Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | January 3, 2012

On (A)sexuality

General note: this post does not merit a “mature content” warning, but as the word “sex” is used and LGBT(QIA) ideas are discussed, and after all, the word sexuality is in the title, so I figured I would put up this obnoxious run-on sentence telling you there’s no “adult content” in the post below.

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I often feel like my asexuality is a shame to the rest of the disability community. I’m afraid to talk about it, because it fits a stereotype of disabled people that is for the most part absolutely and completely wrong, horribly unfair and grounded in prejudice and awfulness. I know many disabled people who are sexual, often despite many attempts from society to shut them down, and I applaud that, and respect it, because everyone should have the chance to experience the full extent of whatever makes them human.

But it doesn’t make my experience invalid. So I fulfill the stereotype of being disabled “too immature”* to be sexual. But negative stereotype or not, I’m asexual. The question isn’t “do you like boys or girls”. There just isn’t a question asked at all for me. For years, I was completely oblivious to all of the teenage signs of growing interest in the opposite/same sex around me. Every single joke and reference whizzed by me, and didn’t even come close enough to make me notice it. I was used to missing most of conversations, and this felt no different.

When I was in middle school and all of the girls around me had crushes, I didn’t understand what those were. They had nicknames for all of the different boys they “liked”. After about 6 months of being bombarded by “oh look what Apple is wearing today!” or “Oh, Banana is soooooo cute” (I still don’t get the whole fruit theme) and constant pestering from my mother asking which boys caught my eye, I decided that I would have to find some boys I “liked” too, so I picked the two smartest kids in the grade to pretend to “like”. I didn’t understand what I was doing, but that wasn’t really that different from the other times my classmates did things and my mother pestered me until I joined in. I never liked those boys but I would parrot lines that my friends said to my mother only to please and silence her.

In high school, all I wanted was to be close to this girl. But never anything past getting a hug or sitting close by. I wanted comfort from someone. I even “dated” a close friend (a boy) briefly because everyone told us we were a couple anyway, and that was one of the most miserable experiences in my life, because I liked him plenty for his brain, for our conversations, but nothing past that and figuring that out made me feel deficient. In college I figured that since I didn’t like boys and I did seem drawn to girls, that of course, that’s it, I’m a lesbian! But that doesn’t really quite fit either. I’m just not sexual. I have no interest. I sometimes identify as an asexual lesbian (yes, you can be straight or gay or anything else, without ever wanting or needing sexual interaction), but I’m not really 100% sure that’s the right label either, so I don’t use it that much.

I’m asexual. That doesn’t mean I’m missing out on an integral part of the human experience. Sure, I’m missing out on an important part of what a sexual person considers to be part of their version of the human experience, but it’s not part of mine**. To say something like that to me is like telling someone who was born Deaf or became Deaf at a very young age that because they can’t hear, they’re missing out on an important part of the human experience. That’s crap. They might be missing out on what YOU consider a part of being human, but that matters to YOU. I could even go as far as to suggest that telling me that I’m missing out on an integral part of the human experience by being asexual is the same as telling me that in order to be fully human, I must be neurotypical. And that’s just as much crap. What matters to me and MY human experience is what I feel, and how I experience the world, not how anyone else does.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly (safe) sex-positive, LGBT friendly, pro-choice, and most importantly, pro-education for both women AND men. I believe everyone should have all of the information and protection they need to make informed, consensual decisions. But that still doesn’t make me a sexual person. I don’t have those thoughts and desires. Does that mean I’m a child trapped in an adult’s body? I’d like to think that the desire for sex is not the one and only way to define adulthood and personhood.

*Don’t get me started on how wrong that is. I’ve been “older than my age” since I was 4 and had to take care of myself when my parents lacked. I’ve always been better able to converse with people who are older than and “more mature” than I am, and intellectually, I’ve always been more thoughtful, advanced, aware, and relatively mature (compared to my age-group “peers”).

**However I do recognize that sexuality (and gender and basically almost every part of humanity) is a spectrum. It’s also fluid. I’m asexual at this time in my life. That might change in the future. I doubt it will, but it’s always a possibility. If I become “not asexual” later in life, that doesn’t mean I’ve “matured” enough to be sexual. It just means that now I’m no longer asexual. And it might never happen. And if it does, it might reverse itself again. But I’ll still live a fulfilling adult life, regardless.

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Responses

  1. In a society where girls are bombarded with the idea that their bodies and their sexuality are not their own or are all they have to offer the world, I think it’s incredibly powerful and mature anytime a woman determines and respects her own boundaries, whatever they may be.

  2. Again, a really well-written post. Thank you for writing it!

    I don’t know how much interest you have in the history of computers, but long ago I read a book, “Hackers” by Steven Levy. It covers a lot of the early history of computing, with the first half of the book focusing on the MIT crowd in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Midway through that part of the book, Levy describes most of the hard core hackers as being asexual, though he never uses that term. His point wasn’t that they were somehow broken or incomplete. Their work with computers was simply a lot more interesting to them.

    Sounds like you lead an interesting life.

    • I grew up with a computer scientist for a father and am actually fairly well-versed in the history of computing, which he liked to lecture me on quite often. I haven’t read “Hackers” – I’ll add it to my list.

      And for me, it’s not so much that other things are “more interesting” to me, its just that there’s no interest at all. So I guess that would make everything I’m interested in “more interesting”, because everything I pay attention to is >0.

  3. It sounds like your experience was very similar to mine, although I experienced far less external pressure to partake in relationships when I was in high school. Indeed, my bestf friend may very well have been asexual himself (the fact that we never even got around to talking about it probably counts as evidence in and of itself) and I don’t think my parents cared one way or another about my sex-life (this wasn’t because I was “male,” they didn’t care about my sister’s either).
    I don’t hesitate to call myself a lesbian, though.

    • Yeah, my mother’s major goal for me is a MRS. degree. And she’d prefer I marry a nice boy and settle down and become a stay-at-home-mom. There was LOTS of pressure to be in relationships.
      And I waffle on the lesbian term. Part of me ID’s with is a lot. Part of me doesn’t fit with it at all. I feel like a fake person when I use the term (of course, saying I’m straight is completely wrong). I’m just asexual. Maybe I’m “homoromantic” (one of the asexual terms), but I dunno, it’s a mouthful. Identities change often enough that I haven’t bothered really trying to come up with one past asexual (lesbian). I stopped associating with the LGBT community at my school because they were never particularly “autism-friendly” and although I found some friends there I just didn’t fit. Maybe if I was in a relationship I’d feel more comfortable with the term

  4. […] joined the LGBT club on campus (I identify now as an asexual lesbian, but at the time, I was just looking for some sort of community, and I knew I wasn’t straight, so […]

  5. were do you live?? I´d like to meet you some day.. if you agree.

    • I blog anonymously. Sorry. But thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  6. […] rid of them). When I’m excited, I bounce up and down and clap my hands and flap. Additionally, I am not a sexual person, which society seems to read as “immature”, and I often miss the “adult” jokes that are […]

  7. […] rid of them). When I’m excited, I bounce up and down and clap my hands and flap. Additionally, I am not a sexual person, which society seems to read as “immature”, and I often miss the “adult” jokes that are […]

  8. I had crushes on lads in school, but now I have crushes on women – I might have had crushes on girls, when I was at school/F.E. college. I’m asexual, but I am gay. I like kissing, cuddling, etc, but anything else, is of no interest. Anyway, I don’t think I’m capable of having a relationship – too scared that I might have meltdowns/become aggressive towards the other person.

  9. […] you’ve read my archive, you would know that I’m asexual. It’s not that want sex but am repulsed by it. I simply lack in any desire whatsoever. It’s […]

  10. I love this post.

    I consider myself to be asexual. I feel attraction to males, but on a more emotional level… not on a sexual one. Sure, I do feel more attraction towards males that are physically attracted, but I’m not even sure if I ever want to kiss at this point.

    Everyone says that this will change with age, but I doubt it. I often make sexual innuendoes and such… but I do not feel the desire to perform the act in and of itself, and I highly doubt that I ever will.

    • 🙂 Glad you found it informative. It may be that you grow into it, or maybe not. I know I was confused as all heck when everyone else started being sexual and I never did…

      • Indeed, it is rather nervewracking. xD

  11. Interesting (again). I tend to identify myself as *mostly* asexual. Mainly because what I look for in any relationships I have (whether with males or females, though it’s sort of more kind of “romantic” with males… kind of…) are: being able to talk to the person, being able to cuddle with the person, and emotional support. Not the physical. I think I could “perform” if my companion were interested (I have done “making out” – with my second boyfriend, when I was about 25-28), but it’s not something I have any real interest in.

    To me, it’s kind of like going clubbing or going to live music performances; I can do it, but I have no real investment in doing so. If I don’t go, I’m fine with it.

    So, minorly het, but mostly asexual.

    As for my general beliefs: I believe in tolerance, and that other people have a right to their own opinion (at least until it interferes with mine! 😉 ). People should be free to live their lives the way they want (with a *slight* restriction for safety reasons, perhaps). One of my best friends identifies as asexual LGBT; one of my cousins is gay; my youngest sister’s best friend is gay. That’s just the way they are, and I *like* them the way they are.

    Just my two cents!

    • Thanks for your comments. 🙂 I waiver on whether I ID as LGBT Asexual or just plain old asexual… 🙂

  12. Nah! I think it’s actually brave that you talk about this. I think you have a right to choose whatever sexual orientation you want. You maybe surprised that there are some individuals with autism out there who feel the same way… which you may have seen in your comment box already. One of my OT mentors is an aspie and LGBT, for example. He taught me some things that I heard very little of in my profession, on top of the aspie perspective that he brings.

  13. “The question isn’t “do you like boys or girls”. There just isn’t a question asked at all for me. For years, I was completely oblivious to all of the teenage signs of growing interest in the opposite/same sex around me. Every single joke and reference whizzed by me, and didn’t even come close enough to make me notice it. I was used to missing most of conversations, and this felt no different.”

    Oh man. This is so true of me, too. I didn’t have the slightest clue what people actually meant when they were talking about “crushes” or how someone was “hot,” either. When I told the other girls at school that no, there was just no one I “liked” — ever — they tended to 1) not believe me, or 2) to start gushing about how “cute” it would be when I got married. (Despite my protestations that I had no intention of getting married, either).

    On things like surveys, I would reluctantly check the heterosexual box, by default — because if you weren’t gay, you were straight, right? But I also knew that the same total lack of interest or attraction applied equally well toward the opposite sex as it did the same, so I wasn’t really straight either. I’ve known for a bit that that makes me, by definition, asexual, though I don’t normally go around identifying myself as such. Since for me the whole question of these kinds of relationships is such a non-issue, unless I’m trying to understand what other people are talking about or doing. But it is good to know that you’re not the only one.

    • Yeah seriously – there’s a whole community of asexual people around, actually… I actually went the opposite direction as you – “if I’m not straight, I must be gay, right?” – but that didn’t fit either… now I’m quite happy in my little asexual cocoon of happiness.

      • Hm. I see how that could work, too. In my case, I came from a religious school where gay was definitely both abnormal and a sin, (they actually kicked out a guy a year older than me…), so that might have had something to do with the direction of my reasoning process. Though, on at least one occasion a random girl did hit on me (obviously enough so that I could actually recognize it) and on another my sister asked me if I liked girls (after she asked me if I liked boys). So there might have been some sort of “not-exactly-straight” vibe I was projecting, I don’t know. Mostly I was just (and largely still am) completely oblivious. I try to understand when people are talking about their relationships, and I’m glad if it makes them happy — but I’m completely content being the way I am.

  14. I pretended to fancy boys as well, but to myself as much as anyone else, because I’d read that it was what normal teenagers did, and I wanted to make myself normal. But I got bored of it and gave it up before my friends became interested in sexuality. Then for years one of my friends would keep asking me who I ‘liked’ and refused to believe me when I said I wasn’t attracted to anyone. I read a newspaper article about asexuality and it was a relief to learn there was a word for my experience, but it took about a year of researching and thinking before I confidently called myself asexual.

    I like what you wrote about us supposedly missing out on an integral part of the human experience. There is no such thing as ‘the human experience’, only the experiences of each individual human, and these experiences are all different from each other. If your experience doesn’t include something most people’s do, it means your experience is unusual, not deficient.


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