This entry is for the November 2015 Carnival of Aces: “Reasons I should’ve known I was asexual”
(I was in a rush to get this published, so there may be proofreading errors)
Looking back, there can be many ways for an individual could’ve realized their asexuality, but didn’t. It may not have been obvious at the time, and only becomes obvious in hindsight. I’ve had my share of those experiences.
In middle school and my earlier years of high school, I was largely oblivious towards sexuality and romance, and was lucky that I didn’t have either pushed on me seriously during that time (though I did deal with teasing from immediate family who kept insisting I must be “in love” with one of my male friends). It was in the later years of high school that I started to feel negatively towards sex and romance as I became more aware of the suffering caused by both, which for me coincided with me becoming aware of my asexuality and that it likely wasn’t going to change. In my earlier years, I thought I’d grow out of it, but by my junior year of high school, I didn’t, and I didn’t want to.
It’s weird; in my earlier years I thought asexuality was the norm in a sense, but also thought I’d probably outgrow it to accept my future roles in life. I understood that many others wanted sex, but not that they had an intrinsic desire for it, so when I did overhear sex-obsessed peers or see them on TV, I thought they were exaggerating at first!
Maybe it was the aversion to sex and romance that I thought I’d outgrow specifically. With my awareness of asexuality, I became aware that the suffering related to sex and dating is much more common than I thought, if nearly everyone desires them.
Probably the biggest thing that should’ve made me realize I was asexual was my attitude towards sex and relationships, specifically that I couldn’t understand why others hyped up sex so much, and claimed to desire it so much that a relationship without it wasn’t seen as real. I also couldn’t understand why others were frustrated over not having sex, or not having it for weeks or months.
Those things on their own don’t instantly point to being asexual, but it is a common experience among other asexuals that could’ve warranted me looking into the community to see if the label fit, but I didn’t originally think to seek out the asexual community, or why I felt the way I did about sex. To me, it felt like commonsense. Isn’t it commonsense to outgrow an obsession with sex after realizing it’s not the life-changing magical experience that it’s hyped up to be, or hear from others that it’s not? At other times, I dismissed my feelings as me being cynical and overly analytical, and just didn’t think about it further until I was out of high school.
I thought logically, how is sex love when people have it all the time without meaning? No one says that one-night stands are an act of love, after all. I also didn’t understand how sex, or the lack of, can get in the way of, or ruin relationships that are otherwise perfect.
Being averse to sex doesn’t always mean being asexual either, but can be linked, and someone can become aware of their asexuality because of it. That I found the idea of sex to be repulsive, and the way that affected me, could’ve clued me in to the possibility of being asexual. Because I don’t have any desire for sex, I can’t imagine it ever having any appeal; it just seems like something that would take a lot of effort on my part for little or no gain for me, with all of the risks to sex. What some people say feels like the greatest form of closeness just feels invasive. All the risks and none of the benefits. The only way to go through with it would be to repress those feelings, but I’d have to force myself to do it, to override those feelings of repulsion, but with no guarantee it’d actually work.
One of the earliest things that could’ve clued me in was that in middle school, and my earlier years of high school, I frequently read teen magazines, and the sections that interested me the most were the fashion tips, and the articles about unusual life experiences, though I still did read the sections about relationships. There were often articles about guys, and written by them, often with pictures prominently on the pages, I thought they looked good, but didn’t think that I was supposed to swoon over them, and didn’t realize some readers would be more interested in the pictures than the text!
Another thing that should’ve clued me is that while there wasn’t much of an emphasis on abstinence until marriage where I grew up, I was aware that many others were told that they needed to abstain until marriage. I thought “Ha! I could abstain for life, because I want to!”, and couldn’t comprehend that sexual abstinence can be a struggle for others. That is a way some asexuals realized their asexuality.
I don’t know if this counts, but when I read Nineteen Eighty-Four in my sophomore year of high school, I didn’t understand at first why the Junior Anti-Sex League was seen as a problem, since I couldn’t relate to the concept of sexual desire, nor what it’s like to have nearly all outlets for that desire denied. I understood the part about only procreation being permissible as a duty to The Party, because sex didn’t appeal to me, that it being work, a sacrifice or duty to another person made sense to me. I didn’t agree with it, but it made sense.
Perhaps one of the most clear giveaways to me being asexual is implicitly being told that everyone is either straight or gay (or maybe straight, gay or bi), and I felt like none of those applied to me. In this situation, some asexuals thought they were straight just because they knew they weren’t sexually attracted to the same gender, others thought they were gay or bi for not conforming to heteronormative expectations. Some thought they were gay because they knew they weren’t attracted to the other binary gender. I didn’t really think about it much, and for some time, I didn’t use a label for my orientation. I didn’t think there was one until later in high school when I thought if there are people attracted to the “opposite gender” (I didn’t know of non-binary genders until years later), the same gender or both, that there should also be people who aren’t attracted to anyone.
How can signs like these be missed? The topic of sex and sexuality didn’t come up much in middle school or high school, aside from sex ed. I didn’t think about it that much in middle school nor my earlier years of high school, but I sort of thought I would outgrow my aversion and lack of interest for sex or romance. I thought I’d go through the dating-obsessed phase that was expected, which would also make me open to sex and tolerate it (for the other person and their pleasure at least, if not for my own), if not actively want and enjoy it, but I didn’t, and I didn’t notice since most of the friends I had didn’t talk about sex nor romance that much. They didn’t seem to care, and I didn’t either, so my lack of interest didn’t stand out to them, so I didn’t think I was the odd one out, and I even thought those who were wanting sex were the odd ones out for a while! Years later, I found out one of those friends was asexual and aromantic!
I didn’t like the idea of having sex just to please another person, but that being the only way I could envision sex also could’ve been a clear sign of asexuality, but one I still overlooked, perhaps because the idea of sex as a duty they have to endure if they can’t enjoy it, is so normalized! Of course, I found that idea repulsive, which contributed to my later ideological reasons for rejecting sex, because I believed no one should have to suffer through that.
If my lack of interest did stand out among my friends, I likely would’ve it noticed sooner because it would’ve had a more significant impact on my life back then, but I also likely would’ve gone through a phase of feeling broken too, a phase I’ve been lucky I didn’t go through.