Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Asexuals Who Aren't Asexual

I identify as asexual. I have never felt any feeling I would call sexual. I don't look at anyone and feel a physical reaction in my genitalia. I don't feel a pleasurable sensation if I touch myself there. Physical contact with another person may or may not be enjoyable for me, but it does not make me feel any sexual feelings. I never feel an urge to do anything sexual.

But apparently most people who call themselves asexual are not like that:
  • They might masturbate and enjoy it, but not want another person involved in it.
  • They might feel sexual attraction towards someone, but not enough to bother acting on it.
  • They might try to act on sexual attraction only to find it unexpectedly disappear.
  • They might feel sexual attraction that is satisfied by physical activities that can also be non-sexual, such as hugging or kissing.
If you feel any of those things, fine. But please stop calling yourself asexual!

This may sound harsh, but here's my reason:

When I try to tell people I have no sexual feelings, I often get met with frank disbelief. Sometimes I get accused of repressing it. Sometimes I get told there must be something physically wrong with me and I need to see a doctor. Sometimes people just don't seem to get that I can actually be happy without any sexual feelings. Sometimes people insist I just haven't met the right person - which is possible, but if I never do meet that person, I don't really mind that.

When I was younger, I didn't realize it was possible not to feel sexual feelings. And since I'd never felt any, and hadn't heard frank descriptions from others about what they felt like (my school sex ed lessons talked more about physiology than feelings), I assumed I was sexual. I mistook nonsexual liking for crushes and tried to express them in the way I thought crushes should be expressed. I almost got raped once as a result of this behavior. (Though the real fault lies with the guy who tried to rape me, I wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place if I'd known I was asexual.)

If I hadn't been so socially unskilled about acting out attraction, I might have actually ended up in a romantic relationship. Which would have been upsetting for both of us, me because I doubt I'd be willing to put up with enough sex to satisfy my partner, and my partner because he or she would have found out that I'd been unintentionally deceiving him or her, and have invested emotional energy in something that never could have worked out.

I think there should be a word for people with greatly reduced and/or non-social sexual desire. People like that need to know it's OK to be who they are, just as much as people like me. But stop taking the only word I've found to describe my own sexuality, and using it for something as foreign to me as any sexuality is. I really don't think I have any more in common with 'sexual asexuals' than I do with gay people - we share the experience of having an atypical and devalued experience of sexuality, but both groups feel feelings I can't even imagine feeling.

Asexuality is not being disgusted by sex (it's possible to not care either way, or conversely to want sex and be disgusted by it). Nor is it not having sex, because behavior is not the same as feelings. But it is also not reduced sexuality, or situation-specific sexuality, or non-social sexuality. It is no sexuality.

6 Comments:

Blogger Unknown said...

Speaking as not-the-way-you-mean-it-Asexual, I get met with the same disbelief, and had a lot of the same relationship issues. I also don't have another word for it (celibate is completely wrong for me, since I'm *not* celibate any longer)

10:05 PM  
Blogger Emily Monroe said...

I regard sex drive and sexual attraction as two different things. Somebody can, for example, have the desire to masturbate and enjoy it, but not have a desire to have sex with someone else, and I think they, too, can be considered asexual. That's all asexuality is. The lack of sexual attraction. Period.

I think "grey-area asexual", or "hyposexual" can cover the other situations.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

But then what do we call someone who has neither?

1:56 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

But then what do we call someone who has neither?

1:56 PM  
Blogger miller said...

The term for an asexual who doesn't masturbate (or has no drive to do so) is "nonlibidoist". That this word exists, but gets used so seldom that you've never heard of it, I think speaks to the relative worth of the term. In practice, the community doesn't speak much about nonlibidoism because we've discovered that in the long run it doesn't make a big difference in terms of our shared experiences.

Many years ago, there was a Nonlibidoism Society, but it devolved into sexual elitism, and wasn't very healthy for the community.

As for the other three bullet points, my sense is that they are not very common among self-identified asexuals. (Many people like hugging, but not necessarily as an expression of sexual attraction.) Most people experiencing those things would identify as demisexual or gray-A (which is how I identify). All the same, I think it is sensible to offer inclusion under the label "asexual" to people with those experiences, so that the categories are just slightly flexible to account for people's varied personal circumstances.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Kayla Wright said...

I understand confusing sexual desire for nonsexual desire.I thought I was pansexual. but other chicks were acting like they had no sense around boys and I wanted guys to like me for my brain.first I look at how the person is aestheticly(clothing,hair,eyes)then how they act.if they seem okay I talk to them for a bit.I kind of pry their brain(they must know what real music is).the biggest problem is that the ones I just want as friend(which is all of them except two) are touchy feely.and being touched feels wrong.I then quickly stop being friends with them.which is the wrong way to handle it.I end up seeming cold and confusing.mind you,I'm an introvert so I already intimidate people.masturbation feels wrong.I don't mind people having sex and I'm not shy to talk about it but I never feel like having sex.I believe asexuals can have libido but don't want to act on it.I'm also aromantic.seriously,if you gave me a rose I would ask if it was grown organic so that I may make rose tea or when will/how can it die because I think dead flowers are lovely,either way that rose is dying today.there will be no blushing and fawning.it's going to be hard to make people understand me being asexual and to add on to that I have depression that causes therapists to not understand i've be always been this way.as long as you have a few good friends you should be fine.it is human nature to need other people in order that you keep from going insane.I wish you to have a peaceful mind:)

3:07 AM  

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