The Asexual Dating App Experience Still Faces PitfallsImage by alicia_mb on Freepik Tech Features Dating Apps
Imagine you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Everybody and their mother is lined up, eager to fill their plate. You finally get to the front of the line only to realize that absolutely nothing looks appealing and you don’t even feel hungry. There’s a line of people impatiently waiting behind you. You try to tell them you don’t want anything, and you hear murmurs of “You haven’t even tried it” and “you’ll change your mind and regret it later.” That’s what it’s like to date online as an asexual person.
To be asexual is to experience little to no sexual attraction. Asexuality lies at one end of the spectrum of sexual attraction and allosexuality at the other, with everyone existing somewhere along the spectrum.
I discovered I was asexual when I was 25. I always suspected something was up, but I passed it off and ignored it. That was until a horrible date experience that made me rethink everything. I met a guy on Tinder. We talked for a couple of weeks. Everything was going swimmingly — until the topic of sex came up.
I froze. I didn’t know what to say or do, and as he started inching closer I snapped. I asked him to take me home and proceeded to get wasted. It was at 3am that I drunk-googled “Why Sex Bad.” I waded through some weird articles until I found a Yahoo Answers thread that mentioned asexuality. I then saw season two of Sex Education. It was my lightbulb moment.
I knew myself, yet dating online as an asexual person continued to resemble absolute nightmare fuel. Not only am I battling the hyper-sexualized hookup culture of online dating apps like Tinder and Raya, but I feel like I should be an employee. I always have this unsettling feeling like I’m an overworked and unpaid sex education teacher on these apps with the number of times I’ve had to explain what asexuality is to their users (Google is free, folks!).
I make it a mission to be perfectly clear of my intentions and sexuality in my bio and yet people still swipe right just to ask me to sit there and explain asexuality to them for minutes on end. I know that they’re going to unmatch me after I’m finished speaking. It’s exhausting. I’m just here to find somebody. I’m here to find connection and love like anyone else.
You would think that dating apps that are LGBTQIA+-focused or provide safeguards to make sure people are comfortable would be safer bets. Unfortunately, a number of them don’t meet these expectations. You’re either battling aphobic people who believe you’re not a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and let you know on Taimi, or you’re battling literal bots or scam artists who are pretending to be sugar daddies on an unmonitored app like AceApp.
One where sexuality filters are more robust to help find what I’m looking for in a relationship romantically or sexually in addition to an understanding of the varying separation between the two. One where I could have the option to filter out matches that don’t align with my wants and provide better moderation of its users. A number of dating apps have implemented some form of these changes, but more work is left to do.
Tinder, for example, has a feature where you can filter your matches by keywords, including LGBTQIA+ identities, but doesn’t let users filter out potential matches and keeps a number of those filters behind a paywall. Whether this is meant to keep users swiping longer, push them into in-app monetization tools or heighten engagement with the app’s algorithm, one thing is for sure: they lack in effort to address key issues.
It’s important for dating apps to recognize their platform’s limitations and develop better ways to serve all sectors of their user base. One great example of a dating app that has made the effort is HER. Aimed mainly at women and LGBTQIA+ users, HER often makes efforts to include and shed light on minority groups, including asexuals. They hosted online speed dating for the community, and its developers are eager to educate others on asexuality.
Relationships between asexual people and more allosexual individuals face a unique challenge from the jump that differ from the dynamics of other relationships. I’ve tried a few, and it felt like they were just playing a waiting game, as if sex with them would “cure me.” Setting boundaries would be easier knowing the person you’re interested in couldn’t be bothered with sex just as much as you aren’t. I’m honestly one annoying or awkward encounter on Tinder away from figuring out how to create my own dating app.