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Ever fear that your online bae may only ever want to be your bae online? Finding yourself with a fraysexual partner can be a painful reality for those who hope for more, and even more painful for those who identify. 

Rae* met Thomas* on Instagram during the pandemic. Shortly after connecting online, Thomas, who lives in Melbourne, initiated the sharing of explicit photos and over the phone sex. “It was teetering on too much, but he was respectful, always got my consent and pulled back at the right times”, Sydney-based Rae tells PEDESTRIAN.TV. Over the next six months they spoke on the phone every day and Thomas was calling himself her boyfriend, assuring her he loved her, every night. “He had become a huge part of my life. My friends and family knew who he was. I thought I had finally found The One after a long search,” Rae says.

When Rae flew down to Melbourne to meet Thomas, her expectations of the weekend vanished before her eyes. “He met me down at the gate of his apartment block to let me in. He was slumped and dawdled over like he was walking to the fucking electric chair. He didn’t kiss me, he hardly looked me in the eye. He gave me an empty hug and walked in front of me to show me the way to his apartment. I knew something was wrong immediately. I gestured to give him a kiss and he leaned back, threw his hands up and said ‘You just got here’.”

When Rae asked Thomas what was going on later that weekend, he dropped a bit of a bombshell. 

“I think online is my sexuality”.

See, Thomas only feels aroused for online strangers exclusively and has no sexual desire in real life. He admitted to Rae that he’d had numerous online sex partners during their time talking. “He hasn’t attempted real sex for the past three years, nor did he want to try. He told me he aggressively follows people online, throwing heart eyes in every direction until something sticks. He had two other relationships of our calibre simultaneously, a single mother in Brisbane and a guy in Perth. Boy, did I feel special in that moment,” Rae quips. 

As left-field as it sounds, needing a wifi connection to access your sexuality sounds like something we as a society should have seen coming. As an increasing amount of our lives are played out online, and our eyes are essentially turning into portrait mode, why wouldn’t sexuality follow suit? 

Rae spoke to a sexologist, who suggested Thomas might be fraysexual. Fraysexuality (also known as ignotasexual) is a sexual orientation that sits on the asexual spectrum. It plays out like this: someone experiences sexual attraction towards a person that they’re not deeply connected with, and start to lose that attraction as they actually get to know and become close to the other person. Put simply, the sexual attraction fades as the emotional bond strengthens. 

Over on Reddit, there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to fraysexuality, because of course there is. One redditor describes fraysexuality as an imbalance of morals, suggesting theirs are too intense.

“Basically my “don’t do incest” part of the brain is out of whack and makes me feel repulsed by any and all people I’m emotionally close to (not just family), and that asking me to — or even me imagining — having sex with a friend or long term romantic partner would be the exact same as having sex with my mum.”

Another user agreed. “It’s to do with the instincts that let us know that killing is bad, or that you shouldn’t fuck children or siblings. These morals are sometimes off. For some are they too weak (for example pedophiles) and for others too strong (like us, who are sex repulsed from anyone close, not just family).”

Rae actually went onto the subreddit to make some sense of what had happened with Thomas. Through the subreddit she met a 24-year-old Aussie named Ella*, who also spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV about her own experience with fraysexuality. 

“At the beginning [of my relationships] it would be like a ‘normal’; we’d sleep together pretty much every night until I began to fall in love and suddenly I just couldn’t do it anymore,” Ella says. “My body wasn’t responding mentally or physically to any advances and eventually the idea of sex just made me anxious and stressed.”

Ella explains that she felt forced to ditch both relationships because of her sexual hang-ups. “Ultimately I ended both relationships because the guilt of not being able to provide what my partners needed sexually was eating away at me. I realised I was fraysexual after the break ups, when all I could think about was sex and I’d find any stranger that I could to sleep with. I definitely enjoyed the sex then, so why couldn’t I do it when it was with someone I loved? This is still a question I struggle with and I’m actually talking to a therapist about it at the moment.”

It was actually the Reddit community that helped Ella identify what was going on. “I ended up finding the subreddit and all of the posts just clicked with me instantly. I felt relieved that I’d found people like me but also sad that I was probably going to be stuck like this and it wasn’t a temporary thing. Almost all of those I spoke to said they wished they could change, but thought it was unlikely.”

Ella hopes that through therapy she is able to address the issue and move forward with her next partner. “I do hope this is something I can ‘fix’,” she tells PEDESTRIAN.TV. “I guess my main worry is that I’ll never be able to maintain a healthy relationship or have a family, which is something I really want out of life.”

Rae says Thomas was also seeking help, but that he seemed less optimistic. “Thomas said he was working with a psych on it but I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting”, Rae recalls. “You know that movie Bedazzled when Brendan Fraser gets seven wishes from the devil (Liz Hurley) but there’s always the catch-22? Well, it’s like I wished to find love on Instagram and that’s what I found — love, but literally only on Instagram. Seems fitting.”

*Names have been changed for privacy.