I’m a 24-year-old girl and have never been sexually attracted to anyone. However, I would like to experience a romance.
I’ve had a couple of relationships that involved sex and they didn’t work because being sexually intimate turned me off.
Friends have suggested it could be because I’m gay but I’ve never been attracted to a woman either. How can I find a romantic partner who will accept me for who I am?
You don’t identify yourself as “asexual” but your description fits the definition of a person who does not experience sexual attraction.
Asexuality is a difficult concept for people to understand as it challenges the universally-held assumption that sex is a biological necessity. In its most rigid interpretation, asexuality is “non-libidoist”, which means the person never experiences sexual desires.
You would be more correctly defined as a heteroromantic asexual; someone who seeks romantic relationships with the opposite sex for companionship, affection and emotional intimacy, but does not experience sexual attraction.
Asexuals can also be homoromantic (romantically but not sexually attracted to people of the same sex) or biromantic (romantically attracted to people of either sex).
This tendency for asexuals to try to microdefine their nuances is problematic. It creates a confusing lexicon of sexual labels. However asexuals define themselves, their lack of interest in an aspect of intimacy that is fundamental for the majority is always going to limit their romantic options.
Experts also identify another category, demisexual (someone who only experiences sexual attraction to a person after forming a strong emotional bond with them).
Such people generally realise that they have this potential before they meet someone new, but I’m not sure that you fall into this category.
Since you have already experienced several relationships where attraction has failed to develop, the chance is slim that you will find a partner who magically unlocks an aspect of yourself that has not yet materialised.
Most asexuals realise that their sexual orientation is not straightforward, but until recently it was difficult for them to work out why. The American activist David Jay realised that he was asexual at the age of 15 and set up the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (Aven), which is a fantastic resource and has more than 1,200 members.
No one is sure how many people are asexual, but in 2004 Professor Anthony Bogaert at Brock University in Canada worked out that 1% of people in a sample of 18,000 UK residents clicked on an option that indicated that they had “never felt sexual attraction to anyone at all”.
Despite this, a third of the people who defined themselves as asexual were in a long-term relationship and another 11% had experienced at least one long-term relationship, although they reported low levels of sexual activity.
Last year Aven built on this research by conducting a survey of 10,880 asexuals. The relative youth of the respondents is notable; the median average age is just 21.
Most participants had never engaged in sexual activity, 12.4% were sexually active and nearly a quarter had been sexually active. The most commonly-cited reason for having sex was “to please a partner”, but sexual generosity can only go so far.
It is hard enough for couples to negotiate sexual relationships, but when one partner wants sex and the other is indifferent or repulsed by the idea, it is almost impossible to make things work.
* Send your questions to email@example.com
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved