Archive for September 2008
When I was younger, I never got hit on on the street. Over time, I guess I got more standardly attractive–some weight loss here, a better haircut and some makeup there–and now I occasionally do. I’ve even been asked out on two recent occasions by guys who were actually polite and nice about my rejection (although I must admit I told them both I wasn’t single; that seems to be the best tactic). Both times, I remember thinking, “How could he possibly know I would be worth talking to? He knows nothing about me and I’m sure we have nothing in common.” This line of thinking probably stems partially from my asexuality and partially from the fact that I am really picky about the company I keep, so I wouldn’t be interested in talking to a random stranger unless their appearance signaled shared interests or subcultural affiliations. The appearance of these men signaled neither. So it kind of baffles me that they decided, based (I can only assume) on my physical attractiveness alone that I am worth spending time with. If I knew what it was like to be sexually attracted to another person, would this make more sense to me?
Wow. I just read this post in the “rants & raves” section of Craigslist, and found it incredibly disturbing. The author, who calls himself a “normal” guy, says that due to his internet porn addiction, he is “ruined” and “dead on the inside,” and no longer cares about any qualities in women except for perfect, porn-like attractiveness. Instead of admitting how incredibly fucked up this is, he devotes his post to educating women about what they have to do to attract not only him, but ANY man. He commands, “Be the source of a blood rush and make me throw a rod in my pants or kindly turn into anti-matter.” He then helpfully advises that women “throw every last dollar you have at your physical appearance. Personal trainer. Porcelain veneers. High-end Park Ave. boob job. Get scared and get it done.”
This man truly believes not only that all men have been irrevocably changed by porn, but that it is women’s responsibility to live up to the physical and sexual standards that male porn-watchers have become accustomed to. His little manifesto ends on this dramatic note: “Do not extend my gender any credit. Do not hope that a guy will be in awe of your cello playing, your VP title, or your cute apartment. I promise you he won’t care. Don’t kid yourself into thinking he will. Men are programmed to respond to the visual. Look good or you’re alone.”
I’m frightened by the fact that this person exists. And although he obviously overestimated the number of men that are as screwed up as he is, he’s probably not the only one who thinks this way. I know some people say they pity asexuals, but they should really redirect all their pity to this guy. Why pity someone who is perfectly happy without sex? Isn’t it a thousand times worse to let your life revolve around it and truly believe that there is no important quality in a person other than sexual attractiveness, and that there is no important element in a relationship besides sex?
In high school, I had a reputation for being “innocent.” The fact that my emotional maturity level was higher than that of most of my peers was irrelevant; by failing to be interested in getting drunk and hooking up with guys, the reasoning went, I was still a child.
Well, several years have passed and, although this word means nothing to me personally, I am still a virgin. I can’t help but wonder, what would my classmates have to say about that? Could they really claim that even though all these years have passed, I never really grew up? It would obviously be ridiculous for them to do so outright, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s really difficult for a lot of people to get their heads around the idea of anyone permanently sidestepping certain milestones.
It’s strange to think that by this logic, I remain somehow behind my peers, even the oafish frat boys still living with their parents, and that for the rest of my life I will lag behind as the world waits for me to catch up and start getting something I’ll never want.
Last week, I attended a preview screening of this year’s season premiere of the ABC show Pushing Daisies. This whimsical show about a piemaker who can bring dead people and animals back to life with his touch is totally adorable, mostly due to the overwhelming cuteness of its two leads, Lee Pace (Ned) and Anna Friel (Chuck). Because of the small print of Ned’s powers, he and Chuck (the childhood sweetheart he brought back to life) can never touch, or she will die again. This makes for one of the most interesting relationships on TV.
In theory, Ned and Chuck’s relationship is not asexual, because it’s understood that they would be on each other like bunnies in two seconds if they could. However, I think the show validates asexual romantic relationships by showing that it is possible for two people to be in a romantic relationship without a sexual or even physical aspect (well, they do occasionally hold hands with gloves and kiss through plastic wrap, but their relationship is based primarily on emotional intimacy).
Their storyline is refreshing because it’s light-years away from the typical TV relationship arc of getting together/having sex/one of the people having sex with someone else/breaking up/having sex with each other anyway. It’s just too bad that the nature of their relationship is only the forced product of a magical, fairytale-like scenario.
Yesterday, someone I had just met asked me whether I’m queer. It was in the context of trying to figure out whether I would be able to relate to some experiences she has had as a lesbian. I said no, because if I have to pick a word, I guess I’m heteroromantic, but I didn’t feel totally comfortable with my answer. I mean, I know that if someone wants to know if I’m queer, they most likely specifically want to know whether I like girls, but I also know that asexuality is often said to fall somewhere on the queer spectrum by virtue of being something other than heterosexuality. It’s been strange realizing that I’m not part of the majority, as I always assumed I must be due to my romantic attraction to guys, but that I can’t easily seek refuge in the queer community either, where I feel like the assumption that I want to have sex with guys would most likely just be replaced with the assumption that I want to have sex with girls. Right now I’m feeling pretty invisible.
I recently picked up Sasha Cagen’s book Quirkyalone at the library. I saw it in the section on relationships and sexuality and it caught my eye. I was pretty sure it was going to be a cheesy self-empowement book I didn’t need, but after I took the “Are you a Quirkyalone?” quiz on the first page and answered “yes” to all the questions, I kept reading. As it turns out, Cagen presents a refreshing, asexual-friendly, and totally not cheesy way of viewing life and relationships. Quirkyalones are independent, thoughtful, creative people who are happy being single and would much rather be alone with our awesome selves (and our awesome friends) than get hung up on dating and settle for a less-than-ideal relationship just for the sake of being with someone. There are even examples of people living happily in unconventional situations, like romantic couples with separate bedrooms and best friends who live together in a platonic partnership. The word “quirkyalone” kind of makes me cringe, and I can’t imagine going around calling myself that, but I’m glad to hear that it’s brought together a community of like-minded people.
It began with the understanding that I didn’t want the same things out of life that all of my classmates seemed to: a boyfriend, sex, a ring, a wedding, a stereotypical future. As I got older, it bloomed into the semi-misanthropic view that most of the population has very little in common with me and is therefore not worth dealing with, although I’ve always greatly appreciated my few close friends who get me and held out hope of making more.
Not long ago, after a conversation with a friend inspired me to look up asexuality, the sexual orientation supposedly shared by one percent of the population, a lot of things clicked for me. After feeling so different for so long, it was comforting to discover that there is actually a word to describe many of the feelings and desires I have (and haven’t) had, and that I am not the only one who feels this way. At the same time, it was kind of surreal to receive statistical confirmation that the way I view relationships and, as a result, life in general is in fact as rare as I suspected.
I value my role as a perpetual misfit, and look forward to a lifetime of making new connections and facing difficult questions. I know that those of us who view life from the outside will leave our mark on the world. We will make our voices heard, from the edge of everywhere.