexual attraction, but I’m repulsed by all sex acts (and trust me, I’ve put lots of thought into whether or not it’s just some shame issue – it’s not). A friend of mine is allo but doesn’t place a lot of importance on sex or for whatever reason sees it as a want versus a requirement or a need. It is possible, I think.

      The one thing I would tell you is – don’t say you want to wait if what you really want is not to have sex. Most people interpret “wait” to mean like 5 freaking minutes (or less than a month, but that’s still an Olympian effort for them). If you want to avoid it completely, you might eliminate more options, but you’ll also eliminate more heart-ache and wasted time by cutting to the chase versus letting them think it’s possible when it’s not.

    • Yes, you *should* come out and say it right away. Your idea of romance differs from other peoples’, clearly. Sex is healthy and normal. Not wanting sex at all is not. If that’s the type of relationship you want, that’s fine, but if you’re not announcing it up front it’s essentially bait and switch.

    • Hi Girafferiffic,
      I’m bisexual and currently in a loving relationship with an asexual male.

      Within the first few dates he made it clear that sexual desire is something that does not come naturally, but we feel deeply in love and one of the first compromises we made was to have an open relationship. This works very well for us in that I desire female sexual partners (which is difficult being bi and with a guy, but that’s a different issue) and have the freedom of sexual expression – as does he, in his no sexual expression. I’m joyous when I come home from a nice evening having fun to find him on the couch reading a book, so relaxed and happy. And then he wants to know how my night was, and is delighted to see me so happy and fulfilled.

      I guess I’m really lucky in that we communicated so honestly from the start to set ourselves up for success. Communication and mutual respect I think is the key.

      • Replying to myself… ‘no sexual expression’ is inaccurate for my partner, I would say it is more internal and personal expression rather than shared, and when it’s shared it’s lovely, but I never pressure him (nor would I pressure any partner, asexual or not) for it.

  5. This post scares me because I feel like I’m destined to be the girlfriend in this story. I have a very low sex drive and my girlfriend has a very high sex drive, and I know it bothers her that I don’t want to have sex very often. We’ve been together for about 2 years, and it does seem to be getting worse. And yet I love her and she loves me and most of the time we’re super happy together. I want there to be a better solution than just breaking up. I want there to be a fix that allows us to stay together and for things to get better (i.e. for me to want more sex.) Does anyone have advice or a counter story to this that is a bit more hopeful?

    • I don’t think you should be comparing yourself to the question-asker’s girlfriend! as i said in my answer, there’s no rule that a couple has to have sex [x] amount of times in order to be happy, and many couples have mismatched sex drives and that’s a thing people have to deal with. But this girl said that her girlfriend literally never wants to have sex, and that they tried counseling but it didn’t work — which is a step it sounds like you haven’t tried yet. She also said they didn’t want to be in an open relationship, which is often a thing couples with mismatched sex drives try out. also you say that you’re very happy most of the time — the question-asker didn’t say that. she actually said that she was “in complete despair.”

      which isn’t to say that mismatched libidos are always super-easy things to reconcile. it really depends on the couple and how important sex is to each of you. but, as i posted below, here are two “you need help”s about mismatched libidos:

      You Need Help: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

      Moving Beyond “Lesbian Bed Death” And Bridging The Libido Gap

      you should write in and ask your own question. <3

    • As someone who’s dating a person who has a low(er) sex drive than me, I can say that you just need to communicate your needs to your higher-driven partner. Maybe sex isn’t the most intimiate gesture you can have! Maybe massages or certain kinds of touching is what you need instead of sex. Is your partner unhappy or impatient when you’re not having sex?

      Seriously, just talk it out. I’d suggest that your approach to sex is probably more important than the actual act itself. Like, I would much rather have sex less often if it means that my gf is super into it every time we do have sex, instead of it becoming a chore for her. And there’s been a lot of pressure lifted for HER because we’ve found ways to compensate for her not wanting sex as often. “Okay, lemme do this for you, but instead of reciprocating sexually can you do this for me because I’d rather have that.” Or, simply, just understanding and accepting that it doesn’t always have to be a 2-way street. “I’m not feeling it tonight but I’d REALLY like to do this to you” or “Let’s see how I feel – maybe I’ll change my mind.” are integral components of our conversations about sex, in and out of the bedroom.

    • “I want there to be a fix that allows us to stay together and for things to get better (i.e. for me to want more sex.)”

      OK I just want to point out that this is really sad, and there is NOTHING wrong with you or the amount of sex you’re comfortable with!

      The mindset of “more sex = better; if one person wants less/no sex, fix that person so they have more sex” is INCREDIBLY DISTURBING.

      And yeah fwiw, since you asked about counter-stories – i (sometimes) have a very high sex drive when my partner doesn’t, and sometimes they have a high sex drive when I’m sex-repulsed or too dysphoric.

      When mine’s the higher, I have no problems privately taking care of it myself, as long as we also cuddle a lot etc. It does not have to be a problem.

      (Technically we *are* also poly, but either of us having sex with someone else is very infrequent.)

    • i’m sorry you have to see this, because i feel like this article is terrible. i have seen plenty of relationships work out in this situation. sex is not necessary, though society makes it seem compulsory. prioritizing communication with your girlfriend is really important. in the successful relationships i have witnessed with this dynamic, my friends have opened the relationship. however, they still communicate about outside sexual encounters.

      • Society doesn’t make sex compulsory, it’s our instincts. I’m all for people choosing to do whatever they want with their body but trying to say that not wanting sex is normal is totally wrong. We’re sexual animals by nature. Love has three dimensions, intimacy, commitment and passion. You can’t have real love without passion/sex.

  6. I feel like this question was asked by my girlfriend. But we have only been together two years. Now I don’t think I’m asexual, but sex is a tough sell for me. Reading all the comments and even Riese’s answer about breaking of the relationship has stressed me out. Ha.

    My girlfriend and I have talked about sex, or sometimes lack thereof, and I even suggested to her once that she might be happier with someone who enjoyed sex more. I can definitely exist day to day, month to month, without sex but for my girlfriend it is a completely different story. Am I holding her back from being truly happy? Even though I have put that thought out there and she said that she in no way wanted to be with anyone else… I obviously don’t want to hurt my girlfriend or hold her back from happiness, but how do I do that while remaining with her in a relationship where the sex life is less than fulfilling for her.

    Thanks for making me question my relationships and whatnot AS.. Sheesh. Hopefully, I’m not the only straddler who got ridiculously stressed out over this article.

      • Thanks for responding, and thanks for writing the article. I get stressed easily – so don’t take it personally that my reading an article that seemed, decidedly, applicable to my life stressed me out!

        Thanks for all of the discussion in this thread. Like always, Autostraddle is broadening my horizons, and my knowledge of all things diverse, queer, and otherwise.

        I am thankful for this online community even thought most of the time I don’t say much.

        Oh oh! And thanks for answering difficult questions for people who probably don’t have someone to ask in real life — hurt feelings aside this whole thread generating some great discussion imo. Sooooooooo thanks!

    • You’re not, trust me xD. As a survivor of sexual abuse, anything that suggests or implies that sex is a requirement for love is about as triggering as it gets. If that has to be talked about, I think it should be talked about as a compatibility issue versus the person who doesn’t want it being wrong or depriving the more sexual partner.

  7. So, thanks everyone for the questions & answers in this conversation. It got me thinking about my last long term (12 yrs) relationship. My ex & I had issues with different libidos – it is still difficult for me to sort everything out. We had been in counseling as well. I had begun to really believe our problems were only because I wanted sex more than she did. She is an incest survivor & always had difficulty with being touched. There were other issues with both of us & I think some of them could have been worked through, but when she said to me one day “I would be happy if I never had to have sex again” I felt, hurt & betrayed. We had adopted 2 girls from China by then, and I felt like all the rules had changed. I ended up breaking up with her, We still see each other when I visit my daughters & I am still, embarrassingly sexually attracted to her. I have no idea why I can’t just let it go. I feel so ‘queer’…

  8. Holy crap. 11 years? I was struggling after 9 months with someone who was kind of asexual. Like, she’d be ok for a couple of months with nothing going on. I don’t think it helped that my hetero friends thought I was entitled to sex and instead of telling me to break up with her told me I should demand it. You aren’t entitled to anything from any given person, but you are entitled to go and find someone who wants sex roughly the same amount you do so yeah, Riese is right. There are plenty more fish in the sea, and clams. Mixed aquatic metaphors ftw!

    • Yeah, 11 years? I can’t even begin to fathom that. I barely lasted 4 months with the chic I dated who, in that whole time, only had sex with me one time.

      And the advice from your hetero friends is pretty gross, but it isn’t uncommon in many straight relationships to demand sex, sadly.

  9. Great advice. And sadly, diminishing sexual activity does happen in many relationships. It occurred to me that although the OP said they weren’t interested in opening up their relationship, it is the one that could shift things. If the love and commitment is there, perhaps this is a way for her to get her needs met. I was in her shoes once (12 years together), it was awful. My self esteem suffered terribly. Whatever happens, I hope she can find the right path forward.

  10. When I was finally in the emotional place to take Riese’s good advice about this subject to heart, it did me a world of good. When the libido gap is this extreme, it can leave one person feeling traumatized by unwanted sex and one person miserable with low self-esteem and rejection.

    “Ultimately, being alone is probably really similar to being with someone, in that sometimes it is sad and hard and sometimes it isn’t. Feeling lonely because you’re alone is, believe it or not, a much easier feeling to work with than feeling lonely despite not being alone.” —> YUP

  11. I have to agree with the other asexual posters that this article kind of terrifies me.

    I feel very conflicted about it, because from the viewpoint of the person asking the question I definitely think it’s good advice, but gosh does it not give me much hope for my own dating!

  12. I’m one of those people who has to have a satisfying sex life in a relationship. If the dreaded bed death starts to happen, we talk about it, get counseling, try to get to the root of the problem…but if that doesn’t work, the relationship is over. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her anymore, it just means that I am no longer fulfilled and satisfied in the relationship in a very key area, and that is unacceptable to me.

  13. So, I see a lot of comments here from asexual people. I have a pretty painful story to share. I met a girl on OKCupid when I lived in NY. We were both atheists, both bookish nerds, but childfree. However, she- in an email, no less- told me that she wasn’t even sure she was a lesbian, but was definitely sure she was asexual, which is why when the subject of sex/intimacy came up, she avoided it altogether.

    Now, I know that it must be difficult to tell someone something like that, but, on the other side of that, it is best to be honest. A relationship is not going to work if one person’s needs aren’t met. There were many reasons that this relationship was never going to work out, but that was the real kicker. I am not a person who can be happy or fulfilled in a sexless relationship. If I am completely truthful, that relationship did a huge number on my self esteem, because the constant rejection without any apparent reason prior to her finally summoning the courage to tell me made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was unattractive or undesirable. The reality is that similar libidos (or lack thereof) are important in a relationship to many people.

    Note: I am in no way implying that any of the asexual people here wouldn’t be upfront about it, just giving some insight from the other side.

    • Everyone, regardless of level of libido, should be up front about it. Understand that there is a lot of bull shit that asexual people endure and it makes a lot of us afraid to talk about it because of these attitudes. I’ve personally had people insist that being asexual and lesbian is incompatible because sex must be a part of a relationship (conflating the romantic and sexual aspects,) that it’s only because I’m afraid of being seen as lesbian (same) and that I’m “broken” – that being asexual can only be due to trauma and is something to be fixed regardless of my wishes.

      Before my transition I had a far higher sex drive than my wife. Once on HRT that changed and I had none. My wife went from being offended that I wanted it “too much” to feeling that I not longer found her attractive. Fortunately, she was able to see that she wasn’t being fair by making both situations out to be my “problem.”

      • I don’t view asexuality or any sort of lack of libido as anyone being “broken” or having a “problem.” I am sorry that people are such douchebags on that front. However, I think something that asexual people have to understand is that when that information is withheld and the allosexual partner is continuously rejected, it destroys self esteem and really just causes a lot of problems. It blows that so many insensitive, ignorant people have made it so that people are hesitant to disclose asexuality. I am not saying that a relationship between and asexual person and an allosexual person can’t ever work. I know it would never work for me, though, and I feel like to not tell me something like that is withholding a vital piece of information that allows me to make an informed decision about a relationship’s future, and to me that is very unfair.

        • Do you tell new partners upfront that you must have sex and will break up with someone who’s ace, or with a serious libido mismatch?

          Cause if not, you’re sure as hell “withholding a vital piece of information that allows [them] to make an informed decision about a relationship’s future.” unlike yours, ace people’s disclosures are at times met with violence. And insisting that aces disclose, while refusing to disclose your unwillingness to date them, is absolutely treating them as freaks – that you feel entitled to sex, and that they’re denying you.

          Not to mention expecting people to have perfect knowledge of their sexual desires (or not) in advance which, oh hey, a ton of ace-spectrum folks don’t and ate struggling with.

          • I’m not acting as if anyone is denying me. I state my wants and needs. The one relationship I was in with an ace person, she just refused to talk about it, period. You can be defensive until the cows come home, but I will not apologize for wanting my needs met in a relationship. Said needs are not unusual or unreasonable. Most people think that sex is a part of an intimate partner relationship. If someone needs a relationship that does not include sex, she needs to say so, end of story.

    • I’m sorry your partner wasn’t upfront about it. On the flip-side, I was r*ped by an allosexual who insisted she was asexual just because she knew she wouldn’t be able to get with me if she admitted to being as sexual as she was. I think the need for honesty and communication goes both ways, and sadly it seems like sexual people sometimes think that since they’re “normal,” their needs should go without saying or that it can be assumed that they’re not really serious if they say they’re okay with not having sex.

  14. My ex went through a phase – quite long, appr. 1,5 years – where they didn’t want to have sex. It was rough – but the odd thing was that it passed, and things returned to how they had been before. It had nothing to do with the relationship, maybe some issues of their own, but even they did not understand it.

    The relationship ended for other reasons later. Just wanted to share the experience that things can change also.

  15. I know it’s all been said and I agree that it’s probably best to break up if you’re unhappy and if you feel like your needs aren’t being met. That being said, I really really really think talking about it with her first would be a good idea! If you can get an idea of her boundaries and she can get an idea of yours, maybe you can work something out – I posted a comment up there somewhere in reply to Lyssa about what my ex and I did if that might help. Don’t stay in a relationship just because you don’t want to not be in the relationship. It’s scary – especially after that long – but if you’re dissatisfied with your relationship it’s not a good idea to just put up with it. You should talk about it before breaking up with her, I think, and see if you can figure something out, but if not don’t stay just because it’s easier or less scary.

    This being said, like, I don’t wanna nitpick, but ‘fundamental human need for sex’ made me feel pretty excluded/invalidated. I don’t know about the rest of you wonderful ace folks but I don’t have any need for sex and I’m pretty sure I’m human? More or less?

    Basically, my advice (though as an ace person I am kinda biased on this I guess) would be to treat it like any other issue that people compromise on in relationships. Like smoking or drinking, for example, or if you hate her family, or if she doesn’t like doing housework or if one of you wants kids and the other shows no sign of interest. Talk about it. If either of you would have your happiness/satisfaction/needs compromised by, well, compromising, then it’s probably best to end it. But talk about it first.

    • To add to this train of thought, as a rape survivor ‘fundamental human need for sex’ sounded scarily like it was negating my right to say no. Personally, if someone told me I needed to be sexual in a relationship because it’s a fundamental human need, that would be my exit straight out the door.

      • AGREED.

        Plus like, where is the acknowledgment that in long established relationships, sometimes “just break up” is WAY easier said than done?

        Like, if A is financially dependent on B and B says “I’m leaving you because my sexual needs aren’t being met and i deserve to seek a sexually fulfilling relationship” how can that NOT be coercing A with the implicit threat of kicking them out and onto the streets.

        Not acknowledging relationships like that, where there’s a huge power differential, is incredibly irresponsible at best.

        • “I feel like our relationship isn’t working because of how different our sexual needs are and I’m realizing I need to have sex to feel fulfilled in a relationship. I think we need to break up. I’m not going to kick you out and I’ll keep helping you financially for a while but we need to start teasing apart our finances and figuring out our living situation.” I think doing it that way would be non-coercive for the person who is financially dependant while also acknowledging that the lack of sex is a deal breaker for the other person and they’re entitled to seek a relationship that fulfils that need.

    • “This being said, like, I don’t wanna nitpick, but ‘fundamental human need for sex’ made me feel pretty excluded/invalidated. I don’t know about the rest of you wonderful ace folks but I don’t have any need for sex and I’m pretty sure I’m human? More or less?”

      Yes, thank you for zeroing in on that line, because in couldn’t put my finger on it before, but I think that’s what made me feel so sucker-punched. Like, I *get* that it would be ~best for everyone~ if you could find someone with the exact same sexual drive as you, but finding a single asexual lesbian in my age group in my area whom I am also compatible with? That’s a tall order, sometimes it feels like bordering on impossible. I’ve been telling myself that my best bet is to not limit myself to aces and just be willing to compromise, but I literally didn’t know if it was something that could successfully be pulled off. I haven’t experienced it, so I don’t know. Hence, my question above.

      The wording of the article nailed my worst fear, and also compounded the “I’m a freak” feeling that I know many asexuals experience by implying that it would be my own fault when I wind up abandoned, because sex is a “fundamental human need” and there’s something broken about me because I don’t want it :-/

      • Lyssa, you are not a freak, you are not “broken,” and you do not have a “problem” because you do not desire sex. That is something you need to remember anytime this subject comes up. Asexuality is a valid orientation and you deserve to be loved. However, to allosexual people, sex is a fundamental human need. That is the harsh truth. The very idea of being in a romantic relationship where I am expected to give up sex is absurd and unacceptable to me. In my experience, that is true of most allosexual people. I understand that this is a harsh truth for asexual people, but it is a truth nonetheless.

        • “However, to allosexual people, sex is a fundamental human need.”

          Not remotely fucking true. It’s a powerdul urge and desire, sure.

          “The very idea of being in a romantic relationship where I am expected to give up sex is absurd and unacceptable to me.”

          This is really, disgustingly, blatantly showing how you feel entitled to sex from partners, and that them refusing sex is denying you something you’re entitled to.

          Do the world a favor and stay single til you have healthy expectations.

          • I do have healthy expectations. Sex is a healthy expectation in a relationship, as the OP says. You’re the one who is being hostile here. IF you’re here to be hostile, I’m not here to talk to you. There is nothing abnormal about expecting sex in an intimate partner relationship.

          • Oh, and re: sex not being a need for allosexual people? Sorry, but for many it is. You don’t get to tell other people what their needs are. You are a hostile person who doesn’t want to face the reality that, yes, to some of us is not just a want, but a need and a requirement in a relationship. That is what is healthy for us. If no sex is healthy for you, great. But you do not get to define that for ANYONE but yourself. Stop being so nasty to people who like sex. Geez.

  16. I think that a lot of people, espsecially lesbians, get so “comfortable” in a relationship that they’re afraid to move on when things don’t work or they start to fizzle out and die. Not every relationship is meant to be. Forcing things to work when they aren’t, especially after 11 years…it’s just a waste of time and extremely sad. I’d rather be alone than in a relationship that sucks the life out of me. I’ve been there.

    Love this article. Spot on.

  17. I was with a partner for 7 years who was rather uninterested in sex unless she’d been drinking. I interpreted it to mean I wasn’t good enough, and I was constantly beating myself up for not being skinnier, for being too nerdy, etc etc etc… I left her a year and a half ago and I discovered that all the things I thought were undesirable about me are actually not prohibitive to other partners.

    To all the ace commenters: I asked my partner, on a couple occasions, if she thought she might be asexual, and she was never able to answer that question. That was really painful — because if she HAD been, I would’ve tried to work that out with her, but her reply was essentially “I’m not interested in sex with you and I’m not interested in figuring out why.” I want to echo other comments that if you go into a relationship knowing that you’re ace, and being able to communicate that to the other person, things will be better than if you don’t talk about it.

    At the same time, is an ace/allo relationship going to be difficult? Yes. Yes it is. I don’t think we should lie to ourselves about that. I’m not saying it’s impossible nor am I saying that for certain partnerships it’s not worth the work. But I think we need to be honest that fundamental differences in sexual desire do cause problems and we all need to be able to talk about them.

  18. A non-open relationship does not work between an ace and an allosexual. it’s like a culture of green cock-rot with a side of slime-wank layered cake – in fact exactly the same as relationship life support either post-reshelling-to-incompatible or after one of the patrtners in straight relationship comes out as gay.

    • I have to agree with this. I am sure that there are instances where it HAS worked, but, on the whole, as a very sexual allosexual person…I just couldn’t see how the allosexual person’s needs could be met without traumatizing the asexual person.

      • I think that your comments come from not fully understanding asexuality. Asexuality is a spectrum that includes many different identities, while it is true that some asexuals are repulsed by sex it is not a universal trait of asexuality. Some reasons asexuals identify as asexual are: because they do not feel sexual attraction, feel sexual attraction but no sexual desire, feel sexual desire without the need to do anything about it, only feel sexual attraction to people who they are already emotionally attracted to (usually called demisexual), combinations of these. Many allo/ace relationships work out either because the ace in question is not repulsed by sex and is in fact able to meet their partners sexual needs/desires, or because they have an agreement to some openness in the relationship. I think it may be helpful for you to keep in mind that no two people are ever perfectly compatible with each other, even if they are both allo, both het or gay, or even both ace, in many areas (although that should be obvious), including sexually. No two people have exactly the same libido, or specific sexual desires (for example one lesbian in a relationship may only be able to get off on clit stimulation and may be repulsed by penetrative sex, while her partner prefers penetrative sex, even though their sexual orientations match up they have different sexual needs). On the topic of libido there are so many factors that influence libido, including just base level, as well as environmental factors, such as trying times at work or medications that someone may need to take. I may be misreading you, but from what I understand if you have been in a relationship with a woman for years and she starts taking a medication that causes her to have lower or no sex drive you would terminate the relationship on the assumption that she could no longer satisfy your needs, which in turn makes me wonder if you have the capability of emotionally satisfying your partners, given that you have a list of uncompromisable deal breakers. I agree with your desire for transparency in relationships, and yes this is in some ways especially important when it comes to sex, however it is clear that you have a narrow minded view of the desires of people who have different sexual desires/needs than you. Just because a person is asexual it does not mean that they won’t be able to satisfy you without you traumatizing them and this mindset and misunderstanding is a huge contributing factor in asexuals not coming out, the belief that people will leave them because of their sexuality is, as far as I’m aware, pretty prevalent. Also while in some cases a comparison between an allo/ace relationship and a het/gay relationship may be valid and helpful, it illustrates your limited understanding of ace people, and potentially also your understanding of the gay people who are in straight relationships and then come out, such individuals may see the relationship in incredibly different ways, have very different emotional connections with their partners, etc. You display quite formidably your lack of understanding of human individuality in your eagerness to apply umbrella terms to people and not attempt to understand the terms you are so liberally using. This is especially curious because I feel like you must have realized by now that everyone’s sexual orientation, even if it neatly falls into a preexisting label, is unique to every single person (the reasons why you identify the way you do, what lead you to realizing your identity, how it relates to the rest of your life, etc may be similar to what other people experience, but will not line up perfectly with every individual who identifies the same way, and that doesn’t make either person’s understanding of their identity wrong). For the sake of those who interact with you I would encourage you to try to learn more about what you are talking about before making generalizations about other people/groups of people and to maybe not be so rigid in your expectations of people, but hey I’m just a stranger on the internet and maybe I’ve misunderstood you.

        • If this was directed at me, yes, you’ve completely misunderstood me. Of course I realize that nothing is perfect and no two people are compatible. As for dealbreakers? There are plenty of things I’d rather not put up with in relationships but, because, again, nothing is perfect. I restrict the ones I don’t compromise on to huge stuff, like religion, closets, kids, and politics. That’s it, really. Also, I am pretty comfortable being single and playing the field, so I am less likely to lower my standards than, say, someone who is on the hunt for a life partner.

          In short, yes, I understand individuality, and that sexuality is a spectrum. Please don’t make assumptions about who a person is based on a few comments in a thread on the internet. It is not helpful, and, in this case, completely inaccurate.

          Note: disregard this post if this wasn’t directed at me.

          • This wasn’t solely directed at you, but it was in part (it was mainly directed at anyone who was possibly being acephobic or just not understanding things about ace people), and rereading it I’d like to apologize for making assumptions about you, that was in no way my original intent and I sort of got derailed as I was writing and again I’m sorry about that. Really what I wanted to do was talk about how asexuality doesn’t necessarily mean sex repulsed and then 2:30 am internet ranting ensued (not an excuse, but a semi explanation). It’s good that you know your needs and are comfortable expressing them (I’m not sure if I came across as trivializing sexual needs/desires, but that was not at all what I wanted so to be safe I’m clarifying here), and yes some deal breakers can’t really be compromised on (the kids one stands out). Sorry again about the assumptions.

        • Thank you so much for the apology. I also appreciate that I hurriedly typed that out in a bit of a tizzy and hit submit without thinking, so I apologize as well.

          I also abhor acephobia, or prejudice of any kind. However, I think, due to the fact that differing libidos in relationships do cause problems, this is a very complicated issue. A very sexual person dating an asexual person, or any person who has a low sex drive, is impractical. Can it work? Sure, sometimes. It really depends on the individuals involved. But, normally, we’d say someone is [insert group here]phobic if they refuse to date that entire group of people. Here, I don’t think it is prejudice, but, rather, being in tune with one’s needs and being practical about what will and won’t work in a relationship.

          Also, I used to be that chic who gave anyone who liked me a chance. As a result of having no definitive standards, I found myself in some pretty disastrous relationships. I even dated a woman with kids once, and I can’t stand children. In other words, I didn’t come by the dealbreakers I do enforce lightly, and I am more than willing to compromise on the ones that can be compromised on (for instance, I’d date a woman who is not out at work, or who hasn’t told her homophobic family on the other side of the country. I’d also date a woman who had some supernatural/god belief, just since it wasn’t permeating our day to day lives and she wasn’t a fundamentalist holy rolling type who went to church all the time and that jazz. So, I’m not as rigid as I might have originally come off.

          Re: acephobia- I haven’t seen any of the usual prejudice thrown around about asexuals in this thread- ie, I haven’t seen anyone calling asexual people frigid or broken or any of the other hurtful nonsense that tends to happen. In fact, I’ve seen allosexual people, including myself, go out of their/our way to make sure the aces in the thread knew that we didn’t think any of those ignorant things about them.

          • Apology accepted 🙂 this is absolutely a tricky issue, and for me acephobia was not meant to say that people were being outrightly acephobic and saying the things you just listed, I was thinking more along the lines of the subtle things that any repressed group (as probably all of us here are aware) undergoes (specifically generalizations). This thread has been interesting because of the sheer number of issues being talked about. It’s nice to see these discussions actually happen somewhere

      • Nopes, there’s nothing wrong with ace/allo relationships on principle and i did not say there is. There’s everything wrong with relationships failing to acknowledge their participants fully, in this case as sexual/asexual. And yea i compared the latter to sewage jelly and rightly so – and yea the Boyd school statussexuals/inertiasexuals and the clingy straight sides of every case of coming out gay while in relationship, i cut that jolly company in on the deal too. Was that also wrong?

        • ~Yeah, right you just said ace/allo relationships were “like a culture of green cock-rot with a side of slime-wank layered cake” like it was a GOOD thing.~ Jesus. Lying about what you just fucking said doesn’t work so well when it’s still right there above.

          And no, comparing ace/allo relationships to m/f het/gay relationships isn’t remotely okay or accurate either.

          • Actually, comparing het/gay relationships to ace/allo relationships is completely valid. Not being with someone who does not meet your needs is bad for everyone involved.

            Personally, as a very sexual allosexual person, asexuality is a dealbreaker like all of my other dealbreakers. I wouldn’t date someone who has an aversion to sex just like I won’t date someone who wants or has kids, or someone who votes Republican, or someone who is still in the closet, or someone who believes in the Abrahamic god. I know what I want and need in relationships. That is a very healthy thing. I don’t know what it is you have against allosexual people, Impish, but it is your reactions and hostility in this thread that have been unhealthy, not our awareness of our needs. Peace out.

          • Imp: with total respect and absolutely nothing against you, the words ‘non-open’ were important in what i was trying to say. I did NOT make an unquantified comparison of ace/allo relationships to claptastic guttersludge. Sexual mismatch with no acknowledgement and adjustments is legit grounds for breakup, on either side – i am not singling out asexual folks. It means equally that ace people should not be pressured into sex – and allo people should not be shamed into ‘patience and being considerate’. As someone very much aware of intersectional oppression you would know that the ‘who makes the compromise in a relationship’ is a contest won by the one with the higher position in society and best social network.

            Shannon: Thank you and i very much agree to what you’re saying. While for me almost no dealbreakers are absolute – but they ALL require acknowledgement and real, tangible, non-talk workarounds – and still have a chance of failing. So not acting on a dealbreaker never should be a rule, always an exception.

        • Serena: Replying to the bottom comment up here because there is no reply button on that comment. Thank you so much. I think we all have things we’d rather not put up with in relationships, but are willing to compromise on, as a big part of relationships are compromise and respect for one another’s individuality. I’ve narrowed my absolute dealbreakers down to 4: closets, religion, kids, politics. Now, religion and closets I’ll compromise on. For instance, if someone has some innocuous belief, but it doesn’t impact our lives on a day to day basis. But fundies and holy rollers? Hell no. I have a very painful past with that, and it is almost traumatizing for me. Same with closets- I know that the reality is that being out isn’t a possibility for some people, especially in certain situations. Say, if she isn’t out at work, or to her family who lives bunches of miles away, fine. But if she’s having them visit and introducing me as her roommate? No dice. Things like that. Again, thanks.

  19. I have a question, my gf and I have been together for a year now and it seemed like our sex life was great most of it,but now its like she’d rather use a vibrater than me touch her and it’s starting to make me feel inadequate,, but she’s telling me its not me. That her medication is making loss sensitivity and that’s why she has to use the vibrated…I’m just really confused and hurt by this and she means everything to me ..my whole world..I’ve given to her…and also she’s starting to get short with me and often puts me down and acts like she just can’t stand me..and acts as if she’s above me….

    • I’m a person who needs that kind of strong stimulation. It is 100% not you, babe. Is she ok with you using the vibrator on her? Or other types of sexual touching while she uses it on herself?

      However, the second half of your comment worries me more. Acts like she can’t stand you?! That’s not something you need to tolerate in a relationship! I’d talk to her and figure out what the hell that’s all about. And if she’s not able to stop putting you down… it’s probably time to get gone, alas.

    • I can’t speak to your specific situation, but as someone who has been on/is sort of still on but trying not to be anymore medication whose side effects include making it nearly impossible to finish I can say that it isn’t you at all. Maybe the emotional stuff is coming from her feeling like she’s inadequate, or it could be other side effects of the medication (for me it’s antidepressants that cause the side effects and those can also lead to quite a few mood/personality side effects). It’s good that she seems comfortable telling you her needs, so you might want to try talking about your own needs and bring up the behaviour changes, it’s likely that she’s aware of how she’s acting and it has an actual cause. Best of luck!

    • It doesn’t have to be you or the vibrator it can be both! As her if she’d like you to be in charge of the heavy duty Hitachi. Incorporating vibrators in partner play is great! You can still have intimacy even if you’re not doing the kinds of acts you think you’re supposed to be doing. Do it all!

      Maybe this is TMI but I like to often be in charge of my own clit stimulation but that doesn’t mean I’m not SUPER into all the other things my partner might be doing/helping me with.

  20. I can’t tell whether I’m sad because this article made me realize that (whether or not this has anything to do with the sexuality of the girlfriend) relationships between an ace and allosexual person are really difficult to work out or if I’m happy that it led to thoughtful conversations about asexuality in the comments

  21. It’s pretty anti-asexual to say that what distinguishes a relationship with a friend from a relationship with a girlfriend is sex and to describe sex as a “fundamental human need”—suggesting that asexuals are lacking in a fundamental human quality. I agree with the overall opinion that sexual compatibility is very important in a relationship and that it appears to be absent here, but the framing of it was kind of harsh toward asexuality.

    • I noticed she said fundamental human need for most people (which to me is more problematic in that it presents allosexuality as the norm as opposed to ignored asexuality), also stating that sex is usually needed in a healthy relationship “between two allosexuals”, so I think that while some parts of it may have come across as anti-asexual, that was anything but the intent.

      • Mostly what I mean is that this was a specific article about a specific couple, and that as such Riese definitely did what she could to make it more ace-inclusive, and if it wasn’t then people are allowed to be upset, but the original intent of the post was not about asexuality.

    • What if we interpreted that “fundamental human need” comment as being a fundamental need for a *fulfilling* sex life? So for some people, a fulfilling sex life means a lot of sex… for others, it means a little sex… for still others, it means no sex.

      Does that change things?

      (Also, I think it’s worth quoting the word before the contentious statement: “your fundamental human need for sex.” (emphasis mine) I think that does change the meaning somewhat. It’s not a universal human need for sex – it’s a urgent need for this particular human being.)

  22. Dear fellow aces floundering the comments:

    Please don’t forget that asexuality is a spectrum. Some asexual folks are sex-repulsed, some aren’t, some masturbate, some don’t, some have sex & love it, some have sex & are just “eh” about it, some don’t have sex ever, some are highly interested in non-intercourse physical intimacy, others aren’t, etc, etc. Asexual refers to a lack of [or severely different kind of] sexual attraction [compared to allosexual folks]; it doesn’t just equal zero sex and a doomed future with any allosexual person.

    The querent’s girlfriend is not necessarily asexual, and even if she is that doesn’t mean this advice applies to all ace/allo partnerships. Please don’t immediately fear for your future based on this advice! As Riese has repeated in comments, this is a question about a specific relationship that has been going on for more than a decade, where both parties have communicated and even took action (like counseling) to reach a more mutual compromise. Taking into consideration the type of relationship/history that was described by the querent, I think Riese’s advice is accurate and important. If you’ve already tried all the avenues of compromise available, it’s time to trying compromising with someone else.

    Ace/allo relationships are totally possible and sustainable and mind-blowing. We may be invisible, but we are not unlovable. <3

  23. NEW IDEA what if AS did a roundtable on asexuality by people who identify as on the ace spectrum. It would clarify some questions people have, show multiple perspectives of people who fall on multiple places on the spectrum, and it could increase visibility. I’m aware AS has a TON on its plate right now but maybe keep this in mind for future reference?

  24. First time I’ve felt compelled to comment here, though I’ve been reading for quite some time… This is just sooooo eariliy similar to my own current situation. My wife and I have been together 10 years, married for 3, and no sex within the last several years — except for a few times that felt completely obligatory/like I was getting sympathy sex after expressing how incredibly undesirable & unwanted I felt (how fun! what a turn-on!). We have a stressful home life due to one of her family members living with us, not to mention me in grad school & her running a business, which doesn’t help, and have also tried counseling to no avail. I too feel those feelings of love & caring, but at the same time, feeling like my self esteem is completely in the toilet & like there must be something wrong with me to be so undesired. I’m in my early 30’s now & totally scared shitless at the prospect of being alone, starting over, untangling finances and homes and pets…or that I’ll make the wrong decision and regret it if I leave. I feel like I married her for better or worse, perhaps I just haven’t tried hard enough to make it work, maybe I ask too much, maybe I’m a nagging bitch…but another part of me knows that the resentment, disappointment, and discontent are almost at the point of propelling me out the door… So, all this to say, I think “you cannot be satisfied by somethinng unsatisfying,” may just need to be my new mantra for awhile…

  25. Relationships between aces/sexuals can work. Me and my girlfriend are an example.

    Ever since my girlfriend got her SRS over a year ago, she has defined herself as asexual because her sex drive, which was never that high to begin with, practically nonexistent now. And I, the sex drive haver, am the one who doesn’t really mind much.

    I dont have a problem with it because I dont assume that her lack of sex drive has anything to do with me. This keeps me from driving myself crazy and keeping added pressure off my gf. And my gf is already struggling with a lot of internal pressure to have sex more so added pressure would only make things worse. I have a vibrator and if I wanted to I could find an additional partner to have sexual relations with, so Im good.

    Having a pressure free bedroom really is key to getting her comfortable enough to engage in any kinds of sexy times. She is usually nervous at the start, so we cuddle and I comfort her by repeating telling her how that there is no pressure for her to do anything, she can stop whenever she feels like, etc.

    This will probably seem like a lot of work for most sexuals, that’s because I am an outlier when it comes to how I view sex.

    I don’t value sex highly at all in relationships. I regard it slightly higher than any other basic need compatibility, which is still pretty darn low. I understand on a logically level how other people care about sex more (higher drives than me, brainwashed by the media that it is the most important thing ever, etc) but emotionally I still can’t help by get confused when people dump their partners over sex.

    To me its like dumping your partner over them not liking Indian food or because they wont let you go into the bathroom while they are pooping. That is not to say that anyone else should not dump their partners over sex, but I personally just cannot begin to give any amount of fucks over it.

    There is hope for you yet aces!

      • It can definitely happen. I’m actually another example. I’m an allosexual and the first (and so far only) time I fell in love was with a woman who, while not identifying with the label asexual, preferred not to have sex with anyone. The lack of sex wasn’t an issue for me and I was happier than I’d been in quite a long time and my life was full of cuddles and kisses and I was heartbroken when it ended.

        Basically, don’t let the people who think sex is somehow necessary for a happy relationship involving an allo get you down. Some of us just don’t see it as our first priority in a relationship.

      • Still can, by yourself. Masturbation still exists, shocking, i know. Even if it’s not the home-cooked feast prepared by your partner, like you really wanted.

        (If your partner DOES expect you to never ever masturbate, even where they don’t have to see it, that IS bizarrely fucked up and controlling.)

        • This is not really fair though because masturbation and partner sex are totally, totally, totally different ballgames. I personally think that yes I would be ok with just masturbation if everything else in the relationship was fulfilling enough but I completely get why that might not be the case for other people who need that strong sexual connection with another person to feel fulfilled.

    • I’m with you on being an outlier in not seeing a lack of sex as a dealbreaker (but also not being asexual). I felt like I really learned something reading through these comments, because while I realized a partner not ever wanting sex would be a dealbreaker for some people, I’m honestly surprised how many straddlers are saying it would be a dealbreaker for them, though maybe that is more a matter of who is commenting on this article.

    • Yeah, considering that my gf and I stopped having sex altogether like 8 months before we broke up, and I still didn’t want to break up and had thought to myself that I’d be perfectly fine with “taking care of myself” and not needing to have sex with her, I can put myself in this category too, as someone who isn’t asexual but would be open to a relationship with little or no partner sex. But on the other hand I totally get that it’s a dealbreaker for other people who have a really high sex drive and I don’t really think it can compare to different tastes in food.

    • Yeah same.

      I feel like there should be a You Need Help about teaching people to not take being turned down for sex as a personal insult, jesus. I sure understand being insecure and feeling inadequate, but turning around and blaming that on a partner for saying no is fucked up.

  26. when i saw the title of this article i was pretty intrigued, being asexual and in a relationship (about two and a half years now) where my partner wants sex more than i do, but reading it made me kind of sad and upset.

    a couple people already mentioned it, but calling sex a “fundamental human need” is kind of weird and alienating to a lot of asexual and/or sex-repulsed people.

    and i know this is advice for a specific couple, and if they’ve been to counseling and tried other things, i do maybe agree that they should break up. i understand that this can be an unreconcilable difference in some relationships but for a lot of people there are ways to solve the problem – non-sexual intimacy (some examples here), open relationships, masturbation, sex toys, one person kissing/cuddling while the other masturbates, etc, are all options. i definitely recommend talking out with your partner(s) what everyone’s boundaries are and what everyone likes. as with any relationship, communication is key and if you talk things out you can often find ways to compromise so everyone is happy.

    i am definitely really happy to see so many other aces in the comments! hello ace friends!

  27. Intellectually, I know this was not the intention and I understand this is advice to a specific couple (whose actual problem might be communication more than the sex drive part?), still reading this made me really sad. But I’m happy to see quite a few fellow aces in the comments. Essentially, I just signed up to say: “Hi guys!” 🙂

  28. I love this exchange of comments. Thanks to all of you! I have learned a lot, emotionally, about those of you who would put yourselves in the “asexual” group! I hope all of you find happiness with a woman who loves you just the way you are! 🙂

  29. I think people are losing the message of this answer. Yes, sometimes people have mismatched libidos, and yes, sometimes this can be due to one of the partners being asexual…etc. The biggest thing in a relationship is *honest* communication with their partner and themselves, especially when things are not going well.

    90% of the time, one person loses interested because they’re not as into you as they were before. Most relationships don’t last solely for that reason. The sad part about this is, people convince themselves that they still love this person, and that’s enough reason to stay, despite the fact that they’re clearly not right for each other anymore. Yes, you can still love them, and probably always will, but that does not make you a good match. You have to be honest with yourself, and your partner regarding how you really feel about that other person and what needs you must have fulfilled to be able to stay in the relationship. Just because you’ve been together for a long time, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it, despite what you’ve “invested”. People change, people’s needs change…etc. I’m not sure why people have started to treat relationships like 401k’s.

    So that’s essentially what I got out of this article. It isn’t anti-ace or anything like that, I think that Riese picked up on what was clear from this girl’s question, which was that they were trying to force something that didn’t work anymore. “Deep care” versus “in love” makes a big difference and it has nothing to do with libido. They also tried counseling, which didn’t yield any favorable results either.

    I guess my point is, communicate, be honest with yourself and your partner, and whatever your libido is, you can make it work if the other person is on the same page. As long as everyone’s expectations are out in the open and you talk about your *true* feelings, that’s the best you can ever do. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, despite the time and effort you put into a relationship and THAT’S OKAY. Don’t beat yourself up, just learn from it and move on.

    • I really like this comment. I feel like we got off track, though I am glad that the asexuality conversation happened.

      I think people should realize that Autostraddle is not anti ANY orientation. This is one of those things that I think brings forth one of those what I like to call “uncomfortable truths”: the fact that mismatched libidos, whether it is due to one partner’s asexuality or not, is a huge problem in relationships. For many people it is a dealbreaker and it does mean the end. That isn’t to slam asexuality, it is just the truth. And expecting regular sex and/or a healthy sexual relationship in an intimate partner situation is in no way an unreasonable expectation. If those-or any other- needs are not being met, then, if a solution cannot be found, it is best to end it.

    • Anybody who wants a relationship that actually lasts, someone to grow old with etc. will have to face up to the fact that it is very, very likely one or both of you will “not be as in to each other” at times during that relationship. And yes, count me as one of the people who thinks the investment of time that you have put in with someone should actually mean something (unless you’re really unhappy overall, then it’s not worth it). Personally I don’t want a partner who’s just going to walk away as soon as things aren’t all fucking sparkly anymore, I want a LIFE PARTNER who understands what is realistic to expect. Desire wanes and if you want to keep it alive you might have to actually work at it. Sorry if this sounds like I am taking my frustration out on your comment but I have just had my heart put through the meat grinder by someone I thought I was going to be with forever.

        • Of course there is a limit, that’s why I said in my aside that if you’re overall unhappy it isn’t worth it. But I think there are a hell of a lot more idealistic messages out there about relationships than realistic ones and as someone who would rather find steady long-term happiness than chase after fireworks all the time I find this frustrating.

      • “Personally I don’t want a partner who’s just going to walk away as soon as things aren’t all fucking sparkly anymore, I want a LIFE PARTNER who understands what is realistic to expect.”

        You and I are on the same page there! This is hugely important to me as well. Sorry for your recent break up 🙁 Hang in there, I believe the right ones will come along!

  30. Fascinating and thoughtful discussion! But hey, sometimes I feel like discussions around long-term relationships and sexual incompatibility treat monogamy as a preferable norm, as the assumed basis of marriage/partnership. Granted, this letter writer was clear about not wanting to have an open relationship — but maybe it would be useful to know why that’s not an option here. And I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned the open relationship / polyamory / non-monogamy option. One or more of those 3 options (they’re different) might allow this letter writer to stay in her happy relationship while still finding joy and pleasure in sex and sexuality. There’s a middle ground here. Or maybe I just want to see more discussions about polyamory (and its ilk) on this site! (I’m reading “More Than Two” and liking it, but wishing it wasn’t so heteronormative — wanting to see more about this from a queer angle.) As always, thanks for being super smart, everybody. So much fun to read and learn from this community! I like the diversity of ideas and honesty.

    • I was kind of wondering that as well, but I think this is just a response to this OP’s specific problem, and perhaps she just isn’t oriented to be able to accept open relationships. Personally, I can be either monogamous or open with a primary partner (meaning, sex outside the relationship is fine, but we’re not bringing anyone else in as a third).

    • They’ve actually done articles that have addressed those options. I think Reise posted links to them somewhere ( I had to google it because I don’t remember which one http://www.autostraddle.com/moving-beyond-lesbian-bed-death-and-bridging-the-libido-gap-216151/ but it was addressed). I personally feel like given the amount of effort that the writer put into making the relationship work- doing counseling and talking about open relationships with her partner, it could come off as critical to raise the issue again (like she should have tried harder) or make the writer feel unheard. There are many articles on autostraddle that address non-traditional relationships, but I feel that the reply to this letter was an appropriate reply to *this letter.*

  31. I agree with Riese’s assessment of the OP’s problem: in this situation, the mismatched libido issue is killing the relationship, neither partner seems actively passionate even in a non-sexual context, and years of counseling and communication are not helping.

    Even if the other partner is asexual–which is possible but not known–the OP should not feel obligated to continue an unhappy relationship and it does not mean that ALL ace/allo partnerships are doomed.

    I am one of those people who needs a lot of sex in my relationship. I am very, very, very actively sexual, and that does play a huge role in determining my attractions and my happiness. I have never been romantically attracted to someone who I was not first sexually attracted to. So for me, I know that a relationship with an asexual person probably wouldn’t work. I am monogamous and don’t want an open relationship, and masturbation doesn’t satisfy me on the same level as partnered sex. I don’t see whether one of us likes sex or not as being akin to what food we each like or different tastes in books and movies. For me, sex is a fundamental part of a relationship, and something that I need to be happy. For the record, I am also very much into kink and I don’t know if I could make a relationship with a non-adventurous, completely vanilla person work, either. And that’s my prerogative. No one should ever feel like they have to date someone with differing values or goals, someone they’re not attracted to, or someone of a different orientation. As a sexual person, I don’t feel like I’ve been somehow brainwashed into my sexuality and I would never, ever disrespect another person’s boundaries by pressuring them into sex.

    Not desiring to date someone is not the same as being prejudiced against them. I don’t accuse straight girls of being homophobic if they don’t want to date me. While I know I would not be happy with an ace person, I also don’t feel like they should be made to feel abnormal, pathologized, or stigmatized for a lack of libido. Demisexuals absolutely should have the right to wait until they are comfortable with a partner to have sex. Just because that kind of relationship wouldn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for another couple with differing sex drives. Every person is different and has the right to decide what kind of relationship they want and what needs they need met–you do you.

  32. So I’m an allosexual person who felt really hurt by some of the comments from asexuals in here.

    I am in a relationship with a libido gap. We’re working on coming to an understanding of what each of us needs to do to ensure a healthy sex life for both of us, but I’m not going to lie – it’s really hard and sometimes extremely painful. And my other half isn’t asexual… I can’t imagine how hard it would be if she was!

    I noticed something interesting in many of the comments – this idea that our culture makes it seem like everyone is having this extensive sex life and you need one too to feel fulfilled. And I can see how that might be the case for someone with lower sexual needs than mine!

    HOWEVER. The ways in which our culture is fucked up about sex is complicated and sometimes contradictory. I also see a stream (one repeated in the comments here!) that sex shouldn’t be an important part of a relationship, that if you want more sex than you’re getting that you’re greedy and maybe even a bit rapey. While I would never say that anyone has an absolute expectation to get sex or that anyone should be having non-consensual sex, relationships do involve compromise and sometimes people in relationships might need to push to the edge of their sexual comfort zones for the sake of the relationship.

    When you are a sexual person, constantly being turned down for sex can do a number on your self esteem. Sometimes it can feel like the other person doesn’t love you or finds you repulsive. And that is goddamn painful.

    I feel like the asexual/allosexual divide is being seen as an adversarial relationship here – I don’t think that needs to be the case. And if two people are at extreme ends of that spectrum, they probably shouldn’t be dating each other! 😉 I think the core takeaway here is that clear and honest communication about sex is key to everyone getting as much or as little sex as they need.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! I’ve felt pretty invalidated and hurt by some of the comments from asexual people here as well, specifically with the suggestion that there is something wrong with sex being a fundamental human need, as stated in the article. Well, for some of us, it is, and is is quite hurtful to suggest that there is something wrong with that, or that there is something wrong with needing/wanting someone to be upfront about asexuality. I do want people to be upfront about that because, guess what? I could never date someone with low/no sex drive and be happy and fulfilled. Sex less than twice a week? No dice, sorry. And I don’t think that is an unreasonable expectation.

      • I don’t think any of the aces here were saying there’s anything wrong with YOU needing sex, or implying that you don’t actually need it, or trying to devalue your personal need for it. In fact, I personally appreciate your candidness – both allos and aces need to be up front right from the start if they foresee a compatibility problem, and your experience with your asexual ex was unfair and frustrating.

        The thing with the phrase “fundamental human need,” though, is that FUNDAMENTAL human needs are things like oxygen, food and water – things all humans, universally, cannot survive without. That’s what makes it fundamental.

        The need of any individual for more or less sex – which is absolutely a valid, physical need! – is more like, for example, how someone with SAD needs warm weather and sunshine to feel healthy. It’s just a physical need for something that keeps the body healthy. Just as some people need more sex to feel healthy, some people NEED warm weather and sunshine to feel healthy. Some people are fine with all the seasons as they are, in whatever climate they live in (these might be analogous to some of the allos who posted their relationships with aces, where sex is a non-issue or easily managed). Some people *prefer* summer, might even feel slightly blue in the winter, but can survive. But many people become so sick in the winter that they simply *have* to live in a climate that is warm and sunny year-round for their health.

        [And some people, in more rare cases (probably just like asexuality), get the SAD symptoms in the summer and need to be in a cold, rainy climate to feel healthy. (This is real! It’s why I moved from California to Oregon XD)]

        Libido is a scale, just like seasonal affectedness is a scale. It’s not universal. Each person needs to obey their own body’s nature, which is based on *individual* physical needs, to keep themselves healthy and happy.

        I think the reason so many aces took umbrage with the “fundamental human need” phrase is that it’s a loaded phrase – those three words, used together, carry the implication of a “normal” form of sexuality – that asexuals have to deal with time and time again. Dehumanization and erasure is a major issue for aces. We’re so used to hearing “you’re not right, you’re broken, you’re repressed, you’re lying, asexuality doesn’t really exist, why can’t you be normal,” that seeing something that literally is *not* a fundamental – universal – human need be defined as such is just another emphasis of that dehumanization and erasure.

        It’s not that aces think allos shouldn’t have that need for sex, or that it’s not real. Sex is a valid need for sexual people. It is a true physical need. Denying that need can be dangerous to your health and well-being. But it’s not a *fundamental* *human* need, something universal that defines the whole of humanity.

        I do realize, after seeing some of the other comments, that the phrase could be taken two ways. Reading it the second way (as a sex-positive reassurance to counteract sexual stigmas/culture police) makes sense, and I realize that offense of aces wasn’t the intent. I just think most of the aces here wish maybe another sex-positive phrase of encouragement could have been found, that didn’t inadvertently emphasize one version of sexuality being more right than the other.

        I completely agree with you (and pretty much everyone else here) that it’s very important for every person to try as much as possible to be aware of their own needs, and be honest in defining them to potential partners to the best of their ability. (If someone is genuinely questioning, of course, there’s really no way to figure it out without blundering through it, and I don’t think that could be considered dishonesty.)

        That goes for allos as well as aces. Just as an ace needs to be upfront to her potential allo mate, the allo needs to be upfront right off the bat if sex is going to be an issue. I think that was the other fear that all the aces were expressing based on this question – “what if my allo partner *says* it’s okay, but 10 years down the road, it turns out that it wasn’t? What if *I’m* the one who was honest, and I’m still the one who’s left?”

        And I think that’s a lot of why tempers are flying so much over this issue right now – you got burned by an ace who was dishonest; most of the aces here are fearing we’ll be burned by an allo who’s not honest, either. As disappointing and frustrating as it is to have a relationship go nowhere because of sexual incompatibility, it’s better to figure that out right away than to have one partner lie about something being okay when it’s not. And I think that all the allos and the aces on this thread are on the same page about that. I don’t think we’re trying to hurt each other, we’re just all scared, in our own ways, of BEING hurt, and might be lashing out because of that fear. 🙂

        • Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this comment.

          Also, thank you for bringing up the fear of abandonment that I think is pretty prevalent for a lot of us aces. Because I think a lot of us do have experiences with allos who think that not having sex (either ever or very infrequently) won’t be an issue with them and they turn out to be wrong about that part of themselves (and I can’t call that being dishonest about things because they were being as honest as they could be! and that’s the most frustrating part, imo). And that’s hard and frustrating for everyone involved and I don’t think anyone is trying to demonize allos for needing sex and underestimating their need for it, but I think a lot of aces are frustrated and scared and sometimes things come out wrong (or at least not-great).

    • I totally agree, and since I don’t really want to reply to everyone’s repulsion to Riese’s comment on sex being a “fundamental human need”, I’ll do it here since it’s relevant:

      The fact that allosexual people want and need sex is something that is incredibly policed in our society in terms of who gets to have sex, and how that sex is considered valid. I read Riese’s comment as an assurance that it is totally within your right as an allosexual person to want sex. There is nothing wrong with wanting more sex than your partner, just as there is nothing wrong with wanting less sex than your partner (especially if this means you are asexual).

      • I think the issue was with the phrasing. The idea that sex is a “human need”, as opposed to something that some humans need to feel fulfilled in a romantic relationship, suggests that there is something less than fully human about asexual and demisexual people. I didn’t take it that way and totally get that it wasn’t Reise’s intention to suggest that, but I also understand why a lot of people were upset. I don’t think any one in the comments meant to suggest that there is anything wrong with wanting to have sex!

          • It does, and I think a lot of us missed the “your.” It’s hard because on the one hand, we have a group that is used to having to deflect negative attitudes about female sexual experiences, and then a subset of that group that is used to having to battle against identity erasure, and each group might not be thinking about the context of the other. A phrase that, when read one way, is empowering to women, is, without that pronoun, a phrase that inadvertently could be read as damaging to another group. We may be pre-inclined to see a sentence like that and think, “oh boy, here we go again,” missing that context-changing “your.” But I think intent means a lot, and it’s good to know/important to remember that wasn’t the intent of the phrase. 🙂

    • Actually, the sexual feelings (most) ace people don’t have were described as a “fundamental human need,” implying that (most) aces are less than human.

      Aces have been described as inhuman, absurd, denying sex, and that relationships with them are like “green cock-rot with a side of slime-wank layered cake”. But YOU feel hurt! Because… one allosexual person said sex wasn’t that important to her in a relationship? That’s literally the only thing I’ve seen remotely matching your claims about ~mean aces calling you greedy.~

      Unless youre affronted by the mere fact of people saying that sex is NOT a need, and that pressuring people to have sex they don’t want is completely unacceptable, on which note…

      “sometimes people in relationships might need to push to the edge of their sexual comfort zones for the sake of the relationship.”

      You know, up until you, no one actually had described anyone as rapey, but for describing yourself you reeeeeally hit the nail on the head.

      “When you are a sexual person, constantly being turned down for sex can do a number on your self esteem. Sometimes it can feel like the other person doesn’t love you or finds you repulsive. And that is goddamn painful.”

      IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU NO, AND YOU TAKE IT AS A PERSONAL ATTACK AND FEEL HURT BY IT, YOU NEED TO FUCKING WORK THAT OUT FOR YOURSELF.

      SOMEONE TURNING DOWN SEX IS NOT THEM HARMING YOU. IF YOU THINK THE MERE FACT OF SOMEONE REFUSING SEX IS WRONGING YOU, YOU ARE SAYING THEY DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO SAY NO, AND YES YOU ARE RAPEY AS FUCK.

      • Yeah but you don’t have the duty to stay in a relationship with a person who always says no to you either. You’re not entitled to sex, but they’re also not entitled to your love, care and commitment. A lot of aces don’t really seem to get this and act as though leaving a relationship because you want to be with someone who you feel actually desires you is a horrible thing to do and apparently not only acephobic but also just like being a rapist.

          • Okay that was rude iPhone. I meant to say no one should feel obligated to stay in a relationship where their needs aren’t met…allo/ace or otherwise. That doesn’t make anyone a rapist or wrong for feeling what they feel.

        • @Andrea, that’s my thing here. There seems to be an under (over?) tone of the duty of sexual people to stay in relationships with people who don’t/won’t have sex. Sorry, I’ll personally never do that and I’ll never think it is my responsibility to do that. Thank you for stating this. It isn’t my fault if someone refuses to tell me at the beginning that she is sex- repulsed, asexual, or in any way has an aversion to sex. If that comes out later, I leave, and I leave without guilt.

      • Let me clarify what I meant with that sexual comfort zone comment, because I really didn’t word it well and I think you ended up in a completely different place than I intended.

        Say you can put sexual desire on a high-low spectrum. (You can’t, really, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say you can.)

        Let’s say we have a couple. One partner ranges on the spectrum between a little sex and some sex. The other partner ranges from some sex to all the sex. For both partners to have a fulfilling sex life, they’re going to have to compromise and have some sex. Both partners are still within their sexual comfort zones, but at the edge of those comfort zones.

        A couple whose sexual needs are fixed at opposite ends of that spectrum just isn’t going to be able to have a fulfilling sex life for either partner without opening the relationship up.

        I hope that clarifies things a bit! I really feel strongly that consent is important in every relationship and I feel terrible that it didn’t come across in my comment.

      • She never said that someone shouldn’t have the right to say “no.” I think that goes in hand with the solution of the article to be that they break up if their sexual needs are incompatible. I personally would not want to be with someone who didn’t want sex, not because I would feel unattractive but because its something that is important to me. If I had a partner to did not want to have sex, I would not pressure them, but I also would not feel obligated to stay in a relationship with them.
        I can imagine that if you don’t have the desire to have sex, it would be hard to understand how important it can be for someone else. I personally am not wired to want to have sex with someone with a penis. But i know that other people do. And it would be wrong for me to shame someone who isn’t attracted to me, and it would be wrong of someone else to shame me for not being attracted to them. However, its not wrong to want to be in a relationship with someone who is attracted to you, its not wrong to want to be in a sexual relationship.
        In some comments, it feels like there is a degree of criticism of people who are allosexual and want to be in a monogamous sexual relationship. It also feels like some people are critical of aces and of allos who would date asexuals. Most of us on this website have a gender or sexual identity that lots of people are critical of, and many of us have been made to feel ashamed or embarrassed about who we are. I think we should all reflect on how we are talking about other people’s identities and if we are giving each other the respect that we would want others to give us.

  33. it seriously amuses me how a bunch of folks don’t actually want to have their sexuality fully (i.e. with consequences and adjustments) acknowledged and acted upon. It seems it is much more acceptable to have a non-adjusted relationship…and not have it too.

    It may indeed feel empowering and strengthen faith to have it both ways – but ultimately that form of empowerment is predicated on the other party’s belief in your right to have it both ways – or alternatively, disbelief in themselves and a favourable outcome from standing up to you.

    • A hell of a lot of people in that position dont know or fully understand their identities or desires.
      Or are in denial, feel broken, are self-loathing, etc, in part because of scum like you who say that being with them would be like “green cock-rot with a side of slime-wank layered cake”

      ~Gee, with people like you around, i can’t imagine why any ace people would be in horrible denial, afraid to come out, or desperately trying to change themselves to want sex (and failing) in order to appease their partners!

      Must be because they’re evil deceivers who want to ‘have their cake and eat it too!’~

      • Scum like me. Riiight. Wish you could look 20 years into the future. i darkly suspect you would find more of the same – yet another complete arsehole lesbro like me. Tired of counterproductive 24/7/365 fighting against an inherently hostile alien world, delegating her safety and wellbeing entirely to technology installed, and drawing first on every catch22 control pattern as a matter of preemption – just because of a conditioned dislike, just because she can and just because bite her.

        Btw i did not generalise about all ace/allo relationships, i generalised only on exclusive monogamous ones – which indeed by logic and definition require an appeasement sacrifice of one of the sides and there is no way around that – it’s that or an open relationship. I am not saying it’s the asexual people who have to make the sacrifice, but i am also most definitely not saying that sex for allos is in any sense optional and ‘no sex’ is a default position. I am suggesting to be realistic, to both sides.

  34. Some great discussions in this thread. Whenever to break up is a discussion the person needs to have with their partner, but I don’t think it has to be case. Mixed desire relationships can work, and if you guys want it to then you really need to focus on developing happiness and intimacy in the relationship(and working out if you can continue as a cou, and sorting out how to fulfil your own sexual needs. Relationships are way more than sex, I can feel way more intimate with my partner gaming, cooking, rock climbing together, than necessarily physical intimacy too. But

    • Damn phone, anyway, don’t necessarily discount non-monogamy or polyamory straight away. Maybe you do need more in a relationship, but maybe sex is just one part of it and you can still have a loving awesome relationship. There are other ways to be intimate with people, and perhaps your girlfriend is open to erotic but non sexual kind of things. She is not a problem simply by being who she is, maybe not right for you, but there’s got to be a reason you have stuck together this long.
      Good luck anyway x

  35. Most everything I could say has already been said, by dina, shannon1981, kim, emmy and many others, but I just wanna add that women, and especially queer women, have been shamed for desiring sex for most of human history and told repeatedly that sexual satisfaction isn’t something we should expect out of life or our relationships. Female sexual pleasure is censored out of mainstream film and television, and women with sexual appetites are often portrayed as parodies of themselves. So many coming out stories, even, involve women who never liked sex with their husbands, but didn’t think of that as unusual because we’d all been socialized to believe that women shouldn’t expect to enjoy sex anyhow. Feeling unwanted by your partner also can cause really deep wounds and make you super insecure! I was raised by a sex-positive hippie lesbian feminist and still sometimes have to do hours of mental gymnastics to get myself into a headspace where I feel okay about wanting. I could quote Carolyn Knapp all day on this subject but…

    this was one very specific situation shared with me from one very specific allosexual human being. as Dina and others have pointed out, I didn’t say the fundamental human need, I said your fundamental human need, because she shouldn’t be made to feel like her sexual needs are extraneous or irrelevant. (Also what paper0flowers said about my intent was spot-on) I feel like a lot of these comments seem to treat “women wanting sex with other women” as a thing our culture is totally on board with when it definitely isn’t. (Heather’s recent essay speaks to the shame around sex a lot of us grow up with.) If you spend enough time in radical queer sex-positive spaces, it might seem like this super pro-sex mentality is the norm, or a given, but it truly isn’t. Women (but rarely men) are usually told their sexual needs are ripe for compromise.

    I just want both of them (and all of you) to be happy, ultimately, and she doesn’t sound happy.

    • Unless there have been some deleted comments, literally no one here has claimed that women having sexual desires for other women as “a thing our culture is totally on board with.”

      That does not remotely change the fact that people pressuring and coercing their partners to have sex, and generally feeling entitled to sex in relationships, is a very real and indefensible problem that feeds rape culture. And the comments have been absolutely rife with it, as well as extremely dehumanizing and disgusting portrayals of ace-spectrum people. Are you going to address THAT?

      • Yo, by Riese saying “get the hell out of the relationship,” that’s preventing anyone accidentally or on purpose pressuring anybody else into having sex. Like, literally no one here thinks sex where one person is just doing it because they feel like they have to makes for good sex. ‘Cause, uh, it sure as hell doesn’t. For either party. It’s a bit of a buzzkill. You WANT the person you’re fucking to enjoy themselves. Duh.
        I’m sorry if you think that a relationship in which both parties have COMPLETELY different sex drives can work. In my opinion, that’s just totally wrong and actually dangerous.
        No one is entitled to sex. Nobody. But people are entitled to healthy relationships. And a healthy relationship cannot happen if both parties want entirely different things. Like I said below, it’s like one person wanting kids badly and the other person absolutely against it. Or one person being a die hard PETA following vegan and the other really into hunting and fishing and eating red meat. Or one person wanting the other person to be a stay at home mom and housewife when the other person actually is very career driven. No one’s entitled to having a housewife spouse, but if you can find somebody who really wants to be one, good for you. Same thing in this situation.
        Easy peasy.
        And again, I’m coming at this as someone who really only likes sex once in awhile.

      • I think the notion Riese was saying about people treating woman having sexual desires as something society is on board with wasn’t about someone saying that specifically. I think her intention was to speak to the subtext present in a lot of the discussion, from both sides.

        Some people here have been saying some fucked up things about aces, and have said some creepy things about how sex should work in a relationship. But at the same time, there is a difference between feeling entitled to sex with a specific person or in a relationship that is feeding rape culture and feeling entitled to find a partner/relationship/relationship set-up that meets the sexual needs of the individual person. After all, there’s a reason the advice was “end it” and not “just tell her to fuck you more!” (speaking in that last sentence to the original column, certain comments and their possible implications not withstanding)

  36. Ok, so it’s my opinion (My. Opinion.) that anything other than a complete lack of sexual attraction/desire (aka asexuality) is just another spot on the spectrum that is sex drives. Like, do you really “allosexuals” or non-“demisexuals” just like to bang all the time without emotional connection or whatever else? No. No no no. That’s just completely wrong.
    Again, sex drives can have a whole host of different intensities. For me, I don’t like having a lot of sex. I just don’t. I’m not asexual, or “demisexual,” or whatever else. I’m just your average human being who has some other stuff to do sometimes than fuck. No big deal. Not a giant part of my identity–and believe me, people have tried to make it part of my identity, labeled me “demisexual” and “asexual” and “greyasexual” and whatever the hell else.
    I don’t think it would be fair to the other person for me to be in a relationship with someone who wanted to have sex three or four times a week. We have different needs, and their needs are something I couldn’t meet. So, that’s where I’m at with the above situation. It’s not going to work, when someone feels like their relationship is missing something and the other person can’t fix it. You don’t want someone to have sex with you because they feel like they have to…that’s fucked up. Sure, it sucks, but it’s just like anything else. You wouldn’t date someone who wanted kids if you absolutely didn’t. You wouldn’t date someone who was big into hunting and eating meat if you were a PETA-following vegan. You wouldn’t date someone who wanted you to be a stay-at-home mom and housewife if you were super career oriented. Etc etc etc.
    I don’t know. Nobody should feel like they have to compromise in such a big way. As much as it absolutely sucks (and it fucking does…I’ve been there. Not eleven years in, though, thank god), such vastly different sex drives are NOT going to work.

    And no, to the commenters above, masturbation is not at all like fucking an actual human being. Like, have you had sex with someone before? Dear lord.

    • Yeah, the idea that self- pleasuring should be enough in a relationship is just ridiculous. No, it is nothing like fucking an actual person. A lot of the responses regarding this stuff borders on making sexual people feel guilty for not wanting to date people who can’t, won’t, or don’t have or desire sex, and I find that pretty disgusting.

  37. I think this comment thread highlights just how on edge a lot of us in the asexual community are about how we are perceived/judged.

    Like, there’s nothing (imo) in Riese’s article that reads anti- asexual or anti- ace/allo relationships. There’s actually nothing about asexuality in the article at all, unless you extrapolate that from the querent’s gf’s low libido. Although I’ll admit that, yes, I did have to read it twice to make sure, because I too thought I sensed acephobia (but that’s because I’m demi, so I’m already hypersensitive to it).

    A lot of us in the ace community are just easily triggered by phrases like “fundamental human need” (regardless of context; I do agree that the “your” is important) because they are used to deny our existence. We have far more implicit spaces to exist in than explicit ones, and so we may jump to conclusions when it seems like those implicit spaces may turn against us.

  38. I’m going to leave this here because it’s a concept that I’ve found helpful. (It’s a bit heterocentric, but the concepts are sound!) Instead of seeing libido as a high-low spectrum, this psychologist suggests it’s better to see it as a multi-dimensional group of libido types.

    http://sandrapertot.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58:understanding-mismatched-libidos&catid=37:exercises&Itemid=61

  39. I think I’m on the other end of this type of thing. My not-want-sex started after I did some video evidence for past sexual abuse. I’d managed to iron out the problems I’d had before it, but after it started with getting harder to orgasm, then I couldn’t orgasm at all(even by myself) and then I lost interest in sex.

    The worst part for me is ~starting~, usually once sex is already going I enjoy it. But it’s still difficult for our relationship.

    Unfortunately for us, we’re very mismatched as she’s got a much higher sex drive (and doesn’t like to masturbate when she’s in a relationship).

    It’s been a year and a half since this started and I’m not sure I’ll be able to fix this before our relationship ends up unrepairable. Sometimes it seems like it’s getting better for a bit and then it gets worse again. We’re both monogamous but I offered to try being open. She’d rather not though.

  40. In my experience, one partner no longer wanting to have sex is not just a problem with that individual. “She doesn’t want to have sex with me? What is wrong with her?” Maybe nothing. Maybe something’s wrong with you.

    I’ve been this girlfriend, the one who never wants to have sex. But I’m not asexual. I just like to have at least the barest amount of wooing beforehand. I’m not talking poetry and doves and 1000 roses romance, but at least making me feel warm and loved first could get things going. She might have thought she was doing that, but everything she did was what turned her on, not what turned me on. She didn’t ask me how I was feeling or what I liked. She was a selfish lover. I would go down on her for an eternity, until my whole face was on fire, then finally give up and ask if I could make her come some other way, and she’d tell me she came 4 times and just didn’t tell me. She Pavloved me into not wanting oral, giving or even receiving, as she’d never give as good as she got. I did have a much better time masturbating.

    I can do sex without romance just fine, but if someone is asking for both from me, then they have to hold up their end of things, too. Sex with bad romance is worse than sex with no romance.

    I stayed with her because I loved her, for whatever reason, but she ended things. My vagina hasn’t noticed the loss.

    So it’s possible, letter writer, that this tango is being performed by both of you. Check and see if your attempts to fix things are what you want or what she wants. She might not be suffering from a lack of desire so much as not desiring what you assume she desires. And maybe this means you’re just not right for each other and you break up and find new partners who you each are banging thrice daily until you die. Or maybe you can fix things with some tweaks, but it’s gonna take work from BOTH of you, and it starts with you no longer describing her like she’s broken.

    • This is an interesting comment. While it wasn’t sexual, I had a partner who would always situate things so that I did way more for her than she ever did for me, and she’d always expect that she was just so wonderful that nothing she did could ever be off-putting to me (which wasn’t the case). I know all about being talked about like I’m broken/messed up. It is possible that the sexual relationship could be fixed with some real communication, but it seems like the letter writer’s girlfriend may not be interested in communicating anymore, at which point there’s not much that can be done.

  41. I love this! Thank you so much Riese!!!

    I definitely related to the question because my ex NEVER wanted to have sex either, but I always did. This definitely had a huge impact on our relationship, and on me, since I still blamed myself. I always thought it was my fault — that having such an active sex drive wasn’t normal (societal expectations). But ending our relationship was the best and healthiest option!

  42. I read this article and then did a quick copy & paste and was going to email it to my gf and say, “I really hope this never happens to us because it’s really sad.” See, we’re just starting out and have been together intimately only 4 or 5 times, but today, she said she doesn’t feel comfortable with me going down on her anymore. I was kinda surprised and went away feeling sad because we’re still in the honeymoon phase! Instead of sending it, I took a moment to read all the comments and thank goodness I did because it stopped me from sending just the article to her! Gee whiz, it’s only the author’s perspective and would have sent the message that we’re doomed to fail! By reading the comments, I realize all the intricacies of a relationship and that it will take lots of patience and communication. But, if you really love someone and want to make the relationship work, then the best take-away from the article is, “Unsaid things build walls over time and will surely kill a relationship.” I’m going to take that advise and talk with my Love about the “First Brick.” Why doesn’t she feel comfortable with me going down on her and then let her know how sad it makes me feel, but that there’s no pressure, just would love for us to be comfortable, keep the communication open and hopefully, by talking about it until we both feel good, we’ll never put up that first brick in the wall. Then, when the next issue comes up, deal with that the same way, too, until we’re both feeling good. No bricks – no walls! ~Jen

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