Tag Archives: nonsexual sensuality

Asexual Intimacy is Good.

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.

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Love & Relationships, Touch

The Physical Touch Escalator

I look at physical touch between two people via a spectrum model: on one end of the spectrum (of positive touch only) is the handshake and on the other end is full-blown penetrative sex. What falls in between progresses from that most casual and non-intimate/nonsensual type of touch to more intimate, more sensual, and ultimately sexual. At every point of this spectrum, romantic attraction is optional, and sexual attraction is optional in the nongenital portion of the spectrum. That simply means you can cuddle someone you don’t want to fuck and fuck someone you don’t want to date or don’t feel the least bit romantically in love with.

The nonsexual/nongenital forms of touch include: unemotional hugs, emotional hugs, holding hands, kissing (that breaks down further into “on the cheek,” “on the mouth, close-lipped,” “on the mouth, with tongue,” “on the body, close mouthed”, “on the body, open-mouthed”), cuddling (clothed or partially unclothed), caressing or petting the body affectionately, intimate paired dancing, and massage.

The erotic and/or sexual forms of touch include: mutual masturbation, sexual groping of the body with particular attention to the breasts or buttocks, dry humping, oral sex, anal sex, sex with toys, and penile-vaginal sex.

The physical touch escalator is based on the premise that each form or level of touch on the spectrum automatically and undoubtedly implies a progression to the next form or level, usually beginning somewhere after “nonromantic/casual hugs.” Therefore, if you enthusiastically engage in one type of nonsexual, affectionate touch with someone, you are expected to eventually engage in whatever physical act comes after it on the spectrum—and keep going until you eventually reach penetrative sex.

If you don’t want to share Touch C with a person, then you better not agree to share Touch B, and if you go through with Touch C, you’re implying that you’re interested in Touch D, etc. The nonsexual forms of physical affection are only means to a sexual end, their main value the potential for sex that they carry by default.

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The Physical Touch Escalator in Action

So let’s say Jenny—a heterosexual female—is at a college party. She’s had a few drinks, she’s loosened up, she’s having a good time, and she starts dancing with some guy named Ryan. She thinks Ryan’s attractive, and she enjoys dancing, so dancing with him is fun. They’re feeling each other up a little, and then they end up making out (kissing open-mouthed with tongue).

Jenny’s enjoying herself, but she doesn’t want to go any further on the touch escalator. Jenny doesn’t want any kind of sexual contact with Ryan; she doesn’t know him well enough or she’s only comfortable having sex inside of a romantic relationship or she doesn’t feel like it tonight.

But Ryan, who’s also intoxicated and horny, expects that he’ll be able to take her back to his place and at least get some oral sex out of the deal. After all, she’s making out with him, right? Obviously, she’s attracted to him and in the mood for sex.

Now, maybe Jenny manages to get away from Ryan and leave the party for home with friends or by herself—in which case Ryan feels disappointed and maybe a little bit annoyed, even cheated. Or maybe Ryan convinces Jenny to go home with him, and they end up having some kind of sex that Jenny just goes along with because it’s easier to do it than it is to flat-out reject this attractive guy’s advances after she already made out and danced with him. Maybe Jenny would actually like to go to sleep with Ryan after some cuddling—but there’s no way in hell Ryan’s going to do that without sex happening first. Worst case scenario: Jenny goes home with Ryan, drunk and thinking that they can just go to sleep cuddling or not even really thinking at all, and Ryan ends up raping her without believing as he does it (or afterward) that it’s rape.

The bottom line is, once Jenny gets on the physical touch escalator with Ryan, it’s hard to get off of it before reaching the sexual end. And because she got on the escalator with him, Ryan feels like he has a right to some level of sexual favor from her.

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The Physical Touch Escalator and Rape Culture

The Physical Touch Escalator involves attitudes that are essential to rape culture, which is the biggest reason why the PTE is so problematic. It is built on the following two premises:

1. If you consent to one kind of physical interaction with someone, you’re implicitly consenting to all the other kinds that come after it up to penetrative sex, which means that if you stop the escalator before you reach sexual interaction, you’re a “tease” who’s being “unfair” to the other person. You’ve “led them on.”

2. Giving someone else any kind of physical, nongenital affection entitles you to sexual interaction with that person….. which can easily turn into the classic rapist’s defense: “She/he was asking for it.”

It shouldn’t take a high IQ to see that if you combine these two attitudes, you create a situation where it’s dangerously easy for rape to happen.

Contrary to popular knowledge, “rape” is not always a clear-cut crime. There’s the kind of rape that most people think of when they hear the word: the violent, hostile, and usually stranger-on-stranger or acquaintance-on-acquaintance rape, where the victim’s screaming and trying to get away and very obviously does NOT consent; after that, drug-facilitated date rape is probably the next kind that comes to mind. These attacks are easy for the world to define as rape because the victim was a completely unwilling participant in the entire interaction, not just the genital interaction.

But the less hostile, less violent, more subdued type of rape—in other words, the kind that’s easier for rapists, their victims, and even people who know both, to dismiss as something other than rape or assault—can contain elements that lead everyone to excuse the rapist and even blame the victim. Sometimes, those elements are alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, it’s the way a female victim was dressed or where she was at the time of her assault. Sometimes, it’s the fact that the victim was flirting with the rapist prior to the assault.

But sometimes, it’s the fact that the victim did consent to some of the physical touch leading up to the rape—the ultimate “asking for it.” And these scenarios of rape and sexual assault have to be the kind that happen in personal relationships, between two romantic partners or between two friends, rather than between total strangers or acquaintances who aren’t on particularly friendly terms. So you’re with someone that you trust, that you may even love, who you’re being physically affectionate with (in a nonsexual manner) because you want to share affection with them….. You do want that touch, that affection, that intimacy. You just don’t want sex.

And it’s your right not to want sex. It’s your right to say “yes” to cuddling and “no” to penetration or “yes” to kissing and “no” to oral sex, etc.

But in this culture of ours where millions of people still don’t understand that it’s possible for rape to happen in a romantic relationship, how many bystanders do you think would easily and immediately accept that in a situation where two people who are emotionally connected are sharing consensual physical affection, that the one who ended up raped or sexually assaulted seriously, legitimately DID NOT WANT to have sex?

How many people would say, “Well, if that person didn’t want to have sex, then they shouldn’t have said yes to cuddling”? Or “If that person didn’t want to have sex, then they shouldn’t have been kissing their partner at the time”? Or even, “Well, those two are a couple, so it wasn’t rape, it was just one of them doing something they didn’t really want to do to make their partner happy. That happens with every couple, in all kinds of ways”?

And frankly, putting rape culture aside for a second, what can we expect in a culture where physical affection is sexualized so totally and undeniably in the collective social consciousness? The physical touch escalator can only exist as long as the most common mindset among the public is to read all forms of non-casual physical affection and sensual touch as innately sex-motivated, and as long as most people believe in that sex-motivation bullshit, people are going to end up raped and assaulted by their own romantic partners or intimate friends or people they’re casually dating, just for wanting and engaging in some nongenital physical affection.

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The Physical Touch Escalator and Asexuality/Celibacy

As a celibate asexual, the Physical Touch Escalator pisses me off for reasons beyond its interaction with rape culture.

The PTE and its premise that all physical affection and sensual touch is sex-motivated are the reasons that so many celibate asexuals find themselves without access to regular, safe physical touch, which a lot of us desire strongly whether in romantic or nonromantic relationships. This lack of physical affection in our lives can be deeply disturbing, emotionally and even psychologically.

The PTE puts a lot of oblivious asexuals, who are sex-repulsed or sex-averse, into dangerous situations where they don’t even see the unasked for sexual advance coming and where they feel either too surprised or guilty, that they have a hard time saying “no” to the escalating sexual activity in the middle of it, even when they’re dying to get out of that situation.

The PTE makes mixed romantic relationships with sexual people super risky and dangerous for asexuals who do not want any kind of sexual contact or minimal sexual contact, and it can even make so-called “friendships” with sexual people dangerous, if the ace is comfortably participating in physical affection that they don’t even consider romantic, while their “friend” is using the physical affection to move-in on the ace sexually.

The PTE can cause sexual people to question an asexual’s identity because of the asexual’s sensuality or love of physical touch; it’s one reason why sexual people can assume that all asexuals are totally non-physical, non-sensual, standoffish, cold, etc. In this same vein, an asexual who would otherwise feel 100% sure about wanting to stay celibate could question their own desires, their own identity, their own comfort level with actual sex all because of their enjoyment and desire for nonsexual sensual touch. You got the whole God damn world telling you that nobody wants to cuddle or kiss or hold hands with someone, unless what they really want is to fuck that person, and after a lifetime of hearing that message unchallenged, it’s not easy to completely discard it even in the face of your own contradictory feelings, desires, and sexual orientation.

I’ve seen this a thousand times: some ace, usually young and new to the community, asking around: “If I like making out, does that mean I’m not ace? If I love to cuddle, does that mean I’m not ace? I love to be physically affectionate, does that mean I want sex and I just don’t know it and I have to go through with it even though I feel like I don’t want it?” It’s insane, the circles you can run around in your head all because of some cultural paradigm that’s complete horseshit.

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Closing Statements

The Physical Touch Escalator is in direct violation of healthy consent in relationships of any kind. It is a tool and expression of rape culture. It particularly endangers asexuals and other people either temporarily or permanently celibate who choose to pursue physically affectionate/intimate relationships with romantic or nonromantic partners.

The idea that nongenital physical affection can only be motivated by sexual desire and can therefore only have sexual connotations is disgusting, harmful, and unfair. It has created a society where people can rape their romantic partners or close friends and feel excused in doing so, where it’s easy for people to pressure romantic partners or friends for sex and where their partners dubiously consent to it out of guilt or a sense that they owe sex as repayment for physical affection, where the only way to gain access to nonsexual physical affection is to enter into a sexual or romantic-sexual relationship and therefore anyone not in a sexual or romantic-sexual relationship must live with next to no affectionate touch—which is emotionally and psychologically unhealthy and even cruel.

You are entitled to say “yes” to nonsexual physical affection and say “no” to sexual activity, in any kind of relationship, any time or all the time. It does not make you a tease. It does not make you a bad friend, a bad romantic partner, or a bad person. Your desire to NOT have sex is equally as valid as any other person’s desire to have sex. You never owe anyone sex, for any reason.

Holding someone’s hand or cuddling them or kissing them or giving them any other kind of nongenital physical affection does not unconditionally entitle you to have sex with that person. Ever. Even if you’re dating them, even if you’re in a serious romantic relationship, even if you’re married to them. You have no right to someone else’s body. Period.

No one should have to say “no” to sex more than once. Saying “no” to sex is not an invitation for a debate, an argument, nagging, manipulation, guilting, or any other form of coercion. If someone doesn’t accept “no” immediately and without question, kick that douche bag to the curb and don’t look back.

 

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Filed under Celibate Asexuality, Language & Terminology, Love & Relationships, Sexuality, The Basics, Touch

Body Worship: Sensuality, Nonsexual Eros, and Asexual Love

I’ve added something new to my list of kinks I want to explore with at least one life partner: nonsexual body worship.

Body worship is a kink frequently intertwined with BDSM, as something that a Sub will perform on their Dom; it involves prolonged, deliberate attention to certain body parts—usually the genitals but sometimes other parts—with an air of awe, appreciation, adoration, etc. The person doing the worship will kiss, lick, or stroke their partner’s body part(s), while their partner passively enjoys.

Obviously, this kink is a highly erotic one and most likely happens in a sexual relationship, as opposed to a nonsexual kinky relationship. (Several kinks can be performed without sex/genital contact, but usually, sex does follow or go hand in hand with kink.) The most commonly worshipped body parts are the genitals—penis, vagina, ass—and while achieving orgasm may not be the goal of body worship, genital arousal is bound to be unavoidable if said genitals are the focus of your partner’s touching, kissing, licking, etc. The sexual encounter will continue beyond the body worship.

I’m interested in exploring body worship as a celibate asexual: a kind of highly sensual touching that focuses on the whole body, while avoiding stimulation of the genitals altogether. Body worship not as a phase of a sexual encounter or a kind of foreplay leading up to genital orgasm but as its own bottom line, as the intimate experience.

What I have in mind for myself and my fellow asexual partner(s) is to spend time in bed together, clothed only in our underwear or maybe in our underwear and t-shirts, and caress each other, stroke, massage, kiss each other’s body wherever we like for however long we want, focusing our attention on the other’s body in its fullness—the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it smells, and the desire/love/adoration each of us feels for the other’s. I could spend twenty minutes on my partner’s back, for example: just looking at it, touching it, smelling the skin, kissing it lightly, admiring its every beautiful feature, etc. Maybe I do this while cuddling them from behind; maybe I do this while they lie on their front for me and just relax into the sensations of my touch. We don’t have to cover the whole body in every session, but I’d like it if we did sometimes.

The energy of this kind of encounter is sensual, deeply intimate, loving, even passionate. But it’s not sexual. It doesn’t involve our genitals or seek to arouse us genitally or produce an orgasm. This kind of body worship does qualify as erotic in my book.

I define eros as “a state of desire; having the potential for sexuality.” To me, the erotic can extend into sex, but it doesn’t have to. Eroticism and sex aren’t the same, they aren’t synonymous, but they are closely related. Sexual people generally can’t conceive of separating eroticism from sex completely, of experiencing eros with someone that they don’t want to have sex with eventually. I bet I’d be hard-pressed to find a sexual person willing to believe that eroticism can happen between two people who aren’t sexually attracted to each other (or romantically attracted to each other, for that matter)—that erotic energy can exist in a nonsexual relationship between two asexuals and that erotic energy can feel deeply satisfying without being released into a sexual encounter ending in orgasm.

Erotic energy, divorced from sex, is the energy of desire. It’s creative energy. I might even say it’s intimacy energy, although I never want to suggest or support the idea that all intimacy is erotic or sexual because nonsexual intimacy is tremendously important and amazing. This kind of energy, this kind of eros, can unfold between two asexuals loving each other in a celibate relationship, and it doesn’t even have to be a “romantic” relationship in the traditional sense. For a pair of asexuals, intense sensuality, coupled with desire for each other’s touch and for each other’s body, becomes erotic without pushing the eroticism to the sexual conclusion that sexual people and their culture always pursue as if eroticism is only a means to sex.

I’ve mentioned desire before as something I want asexuals to explore, within themselves and in celibate relationships with each other, and I want to reiterate how important and fascinating I think this exploration can be for us. Sexual culture frames “desire,” even at a linguistic level, as something exclusively sexual, and that denies so much of what desire between two people can be. Celibate asexuals have this incredible opportunity to find out what nonsexual desire feels like, what can it mean, how it can manifest in nonsexual and even nonromantic relationships. What does desire feel like to us? What does it feel like to be desired in a nonsexual way, by our asexual and/or aromantic partners? What does aromantic desire feel like? What’s it like to desire your nonromantic/nonsexual partner’s body and touch?  These are questions I want us, particularly those of us who are celibate and who are involved or want to be involved emotionally with other aces and aros, to meditate on.

So nonsexual body worship (between two asexuals) is erotic, sensual, and includes desire energy. It does not have to come from a place of romantic love or attraction. The idea that such intimacy can happen in a nonromantic relationship for nonromantic reasons is extremely radical, I know, but I’m a relationship anarchist unwilling to be close-minded about what’s possible for asexual and aromantic people.

Asexual body worship and nonsexual eroticism brings me to another concept I’ve had in mind for a while now: the desexualization of nudity.

Sexual culture conditions us to see the naked body as exclusively erotic, as something to arouse other people genitally and inspire sexual desire. Unless you’re at the doctor’s office, exposing your genitals or even your breasts (if you’re female) to someone else is perceived as unavoidably sexual in nature, whether you intend it to be or not.

Why should we, asexuals, buy into this? Why should we allow ourselves to sexualize our own nudity by default, just because the rest of society does? Why should we carry this over into our personal relationships, even the ones we have with each other? I don’t think it makes any sense.

On the one hand, I strongly believe that asexuals should only do what is comfortable and natural to them, when it comes to their bodies. If being naked around anybody, even another ace, is super uncomfortable for you, than don’t do it. Period. Fuck giving someone else access to your body just to please them when it hurts you, then calling it “compromise.” On the other hand, I think we should ask ourselves why it’s uncomfortable for us, if it is. Personally, the only answer I can come up with for myself—a celibate ace would never even remotely consider getting anywhere near that intimate with someone, unless they were asexual too—is that I’ve grown up assimilating sexual culture’s messages about nudity and about my nudity to the point that I automatically connect “being naked in front of someone” with “sex”—with that other person viewing my body sexually, wanting sex from me, expecting it from me, etc. And if that person was someone sexually attracted to my kind of body, I’d have a right to heed all of that conditioning and therefore hide my nudity from them.

But if I’m with another ace, why should I worry? If I’m with another asexual, someone who loves me and cares about me and supports me completely in my celibacy and who respects my asexuality and my body and me, then why should I feel guarded about nudity in their presence?

I’m not saying I have an actual desire to spend time naked around my ace partners or passionate friends, but what I am saying is that I want to be liberated from the sexualization of nudity and of my own naked body because I never consented to that and because that’s an attitude out of sexual culture, not my culture as a celibate asexual. I don’t want sexual culture having any influence whatsoever over the relationships I have with other asexuals. I want my ace passionate friends and I to love each other and interact with each other from a starting point of total mental, emotional, and physical freedom that wipes out all preconceived notions of what certain behaviors mean, of what we can and can’t do in nonsexual relationships and/or nonromantic relationships, to be the only ones in our home or in our bedrooms when we’re sharing intimacy in any way.

If my asexual passionate friends and I are going to specifically leave nudity out of our relationships, I want it to be because we genuinely don’t feel a need or desire to include it, not because of the false belief that all nudity in an intimate relationship is sexual. If I’m going to hide my breasts from partners who I live with for decades and who I still allow to caress and cuddle and kiss the rest of my body, the reason better be “I, who I really am, do not feel comfortable showing my breasts to anyone,” and not “Showing my breasts to other people is sexual, so I don’t want to do that in relationships that are specifically and permanently nonsexual.” I don’t even think the default sexualization of breasts makes any sense! For anyone! So I can’t allow that kind of assumption dictate what I do in my intimate relationships.

Finally, I want to briefly mention that during these kinds of intensely sensual and intimate encounters, whether they’re body worship or just high-impact cuddling, whether they include nudity or not, involuntary genital arousal should be handled and accepted be both ace partners as a bodily reaction that can happen without sexual attraction but as a result of lots of sensual touching with someone you love. Every ace body is different: some of us experience genital arousal, some don’t, some of us have a libido and some don’t. All of it’s fine. I do think that for a celibate ace, especially one who’s sex-repulsed or sex-averse, the knee jerk reaction to one’s own genital arousal (that doesn’t happen because you deliberately tried but because you’ve been touched a certain way) is panic, worry, fear, embarrassment, etc. because we’re taught that genital arousal necessitates sex. (And many aces who are new on the scene and don’t have a comprehensive understanding of sexual attraction vs. libido vs. arousal can come under the erroneous impression that a true asexual doesn’t have a libido, can’t experience genital arousal, can’t have an orgasm, etc. None of which is true!)

I just want you to know, fellow aces, that getting genitally aroused in the middle of a very sensual, physically intimate encounter with someone you love doesn’t make you less asexual, doesn’t mean you’re experiencing sexual attraction or desire for your partner, and is nothing to be ashamed of or sorry for. The body reacts to stimuli without waiting for cognitive permission from you. That’s why it’s possible for an ace to become aroused when exposed to porn, even though that ace doesn’t experience sexual attraction to anyone. Some bodies will get aroused as a result of heavy touching, no matter the context. What you need to remember is unless your mind is on board with your body, meaning unless YOU—the thinking and feeling you—want to have sex with a person that physically arouses you, your arousal isn’t indicative of sexual attraction.

If you’re with another ace and you get aroused during super sensual contact, talk to your partner honestly about it and let them know how you feel. Accept your body and its reactions with love and compassion. If you’re an ace partner to another ace who sometimes gets aroused by sensual touch, be sensitive to them when they talk to you about it. If either of you is uncomfortable with these arousal reactions, be willing to explore why and to do what you both need to feel comfortable while being physical with each other.

And most of all, don’t think that involuntary genital arousal needs to prevent you from the sensual encounters you desire, that you’re somehow “failing” if you get aroused and then don’t have sex to make the arousal go away. Arousal doesn’t obligate you to have sex. It doesn’t even obligate you to masturbate. Purge those compulsory sexuality messages from your brain ASAP.

Sensuality, body worship, eroticism, nudity, and even genital arousal can be totally nonsexual for those of us who are ace and aromantic. Allow yourself to discover what level of physical intimacy and touch makes you feel loved, wanted, pleased, and nurtured, from a place of freedom that allows any and all behaviors not involving genitals to be nonsexual—even if they feel erotic.

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Spiritual Nonsexual Love

Since I was a teen, maybe even earlier than that, my idea of the perfect love always contained some element of the spiritual. It took me a while to begin exploring that in a conscious way, and I’m still nowhere near at a conclusion because I’m young and inexperienced with intimate nonsexual love and passionate friendship. For the most part, I’m in the theory stage; I’ve done a bunch of thinking and a bit of research–not that there’s a whole lot of material out there. (So far, only one book has anything to offer on the subject of spiritual experience through nonsexual love: Stuart Sovatsky’s Eros, Consciousness, and Kundalini. I cherish it as a resource and an eye-opener.) I’ve tried to imagine what a spiritual encounter with a loving partner would feel like, but it’s almost impossible to describe because it’s just….. pure feeling.

The older I get, the more clear my desire becomes for this spirituality through love. I believe that nonsexual love specifically can be a vehicle through which spiritual transcendence and soul to soul connection can occur between two people, if they go after that transcendence and connection. Sovatsky and the two women in “We Have Bliss,” an essay from Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians, both essentially describe the transmutation of erotic energy during a nonsexual, sensual encounter between loved ones that results in this spiritual bliss. Both Sovatsky and the women in the essay talk about this transmutation of erotic energy in people who are allosexual and who have to deliberately choose not to act on any sexual desire or arousal that may occur in these sensual, intimate interactions, and I’m sure for many, if not all, asexuals the experience would be different because even those of us with a libido don’t manifest erotic energy as sexual desire for others.

I actually don’t know how much erotic energy an asexual possesses, although I do believe it’s entirely possible for an asexual–even a sex-repulsed/averse asexual–to have some. I personally define “erotic” as having the potential for sexuality, rather than as synonym for “sexual.” Erotic energy, to me, isn’t sexual energy but creative energy and the energy of desire. Sex is just one form of desire, one form of creation, albeit the most primal and innate type in 99% of the human population. Eroticism doesn’t have to lead to sex, although it usually does. I actually find it exciting and awesome that I get to explore eroticism that DOESN’T end in sex, ever, because I have no interest in sex with other people. I’m excited that I get to provide these explorations of nonsexual eroticism to my fellow asexual partners, too.

I’m sure some asexuals, particularly those who are nonlibidoist, would say they have no erotic energy, and that’s fine. Meanwhile, plenty of allosexuals probably think, “How can you have any erotic energy or inclinations if you’re asexual?” Luckily, I can use myself as an example: I’m a celibate asexual with a libido, I have very strong erotic energy that shows itself most obviously when I dance (though I’m sure once I have loving relationships with other celibate aces, that eroticism will come out even more in our sensual interactions), I’m profoundly sensual and tactile at heart. I know I’m capable of orgasm, I’ve been having orgasms fairly regularly for a decade, but I have no interest in sexualizing the sensual intimacy I share with my passionate friends and partners. I want to use all of that free-floating erotic energy–when we’re cuddling, caressing, kissing each other’s bodies, breathing together, listening to each other’s heartbeat, etc–to experience something different: spiritual intimacy and bliss to the highest possible degree, a feeling of love that raises us out of our bodies into our greater consciousness.  A genital orgasm is nothing in comparison.

Being a celibate asexual means I don’t desire someone else’s body for sex, I don’t desire an orgasm given by another person, but I do desire. I even desire the bodies of the people I love, but that desire doesn’t pose sex as the object or the end. I desire intimacy, I desire love, I desire touch. I desire unity with my partners mentally, emotionally, and spiritually–even physically, as much as any two people can unite their bodies without connecting their genitals. I also want to be desired. I think that’s a sentiment rarely discussed in the asexual community so far, but it’s time we get around to it because it’s important.  What does it feel like to be a celibate asexual desired by another celibate asexual? What does it feel like to be a celibate asexual desiring another? What is desire for someone’s body like when it’s devoid of sexuality? I’m also interested in figuring out how nonsexual desire, of a particularly intimate/sensual nature, can be spiritual or how it can bring us closer to spirit, God, the divine, whatever you want to call it.

Americans have really latched onto “tantric sex” in the last couple decades, and as usual, they totally bypassed the point of authentic tantra and made it all about sex. Tantric sex isn’t about sex. Tantra isn’t about sex. It’s about that spiritual transcendence, about becoming one with God, about using the body and sexuality as a doorway to something greater. Tantric sex performed successfully doesn’t just give you a genital orgasm, may not give you one of those at all–but it does produce an orgasm of the soul. Alternatively, you could call it a “full body orgasm,” but that term still probably leaves most people thinking of the tingly pleasure in their genitals they have during ordinary sex. Tantric interaction between lovers is about spiritual sensation. It’s about consciousness.

I have the same thing is mind for my nonsexual sensuality with partners, as Sovatsky so wonderfully describes in his book. I want to experience that bliss, that profound intimacy of souls. What I’ve always wanted in my ideal love is spiritual intimacy, spiritual touch. If there were some way to have a disembodied experience where I am pure soul touching and touched by my loved one’s pure soul, that would be the ultimate for me. I don’t know how close I can get to that in this life, but I’m damn interested in exploring.

To have that kind of experience with fellow celibate asexuals….. to give each other an out-of-body pleasure, to be connected in the core of our beings, to feel love as a visceral sensation in every part of our bodies and with our souls too…. there will never be words to describe how incredible and transforming that would be for me and my partners. That’s the love I want. I want to give it and receive it. I want to experience God through the nonsexual love I share with other celibate aces, through the ultimate passionate friendships. I want that love to be a pathway to my spiritual evolution and my partners’. I want intense nonsexual passion. Passion that permeates us body, mind, heart, and soul without genital involvement. I want the kind of experiences that I can use to create a philosophy, a theory, a discourse of celibate asexual desire and celibate asexual passion, celibate asexual sensuality and intimacy.

I have an opportunity–just because I was born an asexual who wants to be celibate forever–to find out what the real potential for intimacy is in nonsexual love, in nonsexual sensuality. I have the opportunity to explore the spiritual substance of nonsexual, sensual love. I’m so thankful. I’m thankful just to have these ideas, the awareness of these possibilities.

I hope I get the chance to actually explore all of this in intimate, loving relationships with the right celibate asexuals for me. If and when I do, I’ll be sure to write about it.

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Passion, Sensuality, and Self-Love for the Celibate Asexual

My brain’s been churning with ideas lately, all centered around celibacy and living a celibate life. This post probably won’t be that cohesive or fleshed out because I’ve very much in the exploration stage of these thoughts and I’m a little excited to get them down in words.

First of all, it’s occurred to me that living a celibate life is something that deserves a person’s full consciousness just as much as sexual activity deserves it. I think it’s too easy for asexuals, especially those who are sex-repulsed/averse and/or virgins, to just sort of assume celibacy as a default result of their asexuality and their sex-aversion, without coming into full awareness of what that celibacy means to them and how they want to actually live with it. It may make sense to live without closely inspecting your sexual orientation’s personal meaning because that IS a default state—but even if you’re asexual, arguably even if you’re a sex-averse/repulsed asexual, celibacy is independent of your orientation and a choice, whether one you make consciously or not. I think celibacy should be something we spend time thinking about deliberately, not just in terms of how it affects our belonging in the sexual world, but what it means specifically to us as individuals. How do we feel about it? What do we want to gain from it? How do we relate to ourselves, being celibate? To our bodies? To others? Even just stepping back and consciously saying to yourself “I want to be celibate” or “I want to be celibate for life” can be a powerful thing to do in your own life. Recognizing that your asexuality and your celibacy are two separate things can bring you new insight.

Celibacy can be about so much more than not having sex. That’s something I’m realizing for the first time. The world usually thinks of celibacy the same way they think of asexuality: what it’s NOT and what you AREN’T doing, rather than what it is or could be and what you are doing. I’ve operated out of this socially conditioned perspective before too, without seeing that the sexual world had trained me to perceive my own asexuality and celibacy in a negative filter rather than a positive one (I don’t mean “negative” as in “bad” but rather, as in negative space and the lack of something rather than the presence of something else).

What does celibacy add to my life? What does it mean to me? How can I understand and construct its presence in my life, in my relationship with self, in my relationships with others? How can I use celibacy to relate to my body? To my mind? To my heart and soul? How can I honor and respect my own celibacy?

These are questions I think are worth asking. They’re worth asking of your asexuality too, if you’re asexual.

I’ve recently discovered the concept of tantric celibacy, and I am absolutely fascinated and excited by its possible meanings for my own life. There is one book in particular that I haven’t read yet but intend to read: Stuart Sovatsky’s Eros, Consciousness, and Kundalini. It looks like he talks about a tantric way to practice celibacy, which includes deepening interpersonal intimacy, and that already strongly resonates with me because I have always seen and desired the spiritual and sensual potential of nonsexual love. The spiritual nature of tantra appeals to me greatly, and I want to pursue this idea of having a spiritual experience of celibacy and nonsexual sensuality with myself and others. Tantra is about spiritual enlightenment, and while sex is the more popular path to that enlightenment in tantric philosophy, I believe celibacy is another path. And I think that sensual touch and intimacy between two people in a nonsexual relationship can become a way to experience and achieve the same kind spiritual enlightenment that authentically tantric sex strives toward.

On a related note, I want to share some thoughts about passion and sensuality as they relate to asexuality. The sexual world often falls into the terrible habit of equating passion and sensuality with sex, and in that same vein, identifying people as more or less passionate, more or less sensual, based on how sexual they are.

Merriam-Webster defines passion in many ways but a few of the definitions include “ardent affection: love” and “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept” and “an object of desire or deep interest.” Passion is primarily about emotion. It’s about desire. It is not exclusively a euphemism or synonym for sex and sexual desire. Sex is one form of passion. Some sex is passionate, and some sex isn’t. Some people are passionate about sex, and some people aren’t. Equating sex and passion goes back to the word “frigid” as a demeaning label for sexually disinterested people, and it’s time that this way of speaking and thinking stop because it’s not only linguistically false and lazy, it’s also completely disrespectful toward asexuals, nonlibidoists, and celibates.

Asexuals have the same capacity for emotion and desire as sexual people. Even a nonlibidoist sex-repulsed asexual can be a passionate person because they are an emotional person. Human desire is unlimited, and lacking a desire for sex doesn’t take away the multitude of other desires a person feels. We can feel intense desire for love, for people, for experiences, just as easily as sexual people. We can feel passionately loving. We can feel passionate about people, about art, about our professions, about politics, religion, philosophy, food, fashion, anything.

Ask the friends who have known me since childhood to describe me in three words and I guarantee that they’ll all list “passionate” among their descriptors. I’m a celibate asexual virgin who is deeply passionate in love, passionate about writing, passionate about my beliefs.

It’s funny because I was just reading an interview about tantra, in which the interviewee (who is a serious tantra practitioner and student) made a juxtaposition of tantric sex and celibacy that didn’t dismiss celibacy as the right path for some pursuers of spiritual enlightenment, but she did say that “tantra is for passionate people,” meaning that tantra involving tantric sex is for passionate people and those who choose celibacy are probably not passionate. This is her view in the context of seriously studying tantric philosophy, and I respect her knowledge and experience that far exceeds my own in this area. But as a celibate asexual, it simply does not ring true that celibacy is antithetical to being a passionate person. Tantric celibacy, from what I’ve read so far, is all about sublimating one’s sexual energy in a directed way that enhances spiritual experience. It’s not that a celibate lacks passion; the celibate simply channels their passion into something other than sex.

My ideal love is completely nonsexual. It’s also the highest form of emotional and spiritual passion available to me as a human being. Every asexual, celibate or not, romantic or not, has a different ideal relationship scenario and I can only speak to my own vision of love. Some asexuals may not associate the word or the feeling of “passion” with love and their own ideal relationships at all. Which is fine. But “passionate” is definitely something I want my important life relationships to be, along with nonsexual.

I’m a celibate asexual, I’m a passionate person, and I am also sensual. Turning to the dictionary again, “sensual” is defined as: “sensory” and “relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite.” Notice that it doesn’t say anything about sex. Another poor use of language in vernacular English leads people to use the word “sensual” as a needless euphemism for “sexual.” Sensuality is not sexuality. It can be part of sexuality, and there is some logic to the mental association of “sensual” and “sexual.” But sensuality is simply about the senses: taste, sight, sound, smell, touch. Just as not all sex is passionate, not all sex is sensual. In reverse, you can experience sensuality nonsexually the same way you can experience passion nonsexually.

Sensual pleasure is not outside the realm of asexual interest. We’re emotionally functional to the same degree as sexual people, and we are also physically functional to the same degree. We can and do still value pleasure, and sensual pleasure encompasses a wide variety of experiences, not just sex. Sensual pleasure can be had alone or with someone else. Being someone who values and desire sensual pleasure means being someone who wants to see beauty for pleasure, to hear beauty for pleasure, to smell pleasurable aromas, to take pleasure in the taste of food, and to experience the pleasure of touch—whether that means touching the textures of objects that please you or touching yourself or sharing touch with another person.

I express my sensuality in all kinds of ways: reveling in the smell and texture of leather, looking for clothes made of soft or sensuous fabric, breathing in deep the smell of a delicious perfume or food or incense, listening to music that moves me, fully immersing myself in the taste of orgasmic food. Last night, for the first time, I set aside several minutes to give myself a massage with this bottle of massage oil I just bought. The oil smells heavenly. I’ve decided to install this practice as a regular part of my life, in the spirit of mastering self-love, because touch is my love language. I figure even if I don’t have another person in my life right now who can touch me the way I like most, I can give that attention to myself as much as possible. So I locked the door of my room, got into bed naked after a shower, and touched my body all over with the oil. I spent the most time on my shoulders and my back. It was very sensual and afterward, I felt amazing. I can’t tell you how empowering it is to know that I can do this for myself: show myself love through touch. It’s not just about the touch either. I was present with myself and my own body. I burned incense. I thought and spoke love to myself and my body, and most importantly, I felt it.

It is actually a beautiful discovery: the fact that sensuality and sensual pleasure can be entirely self-centered and self-fulfilled. I’ve decided that in my life right now, the only relationship I’m focusing on is the one with myself, and I’ll spend as little time as possible thinking about my relationships with others, because I want to teach myself that self-love is the only love I need. Expressing that love, showing that love, in a sensual way is the fastest and most effective method of viscerally feeling the love.

But even in the context of relationship with someone else, sensuality can be a huge part of the celibate asexual’s life. I believe that wholeheartedly. To me, sensual touch is the most powerful way of creating emotional and spiritual intimacy with another person, and I think that it’s one advantage of being a celibate asexual that I can fully appreciate and use and be aware of sensual touch for this purpose. Most people are sexually active, but not many of those people are sensual with their sexual partners on a consistent basis or with awareness and intention. How sensual you are with a partner has nothing to do with sex. Sensuality, like sexuality, requires intent. And you can’t have an intention without awareness.

All of this circles back. You must be aware of your celibacy to use it or direct it in a purposeful way. You must be aware of your emotions to fully experience and direct your passion. You must be aware of your own sensual nature to experience the world, yourself, or another in a sensual way. And I want celibate asexuals to have that awareness because I believe that it can lead to a more deeply fulfilling life and to more satisfying relationships.

The stories I write, whether original fiction or fanfiction, have always prompted skepticism and misinterpretation from sexual people who can’t separate emotional passion and sensual touch from sexuality. But this kind of relationship has always been my vision of perfect love: the deepest level of emotional passion, a spiritual union, extremely sensual, and completely nonsexual. I’ll continue to write about this love not only because it fills me with joy more than anything but because the world must learn that the absence of sex and sexual desire, whether in a celibate asexual person or in a nonsexual relationship, does not limit the potential for emotional passion or sensual touch.

And I believe in the core of my being that whether I meet the right people in this life or not, the pleasures of passionate love and sensual intimacy are open to me, not just in spite of my celibacy but perhaps because of it.

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