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International Asexuality Day | Romance is not a cakewalk

Posted on April 02 2021

International Asexuality Day | Romance is not a cakewalk

 

My first insight into the asexual community was the banner of a Facebook group featuring a photograph of an intricately designed cake.  A chocolate cake, to be exact, slathered in purple and black icing reminiscent of the one I had for my birthday a few years prior.  The meaning of this image was soon to be explained to me by an admin: “Welcome to the asexual singles group, where we prefer cake over sex any day!”

 

According to McKenna & Bargh (1998)[1] [members of marginalized identities] can reap many benefits of joining a group of similar others: feeling less isolated and different, disclosing a long secret part of oneself, sharing one's own experiences and learning from those of others, and gaining emotional and motivational support (1998: 682). As I entered my first asexual community, I found this was only partly true – positive statements regarding asexuality were few and far between, overshadowed dramatically by numerous posts from despairing people speaking of their struggles to find a romantic partner.

 

I realised then that although cake is synonymous with asexuality, it couldn’t be further from being representative. Life isn’t a piece of cake for those sharing my sexual (or lack thereof) identity, particularly those ones searching for romance. It is a constant uphill climb that a concerning majority eventually abandon out of frustration and disappointment.

 

Despite the perturbing negativity of the group I had just joined, I was keen to find a girlfriend. Having recently accepted my micro-label of homoromantic (a person who experiences a distinct lack of sexual attraction, but is exclusively romantically attracted to women) I began my search.

 

In a sex-obsessed world of hook-ups and dates saturated with physical contact, asexuality was (and still is) brushed under the rug. Apps like the new Facebook Dating, Bumble, and Tinder have no proper mechanisms in place allowing users to identify themselves as asexual, let alone a more marginalized sexuality such as homoromantic like me. Worse still, there is no ability to filter for fellow asexual and/or aromatic matches, making the online dating experience just about as enjoyable as remembering you left the stove on two hours into your plane flight. This lack of accommodation on mainstream apps is not only a problem, but leaves asexuals feeling completely ignored, uncomfortable, and depressed. The asexual-specific dating services that have surfaced over time should be saving graces, but unfortunately are far from useful and tend to have a multitude of pitfalls; unintuitive interfaces, limited functionality, binary gender options, and lack of traffic/active users continue to persist. During my numerous visits to the asexual-based dating site Asexualtic (at multiple different times of day) there were only around three to five members online at any given time. Now that’s limiting.

 

To this day, OKCupid stands alone in acknowledging asexuals. In November 2014, it added expansive dropdown options for gender and sexuality, including asexuality and demisexuality, a label under the asexual umbrella for those who come to experience sexual attraction once a close bond has been formed with a partner. Despite being ahead of the game when it comes to actively including asexual users, it doesn’t include any options for aromatics or various combinations of romantic and sexual identities.

 

My first match on a dating site told me I was the most stunning woman she had laid eyes on. After disclosing my sexuality to her, however, she was confused– “but you’re so hot,” she stated, “you wear such sexy clothes, you look so gorgeous. How can someone like you be asexual?”

 

“Yes, I am hot,” I answered, “but my physical attractiveness, style, and fashion choices have nothing to do with whether I experience sexual attraction or not.”

 

After a few more questions, she admitted she couldn’t be with someone that was repulsed by sex like me, and I never heard from her again.

 

It wasn’t the first time my beauty and asexuality have been linked by confused admirers. Countless flirtatious messages from men on social media have resulted in me fielding intrusive questions about my orientation and history, tiredly explaining my looks are unrelated to my orientation. Queries of whether or not I have been sexually abused have always been commonplace, too. The social assumption that all humans possess sexual desire (Cole, 1993)[2] has thrown asexuals like myself into a maddening world of explaining ourselves over and over to those who simply don’t understand, or even worse, don’t believe us. From it all one thing has become clear: asexuality remains poorly understood by the public to this day. In a data poll carried out by Sky News (Sky Data 2018-2019[3]), 75% of the population couldn’t define asexuality in the slightest – meaning even if I could select my orientation on a dating app or disclose it instantly, there’s no guarantee my potential partner would understand what I mean.

 

Despite this, I kept trying. While months of obsessive yet fruitless searching continued, I found myself unfortunately coming to understand – and even relate to – those poor romantics on the Facebook group. Soon I found myself becoming one of them: “Has anyone had any luck with dating? I feel like this whole thing is hopeless. I can’t find any homoromantics around my age or in my own country, let alone someone I connect with,” I lamented in my own post, earning me a multitude of similarly tragic responses. “I have been looking since I was twenty-five,” started one of my fellow asexuals, “I am fifty now, and have accepted I might just spend my life single.”

 

My heart dropped.

 

As a naturally romantic person longing for a serious commitment, I was devastated. My mental health, already tipping over the edge with my diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder, took a turn for the worse. Trying to find love was no longer a hopeful, flirty and fun experience, but a depressing, desperate trial I was becoming very addicted to. While talking to a crisis councillor on the phone I was told, “it’s good to pursue a relationship, but you can’t let it consume you.”

 

I noticed then it had very much consumed me. After putting down the phone, I took to the Facebook page again. Instead of typing out a distressed message seeking support, I scrolled down the page to find a statement from one of the users that I stand by to this day: “We are valid, and we deserve love. I just hope that love will come soon.”

 

Years on, I continue to navigate through the wearisome world of dating as a homoromantic. There is more representation in the media now, and as an online content creator and author I have a platform that allows me to raise awareness to my supporters. More and more people who follow my work are opening up about their own orientations, some of them asexuals. I haven’t found a girlfriend, but I have found a larger, more positive community that supports me through what is often a very painful fixation with finding love. And really, that takes the cake.

 

[1] McKenna Katelyn, Bargh John. Coming Out in the Age of Internet: Identity Demarginalization Through Virtual Group Membership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1998;75(3):681–694.

[2] Cole Ellen. Is Sex a Natural Function: Implications for Sex Therapy. In: Rothblum Ester, Brehony Kathleen., editors. Boston Marriages: Romantic But Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press; 1993.

[3] Sky Data, https://news.sky.com/story/asexuality-explained-sky-data-poll-shows-widespread-lack-of-understanding-11626697, https://interactive.news.sky.com/LGBT_TABS_1118.pdf, 23-26 November 2018

 

 

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1 comment

  • Clarissa: April 11, 2021

    This article is wonderfully written. It conveys beautifully the struggles of dating as an asexual. Wonderful job. 💜

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