” I’d like to share my story. It’s not one I’m comfortable discussing with the people in my life. I lost my virginity the day after my 23rd birthday. No one knows this. Not my mother. Not even my best friend. It was consensual and I felt that I loved the person, yet I felt violated. I disassociated my mind from my body and basically blacked out the event to the point of not even feeling the physical pain of losing my virginity. I was operating only within my mind, feeling what was happening to my body was happening to someone else, not me. There was a lot of blood and as I showered afterward, I went into shock and passed out. I still felt I loved this person and wanted a relationship with them after sex, so why did I feel so disgusted with myself and in dread of the inevitable next sexual encounter? I chalked it up to my conservative, religious upbringing and carried on. (I myself am agnostic.) We struggled on through this relationship for nearly 2 years, living together part time. My partner was frequently perplexed and angry at my lack of interest in sex, complained that I never initiated it, and eventually took to verbally and emotionally abusing me. I couldn’t help it. I took no pleasure in these acts and found them frankly repulsive. I kept going through the motions, I even learned to pretend, to try to please my partner, but we both knew something was “off”. I felt sex cheapened the intellectual bond between two people and couldn’t imagine how people could have sex for “fun”, yet I enjoyed kissing, holding hands, and other romantic gestures. Perhaps it would have been tolerable had I felt loved, rather than objectified? There was no love-making, no time or care spent. My partner was alternately a horn dog and cold and indifferent toward me. I discovered he had a second phone he was using to arrange times to cheat on me when I was working or sick. We argued, and he blamed me for not “looking like other girls” and said he felt like I was his younger sister. I wore very practical, androgynous clothing and little to no makeup. Attracting men or fitting in with societal norms of what sexually/aesthetically attractive women look like has never been important to me, so again I could not understand why he cared. He could not understand why I didn’t care. He came close to physically abusing me, and I fell into depression. I started self-harming and suffered suicidal thoughts. I have never been comfortable showing many emotions and am generally uncomfortable around people who are emotional. Let’s say, vulnerability is not my cup of tea. I one day forced myself to cry in front of him. He sat stone faced and ignored me while I sobbed. I thought if he could see how much I was hurting, something might change. It didn’t. I finally decided my only option was to leave. I have since realised that I am in fact a heteromantic asexual, something I had suspected since I was a teenager, but dismissed. I am in a much healthier place psychologically now that I’ve accepted my sexual orientation and I’m much happier with myself. Sex was the dark cloud that hung over the relationship and now I know why, and also that I need a partner who appreciates my value sans sex and is understanding of my sexual orientation and not dismissive/abusive. My question to other romantically inclined aces going forward is this: at what point do you tell a potential partner you are asexual and probably won’t ever want to get naked with them? I’m again romantically attracted to someone, but have no clue how to broach this subject in a non-awkward way.