I am in my mid-thirties and it was only in the past couple of years that I figured out that I’m asexual.
Knowing this, finally, a lot of things make sense. Like, for example, how I spent almost a decade in “queer inclusive communities” before I figured out that I am queer. Or why receiving sexual stimulation never really worked for me.
My earliest memory of my sexual orientation comes from high school. I was part of a Gay Straight Alliance and I remember publicly identifying as straight while privately feeling that the label didn’t really fit me. This was before I realized that I am genderqueer, so at the time I thought that I was a woman even though that label didn’t fit right either.
I remember telling myself that my discomfort with the term straight was probably just privilege.
After all, becoming aware of one’s privilege can be seriously uncomfortable and I was attracted to men (mildly and on rare occasions).
At the time I couldn’t tell that I was attracted to women because, in the United States, everyone is trained to appreciate how women look. That’s how mild my attractions are; when I was a teenager, I couldn’t even tell that I was attracted to women.
And while it would seem like my experience of almost nonexistent sexual attraction combined with exposure to the LGBTQIA+ umbrella would have lead me down the road to discovering my asexuality in college, what I actually discovered in college was my deep connection to sexuality.
While I don’t have any inherent desire to engage in sexual activity with other people, I do get deep enjoyment from sexuality and sharing sexual energy with others.
It satisfies me on an emotional level; it feels creative, connected, powerful, and alive.
During my college years, this enjoyment was enough to carry me through a lot of sexual exploration and learning with my long-term partner. However, there was always something there that didn’t quite work right.
Receiving sexual pleasure from someone else required an intense amount of mental work from me, an amount of work that took most of the fun out of it. I tried a lot of different things, but that problem never went away.
It turns out that I am asexual.
And not halfway asexual like I first thought, but all the way asexual. There is no one perfect definition of asexual, but a common definition goes something like “a person who does not experience sexual attraction and/or who has little interest in engaging in sexual activity with others.”
Check out this comic for a quick tour of the asexuality basics.
Knowing about asexuality has changed how I interpret things.
I don’t consider myself to experience sexual attraction anymore. And I’m more aware that the attractions that I do feel are not connected to a desire to engage in sexual activity. Nor do I experience responsive sexual desire (sexual desire that emerges as a response to feeling desired by someone else, more information here), like I once thought. As much as I enjoy sexuality, I do not have an innate desire (spontaneous or responsive) to engage in sexual activity with others.
The best way that I have to describe my experience is to say that my sexual response is something that takes place entirely inside myself and requires an internal focus to work. That is why trying to receive sexual pleasure from someone else is so hard for me — it disrupts the internal focus that I need to enjoy sexual stimulation. My mind simply isn’t oriented to include other people in my internal sexual process.
So where does that leave me and my connection to sexuality? Well, I enjoy learning about sex, thinking about sex, reading erotic stories, and being present in sex-focused community spaces. And I do occasionally engage in sexual activity, something I do because there is an activity I’m curious about or I want to connect with my sexual partner. However, the enjoyment that I get out of engaging in sexual activity with others is not one of sexual pleasure, but a mental and emotional satisfaction.
The reason that it took me so long to figure out that I’m asexual is that, outside of the asexual community, understanding of asexuality is limited at best.
Even in places with greater awareness like the LGBTQIA+ community, few people have an understanding that goes deeper than “asexuality means not being interested in sex.”
It wasn’t until I started exploring asexuality that I discovered conversations that went deeper. Even then, there was a lot that was missing and I still had a lot of confusion about my own experiences. I struggled to articulate what I was feeling and what roles asexuality and sexuality played in my life.
Then, finally, last year I stumbled across the obscure term autochorissexual, which means “a disconnection between oneself and the object of arousal; may involve sexual fantasies or arousal in response to erotica or pornography, but lacking any desire to be a participant in the activities therein” (there is a summary of this in the mogai library and on the asexuals wikia). This term was coined by Dr. Anthony Bogaert and some of the concepts he connected to it don’t sit well with a lot of people, so the term aeogesexual was coined to avoid that baggage.
Even so, neither autochorissexual nor aegosexual are a perfect fit for my experiences, but learning about them opened a door for me. Somewhere in the process of thinking about them, along with some confused conversations with my partner, I finally made the mental leap I needed to find a way of understanding what was going on for me.
And, because autochorissexual and aegosexual are terms that are difficult to pronounce, difficult to understand, and don’t fit me right anyway, I have chosen to use the more direct term sexual asexual for myself. Could I use the term graysexual to communicate that I am connected to both sexuality and asexuality? Sure, but that term feels like it implies that I am somewhere on a continuum in between the two extremes, and I don’t feel in between. There is nothing that feels halfway about my experiences of either sexuality or asexuality.
At long last, I feel like I’m finally getting some clarity on things that have been confusing me my whole life, but it has been quite a journey getting here.
The lack of in-depth conversation on these topics has made it harder. By sharing my personal story, I hope to expand this conversation. I want to make more space to talk about the ways that some asexual people enjoy and feel connection to sexuality. And hopefully that will make it easier for other people to find themselves and get clarity in their own lives.
Disclaimer: The asexual community is diverse. I am talking about my personal experiences, and what I’ve shared here should not be taken to represent the experiences of other asexual people.