Content note for asexual erasure and invalidation.
Sometimes the little things are what really gets to you. The way they just sneak themselves into an experience and jump out at you when you’re no looking. The way they all tend to happen at the same time. A confluence of annoyances.
* * *
A week ago, I am at the Bentley Blockade in Northern NSW, where hundreds of people have been camping in a field for weeks in order to stop gas companies arriving with their coal seam gas drill rigs and destroying the land and the water. This is a progressive place of passionate people.
As I walk through the camp to the makeshift kitchen to drop off my baked goods (a donation, as I can’t be there myself), I say to some older women camped out there how wonderful it is to see so many people stepping up. They look at me and smile. ‘We’re doing it for your children, love.’ I reply. ‘Well, maybe not for my children, but for those of my sisters, definitely.’ They gaze back at me, as if they know something about me that I don’t. ‘Oh, you’ll want children one day. Everyone does.’ Again, I reply, slightly more firm this time, slightly more on edge. ‘I don’t want children.’ One of them points to the t-shirt I am wearing: a large tree with leaves made of music notes and roots stretching into the ground. ‘But your shirt has the tree of life on it. It’s the natural way of things.’
I shake my head and leave. Suddenly, the place has become menacing.
* * *
Yesterday, I read a short story set as required reading for my creative writing course. An Arthurian tale, of a girl, Dindrana, who is forced to leave her lover (a lowly stable boy), before they can consummate her love. She follows her brother’s wishes, remains chaste, remains a resentful virgin. The story goes on, and she finds herself captive in a castle, her virgin blood being used to restore the life of an old woman, a half-monster. In her cell awaiting death she is reunited with her former lover; they have sex out of necessity, to save her life. She gains no pleasure, no satisfaction. But because she is no longer a virgin, she manages to save herself and destroy the monstrous old woman, and goes on to live her life.
The story leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth. There is a statement on sex and power and identity here, but it is one that is distinctly not mine. One that tells me (like every story before it) that being a virgin is something that makes me weak, passive, unripe. I am not a girl in a medieval fantasy. But the real world is sometimes not so different.
* * *
Today, I am procrastinating by reading Role Reboot. The about page describes it as a contemporary culture magazine for people who live their lives ‘off script.’ I think great – this sounds like me. Let’s see if there is anything about asexuality.
I enter ‘asexual’ into the search bar. Many articles come up; none of them sound particularly ace-focused. I click through a couple, scan the text. The first one is about being alone, but not being lonely. The only reference is to how people think that being single as a man means to be ‘either oversexed, perpetual teenagers, sad, asexual creatures, or creepy perverts.’ Sounds about right.
The second is written by a woman who has become bored of sex. She wishes she had an asexuality button she could just press, and then deactivate again when she wasn’t bored anymore.
The third talks about polycystic ovarian syndrome, and how it left her unable to have sex with her boyfriend for a long time. The article ends with the realisation that a healthy, intimate relationship could work without sex. I want to like the piece, I really do. But I can’t get over the way she describes her feelings of anxiety, how she asks how could he want to be with me, this disgusting, unsexy, asexual thing I had become?
I didn’t read a fourth article.
* * *
They are all little things – little things that did not upset me terribly when I experienced them on their own. I have read worse, people have said worse. But little things pile up, invisibly, and before you notice, you’ve disappeared underneath that pile.
And then you pick your way out and get on with your life. And let the whole process start again.