There comes a point in every standard explanation of asexuality, where you mention that some small number of asexuals may have sex.
“But why would they ever want to?”
What’s that, you ask? Why would asexuals ever want to have sex? Well, some people like pleasing their partners.
“Oh, okay.” The end.
But for more inquisitive minds, what does it mean to like pleasing your partner? More importantly, what does it mean to not like pleasing your partner? The idea of pleasing one’s partner is so sensible, so superb, so slickly satisfactory, that it’s unimaginable that any decent person would not feel that way.
Allow me to propose a definition. If you like pleasing your partner, that doesn’t just mean that you want your partner to be happy, it means you get pleasure out of knowing that your partner is experiencing pleasure. So even if you like pleasing your partner, you may not like pleasing your partner. What I’m trying to say is you may like pleasing your…
Wait, this is all getting mixed up. It would help if I replace “like pleasing your partner” with another phrase entirely.
Some asexuals like sex because they mirror their partner’s pleasure. It’s not merely that you prefer your partner be happy rather than unhappy. It’s that you have some actual emotion which mirrors your partner’s state.
It is totally fine if you don’t mirror your partner’s pleasure. It’s actually kind of hard sometimes, when your partner is experiencing pleasure related to something that you yourself don’t enjoy. For instance, do I derive some pleasure from knowing that my boyfriend is enjoying his coffee in the morning? Well, coffee’s kind of gross, so, no, not really. Do I derive pleasure from knowing that my boyfriend is reading an second-rate epic fantasy? I don’t think so–mostly I just enjoy speculating how terrible it must be.
I had to think about those two examples, because frankly it doesn’t matter if I mirror my boyfriend’s pleasure from coffee and epic fantasy. Mutual empathy may be an important part of the romantic relationship script, but that doesn’t mean I have to mirror every single thing my partner feels. If anything, that sounds like it could be unhealthy. I’m imagining the kind of couple where each person constantly looks to the other for validation of their feelings.
Sex, of course, is different. You are expected to mirror your partner’s enjoyment of sex. But given that aces are a thing, these expectations may be worth reconsideration.
Here I make a final suggestion, that the most morally fraught situations are those where a person neither enjoys the sex for themselves, nor mirrors their partner’s enjoyment. While there are other justifications for sex, we also begin to wonder if people are just doing it because they feel like they are supposed to like what their partner likes.
This was a response to a post on Ace Theist. You may guess that I wrote this because “wanting to please my partner” does not play that strong a role for me, and you’d guess correctly. But enough about my sex life!