Edge of Everywhere

Archive for the ‘asexual identity’ Category

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?

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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.

When discovered my asexuality a year ago, I saw the word heteroromantic and figured it must apply to me; after all, I have occasionally felt attracted to guys over the course of my life and have been in a long-term relationship with one. And I figured that even though I didn’t ever want to have sex with anyone, I would still want romance at some point, and be forced to navigate the pursuit of it–a complex thing for asexuals in a sexual world.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized romance wasn’t actually a goal of mine. While it may be intriguing and dramatic and fun, I see it as being unsustainable and separate from the types of relationships I really want in the long run. In my experience, romance is the butterflies and excitement and flattering mutual admiration at the beginning of a relationship (or the beginning of something that never goes anywhere), but it’s not a characteristic that I see as necessary or even possible (for me, at least) in a long-term relationship of any kind.

I have learned that the distinguishing characteristic of the relationships I seek (whether friendships or partnerships) is commitment. Not commitment that requires a ring or a vow or even an explicit declaration, but a mutual and unshakable feeling of being committed to each other’s happiness. It’s about a feeling of “I care about you. I will always be there. I won’t abandon this.” So I’ve reached the point where I know that I won’t be too disappointed if I go the rest of my life without having any romantic interludes, as entertaining and ego-boosting as they may be, because if I can have the less flashy but safer comfort of true understanding and companionship, that’s enough for me.

The more I think about it, the more I hate the word “virgin” and wish it would just go away. Long before I came to identify as asexual, I was uncomfortable with the heteronormative nature of the concept, and was aware that it was irrelevant for non-heterosexuals. Sexual people of various orientations can and should redefine and reclaim the idea of being or not being a virgin in whatever way makes sense to them and fits with their idea of what sex is, but opting out of the dichotomy altogether is more complicated.

Since I do like guys in some sense, people (particularly heterosexual guys) often put together the ideas of “straight” and “virgin” and can’t seem to get their heads around the idea of heterosexual virginity being a state that does not necessarily ever need to change. They assume I am attainable, and occasionally delude themselves into thinking they will be the first to attain me. The idea of women who like men but don’t want to have sex with them just does not exist for most people. I don’t like admitting that I am a virgin for this reason, but don’t want to say that I’m not, either.

Rainbow Amoeba recently wrote a great piece for the Asexual Perspectives section of the AVEN website called How Discovering My Asexuality Set Me Free. I found this part to be especially thought-provoking:

I do not think very often about what this orientation describes – my lack of interest in sex – but I am grateful every day for the many other things my awareness of it has brought me – all the choices I discovered I could make, all the new ways I discovered I could relate to other people and love them, all the possible futures that I now see open before me.

I love thinking about asexuality as a set of possibilities rather than as the lack of something. It’s usually framed in terms of the absence of sexual attraction/desire, but to me, that’s not what’s at the heart of asexuality. The dual realization that we don’t want the things we’ve grown up being taught that everyone wants, and that it’s actually valid to feel that way, is simply the beginning of a lifelong process of deciding what we do want out of our lives and relationships.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about asexuality less as an orientation and more as a worldview. Seeing the world asexually is about taking ownership of our feelings and desires and embarking on the sometimes scary but exhilarating journey of deciding what exactly we want from the people in our lives, based not on a set of pre-defined relationship models we’ve been handed, but on a new set of models that we can make up as we go along. It’s about being completely honest with ourselves and knowing that whatever we want is not only okay but maybe even attainable and satisfying beyond our wildest dreams, even if it doesn’t fit into society’s boxes. Instead of nothing making sense, suddenly everything makes sense, because it’s what we want, plain and simple. Before I knew I was asexual, my desires (and lack thereof) left me confused and occasionally ashamed. Now, everything I want and don’t want is simply a fact, a natural fact, and I can spend my time thinking about new possibilities and futures. I am incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to view and reassess my life through the lens of asexuality. It’s a lens I think all people could benefit from looking through.

I’ve been thinking lately about how as I get older, I’m only going to feel more and more out of step with the rest of society. I’m in my mid-20s, and it freaks me out that my peers are starting to get married and have babies. It’s really going to freak me out when I get to the age where it’s totally normal for everyone my age to be doing those things. When it will seem like everyone around me is a mom and interested in mom things. When people will start assuring me that I am, in fact, attractive enough to “get a man,” as if that’s what I want to hear. When people who don’t know about my asexuality will start coming up with explanations for why I live the way I do. When strangers will start asking me if I have kids and, a few decades later, grandkids. I don’t have much patience for this sort of thing. I just hope I can continue to surround myself with interesting people who don’t fit the mold either, although they may not be asexual.

Yesterday, some of my female coworkers got into an interesting discussion about how old they were when the finally felt like adults. For most of them, it was tied to when they had their first child. I’m never going to have kids, and I started wondering what it will take for me to finally feel like an adult. I lead an independent adult life, but I have never identified with the concept of adulthood because I have no interest in so many of the things other people equate with it (sex, marriage, kids, a draining decades-long career requiring suits and long hours, boring parties involving wine). Come to think of it, when I was a teenager, I didn’t identify that with that word, either. I didn’t want the things others teenagers wanted, and was embarrassed by the desires and antics of my peers (having oral sex in the corners of junior-high parties, getting so drunk they had to go to the hospital). I remember telling my mom not to refer to me as a teenager, but I didn’t feel like I was still a child either (although my peers did). I’m not sure whether I’ll ever identify with the adult world.