Recently, a friend of a friend posted on Facebook about being “a-curious.” That is, trying out an “asexual lifestyle.” To this person, an asexual lifestyle means swearing off sex, denouncing all previous sex partners as null and void, and proclaiming that she has never enjoyed the act.
When I saw the post, I seethed, which is stupid, frankly, because I don’t know her well enough to judge whether this is true or not. I am of the selfish sort who thinks that my problems are solely mine; that no other person (especially one so close) could be struggling the way I struggle, and I was offended that she would so casually take ownership of something causing me so much grief.
I’ve been thinking for a while now that I might be asexual—I guess that makes me a-curious.
It’s difficult for me to grapple with the fact that I might not be “normal” (normal here meaning cis-gendered and heterosexual). Even with so many friends who identify across the sexuality spectrum, I have never been close to anyone in my life who doesn’t like sex. Or rather, doesn’t want to have sex.
If you were wondering if that’s a confession, then you would be right. I’ve never had sex. That may come as a shock to my friends, many of whom think I’m as sexual as they are. I’ve swapped stories, laughed knowingly at other people’s experiences, even offered advice when its been asked for, and I did it all so that no one would know the awful, shameful truth. To have been 18 and a virgin was appalling to me. To be 22 years old and a virgin is disarming. I never feel more isolated than when the people around me start talking about their sex lives. I know I have nothing to contribute. I know I’m probably going to have to lie about something or other because it’s better to be a liar than a virgin.
That’s dramatic. The people who know about my lack of sexual experience don’t treat me like a pariah. They’re usually not even that condescending. “It’ll happen soon,” and “You just need to open up more,” are common staples of conversation with them; pseudo-sage, well meaning words that I usually take with a grain of salt because even deeper than the fact that I haven’t had sex is the knowledge that I don’t particularly want to.
Scratch that: don’t want to. I don’t want to have sex.
It’s not a moral high ground, and I’m more sure every day that it’s not a phase. I’ve been in the position to do it–to just get it done and rid myself of this self-imposed stigma–and I’ve never followed through. When I reflect back on those nights, sometimes I wonder if it was nerves that stopped me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and to do something I know I’m not 100% perfect at can be stressful. But then, that stress stems primarily from being scared of what someone (re: my superior) will think of me, and I most definitely do not consider any of the guys I’ve been with my superior in any way. With one or two pointed exceptions, the people that I’ve hooked up with are men that I realize I do not give even the slightest of shits about. If nothing else, it’s made it easier to dismiss encounters as boring, underwhelming, and one-time things.
It’s also led me to wonder if my problem is just that I hadn’t found the right person yet, as those same well meaning individuals have suggested. Maybe one day I will meet the man of my dreams, have sex with him, and be cured. But, you know, maybe I’ll live to see the first human settlement in space, or maybe I’ll win a vacation to Las Vegas. Not that any of these things has any bearing on the other, but they’re all things that have about the same feasibility in my life right now.
Maybe I’m being dramatic again.
I have taken my search to the Internet, in case you’re curious. I’m the sort of person who chronically WebMD’s her medical woes, that particularly annoying breed of hypochondriac who can’t sleep for fear that she’ll develop X, Y, or Z in her future because she has A, B, and C already. Yes, it has occurred to me that I might be overreacting.
But that also begs the question: Why does it matter so much?
If the most basic human desires are sustenance, shelter and sex, and I only need two out of those three to get by, couldn’t that be success? Transcendence? Super-humanity? And yet it doesn’t feel that way at all. It matters because it feels like a kind of failure.
That feeling of failure is difficult to explain. I could say it’s because I want to love someone, but I’m perfectly capable of love. Maybe it’s the knowledge that having a child was always going to be difficult for me, considering my unrelated health problems, and now I’m not sure that I’ll ever give birth at all, even when adoption has always been a viable choice. Maybe it’s fear of what my parents would say if I ever dared tell them, despite knowing that they would love and accept me no matter what I identified as. Maybe it’s something else altogether.
But back to the Internet. A quick google led me to www.asexuality.org, and their FAQ section, which I read through ad nauseam; as if some purposely wide-reaching Frequently Asked Question could give me the answer I’d been soul-searching for. Every avenue I thought got close to giving me some solid piece of information said the same thing: Only you can decide for yourself. Which is fair.
Asexuality at its bare-bones core is defined as the lack of sexual attraction. This definition gets fleshed out, though, once you take into consideration the spectrum of sexuality, with asexuality and sexuality as the endpoints. Many people fall into a region somewhere in the middle—a gray area that is aptly named gray-asexuality, or gray-a. Gray-A’s experience sexual attraction, rarely and under specific circumstance, or so mildly that it barely registers to them.
That definition feels more comfortable, and assuages my biggest concern: I’ve been sexually attracted to people before. I’ve masturbated and liked it. I’ve wanted sex. All of those things told me before that I was wrong, that this feeling was an odd antisocial phase that I would get past when I finally bucked up the courage to just go ahead and fuck somebody, but maybe now I have something closer to an answer.
It’s not any kind of motivation to come out to friends and family. I’ve never really felt the need to share those intimate details (with the obvious exception of this thought piece, which has become as much confessional as it has space to collect my fears and musings), but maybe it is a step towards being more comfortable with myself, at the very least.