Pre-marital sex is an ace issue

By reputation, Christians are very sex-negative. They’re the main driving force behind abstinence-only sex education, they teach kids that having sex with multiple people will make them dirty and used up, and people who leave Christianity often need to overcome a layer of sexual shame.

But that’s only one side of the coin. The flipside is glorification of sex–within the right context. Sex before marriage supposedly leaves you all twisted up inside, but sex after marriage is supposedly mind-blowing. But how does sex go from point A to point B so quickly? And if a couple chooses not to have sex before marriage, how will they know whether they’re sexually compatible?

Libby Anne talks about two different evangelical responses to sexual incompatibility. One response is to ignore the problem. The other response is to acknowledge the problem, but insist that sexual compatibility isn’t that important.

Both of these responses have serious problems, and especially for aces. To some extent, being ace is essentially the realization, I am sexually incompatible with nearly everyone. Obviously I’m not saying everyone needs to have sex before marriage; nobody needs to have sex at all. But if sex is expected in the context of a particular relationship, it should be expected early on, so that sexual compatibility can be spotted and addressed earlier in the relationship.

In ace discussion, one thing we talk about is “delayed realization”, when people realize that they’re ace much later than you’d expect. It’s the realization that, oh, people weren’t doing it just to be cool, they’re actually really into sex! Or else it’s the realization, hey this much-vaunted sex thing isn’t that great at all. Sadly for many, the realization comes only after being in a relationship, or even multiple relationships.

Christian views on sex often exacerbate the delayed realization. According to many Christian ace accounts I’ve heard, they receive all this messaging which doesn’t just tell them to resist sex, but which also implies that resisting sex is really difficult. This causes cognitive dissonance, but it isn’t enough to make a person realize they’re ace because the assumption is unspoken, and no alternative possibilities are offered. Sometimes, the resolution to this dissonance is to say, I’ll probably like sex once I’m married.

Realizing you’re ace in the context of a relationship is, generally speaking, bad news. Sometimes it works out, but often it means that the relationship is doomed. But that’s not the worst part, the worst part is when it creates unsafe conditions for the ace.

[cn for next paragraph: abuse, gaslighting, rape]

The reality is that a lot of people feel entitled to sex from their partners. And if they know, going in, that a partner doesn’t want sex, that’s one thing, but if they only figure out after they’ve committed, I’m very afraid of what some people will do. People who have just realized that they’re ace are also uniquely vulnerable. Their partners can take advantage of their uncertainty, actively denying that they’re ace, and/or pressuring them to have sex anyway.

In these situations, one of the most important things to have is an escape route. If the realization happens in the context of marriage, the escape route is that much harder.

When Christians fail to acknowledge, or downplay sexual compatibility, we must recognize the inherent heteronormativity. Yeah, sure, you can take sexual compatibility for granted when you’re sexually in the middle of the road and assume everyone else is too. You can just work out whatever minor problems you encounter after marriage.

But what if you’re far from the median? What if sexual incompatibility is so extreme that you’re incompatible with nearly everyone? Yes, people can work with sexual incompatibility, and no, sex is not the most important thing in the world. But it’s easiest to make things work if everyone is aware of the sexual compatibility issues early on.

By the way, this is only what *I* say about sexual compatibility in relation to being ace. If you want to hear other opinions, there’s some good discussion here.


  1. agender says

    you managed to nail a century-old discussion (better:non-d) with absolute precision. Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *