Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Comparison, for Your Consideration

Asexuality's biggest issue in the world at large is not violence or hatred--as has been the case with most other non-heteronormative orientations and genders--but rather the tendency towards dismissal. It is difficult to 'prove' that a sexuality exists when it is characterized by the lack of something. The most harmful forms of dismissal, though, are those that pertain to accusations of repression or denial. As has been stated before on AVEN and elsewhere, sometimes this is the case, and those identifying as asexual are encouraged to look into any medical or psychological reasons for their low sex drives. But I have a comparison to suppose that shows that repression is an unsatisfactory explanation for many cases.

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.


  1. That's interesting to hear about your friend's experience of a "sudden sex-drive" on medication. The question comes up with some frequency among asexual trans people starting testosterone, but I've never really seen anyone talk about how a higher sex drive affected their experience as an asexual. I think the fact that some people would *negatively* react to development of a sex drive could be one of the most persuasive arguments against ace-deniers that I've read. And now I'm curious what type of reaction asexuals who say they'd be happier sexual would have.

  2. I think it would be a matter that differs from person to person, definitely, as far as the "magic pill" thing goes. I know some people would want it just so they can go and have a family and relationships and such without all the drama, and this is where it gets confusing when it comes to the whole hyposexuality classification thingy...

    And I hope that this is the most anecdotal evidence I have to use in a post for a while (at least, talking about other people). I don't want to accidentally say something out of line... but for this sort of thing it's really an individual matter.

  3. Yeah, I think you're right that it would be a strongly individual thing...sexuality is a very complicated thing that gets overgeneralized a lot. I'm glad you did include anecdotal evidence, though, just because it was something interesting I'd never heard anyone's experience with before!