How I Seek Out Intimacy as an Asexual Person
Illustration by Soofiya
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I don’t feel sexual attraction or want to have sex. That’s what being asexual means for me. I had a conversation with a friend once and she was talking about boys she liked. And I said, “hang on, you’d want to bang that person walking past?” And she said, “yeah I would!” I couldn’t understand that. You see someone walking past and you think that you’d like to have sex with them? I’ve never met someone and thought, I’d like to fuck them. To me, that feels very alien and confusing. A lot of it comes down to the fact that I don’t feel sexual attraction. That’s what it comes down to for me, personally.
I feel romantically attracted to people, but it doesn’t mean that I want to have sex with them. Sometimes people expect that the right person will come along and I’ll think, Now I want to fuck you! But it’s not about finding the right person. It’s about something inherent inside of me.
I’m still trying to figure out physical closeness for myself. How can you show intimacy without being physically close to someone? How can you be romantically attracted to someone, without ever touching them?
My feelings on physical touch fluctuate. Sometimes I don’t want anyone to hug me, but sometimes I do want that closeness and for someone to hold me when I’m sad. It’s hard, because when you don’t know what your boundaries are for yourself, how can you dictate that to other people? I’m still trying to figure that out.
Would I ever want to kiss someone? Yes and no. My gut says no, mostly. There have been times when I’ve wanted to kiss someone, but I freeze and my brain shuts off. But kissing feels less intimidating than sex. It feels like something a part of me might want. I know that I never want to have sex—that’s a solid pillar for me. But touch feels more like a movable pillar for me. Sometimes I want touch; sometimes I don’t.
There are times when I envy people who can have sex. But at the same time, it’s not right for me right now. Nothing is ever set in stone, so I accept that I might one day change. But for me now, my asexuality feels quite strong.
When I was at school, and you’re a teenager just trying to fit in in this intense, peer-pressured environment, being asexual makes you feel even more different. I couldn’t figure out that everyone was having sex because they wanted to. I thought they were just doing it because they had to. I remember getting annoyed at films or TV shows, because they always had to have a sex scene. I’d think , What’s the point of this? It doesn’t push the narrative at all. Or with Buffy—she was a badass woman doing amazing stuff. I found it so annoying that she had to have sex, because I really wanted to be able to relate to her.
Being asexual can make you feel like you’ve missed a big punchline somewhere, like, everyone’s in on a secret but they’re not letting you in on it. There were times that I thought that one day the "sex" button would click, and I would just want to have sex. I think that deep down, there’s a part of me that still believes that might happen. But as I get older, I feel less likely that it’s one day going to happen. And I’m OK with it.
It’s only recently that I’ve got my head around being asexual. Now, I feel like I have more ownership over that term. A big part of that was meeting other asexual people. I have a friendship group of queer asexual people, which is amazing. We chat about sex, but also about totally unrelated things. Being around them, I don’t think, Maybe there’s a light switch in me that hasn’t gone off. Maybe I don’t need to bloom because I have bloomed. Maybe this is me—the weird, cactus-y, hairy flower that I am.
The way society reads relationships is very sex-based. You’re in a relationship with someone if you’re having sex, basically. But if you’re not having sex, what are you? You’re just mates. What I want to explore is how you can have a relationship that isn’t just sex based. How do we go beyond this? How can we radicalize normative, existing relationship structures?
I don’t particularly date, but I have asexual friends who do. One of them is in a relationship with a polyamorous person, which is really great, because their sexual needs could be met outside the relationship while still allowing their relationship to be a snapshot of what they needed for each other.
It feels quite taboo to say, “I never want to have sex, ever.” So finding other asexuals was really powerful for me, just to be able to hear people say things like that. I remember the first time I met asexual people, I just wanted to talk to them forever, because it was so empowering to hear your experiences reflected back at you for the first time.
I remember confiding in a friend that, for me, sex feels really violent. I can’t separate sex from violence in my head. And my friend just couldn’t understand it, and I felt so on the spot. For me, those two things are in the same box sometimes, even if I can’t explain why.
I identify as queer. A lot of people ask me, how can you be asexual and have a queer identity? But I don’t think sexuality is determined by who you’re having sex with. For me, being queer is about being radical—it’s about queering all forms of normative identity. It’s queering every space you’re in.
What I wish people knew about asexuality is that it’s OK not to have sex, and that it’s OK to have sex and to be asexual, and there’s no definitive asexuality. I don’t think your sexuality ever fully reveals itself. You just see glimpses of it. I would tell my younger self: "Hang in there, because although things might not make sense now, they’ll make sense later. And it’s okay to feel alienated. Don’t feel like you have to fit in and be 'normal.'"