TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 28, 2021

Weekly Wants: WFH Desk Essentials

This week we're sharing the picks that have become essentials in our WFH routines and that have helped make both small and mighty differences to our productivity and mental health.

Ahh the home office. The tiny stretch of kitchen table. The uncomfortable chair that does nada for your posture. The sofa post 3pm when the afternoon is dragging. If you were anything like us then you may have optimistically assumed the whole WFH malarkey was going to be a quick stint of luxurious lie ins and access all areas to the snack cupboard. But alas here we are, almost 12 months later admitting defeat and the necessity of a routine, proper desk situ and with the knowledge of what we need to get sh*t done on the daily.

Whether it be calming house plants, fresh flowers, a pinboard for your meeting scribbles or a big ol’ bottle of H2o, we each have the items that keep us ticking over and motivate us when the day feels to drag.

Whether it be calming house plants, fresh flowers, a pinboard for your meeting scribbles or a big ol’ bottle of H2o, we each have the items that keep us ticking over and motivate us when the day feels to drag. This week we’re sharing the picks that have become essentials in our WFH routines and that have helped make both small and mighty differences to our productivity and mental health. If nothing else it gives us permission to justify another aesthetically pleasing notebook.

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TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 27, 2021

It Hurts Because It Mattered: A Note on Learning to Honour Your Grief With Love

In this blog post, we dive into the grief weeds - and the flowers - and discuss how grief really is the greatest expression of love we have.

From a young age, all our parents want to do is protect us. They make it their mission to shield us from painful experiences, rejection, hurt and disappointment. They might even offer us soft lies and euphemisms when we turn to them for the answers to difficult questions such as, “Why doesn’t Santa just use the front door?” or, “Mummy, will you live forever?” because how is a parent meant to shatter the very heart they care about the most into tiny, irreparable pieces because the truth expects them to?

Like cutting our grapes into careful halves to prevent us from choking, they only tell us half the story at a time because they’re not sure how much we should be exposed to.

Then we grow up and realise that being human is not all sh*ts, giggles and cucumber sandwiches cut into neat little squares after all. We got punked.

We also realise that Ronan Keating was the ultimate truth-teller: life IS a cranky ol’ rollercoaster, with grief ranking as the roughest white-knuckle whirligig in the world – and one we must all grudgingly have a go on sooner or later.

In this blog post, we dive into the grief weeds – and the flowers – and discuss how grief really is the greatest expression of love we have.

What is grief?

“With all the love I have for her. I don’t know where to put it now.” – Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

In just a few words, the one and only Fleabag managed to articulate exactly why grief aches the way it does.

It’s just another name for love with no place to go. You are its only home.

It’s not always defined by death but by the presence of the intense sorrow we feel when faced with bereavement and heartbreak.

When you break it down in simple human terms, grief is but a pseudonym for the love we feel when we lose someone or something we are emotionally connected to. It’s not always defined by death but by the presence of the intense sorrow we feel when faced with bereavement and heartbreak. It can present itself in many different emotions or even physical symptoms, and whilst it can feel utterly unbearable to navigate, it’s important to know that it’s a healthy process of healing to help you make sense of the loss, whichever shape it takes in your personal life.

Grief is a messy, unpredictable, impossible and untameable beast that’s hard to befriend and always in a state of flux. Which brings us onto the ball in the box – an analogy Twitter user Lauren Herschel learned from her therapist and kindly shared to help others better understand their grief.

Imagine your life is a box with a big ball inside it and a pain button. In the beginning, when grief is at its rawest, the big ball rattles around inside, hitting the pain button regularly. Over time, the ball shrinks in size and hits the pain button less often, rolling over it at random and unexpected intervals. You can be washing your armpits in the bath or sat at a red light and the pain will make itself known in the corners of your eyes and in the goose-bumps on your skin as a memory resurfaces without due warning. The ball may be smaller, but every time it connects with the pain button, it still packs the same heavyweight punch as the very first time we felt it. The frequency of those punches lessens over time as the ball shrinks but the intensity remains the same.

Bottom line: every grieving person has their own box of balls to juggle, so don’t compare your balls to the size of someone else’s. Childish humour is the ultimate coping mechanism, guys.

Life through the lens of grief

As unreachable as the thought can be during the early stages of grief, you will reclaim your joy at some point.

Following the unexpected death of her brother Jordan Feldstein, actress Beanie Feldstein penned a first-person essay for InStyle called ‘Grief Glasses’ (definitely worth bookmarking btw). In it, she describes the way she sees the world now she’s got the grief glasses on.

She writes, “And while I wish I could rip my grief glasses off my face and have it all be a dream, I try to recognize what the glasses have given me: that unique blend of humanity that is simultaneously the darkest dark and the brightest bright.”

Once you know grief, you’ll never be able to go back and unfeel it and you’ll never be able to unsee it either – it colours every experience we have but not all of that experience is tainted with melancholy.

Sadness is acutely sharpened by loss, indefinitely so, but so too is life and all at once, you find yourself with a new aching awareness for the brevity of existence and an enriched sense of gratitude for short-lived, ephemeral joy – be it a balmy August sunset enough to reduce you to happy tears, the final chapter of a book or the smell of your new born baby; all the little things are much, much bigger now. You’re here – present, seeing, loving, living and feeling every damn part of it.

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” – Rumi.

Good Grief

Although the 5 stages of grief offer a framework for the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – your pain is not a hurdle to get over within a certain time period, nor is it something that needs to be fixed and forgotten. It’s like scar tissue, sometimes it’s prickly and raised, other days it sits a little lighter on the skin; faded but ever present – a sign of who you are and the stories you tell.

Grief cannot exist without love, and what you’re feeling is a testament to the bond you shared with that now absent person

Grief cannot exist without love, and what you’re feeling is a testament to the bond you shared with that now absent person or thing and the mark they left on your life. It’s not something you need to defeat, rather it’s something you’ll learn to coexist with as you slowly adjust to the loss. Honour the fragile bandwidth of your heart and lean into the love you have for that special someone you’ve lost by mourning unapologetically and openly. Grieve with your chest and grant yourself the permission to feel the full range of emotion without inhibition.

The idea of bright sides and silver linings within the landscape of loss might seem inconceivable to most, but when you’re still enough to look at a grief-stricken you through the eyes of another, you’ll recognise that, miraculously, you’re here – not only surviving but growing through the most impossible pain you’ll ever know.

And in that moment, you’ll call a truce and let love and loss mix together like two watercolours, until you can no longer tell them apart.

Love blooms on – wild, visceral and immortal.

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 25, 2021

Love Your Surroundings – The Interior Trends to Have on Your Radar for 2021

If you’re attacking the walls with every Pantone swatch you can get your hands on, hooked on DIY panelling tutorials and wondering if wallpaper is really making a comeback, this post is for you.

With many of us having lived a whole year at home staring at the same four walls on repeat with no commute, coffee house sittings or early morning spin classes for pleasurable life punctuation, it’s likely you’re now grappling with a little interiors itch that needs a-scratchin’. We never thought cushion fatigue was a real emotion, alas, 2020 was an eye-opener in so many ways and here we are craving pillow pastures new.

Image credit: @Grillodesigns

If you’re attacking the walls with every Pantone swatch you can get your hands on, hooked on DIY panelling tutorials and wondering if wallpaper is really making a comeback, this post is for you.

Keep reading for a rundown of 2021’s biggest interior trends from colours to cottagecore and beyond.

Comfort & introspection

This one’s less of a trend, more of a lifestyle overhaul that has rubbed off on our homes and we ain’t mad. If we can’t hug each other, then by Jove our homes are going to have to step up and embrace us.

We need armchairs that sigh and grumble as we sink into them, chestnut woods to warm up a sterile kitchen, our favourite dogeared books stacked in quiet corners and huddled into bookshelves and floral tea cups to make our morning rituals that little bit more joyful.

We need armchairs that sigh and grumble as we sink into them, chestnut woods to warm up a sterile kitchen, our favourite dogeared books stacked in quiet corners and huddled into bookshelves and floral teacups to make our morning rituals that little bit more joyful. Just as we looked to loungewear for emotional support circa March 2020 (and never stopped), we’re now just a bunch of broken girls, stood in front of their sofas, asking them to love us. It’s no longer simply a case of what our homes look like but a question of how do we want to feel in our homes?

Now that we’re spending more time inside and transitioning between working hours and weekends all whilst rooted in the same spot, we need a living space that allows us to do just that: live and live comfortably. We need it to serve us through all kinds of liveability – through periods of procrastination and productivity.

Image Credit: @thehouseofhooper

Wall panelling detail

Hands up who’s looked around a room like an owl on a midnight mission for a vole and thought, ‘huh, I wonder if I can panel it to within an inch of its perpendicular life?’.

Painted panels can add period drama to an otherwise soulless room and there are plenty of people taking up the task themselves to save on the ol’ carpentry costs. Have a look at Chelsea’s home for all the inspo and intel on how to make your walls a talking point. Get the spirit level out girls, it’s about to get wild.

Image Credit: @thehousethatblackbuilt

Nature’s palette

A bit of sage advice for 2021: green is IN. From kitchen cabinetry to walls, tiles and fabrics, mood-boosting greenery is the hue to do this year. In terms of colour psychology, green is one grounding goddess.

In terms of colour psychology, green is one grounding goddess.

It promotes a connection to nature, which many of us have been missing over the last year, so it comes as no real surprise that we’re looking to bring the healing powers of the great outdoors into our homes. One look at Dulux’s colour of the year and you’ll see that neutrals still have their place this season, so there’s no need to banish the beige just yet but introducing restful greens is a great way to incorporate colour, without overwhelming a space. Brb, off to break it to the other half that we’re going avocado with the sofa.

Image Credit: @Katespiers

The thrifted home

While sustainability and saving furniture destined for landfill is not a new idea, lockdown has certainly made us take stock of our surroundings and our consumption. Shopping around for second-hand furniture – albeit virtually at the moment – makes styling your nest an altogether slower, more conscious process, not to mention the perks of discovering something you love for an absolute steal. There’s something to be said for the art of homeware hunting and filling your space with foraged stories and thrifted treasure; to rehome a piece of furniture and love it back to life is surely the most fulfilling way to dress a house.

Image credit: @charlottejacklin

Boucle all the way

Most often seen in white or cream, the nubby cloud-like textile first took off in 2020 but your butts will be pleased to hear, it’s going nowhere. Perfect for softening a minimalist interior with subtle texture and warmth from accent chairs to sofas (yes please), blankets and cushion covers, it’s the textile to be sat on right now. Style the retro fuzz with angular marbles, smooth curves and fluted shapes, leather and wood finishes for visual balance. Marshmallow vibes for 2021, ground-breaking.

Image credit: @jakobpowellphotography via @studio.arva

Cottagecore

Also known as countrycore, cottagecore is a whimsical pastoral aesthetic inspired by folklore, nature and slow living. Think bucolic thatched-roof fantasy, complete with gingham picnic baskets in the meadow amongst wildflowers, poetry, dappled sunbeams and babbling brooks. If it were a song, it would be Cardigan by Taylor Swift. You get the gist.

It has become the pastoral pick-me-up we all needed after the last 12 months

It’s a trend that’s been around since 2018 but with lockdown forcing us to re-evaluate our fast-paced lives, it has become the pastoral pick-me-up we all needed after the last 12 months. Just one look at the some 1.3 million hashtags dedicated to its community on Instagram is enough to tell you that fairytale cottages, pinafore aprons, floral crockery and vegetable garden goals are very much en vogue.

The good news is, you don’t have to be the next Anne of Green Gables to encompass the cottagecore trend in your home, introducing vintage touches, carefully curated clutter, quaint wallpaper, wood finishes and cosy reading nooks will inject a bit of rustic reverie into your humble abode quicker than you can say Little House On The Prairie. Your sanctuary awaits…

Image credit: @Charlottejacklin

Objects of joy

A healthy line up of statement ceramics can breathe new life into an otherwise tired living space, injecting colour, craftsmanship, pattern and fun into the mix. Instagram is high key obsessed with sexy shapes – boobs, booties, faces and torsos, so if you’re looking for a room with a cheeky view while you’re working from home, a nude vessel will certainly spice up your spells of procrastination.

We need objects of joy and interest to offer us visual escapism right now and to transport us into a world away from emails, home-schooling and back-to-back Zoom doom. So, snap up a pretty vase and treat yourself to some Spring flowers whilst you’re at it. You deserve it.

Image Credit: @wethepeoplestyle

What homeware trends are you looking forward to tapping into this year?

DANIELLE FEBRUARY 24, 2021

Does Your Love Life Need A Roadmap to Recovery? This Dating Guru Shares Her Expert Advice

In this blog post, we caught up with relationship expert and Vice President of Dating.com, Maria Sullivan, to talk pursuing romance in the middle of a pandemic, spicing up your Zoom chat and how to get the most out of virtual dating.

The pandemic has seriously changed the way we date. If it was tough to meet people before, it’s a particularly haunting experience now. The once additional online portal to potential lovers has since become the – only – way to connect with fellow singles, which significantly shrinks the pool of hair wash-worthy soul mates and presents a new wave of dating hang-ups.

It’s not all bad news, though. In the absence of IRL dates, bare-skinned shoulder brushes in bars and smouldering looks across a candlelit table set for two, we’ve got the luxury of a slower, more sensual pace. We are woke for the real deal and less willing to compromise where compatibility and emotional chemistry is concerned and that can only be a good thing.

Are we all in agreement that a weak ass wifi signal is THE most accomplished vaginablock?

We’ve got the time to give our hearts their due care and attention and form more meaningful connections than say, a quick swipe and a knee-jerk shag, devoid of the kind of carnal wanting and sexual frustration virtual dating in the middle of a pandemic so kindly affords us. Are we all in agreement that a weak ass wifi signal is THE most accomplished vaginablock?

If you’re all swiped out and feeling deprived of physical intimacy and affection, or if your once vivacious, memoir-worthy dating life is dying a slow death on Zoom, we know just the woman who can help.

In this blog post, we caught up with relationship expert and Vice President of Dating.com, Maria Sullivan, to talk pursuing romance in the middle of a pandemic, spicing up your Zoom chat and how to get the most out of virtual dating.

How do you actually go about asking someone out?

Ask in a way that doesn’t require an immediate response – for example, ‘I’ve been thinking about it and I’d love if we could hangout. We should do something soon.’ Leaving things opened ended to start is very effective, as it gives that person a moment to consider what things could be like, without catching them off guard. It’s also best to ask in person. Feel free to drop hints through text or on social but making that move in person establishes that you really have thought about this, which demands a certain level of respect.

Dating during lockdown is HARD work, how can you know if a virtual connection has the potential to turn into something good IRL?

A virtual connection has the potential to turn into something good IRL if you are noticing signs such as:

Butterflies: You get excited every time you get a notification from your virtual date or you get nervous to have a video chat with them

Commonalities: If you share similar interests and have a lot of things in common

You start to miss them even when you haven’t met in person. Missing someone you have never met isn’t common, but if you start to get those feelings for your virtual date, that could be a sign that the relationship will work out IRL.

How to shake up a virtual date so conversation flows? 

Always have a set of questions prepared for your virtual date. This way, if you are starting to run out of things to talk about or just need an ice breaker to get the conversation started, you will have plenty of options in your back pocket!

Some examples of good questions for a date include:

Question: What do you do for a living?

Why: This question is a good ice breaker. People spend most of their time at work, so it good to get an idea of how they spend their days.

Question: What has been your favorite vacation?

Why: Everyone loves going on vacation and talking about what they did that made it so great. Asking this question on a first date will open up a conversation about where your date has traveled and if you are both into the same types of vacation destinations. 

Question: Would you rather…?

Why: Playing would you rather is a great way to fill any awkward silence and it will also tell you more about your date than you were probably planning on finding out. It is important to keep the questions silly and fun. Don’t ask anything too crazy. 

Question: What’s the most interesting fact you know?

Why: People are full of interesting facts. This is a fun question to ask to find out what your date knows, and you might even learn something new.

How do you conquer first date nerves?

Hit the gym before your date – Instead of letting all of your nervous energy bottle up, hit the gym and let it all out. This tactic helps to get rid of those first date jitters not only because it will help you relax, but it will also get your endorphins flowing creating a sense of confidence and happiness. 

Have a glass of wine – Having one glass of wine will help your body relax a little before your date and put your mind at ease. However, it is not a good idea to show up to a date drunk, so just try to stick to one glass for now.

Put your date in the friend zone for the night Maria Sullivan

Put your date in the friend zone for the night – Telling yourself that you are just meeting up with a friend is a lot less nerve-wrecking than meeting a potential romantic interest for the first time. By friend zoning your date for the first date, it will help to reduce your anxiety and lower your fear of rejection.

Listen to your favorite upbeat music – Keeping yourself distracted before a date is a good way to help first date jitters because you won’t be over thinking everything that can go wrong. The best way to keep yourself distracted is to blast your favorite music. You will be too busy singing and dancing to overthink the night.

Just Breathe – When in doubt, breathe it out. If you can’t seem to get rid of your jitters, find a comfortable place to sit and breathe. Taking multiple deep breaths will help to relax your body and ease your mind. Breathe in calm, happy thoughts, and breathe out any tension and worry. 

How to move on and get back into dating after a tough breakup?

Make sure you are feeling your best. Being absent from the dating scene for an extended period of time might have you feeling out of touch. Nothing is sexier than confidence, so make sure you take the time to refresh your wardrobe, practice yoga or workout, take new pictures for your online dating profiles and do whatever it takes to boost your self-esteem.

Get online. See what the internet has to offer. There are lots of different platforms that cater to different preferences, find what interests you and create a profile.

Maria Sullivan

Take things slow. Jumping straight back into dating after being in a relationship for a long time may be weird at first. Test the waters by starting conversations with multiple people. Once you feel you have gotten back into the swing of things, you can take the next step and meet for coffee or dinner.

How to keep the spark when you’re in a long term relationship / new parents and spending so much time at home during lockdown?

Plan a date night once a week! Whether it be in person or over video chat, date nights are important because it is good to spend quality time with just your partner, giving them your full attention. Daily schedules can get hectic and it might be difficult to have in-depth conversations with your S.O. regularly. By taking time once a week to devote a night just to spending time together and catching up, will help to keep and even strengthen your relationship.

What’s your number one tip for dating confidence?

As the famous saying goes, confidence is key. Participating in a virtual date can be a little scary because you might not know the other person that well, or it might be awkward talking through an electronic device. Being confident in yourself and believing the date will go well, will lead to a better outcome. Be yourself on the date, tell jokes, funny stories, etc. and show your date your true confident personality. Confidence is an attractive quality, especially during a potentially awkward setting such as a virtual date.

My top tip for dating confidence is to just be yourself. When getting to know someone on a date, don’t be afraid to let your true personality shine because you could be sitting in front of someone that you will spend the rest of your life with. If a person doesn’t like / connect with your personality, then they aren’t your match.

Meeting parents for the first time is always a big deal, any tips to calm the nerves and give the best of yourself?

Meeting parents for the first time is very nerve-wrecking, but just breathe and be yourself. Parents love when you ask questions and give them a sense of who you are. Even though it might be difficult, try to be as outgoing and as personable as you can. Really show them who you are. 

What do you think dating will look like in the future? Will more people decide to stick to virtual dates before IRL dates do you think?

With virtual dating, you can connect with people all over the country and really see who is out thereMaria Sullivan

Virtual dating will add another normalized option of finding a partner. A lot of time, people are limited to who they meet because of where they live. With virtual dating, you can connect with people all over the country and really see who is out there, making finding your other half a little easier. Once, the COVID-19 outbreak dies down, people will be able to go out again and mingle, but a lot will still keep virtual dating in their back pocket just to keep all options open.

What are the absolute dos and don’ts of dating, particularly virtual dates?

Do look presentable – Even though you are probably sitting in your home for the date, still get dressed up and look your best. You want to show the person you are interested in that you care about the date and that you took time to get ready to talk to them 

Don’t be in a loud crowded room – Find an empty quiet space where you can hear each other and won’t have outside distractions. You want to make sure your date has your full attention, just like if you were out at a restaurant.

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 23, 2021

13 Questions with Rukiat

Inspired by the lack of sex education she had growing up Rukiat made it her mission to educate the masses about sex education. She also focuses on beating the STIgmas, the pleasure gap, sexting and digital dating and intimacy...

First of all, how are you and how are you finding 2021 so far?

I am well, I can’t really complain because I’m grateful for my situation despite the pandemic. 2021 feels like 2020 part 2 though, especially because in the UK we are still in a national lockdown. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal because I love nightlife, the city, the loud music, the drinking and socialising. Hopefully, we will be able to do those things soon.

Can you talk us through your career online and how it’s evolved?

I started speaking about sex online in 2017 when me and two other girlfriends created a sexual wellness company for us to vent about bedroom inequality between straight women and men, and to document our sexual liberation journeys. From then on, my online presence started to grow and so I was being asked to speak at events, participate in panels and overall share my thoughts and opinions on sex.

Offline I also work in the charity sector, teaching sex education to young people. It was only last year that I realised how much of an interesting and unique take I had on sex ed, sexual wellness and even relationships based on how people responded to me. People would tell me how much insight they gained or how inspired they were. And so I stopped underestimating myself and began to believe in myself as a knowledgeable person in my field.

For those that don’t know what can people expect to learn from you online?

Everything when it comes to sex, I don’t hold back and never have. Some people might think it’s a bit too much but I am so desensitised to speaking so openly about sex, so I have no filter.

What inspired you to get into sex education?

The lack of sex education I had growing up inspired me. I had to learn the hard way about a lot of things such as STIs and consent, so I felt it was important to advocate for better sex education. Sex is a part of all of our lives, yet so little accurate information is given to us. I believe that everybody should be sex-positive, so I believe using my voice and platform will encourage this.

We’re completely with you on the journey to normalizing female pleasure, why do you think it’s so important that we keep talking about it?

I think it’s important that we keep talking about it because 1 in 5 women in the UK will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. There are many reasons as to why sexual assault happens, and many of the times women don’t even realise that they experienced rape or sexual assault until after they learned about consent, or how to define pleasure for themselves. Or the fact that sex isn’t something that should be done to them. That painful sex is not normal, and neither is not communicating your desires.

A lot of women don’t even know what gets them going, what turns them on, and end up depriving themselves of orgasms and of sex that is fulfilling and centres their pleasure.

Female pleasure has been demonised and suppressed for centuries and sex is incredibly heteronormative. A lot of women don’t even know what gets them going, what turns them on, and end up depriving themselves of orgasms and of sex that is fulfilling and centres their pleasure. Women cannot stand up for themselves in the bedroom unless they understand female pleasure first.

Can you tell us more about some of your workshops?

I’ve done a few workshops over the past two years on STI’s and beating the STIgmas, the pleasure gap, sexting and digital dating and intimacy! They have all been in collaboration with other brands/organisations but this year I plan to host a few on my own. My workshops are always informative, and I encourage people to bring a pen and notebook as the knowledge I provide is always insightful.

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is being nominated for an award twice for my work. In 2019 it was for the NAZ Noscars Media Award and in 2020 it was for SH:24 and Brook’s Sexual Health Awards. The category I was nominated for was Micro-Influencer, which I won. Being recognised for my efforts means so much and encourages me to keep going.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a few collaborations and commissions which I cannot speak too much about. And I’m also planning workshops!

Who are some of your favourite fellow sex educators online?

My favourite sex educators are Shakira Scott @scottyunfamous, Portia @froeticsexology, Celine @sexwithbaddies, Oloni @oloni, Michelle @polyamorouswhileasian, Niyyah @heauxonthegeaux, Jamie LeClaire @jamiejleclaire, Emily L. Depasse @sexelducation, Genevieve @squirtingisntpee, Yeside Olayinka-Agbola @oloricoitus, Roman Cohen @adwhoreable, Gabrielle Alexa @gabalexa, Ruby Rare @rubyrare, Eva Bloom @whatsmybodydoing, amongst many many more!

What do you always carry with you?

A cute little hand mirror!

What does your perfect weekend look like?

My perfect weekend looks like not stepping outside once, catching up with my favourite TV shows, endless amounts of my favourite foods, lots of sleep and my favourite sex toys on deck!

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

It would be one of my favourite Nigerian dishes Amala and Ogbono soup. Or Eba and Egusi soup, yum.

If you could give one message to our followers what would it be?

Embrace your sexuality, define pleasure for yourself and think for yourself!

Follow Rukiat on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 22, 2021

We Spoke to 8 People Who Identify as Asexual, Ace, or Grey-Ace

In this blog post, we have an honest and open discussion with eight people who identify as asexual to raise awareness and hopefully dismantle some of the assumptions surrounding this often misunderstood orientation.

An asexual person (also abbreviated to ace) may not experience sexual attraction toward any gender but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy fulfilling relationships full of love, companionship and romantic attraction. At its core, asexuality is simply a name given to describe another form of sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality or homosexuality. It’s not a fear of sex, a phase or a synonym for celibacy. It’s just a word. We should also point out that asexuality is not a medical condition, the result of sex-related trauma or another term for loss of libido.

In the same way that anyone who identifies as heterosexual will have different emotional needs and preferences, identifying as asexual or grey-asexual (someone who feels they don’t fit the definition of asexual in some way, or experiences sexual attraction very rarely) means different things to different people. That’s the beauty of being an individual on a gloriously broad spectrum of life.

In this blog post, we have an honest and open discussion with eight people who identify as asexual to raise awareness and hopefully dismantle some of the assumptions surrounding this often misunderstood orientation.

Kate, 23

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

The first time I heard the word was with my ex-boyfriend, 5 years ago. And I was as usual not at all in the mood. He called me out on it. He threw the word at me like it was the worst thing you could be. I tried to shrug it off, but it sort of followed me around. 

Then 2 years ago I discovered I was attracted to both men and women. Through this realisation I got swept up in the LGBTQ+ community. This is where I rediscovered asexuality and grey-asexuality. The more I read the more I related to all the stories and explanations. I felt at ease then, because I always felt so weird and odd for not being interested in having sex. 

Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

I do experience romantic attraction, I love the feeling of being in love. This may be one of the reasons it took me so long to figure it out. I think I confused romantic attraction for sexual attraction for the longest time, because it’s rarely displayed as two separate things. Except for when it’s solely about the sexual attraction.

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships/dating?

I’m always scared to tell (potential) partners that I am asexual because I think they might lose interest in me. I am very open about being bi (bi-romantic, that is), but telling people that I’m ace feels like more of a gamble. Most of the time, I’m afraid to end up alone again because of it. 

I am not a sex-repulsive asexual, I am more neutral to it.Kate

I am not a sex-repulsive asexual, I am more neutral to it. I understand that sex may be a need for my partner, so as long as they respect my boundaries when I do not want to, I’m absolutely fine with it. 

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

I think the most amazing thing about being ace is that without the element of sex, you still have this wonderful connection with your partner. I find emotional connection with people the best thing ever. And with sex as more of background feature of the relationship, you have to find other ways to be intimate and to show you care about each other. 

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

That ‘being asexual isn’t at all difficult, who cares’? Well, growing up thinking there is something wrong with you for not wanting to have sex in a world where sex seems to be the best thing ever’. Hearing that it’s so important if you want to have a good relationship. You start pretending to be someone you’re not and that is not easy or right.

Or that you don’t do/want sex, which can be true, but not automatically. It’s not because you don’t feel the need for it, that you are not open to it. It’s just the last thing on my mind. 

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

My friendships are everything to me. I adore my friends so much. I don’t believe my dedication to my friendships are related to my asexuality. But nevertheless, I absolutely love them. 

What does asexuality mean to you?

It means that I don’t consider sex to be an important part of my life or my relationship. I don’t need it. If it doesn’t happen, great. If it does, also okay. 

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

Just knowing is the biggest breakthrough so far. I haven’t been in a romantic relationship where this had to come up since I realised my (grey-)asexuality. I’m still figuring out where exactly I fit in in this spectrum. And I’m just trying to deal with it as it comes.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

I actually would rather encourage people to ask me questions. A lot of people, friends included, don’t know anything about being ace or grey-ace.

We live in a society where every relationship you see, in media and in real life, involves or revolves around sexual intercourse. Sex is expected. Kate

They just don’t get why I don’t feel the need for sex, and I understand where this is coming from. We live in a society where every relationship you see, in media and in real life, involves or revolves around sexual intercourse. Sex is expected. 

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

You are not weird, society is weird for making you believe that having sex is the most important thing in the world. 

Lucie, 19

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

I only realised I was ace during the first lockdown when I got a lot of time to think. I was unhappy before, something didn’t feel right and I discovered it as the year went on. I decided to open up about it to friends I felt safe with, and one of them recommended me to take online tests or to look at people stating their experience to see if I felt similar, which did help.

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Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

Asexuality doesn’t mean you are a-romantic as well (the fact of not having romantic feelings), I do feel attracted romantically to men. And I do need hugs, too much.
What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships/dating? (only answer if comfortable doing so)
In a relationship, it takes love and an open mind to be accepted, and my boyfriend respects my identity.
How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!
Asexuality makes me feel protected and recognised, it’s amazing identifying with a community and especially to live in today’s world, because the reactions would have been way harsher decades ago, and there would be no internet to share and learn! Learning about the ace community definitely reduced my worries and made me feel myself.

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

I guess it’d be to say that we’re too young and we just don’t know ourselves yet or have not found the right person, and people also struggle to make a difference between romantic and sexual attraction, so they think we’re going to be alone at some point, when in a relationship; or forever.

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

Even in a relationship, I’ve always been the kind to say that being single is not an issue and that everybody should try to be independent. Having a special someone isn’t compulsory, especially not for the sake of having one.

What does asexuality mean to you?

Asexuality to me means a part of myself I finally feel like I’ve identified, and I’m not so weird. Lucie

Asexuality to me means a part of myself I finally feel like I’ve identified, and I’m not so weird. Although, like anything which is not very known or accepted in society, especially now that everything is hyper-sexualised, it’s hard to explain it to others and to believe it’s not going to make you encounter any issue ever (if one meets someone that they like and they’re not accepted for instance, but that can apply to other aspects of life obviously, not just asexuality.)

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

Being at university helped me grow and understand myself a bit more, or ask myself the right questions, and knowing that I don’t have to be like everyone else is a win too.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

To be fair, I haven’t told a lot of people because I feel like they don’t need to know, and the few people I did tell support me.

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

The resources I’ve used to learn were in French for most of them, but I do think that looking into all the branches covered by asexuality (demisexuality, greysexuality, aliquasexuality, antisexuality etc) is very useful to anyone who feels they could identify or anyone who wishes to learn. And also, feel proud of it! It does feel lonely in a hyper-sexualised society but we’re normal!

Anna, 36

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

I was in my early 30’s when it clicked into place for me. I was in the middle of a frustrated rant to my best friend about labels and the fact that I didn’t know what my sexuality was.  I’d never desired anyone sexually or romantically and I was worrying about why I didn’t seem to care that I didn’t have a boyfriend or wasn’t having sex because society had taught me that I should worry about these things (can you tell I’m an overthinker?)

I realised I couldn’t describe sexual attraction because I didn’t know what it felt like and I remember saying “what if I just don’t have a sexuality?” Anna

I realised I couldn’t describe sexual attraction because I didn’t know what it felt like and I remember saying “what if I just don’t have a sexuality?” My friend knew that asexuality existed and told me about it, together we researched it (and aromanticism as well) and I learned that not having a sexuality, was in fact a sexual orientation of its own. The labels felt instantly right for me and there was something really powerful about putting a name to how I felt. Funnily enough, I remember having a passing thought in my teens that maybe I was asexual, but I dismissed it because I didn’t know what the word meant or where I’d even heard it. So I suppose, weirdly, some part of me has always known. 

Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

Yes – I experience aesthetic attraction which means I can be attracted to the way someone looks and can admire them from afar but that’s it. I don’t feel the desire to act on it.

I should point out that many asexual people would also experience romantic attraction (the desire for romantic affection and/or a romantic relationship with another person) But, because I am also aromantic, I personally don’t feel this, so my experiences are a little different.

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

As soon as I realised I was ace (and aro) I literally felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I spent my teenage years and my twenties beating myself up because I didn’t have a boyfriend. I was constantly analysing myself. I thought there was something wrong with me – maybe I wasn’t attractive enough, or interesting enough. 

Figuring out such a big piece of who I am was like having a literal weight lifted and I like myself a lot more these daysAnna

Now I know I never actually wanted a sexual or romantic relationship; I was taught it was the “natural order” of things and that’s where all the pressure came from. Now I’m happily breaking the “natural order” and I’ve never felt freer. All the pressure is gone. Figuring out such a big piece of who I am was like having a literal weight lifted and I like myself a lot more these days, which is something I never thought I’d be able to say. Asexuality has helped me find my place and my community and now I’m not apologetic for the way I am. I definitely feel free and like I’ve got more headspace. In my 30s I’ve been able to focus on the things I love doing, like fiction writing, being a great sister, the best auntie and being amazing at my day job . It’s been a great decade so far!

 What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

It’s not necessarily the biggest but, the most annoying and offensive to me is that asexuality (and anything else on the a-spectrum) is a label we’ve made-up just to get attention, or to hide an emotional issue that is somehow preventing us from feeling attraction – this is the reason why I will probably never tell my parents. 

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

It is so important to have relationships and to make connections, in whatever form. I just wish there wasn’t such a focus on sexual/romantic relationships being the only option, if there wasn’t then I may have discovered the joy of platonic love sooner.

I cherish my platonic relationship with my non-asexual best friend who is also my housemate and probably the platonic love of my life. We are definitely going to grow old together, we’ll be binging Netflix in our 80’s and still bickering like siblings and I am more than okay with that. We have a deeper connection than most friends and a lot of people don’t understand it because it’s not sexual or romantic, but I don’t feel the need to define it to anyone. 

You’ll often hear the term ‘Queer Platonic Relationship’ in the a-spectrum community. QPRs come in many forms, depending on what feels right for each particular person. No two QPRs are the same because no two a-spectrum people are the same and that’s a beautiful thing. 

What does asexuality mean to you?

To me asexuality means being part of a community of very brave people, many of us have felt like outcasts because we are different in ways that a lot of people don’t understand and because we experience the world differently. A-spectrum representation in media is basically non-existent and there is a lot of a-phobia, even within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Representation matters. It’s important that others like us know this community exists, so they can feel validated and know they are not alone. Anna

If I hadn’t discovered the ace community I don’t know where I’d be now – I probably would have forced myself into a conventional relationship in order to fit in. Representation matters. It’s important that others like us know this community exists, so they can feel validated and know they are not alone. 

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

I used to be really worried about how my friends and family perceived me and felt so misunderstood every time they commented on my relationship status or lack of boyfriend or made subtle remarks about me being a secret lesbian. It made me question whether I really was a lesbian and just too scared to admit it. I spent a long time trying to figure myself out. Imagine trying to decode your own sexuality when you don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction toward anyone. I knew I was aesthetically attracted to men but had no desire for sex with men or for a boyfriend, so I spent my twenties in a hazy confusion, questioning everything, which also triggered a lot of anxiety. I don’t blame my family, the concept of asexuality must be as alien to most people as the concept of sexual attraction is to me, but their misunderstandings made it impossible for me to be myself. 

When I found my labels, I eventually stopped worrying about what my family believed and it felt incredible – it didn’t matter anymore because I was 100% sure of who I was, and other people’s perceptions of my sexuality became redundant. That was a real breakthrough moment for me. I felt like I had permission to be myself, which might sound weird but that’s the power of finding your identity.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

I’m not out to my family so I still get questions about marriage and kids. Regardless of your sexuality, it seems like if you’re not in a relationship, married or having children by a certain point people need to know why and it’s so weird. It’s a shame that we all grow up believing sex, dating, marriage and children are the only options. Now might be a good time for schools to consider expanding their discussions around sexual orientations, including asexuality.

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

Don’t let people invalidate your feelings by telling you that “You just haven’t met the right person” or “you don’t know until you’ve tried having sex”. Equally, don’t let someone tell you that you aren’t asexual if you enjoy sex. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Take time to read through the different labels on the a-spectrum and see if anything rings true. There are lots of resources online and some great accounts on social media (@asexuality, @asexualsnet and @secretladyspider on Twitter do great work). If it feels right for you then the a-spec community is a lovely place, and we will be happy to have you. 

Remember that every ace experience is different so don’t feel discouraged if yours doesn’t completely match other peoples in the community, there is room for you!

Anna

Katie, 32

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

Not till I was 29 years old – never really heard much about it before. I grew up in Cornwall, and was aware people could be straight, gay or bi but wasn’t aware of any other sexual orientations until later on in life. As soon as I heard about it, it was very much an ‘ohh’ moment.

Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

No – not sure what else to say!

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships / dating?

I’m single and am happy being single. I like my alone time, and feel I get enough support and socialisation from my friends. I don’t feel the need to have a partner, not sure if this stems from my personality or from being asexual as I know others feel differently.


How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual! 

The way I look at the world and how I choose to focus my time and energy is very different to others.Katie

I think it takes the focus and pressure off of sex and dating. I feel compared to others the way I look at the world and how I choose to focus my time and energy is very different to others. When walking down the street, I have noticed my friends see the strangers on the street whereas I am looking at the surroundings, whether that is buildings, nature or culture, etc.


What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

That it is people suffering with their mental health and therefore have a low libido.

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

My friendships mean a lot to me, I would say they are extremely important. I have some amazing friends and feel very lucky for them. My close friends are my rocks.

What does asexuality mean to you?

I think it just helped me understand who I am, and what I want from life. Labels can sometimes be a good and a bad thing, they can help us feel like we are not alone and that you are not alone for feeling this way. They can help you question yourself and evaluate who you are and what makes you tick.

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

As I have suffered with my mental health quite a lot, lots of people have told me this aspect will change when my mental health gets better (I’m still waiting lol). I think my breakthrough was just not putting any pressure on my label. If this does change then that is fine, but if it doesn’t then that is also fine. I feel like as a society we like to pigeonhole people, but no one fits into a box. We are all different and that makes us all special and great in our own ways.


One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you… 

More what they tell me – That it will change when I meet the one.

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

Just follow your own instincts, do what feels natural and comfortable to you. Katie

I was told a lot when I was an older teenager / early twenties that I was too innocent, a late bloomer when it comes to my sexuality. I was made to feel like I was stunted in my emotional growth. In this world there is a lot of pressure to progress and be at the same stage as everyone else. Just follow your own instincts, do what feels natural and comfortable to you. Don’t let other peoples actions dictate how you see yourself. The best people in life march to the beat of their own drum. 

Abi, 26

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

I only learnt that asexuality existed a few years back. Yes, I was one of those confused googling-like-crazy girls who was convinced there was something wrong with me! It was such a relief when I started to see I wasn’t the only one. I think I’ve always been ace, just didn’t know it.

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Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

Of sorts yes. I am very much attracted to my husband, and I knew I wanted to marry him almost as soon as we met. I’m also perfectly capable of finding him or others attractive- It just doesn’t make me feel anything without a much deeper connection. Physical appearance means nothing to me; It used to totally bemuse me when girls at school had posters of Orlando Bloom or Westlife up on their bedroom walls- I totally missed the point, I didn’t think they were anywhere near as interesting as they did! 

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships / dating?

I am very lucky because I’m married to another ace! It means we have a super close fun connection, and it just works. We met in school (Year 8 Maths to be precise!) and grew up simultaneously realising we were seemingly the only teenagers who didn’t want to get naked and ‘do stuff’! Our differences from our peers bought us closer together, and the rest, as they say, is history! I feel forever grateful to have been on this journey with him. 

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

Ahhh being ace is the best. I love the freedom of never second-guessing anything, no hidden agendas, sparks or feelings. I know I objectively form connections with people based purely on their incredible minds. I like that about myself. It’s like a superpower! There are also loads of practical benefits, such as not relying on someone else to make me ‘feel good’. I like the independence, yet still have the romance of being a couple. 

I spent a very long time feeling like I was the ‘quirky’ girl who didn’t like sex. Having finally discovered there’s actually a whole community of incredible ace individuals (thank you internet!) I’m so excited to start enjoying being the quirky girl who doesn’t like sex! 

Abi

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

That we have no sex life at all! Or that we are simply too scared or prudish. Like any orientation, asexuality is a broad spectrum and there’s a huge amount of variation. For example, I am a huge advocate for self-pleasure! (Awesome article on vibrator choice can be found on Zoella!

Just because I have no attraction/desire to be intimate sexually with another person does not mean I am incapable of feeling empowered, feminine and sexy. I have a great sex life, it just doesn’t look the same as the more conventional couples you see on TV. 

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

I have some fantastic friends. Not many, but those I do have play a big part in my life – always on hand to support me. They have never once judged when I’ve had an awkward question (there’s obviously just some things I have no clue about!) and never make me feel like I’m ‘weird’ or somehow less experienced than them. I’ve never had to spell out to them that I’m ace, they just accept me wholeheartedly. Although I think most of them know anyway haha. 

What does asexuality mean to you?

I think just… honesty. I spent a long time pretending to find actors ‘sexy’, or casually lying about what I had or hadn’t done, as if it somehow mattered. You’d be amazed how often sex comes up in a day- trust me! It’s gossiping with co-workers, love scenes in films questions at the doctors…pub drinking games! As soon as I was brave enough to be honest with myself that I just didn’t fit the norm, I felt so much happier. Like a sort of freedom to be authentic. 

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

Definitely my adorable little ace sheep pin! I bought it about a year ago in celebration of my new found confidence, it’s just a pin badge with the asexual flag colours across it. I wear it to work and basically wherever I am. It’s not that I want to yell out to the whole world that I’m ace, it’s that I love when someone who understands what those colours mean gives me a knowing smile. That subtle nod of ‘you are not alone’- I love that! 

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

How can you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried? Are you sure you’ve just not been with the right person yet? UGH, this question bugs me so much- partly because it always feels like I’m being questioned on my choice of partner… but mostly because the implication is that I should have sex even if I don’t want to, ‘just in case’. 

Sex lives should always be a safe space to explore, and as long as everybody is content and comfortable, that’s enough! Abi

I may not know much about it, but I do know you should only have sex if that’s what you (and whoever else is involved!) REALLY want. Likes and dislikes change, kinks and what’s ‘hot’ to an individual will most certainly evolve over the course of ones life. It doesn’t mean you dive in head first ‘just in case’. Sex lives should always be a safe space to explore, and as long as everybody is content and comfortable, that’s enough! 

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

I think a lot more people fall somewhere on the ace spectrum than realise it, and that’s fine! The one thing I wish I’d just been told a long time ago is that sex looks totally different for each person. Perhaps intimate for one person is passionate sex, naked cooking and sexy lingerie. Whilst for another intimate is holding hands and soft tickles. Or it could be void of touching or company all together! As long as it makes you feel good that’s all that matters. 

Liam, 23

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

I think, like some other asexual people, I realised I was asexual before I knew that was what it is called. All the way through school, I just couldn’t imagine myself having intercourse or wanting to be in such a situation. I didn’t understand why I would want to have sex with anyone, and it just didn’t interest me. Of course, I appreciated why others would want to, but I felt repulsed by the idea of my having sex – and still do.
Yet it was only when I met a few friends who happened to identify as asexual when I was 18 onwards that I started to put a name to these feelings: asexuality. Up until July 2019 I was still questioning whether I identified in this way, until I marched in London Pride with the RNID (then known as Action on Hearing Loss). Being surrounded by members of the LGBTQ+ community and seeing people in the crowd wave the ace flag gave me a certain kind of confidence. When I met up with friends later in a Five Guys – of all places – I knew that I just didn’t immediately experience sexual attraction with anyone. At the time, I knew this may have meant that I was either asexual or demisexual (explained in another question), which still meant I was ace and part of the LGBTQ+ community.
For what it’s worth, now that I’m in a relationship, I’ve since accepted that I identify as asexual, and not demisexual
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Image Credit:  Emi Salida

Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

I experience romantic attraction. In fact, I’ve always pursued the idea of being in a romantic relationship for as long as I can remember. I wanted a partner I could take on dates, take out for dinner, go bowling with and so on. Even when I was in Sixth Form and university, where people were starting to talk about sex a lot more, I was still focussed on finding someone with whom I could be in a romantic relationship, rather than a sexual one.

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships/dating?

I am currently in my first proper relationship, with someone who also identifies as asexual.  Before then, I had been on dating apps, but in the time of hookup culture, the other person soon touched upon the topic of sex. I’ve been turned down because I am asexual (though in understandable circumstances), and have received sexual messages from matches as well. On the whole, it can make looking for love difficult and anxiety-inducing if sex becomes a topic. Failing that, there was this anxiety around whether to come out to a love interest as asexual at the start of us talking, or further down the line once a stronger connection is formed. If I mentioned it at the start, then sometimes they would turn me down because they are looking for a sexual relationship (which is understandable), but if I said it further down the line, it could allow for a connection at which point my asexuality doesn’t pose an issue to them. Yet, on the other hand, I felt that this was a little disingenuous.

I’m in a relationship now and have been since October, and I haven’t had to worry because we’re both asexualLiam

Fortunately, as I say, I’m in a relationship now and have been since October, and I haven’t had to worry about that because we’re both asexual. Instead, we’re able to focus more on the romantic side of a relationship and put all our energy into that. I honestly feel like ‘wholesomeness’ has become this quirky throwaway thing when in actual fact, it used to be more mainstream in the past. There’s a big love of sentimentality in asexual relationships, and I love that a lot.

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

I only came out as asexual in July 2019, so I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to the asexual community, but I think that’s where the freedom lies. The ace community is vibrant, talented and so incredibly diverse, and it’s always exciting when you make new connections with ace people online. Much like how meeting other members of the deaf community gave me confidence in my deaf identity, talking to other ace people gives me confidence in my ace identity, to the point where I can live life authentically and feel better placed to share my experiences with others – campaigning on issues which matter to me and other members of the ace community.

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

I still receive the typical response that ‘I just haven’t found the right person yet’, and that my sexuality will suddenly change when I enter a relationship with someone. It may well do – sexualities are, of course, valid – and I may identify as demisexual (where sexual attraction only occurs once a strong emotional bond is formed), but in that moment, it’s about someone completely invalidating your identity. Asexuality just isn’t being respected as a sexuality, and is instead still viewed as someone being ‘frigid’, ‘celibate’ or ‘going through a phase’. It is such a damaging and harmful misconception.

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

Platonic relationships and friendships mean a lot to me as a person. I get a lot of my energy and creativity from interacting with other people, and the people I’m friends with share a similar vibe when it comes to their interests which means we often bounce ideas off of each other. Even if we’re not talking in a creative sense, these platonic relationships also provide an opportunity to relax and unwind which is so important to anyone right now.

What does asexuality mean to you?

Asexuality means I am not sexually attracted to anyone. As I experience romantic attraction (some aces don’t and can also identify as aromantic), it means I can invest all my energy into my relationship and my friendships instead.

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

It’s interesting that while it only took me a short while to become part of the deaf community and start campaigning on deaf issues, my approach to taking part in activism related to asexuality has been a lot more apprehensive. It may have been due to my having a lot more to learn, or because of a certain kind of imposter syndrome, but for a while I wasn’t as vocal about my asexuality as I wanted to be, as I felt I wasn’t in a position to properly educate others yet.

Listening to other people’s experiences certainly helped me to understand how my identities intersect and learn a lot more about how I am able to advocate from my own unique, lived experience. Liam

This changed, however, when I was invited to host a panel on asexuality and disability during the UK Asexuality Conference (held online and set up by AVEN). Listening to other people’s experiences certainly helped me to understand how my identities intersect and learn a lot more about how I am able to advocate from my own unique, lived experience. My time during the conference led to me making new contacts, but it also prompted me to accept that I did have a lot of things to say about asexuality, and I can definitely help to raise awareness just as much as any other asexual person.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

It’s the usual questioning around having to ‘prove’ my asexuality. People usually ask something along the lines of ‘how do you know that you just haven’t met the right person yet’, or ‘how do you know if you’ve never had sex?’ I answer the former question below, but with regards to the latter, it’s frustrating and unacceptable that something as intrinsic as your sexual orientation isn’t respected by another person. A retort to this question which I’ve seen online a few times is, ‘how do you know you’re straight?’ It’s such an integral part of a person’s identity and also, the person most likely to know about themselves and their orientation is the person in question.

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

Find your community. When I was questioning whether or not I identified as asexual, I had some ace friends around me with whom I could discuss my feelings and concerns. There’s also the benefit there, that it’s a lot easier to discuss personal feelings with a close friend than with someone else. With that being said, there is an incredibly strong asexual community online (especially on Twitter), and I can be helpful to engage with others on these platforms. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (or AVEN, for short), is a fantastic organisation which provides information and educational resources on asexuality. I would encourage them to take a look at their website, too.

One thing I’ll say as an asexual disabled person is that it’s easy for us to be viewed as inherently asexual because of our disability, wrongly assuming that it’s impossible for disabled people to live positive and happy sex lives.

Liam

If not that, then it’s the complete opposite end of the spectrum, where disabled people are fetishised and hyper-sexualised. There is no-inbetween, and it’s tricky when you identify as an asexual disabled person and it unintentionally reinforces this harmful misconception. What non-disabled, allosexual (non-asexual) people need to recognise is that the two things are separate identities in their own right, and they should both be respected. I think that comes with education, and I’d be lying if I said that the asexual community didn’t have some way to go still in terms of educating wider society. In comparison to the other letters under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, we often don’t get as much attention or visibility, and I believe visibility is what leads to the education we so desperately need to see.

Charli, 20

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

I first heard the term on social media when I was about 14 and had been wondering for a while why I didn’t seem to experience the same attraction and interests that other people did. I had assumed I was gay for a while but realised I didn’t like girls either, so when I found the term it slotted into place pretty quickly for me that it fit me.

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Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

I experience romantic attraction in extremely limited circumstances – I currently identify as demiromantic alongside asexual, which is another part of the aromantic spectrum and essentially means that romantic attraction isn’t felt without an extreme emotional bond. A lot of people think this is just how everyone is, but it isn’t – there is absolutely no attraction felt without the bond. This bond doesn’t then automatically cause attraction, but there is no possibility without it and there will have been no previous notion of any attraction. I’ve only experienced romantic attraction three times. 

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships/dating?

I’ve never actively dated or looked for a relationship as for me that is a completely futile thing to do as I can’t experience attraction that way. Charli

For me, it’s meant that the relationship I am in now is my first relationship as I’ve only ever experienced romantic attraction twice before. I’ve never actively dated or looked for a relationship as for me that is a completely futile thing to do as I can’t experience attraction that way. In terms of my relationship, it really only means it lacks any sexual element – although some asexuals do have sex – and it doesn’t change any other part for us. 

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

A few years ago I stopped feeling proud of my identity and it wasn’t until last year that I truly re-embraced it. I think for me it meant throughout my teen years I wasn’t at all focused on relationships or sex, and whilst there isn’t anything wrong with wanting that, it gave me the space to not be pressured into being someone I wasn’t. I think society places so much pressure on wanting to be loved or attractive that young people often get caught up in that. 

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

Asexuality and celibacy/abstinence are the not the same thing – the latter refers to a choice (whether that be religious or otherwise), whereas asexuality is a sexual orientation that cannot be changed, and does not refer at all to sex as an action. Some asexual people do have sex for a variety of reasons, and that is totally valid.

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

I think my platonic relationships have always been a crucial part of my life, and I’ve never really thought about whether that is related to my asexuality or not. I think being a teenager who never had a relationship, my friends were my constants and provided a lot of love and security – but they still do now that I’m in a romantic relationship.

What does asexuality mean to you?

Asexuality for me means I experience no sexual attraction, in my case under no circumstances. It does not make me a robot or emotionless or similar, I just don’t experience that type of attraction.

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

I think re-embracing my identity in 2020 has been huge for me in terms of my self-confidence and feeling generally more liberated in myself. I’ve since written multiple blog posts and made Instagram infographics about the topic which hopefully help others, too.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

People tend to think that because I’m autistic and disabled, it’s related to hormones, or because they think autistic people don’t experience emotions in the same way as other people. Charli

Is it related to your disabilities? – People tend to think that because I’m autistic and disabled, it’s related to hormones, or because they think autistic people don’t experience emotions in the same way as other people. Disabled and autistic people definitely aren’t automatically asexual, it just so happens that I am.

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

Firstly, it’s okay to be ace – it doesn’t make you weird, it’s just that as a society we place far too much emphasis on sex. Also, it’s okay to identify with a label and to then discover that label doesn’t work for you, or you want to place yourself somewhere more specific on the asexuality spectrum, or don’t want to label yourself at all.

Dee, 36

When did you first become aware that you were asexual?

Only within that last year. I knew of asexuality as a concept but didn’t think it could apply to me because I did have and enjoy sex—just not a lot. I’d always thought I just didn’t have a high sex drive, or that there might have been something “wrong” with me for not wanting it as much as other people, because sex is so often discussed as such an important part of relationships and of life (how much you’re having, with how many people, how good it is, etc, etc). Reading about asexuality more over the last 12 months gave me a better understanding of it. It isn’t an all-or-nothing thing; asexuality is a spectrum, and I was able to place myself on it as grey-asexual.

Do you experience other forms of attraction, at all?

Gosh, yes. All of them. Romantic, sensual, aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual.

I feel romantic and sensual attraction to my partner, specifically, and never towards celebrities or random people I see, which I suppose makes me demiromantic. For me, romantic and sensual intimacy (sitting close to each other, casually touching each other, buying their favourite sweet from the shop, eating from each other’s plate, holding hands, touching foreheads, tucking my head into their neck, spooning, kissing, stroking their lower back, and so many other things) are far more important and meaningful than putting bits in holes and having an orgasm.

I experience aesthetic attraction on a daily basis, and I love it. Seeing someone who I find attractive in some way, completely devoid of any other form of attraction, is wonderful. It can be anything. Their hairstyle, their outfit, the way they carry themselves, the raise of an eyebrow, the curve of a hip, the hint of a smile. There is nothing more attractive than someone comfortable in their own skin.

Emotional attraction is something I have for my nearest and dearest. The people I turn to for emotional support, and the people who I want to support in turn. The people I trust to see me cry, the people I love to make laugh, the people who get angry on my behalf. The people who see the real me, who understand me, and who love me.

I can have intellectual attraction to anyone who’s clever, knowledgeable, confident, and can hold down a conversation. If you know a lot about something and you’re passionate about it, please talk to me I promise I will find it fascinating!

What does identifying as asexual mean for partnered relationships/dating?

I have been with my partner for over 10 years. Long before I realised I was asexual. We’ve made it work. Because for me… sex is like peanut butter (stay with me here). I don’t hate peanut butter, but I wouldn’t often choose to eat it. However, if I am sharing a meal with someone who enjoys peanut butter, I am happy to consume a little bit of peanut butter on toast or satay sauce as part of a larger dining experience.

How has asexuality given you the freedom to explore who you are, honestly & unapologetically? Tell us all the fab things about identifying as asexual!

It hasn’t changed much for me, honestly. I am already old enough to have figured out what I do and do not want without the labels. The one thing it really has helped with is distinguishing between the emotional and physical aspects of sex.

I enjoy sex on an emotional level with my partner, but it is not a driving force for me in our relationshipDee

I enjoy sex on an emotional level with my partner, but it is not a driving force for me in our relationship; I could be content in a relationship with them that did not include sex. However, sometimes I have an itch that needs scratching, and that is not at all an emotional thing, but a purely physical one, which I am more than happy to take care of myself. And that distinction has really helped me come to terms with my own relationship with sex.

What’s the biggest assumption or misconception about asexuality?

As a grey-asexual, for me it’s definitely the idea that no asexual enjoys or wants to have sex. I know, because I held that misconception myself for many years. I can and do enjoy sex, it’s just not as important to me as other ways of connecting with and sharing myself with people.

Another would be the assumption that asexual folk don’t want to be in a romantic relationship, thereby reducing relationships to only being about sex. It’s ridiculous. I know couples who don’t live together, aren’t married, don’t share hobbies, aren’t romantic, don’t have children. Why is it so strange to accept there are couples who don’t have sex?

I don’t need to barrel roll off Niagara Falls to know I don’t want to do it.Dee

And don’t get me started on the idea that asexual folk just haven’t had sex that was “good enough” or that people can’t know they don’t want sex if they haven’t tried it. First of all, what’s good for one person will not be good for another—there is no arbitrary “good enough”. Secondly, I don’t need to barrel roll off Niagara Falls to know I don’t want to do it.

How pivotal are the platonic relationships in your life?

My platonic relationships are everything to me. There are things I share and ways in which I connect with my closest friends that I don’t get with my partner. And this has to be the same for everyone, asexual or not. No individual person can provide you with everything you need. That is a short road to codependency.

What does asexuality mean to you?

For me it is simply a way to understand myself better. To think about myself and how I experience sex and all forms of attraction. It’s a very personal thing that I consider as part of my own introspection, rather than something I talk about or share extensively with others.

What’s been your biggest breakthrough in terms of self-acceptance and how you identify?

I identify as queer, and the best thing I ever did was acknowledge that other than queer, I don’t like labels. So, while they are useful tools for discussion, self-discovery, and self-acceptance, I personally find them more restrictive when using them to describe myself to others.

One thing you wish everyone would stop asking you…

Nothing, because I don’t often talk this openly about my identity with people I am not close to!

Your advice for anyone who thinks they could be ace?

Sit with the idea for a while. The ace spectrum is wide. You can place yourself anywhere on it, and move yourself if you decide that wasn’t the right spot. Even if you think think you technically fit the description, you don’t have to claim and use asexuality as part of your identity.

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 21, 2021

Weekly Wants: Corset Styling

Whether you're seeking full-on Georgian drama and a well and truly snatched waist or simply a nod to trend with a lil' ruched satin detail, this week's team edit has it all.

Oh hi there, sorry we didn’t see you past our boobs being hoisted to high heaven thanks to IRL Bridgerton cosplay- 2021 is looking up! Regencycore is still going strong and its decadence is one that has transcended the high street. The likes of ASOS, & Other Stories and Zara have been flooded with endless corset-style variations, both in steamy underwear form as well as ready to wear tops that simply need a pair of killer jeans, heels and the Covid-19 pandemic to disappear. We can dream.

Corsets are well and truly here to stay in 2021, with figures from Lyst showing searches for corsets to have spiked by 123 per cent since the show first aired in December. Whether you’re seeking full-on Georgian drama and a well and truly snatched waist (Kim K at the 2019 Met Gala we’re coming for you) or simply a nod to trend with a lil’ ruched satin detail, this week’s team edit has it all.

Shop the post

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TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 20, 2021

The Self-Pleasure Starter Pack: Intimate Toys for Newcomers

Whether you’re in the market for a solo toy to level up your masturbation or looking for something kinky you can try with your partner, we’re here to make this a purely - pleasurable - shopping experience.

Have you ever heard the terms rabbit and bullet bandied around and thought, now there’s a duo I wouldn’t want to find anywhere near my vagina? Then hello and welcome, this is blog post that is entirely weighted in favour of your orgasms.

f you’re a self-pleasure fledgling, picking an intimate product can be as stressful as trying to pack your bags at an Aldi checkout.

If you’re a self-pleasure fledgling, picking an intimate product can be as stressful as trying to pack your bags at an Aldi checkout. But fear not first-timers, whether you’re in the market for a solo toy to level up your masturbation or looking for something kinky you can try with your partner, we’re here to make this a purely – pleasurable – shopping experience.

Without further ado, let’s get into our round up of sex toys for beginners – you’ll be buzzing like a cranky fridge in no time.

Endless Love

With 14 different uses and 100 vibration combos, the Endless Love toy is the gift that keeps on giving. The curved design and flexible arm provide endless lovemaking possibilities (clue’s in the name) and hours of exciting play whether using alone or together, on top, against, in, under or in-between. Your soul will leave your body in the best possible way. Be sure to download the Satisfyer Connect app to control your device, and use the extensive range of intimate experiments.

Purchase it here and use code FEBLOVE40UK for 40% off!

The Surfer

Let’s start with the sultry staples. If you own a clitoris, you’re gonna need a toy that greets your hooded heroine with nothing less than a royal reception of pulsations and vibrations. Small, sleek and practically soundless, The Surfer is bound to make waves in your boudoir. It’s a great compact entry point vibrator that eases you into your self-pleasure journey and looks right at home on your bedside table too. Glide it all over your erogenous zones, make it a body party why don’t you.

Purchase it here!

Excite 10 Function Rabbit Love Ring

Although it’s designed for people with a penis, the humble cock ring is the ultimate couple’s toy, serving up pleasure for both parties. Worn on the shaft of the penis, it keeps your erection harder for longer by gently constricting the blood flow and offers clitoral stimulation during hetero intercourse. Featuring 3 speeds and 7 vibration patterns, you can customise your mutual pleasure with the simple touch of a button. Sharing is caring, people.

Purchase it here!

LELO Picobong Transformer

Is it a skipping rope? Is it a two-headed tadpole? You’ll be glad to hear it’s neither of those things. This intriguing bit of sex tech does it all. From clitoral stimulator to double ended dildo and prostrate massager – as intimate toys go, this one’s basically a contortionist ready to twist and bend to suit your needs. What a time to be alive.

Purchase it here and use code LOVE10 for 10% off!

The Penguin

Because why shouldn’t your pleasure products dress for the occasion? It’s been 12 long months since we dressed to the nines, so at least someone is making the effort round here and this tuxedo shall not be wasted on us. This Cute with a capital C Penguin stimulates the clitoris using Satisfyer’s revolutionary suction-like technology featuring 11 modes of intensity and a whisper-quiet mode for discreet downstairs action. Your housemates will be none the wiser.

Purchase it here and use code FEBLOVE40UK for 40% off!

8 Function Mini Magic Wand Vibrator

No one wants to be shelling out the big bucks for their first experimental wand, nope. At this point, you’re probably looking for the appetiser or a side plate, not the kind of main that leaves you stuffed and unable to walk. Ahem. This sleek and powerful gadget offers 8 speeds and patterns in a travel-friendly size so you can take it with you wherever you go (not that we’re going anywhere these days!)

Purchase it here!

The Fruity Delight

Who knew a radish could have us throbbing at the loin. There’s a first time for everything! All hail the glass dildo of dreams, the fairest of all the land – sleek, cute, aesthetically banging, it’s like Cinderella’s slipper on heat and we are now fully committed to getting our five a day, the fairytale way.

Purchase it here!

Booty Blue Butt Plug

If you like your buzz from behind but don’t know where to start, then a little petite anal plug is a great introduction to booty play for beginners.

Purchase it here!

The Ballerina

Ever feel like your whole vagina needs a hug from top to bottom? Enter ‘The Ballerina’. An expert in her field, she handles your intimate anatomy with all the grace and synchronised finesse of Tchaikovsky‘s Dance of the cygnets. The palm-sized toy cups the vulva in an intimate embrace and provides a unique velvety texture akin to a lover’s touch. Swan Lake has got nothing on this dancing queen.

Purchase it here!

Love Triangle

The Satisfyer Love Triangle combines proven Air-Pulse Technology with deep vibrations to bring you to your personal pleasure pinnacle with ease. The sleek triangle shape with a lid makes this one of our more subtle selections, but we can guarantee your experience will be anything but subtle!

Purchase it here and use code FEBLOVE40UK for 40% off!

This post is not part of a paid advertisement, however we have worked with Satisfyer in the past.

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 19, 2021

Between You And Me Answering Your Problems Part 13

This month we're tackling feuds with boys, pill troubles, hair loss, love triangles, masturbation and more. So keep reading to see what we had to say, you might just identify with one of our lovely readers yourself, and feel free to comment on this post if you have some advice you think is worth sharing too.

Welcome back to another instalment of our modern age agony aunt series Between You and Me. A chance for our audience to ask WWYD and we can give out our Millenial 2 cents free of charge!

This month we’re tackling feuds with boys, pill troubles, hair loss, love triangles, masturbation and more. So keep reading to see what we had to say, you might just identify with one of our lovely readers yourself, and feel free to comment on this post if you have some advice you think is worth sharing too.

If you’re in need of a bit of sisterly advice and you’d like to ask WWYD, email [email protected] and we’ll do our best to come back with some solid life advice.

TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 18, 2021

Homeware Trends to Buy Now and Enjoy Later

Enter: 2021's most noteworthy interiors trends. Sage everything, whimsical cottagecore, effortless Japandi style and faithful home offices are where it's at for both small and mighty renovations that can transform your space quicker than you can say ready, steady, 'add to cart'.

Our humble homes, whether we love them or hate them at this point, have seen us through a lot in the past 12 months. But as much as we’ve learnt to utilise our spaces for work, rest, play and the many, many lockdown emotions in between, staring at the same four walls on repeat (and then some) might mean an interiors update is well and truly justifiable- hellooo incoming haul. 

Enter: 2021’s most noteworthy interiors trends. Sage everything, whimsical cottagecore, effortless Japandi style and faithful home offices are where it’s at for both small and mighty renovations that can transform your space quicker than you can say ready, steady, ‘add to cart’.

The need to know …

Sage is the new neutral! This light green hue is popping up everywhere in 2021, and its versatility and calming nature are two of the reasons it’s a sure-fire win when it comes to the home.

Sage is the new neutral! This light green hue is popping up everywhere in 2021, and its versatility and calming nature are two of the reasons it’s a sure-fire win when it comes to the home. Adding depth, interest and a nod of modern elegance, sage is a colour that works universally in modern, traditional and minimal homes. Go subtle with sage soft furnishings or make a soothing statement with paint or panelling and feel confident that this subtle but stunning hue is here to stay.

Next up: Cottagecore. TikTok accelerated this whimsical trend in 2020 and it’s here to stay this year too, as the Internet’s latest spin on rustic reverie. In many ways Cottagecore is a lifestyle as much as it is a trend, embodying simple, idyllic living that embraces nature and femininity, but there are a few simple ways of bringing this trend into the home that can give you your own slice of hazy homeware. Think farmhouse living, the English Cotswolds, faded florals, the combination of old and new and bringing the outside in. It’s Taylor Swift’s ethereal Folklore brought to life and we cannot get enough.

We love a blend of trends that tick multiple boxes in one, and Japandi living does just that. Combining the cosiness of Scandi hygge and the minimal serenity of Japanese interiors, this trend is one that thrives in 2021 as we continue to seek comfort from our homes. Both the Eastern and Western influences here focus on minimalist warmth and practicality, making this zen take on home living one we can all benefit from. Think clean lines, natural light woods, quality driven materials, elegance and cleansing house plants. It’s the ultimate trend fusion to embody calmness in the home, and goodness do we need it!

If a full-on interiors makeover is out of the question, changing one statement piece in a room can give your home big results but with minimal effort, and who doesn’t want that, especially in the bedroom department.

If a full-on interiors makeover is out of the question, changing one statement piece in a room can give your home big results but with minimal effort, and who doesn’t want that, especially in the bedroom department. Statement headboards can be transformative and shape the mood and feeling of a bedroom, with natural rattan, cosy velvet and elegant cotton canopies each offering a different je ne sais quoi to your boudoir.

And finally, we’re still out here talking about the humble home office. The makeshift meeting rooms and clutter shoved just out of view of your webcam might have seen you through the start of the pandemic, but to keep your mental health and productivity in check, nailing this setup is essential. Everyone has their workspace preferences, but a combination of calm, comfort and inspiration make for a foolproof space that can keep you motivated along with a morning coffee and killer Spotify playlist.


2020 made us hyperaware of the importance of having a home that truly feels like one, and as we continue to spend more time in our protective spaces, there’s never been a better time to refresh and revitalise your sanctuary. 

There really isn’t much some fresh bedding and a cuppa in a calming space can’t fix.

Sage Accessories and Décor

Cottagecore 

Japandi

Statement Headboards 

All Hail the Home Office

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