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I’m not homosexual, but I’m not straight, either. I’m nothing. I’ve never had sex nor even been kissed, and the funny thing about me is, I’ve never wanted to. I’m not interested. I just don’t like sex.
Now, if you’re like most everybody else out there, you’re probably spluttering and staring aghast at the screen, thinking, ‘What?! Impossible!’
Freud would agree with you. “Sexual impulse is the basic ingredient in human nature.”
So would most religions. “Without sexuality there can be no full humanity.” (Emil Brunner, an important Christian theologian).
So that leaves me in something of a dilemma, doesn’t it? I’m not sexually attracted to men, which means I can’t be heterosexual. But I’m certainly not attracted to women either, so what does that make me?
I once wrote in my diary: “All around me my friends are defining themselves into homo, hetero or bi. And me? If the word ‘sexual’ is ever used to define me at all, it should be preceded by an ‘a’.”
Usually journaling makes me feel better, but that time it just made me feel worse.
Because asexual is not an option.
But whatever my problem was, I didn’t want to be fixed. While I loved to be surrounded by many friends, I’d never wanted to be in a relationship, or marry, or have kids. So what was the point? I was perfectly fine on my own. And I really didn’t want to change.
But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that there was something wrong with me. “Abnormal” is what a friend called me once in a fit of anger. And the way he said it, with such disgust, such vehement hatred, made me know I didn’t want that.
At least emotionally I was attracted to men. Not near as often as any of my friends—that little spark, that “chemistry” everyone was always talking about—was lacking in me. But as I would get to know certain guys and see their worth, I’d want to spend more time with them, I’d think about them frequently, and yes, I’d sometimes get nervous and giggly when I saw them.
But I was never attracted to anyone just because they were good-looking. While occasionally I’d find a person aesthetically pleasing, there was no difference in my mind between a handsome man and a stunning rainbow, or a beautiful woman and an incredible sunset. He’s cute, she’s pretty—that was it. No further contact needed.
Yet I had to try, right? So I stared hard at posters of movie stars that my friends had in their rooms and tried to convince myself that they meant something to me. I made myself read textbooks on sex and keep my eyes open during the romantic scenes on movies. But all I succeeded was to gross myself out, and convince myself all the more that I was a freak.
Until I stumbled across an article that split my life in before-and-after.
The writer was a girl my own age, and she said she was asexual.
I sat frozen, staring at the screen. She actually used the word, “asexual”, which I thought was a term I’d made up. She described exactly what I’d felt all my life, and proved point by point that human beings who felt no sexual interest could, and did, exist.
In glorious wonder the words formed in my heart, “Yes! This is me.”
There is no way to describe the joy, the relief, the sweet, giddy freedom that flooded over me as the idea began to dawn that I had the right to live.
For the first time in my life it occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t broken, or messed up, or abnormal, or morally evil, or… alone. I felt like crying as I read my words in another’s story, and knew that somewhere out there was someone like me. I could almost feel the connection.
It was too much happiness to keep to myself. I grabbed the phone and screeched to my best friend, “Yay! I’m not abnormal, I’m asexual!”
Poor thing. It really wasn’t fair of me to spring that at her out of nowhere. She just sort of breathed on the phone and finally said, “O...k...” but I didn’t wait around to find out her full reaction because I bounded off to tell everyone I met.
The rest of them weren’t as kind as she’d been or as thrilled as I was, however. Shocked, I found myself confronted with disbelief, ridicule, and outright hostility. And no matter who I told, their answer was pretty much the same: No you’re not.
My friends’ absolute, flat-out refusal to even consider the idea hurt. It still does. But as I got better at explaining my asexuality, others have gradually come to at least accept the possibility. And some strangers with open minds have even been receptive and willing to learn.
So now I’m telling you, stranger. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to believe without judging, and perhaps even understand. But all I ask is that you listen.
Like me at the beginning, you’ve probably never heard of asexuality. I’ll try to explain here what asexuality is and isn’t, and you can check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) at www.asexuality.org for more info.
Asexuality has to do with sexual orientation, not gender or emotional attraction. An asexual is simply someone who feels no desire to engage in any type of sexual practices. While asexual men or women are physically capable of performing sexual acts, they would just rather not.
IMPORTANT! This does not mean that they are not emotionally capable of feeling attraction. Asexuals can fall in love, and some even get married, but they limit their physical intimacy to hugs and holding hands. If they really want children some may put up with sex once in a while, but more commonly they adopt.
Asexuals can, and many do, have sex, but they either don’t like it or it doesn’t mean anything to them. An asexual can be celibate, but they choose not to have sex not as a sacrifice for some higher purpose, but because they simply don’t want it.
Many people throughout history have gotten married without knowing they were asexual. In these cases both parties suffer, because the asexuals put up with sex out of love for their partner and dread it every time, while their partner is confused and hurt that the person they love doesn’t enjoy them.
This must sound very strange to you, and I’m sure you have objections. I’ll try to answer the most common ones with my story, and I promise I’ll be completely honest. The rest is up to you.
You’ll change as you get older
People would always try to explain away my asexuality with this argument. I wondered so, too, at first. I’d been sure I never wanted to get married since I was 5 years old, but of course, so is every other little kid. People laughed at me and said, “Wait until you’re...” but the ‘untils’ kept arriving and I didn’t change my mind. I agree that it’s best not to make such a statement until one is older, but how long does it take? I mean, come on. Sexual attraction isn’t something that comes particularly late in life.
Homo- and bisexuals have been surprisingly understanding, perhaps because they know what it’s like to be different. But it’s almost impossible to talk to heterosexuals.
“Never say never,” they keep telling me.
“Ok then,” I shoot back. “Are you willing to accept the possibility that somewhere in your subconscious you’re a homosexual?”
They blink at me. “No,” they say, hesitantly.
“Why not?” I’m merciless.
“Well… because… if I were, I’d know… I mean, that doesn’t turn me on, you know? I know I’m not homosexual because I’ve never felt anything towards… I mean…” they trip over their words, seeing I’ve caught them.
“You see?” I smirk. “Why should I leave open the possibility then? I know that I’m asexual the same way that you know you’re heterosexual. We just know. You’ve never felt sexual attraction for your own sex, and if you haven’t by now you know that you never will. I’ve never felt sexual attraction at all, and I’m pretty darn sure that if I haven’t by now I never will.”
“But maybe…” they continue stubbornly, “as you grow older, you’ll change your mind…”
“Do you think you’ll change your mind and become homosexual later on?”
I grin and pause, then ask again.
“You really think so?”
Their shoulders slump. “No,” they mutter sheepishly.
That should be enough to end the conversation then and there, but it’s usually not. They just can’t accept it, and so will turn to the next argument.
You just haven’t been in love yet
Actually, I have. This wasn’t some silly little girl crush, either. I was madly, head-over-heels in love with a guy for four years, and after he moved away it took me nearly more two years to get over him. But even though I’d melt whenever I saw him, I never felt like getting physical. I forced myself to fantasize about kissing him because that was supposed to be normal, but I felt no desire to in real life. Just being around him was enough.
I loved him more than I can imagine loving anyone else. I would have died for him. And if I didn’t even want to make love to him, I’m not going to want to with anybody.
You haven’t tried it yet
This is the absolute most common response, and it’s frustrating that people stop taking me seriously as soon as they find out I’m a virgin. So first let me ask you: is it really necessary to actually try sex in order to know if you want it or not?
Let’s say yes. The ensuing argument with your average heterosexual male usually goes like this:
Me: (taking the offensive) “Are you gay?”
Him: (Usual reaction: steps back in revulsion, flushes deep red, glares) “What! No way!”
Me: “And how much experimenting did it take for you to find that out?”
Me: “You mean you’ve never had sex with a man? So how do you know you don’t like them?”
Him: (muttering, spluttering)
Me: (demanding) “Come on! How can you possibly know you’re not gay if you haven’t tried it? You really should.”
Him: … (mulls it over sulkily, racking his brain for some other argument)
See the absurdity? I’m glad I never gave into the pressure of “you can’t know till you try it”, because I really don’t need to experiment in order to know who I am.
Others have, though. The asexual girl I first read about had done it three times, with three different people, always coming to the same conclusion she’d known all along: She didn’t mind it, but she didn’t care for it. While none of the experiences were particularly unpleasant, none of them made her want more.
You’re a homosexual that won’t admit it
No, I’m not.
All I can do is tell you sincerely. You have to choose whether to believe me or not.
You’re some sort of religious extremist that thinks sex is evil
I don’t think sex is bad. I don’t care if you do it, just so long as it’s not with or around me.
You were sexually abused as a child and this is just a symptom of your trauma
Sigh. Finally, when it starts to sink in that I’m telling the truth, that there for real exists a person who has never felt horny (gag!) in their entire life, a light-bulb switches on and they get this little satisfied look on their face that shows they’ve “solved the problem”.
Not all of them are bold enough to say it, but I know what they’re thinking.
I understand, though. The word “asexual” sounds scary somehow, like some sort of pathology. A blocked-out sexual abuse experience as a child seems like the best explanation.
The truth is, I considered that myself, back when I still thought there was something wrong with me. The idea was devastating. I went over and over my childhood memories, desperately searching for some blank spot, some unexplained hole that could mean I had some deep, dark, ugly secret repressed or blocked out from my mind. I went to more than one psychologist with my suspicions and even came close to trying dangerous drugs that might “make me remember”.
And what I found was… nothing.
This only made things worse. Because I would still be messed up, but I wouldn’t know why. But after years of agonizing through the uncertainty, it one day dawned on me, what if there’s really nothing there?
The possibility remains, I guess. I might find that terrible locked-away secret yet. But I also need to consider the option that there is no such thing in me. All the testimonies of asexuals that I’ve read say that they’ve never experienced any sort of sexual abuse. Maybe I’m asexual just because that’s me. Asexuality is NOT a problem. If I had the chance to become all hormone-happy, I wouldn’t take it. I’m content the way I am, and feel lucky to be me.
Usually those are all the objections. But even after they’ve run out of arguments, they refuse to believe, stubbornly going back to “It’s because you haven’t tried it yet.”
“You mustn’t close the doors on life, baby! Who knows what the future will bring? What if you change? What if someday you find someone you truly love, someone you really want to make love to? NEVER SAY NEVER!”
Listen. I’m going to be completely, absolutely sincere with you. Just between you and me, if (and I do say if) I ever felt a true, natural, burning desire to have sex… I don’t know, I might. Are you satisfied?
Yeah, you are. Sigh. You’re smugly satisfied. It’s enough to make you forget everything I’ve just said. This is what you’ve been waiting to hear.
But see, that’s the whole point of asexuality. If we wanted to, we’d probably do it.
We don’t want to.
Let me repeat that. We don’t want to.
I’ve never felt that true, natural, burning desire, and I really don’t think I ever will.
Please, stop trying to convince me otherwise. I’m not closing myself off to it because I’m scared or I think it’s wrong or whatever. I’m really truly just not interested.
If you’re straight, how would you feel if you were surrounded by homosexual friends who were constantly harassing you and insisting, “You’re gay, you’re gay, you’re gay,” when you know you’re not? Wouldn’t that make you want to get as far away from them as possible? Try to think of that if you have an asexual friend, stranger, and leave them be.
Or perhaps, stranger, you’re like me. Maybe you too have been trying all your life to fit in, to be like the rest, wondering what’s wrong with you, why you’re different, trying desperately to convince yourself that you like sex because you’re expected to.
Friend, you don’t have to anymore. You’re not alone, you’re not a freak, and you have the right to live. You’re unique, you’re special, and, thank heavens you don’t have to waste your life being caught up in the time-old cycle of obsession. See how much heartbreak and complications you can save yourself?
Sex isn’t the only way to have fun. For us, it’s not a way at all. So go out there and show everybody that people really can enjoy themselves, even without anything related to sex.
Please be certain before telling anyone, though. It’s easy to feel confused and wonder about a lot of things. As we grow older we usually sort ourselves out. But if you say you’re asexual and then change your mind later, you’ll make the rest of us lose credibility.
You may not feel it necessary to tell anyone about it at all. That’s ok. But if you want to, hopefully you can do so more carefully than I did. It can come as a shock to some people, and some may seriously dislike the idea and change when they’re around you.
A good way is to bring up the topic in a totally distant, nonchalant way, like, “Hey, I came across this article on teenink about asexuality. What do you think about that?”
That way you can watch their reactions to judge if it’s ok to “come out” to them yet. It’s also a lot easier to tell strangers straight up than to try to convince friends and people who already know you. They’re less likely to try to talk you out of it, and, on the contrary, will probably be curious and open to learn. (Expect a lot of embarrassing questions, though! And don’t bring up the subject unless you’re prepared to answer them.)
Also, don’t be discouraged when you’re met with less than enthusiasm. It’s really, really hard for “normal” people to grasp the concept. It’s a solitary battle, us against the world. We try so hard to understand them, to not see them as freaks. They seem so weird to us, so obsessed with something we think is completely ridiculous and pointless and absurd and perhaps gross. But to each his own, right? If they like it, that’s fine. We do our best to not reveal how weirded-out we’re feeling, and we let them be.
But with us, usually they don’t even try to understand.
It does get lonely. I feel lonely lots of times. I’ve never even met a fellow asexual yet. But I know they’re out there. I belong, I’m a part of something, I’m not alone.
And I’m finally free to be myself.