Nonsexual Relationships Have Worth.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“So you’ve liked being friends with her and want to date her,” the comments sections seethe. “Go ahead and ask her out! What’s the worst that could happen?”

The answer to that, unfortunately, tells you a lot about someone’s values.

Because the answer to “What’s the worst that could happen?” is what does happen all too often when you interject “HALLO I WOULD LIKE THE BOINKINGS WITH YOU” into what’s been a pleasant, nonsexual relationship – the person you asked doesn’t find you attractive, and now wonders whether your pleasantries have been nothing but a way to get into their pants, and doesn’t know whether it’ll be okay to answer “no” without losing what they have. Sometimes, based on sad past experiences with people who’ve lied about “No, it’ll be fine if you say no,” they automatically back off even if you tell them you are.)

(Which is why, incidentally, I always suggest being open about your attractions – playing the so-called “Nice Guy” who keeps launching surprise crushes on people is pure toilet water. There’s nothing wrong with only wanting to interact with someone for the potential of sex, but there’s definitely something wrong with someone who pretends they want more when really, that’s all their so-called buddy can expect to get out of this.)


“What’s the worst that can happen?” is that a friendship you had gutters into awkwardness and fails because you wanted Le Hot Smooches and they didn’t.

And it’s the next question that tells you someone’s values:

“Isn’t that worth the risk, though?”

Which is actually another question, rotated slightly to sound more socially acceptable:

“Isn’t losing any non-sexual relationship okay, so long as you might get rewarded with sex?”

And my answer is: No. No, it damn well isn’t.

My nonsexual relationships, even with people who have sexual orientations compatible with mine, are fulfilling on their own merits. Yes, I like makeout sessions and slippery-wet fucking and claws across soft skin…

But I also like late-night conversations about movies, and having someone to talk to when I’m feeling down, and sending jokes to someone who I know will get them in the same way I do.

And this concept that all of these things can be jettisoned trivially so long as I might – might! – get to fuck them is a little shallow as far as I’m concerned. Some of the greatest things in my life have arrived from theoretically-compatible people I have never, would never, and *could* never have sex with. If I lost my relationship with those people, I would lose all these nonsexual happinesses they gift me.

And of course it’s a variable equation. Deciding to risk a close friendship of three years is different than rolling the dice on someone you’ve had three days’ worth of nice chats with. Sometimes, you’ll risk losing a budding friendship because you wanted more – and again, that’s okay.

But the people who ask “Isn’t it worth the risk, though?” generally don’t know about the specific relationship that’s being gambled, though – because it doesn’t matter. Any chance at le smoochins, no matter how faint, is worth any amount of nonsexual interaction. You’ll drop anything, anyone, who needs you if there’s some sex in it.

And I think that’s what you see in those assholes who forever pester women in the coffee shops with “Can I buy you a coffee?” (Which, for the record, is still one of the best essays I’ve ever written.) Yeah, they know these chicks have headphones on, or are doing homework, or are otherwise projecting glacial waves of indifference at them – but what’s important is not respecting someone’s projected social cues, but HEY I HAVE A SHOT HERE I GOTTA TAKE IT.


(Cue the inevitable whines of “But If I Can’t Buy You A Coffee, How Will Our Species Reproduce?” – which, fortunately, I’ve already written an essay about.)

Look. For the third and final time, there’s nothing wrong with wanting sex as your primary goal, whether you’re a man, woman, or nonbinary. And there’s nothing wrong with looking at the relationship you have and deciding that yes, the chance of evolving this into a sexual one is worth the cost of losing them.

But what is a little skewed is when you’ve quietly decided that every nonsexual pleasure you could have is automatically outweighed by the possibility of a sexual dalliance somewhere in your future.

“What’s the worst that could happen if you ask?” Well, I could muddle a nonsexual relationship.

Does that matter to you?

Because, ya know…. it should.


  1. Liz
    Nov 2, 2018

    I have had some luck with a peculiar strategy in this respect, detailed below, but that may be because a) I’m female, and b) I am known for being weirdly direct and forthright about my feelings and motivations, and only try it on people who know me well enough to already know that about me. Other people’s milage may vary.

    I’ll send an email that basically reads “I like you and we seem to get along well, and I’d be interested in going on a date to see if our chemistry extends into that range. But I also really value what we have now, and am really happy to continue as things are, so if you don’t feel like exploring the romantic side, just never mention this, and I’ll never bring it up again. We can pretend it never happened and just keep being friends.”

    There’s usually a bit of wariness the next couple times I see them, but I do stay friendly and keep a normal distance. I got my answer by not getting a reply email, and that was no, and I respect the no, and we go on the way things were. And after one or two times seeing them in a group setting where I’m not making depressed moony eyes at them, or hanging on them for an answer, or bursting into tears and rushing from the room, they relax, and everything is normal.

    But it all relies on me being honest, and following through on the “If you don’t reply, I’ll pretend this never happened” part, and meaning it about being happy.

  2. Anonymous Alex
    Nov 2, 2018

    Or the answer is yes, and you still lose the friendship. At least for a time.


    • Yet Another Laura H.
      Nov 3, 2018

      Sex without friendship has its merits, I suppose, but if I recall correctly, it’s kind of the Fruit Stripes gum of human interaction— two minutes later, you’re like, “Why is this tasteless wad even in my mouth.”

      Or did I misunderstand you?

  3. Kaj Sotala
    Nov 3, 2018

    Which is actually another question, rotated slightly to sound more socially acceptable:

    β€œIsn’t losing any non-sexual relationship okay, so long as you might get rewarded with sex?”

    This seems to assume that the only reason why you’d tell your crush about your feelings, is that you want to have sex with them. That feels like a very weird assumption to me, especially since I identify as heterosexual but biromantic; I can get crushes on guys but am mostly uninterested in having sex with them (though might enjoy a bit of kissing and touching). Yet I have told at least one of my guy-crushes, for essentially the same reasons why I’ve tell my gal-crushes: if I have a crush on someone, then I may be interested in having a committed relationship with them. Which yes, might involve sex, but doesn’t necessarily need to; the defining aspects can also be things like intending to live together or otherwise committing to be a part of each other’s lives in the kind of a way that you typically only do with a romantic partner.

    • The Ferrett
      Nov 5, 2018

      Well, what I’d find weird about that – and relationships are weird, you can have a lot of weird – is that you’re counting “living together or otherwise committing to be a part of each other’s lives” as a romantic inclination. I mean, I’ve definitely seen roommates who were besties and yet didn’t sleep together or have any romantic inclinations, and I’m definitely committed to several people’s lives in a very deep way without being romantic.

      What I’d see here is a smearing of that feeling that romantic relationships are somehow better, and if you’re really close to someone then it needs to be sexually romantic on some level. And I’d argue that no, you can have very intense feelings in a committed relationship without having to have it romantically.

      • Kaj Sotala
        Nov 5, 2018

        I agree that non-romantic relationships are not worse than romantic ones, and that you can have a committed relationship with someone else without it being romantic.


        1) We don’t really have many social scripts for committing to another person in a very significant way that aren’t based either on a romantic relationship or being somehow related to them. If you really want to have someone in your life who you’ll share a lot of time with for the rest of your remaining lives – which is something that a lot of people do want a lot, and which I think is a perfectly valid thing to want – then that’s hard to arrange for by other means. Maybe you’re best buds with your roommate right now, but once your roomie finds themselves a romantic partner and maybe wants to have kids, then chances are that they’ll want to move out and then be so preoccupied with balancing work and family that you won’t get to see anywhere near as often as you did.

        Friends drifting apart and not having a chance to see each other anywhere near as much as they used to is a very common thing, and I think that it’s perfectly fine to want to have someone in your life who you can count on to remain as a significant part of it. Especially if you’re the kind of a person who has difficulties making any friends in the first place, so that you can’t just befriend new people whenever your old ones drift away.

        2) It’s certainly true that you can have a lot of connection, intense feelings, etc. towards someone without there being a romantic relationship. But at least in my experience, there are some kinds of connection and depth of feelings that you won’t get with non-romantic partners. That is not to say that the romantic experiences would necessarily be better than the non-romantic ones, but they are different. To use a silly RPG analogy, if the different experiences you can have with someone are like skill trees, then some aspects of “closeness” are in a subtree that seems to have mutual romantic feelings as prerequisite. This doesn’t necessarily make “romantic closeness” a better skill tree to have than any other, but it is nonetheless a different tree than the ones without the same prerequisite. And if you do want to have the “romantic closeness” tree as well as the others, then your only option is to have a romantic relationship with someone.

        Possibly your mind works in a different way, and you can get all kinds of emotional connection and closeness with someone, regardless of whether you’re romantically involved with them or not. But if that is also the case for my mind, then I’m yet to experience it.

  4. Anonymous Alex
    Nov 3, 2018

    I was thinking more about not having a friend post-breakup, but your point is also valid.

    And I want to start using “tasteless wad” as a general insult.


    • Anonymous Alex
      Nov 3, 2018

      Dang it; I meant for that to be a reply.


      • Yet Another Laura H.
        Nov 4, 2018

        …you meant to reply with “tasteless wad”?


        Some of my best friends are technically my exes, but it is always best to have the space directly after, IME, and I know what you mean there.

        • Anonymous Alex
          Nov 4, 2018


          I have one ex who I have no contact with whatsoever, and that fact still bugs me, now 30 years on.


  5. Xavier
    Nov 4, 2018

    I think strong platonic connection, and asexual romantic relationships are undersold in general, and rarely expanded upon in media. We’re taught, over and over again, that the default method of engaging with a human you’re attracted to is to approach them romantically, and that you might fight it, but attraction is going to win out, that the (boy) gets the (girl) and that’s how relationships work.

    I struggled w this for a long time, and there are a few relationships that I wish I could have kept, except for the fact that I manufactured a lot of sexual tension. I have four really good platonic relationship right now, one of them literally sleeps over (in my bed). I’ve had light play with them in the past, so there’s a comfort factor there. I broached romance once, was declined, and I decided that if the relationship was going to be asexual snuggles in perpetuity, I would MUCH prefer it to losing that connection or making it uncomfortable.

    Instead of seeing it as binary, if people saw relationships connections existing on an axis. That’s it’s more than just familial love or romance.

    • The Ferrett
      Nov 5, 2018

      I mean, the Greek did that with their various names of love, but we never transferred it. And I feel that’s a shame.

  6. Anonymous Alex
    Nov 5, 2018

    Huh. There’s no “respond” button once you get too many levels down?

    Anyway, I presume by “They’re not Pokemon” you mean I don’t have to “collect them all.” But that’s not my regret. We had a very good, and unique (for me) friendship, and it’s–apparently irrevocably–lost, to the point where we couldn’t have much of a civil conversation beyond small talk.

    I honestly don’t know to what extent that was my fault, but it makes me sad.


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