A few weeks ago I was featured on a panel for Huffington Post Live, talking about Asexuality. In it I told a story which had actually been brewing in the back of my mind for a while, and which I’d been meaning to share with you. So here it is.
I thought everybody was asexual
High school embodies the coming-of-age age. Everybody is blossoming into new bodies – which some of us disliked, but that’s another topic – and becoming acutely aware of these intense feelings for other people – presumably of the opposite gender. I, being asexual since forever, remember this particular period as colored through my own personal biases of how I understood the world to be.
I thought everybody was asexual in the way that I was, more or less.
Boys were incapable of falling in love. They only were driven by lust, a very crude and raw sexual hunger, akin to regular hunger, which is an involuntary bodily function and can’t be helped. Perhaps I was surrounded only by sex crazed male teenagers, or perhaps they simply were too afraid to express any sort of emotional attachment to another person lest their masculinity be called into question, but either way, I equated boys and sexuality with boys and pure unadulterated sexual appetite.
Girls were the opposite of boys, incapable of sexual desire. Because I was a girl, and I didn’t have any (and my mother certainly didn’t have any). Of course it follows that this was the universal experience. However, what baffled me was why they insisted on pretending to be smitten by boys – “pretending” being the operative word, since I never perceived their expressions of physical desire to be genuine. Sure, they had crushes; plenty more than I thought necessary and/or healthy, but that was their choice. However, that they frequently referred to male movie stars as well as our not-quite-men peers using words such as “hot” and “sexy” seemed to me all one big sham. To top it off, it was an elaborate farce which I was not “in” on, created by “the universal girl club” which I was clearly not a member of, my exclusion driven as much by personal choice as by consequence of being the eternal outcast.
In my world ten years ago, nobody truly experienced sexual attraction. Boys had hormones, girls pretended to like them, for who knows what reason. (While the latter remained a mystery to me, my failure to understand girls and their nonsensical behavior was a pattern I was already accustomed to, which by that point I took for a granted as a given.)
It is much harder to find that which is missing; to explain a lack of something when you don’t understand that something in the first place.
When I finally googled “asexuality” my freshmen year in college, I clicked on the first result: www.asexuality.org. In AVEN I found myself; I found an identity, I found legitimacy, a place where I was real.
In learning that I do not experience sexual attraction – something which I had known with certainty for a very long time, but could not articulate very well until then – I also learned that others did. And to them it was not made up; it was as real as it wasn’t for me. I learned that boys and men can fall in deep love, revel in its joy, get stung by its pain; and that girls and women have sexual desires and yearnings, the expression of which are often deemed “improper” in this society. I learned that for most people, sexual intimacy is an essential part, if not the crucial part, of a romantic relationship.
I’ve also learned that there are many dimensions to a relationship, like physical and emotional. You can break down all the types of intimacy, like physical intimacy, sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, romantic intimacy. That there are all kinds of attraction, like sexual, aesthetic, emotional, romantic, intellectual, and platonic. That sexuality can be broken down into sexual desire, sexual arousal, sexual attraction, sexual behavior. That relationships come in all shapes and sizes, varying in degree and quality: you don’t love your mom and dad the same way you love your partner, but it doesn’t mean you love either any more or any less. And that if I do have sex with my partner, I’m still asexual. And that if I don’t, our relationship is not any less real. And if you don’t want a certain type of relationship, you’re not missing out.
Above all, I learned that I am different from 99% of the population: not everybody in the world is asexual. But some of us are. Here, have some cake.
30 thoughts on “Everybody’s Asexual”
Thanks for posting these personal insights. Growing up my friends would all swoon over boys, and I played along because it was apparently what I was supposed to do but I never really got it. Even into high school I still didn’t seem to have the same feelings, and I’m beginning to think that whatever I did feel was more an aesthetic attraction. I’m still not sure if I’m asexual but hearing other people’s experiences has helped to better understand my own, if that makes any sense.
I thought that boys were faking it, too. Everyone was faking it because they wanted to impress each other with how cool and mature they were. I don’t know where I figured everyone got the idea that sexuality was cool and mature if no one actually experienced it, but somehow that made sense to me, since I didn’t really think about it that much.
It doesn’t help that I also didn’t quite get that need to impress and be cool, so not understanding the reasons behind that purported faking was attributed to another social handicap, and not to asexuality itself.
I can relate to this post so much. Learning I was asexual was as much (or more) of a revelation about other people as it was about me. Before I figured out I was asexual, I always figured that this sex thing was something you were supposed to do after you married “the one” and decided that you wanted to have kids. I had no inkling of why people would want to have sex except to make babies.
Trust me, I didn’t really know what sex was until, well, plenty of years after the average age.
And which is the average age? Is it before it is taught in biology class?
Way later than both of those 😛
I’m just now realising that I’ve probably been asexual all along (and have always wanted everything about a relationship except the sex) – and am flummoxed by how I’m getting patronising responses from friends, along the lines of “Don’t worry, one day you’ll be able to enjoy sex” like I have a treatable condition. I’m very relieved to have discovered Transyada (trans offbranch of AVEN) just as I was realising all this.
I remember being asked by my mom about my “sexuality”. I answered asexual as a joke because I really don’t know what you call those who doesn’t have a “deal”. This happened years before I encountered AVEN.
Anyway, I can’t help but nod in agreement throughout this post. Tons and tons of cake for you! 😀
I also used to joke among my friends that I was asexual, like a robot. Until I found out it was a real thing.
Same! I remember I had made a joke about me being asexual (as in asexual reproduction) long before I knew asexuality was a thing. I’ve been regretting it ever since I’ve found out.
I can relate to some of that, but I always get a little nonplussed when I see people talk about the Emperor’s New Clothes Experience, as Redbeard calls it. If I thought people in general were asexual (which I suppose I implicitly did, since I didn’t recognize my lack of sexual attraction as being abnormal), it was not because I thought everyone around me was faking, but because that was honestly not too much of a stretch based on my experience. I didn’t have friends who were prone to talking about their sexual and romantic interests, or how hot various people are. That just never happened. I did have a couple friends in romantic relationships, but I never saw much of that part of their lives. My sister’s gone through a few boyfriends, but even she’s never shown any clear indication of sexual (not just romantic) attraction – not that I’ve noticed, at least. And while I did occasionally encounter people who were decidedly sexual, they were few, and they weren’t the people with whom I chose to interact regularly.
Consequently, while I had figured out that the way I experience crushes is not normal, that and the fact that I’d be more comfortable in a sexless body (I certainly wasn’t oblivious enough to think that was normal, though I didn’t connect it to transgenderism on my own) were the extent of my personal epiphanies until I stumbled across the Wikipedia page on asexuality.
Now, I’m almost done with undergrad, and I have roommates who were openly chatting about sex within days of meeting each other. It’s bizarre.
Thanks for giving a voice to those of us who identify as asexual. I feel like a dry sponge who has just been dropped into a bucket of water. Your words continue to saturate my life.
What a fitting analogy. I didn’t know you identified as asexual Dan… Have some cake 🙂
I actually used to hype myself up over people just because I thought I was supposed to be attracted to SOMEONE. Finding out I was Ace was all the best things. XD
I’m a little late to the commenting party, but I really want to thank you for sharing this. Quite often you write something resonates really strongly with me and makes me think “Oh, me too! me too!” with growing excitement as I read through the post because I’ve felt the exact same thing. Not the technical details of top surgery or testosterone (because I’m MtoN, not FtoN), nor your relationship with your Dad (though I’m happy to read about your progress there), but this, absolutely!
Of course I naturally assumed sexual attraction was some kind of fiction or social construct. Why would I not? I assume that you feel pain when you get injured not because I have evidence of it, but because I feel it too.
Your world ten years ago sounds just like mine.
Congratulations on the impressive list of things you’ve managed to do in 2012 (as detailed in your subsequent post) and Happy New Year.
Congrats on the excellent interview! 🙂 You are a true inspiration!
“And if you don’t want a certain type of relationship, you’re not missing out”
That’s powerful. What a wonderful post (:
Your post, plus the comments have been a very informative read… I appreciate that I am not asexual however, I am ‘different’ from most in other ways. This was a slow reveal over many years. Today I am very happy to be me though, this has taken quite a long time to accept with a lot of soul searching at its base…. Thank You for making me think.. 😉
Had an inkling I was gynesexual at 12, but man my libido didn’t really kick in till I was 17, but maybe because I was also homophobic and transphobic, just generally erotophobic.
There is something about hearing someone else say what I know that makes it real, especially when I’ve never put it on paper. I know that this is an old post, but it was really nice to hear. I keep thinking, “I thought to be normal, I had to pretend like everyone else,” but there was a part of me that felt like they couldn’t just be pretending or, if they were, they were amazingly good at it. I just felt like there was something I couldn’t see, that I didn’t get like some kind of social rule I missed. In a way, that was true. It wasn’t that I had been absent or too unaware to catch the lesson, it was that no one else needed a lesson in being that way. They just were and they just are.
I went the other way: everyone felt sexual attraction, this was a normal part of life, I felt roughly the same way about looking at boys and looking at girls, and therefore I must be bisexual. This was complicated by being interested in dating and sex — obviously if I was interested in having sex I must be attracted to people! It took me a long time to come to the idea that it was even possible not to feel sexual attraction towards anyone.
When it did finally sink in that maybe this was a thing I’m not wired for, it felt really strange and required some mental realignment, but it did clear up some of the enduring mysteries of dating, such as why anyone would date or marry someone with whom they were clearly emotionally or philosophically incompatible, or why people occasionally just get distracted by other people for no apparent reason …