This entry is for the June 2015 Carnival of Aces: Mental Health.
(warning: talk of emotional abuse, sexual coercion)
I’m very lucky that I’ve had positive experiences with therapy. None of my therapists knew of asexuality until I told them about it, but they were willing to understand. I was nervous about mentioning it to each therapist I came out to, and the first one was the most difficult for me, because of why I was there.
3 years ago, I saw a therapist in order to get help for my codependency, so I had to explain the dysfunctional relationship I was in, and the dynamics of it. My therapists didn’t show any sign of being judgmental, but fear did hold me back from coming out for some time, because of my bad experiences with the friends that I first came out to.
These “friends” frequently policed my identity, with my sexual identity being the part that they were the most insistent on policing, because they didn’t think I was capable of knowing what mine was for myself. This issue wasn’t exclusively about asexuality, because they also knew that I’m repulsed by sex, and have an ideological rejection of it.
They wrote how I feel off as me just being afraid of sex, and thought that they could get me to change my mind and accept what they thought was my “real” sexuality. Their policing had taken a toll on my mental health, which reinforced the idea they had that I’m not mentally competent enough to know what my sexuality is. It was a vicious cycle that reinforced my codependency, because I really did think that I didn’t have the power to determine what I was for myself. Denying me the right of self-determination, they were also denying me the right to set my own boundaries.
The way I saw it, is one that not everyone would agree with, but I felt like my experiences “compromising” on intimacy fell under a perceived gray area of consent, because of how my codependency affected me.
On one hand, I really did want to make him happy, because I cared for him as a person. But on the other, but I’m repulsed by most forms of intimacy, and I resented that he always wanted it with me. I felt gross and “used” each time. I also didn’t feel like I had much of a say in the matter, which undermines any idea of meaningful “compromise”.
At the same time, I tried to convince myself to find joy in it; not joy in the act itself, but find joy knowing that I was fulfilling my “duty” to him. I already felt like a bad enough person for saying no to sex with him, and enforcing it, and the intimacy I settled for giving him was never “good enough”, but felt I’d be even worse of a person if I didn’t give him any.
The reason I went to therapy for it was because I was at my breaking point. This friend, and his other friends made me feel like I have no right to identify as asexual, or seek out the asexual community. They were so sure that I was heterosexual and heteroromantic, but romantically and sexually repressed.
I felt angry towards them and their actions, but didn’t want to lose them. I tried to convince myself that true happiness comes from “fulfilling my duty”, giving intimacy that I don’t want, all the while I hated myself more for it. I nearly was about to go against my own rejection of sex, because upholding it any longer felt completely hopeless. I felt like I had no right to determine anything for myself. All the while thinking that the fact that I hated engaging in intimacy made it more special, because it was a sacrifice I was making, which activity that both people are equally into doesn’t have.
I was aware these thoughts were twisted, but I thought if I’m stuck giving into intimacy I don’t want, I might as well convince myself that it’s more special that way. Anything other than the alternative: fully knowing and acknowledging that this situation wasn’t right for either of us, and that there is a way out, because that way out felt out of reach. Why think about something that is believed to be out of reach?
I feel sick typing this, and having those thoughts go through my head again. The worst part was, I knew that this mindset of relationship martyrdom was twisted and irrational, and I didn’t want to go through with it. The underlying factor behind this vicious cycle of codependency was the constant denial of my identity, and my right to self-determination, which I mostly internalized. If these friends had accepted how I felt about sex early on, and didn’t try to change my identity for me, this wouldn’t have happened.
Not having sex was the only boundary I could uphold, and I had to fight tooth and nail to uphold that one. He wasn’t actively coercing me, but I felt like I constantly had to uphold my right to say no to sex, fearing that I could lose it.
Another fear that held me back for a while is that right around the time I first found the asexual community, I’ve read of many instances of asexuals being pressured, or even forced by their parents to go to therapy, even “reparative therapy”, as well as those who’ve dealt with therapists who insisted that their asexuality is a problem to be treated.
From what I’ve read of other’s accounts, I sure was lucky that my therapists didn’t judge me for my asexuality, nor my aversion, nor my rejection of sex. The therapist I saw for dealing with codependency never blamed me for not wanting sex, nor say that I was in the wrong for denying my “partner”, nor tell me that how I feel about sex is something that I have to change. They didn’t see my asexuality nor aversion to sex as problems to be treated, but saw that it was the constant invalidation that I faced, which pressured me to constantly violate my own boundaries, and fed into codependency, that was the issue.
That helped me stand up for myself over time, and helped me gain the confidence I needed to look into the asexual community when I later found it. While I was still lurking mainly on tumblr, one of the posts that I saw that helped me the most was one against policing others’ sexual identities, saying that only person who has the right to determine their sexual identity is that person. It really was a surprise to me.