I hate when this happens. I was working on a part 2 to this post, shortly after I published it. The first part was about the ways that considerably high statistic of repulsed asexuals being willing to compromise on sex should be taken with a grain of salt, because of the methodological issues surrounding the survey question it was from.
The second part was intended to be based off of observation and personal experience, my concerns about those who actually say they’re willing to compromise. This is a major rewrite, and pardon me if the writing style for this post is so disjointed. There were a bunch of different things I wrote about in my original draft before scrapping it, because I couldn’t figure out how to tie them together. If there’s anything that’s unclear, feel free to say so in the comments.
(TW: sexual coercion, talk of repulsion-shaming, blaming the coerced)
I was thinking if there are repulsed people who are willing to compromise on sex, how many of them feel that way because they are in mixed relationships (or expect to be), there’s the societal pressure to have sex, and think they feel broken, or feel selfish towards their partner for being repulsed by it? I’m concerned that some of them are going through the same kind of experiences I did, or worse.
The “compromise” I had with my partner didn’t involve us actually having sex at all (and that’s because I fought so hard against the pressure he and another of our friends were putting on me!), but still required me to do things I was repulsed by, and didn’t agree to doing, but he wanted. It was literally a compromise, because he didn’t have sex with me like he wanted, but still had some sexual intimacy, and I still had some sexual intimacy, even though I didn’t want any at all. I wasn’t happy about this, yet we both thought it was a fair compromise.
He thought it was fair because it was sexual intimacy (or maybe it was sensual intimacy that he saw as sexual. I can’t tell, it often blurred the lines between sensual and sexual, but I was repulsed by it either way), but not sex. I thought this compromise was fair, even though I was never okay with it, but since I thought because us not having sex was a sacrifice to him, I felt like I had no right to complain. I believed it was my fault for not making it clear to him that I meant I rejected all sexual intimacy, not just sex, so from his perspective, I wasn’t violating my principles. I still felt like I was, but once again, I thought I had no right to complain.
I thought the least I could do is sacrifice my body for him for what he sees as lesser forms of intimacy, to give him something that he wants, that should feel less detrimental to me than sex. I thought I’d be asking for too much if I didn’t
give in “compromise” on this. Aside from feeling like I had to do this, I was willing to, in the sense that I wanted to make him happy*, and didn’t want to feel like I was letting him down.
The point I’ve been trying to make with explaining this is that if the “compromise” involves someone doing something that they don’t want to do, and aren’t okay with it, it’s more like giving in, or surrendering. It doesn’t matter if it’s sex done at a lower frequency than what the other (the presumably sex-favorable allosexual) partner ideally wants, or if it’s a “lesser” form of intimacy than what they ideally want. It’s a one-sided arrangement, because it still means the person who doesn’t want sex, or whatever form of sexual intimacy the “compromise” involves, is having to disregard their own boundaries, doing something at their own expense, to engage in what their partner wants.
It’s also coercive, whether the coercion comes from one’s own partner directly, or guilt-tripping from their peers, from the social pressure to please their partner at all costs, caving in out of guilt, or the belief that standing up for one’s own boundaries is hopeless.
Meeting in the middle doesn’t work if it goes out of either partner’s limits; for some people, not having any sex is past their limits, while having it at all is past others’ limits. Any form of sexual intimacy was past my limits. It always felt like a sacrifice to do this, and something I had to force myself to endure every time. Sometimes I had to force myself to suppress my feelings of repulsion, but I did get desensitized over time.
This relates to my main concern about being repulsed yet compromising for the other person: If someone is pushing themselves into something that physically or psychologically repulses them (it could be sex, or more generally, any kind of physical intimacy one finds repulsive), is consent possible, even without the social pressures to do this thing they find repulsive? Can someone consent to something that they also feel comes at their own expense, and is it meaningful consent? If they’re agreeing to do it for the sake of the other person, and it feels like self-sacrifice, how long can they keep that up?
From my experiences, this was draining, and didn’t get better over time! At times, I tried to force myself to enjoy it. I couldn’t enjoy the act itself, so I tried to find joy in knowing that I was giving him some of the pleasure he wanted**, and believe that because it was a sacrifice I made, that made it better. I couldn’t keep that up for very long though. It came to a point where all I could feel is that this was something constantly happening at my expense, and that I didn’t want to do this in the first place, but I derided myself for being selfish, for thinking like that.
If someone feels like they are constantly sacrificing themselves for their partner, feelings of resentment towards oneself, their partner, and their situation can build up, and explode! I felt that resentment build up, as I tried to convince myself that sacrificing the rest of my boundaries was not only a fair compromise, but morally good. It didn’t work.
How do I describe it? The resentment came from a part of my intuition telling me that I didn’t have to be in this situation in the first place, that it’s one-sided, and that’s unfair. That resentment was knowing that things didn’t have to be the way they did, but felt like there was no escape.
I’ve heard of one or two sex-repulsed people saying that they consented to compromising on sex, explaining that their partners were very patient, didn’t pressure them, and there was a lot of honest communication involved, and they didn’t feel ‘broken’ over being repulsed. Perhaps it’s possible, for a few people, and with circumstances like those, but it still shouldn’t be expected. Most repulsed or averse people will never be comfortable with having sex, not even for our partners, no matter how caring and patient they are, and that doesn’t make us selfish. The few that may have been willing, definitely shouldn’t be used to shame the rest of us and our unwillingness to have sex with “This repulsed person compromised for their partner, so why don’t you?!”
Other things to examine:
Inherent inequality in the relationship I was in: It’s telling, because I perceived him respecting my boundary of not having sex, to be a sacrifice he did for me! The societal expectations about relationships and sex make mixed relationships inherently unequal, because the partner who wants sex has those expectations backing up what they want.
Some things about semantics: If he was making a sacrifice by not having sex with me, and I was making a sacrifice by giving him some of the sexual intimacy he wanted, even though I was never okay with it, is that really compromise? If either side feels like what they’re doing is sacrifice, or surrender, that’s not real compromise, is it? Or can actual compromises go that badly?
I could’ve written a lot about relationship martyrdom in this post, but maybe it’d be better to split it off into a new one. When does a relationship go from making self-sacrifices every so often, into relationship martyrdom territory?
Is what I wrote about mixed relationships in general (asexual + non-asexual), or more specifically about the dynamics between a sex-repulsed person and sex-favorable person in a relationship?
*It’s because of this, that I took some things I read on AVEN about sexual compromise the wrong way. I originally didn’t know of the sex-repulsed/indifferent/favorable labels, so what I’m saying in these footnotes applies to asexuality in general. I thought the asexual partner having sex to make their partner happy always came from feeling obligated to do it. I couldn’t understand someone not desiring sex, but still having it make their partner happy, unless it was done out of a sense of obligation, fear of retribution, or is “pity sex”.
**For a while, I turned to relationship martyrdom as a way to cope, trying to make the best out of this situation, also leading me to take a lot of what I’ve read about sexual compromise the wrong way. I’ve read about asexuals who have sex with their partners, despite getting nothing out of it themselves, but I opposed it, because I thought they were going through what I did, but worse. When they said that they still got some pleasure from knowing that they were making their partner happy with sex, I didn’t understand.