Identity Maintenance

Time passes me by lately like water does a fish—I am always in it, it is always flowing around me, but each moment is just something I live in without really thinking about it. I pay attention only to the strong currents and my eventual destination, letting the usual ebb and tide just make its lazy circles about the unconscious.

Of course, I’m still able to focus on time and its various aspects, bring it out of the background and into the forefront as I am doing now. But that kind of focus might as well be a flash of lighting. For the most part, it passes, and I make neither an effort to live in the moment nor hold fast to hope or memory. Things happen, mostly boring and not worth reporting—or so it was for a while. Unfortunately, no news does not necessarily mean good news, even though I am significantly less likely to update without the motivation of conflict. This past summer, I’ve been beset by a number of injuries and illnesses, including a brief visit to the hospital (which fortunately turned out to mean nothing except that I should take better care not to exhaust myself). Those injuries and illnesses have continued since I started school, which means that I have missed a lot of class and my ability to keep up with assignments has suffered. My relationship with my partner suffered a lot as well—partially, indeed, as a result of my being sick so often—and now we have broken up, albeit somewhat tentatively and while keeping the possibility in mind that we may be able to resolve our differences and work back up to a romantic relationship.

With all this going on, I hadn’t really been thinking about asexuality.  Over the summer, there were still plenty of moments, from time to time, when I would see my girlfriend looking at porn and, upon hearing my comments, she would groan at me and says, “You’re so asexual.” But for the most part, it went unnoticed, and barely mattered.

I have been trying to decide what is different about the part that sex played in our relationship as compared to the part that it plays in a pairing of two sexuals, but I can’t come up with much. It’s not as if it isn’t generally enjoyable, and I can’t say that it isn’t intimate. There were periods when we go without for quite a while before either one of us would crease her brow and say, “Hm. When was the last time, anyway?” That is probably the most obvious sign of my asexuality combined with her relative lack of sexual attraction to me. The thing is, our relationship actually did seem to suffer more during the dry spells than when we were doing it relatively frequently, despite my conviction that sex should not be a necessary part of a relationship.

For a while, I really thought the relationship wasn’t suffering on behalf of my asexuality. It was more of an issue between the two of us that I would rarely be in the mood to watch a movie than it was that I would rarely be in the mood to have sex. And after all, even if it didn’t occur to me to want to generally, it’s not like I had a problem with doing it whenever she would ask. I am far from frigid and unresponsive; and this is why I find it so odd that I have been called “sexually disabled,” because I am entirely capable of normal sexual function. It even comes a little easier to me, from a physical perspective, than it seems to for a large percentage of women who are sexual. Usually, during a typical sexual encounter, I would orgasm at least twice, and a handful of times my partner and I even managed to achieve what seems to be considered the Holy Grail of orgasmic experience—that is, simultaneity. That’s not meant as a brag—I hate bragging, and in fact I do believe that most people who brag about sex a lot aren’t actually getting much of it, and what would be the point of me bragging, anyway, since it would be so misleading?—but I say this just to demonstrate exactly how minuscule a problem it actually was, to my mind. I was with the right person, in the right circumstances. The rest was cake.

No, as it turns out, the problem was initiative. I am not dominant enough to match her submissiveness, and I am not sexual enough to start something that it does not usually occur to me to start. Actually, I am still not sure exactly how it is done, this initiation of sexual activity. Even if I was the one who suggested it, I was always taking my cues from her in the first place: a playful bit of fondling when she seemed particularly receptive to it, a diversion of her attention when she was going to go masturbate (which she seemed to take awry anyway, since she began to get the idea that I had something against her masturbating; an odd bit of irony, isn’t it? that a person who is not so into sex should give the impression that it is not okay for her partner to satisfy herself alone! But in my eagerness to keep her pleased, the simple statement that I would offer myself to her if she was more interested in my body than the computer screen was somehow perceived as an anti-masturbatory remark). The few times I suggested it apart from that, there was this awkwardly deliberate, premeditated quality to it; it felt unnatural, almost forced.

How can I dominate when I barely understand what doms do, or why they do it? She says maybe I should read a lot of books, but it’s not as if I have lacked reading material in that area. In fact, one of my favorite book series—one which she can’t even read because she gets so turned on by it—prominently features characters into all kinds of BDSM, and I read it in part because I find it fascinating. But I am not at all sure how I could apply what I have read to a real-life situation. Actually, I do have some intrinsic sadistic tendencies of my own (to which my sister would be able to attest, since as a child I often expressed them on her), as well as a moderate interest in rope bondage—but as it turns out, none of my interests coincide with hers. And so, my natural instincts suppressed, I am left with no lead to follow. Such situations are then stilted and awkward, and I am constantly wondering if I am doing it right, which doesn’t make for a very satisfactory experience for anyone.

Of course, there was another issue, that being what I physically lack. She is more attracted to men than to women sexually, even if she seems to be extremely disappointed with them otherwise. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder occasionally if that meant she would be happier with someone other than me. We had an agreement that she would be allowed to have a “friend with benefits” if she could find someone interested who was actually trustworthy, and not just after her because of a fetish—she did, once, during our relationship, exercise her prowess at giving blow jobs, and it was never a problem—and, in fact, she was allowed to look for another lover, too, if she wanted. I didn’t expect to fulfill her completely. Still, still. I couldn’t help but wonder. If she found someone else to have sex with, would it mean that she would completely lose interest in me? Had she already lost all her interest in me? I found that I considered that prospect depressing even though I was not even sexual to begin with.

I realized then that sex was becoming for us, much to my dismay, something of a shorthand for intimacy, the way it often is with sexuals. That’s not to say that there was no form of non-sexual intimacy that we shared, and not to say either that there wasn’t the occasional time that we had sex that really wasn’t all that intimate (though those were usually terrible experiences anyway). But on the whole, she was beginning to push me farther and farther away emotionally (and sometimes, she out and out shoved), and for a while anyway, sex seemed to offer a brief respite. But my own private torment was the creeping realization that her degrading sexual interest in me was a mirror of her disengagement from the relationship as a whole.

Nothing diminishes the sharp, cold sting of rejection. Gradually, she was becoming more and more closed off to me. She no longer texted me in the morning to let me know she loved me, and seemed apathetic when I attempted to continue the tradition. And although she would reasonably often profess to being horny, she would no longer ask me to participate, and would even seem to balk at my meant-to-be-courteous suggestion. Was one a symptom of the other? Did they feed off of each other, the slow mounting fog, the thinning breathless suffocation so much like the way the air thins as one approaches a mountain peak, until finally there was no oxygen left? Am I the only one left panicking at the possibility that what we created between us has iced over so thoroughly that there may have been too much cell damage sustained for it to survive?

Such questions plague me, and maybe only me, but my fear of rejection was certainly not unfounded. During this time, I even began to question my own asexuality for a while, since so very much about our relationship resembles a relationship between two sexual people. But upon further reflection and a number of discussions with her about it, I realized that my asexuality was undeniable, and undeniably a part of the problem. In this area, we simply are not compatible. But that is not a huge problem when it is compared to our other areas of incompatibility, which, although they may not be so very many, have been far more harmful to our relationship than a simple lack of sexual compatibility.

Next week, we are slated to see a couple’s counselor so that we might decide whether there is a chance we can resolve some of our issues. I think, personally, that there is a strong possibility that we might indeed be able to do it, if only—indeed, if only—she is as willing to put as much effort into working on them as I am. I am not so confident of that, but either way, this is one sexual/asexual relationship that is not ending purely because of sexual issues, and most likely, we will be able to at the very least put everything aside and be close friends.

Still, it was useful for me, and I thought it may be of interest to my readers, to articulate what sometimes oddly counterintuitive difficulties we have had with regard to sexuality. Maybe someone somewhere will find in my analysis of my weird-ass relationship with this girl I cannot yet bring myself to call an ex a helpful reflection. I figure at the very least, it can’t hurt to add to the available pool of asexual content, which is something I have been neglecting to continue for far too long! I will make no promises about posting more often since I am completely overburdened as it is, but for this moment at least, I am back.

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6 thoughts on “Identity Maintenance

  1. Hey, you’re back! I’m sorry to hear things aren’t going so great with your health and relationship, and I send good vibes your way over the internet…ooh, spooky. I could really relate to this:

    Actually, I am still not sure exactly how it is done, this initiation of sexual activity

    because I have no idea how romantic relationships are even initiated, let alone sexual activity. It’s funny you mention it because I was thinking of writing a post on that specific topic. I ask people how they started dating someone, and I just get answers like, “Uhh, I dunno, we hung out”. I don’t know if this is because I’m asexual or if it’s because I have a nonverbal learning disorder, which means I have a hard time understanding nonverbal communication. Anyway, I think what you’re talking about is definitely very interesting. Not very many asexuals seem to have written about their experiences in relationships, so I do think it’s an important addition.

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    • Thanks for the good vibes–I’m glad to be back! :)

      That is actually a really interesting thing that *you* bring up! I know I’m one of those people that can’t really explain how I started dating my partner–especially since I was still somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of dating in general, at the time. I think it’d be a really productive series of posts to explore how the relationship started, especially in light of where we are now. I don’t get the feeling that our relationship is truly over yet, and since we’re about to be going in for couples counseling, I’m trying to get as much perspective as I can about what might have gone wrong. It would probably help, I think, to put that in context of where we began! So thanks for the idea, I’m going to get writing!

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  2. Welcome back to the tubes, I’ve missed your verbose, articulate, and thought provoking ramblings.
    P.S. Good luck with the SO, and sorry if things go further south.

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    • Thanks. :) At the moment, I think things are looking up. It’s clear that we both miss each other and are willing to try to work things out.

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  3. Hey, I know this is a pretty late comment, but I really liked your post and could relate to it a lot. I am gray-A and in a relationship with a sexual guy, and almost everything you said seems to mirror my experiences.

    Fortunately, I don’t think it ever occurred to either of us to break up, and I don’t think we ever could. But for a while, I was pretty depressed, because it seemed like he had a lot of sexual expectations for me that I couldn’t live up to. I would give him a hand job and start crying if he didn’t orgasm, especially if he decided to masturbate instead. And he just seemed so cold afterwards, compared to the times I did give him an orgasm. I felt really rejected. And when he would talk about it, he would say that I didn’t seem into it, as if I was just doing it automatically, and that was a problem to him. But I didn’t know how to seem more interested; it wasn’t as if I was uninterested, because I was focused on getting him off, but the act of giving him a hand job didn’t turn me on. And the simple act of doing anything sexual doesn’t turn me on. I have a fetish that I have to think about in order to orgasm or even feel turned on.

    But when I would tell him that, he acted as if it was an act of charity. It’s not completely about giving for me. It does feel romantic and intimate to me. I could really relate to the part where you said sex was the one time where you could salvage romance and intimacy out of the relationship. For a time, it seemed that way with us. He gradually became less and less romantic and more engrossed in whatever he was doing online. So when we had sex, it was like a shockingly romantic gesture out of nowhere, and we even kissed more than we did otherwise.

    An added bonus is the fact that I have vaginismus, so we can’t have intercourse. Which is just as well, because intercourse seems to me like a convenient way of avoiding anything too “icky” and avoiding learning what your partner likes. If I’m going to have sex as a gray-A person, it might as well be an involved learning experience. This helps me process through various differences I have with sexuals and enables me to become a better lover in relationships with sexuals. I admit, though, it would be somewhat refreshing to have a gray-A or asexual partner (which is a possibility, since I’m poly).

    Anyway, all of this is what led me to the realization that I’m gray-A (sometime last fall). And I thank you for making this blog. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying. I think gray-A people’s voices need to be heard, and I would like it if there were some kind of gray-A group—online or in person—where we could talk about things like this. One of the main differences between gray-As and “fully asexual” people—for lack of better wording—is that we are more likely to be sexually active and thus more likely to face unique problems regarding sex. I always felt like I shouldn’t go on AVEN to talk about my sexual problems related to my grayness, because it seemed like a lot of the asexuals there don’t want to hear about sex, especially not in the detail in which I just described it (which isn’t really even that explicit). But I really felt like I needed that support, and I was actually desperate for it, but I didn’t know where to turn at the time.

    Luckily, things are better now. My partner and I just talked about it today, and he says he’s been adapting to my aceness. And the last time he visited (he lives far away), we had a lot of good sex without an extraordinary amount of effort for either of us. I say this not because it used to require a lot of effort, but because I thought it would in my process of overcoming certain things. I’m pretty shy about initiating sex, and like you, I don’t really know how to go about it. This was another thing that was a problem for him, and I was planning on working on it, but it seemed like it was going to be a lot of effort. I was afraid of rejection, and I never seemed to be able to muster up the courage to give anything more than subtle signals (which he didn’t pick up). So this frustrated me a lot. But now it seems it doesn’t matter, and he is being more understanding about my setbacks. This doesn’t mean I won’t gradually work on being more dominant or confident, though, and this is definitely a more favorable environment for the changes to come about naturally through increasing comfort with him, rather than through pressure and expectations (whether real or imagined).

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    • Thanks for your comment! :) It’s good to know that other people are indeed getting something out of this blog, as occasionally I do wonder how relevant it is to most asexuals. I know how you feel about talking about this kind of stuff on AVEN… I made a post about it once before I started this blog and I had about three people respond with not much substantial to say about it. It was like, “That sucks. Good luck!” and that was pretty much it. I’ve been wondering lately where we can go to find that kind of support, if not anywhere on AVEN. To some extent Apositive seems to be pretty open to it, and I think it was a good place to go for suggestions when it first started, but activity there has kind of died off now, so it’s not as likely that anyone will respond—or if they do, it could take weeks.

      I’m glad that things have gotten better for you! Things have gotten much better for me and C since I posted this, too… we are back together again, and I realize now I never posted about that, and I probably should. It’s interesting, because when we first got back together sex was very frequent and prominent with lots of kissing (which at first she would only do during sex), but since we’ve settled into being in a relationship again, we’ve gone about a month without it, wherein we were very intimate in non-sexual ways. It still very much follows her whims, more so than mine. Sometimes she just goes through periods where she isn’t interested in sex, whether for trans reasons or for whatever else. Which is probably one reason why it’s easier for us to get along, although it’s a little weird on the occasion that I’m more concerned about sex than she is.

      Also, I like the point you made about intercourse being a way of avoiding anything too icky & learning what your partner likes. It was a lot like that for me with my previous partner (on both sides, I think). Neither one of us ever did a whole lot of attempting to discover what the other one likes, although because intercourse was painful for me (and probably for another TMI reason) near the end he stopped pushing for that and instead taught me how to give a hand job. Which was far more productive than anything else, although certainly not enough to salvage the friendship. What I liked about C is that she didn’t use intercourse as an excuse not to explore other alternatives… and actually I think it was critical that we explored several alternatives first before attempting intercourse, especially because generally speaking, it is too painful for me unless I have already had an orgasm beforehand. She took the time to learn about what works for me, and vice versa. We’ve still got a ways to go on some issues, but for the most part we’re working it out.

      Hehe, I can’t imagine speaking so plainly on AVEN! I’m sure there would be people there who would get grossed out by what I just said. We really do need to figure out some kind of solution for this… I think I will make a post about it later.

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