There is a general belief that people who identify as asexual do not form romantic relationships. New research indicates that this is not the case. Lori Brotton of the University of British Columbia suggests that there has always been a general assumption that sexual attraction and romantic attraction happen at the same time. But recent research on asexuality suggests that romance and sexuality are in fact two very different processes. Brotton suggests that romance can develop even when sexual desire is out of the picture.
Asexuals make up approximately one percent of the population. Asexuality has been defined as a natural lack of sexual attraction to others. Also some asexuals identify as “aromantic,” they may lack the drive to forge amorous connections with others. While other asexuals may experience romantic feelings, undertake dating and forming relationships.
Asexuals are different from people who experience low libido. Asexuals generally grow up without ever experiencing the desire to have sex with anyone.
The DSM-5 distinguishes asexuality from those with low-desire disorder. People who have low-desire disorder have at some stage experienced sexual interest and desire and this is unlike the experiences of asexuals.
Research suggests that many asexuals like to engage in being physically close to a partner; hugging, cuddling and kissing. And in some situations they even enjoy behaviour that is generally perceived as explicitly sexual. But for the asexual person the experience is different. Many male asexuals may engage in masturbation as a way of reducing anxiety or for some, just because it feels good. Masturbation is often disconnected from any desire to have intercourse and they may find interpersonal sex off-putting or just baffling.
Asexuals not only engage in relationships with other asexuals but they may also develop and form romantic relationships with sexual people, known as “mixed” relationships. It is possible for an asexual person to engage in sex depending on their comfort level. This is because most asexuals are sex-neutral. And given the right conditions they may learn to enjoy sex, even if it is not the same enjoyment as their partner.
Bogaert suggests that research on asexuals has led to a deeper understanding of the distinction between a person’s arousal and their attraction. It is clear that people can get sexually aroused without there being sexual attraction. It is also possible for people to find romantic attraction without sexual arousal.
.Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington