Asexuals in Sexual Relationships? Ace or Allo, Here's How They Work
Editor's note: Some of the sources for this article requested their full names and locations not be used.
In a hypersexualized world, mutual sexual attraction may seem like the foundation of all relationships. But when one partner is asexual in the relationship, this isn't necessarily the case.
An asexual person doesn't experience sexual attraction, or if they do, it's rare. Asexuality is not abstinence, celibacy or a medical condition. It's just who they are.
Some asexual people—aces, as they call themselves—are aromantic. Aromantic people don't desire romantic relationships. Instead, they might prefer single life or seek out platonic partnerships.
Other asexuals feel romantic attraction but without the desire for sexual intercourse. Some asexual people partner with other asexuals. Others fall in love with allosexuals or "allos," people who do feel sexual attraction.
These mixed-sexuality relationships can and do work, especially now that younger generations are normalizing consent conversations. But they take some negotiation.
If you're in one of these relationships, don't think you're alone. Couples all over the world are having similar conversations.
How does an ace and allo experience relationship enjoyment?
Like most aspects of human identity, sexual attraction is a spectrum.
Some people identify as purely asexual, meaning they don't ever experience attraction. Demisexuals experience attraction only after forming a meaningful emotional connection. Then there are grey-asexual or greysexual people, who experience attraction only occasionally.
Learning your partner's attraction level is a helpful place to start, and this should be your first conversation. If they're demisexual and the relationship is new, you might just not be there yet. It's also important to know how each partner feels about sex.
People on the asexual spectrum may feel:
- Sex-favorable. The person enjoys having sex, at least in some circumstances or with certain people.
- Sex-indifferent. They don't feel they benefit personally from having sex but don't mind doing it.
- Sex-averse. They dislike sex and actively avoid it.
- Sex-repulsed. They feel disgusted when they think about themselves having sex.
It's also possible to have sex for other reasons than enjoying the act. Many asexual people enthusiastically consent because they like the feeling of connection with their partner.
Some enjoy the satisfaction they're able to give to their partners, even if they don't feel physical enjoyment themselves.
Talk with your partner about what you like, why you like it and what's definitely not OK. Be clear about what your feelings are specific to your partner ("I like being intimate with you because I like making you happy") and what feelings relate to the act ("I think sex is gross with anyone—I don't think you're gross.")
What options can ace and all couples consider?
Ace-allo couples have come up with lots of different ways to make their sex lives work. If everyone follows the rules of consent—that anything other than an enthusiastic "yes" is a no and everyone feels like they can be honest—the options are close to unlimited.
Natalie Anastasia, who wrote a personal account of an ace-allo relationship for Giddy in 2021, identifies as typically sex-neutral but occasionally sex-favorable. She sometimes enjoys the feelings of connection that come with intercourse, but she's not always up for it.
Anastasia and her husband negotiate sexual consent in the moment, as it comes up.
"When it comes to navigating our sex life, the answer is actually pretty simple: If I am not feeling it, we don't have it," she wrote. "While some may find this unfair and unbalanced, we both feel that since I am the one with more specific sexual boundaries, those are the boundaries that must be honored."
Checking in every time sex comes up works well for them.
If you or your partner aren't agreeable to penetration, talk about whether other forms of intimacy might feel better. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right expression—and sometimes it's not. Don't use exploration as a reason to feel pressured into an intimate activity you don't want to do.
Melania (she/her), based in Poland, a sex-negative asexual who identifies as romantic, tried having sexual intercourse with her male partner Szymon and always ended up "feeling sick." Szymon noticed and they started looking for ways to meet in the middle. For them, most intimate acts other than penetration are up for discussion.
Gemini (it/its), based in New York, has a similar strategy with its partner, Isiah (he/him). Isiah has always been accepting of Gemini's asexuality, so when it told him it didn't want to have sex anymore, the couple figured out an alternative.
They avoid penetration most of the time, but Gemini meets his need for penetration occasionally.
"We basically compromise by doing foreplay or masturbation together rather than full-blown sex," Gemini said. "But if he's really in the mood, I'm OK with having [penetrative] sex."
Bason (he/they), based in Nebraska, identifies as ace-flux, meaning their sexuality fluctuates but typically defaults to asexual. He is in a relationship with Draco (he/they), who Bason described as hyper-allo.
"I was feeling kind of stuck struggling with maintaining his needs," Bason said. "I just couldn't keep up. Not that I am repulsed by sex at all, but it doesn't hold the kind of 'pinnacle of love' mentality for me."
Draco has been supportive, Bason said, but has explained he needs sexual release, even if it has to be with someone other than Bason. The couple began exploring nonmonogamy. Two years later, the couple continues to negotiate while facing challenges, especially with feelings of jealousy.
"We're mostly still figuring it out," Bason said. "It just is something we need to navigate together, and we are doing just that. But he's chosen me and I him, so together, we will prevail."
What's good for everyone, ace or allow?
In the end, everyone (ace and allo) has the right to feel satisfied, happy and safe in a relationship. These goals may require some extra negotiation for ace-allo couples, but if the love and commitment are there, the relationship can come out even stronger.