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December 11, 2018 3:45 PM   Subscribe

I’m 35 years old and I am having an anxiety-wracked yet weirdly euphoric coming-out experience as a bi ace person, so I’d like some perspective.

Well, the short of it is that I finally...discovered?... the root of so many relationship, identity, etc issues I’ve had in my life and it’s AWESOME! I feel like I’m a teenager just discovering myself a little bit. Please forgive the novel, this is a crazy time for me and all this information seems relavant to explain why I’m asking the questions I have!

I “knew” I was bi a long time ago (thanks Xena!) but have struggled for a long time with that identity. My attraction to femme/masc identities seemed to never quite manifest in the same way—I primarily have formed sexual and romantic relationships with cis men, and wondered for a long time if I was just going along with the cultural construction of femme bodies as sex objects, etc, rather than it being a core identity. Sex is nice, but I think/fantasize about cuddling, kissing, languid naked chats in fluffy pillows more than a drive to have orgasms or other explicitly sexual experiences, and just assumed other people were normal in their drives and I was broken somehow. So I’ve poorly pretended for years, until it ruins my longish term relationships with sexual people. They have variably disbelieved my lack of drive as self-oppression, presumed it to be a personal comment on the relationship or their bodies, assumed trauma and/or medical concerns, and just generally never believed me when I finally would admit my interest-but-not-THAT-interested feelings toward sex in general.

I had a realization that I don’t form sexual relationships with non cismen mostly because het dudes are the only group really socialized to believe women are frigid, likely to require coercion to have sex, or just be neglectful of their own dawning feelings of “the sex we have in this relationship is...not what I want” as well as socialized to not communicate about these things. I’ve been cheated on a lot! But I always felt guilty, like I was doing my own desire wrong, just could never get it right. Relationships with non cis or non men folks were mostly of the “kissing a lot, but kinda just friends” variety, and I always ended up wrapped in the next drama of some new dude desiring me, and giving the whole shame-contempt spiral another go in case I was better this time.

That’s a lot of words to prove my identity exists, but I know a lot of queer communities don’t do bi and ace issues well, and I’m working through this with fresh eyes, in a way!

Catalyst for this coming out discovery thing was a sexual experience with an enby femme-attracted friend who I tentatively came out to as grey-ace a couple months ago, and they BELIEVED ME. Like, it wasn’t a new idea to them, they didn’t argue, it was just..a fact about me. We admitted attraction to each other a couple weeks ago, made out, discussed boundaries, they were pleasantly surprised that I like sex the same way I like cake (delicious, sure, but not nutritious or necessary) and I had sex with someone who knew I was this way for the first time in my 20 years of activity. Awesome! No expectation of rising sexual desire, of maintanence sex, of hurt feelings because I’m doing it wrong. Also, unfortunately, no real expectation of a strong relationship coming from this—they have a primary partner, with established secondaries and I’m not super interested in being quite that non monogamous. I want a close, romantic makeout buddy who wakes up with me in the morning! They are great, but can’t be that! That is ok!

Here’s the questions, though. Since it was so amazing to be intimate with someone who knows/believes that I am ace, I am totally going to start telling people! Do I have a requirement to disclose this on, like, first dates with potential partners? I want to tell these people, but how? Am I going to have to explain, in detail, my sexual desire to folks I’m basically meeting for the first time? It seems unethical not to do so, for myself and them, but it seems weird. Should I join ace communities and just date within that pool? Is it unfair to expect any level of monogamy? I wonder if I can have my sexual needs or my romantic needs met, but not both and that makes me sad. I have a pretty serious romantic crush on someone I know right now, and they’re reciprocating the interest, but I feel like it would be wrong to take it any farther than this without disclosure. What do other ace or ace-adjacent or ace-partnered people do?
posted by zinful to Human Relations (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Response by poster: I feel compelled to add that I am apparently a weird asexual person, in that I like sex just fine but just don’t WANT it, to the point that I’ll completely forget about that aspect of a relationship or social expectation until someone expresses dismay or desire. I will go months and never feel any sexual urges or desire, but obviously (see above) am down to do the do with someone for occasional entertainment purposes. This has made joining online asexual communities feel a bit fraught, since most ace people are more ace than I am! So, that’s not going to be a very helpful answer.
posted by zinful at 4:05 PM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

So, I am not grey ace myself, but I am someone who might theoretically be in your dating pool. Personally, I would not expect you to disclose your sexual identity right off the bat. Actually, I would find it a little bit odd—like, why are you telling me about your sex life when we've just met? I would probably leave it until a little later, when things seemed like they might be naturally progressing in a bedroom direction sometime soon. Sometime around the third date, as a rough guide.

Your sexual identity seems huge and important to you right now (which it kinda is, but even huger and more important than normal) because you're just discovering and exploring it. But how much you like sex and how you like your sex to be when you have it is just not (in my opinion) an appropriate first-date topic. There's so much more to you than that! Your sexuality is obviously a relevant characteristic and you should let people know fairly early, just not immediately.

I have some sexual peculiarities of my own which I treat in the same way—I tell people before they get too invested in me, but not right out of the gate. Has this historically led to a fair number of third dates (roughly speaking) where we found out that things weren't going to work? Unfortunately, yes. But I've always just felt like them's the breaks, and that it's still the best way to operate. I feel like it's important to let people get a sense of who I am just as a general-purpose person, non-sexually, before I bring my sexual identity into the picture. You can certainly try different tactics though, I mean do what feels right to you as long as you behave honestly and honorably. If you muck up a few dates here and there, it's not the end of the world. Happens to everyone one way or another.

To continue this parallel there are certainly communities that cater to people like me, just as there are for people like you. I have found them useful in the past since they concentrate people with whom I am at least theoretically sexually compatible, but I find that they also tend to concentrate people whose sexual identity is sort of their one defining characteristic, and to me anyway that's not really what I'm looking for in a partner. Maybe the grey ace community is different, I dunno. In any case I think it would be worth a try because even if you find in the end that it's just not your bag, it would probably be great for you to have a chance to meet with a bunch of folks who have similar sexualities to yours and who you could hopefully have some good conversations and romantic experiences with while you explore this aspect of yourself.

And who knows? Maybe you'll find your life partner that way! But I would definitely not rule out just dating anyone you find yourself attracted to and seeing how things go. You may find that there are more people out there like you than you think, or at least a lot of people who don't specifically think of themselves as grey ace but who would be compatible with you anyway. My feeling is that there are kind of a lot of folks out there walking around being kinda-but-not-all-that-interested in sex but who have just never really delved into that aspect of themselves to the point of putting a label on it and finding a community.

Anyway, I think you've got this. The big thing to keep in mind is that you're still learning about yourself, and you're gonna make a few mistakes. That's OK. As long as you aren't intentionally deceiving people and screwing them over (which naturally is something that everyone needs to not do, regardless of their sexual identity) you have nothing to be sorry about. Treat people well, treat them kindly and lovingly, and just do your best to be your best self. You'll do fine.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2018 [12 favorites]

Do I have a requirement to disclose this on, like, first dates with potential partners?

In my opinion, yes, but only because I feel like it will save you trouble/hassle/harassment. If it helps, think of it as telling someone you're gay. You'd want them to know that if you were on what you thought of as a date, right? Or the other person thought of as a date?
posted by liminal_shadows at 8:00 PM on December 11, 2018

I am a poly het male whose primary partner is a poly bi ace female. Just to give some context to my answers.

> Do I have a requirement to disclose this on, like, first dates with potential partners? I want to tell these people, but how?

Not necessarily. think a lot of this depends on how you are dating. Online? Yes, absolutely it should be right there in your profile. Offline you really need to account for what your potential partner is looking for in a relationship. Your goal is not to waste their time if they aren't okay with dating an ace and also to save yourself the hurt of falling in love with someone only to figure out you are incompatible. Maybe that means bringing this up on the first date, but I think it's okay to spend a little time to figure out if you even are interested in the person first. My rule of thumb for these kinds of disclosures (in my case that I'm poly) is that if you think there is any chance that either of you will be spending time together alone in either of your homes (even if it is just for wine and a long conversation) then you should make sure they know before that happens. Like Anticipation said, that's probably somewhere around the third date unless you already knew them or you're dating non-traditionally.

>Should I join ace communities and just date within that pool?

You absolutely should connect with your community, if only to have a network of people that will understand your own challenges. I don't think you need to date exclusively within that group, but you also shouldn't ignore it. There's probably some people in there that are looking for something similar to what you are.

>Is it unfair to expect any level of monogamy?

No, I don't think it is, but I also think that you shouldn't expect it if you aren't dating another ace. People have needs and if your potential partner is upfront with you about wanting to have more sex/intimacy/whatever than you are able to provide then you need to have a really frank discussion about whether your relationship should continue and, if so, whether that means maintenance sex on your part or entering into some kind of non-monogamous relationship. If you can't find a balance that works for you both then the relationship is not going to work and you should part mutually before it leads to heartbreak.

>I wonder if I can have my sexual needs or my romantic needs met, but not both and that makes me sad.

You absolutely can have, and deserve, both.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 8:54 PM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

It sounds like the asexual label is freeing in that it’s validating - you’re not broken, you’re fine as you are. That’s totally understandable. It’s up to you how much you want to make this an explicit and public part of your identity. But there are older-school words you could use on a date with someone from say OkCupid or what have you - “low libido” + “responsive (vs spontaneous) desire” [which, parenthetically, isn’t uncommon among women under patriarchy who’ve had a lot of bad sex with less than stellar partners. Which isn’t to say that’s a thing that needs fixing, either. Anyway].

Or you could say to someone, “I’m mostly about cuddling vs sex, though I can occasionally get going if the other person starts it - how does that sound to you?” Because if you do want to date cis men, there are definitely some with low libidos for whom this plan would be ideal (esp among the 40+ bracket), and who might not identify as asexual so wouldn’t be found in related communities. (In case you wanted to cast a broader net.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:13 AM on December 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

(I haven’t been on OkCupid in a long time, but I think you could answer questions about desired sex frequency, and make the answer public and the question mandatory for the other person.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:19 AM on December 12, 2018

I’m a bisexual cis woman around the same age going through my own sexual orientation realization lately - kudos to you for working this out!

I think you should go with the “early but not first date” strategy. I think it would be different if you had no interest in sex at all. But lots of people’s sexual interest waxes and wanes over the course of a relationship. I think even your level of waning is not as uncommon as pop culture would have us believe.

Also, you don’t actually owe this information to anyone off the bat. It’s not like, by going on a date with someone, you’re signing a contract to have sex with them consistently for the next five years. I do agree it’s good for you to let potential partners know, but I think that can wait until you’ve established a rapport and a bit of intimacy.

(Also, this is definitely me projecting but consider that your sexuality may manifest itself differently with different genders. I don’t say this to dismiss what you’ve told us, but I’ve personally found this to be true and it was really surprising to me.)
posted by the sockening at 6:35 AM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

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