Thursday, November 25, 2010
Today marks my 20th birthday, as you probably did not know and the world could care less about. However, I mark this as a special occasion, not simply for the enthralling fact that that is not one, but two decades, but also because it marks approximately three years since I began identifying in various circles as asexual. Since many in this world have taken it upon themselves to dismiss that there are, in fact, asexual people in this world, and I have already devoted all nine minutes of my birthday to contemplating this matter, I decided it was time to try to think up another story detailing how I came to settle upon asexuality and perhaps a clever metaphor to accompany it.
First off, it has always appeared to me, from the moment that the idea of different sexualities made itself apparent to me, that any discrimination or denial thereof is absolutely absurd. As unappealing as the idea of sticking various things in various holes and the fluids involved therein was to me at the time, I didn't see why anything any consenting adults did with each other in their spare time should be anyone else's business. I just preferred scrabble. It didn't occur to me until later in high school that my disinterest in the Great Pursuit could be in itself a sexual orientation. I actually first learned about asexuality about two years before I began to identify as such--not so much because I had reason to believe that I was not asexual, but because I honestly didn't think my own orientation strange or important enough to identify as anything. It wasn't until my increased knowledge of sexual practices and people's insane concern over sex later on in high school that I began to take my (a)sexuality seriously.
Things have changes greatly since then. Almost immediately after I began identifying, I stopped being repulsed by the idea of sex--even the idea of trying it myself in some strange future. Even so, I recently gave up identifying as heteroromantic after many a year of aromatic sentiment. I still am asexual as ever though. My outlook on sex has changed completely and I still can't conceive of myself being sexually attracted.
It's not that I think it would feel bad (though it would still he painfully awkward); it's just that even if I did greatly desire sex, I would be out in the cold trying to identify the proper person to partake in said act with. I don't have anything, physically or mentally, that perks up and pays attention when someone I find "sexy" is nearby. I can "oh" and "ah" over how pretty someone is, but I don't have an impulse to get that person into my bed (it is a pretty small bed, after all).
This is where your lovely little metaphor comes into play. Let's say that having sex is like listening to music. For the sake of our metaphor, let's say that people typically only acknowledge two kinds of genres: pop and rock. There's actually a whole lot of genres out there, and things that don't fall into any genre, but for the most part, people dismiss that weird stuff (HAHA I AM MAKING A GENDER REFERENCE DID YOU NOTICE). Anyone that's lived in the world long enough tends to hear enough little snippets of music to get an idea of what genre if music they like by the time they grow up. In magical-metaphor land, people start really getting into music at a certain age. They start doing all sorts of things, like buying albums and going to concerts and all that. Most people are into pop music, and while a lot, if not most people are understanding of those heathenistic rockers, there are still many that think anything other than pop is just heinous (and why do rockers have to be so flamboyant?). As for those other genres--those are right out!
However, there are a few in the crowd that never really got all that into music at all. They grew up thinking it was kind of weird that people made such a big deal out of it. Some of them were actually tired of hearing it so much on the radio--it was like it had been shoved down their throats since birth! If these people told the music lovers, though, they would be told all sorts of things, like "You just haven't heard the right band", "You're just a repressed rock star", or even "You just haven't heard ME yet". But these people wouldn't even know where to begin if they wanted to get into music! Why did people like Miley Cyrus so much, and why were only a certain odd crowd into Mindless Self Indulgence? Most would end up buying a little music and even going to concerts because they felt pressured to, though they considered concerts to be mostly loud, sweaty and uncomfortable. But honestly... Why was it anyone's concern what bands people liked, or whether or not they liked bands at all?
Sadly, this metaphor breaks my heart because I really love music.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Anyways, back to the post. So last night I got one of these statements again, after Liz made a risque joke and be-boggled one of my friend's minds. He said, "Why do the asexuals in our group have the dirtiest minds?!" And Liz quite summed up my feelings on the matter: "Because we're more objective about sex. So we don't care."
Now, this is not true for all asexuals. I think it tends to have a more polarizing effect than other sexualities--you're either fantastically dirty-minded or fantastically sex-disgusted. But being asexual does not necessitate being totally averse to the idea of sex, or even the idea of having sex. This leads right into what asexuals like.
I won't go too much into the specific little icons the asexually community has latched on to--Ily already has a nice series of posts on that. In general, though, asexuals do tend to like things that are (potentially) asexual--Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, etc. But if those were the only things asexual people could like, we'd be hard pressed find our interests. This is why I bring up the dirty-minded part--that asexuals can be dirty minded, or at least like sexual things.
Take my musical tastes, for instance. Of course there's some classics, like Pink Floyd and the Who, and then my new fancy for old prog-rock band Yes. But one of my VERY favorite bands is Of Montreal. Readers, I LOVE Of Montreal, and Of Montreal is 80% sex and 20% crazy. It's kinky and fun and glorious and musical and other descriptive terms. But how can I like something that is so much sex? The simple answer is that it's not like I have to be sexually attracted to this music. To me it's still just music--so what if the lyrics are alllll about sex? Hell, I love Pink Floyd's The Wall and it contains such wonderful things as cheating on your wife and then running the girl that you cheated with out of your apartment but completely trashing your apartment and throwing stuff at her. Not something I can really relate to, but still one of my favorite albums. Oh, and another song I really like: "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. If you're not familiar, you might want to look up the lyrics.
So point being, tastes /= sexual preference. And I will continue to rock on.
Oh, also, does anyone have any bands or performers that appear to be somewhat asexual? I was thinking that Sufjan Stevens has very non-sexual lyrics, but this may be more of an 'innocence' thing that permeates his lyrics. Yes also has fairly non-sexual lyrics, but I don't know that they're completely devoid of this.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I speak a lot from experience in this regard as I am an out asexual college student--at the age where most people are discovering when the whole chastity/abstinence thing is for the birds. This leads to many different disconcerting scenarios and encounters with said 'dangers'. These dangers are the dangers of navigating a sexual society while determinedly non-sexual.
One of the biggest problems I've encountered is the issue of mixed signals. Asexuals aren't always aware that they're giving mixed signals to others. What some people see as conversation is flirtation to others. Once I got called out on this--I had a long conversation with a fellow male student I didn't know very well as we bitched about our chemistry teacher. When the student left the room, another one of my male friends teased me for flirting with him. I dismissed this immediately, but later I thought... oh God, what if that student did think I was flirting with him? It's a common pitfall--you may see a conversation as having no undertone at all, but that's not necessarily the message the other person is getting. I'm sure this is a problem amongst sexual people as well, but the situation becomes much more awkward amongst asexuals (many of whom don't pick up on this sort of thing at all).
Another related issue is convincing others that your orientation is separate from other aspects of your personality and how you act. I will admit to having the capacity of a horribly dirty mind. I don't typically think of others in a sexual fashion, but by God, if there's a good dirty joke to be had I will find it. I also try to dress attractively, not to attract others but because I like to think I have some sort of aesthetic sense. Yes, I dress cheaply, but I will dress at least cleanly and nicely. Oh, and did I mention I have a penchant for dresses and shirts that take advantage of having boobs? I mean, I don't label them, but I know which shirts in my closet are "boob shirts".
But these aspects of my personality and preferences are entirely separate from my sexual orientation. Just because I'm asexual doesn't mean I can't dress nice, and I find that being removed from sexual attraction allows me to make some very refined dirty jokes. Of the asexuals I'm personally acquainted with, only one is actually a bit squeamish of sexually-oriented conversation. On the opposite end of the spectrum is another asexual friend that is completely averse to having sex herself but INCREDIBLY dirty-minded. She grabbed my boob. I do not approve of this action. Oh well--at least she grabs boobs equally among the sexes.
Still, people tend to take dirty-mindedness and clothing as a reflection of personal sexuality. The best solution I've seen is time. There's not a quick-fix for something that a lifetime has drilled into someone, and in a sexualized society these connections get laid on pretty thick. This leads back to the whole visibility issue. The visibility and knowledge of asexuals will lead to these connections getting worn away bit by bit, and hopefully this will lead to a better overall understanding of how sexuality works.
And this subject leads right into my next one, the question of asexual tastes! But that is for next time.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Although I have a little trouble with some of his statements, he does bring up a good point that I think some asexuals need to come to terms with: disclosure. For all the ambiguity the asexual community has, and all the little shades of gray that are out there, I do believe in this firmly: if you are identifying as asexual, or even seriously suspect it, please, please, please, let a person know before leading them into a romantic relationship. It doesn't have anything to do with tolerance, or acceptance, or visibility. It's just a question of responsibility. Though you may not think sexually when entering a romantic relationship, chances are the other person is (at the very least on a subconscious level). Whether you like it or not, for most people romance and sex are linked. You may inadvertently lead the person into false assumptions and end up just leading them on. If you're afraid that revealing your asexuality will throw a wrench into your romance, then hiding it is definitely not going to make things better.
Does asexuality actually exist? My partner's younger brother claims to be asexual, but I think he's just a maladjusted little shit and that he's intimidated by the thought of sex. Your thoughts?
Asexuality must exist, TSIL, seeing as it has its own website—www.asexuality.org—where you can read this:
"Asexual people have the same emotional needs as anyone else, and like [those] in the sexual community we vary widely in how we fulfill those needs. Some asexual people are happier on their own, others are happiest with a group of close friends. Other asexual people have a desire to form more intimate romantic relationships, and will date and seek long-term partnerships. Asexual people are just as likely to date sexual people as we are to date each other."
I'll probably be accused of asexophobia for suggesting that asexuals who date "sexual people" are obligated to disclose their asexuality, preferably on the first date and certainly no later than the third date. Asexuals may have the same emotional needs as anyone else, but most of us sexuals—heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals—expect to have our emotional and sexual needs met in our "intimate romantic relationships," thanks, and we're going to want to know if that's not in the cards before we get involved, not after. Someone who is incapable of meeting a sexual's needs has no business dating a sexual in the first place, if you ask me. At the very least, asexuality must be disclosed. And I'm still trying to wrap my head around this:
"Figuring out how to flirt, to be intimate, or to be monogamous in nonsexual relationships can be challenging..."
Um... since monogamy is understood to mean sexual exclusivity—you don't fuck other people—I'm not sure how you define monogamy in a sexless relationship. Does your asexual partner promise not to not fuck other people?
As for your brother-in-law, TSIL, I don't see what his asexuality and/or hang-ups have to do with you. If you're prying into your BIL's sex life, TSIL, I'd say he's not the only maladjusted little shit in the family.
This also got me to thinking, for all those romanticly bent asexuals out there, maybe there should be a quick set of 'rules' for asexuals in relationships to look to. There's a whole forum on AVEN devoted to people asking for relationship advice, but there's definitely a few things that repeat themselves. Perhaps a little list of relationship advice for asexuals, and this is my first:
1) Tell the person that you are asexual up-front!
Any to add? Or am I just SO out of line?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The most obvious comparison I see is simply this: myself and my sister. I only have one sibling, almost three years older than I am. There are many similarities in our personalities: we tend to rely on sarcasm and snark, we act confidently and firmly, and we both have dark senses of humor. (Sorry if my snark seems to be absent at the moment. I blame sinus infection + lack of sleep + reading blogs until 3 A.M.) There's been a major divergence between us since our teenage years, though. It is simply this: she has a sex drive. I don't.
It's become increasingly apparent to me as I think back that my sister has had an incredibly average heterosexual experience. She's been dating on and off since probably the fifth grade, and she's been going out with the same guy for about 3 years now. The guy she's dating is about this close *indicates a small amount with fingers* to being "the one". (This is not an exciting prospect for me--I'm supportive of whatever my sister wants to do, but man. This guy practically feeds me material for jokes about his intelligence.) Compare this to my dirth of caring about dating or sex.
My sister and I have gotten the same messages from our parents, gotten the same schooling, both chose small liberal arts colleges, and have both had fairly healthy social lives. But put in the 'x' factor of asexuality, and you get completely different stories when it comes to the dating scene.
Strangely, there was also a time in my life (documented by myself and my sister) when I was more into the boys. As in, early on in elementary school. I remember (twice) in kindergarten hiding under a table and kissing a boy on the cheek. I was surprised to find in one of my sister's diaries a story about me kissing a family friend that was my same age. But another dimension of my personality seemed to come forward after that, namely the "chase around boys with a loaded scrunchie as they ran terrified across the playground" dimension. Looking back, that phase and subsequent phases of interaction with others has been "whatever I find most entertaining to me at the moment", ranging from kissing boys in a kindergarten classroom to teasing them about their slow wits while on winter break from college.
So, all signs should point to me developing "normally". I have one more strikingly similar comparison, between my friend Liz and her brother. It appears that the same trend has occured between them--in this case, her younger brother turning out in the general heterosexual manner while she proved to be asexual. Two siblings of close age, developing completely different sexually.
One last thing to address: medical reasons. I can't say that I'm 100% medically in line--I'm kind of gynecologist-phobic, as I'm sure a lot of female asexuals are--but by appearance there doesn't seem to be any sexual medical issues. I can't say this for others, but I do have one more anecdote. Another asexual friend of mine affirmed her asexuality due to an experience with changing birth control. For a short period she was changed over to another birth control, and for what she described as a very miserable few days, the birth control made her sex drive suddenly jump. It seems that she was able to inadvertantly get the "magic pill" experience for a few days--and was able to say that she didn't enjoy it. And this is my main issue with blaming medical factors: even if medical factors are involved and a sex drive can be produced, if it doesn't cause distress then you can't really call it a disorder. This is the main issue with the DSM listing that AVEN is striving to get changed. In my friend's case, it was much more distressing to suddenly have a sex drive than to not have one. She realized that asexuality was more than just experiencing sexual attraction or not--it was a case of growing up and experiencing life without sexual attraction and seeing it as part of yourself. If you grew up and lived with a homosexual orientation, you wouldn't be able to identify with a heterosexual orientation if you suddenly developed one. Whether you realize it or not, that orientation becomes a part of how you think and experience life.
Anyways, I begin to ramble. Feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.
Monday, January 11, 2010
But mainly because I'm finally catching up on my internet-related asexual life rather than my real-life-related asexualtiy. And boy, do I have a lot of ground to cover. A lot has happened in the past semester.
First off, sometime this summer *checks AVEN* ehem, June 19th, the first official Houston meetup took place. And it was fun, but it's still kind of depressing how few people will come out of the woodworks in Houston for anything whatsoever. My list is about eight people long... so sad! I'm currently stalking around AVEN for interested Houston people.
One of the reasons that makes me ever so sadder is that I have a strange tendency to attract people with similar life experiences/tastes/interests, and asexuality falls under this umbrella oddly enough. Myself and two friends from high school almost simultaneously discovered AVEN and realized we were most likely asexual... after being friends for two years already. This year at college, I discovered one of my friends is asexual, and came in contact with another asexual who I'm now great friends with. So... why doesn't this work over the internet?
However, latter friend is an AVEN success story, but also kind of hilarious in its inevitability. I first came in contact with this friend, Liz, when I searched AVEN for my school. I got in contact with her, and she turned out to be starting school this semester. So the first week of school we met up and had coffee! Yaaaay! And then I dragged her into my group of friends, and then realized one of my other friends had also been pulling her into this group after meeting her. All things considered... even without AVEN, we probably would have found out about each other and each other's asexuality eventually, but since I found her on AVEN before school started I was able to introduce her to the GSA-type organization on campus at its very first meeting of the year, and we didn't have to awkwardly discover/reveal to each other that we were asexual. The whole GSA thing is important in my eyes because I didn't know that the club existed until almost the end of my freshman year, and I was all sad that I got left out so long.
In the realm of real-world asexuality issues, I was able to be the pseudo-spokesperson for asexuality in our GSA (I use that term here because it is more universal; we go by a more inclusive, non-alphabet-soup name) this semester. Every semester we have an event where a panel of different sexuality and gender types answer questions from students in a lecture hall, and I got to represent the asexuals. That was just a ton of fun. I love peoples' reactions. It generates discussion and discussion generates visibility.
I also had the best reaction EVER from a girl at the first meeting of the year of our GSA. At one point I introduced myself as asexual, and one girl had never heard of it. I explained it, and I said for my case specifically, that I didn't participate in any sort of sexual activity. I would not like sex, thank you. And she said something along the lines of "How can you not like [sex] organs?" She was genuinely dumbfounded. The amazing thing is probably that she wasn't dismissive, she was actually fascinated. She turned out to be the polar opposite of my sex life--she participated in sex with both genders, but was almost aromantic.
Anyways, that's most of what's been happening in the world of asexuality for me recently. But I have a lot of topics lined up, a few of which I will list here so I don't forget and don't ramble.
-The dangers of asexuality
-A comparison, for your consideration
-The experience of 'coming out' as asexual
My ideal is to get posting at least once a week, perhaps up to every three days because I love Asexy Beast and that's what Ily does. (Is unoriginal)
Aaaaand a condom commercial just came on. Please return to your regularly scheduled lives now.