What I learned after being in a relationship with an asexual person

Jaymee Mak, director and co-star of the short film It’s Not You, It’s Not Me, shares her personal story after being in a relationship with an asexual person.

It’s Not You, It’s Not Me, is a short film by Jaymee Mak, showing the mixed relationship between an allosexual woman and an asexual man, and their struggle to reconcile their needs with their love for each other.

Writer, producer, and co-star Mak graciously wrote her personal story for Cold Tea Collective to give insight to viewers about this unique experience. Check out the short film below and read more about her former relationship and how she used it as inspiration for her first film.

*Content warning: implicit sex

Chris (not his real name) and I slept together on the first date. As oxymoronic as that seems for an asexual man to do, I later learned it was because he wasn’t sure about his sexual identity, so he’d often sleep with women on the first date to see if they were the one. The one who would finally awaken the sexual attraction that everyone else seemed to experience.

We had been dating for about six months when I asked him why we hadn’t had sex in a while. It’d been a month. Or two. I forget. He was a workaholic, so he was often busy, or too tired. It bewildered me — I was used to being the one saying no. Maybe he wasn’t attracted to me? “Maybe,” he said. He’d mentioned his exes were mostly white women with big breasts. I’m a Chinese woman who sometimes looks like a boy, depending on how long it’s been since my last haircut. I started wearing more dresses, more make-up. I noticed he’d avoid looking me in the eyes too long, and my attempts at deep kisses landed on cheeks.

I knew about asexuality through a friend’s girlfriend who was asexual or Ace, the shortened term to describe someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Maybe it wasn’t about me. I asked him, “Have you ever maybe thought that you might be asexual?” “Maybe,” he said.

It’s Not You, It’s Not Me BTS Photo (Provided by Jaymee Mak)

Back in his university days, he mentioned there was an asexual guest lecturer that he could relate with. Or maybe he just had a low libido. After all, he did like me enough to want to be with me. We cuddled a lot. Worked side by side on our laptops, legs intertwined. “I don’t do this with just anyone,” he said.

But there were nights, lying together for hours talking about anything and everything, that he’d say, “Doesn’t this make me just one of your girlfriends?” “I don’t do this with just anyone either,” I said.

One morning, rather than checking our phones and making oatmeal with peanut butter and blueberries, our cuddling turned into kisses, which turned into sex. I was overjoyed. Maybe he did feel the way I felt. So, I asked him how he felt about it.

“How… was that for you?”
“Eh.”
“What? Did you enjoy it?”
“Not really.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I thought you wanted to.”

I was confused. I felt like I had taken advantage of my partner without intending to do so. Immediately, I told him, “I never want to have sex with you again if you don’t really want to. It just doesn’t feel right.” “But where does that leave us,” he said. I didn’t know.

It’s Not You, It’s Not Me BTS Photo (Provided by Jaymee Mak)

I’d never questioned my relationship with sex before. It was just something I desired. I didn’t know how to explain it. I told him I’d be okay not having sex. I just really wanted to be with him. But he knew that I also felt a sense of loss, and he told me that I should sleep with other people. I didn’t want to. I idolized him, and I didn’t want to jeopardize our relationship. I could tell that he was worried that I would regret celibacy, and build resentment over time.

We both agreed to open our relationship and go on dates with other people. We assured that we would be completely open and honest about what we did, and with who. Eventually, I ended up sleeping with someone. He was excited for me. He also stopped kissing me. After I slept with a second person, he told me he felt betrayed, and that he never wanted to see me again.

It turned out that although he thought he’d be okay with having an open relationship, he wasn’t. It turned out that although he was chatting with other women online, he never ended up meeting with them. It also turned out that we had missed a bunch of important fundamental steps to transition our monogamous relationship over to a healthy polyamorous relationship. Like discussing exactly what you’re comfortable with the other person doing, and how slow you might want to take things. Or how to navigate jealousy. Or figuring out how to balance each other’s needs while dating other people.

We tried to hold onto our broken trust for too long.

It’s Not You, It’s Not Me BTS Photo (Provided by Jaymee Mak)

Although I still cherished him as a friend, I understood that I could no longer be his partner. I was heartbroken. To process my feelings, I wrote my first short film, It’s Not You, It’s Not Me, a film distilling the core of the conflict around sex in a mixed relationship between an asexual man and a sexual woman.

After releasing the film on March 9, my ex has still yet to see it. He says he feels weird about it. I don’t blame him considering we are now both in long-term relationships with other people. After all, it’s been four years.

In making the film, I have met a lot more aces. I was chatting about our film at a networking event and a girl turned around and said, “Did you say asexual film? I’m asexual and I never talk to my friends about it and…” Since then, she not only became our stills photographer on INYINM and my other film projects, but she has also become one of my closest friends. Throughout the process, I’ve had both friends and acquaintances come out to me as an ace, or who’ve realized they might be ace from watching our film. It is an incredible thing to be a part of.

https://twitter.com/TheAngryAce/status/1237201639183974402

I didn’t write a happy ending at the time because my story didn’t have a happy ending. Also, I didn’t know as much about filmmaking and mental health. Now, my perspective as an artist, is that I have a duty to not only raise awareness of issues, but to share solutions and hope, particularly to audiences who struggle with the issues being presented. I filmed a companion piece with an asexual advocate friend of mine, Justine Munich, which explores the issues of our film through her lens as an asexual woman.

I’ve heard from both asexual and allosexual people, someone who experiences sexual attraction, that our film has helped them see things from their counterpart’s perspective. Although our team did our best in balancing both character’s perspectives, asexual people face much more discrimination and higher rates of mental health issues than even other non-heteronormative sexual identities.

Since asexuality, arguably, isn’t seen as much in mainstream media, most people either misunderstand or aren’t aware of it. At its worst, that leads to corrective rape. “You just haven’t met the right one yet. I’ll be the one to fix you,” some hear. It can also lead to asexual people feeling broken, less human, because they don’t experience something that seems core to how we market everything, including our pursuit of relationships. It can lead to doctors misdiagnosing their asexuality as a symptom of illness, and subjecting them to corrective therapy like being prescribed Viagra and told to “have sex until you feel like it.”

My hope is that we continue to tell more asexual stories and talk about asexuality so that the burden doesn’t fall on asexual people to explain their identity, and they can feel accepted for all that they are. If you’d like to help by learning more about asexuality online.

For more information on the short film, check out It’s Not You, It’s Not Me on Facebook and Instagram.

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