I started using dating apps for the same reason most people do. I wanted to find the one — my one, a person who would be by my side through the difficulties of life. And while dating apps are notoriously superficial, in that respect, they had an advantage: They allowed me to state, up front, what I was looking for in a relationship.
My bio read something like this: “Broadway enthusiast. Disney fanatic. Asexual. Looking for a serious relationship.”
I trusted this bio to act as something of a litmus test. If they matched with me, I thought they understood the idea of asexuality, the broad definition of which is “someone who has little to no interest in sex.” (Of course, there are caveats to this. Some asexual people, who may also refer to themselves as “ace,” have sex for their partner’s sake, some have to develop an emotional connection first, and then there are some who just aren’t interested. I fall into the third category: I’m not interested in sex; don’t want it at all — one could say I’m sex-repulsed. I don’t even like talking about it.)
I wouldn’t expect my online matches to know these nitty-gritty details, like where I fell on the spectrum; but at least I figured they’d get the basic idea that I wasn’t interested in sex.
Or so I thought.
The first person I matched with online was super sweet and we really hit it off. I was completely upfront with her. It’s always awkward to start a conversation on a dating app with, “Hi, just as a heads up, I’m not interested in sex so if that’s a problem I don’t want to waste your time.” But that’s literally how I preface these conversations because it saves me the pain of having to break it to them later.
This match was curious, but not repelled. I explained more — that I could have feelings for someone, but not in a physical sense, that I was more interested in the emotional bond than anything else. A few weeks later, we went on our first date, to a drag show.
For our second date we went to a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. I learned more about her (career, family, friends) and vice versa; it was actually pleasant and comfortable, I felt we connected on an emotional level, and she seemed to understand my quirks, personality, beliefs, and my sexuality. After talking for two months, we became Facebook “official.” This was the first time I was ever “out” in my personal life and on social media — and it felt great.
I truly thought that she meant that our relationship was going to be just as we discussed it: romantic, not sexual. And that’s what it was for the longest time — we’d hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes, talk about our interests, share our deepest secrets, and just be open with each other. I thought I had finally found someone who liked me for me.
But one day after we’d been together for nearly four months, we were cuddling on the couch and all of that changed. She looked at me and said, “You’ll never have sex with me?”
That was that.
Eventually, I got back on the apps again. I matched with some pretty nice girls, or at least I thought so, until I mentioned the topic of asexuality. This time, I was met with resentment and bullying. Apparently I was a “freak of nature” or “not a real woman.” While I knew these people were just strangers hiding behind a screen, it still stung. I understood why they had an aggressive response, but they could have easily said, “I don’t think it’s going to work out” instead of insulting me.
It was after those painstaking few months that I met Reid.* I had a feeling we would get along as soon as I saw his pictures and read his corny pickup lines. We seemed to have the same witty, cynical sense of humor. I broke the news that I was ace by playing two truths and a lie. Like most people, he thought the lie was that I was asexual. In the past, my asexuality seemed to be my only characteristic, the one thing people couldn’t stop talking about. However, with Reid, I was just Casey — the dork who loved Disney and Michael Bublé. There was a mutual understanding and respect for each other ― it seemed perfect.
Until the question of what we were looking for in the future came up. For him, that was a wife, a family, a house… and you saw it coming: sex. I reminded him I was asexual, and that’s where it became complicated. It seemed like he thought eventually I’d change my mind or would want to do it with him if he was the “right guy.”
I was frustrated, and hurt, but we parted ways.
At first, I was upset because I thought it was my fault, that something was wrong with me. Prior to dating, I didn’t have a problem with being asexual. It was only after that I started to view it as a problem: Why didn’t I just want sex like everyone else? Something that everyone else seemed to desire so badly just did not appeal to me and now I was the bad guy? These were the same feelings that had surfaced when I first began toying with the idea of being asexual seven years ago. It already took enough courage to start dating in the first place, but to be met with the rejection I feared so many years ago? It really hurt.
Looking back at it now, there’s not much more I could have done. I was clear and upfront about my asexuality. The last thing I would want is to lead someone on. I wasn’t trying to ruin anyone’s life, I was trying to live my truth.
But that realization has almost made me feel more exhausted. Plenty of people have relationship “non-negotiables." They may want, or not want, to have kids; others may want, or not want, to get married; or are only open to living in a certain place. My non-negotiable? I will not have sex.
I understand that this particular boundary may be difficult for some people to comprehend. If someone is confused about what I mean, they’re free to ask for more information. But they don’t have a right to disrespect my identity. It’s affected my ability to trust people. And in a weird way, dating people who disrespected me and my sexuality made me feel more lonely than when I was single.
That’s why for the time being I’ve decided to stop dating ― no apps, no messages, nothing. Today, I’m single by choice and couldn’t be happier. However, it took time and therapy. My therapist raised the point that maybe dating isn’t for me for now. Not that I don’t deserve companionship, but the society we live in today tends to prioritize sex over nearly everything else, so with that mentality I’d just be met with more pain. Until I could come to accept myself wholeheartedly to the point where other people’s negative opinions of me wouldn’t take such a toll on me, it would be in my best interest to stay single. For once, I finally agreed.
It’s been two years since I’ve dated and I can say that my relationship with myself is the healthiest relationship I’ve had in a long time. I’m my own partner in crime. I’m taking care of myself by actively not setting myself up for failure. It’s the ultimate act of self-care. While it does get lonely sometimes, I’m learning to be comfortable spending time alone. There’s a feeling of ease that comes with knowing that you can show up for yourself in the way you need. It’s certain and I don’t have to rely on anyone else to do it.
Being single is also a sign of respect for myself. I respect myself enough to not waste my energy on those people incapable of understanding my identity.
It’s unfair that I can’t have a “typical” dating life like my peers, but it is what it is. Maybe when I get tired of my own company, I’ll ditch the dating apps and go to a bar to meet people the old-fashioned way. Perhaps a change of setting might do the trick — guess I’ll have to wait and see.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.