What is sexual compatibility? Identical sex drives? What if you start out perfectly matched, and one partner’s drive drops away due to time, hormones, or health? What if they’re no longer able to have sex because of a disability? What if you fall in love, and you’re on the same page about sexuality and its value, but don’t “match?”
My partner Damien (a feminine-nonbinary who uses she/her pronouns) considers herself largely asexual. For a quick refresher, asexuality exists on a spectrum, from people who consensually engage in sex for a partner’s enjoyment to people who want nothing to do with any of it. Experts currently think that about 1% of the population is asexual, though that may be low. In Damien’s case, while she enjoys masturbation and mental fantasies, it boils down to the fact that she isn’t interested in anything genital-related while someone else is in the room, and her sex drive is very low.
I’m an allosexual cis-woman. I’ve had a ridiculously high sex drive since puberty. It’s occasionally been dampened by physical and mental health issues, but it always springs back stronger than ever, like the disconcertingly phallic heads of a pornographic hydra. I’d happily engage in all manner of perverse activities with a variety of humans (and maybe a few non-humans if I find myself in the Star Trek universe), given the right circumstances. However, the heart wants what it wants, and what mine wanted was Damien, in all of her asexual glory.
I worried that her asexuality was simply disinterest in me, while she worried that I might prefer someone else.
Insecurity made life a little rocky early on. I worried that her asexuality was simply disinterest in me, while she worried that I might prefer someone else. But after nearly seven years together, we’ve ironed that out — and in the process, built a sex life that we both find satisfying, exploring a non-traditional definition of sex.
Here are the tools that we use to help us to define sex for ourselves…
As humans, language is the most powerful tool we have in relating to one another, in understanding others’ experiences and expressing our own desires. In our case, it has been vital in building an intimate connection. We spend a lot of time discussing and even analyzing our fantasies and sexual interests, and when we flirt we use a lot of sly references to one another’s kinks. She knows what makes me blush and giggle uncontrollably, and what not to reference under any circumstances.
When Damien and I first met on an old blogging platform that’s no longer used very often, we became friendly enough to start chatting with each other over online messengers, which soon turned into doing online roleplaying. When we began a relationship, that didn’t mean we suddenly stopped enjoying our old pastime, except now we had a few additions. We regularly roleplay sexy scenarios, often informed by the fantasies that we’ve discussed. Not only is this a fun way to connect sexually without doing anything that makes Damien uncomfortable, but we can expand our sexual experiences past what’s plausible in reality. Our sexual partners can be any gender or sex, any build, can even be a sexy alien, because we’re both nerds. (Did you know Klingons canonically have two penises?) It’s also a safe way to explore kinks that are scary to us, without any physical risk.
We also write erotica, both for ourselves and for one another. We’re both creative and enjoy the process of writing, and it’s a fun, sexy surprise that also happens to make a great Christmas or birthday gift.
Sex toys are fun, the industry is interesting, and they’re often works of art. We’ve both spent a lot of time reading and researching, learning about safe sex toy materials, admiring inventive designs, and enjoying the writing of many entertaining and informative reviewers.
We’ll bond at the same computer, scrolling through our favorite sex toy sites, building lists, and sometimes buying. Like bespoke erotica, sex toys make great gifts. “Here, you’ve been wanting to try this one!” (Maybe we both just have a fetish for gift-giving holidays?) We have by now built a decent collection, in which we both take pleasure.
We started out vanilla. But after a lot of discussion and self-exploration from both of us (as well as exploring things safely through erotic fiction and roleplay), we entered into a 24/7 kink dynamic, in which I’m submissive to her. Kink is complicated, in ways I don’t have space to discuss here, but ultimately, it has been a way to build intimacy and trust. In my vulnerability, I show her that I trust her completely, enough to give control, and she shows me the same as she looks after me. I am my most authentic self, I feel empowered and safe, and so does she.
In my vulnerability, I show her that I trust her completely, enough to give control, and she shows me the same as she looks after me.
And while our kink is not strictly sexual, it has a sexual element to it. We both enjoy impact play, which is inherently sexually charged. She can order me to masturbate and tell me which toys to use, or she can deny me the opportunity. Sometimes she’ll tell me precisely which fantasy of mine I should use. And after I’m done, she usually has a snack set out for when I emerge from the bedroom. She’s thoughtful like that.
Here’s the twist here: Damien is the one with another partner, not me. This is primarily because I find dating and, uh, human interaction to be exhausting. However, the fact that we aren’t monogamous means that if I do ever meet another person (or hot alien!) that I want to see naked, I don’t have to choose “do I want to pursue that?” and “do I want to stay with my girlfriend?” This also takes pressure off of Damien. She doesn’t have to try to force herself to be sexual to try to “keep” me or her other partner. We’re with her because we love her, and she’s with us because she loves us.
Comments on Asexuality and queerness redefined sex for us (& how we’re making it work)
Glad to see another poly person with an asexual partner talking about it! *waves* Thanks for sharing!
Thanks! It’s nice to hear from you too!
Also ace, also polyam, also delighted by this article. We’ve come to a lot of the same realizations/techniques in our relationships (and also the conclusion that sex just isn’t a pillar of us and that’s okay) and it’s nice to see someone else talking about it.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! I feel like a lot of the writing about ace/allo relationships are from the ace side, which is great! or from allosexuals who are somehow frustrated with the situation. So I wanted to make it clear that this can be satisfying from all sides!
Chiming in as another queer polyamorous gal married to an asexual dude! Thanks for representing us and sharing your family’s experiences. 🙂
interesting article. some parallels. my partner is poly as well while I have a very low sex drive. worry I’m going to lose my partner and find myself wishing I could change what I want to show affection in the way partner needs to feel loved without sometimes doing what don’t want to do. Good to see others finding ways
Yeah this sounds like stuff y’all need to talk about if you haven’t. I hope some of my tips were helpful to you and your situation!
This was something I feared initially. What I will say to you here always applies in every relationship: Communicate!
Now, your partner needs to hear your fears. Don’t let the fear of rejection for your differences make you hide your fears from them. State them out, write them down and let them read it, start with them one at a time. A good partner will talk with you about it. If they don’t have experience with this kind of situation, you or they (will approval from you) should write to an advice columnist like Dan Savage, who is very good at helping with these kinds of issues.
And good luck. Most of the time, fears like these are just that. Fears. You can find a solution. Something Tessa may or may not have mentioned here, I’m not sure, is that we’ve been together seven years, and it took me a long time to tell her “hey, I’m afraid you’ll leave if…” to the tune of two or three years. Don’t wait! <3
I hate to be a downer, but this is so much harder when you are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. The things that work for this couple would not work for me, what I desire most sexually is penile penetration but I can’t have that anymore due to my husband’s chronic health issues. I’m not into kinks or role-play or erotica or anything like that. Sex toys are fake and don’t give me the same emotional connection. Not much else to be done but live without…
First of all, hello. I’m sorry that it doesn’t work for you, but it’s actually not more difficult in a heterosexual relationship to find solutions. It seems like it, but that’s because you have a set of expectations (I am only barely coming into being comfortably who I am at nearly 40, so I spent a lot of my life pretending to be hetero monogamous when I wasn’t) you want met, and if you aren’t having them met, then you see no solution. There are always solutions.
If you’re not into sex toys, that’s fine, but I will tell you that you are missing out. I used my first (in shame because of conservative parents) at 18, and it was good. Penis in vagina is very nice, when I was not asexual (I was not born asexual, relationship and health problems contributed), I liked it a lot. But I learned something that maybe you need to: Penis in vagina with a human being may be very nice, but sex toys can do a whole lot more for you than other people can, and you can do it all by yourself.
Sex toys could mean your partner could help you masturbate, depending on the level of his disability. If he can’t use any type of toy (there are a number of websites that sell disability friendly, safe sex toys), then you could masturbate for him with a toy. There are a lot of dual density silicone sex toys that feel very realistic (heyepiphora.com has a lot of recommendations) and can add to the experience.
Talk with him about what he’s interested in or what he can do, and he’d like you to do (yes, take ALL of this into account) and what you’re interested in as well.
Erotica is incredibly useful, and can make a difficult sex life easier. I’m not going to try to sell you on kink, you’re in a difficult situation as it is.
The other thing you can do is try talking with an advice columnist like Dan Savage (who is more qualified than I to give this kind of advice), who may be able to tell you better how to adjust your life style with your husband.
Or I could say something you might consider mean, and if you can’t get fulfillment from a relationship in this manner and it affects you this much, you may want to consider moving on to another relationship.
Whatever course you take, I suggest you take one. You’re clearly unhappy, and you need some kind of help. I hope you find the help you need. Good luck!
This was such a compassionate response. I don’t know if that person ever came back to read it, but I hope so.
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