The author over at Queering Asexuality, whom I will call “L” because in her about section she calls herself only L.E.M.S., wrote a really excellent post today about consent in sexual situations (from an asexual perspective) and her conclusion about asexual intimacy (which is basically nongenital, sensual physical interaction) being a gloriously good and pleasurable thing in its own right, not anything less than sex.
Here are my favorite parts that I want to comment on:
But I think everyone just needs to experience what it can really be like when you are with another person who is willing or just wants to see what can happen when you adore and love limitations. Big big “limitations.” When you limit yourself even more than you usually do (yes, you, asexual person). I’m talking about changing the goals too: Not aiming for orgasm, or pleasuring the self or the other person in a way where you have to turn someone on or be turned on […..] Just kissing, cuddling, caressing, hugging, embracing in the darkness, not heading for the genitals, not needing to get undressed, not trying to increase the pleasure, but just sustaining the sensuality by ebbs and flows – I don’t know, you feel loved, connected, like the person isn’t getting lost in anything, but is always with you each moment, surprising you still at every turn. It is addicting, and it’s not over in ten minutes, but keeps going for hours, and you are glad that it does.
My point is that you don’t have to do much to reach incredible, satisfying heights of desire, connection, and pleasure. I have this feeling some of us kind of just wish we wanted to do more, and so we may feel like we always have to do the furthest thing we are comfortable with and like because why not do “the most?” You can say that, but I think when you finally experience intimacy with another asexual person (I don’t mean to be limiting, but I know nothing beyond my own experience), then you really honestly can feel confident about asserting what you want and don’t want with people, with anyone asexual or not. Because, and this is SO important so listen very very closely, because you KNOW that what people can experience with you in terms of the absolute “minimal” you want to offer is absolute magic. They should be so lucky to get to participate in and have access to what they might not experience otherwise. Fuck thinking I’m holding people back, and so compromise on what I want/don’t want. I’m moving people forward. I’ve got it. Just listen to me, I’ll say. You don’t even know love ’til I show you how it feels. You don’t know sensuality. You can take it from me asexual world: asexual intimacy is a fucking good thing to experience. And I really don’t think I’ll ever settle for less again. I didn’t even know how “not far” I could go.
I’ve desired intensely sensual, profoundly spiritual physical intimacy in romantic friendships and passionate friendships my whole life. It’s one of the key features of my ideal relationships. Touch is my love language, so even when I’m not thinking about myself in my own hypothetical relationships but instead thinking of characters in stories I write or in other people’s stories, I zone in on the physical affection and intimacy because it’s the ultimate expression of love and connection to me. I’ve learned in recent years just how sensual and intimate and even borderline erotic nonsexual physical intimacy can be, just from exploring different ideas about what two people in a totally nonsexual relationship can do together physically….. And the suggestion that such intimacy is somehow inferior or incomplete because it isn’t sex, because it doesn’t involve genitals and orgasm, is totally ridiculous. When I think about or write about two people who love each other epically, cuddling and caressing in bed for hours and touching each other’s bare skin and breathing together and kissing each other’s body and just being 100% present and focused on the encounter as they individually enter a space of pure love, that is a million times more intimate and intense than a lot of the sex that happens in the world. I’ve said before that sex and intimacy are two different things, and they are not interdependent whatsoever. Asexual intimacy, as L calls it, is the perfect example of that.
It’s occurred to me many times before that most sexual people out there have never imagined just how intimate you can be with someone else in a physical way, without having sex, without even getting naked together. They assume that all asexuals are totally disinterested in physical expressions of love, intimate touch, sensual touch, etc because they have connected the concept of “physical intimacy” and sex so inextricably that the first can never happen without leading to the second. But there are so many aces who want physical intimacy in their relationships, whether romantic or nonromantic. I believe that there’s even some degree of self-restraint that happens with asexuals who only get involved with sexual people, because we know that if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up in an unwanted sexual situation just because we were too physical.
But God, when you’re with another ace and sex isn’t even an issue….. You’re free to do anything. I think the most beautiful sentiment in L’s post is that there is nothing “minimal” about asexual intimacy. Asexual intimacy is not small, it’s not shallow, it’s not boring. It is whole and expansive and it has the potential to reach so deeply into your heart and soul, to create a sense of connection between two asexuals that is indescribable and powerful. It can be so caring and tender and emotional. Sexual people have no idea. They think those of us who are celibate are missing out on sex, when they’ve never experienced the love and connection that can happen during asexual intimacy.
And it is pleasurable. Physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. If you just want to talk about it from a physical standpoint, it’s much more of a total body pleasure throughout the entire encounter, as opposed to the genital-specific pleasure of sexual orgasm. DJ, the founder of AVEN, once described how “high impact cuddling” can go on for hours because there is no naturally occurring endpoint, like orgasm, to signal that the physical intimacy can conclude. You just touch as long as you want to, and there’s no climactic sensation, just a never-ending stream of pleasure. (I think I once alluded to this as a kind of infinite desire asexuals can experience for one another.)
One of the many, many reasons I want to form intimate relationships with other celibate asexuals exclusively is because I want the people I love, the people I share my body with, to know and to feel that this nonsexual physical intimacy is 100% gratifying and amazing and special and far from me “holding them back,” I am giving them complete vulnerability and love and care and pleasure. I want to share this with people who appreciate it, who want it, who need it, who love it.