Edge of Everywhere

Hello, blogosphere. Long time no see. I can’t believe it’s been more than 5 years (about 5.5 now) since I first realized I was asexual and started this blog in the fall of 2008. I have come a long way, especially in the past year, in terms of fully owning my asexuality letting go of the fears I have around it and around being out (particularly the fear of not being considered as a potential partner by anyone if I come out to them). I’m out to my best friends, members of a support group I’m in (unrelated to sexuality), and a few other people. I want to be out to more people, but I tend not to bring it up, out of a combination of not knowing how to and not knowing how the conversation will go/not wanting to deal with uncomfortable and prying questions.

Something I’ve become more comfortable with lately is identifying as queer but not specifying where exactly I fall on the spectrum. Before I knew about asexuality, my strongest sense was that I was just not heterosexual, and the hardest thing for me about not being out is being assumed to be heterosexual, because it makes me feel misunderstood and like an impostor who’s going to be revealed as not knowing the secret hetero handshake (which is how it felt when I briefly tried to date heterosexual guys).

So with some people in my life, I’ve done what I see as coming half-out – as queer or not-heterosexual but not specifically as asexual. In a creative group I’m a part of, I was recently poked fun at for my lack of knowledge about an aspect of heterosexual sex. I got embarrassed and frustrated and sarcastically blurted out “Sorry,” adding “I’m not even into guys!” That was the end of the conversation, and now I assume those friends think I’m gay. And I’m okay with that for today. I could see myself being in a relationship with a woman, and if I were, people would assume I was gay, just like they assumed I was heterosexual when I had a male partner. I have no control over what people assume without having more information. But I immediately felt better when I knew they didn’t assume I was heterosexual anymore. And someday, when I feel comfortable, I want to tell them I’m asexual because they’re important to me and so is my identity. But I know there’s no point in pressuring myself–the idea of making my lack of sexual interest a topic of conversation, especially in a group setting, is still incredibly uncomfortable to me, and that’s okay.

In a conversation with a mentor recently, I mentioned not being out to the aforementioned group of friends, and I felt an immediate switch in how she talked to me–in a good way. She likes to talk about guys, but after that, instead of assuming I was like her and would relate to her experience, she explained what her experience of a particular situation was like as a heterosexual woman. And it felt really good to be acknowledged as having a different experience and not being expected to know what hers was like. It’s not super important to me how much she knows about my sexuality; the experience just confirmed that I am definitely more comfortable at this point aligning myself with queerness, whether or not it feels comfortable or relevant to bring up asexuality specifically.

Hey everyone – it’s been ages since I last wrote a post, but I want to thank everyone who has subscribed, commented, or encouraged me to keep writing.

I stumbled upon the recent New York Times story New Love: A Short Shelf Life and found it interesting to read from an asexual perspective. The article concerns a study that found that “newlyweds enjoy a big happiness boost that lasts, on average, for just two years.” Why only two years?

“When love is new, we have the rare capacity to experience great happiness while being stuck in traffic or getting our teeth cleaned. We are in the throes of what researchers call passionate love, a state of intense longing, desire and attraction. In time, this love generally morphs into companionate love, a less impassioned blend of deep affection and connection.”

Although this may be a new study, it states in academic terms what our culture tells us over and over–that couples eventually lose the “spark” of passion that united them and eventually morph into sexless old people together, or otherwise end up cheating on each other or breaking up in the search to find that spark with someone else.

But what about those of us who never experience that spark in the first place, who only seek companionate love? Are we better off for not expecting that first brief phase and having to undergo the transition to the second?

Also, I always find it a bit baffling to hear it acknowledged that most relationships eventually (and according to this study, surprisingly quickly) end up being closer to the type we seek, and yet know that many people can’t get their head around the idea of asexuality. What’s so weird about wanting the deep affection and connection that characterize all long-term relationships, regardless of orientation, just without the intense longing, desire and attraction that fade quickly anyway?

Cool art alert: Moved by the negative reactions to her and other women’s decisions not to have children, Miriam Schaer embroidered real quotes onto white baby dresses with red thread, creating a shocking visual representation of the societal prejudice against childless women.

The artist writes:

“Selfish… Neurotic… Irresponsible… Immature… Unfeminine… Unfulfilling… Materialistic… Uptight… Deviant” — all words I have heard to characterize my decision to not have children, a decision transforming me into a target of one of society’s remaining and widely held prejudices.

Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, addresses the question of why the existence of women who choose maternal independence over child-rearing angers or offends so many people and institutions. The work presented here is part of a continuing exploration of our culture’s pejorative views about women without kids. For Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, I hand-embroidered representative negative comments on baby dresses using red thread to create scarlet letters. Gathered from interviews with childless women, online research, and personal experience, the statements taunt and accuse, and are typical of an endless flow of critical statements that seem to be growing bolder even as non-traditional families are gaining greater acceptance.

***

As a women who has never had any interest in having children, this work struck a chord with me. The quote most similar to the reactions I’ve received is “You still have time; maybe you’ll change your mind. You can adopt.” Many of the others Scher uses are shockingly negative, like “Childless women lack an essential humanity” (shown above) and “Your not having children was the biggest disappointment of our life.”

I have a lot of trouble understanding why anyone would be angry about a woman choosing not to have children. I can understand the idea of parents being disappointed about not having grandchildren, to a certain point (though not the point reached in the last quote above), but I can’t get my head around the idea of anger toward and disdain for a woman whose life plans do not include raising children. Raising children is a very difficult and lifelong job. We should be glad when a woman who does not desire to undertake this job chooses not to; unfortunately, many women who do raise children do not have the desire or ability to perform the job well, which is a horrible situation for any child to be in.

Cheers to Miriam Schaer for bringing a little-discussed form of discrimination into the public eye in a clever and powerful way.

I got an email from WordPress the other day with my 2010 summary, letting me know that even though I barely wrote on this blog over the past year, a surprisingly large number of people visited it, which was nice to hear. I hope that my past writings will continue to be of use as a representation of one of the ever-growing number of asexual voices online.

The other recent occurrence that reminded me of this blog’s existence and prompted me to start writing again was the Jezebel article “Deep-Pocketed Woman Will Pay For Platonic Love.” The woman in question made a long Craigslist post expressing her disinterest in sexual relationships and offering compensation for a platonic companion, with many details about the type of relationship she seeks. The writer finds the subject “oddly riveting” and tries to dissect her motives, but doesn’t seem to know about asexuality. Luckily, many commenters chimed in and expressed their hope that the platonic relationship-seeker (and Jezebel’s readers) would visit AVEN to learn about asexuality and discover that platonic companionship is a completely normal thing to want–and doesn’t have to cost anything.

I don’t talk much about asexuality in real life, but things like this article make me feel like it’s my responsibility to help spread the word that asexuality exists as an orientation and a valid framework for different kinds of relationships. That way, maybe people like the woman in the article would be more likely to find validation for who they are and what they want, and ultimately feel less alone.

I still think about asexuality all the time, even though I rarely find the time to write about it. Something I think about a lot is how to express my asexual identity, especially among people I’m not out to. I sometimes do this by making clear my disinterest in all things sex-related whenever possible. The problem with this strategy, though, is that it just seems to end up reinforcing the same stereotypes that followed me when I was younger: the innocent, sheltered little girl, and the prude. I know I am neither of those things, but in certain conversations, I feel like I have two options: say the thing that makes me blend in, which feels like lying, or say the thing that shows I am different. All I want is to be seen as neutral in regard to sex, but most people only seem to see two sides: “normal” and “not normal,” with the latter needing to be explained by immaturity and/or some other kind of “issues.” What I’m trying to figure out is, how do I express myself as neutral when neutral isn’t something that most people think exists when it comes to sex?

I know it’s been forever since I’ve written anything. I’ve had no shortage of ideas for posts, though, and I’m going to try to find time to write them down.

I’m going to be in a hip-hop dance show, and one of the dances is a “sexy” dance. It’s fast-paced, but there’s a lot of gratuitous hip-thrusting, and I know we’re all expected to channel our inner sexy pop diva. Therefore, I’ve been thinking about what it means for an asexual to act sexy.

One dictionary definition of sexy is “arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire or interest.” I obviously have no motivation to present myself in this way–in fact, the idea makes me very uncomfortable, especially since my family and friends will be watching me.

However, I also know that when women talk about feeling sexy, it isn’t always in terms of sexual attractiveness to others–it can also mean strong, sassy, and confident. I may not have a sexy side to tap into, but I can channel all of those things, so that’s what I try do when I dance.

I have conflicted feelings about my ability and tendency to pass as heterosexual. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with people by highlighting only the commonalities in the way we experience attraction and relationships. On the other, it allows people to assume things about me that are not true, which makes me uncomfortable, and it keeps them from fully understanding me.

I’ve recently made a few new female friends, and for most of them, “boy talk” is an important way of bonding. I never mind listening to their experiences and offering advice if they ask, and I am able to drop small bits of information that mark me as like them, even though it’s evident that I am less interested in boys and dating than they are.

However, as I get to be closer friends with people, I find myself wanting to be able to be myself with them and speak honestly about my relationships, including the parts they won’t be able to relate to. But the longer I go without mentioning my asexuality, and the longer I let them believe that I am heterosexual, the harder it seems to find the right time to bring it up, and the weirder it feels to be like, “Hey, it’s true that I like guys, but I don’t want to have sex with them.” I still haven’t figured out if and how I’m going to tell them, besides waiting for a relevant conversation to provide the perfect segue (which has happened to me before, but isn’t something I can count on).

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