Asexual Intimacy: Partnered Aces Share Their Experiences with Non-Sexual Intimacy

The phrase “being intimate” is too often used synonymously with “having sex.” Intimacy within romantic relationships is often reduced to being sexually active with your partner, as if that is the only way to be intimate with someone.Let’s discuss the experiences of those who are often left out of conversations about intimacy and expand our understanding of what makes a relationship – ‘romantic’ or not – an intimate one.

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What is Asexuality?

Asexuality is the term for those who experience little-to-no sexual attraction towards others, regardless of their gender. Like everything in life, asexuality exists on a spectrum, which includes:

Some of those on the ace spectrum may still experience romantic attraction towards others or desire a similar type of relationship. Those who do not experience romantic attraction are aromantic, and the aromantic spectrum uses a similar terminology to the ace spectrum.

Intimacy ≠ Sex

Equating intimacy with sex is a harmful conflation. It contributes to the misconception that a romantic relationship without sex is a bad one, and that romantic asexual relationships are less real. Courtney Lane and Royce are an asexual couple in a nine-year relationship. They have experienced insults and attacks by those who do not view their marriage as being legitimate. “People will say that we’re ‘just roommates’ or that this is a fraudulent ‘marriage of convenience.’” It can also lead people to think that asexual people, by often not participating in sex, are ‘incapable’ of intimacy and inherently “cold.”“We found romance and sex to be a chore that we performed in order to satisfy society’s demands of what is deemed as a healthy relationship,” explains Archie, who is in a relationship with their partner, Tristam. They are both on the ace and aro spectrum, and their relationship is queer-platonic; they have a committed, intimate relationship that is not romantic in nature.The conflation can also make it harder for aces to find romantic relationships. Pilar says that “a huge majority of people would rather not romantically involve themselves with an asexual person.” “They do not have the patience nor the interest to actually learn another way of intimacy that is not usual sex. It’s perfectly understandable and respectable, but it makes the dating scene harder for us.”

What can Asexual Intimacy Look Like?

Closeness

Intimacy can be found in proximity; simply sharing space with the other person. For Courtney and Royce, it is an underappreciated bedroom activity – reading. “There’s an incredible amount of closeness that can be achieved by curling up together over the same book and taking turns reading aloud to one-another.” For Bubbli, that can just mean “working on our laptops next to each other.”

Shared Activities

Katie developed a close friendship with her now queer-platonic partner after divorcing her husband. “We often go out on what others might describe as dates, like going out to dinner and a show or a museum.” For Courtney and Royce, it is non-sexual forms of play, like board and video games.

Marie is aromantic-asexual and in a polyamorous relationship, and they enjoy painting on each other nude. “It is vulnerable being partly nude and having them pay such close attention to parts of my body. The soft and gentle touch of a brush or crayon is calming, and knowing it comes from my partner highlights the deep connection.”

For Miguel, who identifies as aegosexual and is dating an asexual woman, it’s watching porn and masturbating together, each consuming content relating to their own specific kinks.

Non-sexual Contact

“I cuddle, big or little spoon, stroking the head and massaging sore joints. We enjoy kissing, but for me, more little kisses, like a forehead kiss, a quick kiss, is my favourite way to show intimacy,” says Bubbli.

Both Miguel and his partner are sex-repulsed but also enjoy other similar forms of physical contact. He is also attracted to feet and likes to give his partner foot massages. Although they do not desire sex, that is not reflective of how much physical attraction they experience towards each other. “I find her to be the most attractive woman I have ever met, and as far as I know, she also considers me to be attractive.”

Elyssa, who is asexual, has been in a romantic relationship with a pansexual woman for 10 years. “We change in front of each other, cuddle when half or not dressed, and slap or poke each other’s bottoms or breasts a lot. It’s totally nonsexual and always for fun.” They were sexually active for a while at the start of their relationship, but Elyssa expressed that it was not something she wanted to keep engaging in, “She respected my discomfort.”

Talking

“For me intimacy is more about the gesture. . . lending me a book that you think I would like, quoting some dumb thing we both know to cheer me up, etc,” says Miguel.

When Katie was married to a straight man, she said that “physical intimacy felt transactional and compulsory.” Now, her intimacy with her partner is, “shared through deep conversations, knowing each other well enough to predict how the other will react, and planning outings we will both enjoy.”

“Being told very sincerely that I’m loved is a very platonically intimate experience for me. Spending time with them in silence watching the clouds is also intimate. Really any quiet, sincere expression of love is intimacy for me,” shares Isabelle, who is aromantic-asexual.

Closing Sentiments

Asexuality can be integral to the ability of fostering a successful relationship built on intimacy, it does not have to be a limitation. As Justin puts it, “Being ace for me means expressing, exploring, and nurturing intimacy in ways that go beyond sex or sexuality. Intimacy for me is so much more than simple sexual attraction, or sexual acts. Its value and power grow out of acts of communication, vulnerability, and care for my partner.” Asexuality and intimacy do not conflict with each other. In fact, they aid each other.

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