I'm not sexually attracted to my partner. Can we still enjoy a romance?
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions
Q. Is being asexual the same as being celibate? Is it possible to be in a relationship even though I am asexual?
A. Asexuality is a spectrum and not the same as celibacy, where you still have sexual attraction and are abstaining from sexual acts by choice.
Someone who is asexual does not experience sexual attraction - it is a lack of desire for other people. Asexuality is not common. But more and more people are identifying with this orientation.
Those who self-identify as asexual explain having never felt or experienced attraction intense enough to express or act on it. For those who feel attraction, asexual people can identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
Some asexual people experience romantic attraction and feel and express this in many ways, including going on dates. Physical intimacy could include holding hands or cuddling - however, these interactions do not lead to sexual interaction with other people.
Asexual people are able to have emotional intimacy and closeness, and many have long-term relationships. Many asexual people are in relationships with both sexual and asexual people. Others don't experience any sexual or romantic attraction and identify themselves as aromantic asexuals.
Asexual people are able to have emotional intimacy and closeness, and many have long-term relationships
Identifying as asexual is not a sign of being unable to experience sexual pleasure or indicative of nonfunctionality of genitals. Being asexual doesn't mean someone is unable to carry a pregnancy and have children.
Though they may not initiate sex, some asexual people can engage in consensual sexual activity with a partner. Some also masturbate and others experience fantasies.
What can be distressing for asexual people is the knee-jerk reaction from their partners who may want to "fix them". In the absence of open communication in the relationship, the risk of sustained frustration due to sexual incompatibility is great.
Infidelity, resentment and loathing may make intimacy difficult to achieve. Coercion is unwelcome and will leave an asexual person rightly feeling violated. The subjective experience of engaging in intimate activity and sex will vary from person to person and must guide sexual and intimate relations.
• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic, safersex.co.za.
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