I have been thinking a lot lately about my identity, particularly my sexuality. As such, this is quite a personal and think-out-loud post. If that’s not your thing, don’t read. It’s actually quite hard and conflicting to write about as well, but I want to contribute to the online community and bank of experiences.
My sexual identity is not something I’ve had a problem with before. When I was about fifteen I decided that I wasn’t interested in guys, and so the default position became that I was interested in girls, whom I found much nicer and much more aesthetically pleasing. I didn’t have a problem identifying as a lesbian, despite the fact that I’d never had a girlfriend either. I wasn’t particularly out, but I wasn’t in the closet either. If anyone wanted to know, I told them.
Thing is, recently I’ve been taking that whole thing a step further, and thinking about the “being interested” thing. Sexual attraction, basically. To me seems quite obviously to be the necessary precursor to any sort of relationship/sexual encounter/etc, because why would anyone have a “relationship” or have sex with someone they were not sexually attracted to, at least in some way? It seems, from everything I’ve learned from reading and observing in the real world, to be the foundation for everything, the thing that everyone seems to see as matter-of-fact. It seems to be something that happens to everyone.
So, as any other teenager (though I’m almost not one anymore), a few months ago I found myself questioning whether what I felt for someone I’d gotten to know was me being “attracted” to them. I pondered and deconstructed what I was feeling and realised that I was, but I wasn’t. I loved their mind. I loved the things they thought and how genuinely nice they were and how they made me laugh and feel good about myself. But I wasn’t sexually attracted to them. There was just nothing sexual about it. Trying to put them into some sort of sexual thought just didn’t work. I couldn’t even formulate it. So I hit the internet. And I stumbled across AVEN: the Asexual Visibility and Awareness Network. Where there was person after person, teens and young adults in their twenties, asking the same questions I was asking.
It was kinda amazing. I’d never even heard of asexuality before, even in the queer community, which I never really was active in (I now realise that it’s because even in the queer community, most things still revolve around sexual attraction, which just seemed annoying to me), but still knew about and did activism for. It was completely new, and when I read the FAQs I was simultaneously relieved, and utterly terrified, because it just seemed so… drastic. We’re so conditioned into thinking that sexual attraction is something that everyone experiences, be they gay or straight or bi or queer. It’s in books, TV shows, advertising, our communities. It’s everywhere, and even I assumed that it was something that would eventually happen to me.
And I started thinking: “what if I’m not just a late bloomer, like everyone tells me? What if I’m one of those people that just doesn’t ever get sexually attracted to anyone?” It still scares me sometimes, because when I buy into all that stuff that I see around me, it makes me feel like if I were asexual, I would be defective. Something would be wrong with me. I’d be missing out on this huge thing that everyone goes on and on about as being the most wonderful thing ever. And it makes me frustrated and sad to think that way, that I’m letting the world screw me like that.
Thing is, over the past few months, I’ve become more familiar with the idea. I’m not going to say that I am asexual, I’m not quite there yet. But knowing that it exist takes the pressure off. I don’t feel like I’m defective, because there are other people like this, who don’t know what sexual attraction is. It’s actually a really hard thing to figure out. Asexuality is defined as “someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction” which all seems easy enough, but it’s also really hard when you don’t know what sexual attraction is. It’s not like disliking the blueberry pie because you don’t want to try it. It’s just that there is no blueberry pie. I’m not too scared to act on what I might feel for someone – it’s that I don’t feel anything to act on. I’m not interested at all. Yes, I’ve felt an intellectual connection with people, or an emotional one, at times, and that’s been like a high for me. But there’s nothing that tells me I am sexually attracted to someone. I can’t have fantasies about people. Just doesn’t work. I don’t feel butterflies. I don’t feel like I need to kiss people. I don’t feel like I want to have sex with them. All this dating stuff, it confuses me: if you’re going to ask someone out or agree to date someone, you have to at least feel interested in them somehow to start off with, right? Otherwise, why on earth would you do it?
On the sex note, let it be said that I firmly locate myself as someone who is sex-positive. I have no issue whatsoever with sex. From all I have read and heard, it’s a great thing. It’s something that I would like to experience someday. But I have a lot of trouble thinking about a situation in which I would actually have sex with another person. To me, it would have to be someone I trusted implicitly, whom I loved, whom I felt attracted to sexually. But without the attraction, I have no desire to do it.
So I am thinking about the word “asexual” and if it is something I may be. As something that would give me an identity rather than “freakish late bloomer.” But I know that if I start identifying as such, I will run the risk of having then “phase” argument thrown at me, which I can’t stand, because I sometimes fall into it as well, and hate myself for it. But my feelings about that directly follow Asexual Awareness Australia’s FAQ:
What if it’s a phase?
What if it is? That doesn’t stop you being asexual right now.
It may be tempting to hold back on accepting your asexuality in the hope that eventually you’ll ‘bloom’ into a sexual person. I’m not saying that might not eventually happen, but consider this: do you want to spend your life thinking of yourself as an undeveloped person, living for the dreamed of day when you’ll become whole? Might you feel more comfortable accepting who you are now as a whole complete valid person? Maybe one day you will “bloom”, and if and when you do, you won’t have lost anything by being comfortable in the mean time.
There’s no shame in identifying as one thing and then later identifying as another. Your identity isn’t meant to limit you. If you’ve moved on or changed, then by all means describe yourself differently. If you fear you might be different in the future, that doesn’t change which label is most useful to you in the present. There’s nothing wrong with change.