With startling candour, four women reveal what it's like to be asexual
Not tonight darling… or ever! They’ve never felt the spark of passion – even with their other halves. Here, with startling candour, four women reveal what it’s like to be asexual, and ask why is it society’s final taboo?
- Although divorced, and the mother of a teenager, Ku Fraser, 48, has never felt any sort of attraction or sexual desire towards anyone, man or woman
- It was only a year ago that she could put a name to what she is: asexual
- Pam Hobbs, Sana Kardar and Jennifer Gauden are asexual and say what it’s like
Although divorced, and the mother of a teenager, Ku Fraser, 48, has never felt any sort of attraction or carnal desire towards anyone, man or woman.
No twinge of longing when she sees someone she knows, objectively speaking, to be attractive. No spark of passion during a flirtatious encounter. Indeed, no sexual stirrings whatsoever during those moments when most of us would be thinking, ‘What next…?’
Yet it was only a year ago — with the help of her daughter, versed, like most of her generation, in the myriad ways sexuality can present itself — that she could put a name to what she has always instinctively known she is: asexual.
Now, at last, Ku has been able to make sense of the young woman who only dated because of peer pressure, as well as assuage the guilt she felt while in a sexless marriage, a source of great frustration for her ex-husband.
‘I had boyfriends when I was younger and, because I felt no sexual urges with them, I even kissed a few girls to see if that might cause any stirrings,’ says Ku, from Cheltenham.
‘It didn’t, so although when I met my ex-husband, aged 25, I didn’t feel any of the usual attraction people talk about, I thought it was time I did what all my friends were doing, what society expected and had a relationship.
‘We had sex in those early days, but I found little pleasure in it. Still, when he asked me to marry him, I said yes and we went on to have a child together, again following the well-trodden path laid down by society.’
Relieved: Ku Fraser is happier since learning of asexuality
Since first learning about asexuality a year ago, Ku feels huge regret about the path she felt forced down.
‘I wish I’d known that I was asexual and didn’t have to do all of that,’ she says. ‘Obviously I love my daughter and it’s thanks to her that I have this new understanding of myself. But I envy this generation who don’t feel the pressure to fall in line with societal sexual “norms”.’
Asexuality is defined as neither being drawn to others sexually nor having any desire to act in a sexual way with others.
According to The Asexual Network, set up to unite people like Ku around the world, 1 per cent of the population experiences no sexual attraction. To help increase understanding, Asexual Awareness Week is being held from October 24 to 30.
Ku’s own revelation came by chance after her daughter had watched something on TikTok about asexuality and explained it to her.
‘My eyes filled with tears and I remember saying: “Oh my God, that’s me. That’s how I’ve always felt — and I didn’t know there was a name for it”,’ she recalls.
‘I’ve read a lot about it since, accounts from other women who have never had any interest in sex. I’m sad for them — it’s not easy being in a world where most people seem obsessed with it — but at least now I know I’m not the only one .’
However, at a point in history where all sexual preferences and gender presentations, from homosexual to transgender, and bisexual to non-binary, are widely embraced, asexuality appears to be the final taboo.
‘Anything goes in terms of sexuality these days, which I applaud,’ says Ku. ‘And yet society still tells you it’s not OK not to want sex.
Since first learning about asexuality a year ago, Ku feels huge regret about the path she felt forced down. ‘I wish I’d known that I was asexual and didn’t have to do all of that,’ she says
‘Over the years, when I confided how I felt in female friends, instead of accepting it they would give all kinds of advice about how to get in the mood with my ex-husband: ‘Oh, just wear some nice underwear’ and ‘The more you do it, the more you’ll want it’. They all felt bad for him ‘going without’ and no-one took my feelings about sex seriously.
‘Others said: ‘Maybe you’re not right for each other and you’ll feel differently with another man’ but no-one ever said: ‘Some people just don’t want to have sex’, a fact I now know to be true.’
Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an intrinsic part of some people’s make-up.
Ku says she loved her husband dearly in the early stages — she just didn’t want to jump into bed with him.
Her 19-year marriage finally hit the rocks two years ago, when her ex-husband met another woman. By then the couple hadn’t shared a bed for eight years.
For the first 11 years, Ku says she felt ‘unbearable pressure’ to have sex. The strain was only eased by her ex working abroad, in the oil industry, for months at a time.
‘He resented me because he felt I’d conned him by getting married when I didn’t want sex and I resented him for putting so much focus on sex.
‘I’d say: “Surely you like other things about me — you didn’t just marry me for sex? Can’t we be friends who do other things together, but not that?” For me a close friendship, raising our daughter together, worked fine,’ she recalls.
‘In the early years, we would try massages and date nights, but it didn’t matter what we did, I just never felt any desire for or pleasure in sex.’
Ku would explain it wasn’t personal, that she had never wanted sex with men she dated before her husband, though she had gone along with it, to see if she could spark any internal desire, with three different men.
Still, Ku says she didn’t want a divorce and would have happily continued living under the same roof as her husband. Consequently, she went through a period of real mourning when the marriage ended.
To satisfy friends who were adamant she would get fired up by a new man, Ku, a retail worker, went on a couple of dates but there was no frisson. She has no plans to ever attempt a relationship again.
‘What’s the point when I wouldn’t want to have sex and, unless the other person was asexual, they wouldn’t accept that? I can’t live with that sort of pressure again.’
At peace: (from left) Pam Hobbs, Sana Kardar and Jennifer Gauden
Jennifer Gaudenz who, aged 32, is a virgin, can relate. She was in her early 20s when she realised she was asexual.
She has had two relationships with men; one, which lasted three years, when she was 18, and a year-long one when she was 25.
She loved them both, but not in a romantic way, describing it as like being with a close girlfriend she spent most of her free time with.
Both men accepted she would not have sex with them — ‘If they tried to touch me in my intimate area I would literally scream — it wasn’t pleasant, it felt horrible,’ — she says but her unwillingness to consummate the relationships eventually contributed to break ups.
‘Kissing is fine for me,’ says Jennifer, a medical writer from North-West London. ‘I just don’t feel any pleasure being touched or touching men [sexually] but I was willing to do that because they had needs, so I would compromise.
‘I can appreciate a good-looking man but I don’t have any desire to have a sexual relationship and I’m happiest being single.
‘Although I’d like a friendship with a man, I know most wouldn’t be willing to settle for that and I don’t want to give anybody false hope.’
Jennifer Gaudenz who, aged 32, is a virgin, can relate. She was in her early 20s when she realised she was asexual
Despite Jennifer having explained her asexual nature to her mother, she is still asked if she might produce grandchildren
It was while reading online ten years ago, aged 22, about someone else’s experience of being asexual that the truth dawned on Jennifer.
Before then, she had never discussed her attitude to sex with female friends, so had assumed other women felt similarly.
Those same friends now tell her she might feel differently if she met ‘the one’, but Jennifer insists there is no such person for her — she simply does not have the same biological responses that sexual people have.
Despite Jennifer having explained her asexual nature to her mother, she is still asked if she might produce grandchildren.
‘The process of making a child is unthinkable to me,’ says Jennifer. ‘But I’m not averse to the idea of being a mum so I may adopt.
‘Even as a child I said I never wanted to marry. I dated because that’s what society expects of women and I was just following the path of least resistance.
‘I suppose I felt attracted to the idea of being in a relationship, because that’s what all my friends were doing, but I have never experienced desire for anyone.’
For Sana Kardar, 29, a biomedical sciences student, the realisation that she had no desire for intimate relationships came when she was 16 and ‘almost threw up’ after kissing a boy during a game of truth or dare.
‘I didn’t like the sensation or the close contact and it’s the only time I have ever kissed, let alone had sex with anyone,’ says Sana. ‘I knew I’d never felt an attraction to anyone but that sealed it.’
For Sana Kardar, 29, a biomedical sciences student, the realisation that she had no desire for intimate relationships came when she was 16 and ‘almost threw up’ after kissing a boy during a game of truth or dare
Sana was 22 when she first read about asexuality and realised she fit the description
Like Jennifer, Sana describes herself not only as asexual but also ‘touch repulsed’.
She was 22 when she first read about asexuality and realised she fit the description.
Her father died at around this time and, as a Muslim, her mother insisted Sana should find a man to marry and take care of her.
‘I knew I couldn’t possibly do that and, luckily, I’m not religious,’ she says. ‘By the age of 24, I’d told everyone in my life I was asexual.’
Some men reacted as if Sana, from South-West London, had thrown down a gauntlet and worked hard at persuading her that they could turn her on to sex, something which still rankles.
‘They would say things such as: ‘But you are so good looking, you could have anyone you want’,’ says Sana. ‘Others would insist that, given a bit of time, they could turn me on to the joys of sex.
‘People don’t understand asexuality and refuse to try. They think that to be happy and contented in life you need to be sexually active.’
Sana’s other bug-bear is female acquaintances who trivialise her sexual orientation.
‘One friend, who considers herself very politically correct, posted on social media that she is ‘asexual these days’ and, knowing she has always been very sexual, I challenged her.
‘She said she was ‘in a dry period’ and I explained that it was just as insulting to people like me to describe herself as temporarily asexual as it would be to claim to be bisexual, when she isn’t.’
Like Jennifer (right), Sana (left) describes herself not only as asexual but also ‘touch repulsed’
Others in Sana’s life have suggested she just needs to experiment with different men and women.
‘It makes me so cross I’ll say: ‘Would you tell a homosexual person that they need to sleep with someone of the opposite gender to check they are really gay?’,’ says Sana.
Consultant clinical psychologist Janice Hiller agrees that society needs to embrace asexuality, just as it has other sexual orientations.
‘Some people, an accepted minority, just don’t experience arousal or sexual desire and, unlike those who lose their libido, asexuals are generally not distressed by this,’ says Janice. ‘Any distress usually comes from societal pressures which are wrong because they disregard the fact that this is a sexual identity.
‘Anyone who identifies this way deserves acceptance.’
Pam Hobbs, 51, was separated from her ex-husband, the father of her two children, when she finally acknowledged that even the thought of having sex, or kissing anyone, was deeply distasteful to her.
But it was several more years before she heard the term asexual, which she now identifies as.
Although Pam has experienced orgasm, she has no urge to do so, even alone.
Pam Hobbs, 51, was separated from her ex-husband, the father of her two children, when she finally acknowledged that even the thought of having sex, or kissing anyone, was deeply distasteful to her
After learning about asexuality from a social media post, Pam joined groups for asexuals on Facebook, even signing up for a ‘dating’ agency for ‘asexuals looking for company and friendship, with no strings attached’. Pictured: (left to right) Sana Kardar, Pam Hobbs, Jennifer Graundenz
‘I made a decision in 2010 [a year after her divorce] that I didn’t want to share my body intimately with anybody ever again,’ says Pam, from March, Cambridgeshire. ‘I knew I’d never wanted to have sex with my husband but thought, without all the baggage of a failing marriage, it might be different with other men. I was wrong. It wasn’t until three years ago that I realised there was a label for people like me.’
After learning about asexuality from a social media post, Pam joined groups for asexuals on Facebook, even signing up for a ‘dating’ agency for ‘asexuals looking for company and friendship, with no strings attached’.
She is yet to meet anyone via the site but says that, although she has loved men, including her ex-husband in the past, that feeling was borne of affection not desire.
Unfortunately, she has had some unpleasant encounters after telling men that she is not interested in romance.
One man, who repeatedly tried to pursue a relationship with her, ignored her explanation that as an asexual she could offer nothing more than friendship and told her ‘you are just a weirdo!’.
Another man Pam met for drinks and dinner, having told him she was asexual, feigned interest at first saying ‘Oh, that’s different’. However, when she rejected his advances, he called her a ‘derogatory name’ adding: ‘You’re just weird!’
‘In a world that’s tolerant of everybody and everything, no-one seems to have empathy for asexuals,’ says Pam. ‘Admitting that, like me, you have no interest in any sort of sexual relationship really is the final taboo.’
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