Yes to Love, No to Sex: Meet Indian Aces for Whom Labels Matter
Be it sexual or asexual, romantic or a-romantic – everyone believes in love.
Twenty six-year-old banker Nazeer* and 29-year-old school teacher Smita* have been in a relationship for three years now. They met at a common friend’s wedding and all it took was one drunk night – to come out to each other as heteroromantic asexuals.
This means, neither are they sexually attracted nor do they desire sexual contact with each other. They are in love and very much so.
Nazeer and Smita live together in Mumbai, cook each other’s favourite meals during weekends, fret about their naughty dog and are in the process of trying to convince their families to ‘allow’ them to get married.
“In India, 99 percent of the people fall in love without as much as uttering the word sex. But, why are we seen differently when we don’t want our love to end in sex. I am not judging someone who likes sex. Why should society judge me if I am repulsed by it?”Nazeer to The Quint
The couple end their day, holding on to each other and saying a silent prayer. What they share is rare – say others from their community, adding that in a world of hookups, finding their kind of love is anything but easy.
Meet India’s asexuals – the people who are tired of being invisible, tired of explaining, but not ever tired of fighting for love.
Sex is held in high esteem in pop culture – in cinema and music, in paintings and literature. It is talked about with mystery and wonder among teenagers and adults alike.
A coy smile or two, when your grandparents are asked about it.
The phrase “make love” is used in place of “have sex” – to often imply that sex is the only way to express your “true love.”
In an ideal world, this should not be the norm. In an ideal world, love and sex should not be equated – stress the Aces, as the community is often referred to.
Finding Asexual Love: Experiences to Forget
Like most millennials, Aces search for love and friendship online. While the reaction to their sexuality is a ‘mixed bag’, the experiences are often forgettable, they say.
Delhi-based Meghna Mehra is the founder of All India Queer Association and identifies herself as a sex-repulsed asexual.
Dating apps do not have a filter for asexuals, with them only having to resort to stating their sexual orientation on their profile. Despite stating this, she has been at the receiving end of inappropriate advances.
“To be very honest, I am quite tired of using these dating apps. Men not only ask inappropriate questions like do you kiss or are you scared of sex, but also take asexual women as a challenge. Their attitude is very ‘mein isko theek kardoonga.’ Why do people think it is okay to do this?”Meghna Mehra to The Quint
“They ask asexual log date karke kya karenge? (What will asexual people achieve by dating?) But, when will they realise that sex, intimacy and love are all not inter-connected. I can be in love and be repulsed by the idea of having sex with them. It is normal. But what is not normal is being beaten up for saying NO,” says Mehra, who is also the author of Marriage of Convenience, featuring an asexual lead.
Mehra knew that she was ‘different’ since she was a teen. Now 23, Mehra first discovered she was asexual at 19 – when she stumbled upon the meaning of ‘A’ in LGBTQIA.
Raj, now a 27-year-old Agra-based college lecturer, too realised he was homoromantic in his late-teens.
“I joined Facebook under a false name in 2012. When men would send me their request, I would want to get to know them. I would like talking to them. But I was never attracted when they sent photos to me. I still wanted to meet them in person – but invariably, the first few times, these men made sexual advances at me, which made me very uncomfortable.”
A man once locked Raj, then in his early 20s, inside a car and forced him to touch his private parts.
“He wouldn’t open the door. He kept telling me to touch him. I said that I would scream loudly and there would be consequences. He let me go. But I felt isolated and thought no one understood me.”Raj
By Aces, of Aces, for Aces
It was then Raj stumbled upon a Facebook group – which spoke about being an asexual. He embraced the group and the people running it embraced him right back – making him feel a sense of belonging.
Two years later, in 2014, Raj co-founded another Facebook page Indian Asexuals to organise meet-ups – both online and offline – and provide a safe space for the members of the community to discuss their highs and lows.
In 2017, Raj started the Ace App, a mobile application for the members of the community to find friendship – and love. In January 2021, the application has more than 5,000 registered users.
Today, Ace communities across the country and platforms, are encouraging and aiding youngsters who want to come out as asexuals. While the community is growing and helping each other out, they are completely ignored from mainstream discourse – fueling unnecessary misconceptions.
The Myths Aces Want to Shatter
“How do you know if you haven't tried it?” – something, Aces say, they hear almost every time they come out to someone.
Mehra says that another misconception is that asexuals are non-monogamous.
“I have heard someone say that okay, you are asexual. Let your partner have sex with others. No, this is not how it works. Not having sex does not necessarily mean one does not believe in monogamy. However, misunderstandings can arise if one partner is asexual and sex-repulsive, while the other is allosexual. Therefore, communication is key here.”
"Do you have erectile disfunction? When you get married, everything will be alright," – a line Nazeer says he's heard repeatedly, even from his close friends.
"Somewhere down the lane, I realised everything is tied to patriarchy. It is exhausting how society is thrusting things upon us and we take it without questioning it. No, I am asexual because I have no control over it. Just like how you can't control being turned on," Nazeer tells The Quint.
The Spectrum: From Sex-Positive to A-Romantic
Like many things concerning gender and sexuality – asexuality is also a spectrum. There is no right or wrong, and not all asexuals are sex-repulsive.
Like 30-year-old Bengaluru-based lawyer, Tanya Singh*.
"I consider myself a sex-positive asexual. I am not repulsed at the idea of having sex but I do not enjoy the act. It is okay and I engage in the act consensually with my partners (present and past). I must admit, sometimes I wonder if I have sex for my partners or for love," said Singh, speaking to The Quint.
Namrata K, on the other hand, says she is asexual and a-romantic – i.e., someone who feels no romantic or sexual attraction.
“I am 36 now, and believe me, it was only two years ago that I realised my orientation. For most of my life, I felt wrong and alienated, because society told us this is who we must be. We should fall in love and get married or get married and fall in love. I have fallen in love in the past – but they have been platonic and non-romantic. Someone in my family said that I was ugly and that’s why I don’t find anyone to date. How do I tell them that I don’t ever want to date and that I am least-bit interested in romantic love.”Namrata K
There are demisexuals (people who only experience sexual attraction once they form a strong emotional connection) and sapiosexuals (those who are attracted to intellect), there are queerplatonic (people who experience a type of non-romantic relationship but emotions are beyond friendship), and Grey-A (those between sexual and asexual), among many others in the asexual spectrum. But there is one thing every single person has in common.
Be it sexual or asexual; romantic or a-romantic – everyone believes in love.
(*Names changed to protect identity of individuals.)
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