What are your thoughts on aesthetic versus sexual attraction?

Q: What are your thoughts on aesthetic versus sexual attraction?

As in, what are they?  Do I believe that they exist as separate concepts?  Or do I have experience with them?  Or did you want some other thoughts on the subject?

In grossly oversimplified terms, sexual attraction is the innate thought that you’d like to have sex with a particular person, while aesthetic attraction is the innate thought that someone is nice to look at.  The actual definitions are more subtle and nuanced and outside the scope of this post, so look them up, if you’re curious.

Do I believe that they exist as separate concepts?  Yes, absolutely.  When people describe aesthetic attraction, they tend to use phrases like “Pretty like a sunset” or “It feels like looking at a beautiful painting.“  When people describe sexual attraction, they rarely use words like “sunset” or “painting”…

Have I experienced them?

Sexual attraction, no.  When I first saw a naked woman in front of me, it was like looking at a road map.   Now, I like road maps, but people do not use the word “road map” when describing sexual attraction.  When I had sex with her, it was a logical decision that was not driven by any kind of urge or pull or whatever else it is that people describe when they talk about what sexual attraction is like.

Aesthetic attraction, yes.  There are some people who are simply more interesting to look at than other people.  It triggers something in my brain that I can’t really explain.  It’s very similar to the feeling when I’m standing someplace amazing (Like, say, across from Delicate Arch or at South Falls or at North Head Lighthouse at sunset), where I like looking at it, and I want to keep looking at it, even though it’s still the same the whole time.

Aesthetic attraction never has a sexual component to it.  I never become aroused, I never imagine them naked, and, in the past, when I tried to combine it with sexual thoughts, it just felt forced and awkward and out of place.

And now I want to go back to these places:

DSCF1534 IMG_2541 IMG_6140

 

How does one actually experience sexual attraction?

Q: How does one actually experience sexual attraction? Is it like a mind-genitals connection or something?

 

From what I’ve seen in cartoons, sexual attraction is usually indicated by the presence of one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Eyes protruding a significant distance in front of the head.
  2. Jaw dropping to the floor and tongue rolling out, with both stretching to several times their normal size.
  3. Hallucinations of hearts and/or small flying creatures armed with bows and arrows.
  4. The heart being thrust forward, out of the chest, where it beats furiously for several seconds.

Despite all of these symptoms involving abnormal movements of the body, subjects never seem to indicate distress or pain when they occur.

In other words, I have no idea.  Never felt it, and everyone who’s explained it seems to explain it in a different way.  I’ve heard it described as a “pull” or a “thirst”.

Who Cares About Asexuality? (or: Why Visibility Matters)

Whenever asexuality gets mentioned in an article or in an interview, there’s always the inevitable remark in the comment section:

Why do you have to talk about this?  Who cares that you’re not having any sex?  Stop shoving it in our faces!

It frustrates me to see that kind of attitude, to see people who are unable to close their mouths and open their minds long enough to understand that there are people who are different than them.  And it’s not just anonymous Internet nobodies who share that view.  In his infamous appearance in (A)sexual, that’s basically what Dan Savage says.  But really, those people aren’t who I’m talking about asexuality for.  Ignorant jerks like that are a lost cause and not really worth spending energy on.

But the questions remain.  Why do I have to talk about asexuality?  Who does care?

Let me share a conversation that I came across the other day.  It’s between a guy in his early twenties and a girl who’s interested in him.  It’s a real conversation, edited slightly for privacy and to remove a few irrelevant bits.  It’s a bit on the long side, though, so please bear with it.

The Girl> Sorry, Joe and I are having an ass competition… Don’t even bother asking..

The Guy> I wouldn’t ask.

The Girl> Cast your vote anyway!

The Girl> I probably just scared you. :P

The Guy> Are you sure you’re not trying to scare me away?

The Girl> Hey, you scared me multiple times today.

The Guy> Yes, but this is one of those things that’s likely to get me rolling around on the floor beating the scarythought our of my head.

The Girl> I’m winning anyway. I don’t need your vote.

The Girl> Such a wimp. ;)

The Guy> And what gives you the idea that I would’ve voted for you, anyway? There’s only so much psychological trauma someone can take, and I’m well past that limit.

The Girl> Seriously, does that sort of thing actually disturb you?

The Guy> It was a part of the world I was happier not knowing existed…

The Guy> But does it actually have me rolling around on the floor, baning on my head to get the scarythoughts out? No.

The Guy> I’m not that messed up.

The Girl> Guys are supposed to be turned on by that, but I suppose you have all that repressed..

The Girl> And no, I don’t understand why they’re turned on by it either..

The Guy> If you want to call it repressed, sure. But I honestly don’t think of it that way. I don’t feel that I’m holding something down, that there’s something evil lurking inside that I have to keep hidden. It’s just not there.

The Girl> So it was never there?

The Guy> I don’t know if I didn’t get it, or if I just haven’t found it, or if I lost it somewhere.

The Guy> But it’s not bothering me. I don’t see why it should. I’m not excited at the prospect of looking at people’s butts. Somehow, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I like the fact that I’m not turned into a slobbering idiot by that sort of thing.

The Girl> You know, I kind of like that… It’s always bothered me that guys I talk to, and even some of the girls, obviously have other intentions while talking to me, and I know that with everything they say, they’re just trying to get a step closer… It drove me insane with Jake. He’d wine and sulk, and beg, and generally act like an idiot…

The Girl> er, whine

The Guy> Maybe I just take a functional approach to things. “Hey, wow, that looks like that would be comfortable when you sit down.” That sort of thing. I don’t see anything interesting in it. I don’t have a desire to touch it, I mean what would that get me? “It feels like it’s confortable, too.”

The Girl> I guess it’s just one of those things where there’s multiple ways of thinking about it… Not really sure that I could explain the other way, though… or if I would want to..

The Girl> I guess for me, it’s all about trust or something.

The Girl> And now I’ve really scared you…

The Guy> No, no you haven’t scared me. The words are coming, they just aren’t forming coherent sentences.

The Guy> The words… They want to speak, they want to curse society for thinking there’s something wrong with me, they want to ask myself if there is something wrong, they want to dig up my past, see where I went wrong, if I went wrong, they want- …

The Guy> They want to speak, but they have nothing to say.

The Guy> I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m just…

The Girl> Just what?

The Guy> You see what an ass competition can do to me?

The Girl> I’m seeing it, but I’m not quite understanding it…

The Guy> I guess you hit a gas line with your digging… It’s not my sexuality that’s repressed, it’s all of that.

The Girl> Now I have nothing to say… I’m still confused, I guess.

The Guy> I’m sorry for letting it out on you.

The Guy> Wow, this is a switch… I’m the one emotional, and you’re the one that can’t find anything to say. Never thought I’d see this side of things.

The Girl> That’s fine… I like it when you talk to me, and you’re talking to me…

The Girl> And I’m also curious, I guess. I know none of this is any of my business..

The Guy> I guess it’s that I have a name for everything but myself. I don’t have a place in the “Normal” order of things, and I’m fine with that. But I’d like a name… “I’m not into women.” “Oh, you’re gay?” “I don’t like men, either.” “Oh. What the hell is wrong with you?”

The Guy> No, if this is anyone’s business outside of mine, it’s yours.

The Girl> Non-sexual. Sounds pretty awful, but I think that’s the word…

The Girl> That’s the way I always assumed you were, too… I mean, even when I barely knew you.

The Girl> I’ve heard “asexual” used, too, but that makes it sound like you’re some sort of single-celled organism…

The Guy> I’m sure there is a name for it. One that no one’s ever heard and doesn’t have a clue what it means. Yeah, it’s probably something like that. Anything like that means “I can’t get none” to Joe Average. But “I don’t want none.”

The Girl> I actually went through times when I thought like that, too… The thought kind of disgusted me. But I realize that I was thinking in the internet porn site way, or whatever which -is- completely digusting.

The Girl> But obviously it wasn’t a permanent thing for me, I guess.

The Girl> Anyway, I just started thinking about it in that trust way, I guess… And it’s really a beautiful thing if you think of it that way.

The Guy> I don’t know if it is for me, either. I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and realize “Hey, I’m in love”. Or can I be in love anyway. the way I am now? It’s separate, so why not? Or don’t I have that, too?

The Girl> It’s completely separate, from what I’ve heard and experienced…

The Girl> Well, maybe not -completely-.

The Guy> I never felt any kind of physical attraction to Red. But was it real, or some concocted response to early teenage pressures? If it was real, why hasn’t it happened since?

The Girl> Because it’s “evil” now, I guess… You’re probably afraid of it. I mean, subconsciously.

The Girl> And you know the cliche quote that everyone would use here…

The Guy> Why don’t I think about you or Thursday and think, “Hey, I’m in love”? It’s “Aw, gee, she’s nice.” What’s not connecting here?

The Guy> Thank you for listening. I don’t know if this is going to help me (Or if there’s even anything to help), but thank you.

The Girl> I don’t know… If you don’t think it, then it’s obviously not happening, because you’d know if it were.

The Girl> I guess you should probably get to bed then..

The Guy> Oh, now you want me to leave, do you?

The Girl> No, I don’t want you to be even more tired tomorrow. :P

The Guy> If it’s something in my subconscious, it’s deep. It’s very deep. I don’t think one person could do that much damage. Maybe make me more reluctant to act, but there’s been enough time that something should have happened by now.

The Guy> I almost just said “Statistically something should have happened by now”. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I think too much. I’m probably not supposed to think, I’m just supposed to run.

The Girl> Well, you don’t talk to a heck of a lot of girls… And if you’re not physically attracted to people, you’ve not going to find anyone without talking to them…

The Guy> But every once in a while one gets in my path that I will talk to.

The Girl> Personally, I just can’t be attracted to people I first meet in real life. I guessI’ve just accidently trained myself to want to see what’s insane their mind first… Sometimes I see really attractive guys, and make eye contact, just for fun, but I don’t feel…anything, really.

The Guy> Why would it even necessarily be restricted to girls? I haven’t found Mr. Right, either.

The Girl> Exactly…

The Girl> But you don’t talk to a heck of a lot of -guys-, either..

The Guy> “Insane their mind”? You have been talking to me too much…

The Girl> errrr… inside!#$%

The Girl> They always have to make other words… always…

The Girl> Can I ask what it was that attracted you to her?

The Guy> “Attractive.” I don’t even have that concept defined for myself. There’s “What everyone else says is attractive” and then there’s the “That person looks interesting”, which I guess is supposed to count, but I feel more like I’m judging the look of a painting in an art gallery than being attracted.

The Guy> And people don’t like it when you take them home and hang them on a wall.

The Girl> But what made her different from, well, everyone else you’ve ever knwon?

The Girl> known even

The Guy> I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. The time and place.

The Girl> Did you actually know her? Like was she a friend?

The Guy> Yeah. We had half our classes together. We’d not do anything in PE together, we’d trade book recommendations for the essays in English class. That sort of thing.

The Guy> And my God, she actually liked the Grapes of Wrath. That right there shouldn’ve been a hint.

The Guy> Wait! She’s not the one that’s Evil! John Steinbeck is!

The Girl> So you -did- have a social life at one point, huh?

The Girl> How long did you know her before you started to feel that way about her?

The Guy> If you call that a social life… I call it talking to classmates in school. I didn’t spend often lunch with people, and I never went anywhere with anyone after school. Then again, it was Nevada… Nowhere to go. People hung out at the old gravel pit. Really, they did.

The Guy> I don’t remember. Months, of some sort. Not years or anything like that.

The Girl> What happened when you did? What felt different?

The Guy> I don’t remember.

The Girl> So you don’t remember how you knew?

The Girl> I’m not trying to pry anything out of your, by the way, so feel free not to answer that or anything else…

The Guy> No. I don’t remember the feeling, either. It’s like a stamp in a book. It’s the remains of getting knocked upside the head with an inky hammer.

The Girl> Well, anyway… Just because you think you -should- like someone doesn’t mean they’re the right person, or whatever… There’s plenty of people in the past that I -should- have liked, but there’s just something that wasn’t there… There’s even people right now. Sometimes there’s some flaw I can’t see past, it drives me insane that I could be so shallow. And even when I’m absolutely obsessed with someone online, there can be something that’s just…not there in real life.

The Girl> Anyway…

The Girl> Yeah…Go to bed… I don’t want to feel bad about you being tired tomorrow. ;)

The Guy> I’d probably end up tired even if I had gone at 10…

The Girl> More tired, then…

The Guy> And thank you for this. Normally I’d write these things, but I haven’t written them yet…

The Guy> I probably should, though. I mean, come on, “Coming to terms with an alternative sexuality”? That has Oprah book written all over it. And “Oprah book” means rolling in cash…

That is why I have to talk about asexuality.

That guy…  He’s in pain.  He’s broken and confused.  He’s different from everyone else and doesn’t have the words to explain how he feels.  He makes some jokes, sure, but that’s how he tries to deal with it.  He’s empty and frustrated and alone.

He’s … me.

That was a chat log of an actual conversation from 2002, between me and the woman who’d later become my first and, so far, only girlfriend (and not too long after, my first and only ex-girlfriend…).  It would be another nine years before I’d discover that asexuality was a real thing.  It was another nine years of being confused and broken and alone.  Another nine years of feeling like that.  And I had felt that way for years before that night.  Every time someone brought up love or sex or relationships or getting married, there was that emptiness, that confusion, that “What in the hell is wrong with me?”

She even mentioned the word “asexual” in there, and I dismissed it.  It was something I’d never heard of and didn’t have a clue what it meant.  I couldn’t be that.

But that one word would have made all the difference to me then.  Why didn’t I hear it?  Why didn’t I know what it was?  Why did it take me another nine years to find it?  To find me

So, who cares about asexuality?

I care.

I care because of all the time I spent lost in the wilderness, thinking something was missing.   I care because of all the time I spent looking at other people and seeing that I was fundamentally different than them, thinking something must be broken inside me.  I care because of all the time I spent not knowing where I fit in the world, thinking that I must not fit anywhere.

I care because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.

I have a place now.  I have a name for me.

I’m not broken anymore.

But…  Someone else is.

I talk about asexuality because somewhere else, there’s another person who is feeling lost and broken and alienated and confused, just like I was.  I do it because every person I tell might know that person.  I do it because every person I tell might be that person.

It only takes one informed person to be in the right place at the right time to change someone’s life.  That is why awareness matters.  That is why visibility work is important.  That is why I have to talk about this.  That is why I care.

AAW Day 6: Masturbation

One of the most common question asked of asexuals is “Do you masturbate?”.

The answer:  Yes.  I do.

(Not all of us do.  Some of us do, some of us don’t, and some of us can’t.)

(BTW, it’s NOYDB.  So stop asking.  Anyway…)

It generally confuses people when we do, though…  (It even confuses us sometimes.)

It’s not just “scratching an itch” for me.  It’s not “just a biological function.”  It’s not “cleaning the pipes.”   It’s not a way to calm an undirected libido or prevent nighttime accidents.  It’s not some bothersome vestigial leftover of the sexuality I’m supposed to have.  It’s none of that for me.

I do it because I like it.  It feels good.  It’s fun.

And it does not invalidate my asexuality to feel this way.

Asexuality means that I’m not sexually attracted to anyone, it does not mean that my equipment doesn’t function.  It functions, and how.

You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to become aroused.  You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to experience and enjoy an orgasm.  All you have to do is touch your sensitive bits in the right way and presto!

I never understood the old religious claim that “Masturbation isn’t necessarily a sin, but lust is, and you have to have lust in your heart in order to masturbate, because you’re fantasizing while you do it.”  It just didn’t make sense to me. I never had lust.  I never fantasized.  When I first heard it, I was young and had only recently started masturbating.  At the time, I just figured that I was new and I hadn’t figured out quite what I was supposed to be doing, and that when I got older, something would kick in and I’d start fantasizing and feeling lust and have to confront the moral question then. (And all this even though I was never actually religious…)  But all that happened was I got older.  The lusting and fantasizing never began.

I don’t fantasize.  I just can’t.  I’ve tried, though.  I tried to picture naked people doing naked people things.  I tried to imagine erotic scenarios.  It never worked for me.  I tried because it was supposed to help.  It was supposed to turn on the sexual overdrive and make everything ten times more exciting.  All it did was distract me.  I had to concentrate so hard on the mental stage direction that I lost focus on what I was doing.  It was so much effort to get the imaginary naked woman in the right pose and performing the right motions that the slightest stray thought would kick me out of the fantasy and force me to start over.

If you start to plan out the script of your sexual fantasy because your brain doesn’t do improv in that genre, that’s a pretty good sign that something is up.

That bothered me for a long time.  Everyone else fantasized while they masturbated and I just couldn’t.  That bothered me more than my lack of interest in dating ever did.  Not wanting to ask a girl out could conveniently be explained away by shyness or social anxiety.  But not being able to include her in a sexual fantasy that would have stayed in my mind and been free of awkward conversations and fear of rejection?  That made me feel broken.

I eventually overcame that, well before I discovered asexuality.  I realized that it didn’t do anything for me, I just didn’t think in that way, and it wasn’t actually a problem for me.  I enjoyed masturbating adn I wasn’t going to let something like that stand in the way.

So, that brings up what is probably the second most common question asked of asexuals:  “If you’re not attracted to anyone, what do you think about when you masturbate?”

(Again, NOYDB.)

What do I think about?  Furniture.  (No, really.  I have planned out how to decorate a room while involved.)  My day.  The plot of some TV show.  Video games.  Politics.  Music from the 80’s.  The next vacation I’m going to take.  The weather.  But most of all, I think about two specific things:

“That feels good.”

and

“That feels even better.”

AAW Day 3: Attraction

The words “hot” and “sexy” might as well be in a foreign language.  I don’t relate to them at all.  They always seem to be used to describe people or things that I find artificial, impractical, and unappealing.

I had a girlfriend once who complained that I thought she was “cute”.  She didn’t want to be “cute”, she wanted to be “hot”.

My brain is simply not wired to understand it.  When someone says “Check her out, she’s so hot”, what I see is someone with oversized lips, plastic skin, breasts that’ll make her lose her balance, a face with more paint and spackle on it than my house, and it’s all wrapped up in clothes that cannot be comfortable to wear.  Those features stand out and scream that I’m looking at an artificial creation instead of a person.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a person to like that sort of thing.  I’m just saying that I can’t.

I do experience aesthetic attraction.  There are certain people or types of people that I do enjoy looking at.  Those people will stand out and I will notice them.  But all I want to do is look.  It’s like I’m looking at a cute puppy or beautiful picture.

Those are words I understand.  “Cute”, “Beautiful”, sometimes even “Pretty”.  I see people who I consider cute or beautiful.  There is always something about them that will stand out.  Maybe it’s the clothes, maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the smile.  But whatever it is, it always feels natural.  It feels real.

But even so, I get the feeling that I experience aesthetic attraction even less often than most people experience sexual attraction.  It’s a rare feeling.

Asexual Awareness Week Day 1: Asexuality and Me

I never really got sex.  It always seemed alien to me.  When everyone else was busy turning into horny teenagers, I was oblivious.  Whatever subsystem got switched on for their 13th birthday never got enabled in me.

Whenever I looked at “sexy” celebrities, I couldn’t see the appeal.
Whenever I looked at some girl I was told was “hot”, I wasn’t driven wild.
I never pictured people naked.  I never wanted to jump someone’s bones.  I never felt like an uncontrollable raging horny beast.
And I never understood anyone else who did.

I’ve known for years that I’m not like other people when it comes to sex, but I always just thought I was simply not very good at being straight.  I tried the girlfriend and sex thing, but still never felt an urge to have sex.  It always seemed like everyone else was pretending and I just wasn’t in on the game.

But that wasn’t it.  That couldn’t be it.  The rest of the world simply couldn’t be acting all the time in such a consistent manner.  If everyone was just faking it, surely someone would have pointed out that the Emperor wasn’t wearing anything.

It was earlier this year that it finally became absolutely clear that there was something fundamentally different about me.  Not necessarily wrong, not necessarily broken, just different.  I was 31 years old, I hadn’t had sex in over eight years, and it didn’t bother me one bit.

So, if I was different, what was I?  I embarked on a journey of discovery and very quickly came across asexuality, and instantly knew that’s where I belonged.  Everything seemed to fit and everything in my life retroactively started to make sense when viewed with this new information.

What is asexuality to me, then?  Well, even people who do experience sexual attraction aren’t sexually attracted to everyone, so they know what it’s like to not be sexually attracted to someone.  So, just imagine that applied to everyone and that’s how it is for me.

Or for those who may be more visual:  Imagine a sunset.  The beautiful dance of colors, the way countless hues mix together and constantly change as the light fades.  Now picture that same sunset in black and white.  You can’t see it.  The sunset is effectively gone.  Asexuality is like seeing a sunset in black and white. I know that other people can see the colors and they talk about how amazing and beautiful it looks and how their life wouldn’t be complete without seeing a sunset now and then, but I just can’t see the sunset.  It’s not there for me.  It looks the same as any other time of day.  But I don’t feel like I’m missing out, because I’ve never seen it to know what it is that I’m missing out on.

And sometimes, a sunset still looks awesome in black and white.

A Bit of Attraction

So, you’re asexual. That means you can’t love anyone and are going to die alone, right?

Asexuality only means that a person does not experience sexual attraction. It doesn’t mean that they can’t fall in love. It doesn’t mean that they want to be alone forever. It just means that they don’t see someone and immediately want to jump their bones. There have been asexual people who have fallen in love and gotten married.

Wait, so… Some asexuals get married? What do they do on the honeymoon?

Play Scrabble.

(No, really.)

But how can you fall in love with someone and not want to have sex with them?

Love and sex are different things. Appreciation of beauty and sex are different things. It is quite possible to think someone is stunningly gorgeous and be dumb-struck in love with them and not be interested in having sex with them.

There’s a word for a relationship without sex. It’s “Friendship”.

There are many non-asexual couples where the sexual flame has long been extinguished, but who are still inseparable. There are many non-asexual couples who are in circumstances where they can’t have sex, but they’re still madly in love. Just because there’s no sex, that doesn’t negate the romantic aspect of the relationship. Would you say to an elderly couple that they’re “just friends” because he’s no longer able to perform? Would you tell a couple who’ve been in a bad car accident that they’re “just friends” because she’s paralyzed?

But those people are still attracted to each other. How can you have a relationship without attraction?

There are actually multiple different kinds of attraction. Sexual attraction is just one. Asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction, however, they may experience other types of attraction. Romantic attraction is what draws a person toward someone else and makes them want to get into a relationship with that person. For most people, romantic attraction and sexual attraction are directed toward the same person. They will find someone romantically and sexually attractive, that is, they will want to have a relationship with that person and they’ll want to include sex as part of that relationship.

It’s possible to experience sexual attraction without romantic attraction. A one-night stand, a friends-with-benefits situation, even some extramarital affairs are often examples of this arrangement. A person will only see the partner as sexually interesting, but not want to become romantically involved.

For many asexuals, they will experience romantic attraction without sexual attraction. They’ll want a girlfriend or boyfriend, and want to do most of the things that couples do, like go on dates, live together, take trips with each other, even get married and spend every moment of the rest of their lives together. But amongst all of that, there’s no burning desire to do the horizontal mambo. And it’s not a temporary “Not tonight dear, I have a headache” type of thing. The interest just isn’t there.

So do asexuals just randomly pick someone out of the phone book and call them up for a date?

Um. No.

Just like the different sexual orientations you’re probably already familiar with, there are multiple romantic orientations:

  • Heteroromantic: Romantically attracted to the opposite sex/gender.
  • Homoromantic: Romantically attracted to the same sex/gender.
  • Biromantic/Panromantic: Romantically attracted to both/all sexes/genders.
  • Aromantic: Romantically attracted to no one.

For instance, a heteroromantic man would be interested in a romantic relationship with women. Likewise, a homoromantic woman would be interested in having a relationship with other women.

In some cases, a heteroromantic asexual might call themselves a “straight asexual” or a homoromantic ace might say they’re a “gay asexual” or “asexual lesbian”. Those terms are used as convenient shorthand, because saying the word “heteroromantic” is a mouthful and will probably get a confused blank stare from whoever you’re talking to. However, other asexuals will refuse to use those words to describe themselves, as they carry such a strong sexual connotation.

(By the way, there are other romantic orientations that I did not include in the list above.  If your feelings on love and romance don’t fit into one of the boxes above, I’d recommend looking around for a more complete list.  Something like “androromantic”, “gynoromantic”, or perhaps even “wtfromantic” might suit you better.)

In my case, I lie somewhere between heteroromantic and aromantic and I still haven’t quite sorted it out yet. I know that I’m not homo- or bi-romantic because I’ve never felt any interest in having a relationship with a man. But at the same time, I’m not terribly drawn into wanting a relationship with a woman, either. I had a girlfriend once, but it never felt quite right. Whenever I think about being in a relationship, I don’t desire closeness or inseparability. It’s more that I want someone who’ll take the wheel on long road trips or run interference against salespeople in the store or help me load Ikea furniture into the car. But I know that I’d want it to be a woman. So yeah, still totally confused there… Moving on.

In addition to romantic attraction, there’s aesthetic attraction. Aesthetic attraction, aside from being remarkably troublesome to spell, is being attracted to the way someone looks. This may sound sexual in nature, but it is not. Instead of thinking, “She’s hot, I’d totally tap that”, aesthetic attraction is more along the lines of “She’s cute, I’d totally stare at her for hours and study the lines and curves and contours and the interaction of the lighting on her hair and the way the colors she is wearing highlight her fingernails”. It’s more like the sense one gets looking at a beautiful landscape or a masterful painting, and there’s no sexual desire connected to it.

I definitely experience aesthetic attraction. There are certain people or certain types that will draw my eye, but I have no desire to have sex with them, I don’t picture them naked, I don’t really even want to talk to them. I just like the way they look and they stand out to me for some reason.

Are asexuals only romantically attracted to other asexuals?

No, not necessarily. Love is blind and doesn’t really care about sexual orientation. Very often asexual people will end up in relationships with non-asexual people.

And how does that work out?

It works out like any other relationship. Most of them fade away within a few months, some will last a year or two, sometimes they’ll move in together, maybe even get married, have children, get divorced and end up in a bitter custody dispute. You know, the usual.

No, I mean, how does a rela- Wait… Have kids? What?

Asexual people aren’t inherently incapable of having sex, and they’re not inherently infertile. Since asexuals generally can have sex and are generally fertile, I’ll let you figure out the rest.

Okay, that brings me to the point. How does a relationship work between someone who wants sex and someone who just isn’t interested?

Sometimes it just works. If the non-asexual partner has a low sex drive or the asexual partner is willing to have sex as often as the other partner wants, then it may be a non-issue.

Sometimes it’s difficult. If the asexual partner doesn’t want to have sex or isn’t willing to have sex as often as the non-asexual partner would like, then there could be trouble in the relationship. Often both partners will have to compromise in some way, but if both partners are committed and loving, they may find a way to make it work.

Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. If the asexual partner flat out refuses any kind of sexual activity and the non-asexual partner requires it three times a day, and neither party is willing to give, that relationship will not last. It will probably end in a pit of misery and resentment.

Sometimes it’s comically misguided. Like when the asexual partner talks about the sexual activities of night before with all the passion and fire of an economics textbook. But that’s a topic for another time…