When puberty began, I assumed I was like everyone else. They got crushes on people, I got crushes on people. They wanted to hold hands and kiss their crushes, I wanted to hold hands and kiss my crushes.
But in high school, I gradually realized that I was not like my friends.
When one of my friends was attracted to someone, they talked mostly about that person’s appearance. They threw out a lot of innuendo about things they’d like to do or had done. Guys more overtly began paying attention to my body, and I didn’t understand or like it. My friends told me I was just a late bloomer or a prude, and as I grew up, I felt more and more like I was broken.
I was 24 when I first saw the word “asexual.”
I was finally recovering from a particularly intense long-term relationship that had lasted for most of high school and college. I ended that engagement when I was nearly 21. Despite having a new boyfriend, I still felt that something was off about the way I felt.
I knew that I loved him and wanted to be around him, but every time I decided to have sex with him, I was deciding with my mind: “Logically, we have been dating for a while now and we have had sex before. We care about each other and are happier and feel closer after sex, so therefore we should have sex again.”
It never felt like my body had any influence over this decision.
From the relationships I saw on TV, in movies, and in books, I knew that this was probably not the way things normally went. So, I turned to Google: “What if you’re not attracted to men OR women?”
Thank goodness that the Wikipedia entry for Asexuality exists, and it showed up in those search results. As I read it, realization dawned on me that I was not alone. I was not broken. Other people had felt the way I felt. And I had a name for what I was feeling: asexuality.
A Brief History of Asexuality
In 1948, Dr. Alfred Kinsey published a report on human sexuality, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, based on a study he and his colleagues conducted. He created the Kinsey scale in order to quantify, or put a score, on where each person they interviewed fell in the sexual spectrum.
Although he was studying heterosexuality vs. homosexuality, Kinsey did come across a small but present sample of people who experienced no sexual attraction at all. He and his colleagues gave this group of people the score of “X” to represent that they did not fall anywhere on his scale. These people were asexual.
Because asexuality is so rare (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, or AVEN, estimates that about 1% of people are asexual), asexual people didn’t really know other asexual people until the internet was invented. In 2001, AVEN was created to help promote awareness and bring asexual people together.
What Asexuality Is NOT
• Asexuality is NOT celibacy. Yes, many asexual people never have sex. But many do, and for a variety of reasons. Asexuality is about attraction, not actions. Personally, I look at it as a fun emotional bonding experience.
• Asexuality is NOT childishness or immaturity. It’s not something people “grow out of”, and the lack of sexual attraction does not mean that the person can’t participate in adult society.
• Asexuality is NOT sex-phobia. Most asexual people are not afraid of sex. Some are, sure, but some are grossed out by it, some find it boring, and some enjoy it. Each asexual person is an individual, and their feelings about it are their own!
• Asexuality is NOT a disease. It cannot be “cured” any more than homosexuality can. And it is not a disease in the DSM-5, the big book o’ psychological disorders.
What Asexuality IS
Did all of this new knowledge about myself change my relationship with my boyfriend? Not at all. So far, it has been mostly a long-distance relationship anyway and we don’t cyber-sex or anything like that. But I did tell him what I had learned. I made sure to emphasize that I was romantically attracted to him and I did enjoy having sex with him and wanted that to continue. But I told him that most of the time, sex is not on my radar. If he felt like we should have sex more often, he needed to tell me. He seemed to take it pretty well.
While asexual people do not experience legalized discrimination in the U.S. (we’re not fired for our sexual orientation or prevented from marrying someone we love), we do experience internal or external prejudice and the negative effects of misinformation or ignorance. A common problem among asexual people is that their significant others or close friends try to “cure” them through pressuring or forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.
More awareness and education about asexuality will help it be recognized as a valid sexual orientation.
Photo by Immanuel Brändemo