No Sex *After* Marriage?

This is one of those more personal posts, just as a heads up.

So, a long time back, anagnori got an ask from captainheartless about the resemblance between asexual discourse and Western philosophy, and anagnori ended his reply on this note:

Now, I don’t mind secular humanism at all, but I do wish people would recognize it as an ideology in its own right instead of taking it for granted as “common sense” or “just being a good person.” And I want to hear more about how religious aces think of their asexuality. I’d start a discussion myself, but I’d be worried about sounding like a preacher or proselytizer.

Clearly, this was meant like a Bat-Signal in the sky for me, since I’m a religious ace who’s much less worried than average about sounding like a preacher or a proselytizer.

That’s why y’all who came here for the asexuality posts sometimes get a serving of irrelevant religion talk on your dash, and why you get to see me floundering about with trying to talk on these areas despite my limited access to religious community and my feelings of ideological isolation from mainline Christians and how that, compounded with several other factors, hampers my exposure to outside ideas and stagnates the development of my thoughts in some pretty glaring ways.  I try not to be too annoying with it, but if I were a less outspoken person, you wouldn’t get to see my fumbling with the subject at all.

It probably doesn’t seem like it, but I get consistently anxious whenever I make a post for the religion category, in a way that I don’t always for my posts for the asexuality category.  That has a lot to do with audience, obviously — not that I’ve ever felt as welcome talking to Christians about Christianity as I have talking to aces about asexuality, but whatever.

Point being, I have some hangups about it.  This has nothing to do with y’all or how you respond to them.  I have nothing to complain about there (except for this, which I’m still not over the asininity of, good Lord).  It’s more to do with me needing to read a lot before I feel comfortable speaking on a topic (for good reason, since that’s consistently been the kind of reason I end up with my foot in my mouth).  I lurked the asexual community for months and did extensive research before dipping my toe in the pool and making this blog, whereas with Christianity…  Don’t take this as a request for book recommendations, but the last time I picked up a theology book, I had to put it down again when it claimed that science was invented in Europe and that the Crusades weren’t that bad.

There are theologians who don’t make me want to go quietly cry in a corner while clutching a Bible, of course, but they’re fewer in number and/or less accessible than reasonable ace bloggers are, it seems.  Point being, I don’t get to read as much of that as I’d like, and so whenever I write something for this blog not connected to asexuality, I hesitate to post it.

And one of the things I think about, whenever I have to talk myself into publishing a post, is how many times I’d seen aces respond to the “You’re just religious and repressed” invalidation tactic with “That can’t be true because I’m an atheist!” and how many times I’d seen that idea argued on that grounds and how precious few people I’d seen ever question the idea that religious repression can even make someone asexual in the first place, and then I click publish because suddenly I don’t mind the possibly of annoying y’all a little.

…but I digress.  There was something else I wanted to talk about here, less about being Christian while ace and more about being ace while Christian, because that’s the one that gives me more to worry about.

See, I have a little bit of a conundrum.

It’s a conundrum that’s very hypothetical and far out in the future, so it’s not too pressing a matter, but since this post is me volunteering to write more on “how religious aces think of their asexuality,” it’s the issue I picked to explore.  Granted, this’ll be looking less at asexuality than at sex aversion, but hopefully that’s on-topic enough for y’all.

Let’s say I enter a romantic relationship with another Christian.  Let’s say I enter a romantic relationship with a Christian who is allosexual and likes sex, because that’s what’s most likely here.  Let’s say that we find ourselves compatible, date for a year or so, and begin considering marriage.

Very hypothetical and unlikely, but bear with me.

This situation comes with two complications.  First, as been mentioned a few times before, I don’t know what I am.

Sex-repulsed?  Sex-averse?  Sex-indifferent?  None of those?  Something else?  A mix of them all?  You’d think this would be pretty easy to figure out, but hypothetical scenarios produce inconsistent results, and I’m really not interested in performing any tests in person.  As a result of this confusion, I’m not certain enough to label myself sex-averse and create a relationship criterion of “no sex ever”, but I also can’t confidently promise a willingness to provide a sexual relationship andddd the pendulum seems to have swung to the repulsed range of things today, making me feel squicked out by just typing that, but I’m also someone who has experienced abstract sexual desire before, so, it’s confusing and I don’t know what I want.

Second, if I date a sweetheart who’d planned for abstinence until marriage, then that lets me off the hook initially, but the idea behind that whole concept is that “abstinence” necessarily has an expiration date.

These two complications combine to create a problem because I can’t confidently say up-front what I want or don’t want once the marriage begins.  And, hey, that’s fine with me, I’m no stranger to figuring things out as I go (it’s the perfect strategy for video games where the control panel is overwhelming and has way too many unfamiliar buttons), but I can’t be sure uncertainty would be just as fine with someone else.  I worry someone might say “okay, sure” to how I say I feel, but secretly have expectations going one way or the other (ha okay who am I kidding, it’s just one of those ways, not the other).  And you might think most Christians would be okay with forever-nonsexual marriages, but you’d be wrong, and there is approximately no one in the Church that I could count on for support in this regard.  I mean, can you picture it?  I know how Christians feel about these things.  I’m not naive.

This is a similar issue that any sex-repulsed ace who wants a romantic relationship deals with, but I’d be confronting it relatively late in the game, and once you’re married, you’re kind of  already “locked in”, so to speak.  It doesn’t make ending the relationship impossible, but it does make breaking up more of a hassle if you only discover an incompatibility after the wedding.

So the way to circumvent this would be to forgo the abstinence-until-marriage deal altogether and run some preliminary trials, but I don’t want that, for a lot of reasons, and we’ll be shelving that topic for now.  (Except I gotta say, I’ve developed an annoyance reflex to that “gotta test drive the car before you buy it” saying almost on par with my reaction to “we are all sexual beings”, because after seeing people talking about aces who have sex as if they’re comparable to masturbatory aids and sex dolls, or maybe even if it weren’t for that regardless, I really don’t like the idea of being compared to an inanimate object whose primary purpose and function is the provision of a service to a user, and I will stand to hear none of it.)

The other option is to never get married, I guess.  That works too, but since dating sounds nice, I wouldn’t pass up a chance at it on that account, and the thing about dating Christians is that they tend to get married a lot.  There are Christians who are only interested in dating indefinitely, too, but I have reason to believe that those sort of Christians would be the kind who’d want their nonmarital romantic relationships to be definitively sexual.  The abstinence crowd is the only bunch where I’d be free of that pressure, even if for a finite amount of time.

Last of all, I could try to find a Christian who is strongly sex-averse, but that’s creating a set of criteria that excludes even more people than it did before, which just makes the idea seem all the more hopeless.

There’s not much to be done about it, really, but it’s certainly something that would make dating more nerve-wracking, and if me and another person got married and went to couple’s counseling over this issue — whether of a secular or a ministerial bent — I can predict what advice to expect.

“Just have sex.  Try some new things.  You’ll find something you like.”

But, God, what if I don’t?

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22 responses to “No Sex *After* Marriage?

  • Laura (ace-muslim)

    I wrote a series of posts about “no sex after marriage” in Islam: http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/87801042181/asexuality-islam-and-marriage-masterpost

    As someone who is strongly sex-averse and who knows that sex will never be an option, I pretty much came to the conclusion that the only way marriage could work was if it was legitimizing a queerplatonic relationship with another ace. Which is… not very likely to come about, especially if I want a Muslim partner.

    Also, I’ve seen posts even by people whose writings I usually agree with who seem to take for granted that religious repression could be confused with asexuality. Let’s just say there are a LOT of people who come from religious backgrounds that could be considered as “repressive” but few of them actually consider themselves to be asexual. It’s not the same thing, at all.

    • Spade

      I saw those! Thank you for writing them, I learned a lot.

      “Let’s just say there are a LOT of people who come from religious backgrounds that could be considered as ‘repressive’ but few of them actually consider themselves to be asexual.”

      Yeah, hmm, well… Generally, yeah. I’ve got another post in the works that addresses this a bit.

  • Nicole

    I’m a long-time lurker coming out of the woodwork to say “thank you so much for writing this post!” I’m in basically the same situation: Christian, not very involved with the religious community, asexual… except in my case I’m pretty sure I’m sex-averse instead of sex-indifferent. This particular dilemma has been giving me anxiety for years. I’ve only brought up this subject with one person, my therapist, prior to this comment. She pulled the religious repression card, which was less than helpful (and also kind of annoying since she is a Christian herself). It’s… comforting, I guess, to know that someone else has the same worries. Maybe I’ll never find an ideal solution, but knowing that I’m not alone makes it a little easier to deal with.

    By the way, I’d be interested to see a list of theologians who don’t make you want to cry in a corner. I don’t think I’ve found any of those yet.

    • Spade

      Indeed, you’re not alone. Thanks for reading. <3

      "I’ve only brought up this subject with one person, my therapist, prior to this comment. She pulled the religious repression card, which was less than helpful (and also kind of annoying since she is a Christian herself)."

      Wooooow. And that was her idea of being supportive? It's amazing to me how the "repressed religious prude" stereotype is taken seriously even among Christians.

      "By the way, I’d be interested to see a list of theologians who don’t make you want to cry in a corner. I don’t think I’ve found any of those yet."

      Oh. Well, let's see… Some of Rachel Held Evan's stuff is pretty good (check this out). And I haven’t read any of Rob Bell’s books yet, but some of his videos have surprised me.

      • Nicole

        To be fair to my therapist, she did admit that asexuals exist. She just doesn’t think that I’m asexual. (I’ve been self-identifying as asexual for close to 7 years now. I’d like to think I would know if I was “just repressed” by this point.)

        Thank you for the link! I just finished reading it and I really enjoyed it. I think this is the first time I’ve seen it argued that that passage does not mean “women need to stay in the home at all times”. It’s really refreshing to read an article on religion that is not shoving the patriarchal views in my face.

        I’ll look into Bob Evans. Thanks again.

  • Calum P Cameron

    Disclaimer: I’m aromantic and nonamorous, so the ensuing comment may (or may not) be at least partially the result of me being WAAAY off the mark in my understanding of this issue. However…

    The other option that you don’t seem to mention here is that you could commit yourself to only marrying someone who has, by that hypothetical point in the relationship, already established themselves to honestly be fine with whatever works, sex-wise, whether that’s a sexless marriage or just a confusingly-inconsistent-on-the-frequency-of-sexual-contact marriage.

    Obviously, that’s also pretty narrow criteria and everything, but nobody ever said finding a marriage partner was easy. I’m pretty certain that there are some people out there, even some allosexual Christians, for whom sex genuinely is not so much of a deal-breaker that they HAVE to know for sure whether it could be involved and if so how much before they can be certain that they want to marry the person they love regardless. And the added bonus of marrying a Christian is that most Christians tend to take the concept of marriage so super-seriously that if they WEREN’T fine with going “whatever, you can work stuff out as we go, or not; I’ll deal with it either way”, then they probably wouldn’t marry you, preferring instead to either wait until they were sure they were ready for that commitment to your needs or accept that the whole thing was never going to work. They would be just as reluctant as you to rush into things until the pair of you had established as a couple that, one way or another, there wasn’t going to be a problem.

    Establishing all of that stuff with an allosexual partner would presumably require an imperial crapton of communication, of course, but you’d hope ANY couple would go through an imperial crapton of communication before they decided whether or not to get married. And it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that, if a couple is going to get married, they should ALREADY be at the stage of comfort and openness with each other that honest answers to questions like “Would you be okay remaining with me if I continued to be celibate for ever?” and “Would it also be acceptable if, at some hypothetical point in the future, I find myself willing to have sex despite having assumed I would not be?” could be expected.

    • Spade

      “The other option that you don’t seem to mention here is that you could commit yourself to only marrying someone who has, by that hypothetical point in the relationship, already established themselves to honestly be fine with whatever works, sex-wise, whether that’s a sexless marriage or just a confusingly-inconsistent-on-the-frequency-of-sexual-contact marriage.”

      Oh, did I not cover that one? That would be the ideal, yeah. I’d probably be anxious, though, since there’s a possibility that a) they’re just saying that that to reassure me, but then really will expect sex and will be secretly annoyed if they don’t get it, or b) they honestly believe they’ll be fine with no sex but come to find out later that they’re more dissatisfied about it than they expected to be.

      And, ideally, I’d be able to trust a partner to be better than that and to know better than that. But I’ve also read too many stories of that kind of trust being broken.

  • icklebrina

    Oh my word, this sounds an awful lot like the merry-go-round in my head about these ideas.

    It often ‘resolves’ for the short-term by me going, ‘well – I’m not dating anyone now and there’s no one I want to date around at the moment, I guess we can shelf it for now?’ but as a person who likes to plan for the future at least somewhat (though I’m a little lacking of an answer for the ‘what country will I be living in next year?’ question at the moment), it’s not an entirely satisfactory answer.

    At any rate, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one to have had these thoughts. So thanks for sharing.

    • Spade

      “well – I’m not dating anyone now and there’s no one I want to date around at the moment, I guess we can shelf it for now?”

      Exactly, haha. That’s always the best resolution I can come to as well.

      “At any rate, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one to have had these thoughts. So thanks for sharing.”

      And thank you for commenting. This reminds me, there’s probably a lot that could be said about the “sex on your wedding night” expectation in general.

  • luvtheheaven

    Thanks for writing this post. I really appreciate every time you post your perspective on the religious issues, regardless of however much I can’t relate. ;) It’s always great to read other points of view, and hopefully learn something new each time.

    I’ve actually spent some time, as an outsider, thinking about this abstinence-until-marriage crowd, especially since two of my closest friends (who happen to both be female) waited until marriage for sex – and they didn’t get married to their first boyfriends, and they waited until they were 23 and 27 years old, respectively.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrasing “gotta test drive the car before you buy it” before, and I agree that it’s kind of… um… icky to hear a person “being compared to an inanimate object whose primary purpose and function is the provision of a service to a user”, but I *do* think it is probably smart in a lot of senses to “see if you two are sexually compatible” before marriage, for precisely the reasons you explained – because you’re “locked in” and it’s way harder to “break up” if you realize your sex-life is now a deal-breaker for the relationship. I know that when religion plays into it, and there are moral values placed on when/with whom you have sex and that it’s not so simple to have sex with your fiance before the marriage is permanent because you’ll be breaking your own moral code/your vow to God/etc, but as a secular person, I think if you look at it purely practically, before the level of commitment is too much to turn back, it’s smart to “see how well the relationship works” on all sorts of levels. Take things slow, one step at a time. I think this applies to all sorts of things in a relationship – meeting family and friends of your significant other, seeing if you can handle being room/housemates, deciding whether or not you want kids, etc – doing everything at once, at/after a marriage – it just seems like a recipe for UNHAPPINESS to me, if not actual disaster. It’s not just aces & allosexuals who have the sexual compatibility issue on the line. I think there are a lot of times when, for instance, a guy and a girl both know they’re heterosexual and automatically think that’s enough for both of them to be sexually satisfied in a relationship with the other. But I imagine two people’s differences in sex-drives, in kinks, etc can make things very disappointing once they actually start trying sexual activities. And most of the non-married, sexually active allosexual people I’ve talked to see to agree. The idea of going into a marriage without first making sure you are happy with the way sex works between you two is scary because so many things can not work out quite right.

    I think one not-foolproof but a=LOT-better-than-nothing solution to all of this for allosexual couples OR mixed ace/allo couples who want to wait till marriage for sex (or even ace/ace couples if for any reason sex was part of their plan too!) is to TALK TALK TALK, to truly communicate, to learn a lot about what sex might have in store for them before the actual wedding night/honeymoon, etc.

    I think even for people that are gonna be abstinent until marriage, before the wedding they can make an effort to learn and understand each other’s sexual fantasies, fears about sex, current feelings toward the prospect of sex, what they hope to try, what they are unsure they’ll ever be comfortable enough to try, what they feel morally opposed to ever trying, what they feel sure for other reasons like repulsion that they’ll never want to try, what they plan to do as a solution in the hypothetical future if one partner doesn’t like something the other one does, how issues of consent will be handled within the marriage (like um, is the answer allowed to be no?), etc. And I think it also helps to truly learn the facts – to learn about how, contrary to the only thing many people have heard their whole lives, sometimes the woman has a higher sex drive than the man. Or that sometimes people can prefer to give pleasure rather than receive it (I mean as a simple kink for an allosexual person to have, not necessarily in the more complicated notion of an ace feeling that way). Or all sorts of other things that too many people are too naive about when going into a marriage as a virgin. If it’s not against one’s religious beliefs to talk/think/read about sex, I think it’s important to try to be as prepared as possible before jumping into a marriage, and if that doesn’t mean “Experienced” in sex because these two people are waiting till marriage, then at least it can mean “well-informed” and “openly communicating”.

    • Spade

      “but I *do* think it is probably smart in a lot of senses to ‘see if you two are sexually compatible’ before marriage”

      That’s nice but please don’t talk to me about that. When I write a personal post, I’m not particularly concerned with sympathizing with people who don’t sympathize with me and my higher priority of making sure I’m not seen as a sexual resource.

      “how issues of consent will be handled within the marriage (like um, is the answer allowed to be no?)”

      Good Lord, it better be.

      • luvtheheaven

        But I do sympathize with you! I’m surprised you think me saying that means I am dismissing a higher priority of yours. In fact, what I thought I was saying was that your highest priority – making sure you’re not seen as a sexual resource – is a big PART of that “making sure you two are sexually compatible” thing. I think that is treating both people are human beings rather than objects, so I thought it was a much more palatable alternative to the “Test drive” phrasing, and…

        I didn’t intend it as being endorsing of all of the pressure for you or anyone to actually try sex. I think that is a broad concept that can mean a lot of things, and the reason I agree with it is what I interpreted it in the sense that if one person isn’t sure that they even want to try sex but their partner definitely expects sex eventually, the two people are clearly sexually incompatible.

        I also was trying to speak more “in general” to the issue than just to you, as your post seemed to speak in large hypotheticals anyway, but while I was saying stuff that I think applies to two allosexuals as well, I wasn’t saying things that *only* applies to them – I was trying to say stuff that includes the important needs of sex-averse or sex-indifferent ace-spectrum people, such as yourself.

        I’m sorry you read my post as anything ignoring your personal concerns. That wasn’t my intention. I was trying to keep everything you wrote here in mind.

        ~~~

        And I know, the answer better be allowed to be no. I agree for sure. I’ve read too much about certain extreme/fundamentalist/conservative Christian men thinking they had marital “rights” in their marriage to a woman, and that marital rape wasn’t even possible, but luckily most of what I’ve read is about the changing tide on that issue and how more and more Christians are now understanding how wrong those notions were.

        • Spade

          “But I do sympathize with you!”

          The phrase “people who don’t sympathize with me” was intended as a general reference to a population of people who use that phrase/prioritize sexuality and expect me to organize my priorities the same way. Your previous comment came across as “okay, that may not apply to you, but remember it does apply to some people too!” which is similar to the “okay, some people may not like sex, but remember that sex is important to some people too!”

          I really don’t want to hear it. Like I said, annoyance reflex.

  • doubleinvert

    Even if I am the only one, I promise to be a Christian who will support you. I will support ace and aro persons any way I can, even if I am never ordained and I flunk out of seminary.

    The issues of “test driving” and incompatibilities discovered after a relationship starts are related, to me, and they tie in to the idea of disclosure. Both parties, it seems to me, need to talk about and communicate their desires or lack thereof early on. True, this is easier said than done. In some ways it’s similar to the incompatibility my former spouse and I discovered after I began my gender transition. We tried to communicate about it before things started, but even then we still found that this was insurmountable.

    Communication won’t always prevent or fix incompatibilities, but it could help sometimes.

    -Connie

  • thetechnicolorace

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels like this. I don’t know how I’d feel towards sex and I don’t know how I’d feel towards most non-sexual touch either (although in general I would say most of it sounds nicer than sex), but I do want to get married (and have kids) someday so yeah… it’s complicated.

  • Sara K.

    Like you, I do not know how I would react to a potentially sexual relationship. Assuming mutual respect (since I am sure any relationship without mutual respect would *not go well*), I do not know whether I would discover I am sex-averse, that I don’t mind, or that maybe I even like sex.

    I have had issues with the ‘test drive before you buy’ mentality, but I think you have put it more succinctly than I ever have – it is like purchasing an inanimate object rather than bonding with a conscious being with agency. I have talked to a lot of Taiwanese people about premartial sex / cohabitation before marriage VS. abstinence/no cohabitation before marriage (not in the context of asexuality, just in general), and a lot of the arguments I’ve heard from the pro-cohabitation people bothered me for this reason.

    Both in the part of the USA where I grew up and among the young people of Taiwan (older generations in Taiwan are different) the default relationship escalator is to cohabit and have sex before marriage, and most people take this route not because they have made a careful assessment of their needs and wants, but because ‘that’s how it’s done’. And then when they talk about the abstinence before marriage crowd being rigid and close-minded, I think the pot is calling the kettle black.

    • Spade

      “And then when they talk about the abstinence before marriage crowd being rigid and close-minded, I think the pot is calling the kettle black.”

      Ohhhh man. Yeah, sometimes I have to agree.

      Cohabitation is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, from my perspective, and I avoided going into that in my post entirely, but then again, they’re obviously related for a lot of people, so it’s pretty relevant. Thanks for commenting.

      • Sara K.

        Yeah, it is another kettle. Come to think of it, there are definitely parallels between marriage without sex and marriage without cohabitation, especially when the non-cohabitation is by choice and not a necessity. Heck, even married couples who cohabit but choose to have separate bedrooms get flak.

  • Andrea

    So I am super late to this party but WOW this is a string of thoughts that goes through my head all of the time! right next to and inextricably tied to the when in a relationship to I tell someone I’m asexual thought train
    because the thing about Christians (at least in the community I’m a part of) is that we tend to date to marry
    so if its a deal breaker for marriage its a dealbreaker for dating
    which means I end up invisioning situations where I tell people I’m asexual and have to end it with so I understand if you want to break up with me now because I’m don’t know if I’m going to be able to want to have sex with you and I’m not willing to “test drive” it.

    :(

  • ChristianAce

    Yup, it makes the list of prospective partner’s feel very bleak

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