Love without sex?
Updated: Sep 4
Approximately 1% of the world identifies as asexual. This may seem a small amount, but it actually equates to 75 million people. For so many people to identify as asexual, there are a lot of misconceptions about them, especially for those who are in relationships involving sex.
Hannah Miller, 29, is one of these asexuals, but she isn’t pretending to dislike sex, it just has no effect on her. But as she is in a relationship with a non-asexual, compromises must be made.
She has had a tumultuous time with her libido over the years. From experiencing a sexual assault at a young age, to several failed relationships due to a lack of physical intimacy, she felt confusion and fear about sex and avoided it as much as possible.
Hannah thought she was alone in her feelings until the term asexuality was discussed on TV one night and she identified with it immediately.
“The best thing was realising I wasn’t on my own! I’d never heard of anyone being like me, so I always assumed I was broken. However, I then realised this was probably never going to change.”
She is happy identifying as asexual for now, but her doctor has suggested that her sex drive is suppressed rather than being non-existent. They have based this on the assault in her earlier years and believe therapy might release some trauma for her, but she doesn’t have much faith in this process.
“I don’t think the counselling is going to help as I’ve always been this way - I’ve never felt the way I should, not once, I’ve never been interested in anyone.”
Although happy to find something to describe her feelings towards sex, Hannah wishes she could change it as it has only caused problems. In her previous relationships, Hannah found it difficult trying to be like other couples when she felt the complete opposite, and ultimately none of these relationships worked out because she did not know entirely what she was dealing with.
Despite this negative view of her asexuality, her fiancé, Danny, 27, has managed to overlook it and they work through it. They have been together for two years, but they still have hurdles, especially in the sex department.
“Danny isn’t asexual. Sex and him feeling like he’s not wanted comes between us. He wants me to want him like he wants me, and I don’t think the same so it’s a struggle sometimes.”
Danny isn’t in a sexless relationship; it just happens less than he would like with not much enthusiasm. It is always consensual, but Hannah does it out of a duty she feels towards Danny and not through an actual desire for his body, although she is in love with him romantically.
“99.9% of the time I do it not to disappoint him because I know it’s something he needs, and I hate that I can’t give it to him without forcing myself to.”
A common misconception about asexuals is because they don’t enjoy sex, they don’t enjoy intimacy, but this is not always the case. Hannah admits she is not the most physically intimate person but that being asexual does not mean she can’t experience romance.
To many people who have sex in their relationship, the lines between emotional and physical intimacy are blurred and often seen as one. But for people like Hannah, there is a very clear distinction and the emotional bond is a lot stronger than the physical one. To make her relationship work, communication and understanding on both sides is essential.
Although she doesn't need sex to feel happy and secure, she is not naive and knows that it is a big part of many relationships, and it can often help or hinder them. One thing about not wanting sex helps her with temptation, she has never thought about sleeping with other people as she doesn’t want to even sleep with her fiancé, who she is in love with.
Due to the number of personal questions she anticipates following coming out, Hannah is still in the closet.
“I’m terrified of coming out, very few people know I’m asexual – including my family, I’m very careful with who I tell.”
The few who do know have been supportive, but they have been very inquisitive as it's so different from their own situations. This can sometimes be stressful for her as people ask quite invasive questions that they wouldn’t think to ask people in other types of relationships.
Regarding children, there are no plans set in stone but she would welcome ‘a happy accident’. Despite not getting the baby itch yet, she knows she would be very supportive of them if they came out for any reason.
“If they’re any part of the LGBTQIA+ community then that’s perfectly fine. If they’re not then that is perfectly fine as well. As long as they don’t hurt anyone I’m not bothered.”
She is yet to meet another asexual person face-to-face, but she knows she is not alone due to the support she receives from the online community. With their support, she is now confident enough to meet up with other asexuals in her area when and if she finds them.
Hannah thinks another way to feel supported would be having better media representation, as it helps LGBTQIA+ people make sense of their emotions and experiences.
Representation of the LGBTQIA+ community has been questionable over the years, but it has somewhat improved from the time of Ellen. After the main character came out as a lesbian, ratings declined and the show was cancelled in 1998. 20 years later, GLAAD found that despite changing attitudes, only 18.2% of the major cinematic releases in 2018 featured LGBTQIA+ representation, and most of these were of gay men.
For asexuality representation, it can be even more of a struggle to get the correct representation without focusing solely on the sex aspect. Overall, Hannah is hopeful there will be a clearer and less sexualised representation of people like her.
“Hopefully in the future, people won’t be so narrow-minded, actually educate themselves and realise not everyone is the same.”
Despite all the odds, Hannah found what she was looking for in a partner and within herself, and is taking each day as it comes.