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.