(This is my submission to the January Carnival of Aces, which is on the topic of nontraditional relationships and polyamory. You too can submit!)
I see a lot of posts from sex-repulsed young aces who are scared that, because they are unable or unwilling to compromise in sexual relationships, they will die alone and unloved. And while there are lots of resources in the asexual community for aces in mixed (sexual) relationships, as metapianycist pointed out recently, there isn’t much out there for aces who only want nonsexual relationships.
The lack of resources for people who want nonsexual relationships is strange, because according to the results of the 2011 Asexual Awareness Week Census, 65% of self-identified asexual people are at least somewhat sex-repulsed (compared to 51% of grey-As and 39% of demis). Even if you only look at the percentages of respondents who were unwilling to have sex, that’s 38% of aces, 11% of grey-As, and 4% of demis. Obviously we need resources for nonsexual relationships just as much as resources for mixed-orientation sexual relationships.
So I thought I would make a list of possibilities for nonsexual relationships for sex-repulsed aces (or even for anyone, ace or not, who prefers a nonsexual relationship to a sexual one). Because there isn’t much pre-existing literature on this topic (and I’m attempting an overview/brainstorm here), this post won’t be terribly detailed, but hopefully once people start talking about this stuff, more detailed posts will come along!
Possibility #1: Date another ace.
I know, I know, easier said than done. There aren’t that many of us, so often the chances of finding another single ace are slim. But it does happen! Heck, my partner and I found each other, and we weren’t even looking for other aces. If you want to date other aces, there are ace dating sites such as Acebook or the single aces tumblr. You can also find a long list of celibate-friendly and ace-specific dating/relationship sites here on the AVEN wiki. You can also join a meet-up (there’s an incomplete list of meetups here) to meet other aces. Even if you don’t find a Special Someone, you’ll still meet a lot of great people and maybe make some friends.
I do have to say, though, some people seem to treat ace/ace relationships as though they are the holy grail of relationships and can do no wrong. The fact of the matter is that relationships are hard, and just because two people share a sexual orientation doesn’t mean that they will be compatible in other areas. Ace/ace relationships can have problems–just like all other relationships–so I would warn against falling into a “if only I could find another ace to date, everything would be sparkles and cupcakes and unicorns!” mindset.
Possibility #2: Date an allosexual who wants a nonsexual relationship.
I know that a lot of the times in these sorts of blog posts, aces tend to paint allosexual people as though they are sex-driven machines that will die if they have too long a dry spell, but the fact of the matter is that sexual desire (like sexual orientation) is a spectrum, and there are some allosexual people who just aren’t that into sexual intercourse. For example, one half of the mixed couple in (A)Sexual is an allosexual man who just isn’t all that into sex, and so has decided to forgo it for his wife. There are sex-repulsed allosexuals, and there are nonlibidoist allosexuals. There are also allosexuals who decide to stay celibate for whatever reason. There are allosexuals who would prefer masturbation to sex. There are also some allosexual people who will date someone they’re romantically (but not sexually) attracted to. Just because someone isn’t ace doesn’t mean that dating them will require sexy times, so don’t write off 99% of the population without actually having a conversation with them.
Obviously, mixed relationships require a lot of communication, but–news flash!–that’s true of all relationships. If you only want to have relationships with other aces, okay. But mixed relationships are an option for aces who want nonsexual relationships. Check out some of the personals sites linked to on the AVEN wiki–a few of them cater to people (not necessarily aces) who want nonsexual relationships.
Possibility #3: Polyamory and/or open relationships.
Now I’m getting myself onto kind of thin ice, as I don’t know all too much about polyamory (having never been in a poly relationship myself). However, there are aces who are involved in either a poly set-up or an open relationship with an allosexual, in which the allosexual satisfies their sexual desires elsewhere. There are also aces in poly relationships with other aces, aces in poly relationships with aces and allos…basically, if you can name a possible relationship configuration, someone is probably in it.
I’m not entirely sure where you’d go about finding such a relationship, ’cause most of the aces I know in poly relationships wound up meeting their partner(s) without going through a personals site. If anyone has suggestions, let me know!
Possibility #4: Queerplatonic (or otherwise nontraditional partnered) relationships.
Often when I see young aces lamenting their lonely futures, they mention that they’re aromantic (or just not interested in conventional dating) and thus they have zero chance whatsoever of ever finding someone to spend time with them. The thing is, you don’t have to date to have a partner-ish person. There are aromantic aces who are in platonic or queerplatonic partnerships with other aces. There are romantic aces who are in nontraditional partnerships with allosexuals. Heck, I know allosexual folks who are in queerplatonic relationships with each other. Basically, if you can imagine a relationship configuration, someone somewhere is probably in it. Who you are or are not attracted to does not dictate the relationships you can form in your life.
If you’re looking for platonic or queerplatonic relationships, several of the personals sites in that list I linked to at the beginning cater to people who want platonic relationships. I believe there are also some options on tumblr for people who want platonic partnerships, but I’m having trouble refinding links… (Anyone have links?)
Possibility #5: Long-distance relationships.
There some aces who are in LDRs with allosexuals (thus taking care of the sex issue by means of lack of proximity). However, I would really strongly caution against lying to or deceiving your partner(s) about your sexuality and desires. If your partner is entirely happy being in an LDR with an ace, that’s great! If your partner is in an LDR with you because they are assuming that it will only be long-distance temporarily and then when you are in proximity with each other it will be sexy times 24/7, you seriously need to sit down and have a chat. Don’t use long-distance as an excuse to avoid telling the truth.
There are several ace/ace couples who either started out long-distance or had a middle section of long-distance (my partner and I fall into the latter group), so don’t think that proximity limits the people you can have relationships with! Yes, it’s lovely to have a partner you can cuddle with, but if you meet someone and hit it off, an LDR (while probably not ideal) is an option. There are also aces who combine long-distance with poly in their relationships, or maintain long-distance queerplatonic relationships. Basically, if you can imagine a relationship configuration, someone somewhere is in it. (Yes, I know, I keep saying that, but it’s true.)
Possibility #6: Friendships.
I think sometimes people forget how awesome friends are. Friends are amazing. A lot of the time when people are talking about the difficulties of being single, they talk about living alone and not having anyone to come home to. But even if you’re not dating anyone and don’t have any partnered relationships, you can still have roommates! (I have roommates. They are the best. They are also my friends, thus their falling under the “friend” category of this post.) Also, I’ve found that having friends nearby drastically improves my quality of living, even if we’re not rooming together. Heck, even long-distance friendships are great (although if, say, your friends are in a different time zone, finding time to talk can be a struggle).
And, yes, I know that for some people friends are no substitute for a romantic partner, but it’s much easier to be alone when you aren’t…really…alone. There are also a whole lot of different types of friendships, so often friends can fulfill many of the functions that are generally reserved for romantic partners. Heck, QPRs are chilling in that hazy zone of is-this-a-friendship-or-a-partnership-or-what. Basically, your relationships can be whatever you and the other party or parties wants them to be, so don’t feel like the fact that someone is your “friend” prevents them from having an important role in your life.
I thought I’d close this post by linking to some posts written by aces about the various relationships they’re in, just to show the sheer variety of nonsexual relationship structures in the ace community:
“Poly + Long Distance + Romantic Friendship = ?” which is about what it says on the tin.
“Awkward Conversations by Proxy: The Story of a Queerplatonic Triad” is about a relationship that is queerplatonic + long distance + poly. Like I said, if you can imagine a relationship configuration, someone is probably in it.
“Queerplatonic Life Partners” is about exactly what it sounds like.
“I found the right person and I’m still aromantic” is about a nontraditional partnered relationship between an aromantic ace and a romantic demi.
Here‘s a short post from an ace in a poly relationship with two non-aces.
“An Asexual/Sexual Relationship”, once again, has a clear enough title that I don’t need to write a description.
In summary, I won’t deny that finding relationships can be hard if you’re a celibate ace. But please don’t think that you have to compromise sexually in order to find a relationship. As you can probably tell from the selection of posts I spammed there at the end, one of the wonderful things about the ace community is that people build the relationships that work for them–no matter how nontraditional, complicated, or difficult to describe they may be. I won’t say it’s easy to find and build relationships, because relationships are hard, and often require a whole lot of stumbling around before they start working smoothly. But if you’re sex-repulsed or want to stay celibate, you do have options other than living alone surrounded by a horde of cats (unless, of course, that’s what you want, in which case I sincerely hope you use your cat army for good and not evil).