Attacks on my boyfriend

I’m openly asexual, and I also pay attention to media mentions of asexuality.  So I’ve heard all the standard attacks and denials.  I can handle them.

But here’s what I think is particularly nasty: attacks on my boyfriend.

This happened a few times in my boyfriend’s circle of friends.  It’s a fairly typical circle of friends in that it consists of people who are mostly the same age, race, and social class.  This particular circle consists mostly of gay white educated young men.  They’re my friends too, of course, and I have nothing against them.

A year ago, one of these men, named J, found out that my boyfriend and I were going to an asexual meetup that weekend.  Meetups are something we do on occasion.  We go to a cafe and have casual conversations about whatever people like.  More often than not, what we discuss has nothing to do with asexuality.  J seemed to have a different image in mind though.  J accused my boyfriend, over instant messages, of getting into a sexless relationship for me.  He said I was trying to convert him to asexuality.

On a more recent occasion, my boyfriend went to a movie night.  This is something we do every few weeks, but this particular week I was out of town so he was there without me.  The host of the movie night says to my boyfriend, “So, I heard you were asexual.  What’s that about?”  My boyfriend had to explain that I was asexual, but he wasn’t.  This led to a situation where all his friends were quizzing him on asexuality.

My boyfriend felt very uncomfortable, because he felt put on the spot to defend the legitimacy of our relationship to his friends.  He felt like he was in a double-bind.  First they assumed that we’re in a sexless relationship, and then they questioned the legitimacy of sexless relationships.  My boyfriend wanted to inform them that our relationship is sexually active, but also didn’t want to imply that sexless relationships were somehow less legitimate.

That’s what bothered my boyfriend the most, but I was more bothered by the larger pattern of behavior.  They pounced on him when I wasn’t there.  It felt like they were using underhanded tactics to hit me at my weak spot.  And they’ve never mentioned any of it to me, even though my boyfriend said they should redirect questions to me.

It’s true that I’m not as close of a friend to them, and that may explain their behavior.  But if they were really interested in learning about asexuality, they should have asked the more knowledgeable person.  My boyfriend is not asexual.  He gets all his information about asexuality secondhand through me.  He doesn’t necessarily know how to respond to all the standard attacks.  And why should he have to?  Asexuality isn’t his own lived experience.

On another occasion, a different friend said to me in front of my boyfriend, “You’re the most sexually active asexual I know.”  That was awkward, and assumed knowledge about our sex lives.  But you know, that wasn’t as bad, because at least he said it to my face.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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9 Responses to Attacks on my boyfriend

  1. Sara K. says:


    I would have hoped that *educated gay* people at least would get that accusing people of trying to convert other people to their orientation, particularly an orientation which is not the accuser’s lived experience, is highly likely to be offensive … but humanity is often disappointing.

    And I find it especially telling that, even after your boyfriend told them to redirect their questions towards you, they still didn’t say anything to you about it. I can understand people asking their closer friend rather than the more knowledgeable person first, but if they were actually interested in learning instead of attacking, they should have then consulted you, or at least told your boyfriend ‘I’m not comfortable with talking to Siggy himself about this, so is there another way I can learn more?’ to let your boyfriend off the hook.

  2. Aydan says:

    This is why it’s so weird when people say “Asexuality’s not a big deal because no one cares whether or not you’re having sex!” They must know much politer people than we know…

  3. Wineblood says:

    With sex being so standard for any form of serious relationship, people make all sorts of weird assumptions about anything that deviates from that. I think your boyfriend should assert himself a bit more and tell his friends off about intruding in the inner workings of your relationship.

  4. epochryphal says:

    Ahhah, concern-trolling S.O.s of aces, now… Sounds like the logical next step.

    It actually makes a lot of sense to me that — well, I was going to say, that this was a group of gay-identified men, and add that I could see that for het-id’d men as well, but…maybe it is applicable to other identities like queer as well? anyway — that they would want to establish where their presumably-in-group friend stood. It’s sort of a, self-defense of orientation, right? You identify as the same orientation as me, so I must make sure you’re having the kind of relationships I would want to have, or else one of us is doing something wrong.
    (Hm, I think I’m assuming that your boyfriend identifies as gay; I think I remember you saying that somewhere, but if I’m wrong, sincere apologies. I do think it’s still applicable to look at this as a shoring up of own identity vs difference.)

    This is a very important experience to have documented. Thank you for sharing, Siggy.

    • Siggy says:

      Yes my boyfriend is gay.

      When I say this happened with a bunch of gay men, I am not trying to say that it’s unique to gay men. I’m just telling the facts of my particular situation. However, I do think many of the incidental details are influenced by the fact that they’re gay. I think J had confused asexuality with some sort of ex-gay movement. But if this were a straight group, he just would have found something else to be confused about.

  5. BlackSphinx says:

    Ah, the grilling and attacking of asexual people’s partners. Reminds me of the time my partner’s so-called best friend called him a f*ggot because we were in a romantic relationship with no sex, and implied my partner was incompetent and less of a man because of it. Good times. And by “good” I mean “horribly triggering” and “caused lots of issues early in our relationship.”

  6. Sciatrix says:

    Man, that bites. I’m sorry that both you and your boyfriend are going through that! I’ve had people similarly ask my friends about me in that indirect kind of way, but nothing that nasty.

  7. queenieofaces says:

    Wow, that’s really awful. The worst I’ve gotten is people telling me that my partner and I are “actually straight” or else (if they don’t know my partner is ace) implying that I can’t really be asexual because I MUST be having sex with him. Nobody’s accused me of trying to “convert” him to my dark cult ace church, what the heck.

  8. This always sucks. I remember one ace activist’s boyfriend became an internet meme for a while. 😦

    If you come out as asexual, I think you often have information and resources available, especially with regard to what your boyfriend was saying about there being no right answer to ‘Why do you have a non-sexual relationship?’ (a. I don;t [with implications of ‘because that’s not ok’], or b. Because that’s ok [with implications of ‘I do’]). I think aces figure out how to navigate that early on, and they can talk from their identity or their community or both. People dating aces often can’t talk from anywhere, they don’t have that experience to draw on.

    Maybe people feel like they can get a better explanation from someone more like them? That from partners, they get a version that’s already been ‘translated’ into allo?

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