June is Pride month! And let me just say, I am so happy at how accepting the United States and many other countries are becoming of same-sex marriage and other important issues under the queer umbrella. Especially in my current hometown of Seattle, there are so many events and support groups for gay, lesbian, and trans people. While we still have a long way to go until everyone is treated equally, I am thrilled to see progress being made.
However, there is one group that is commonly overlooked, and it’s a group that is near and dear to my heart. It’s the sexual orientation I personally identify with. That’s why today I am going to talk about asexuality and why asexuality awareness is so incredibly important.
As you may or may not know, asexuals generally do not experience sexual desire for anyone or anything. Though most queer communities include asexuality under their umbrella, some do not, as asexual oppression is very different from the oppression other queer groups face.
There is a wide spectrum of asexuality, as clearly demonstrated in this photo:
I identify as a heteroromantic asexual. While I enjoy having a boyfriend, I do not feel sexual attraction towards my male partners, nor any males period. Yes, I find men attractive and I won’t date a man I see as unattractive. I enjoy cuddling and holding hands. I only like quick little kisses, no tongue, no making out. And, of course, I do not enjoy sex. If you do not desire sex, you will not experience pleasure. And if someone is poking around in sensitive areas and you can’t experience that pain-blocking pleasure? It hurts. And not in a good way.
To give a brief backstory of myself, I didn’t know I was asexual until I was 18. I didn’t even know asexual was a thing. I dated many, many boys in high school, all whom I thought were very attractive. They wanted to have sex with me, but for some reason beyond me, I always refused. I didn’t feel aroused by them. I never fantasized about them or anyone. I thought, “Maybe I’m just too young and innocent.” But even after I moved out of my house for college and dated more “adult” men, I still couldn’t find that desire that my dates had for me. I realized it wasn’t just my age or how “ready” I was. I realized I just don’t like boys like how “normal straight people” do. After doing some research, I learned that this lack of desire is called asexuality.
Now, if you’re like some people, you might think this is pretty cool. No worrying about sex life drama, STDs, pregnancy, parents should be happy that I don’t sleep around. . .but, unfortunately, it’s not easy at all. I can’t say my life would be easier if I wasn’t asexual because I don’t know any other way, but my asexuality made dating seem virtually impossible. Before I knew I was asexual, I would lie to my partners, telling them that I would do it with them someday – I thought, “Maybe if they love me enough, they won’t mind me not having sex and will stick around” – but eventually they would grow tired of waiting and either dump me or cheat on me within a few months, sometimes even less. Once I came out as asexual, I realized it would be best for everyone if I was honest and explained my situation.
This, if anything, made things harder.
One of two issues would usually arise: they would either lose interest in me before giving me a chance, as there is no use for a girl who doesn’t screw. Which, in the long run, is better for me and the potential partner since it spares us both from entering a relationship neither of us will enjoy, but it was still a bit of a shock at first to see so many people lose interest once sex was eliminated. The other issue is they would claim to be okay with it and then use me like a trophy, showing off that their masculinity or whatever was strong enough to get the girl with no sex drive, then lie about sleeping with me to sound like they achieved some impossible goal.
Things took a darker turn. One man didn’t believe asexuality was real. He believed that all the other men just didn’t know how to pleasure me, that he was the one who could “fix” me. He would sexually abuse me, trying to get me to feel pleasure, to “correct” me. After all, it’s a natural instinct for humans to desire sex. A person who does not enjoy sex is broken.
And that’s what he, my exes, society, my friends – even some of my queer friends – got me to believe. While asexuals generally do not face oppression the same way most gays, lesbians, and trans people do, aphobia still exists, and until it doesn’t, asexuals are still oppressed. Aphobia, like homophobia, isn’t a fear of asexuals, but either a hatred or cruel misunderstanding of it. For example, many people would tell me:
-“You just haven’t met the right person”
-“How do you know you’re asexual if you’ve never done it?” (most commonly said by heterosexuals who have never “done it” with someone of the same-sex)
-“You deserved to be cheated on. I would never date someone like you!”
-“How do you have a boyfriend if you don’t have sex? Isn’t that just like having a best friend?”
-“You should just go poly. No one will every be faithful to you, so you might as well be poly since it’s unfair to expect a guy to just stay with you and only you.”
-“All humans have a sex drive. It’s a basic need. You must be mental.”
-“Whether you’re straight, gay, bi – it’s ok, as long as you have someone to love and screw. . .Oh, you’re asexual? You don’t like sex? Wow, you’re messed up!” (This was told to me at a Pride Festival by a gay man)
-“Did your father abuse you as a child? Were you raped? Is that why you are so messed up?”
-“Asexuals don’t exist. You’re just an attention-seeking prude.”
All of these are aphobic remarks that I, and many other asexuals, have been told. I do not have some dark, traumatizing childhood. 90% of my current anxiety/depression is due to my past relationship abuse that happened after I came out as asexual. I am not a prude. I am not a cynic. I don’t judge people who do have sex. I personally am not seeking attention, I’m not looking to be lumped into a queer group because it’s “trendy,” but I do believe my sexual orientation deserves attention to put an end to these remarks.
Aphobia caused me to believe I am a broken, worthless less-than-human being. I believed that I wasn’t worthy of being loved by anyone, and that no one ever would. It’s not the fact that I would probably never have a boyfriend that bothered me, but the fact that because I am “broken,” I deserve to be forced into loneliness and to be frowned upon by society. It creates an overwhelming feeling of unbearable loneliness and self-loathing to think that no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how accomplished or intelligent or beautiful you are, you will never be accepted because you don’t like sex.
After being treated in therapy, I learned to come to terms with my asexuality and to accept myself, but the issues of others accepting me still remains. I’m still plagued with the thoughts of “what if” – what if my next partner eventually grows tired of me like the others? What if I wasn’t asexual – could I make my future partner(s) happier? Would I have endured the same abuse? I’m not sure if these negative thoughts will ever stop haunting me.
I am currently in a relationship with the first man who accepts and respects my asexuality. Though many people don’t understand our relationship or see it as “just a really good friendship,” we see it as something more. I don’t believe the quality of a relationship should be defined by how frequently people have sex. If people can have sex without love, why can’t I love without having sex?
No one deserves to feel like they are worthless. No one deserves to be cheated on. No one deserves to become a victim of corrective rape/abuse. But I am a victim of it all, and so are many other asexuals. That’s why it is so extremely important to raise awareness of asexuality – to help people get a better understanding of what asexuality is, who asexuals are, the oppression they face, and how to overcome it.
If you have any thoughts or experiences on asexuality, please comment below. Thank you for reading!