Being Bi/Ace, Part Two: Aesthetic Attraction and the Visual-Aural Gender Split

This post is for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on “Nuance & Complexity,” which I am hosting. Please check it out and consider submitting! Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Last time I talked about how there’s a lot of extra scrutiny about attraction for both bi and ace people, which makes inhabiting that intersection difficult, and the misconceptions that become barriers to talking about it. Now I’m going to talk about some specific aspects of my own attraction and how it’s different enough from the norm that it usually goes unrecognized. Continue reading

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Being Bi/Ace, Part One: Scrutiny About Attraction and the Kinsey Scale

This post is for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on “Nuance & Complexity,” which I am hosting. Please check it out and consider submitting! Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

I have some frustrations with the way that attraction is discussed in the ace community, which are related to and further amplified by biphobia/bi erasure. This will be part one of at least two parts, because this is something that’s really complicated for me, and so difficult to talk about that it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for more than two years! So strap in, because it’s finally time to do this. Continue reading

Q&A X

All search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google/Formspring, so I take no credit for any spelling or grammar errors.

Standard Definitional Disclaimer: Asexuality refers here to a sexual orientation among humans.  It does not have anything to do with biology, whether that means the biology of non-human asexually reproducing species, or humans with non-standard anatomy (if you’re looking for that, google intersex conditions instead). Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction; it does not mean or imply that we are “not sexual” in any way at all. The term is analogous to homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. For a more detailed explanation on this, please check my FAQ page. Asexuals are a widely varied group that may have little else in common with one another aside from not experiencing sexual attraction to others as a general rule. I can only answer for myself. My answers may include sarcasm.

On to the questions!

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Q: Very new to all this, and so much of what I’ve read hear and elsewhere through Aven makes sense to me, helps me to understand how I feel. But now I have so many questions (well, three) and only 37 characters left. Would it be okay to post more than once? (from Formspring)
A: Of course. :) You can post as many times as you want–and if you have a longer question, you can post more than once, or email me if you want. Whichever is more comfortable for you! I know some people don’t like giving their email or IP address.

Q: Thanks. Okay, firstly: I have a mood disorder, which means that periodically I get very hyper and at those times, do sometimes feel some element of sexual attraction. But not often. Does this mean it would be wrong to identify as asexual? (from Formspring)
A: No, I don’t think it’s wrong to identify as asexual in that case. You should identify however you’re comfortable identifying. If you feel really uneasy about feeling something similar to sexual attraction, you might identify as gray-asexual if that’s more comfortable for you, but some people who occasionally experience sexual attraction do identify as just asexual, because they feel that it’s still most accurate. Also, keep in mind that there’s no shame in identifying as asexual and then later changing your mind. Some of our best allies have done that. Whatever works for you, works! Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re wrong to identify that way.

Q: Secondly: even if I don’t feel any sexual attraction, I kind of like it when someone feels that way about me. My self-confidence has always been a problem, and it’s nice to feel wanted, even if the feeling isn’t reciprocated on my part. Is this wrong? (from Formspring)
A: Nope, it’s totally understandable, and I kinda feel that way myself, although I tend to be conflicted about it. Sometimes I have actually felt a little sad when I felt my partner wasn’t very attracted to me, because I felt like I couldn’t fulfill what she was looking for. I think having these feelings is not only understandable, but also allows you to have more empathy for your girlfriend, if she feels rejected because you don’t feel sexually attracted to her, which could be very helpful when you do raise the issue with her. (transitioning to the next question…)

Q: Thirdly: as I said at first, I recognise so much of myself in what I’ve read, and feel a lot more comfortable for having done so. But I have no idea how to raise this with my girlfriend; she may have guessed already, but it’s still a awkward prospect. (from Formspring)
A: Knowing how to bring up topics like this is always tricky. For me personally, whenever I have a serious issue to discuss it always helps to write down what I want to say beforehand, even if I intend to just talk it out without actually giving the person the letter I wrote. Sometimes the conversation doesn’t go as well as I’d expected, and in that case it’s useful to write a letter to explain what you mean without interruptions. Or sometimes it is so daunting to even begin the discussion that I just use the letter to start it. Your girlfriend may not understand at first, and may feel rejected. Gently try to reassure her as much as possible that even though you’re not sexually attracted to her, you still love her and want to make it work between you in whatever way that you can. She may need some time to process it, so give her some space if she needs it. Other than that, I can’t think of much else to tell you right now–you may find some of the recent guest posts helpful, though. Best of luck!

Q: I like your definition of intellectual sexual desire and responsive sexual desire! I can relate to that too (I’m not sure I’m grey-A or asexual). I have a further question: when asexual people enjoy sex, do they just enjoy the physical pleasure, or do they also feel a deep emotional connection with their partner? From some posts I read on AVEN, it seems that asexuals only enjoy the physical part, so partnered sex isn’t really different from masturbation to them. Is this right? (reposted from comments)
A: I think it totally depends on the person. For me personally, I enjoy both the emotional connection with my partner and the physical part of it—and the physical part of it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me without an emotional connection, because masturbation is safer and easier than partnered sex while still satisfying on the physical level. Some asexuals don’t really find sex particularly pleasurable or desirable on a physical level themselves, but do really enjoy the emotional connection they get from it. Others don’t feel, enjoy, or don’t want to feel the emotional connection as much, but can enjoy the physical part of it. I’ve heard some asexuals talk about how they think they might enjoy trying casual sex or sex with prostitutes more than sex in the context of a romantic relationship, although I’m not aware of any who have actually tried it. I know there are some who have done the sex-with-friends thing (more commonly called “friends with benefits” although I dislike that term because it implies friendship doesn’t have inherent benefits), too, and from what I recall some had enjoyed it on both levels as well.

Q: So… what IS your farorite color? (from Formspring)
A: Haha, it’s blue. Usually medium – deep blues in particular. Purple is a close second.

Q: how do i know if my partner is asexual (from Google)
A: By talking to them. If you suspect your partner may be asexual, first ask them if they’ve ever heard of asexuality. If they haven’t, or if they don’t seem to understand the definition, show them AVEN. Give them time to think about it. While many asexuals have an immediate “omg this fits me so well!!” reaction when they first discover that asexuality is a real, legitimate sexual orientation, that they’re not the only one, others don’t accept it right away. Some people have a knee-jerk “What? No I’m not!” sort of reaction. Others may be afraid to accept their asexuality because they don’t want to acknowledge that they’re not “normal”—they may fear that it means they’ll always be perceived as somehow broken or wrong. Reassure your partner that if they are asexual, it doesn’t mean that they’re broken. Let them know that you don’t blame them for any sex-related relationship problems that you may be having, and that if they’re asexual it’s just a (potential) compatibility issue that the two of you didn’t know about when you first got together. (I say that it’s a potential compatibility issue, by the way, because some people find it really isn’t a big deal to date an asexual person at all.) Be honest about your emotional reaction to it, but at the same time, realize that right when they first come to understand their asexuality is not the time to bring up your personal issues with it, and give them space to think. I’d recommend giving them at least a few days, maybe a week. Don’t expect them to come to a definite conclusion within that time frame, but I think a week is a reasonable amount of time to wait to check in about how they’re feeling about it. Most of all, DON’T pressure them to have sex!

Q: does masturbation lead to asexuality
(from Google)
A: No, that’s ridiculous. I have no idea where people get ideas like that.

Q: why is a unsexual 14 year olsd girls period late (from Google)
A: You know, I’m not sure how this even led here, but I guess I’ll answer it anyway. There are a number of reasons why young girls can have late periods. It’s pretty common for girls who have just reached menarche to have irregular cycles in the first place, so it’s not necessarily anything to worry about. If a girl is underweight, or physically stressed in some way, her period may be delayed or she may stop having periods at all. All that said, I’m not a doctor, and if you’re worried about it, you should go see one. If you are the 14-year-old girl in question, you can talk to your parents/guardians or school nurse about it, if you feel unsafe talking to parents.

Q: asexual chronic masturbaters? (from Google)
A: I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean or why it has a question mark… Seriously, why would anyone define themselves—or anyone, for that matter—as a chronic masturbator? Masturbating is fine. It’s not a health condition, it’s not an addiction. It really isn’t a bad thing, it won’t hurt you, unless you do it too hard or something. But the good thing about masturbating is that you can feel what you’re doing, so you can stop being too rough with yourself.

Q: are gregory house arguments valid? (from Google)
A: Uh, which ones? Many of his arguments are, but not all. Sometimes the writers do a terrible job.

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Have you got a question you’d like me to answer? Ask me here. Remember to check the FAQ page!

Q&A IX

All search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google/Formspring, so I take no credit for any spelling or grammar errors.

Standard Definitional Disclaimer: Asexuality refers here to a sexual orientation among humans.  It does not have anything to do with biology, whether that means the biology of non-human asexually reproducing species, or humans with non-standard anatomy (if you’re looking for that, google intersex conditions instead). Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction; it does not mean or imply that we are “not sexual” in any way at all. The term is analogous to homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. For a more detailed explanation on this, please check my FAQ page. Asexuals are a widely varied group that may have little else in common with one another aside from not experiencing sexual attraction to others as a general rule. I can only answer for myself. My answers may include sarcasm.

On to the questions!

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Q: do asexual people get turned on (from Google)
A: I don’t actually understand what the phrase “turned on” means, so I have a hard time answering that question. If it’s just about physical arousal, then yes. If there’s necessarily some sort of mental component to it… then maybe? Some might. I don’t know whether or not I’d qualify. It’d have to be explained to me a lot better than that.

Q: why do i attract asexuals (from Google)
A: Do you really? Hm, that’s interesting. Since I don’t know who you are, I can’t comment, though.

Q: does tim gunn have aspergers (from Google)
A: No, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. If he does, he’s never mentioned it anywhere. I don’t think he shows symptoms of it either, especially given that he has a huge focus on following social niceties, so clearly he understands them well. I suspect whoever googled this was just grasping for some explanation of Tim Gunn’s celibacy and/or asexuality that makes him abnormal. It’s fine, dudes, there’s nothing wrong with him. Don’t trust whatever random person with a degree a reporter happened to pull off the street who is willing to call themselves an “expert” on human sexuality. If they haven’t heard of asexuality, they’re not really experts.

Q: can i use a straw to masturbate (from Google)
A: Wow, that is one of the weirdest search terms that has ever led here. I can understand how the masturbation part would lead here, but straws? I have no idea when I have ever mentioned straws. Good luck, whoever you are!

Q: what is a purple stripe(horizontal) on black? Or, black stripe purple stripe black stripe. Ive seen this on Bumper stickers but cant find the meaning. (reposted from a comment)
A: You know, I have no idea. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like that, and I can’t find anything about it, either. Google is not turning up any answers.

Q: why is infallibility not frightening? (from Google)
A: This is taking quite a turn for the philosophical, isn’t it? To me, a person who thinks they are infallible is certainly very frightening, especially if they hold power. I suppose that to a person who thinks they are (or someone else is) infallible, it’s not frightening because then that means that they can’t go wrong. It must be especially comforting for those who believe in an infallible god, because a god is supposed to be in control of everything, therefore nothing can go wrong. It lends a powerful sense of certainty. Except that when you have to deal with some inevitable tragedy, you have to face the idea that whatever infallible god you believe in allowed that horrible thing to happen. That has extremely frightening implications to me, to the extent that I’d much rather not believe in anything like that. (Fortunately there is no evidence for any such god, anyway!) In any case, the idea that someone is infallible should be frightening; what makes it dangerous is when people aren’t frightened of it.

Q: okay. i fall somewhere in the asexual spectrum,but i’m not sure where. and it has fluctuated over my fifty years plus,so i don’t know what THAT means. anyway,i guess i just don’t understand the definition of asexual as not having sexual attraction but still having sexual interest and/or drive. do you mean that you don’t find some people more attractive than others,but you still might like sex and/or have a good sex drive? sorry i’m dense about this. if you could point me to something i could read that would help,that would be great. thanks! (reposted from a comment)
A: “Sex drive” usually refers to just an urge to feel some kind of physical sexual release, which I do get on a low grade, very infrequently. This includes masturbation, and most asexuals who have a sex drive/libido prefer to just satisfy it through masturbation. Some describe it as being like “scratching an itch”—it’s not connected to any desire to be sexual with a partner at all, and has nothing to do with sexual attraction.

What I mean by not experiencing sexual attraction is that there’s never a time for me when I look at a person and think, “Wow, I’d totally have sex with them.” I can find people beautiful, but when I stare at people because they’re pretty it’s sort of a similar feeling to looking at a gorgeous sunset—can be really breathtaking and awe-inspiring sometimes, but that never leads to me wanting to have sex with them. This I refer to as aesthetic attraction. Also included in this category is enjoyment of others’ voices and such.

With some people (although only with a few), I get feelings of wanting to be physically close to them, wanting to cuddle and kiss and so on and so forth. This I refer to as sensual or physical attraction. These desires don’t progress to a sexual level for me. I want to JUST cuddle, kiss, etc. although I am not saying that I am always necessarily opposed to having sex. It’s just not something I actively desire, whereas cuddling etc. is. This is where it gets really tricky to explain—and you’re not dense for not understanding right away, it’s taken me years to figure this stuff out!

My fiancée is sexual. Because she likes sex, and because I don’t find it repulsive or otherwise distasteful (prior to being with her I was pretty much completely neutral towards the idea of myself having sex), I wanted to have sex with her. This is not the kind of desire that we think about as a result of attraction, but rather a more intellectual sort of desire. I usually try to distinguish this kind of wanting from the kind of wanting that results from sexual attraction by calling it “sexual interest” rather than “sexual desire.” It is perhaps too subtle of a distinction, but the English language doesn’t really have any better terminology for it, so that’s what I’m stuck with. It’s not like I get this intense urge to have sex, I just want to because she enjoys it, and I’ve found that I can enjoy it too, so why not?

What I’ve discovered is that I experience something called responsive sexual desire. What this means is that I don’t so much have a “drive” to have sex—I don’t really get an urge to do it, and I certainly don’t get inspired to have sex by other people’s appearances, voices, personalities, etc. Occasionally (now that I’ve found I can enjoy sex, anyway) I might think to myself, “Oh, that might be kinda nice right now.” But it’s in this very detached, intellectual sort of way. It doesn’t feel like the sort of desperate need that I see others describing. But when my partner and I agree to have sex, after she physically arouses me, THEN I get a strong desire for it. It’s a desire that starts for me only after the physical stuff starts happening. Here is an old post I wrote about this, if you want more of an explanation.

So that’s how I can have interest in/desire for sex, even though it isn’t based on being sexually attracted to people. I hope my explanation made sense to you, let me know if you want me to try to clarify further. I hope this helps you figure out where you might be on the asexual spectrum! :) Fluctuation is quite common, too, and some people feel they are kind of in a gray area between sexual and asexual, with periods where they are more or less sexual.

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Have you got a question you’d like me to answer? Ask me here. Remember to check the FAQ page!

Q&A VIII

All search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google/Formspring, so I take no credit for any spelling or grammar errors.

Standard Definitional Disclaimer: Asexuality refers here to a sexual orientation among humans.  It does not have anything to do with biology, whether that means the biology of non-human asexually reproducing species, or humans with non-standard anatomy (if you’re looking for that, google intersex conditions instead). Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction; it does not mean or imply that we are “not sexual” in any way at all. The term is analogous to homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. For a more detailed explanation on this, please check my FAQ page. Asexuals are a widely varied group that may have little else in common with one another aside from not experiencing sexual attraction to others as a general rule. I can only answer for myself. My answers may include sarcasm.

On to the questions!

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Q: I’m asexual, and one thing that always seems to come up when people find out is the whole “well, no one will ever want you if you’re not going to put out” situation. sometimes I find myself thinking the same thing. how did/do you respond to that? (from Formspring)
A: Hm… well, for me personally, in my current situation, it’s fairly easy to respond to. The assumption that just because I’m asexual I won’t “put out” is bad in the first place, and depending on the situation I may or may not correct it. Usually if I do correct it, I will say something like, “You shouldn’t assume that all asexuals don’t want to have sex, some of them are sexually active, for whatever reason.” That way they’re free to make whatever assumption they want about my own sex life without directly asking me. Then I will point out that they’re just flat-out wrong. Being engaged myself and having had my partner plainly state that while she would like to have sex with me, she would still want to be in a romantic relationship with me even if we never had sex (and indeed, we’ve gone long stretches of time without), it’s fairly easy for me to counter these arguments with personal experience. But for someone without that kind of personal experience, I understand it can be much harder! I’ve had those worries that nobody would ever want to date me because I’m asexual myself. I used to try to keep in mind examples of successful asexual couples that I knew of from browsing AVEN, but there’s also other hard evidence that you can find to contradict this idea. For example, the very existence of Celibate Passions, an online dating site specifically geared towards people who want celibate romance and friendships, disproves the notion that nobody would want to date a person who doesn’t want to have sex. You can link to it as proof, and if people continue to insist that nobody is interested against hard evidence contradicting them, then they are being unreasonable and it’s totally fair to point that out. If the conversation continues to devolve—and I know that some people would even go so far as to predict eventual relationship failures, which they see as somehow inevitable—I’d just advise you to calmly tell them they have no basis to be making such claims and that they should drop it. If they won’t, feel free to take whatever steps you need to in order to get them to leave you alone.

Q: It burns when I pee, why? (from Formspring)
A: …Yes, dear. That is indeed a burning question. And one which I am not qualified to answer. I’m glad I know it’s not someone actually looking for one!

Q: asexuals and kitties why do they match (from Google)
A: Because they are both awesome. :3

Q: Can someone become asexual or is it a condition you are born with and may be never realized you had it until you read an article on the website BBC website? (from Formspring)
A: I have heard some people report “becoming asexual” before, however I’m unclear on what exactly they mean by that. I do think that sexuality in general has at least some degree of fluidity, but it’s not the type of thing you can consciously influence. You can’t “become asexual” by sheer force of will, and people who report having done so likely do not mean asexual in the same way that we mean it. I think those people are talking about being celibate, and not realizing that there’s a difference between celibacy and asexuality (covered elsewhere on this blog ad nauseum, so I won’t go over it again). There are, however, a few people within the asexual community who used to identify as sexual and have said that they did feel sexual attraction prior to a certain point in their lives, at which point they say they became asexual. I’m recalling some very old forum posts on sites I’ve long since stopped visiting, so I can’t give any specific examples (and for privacy reasons it probably wouldn’t be best to do so anyway), but as far as I can recall, most of them felt that they were on the low end of the scale of sexual attraction or somewhere in the gray area between asexual and sexual. We tend to tread cautiously in cases where a person says that they’ve had a sudden, drastic drop in their level of interest in sex, as that can be a symptom of a number of different health conditions. If that sounds like you, then it’s a good thing to get checked out.

Q: a newbie to understanding this orientation……are there any stats on gender, as related to this? More prevalence in one or another? Also, is this ever known from an early age, as has been suggested in other sexual orientations? Do romantic asexuals feel (from Formspring)
A: I guess that last question got cut off, feel free to resubmit it for the next round! Anyway, there are some stats on gender suggesting that asexuality is vastly more prevalent in women than in men, but due to the way that these stats are collected, they’re not very reliable. Most surveys are collected from samples gathered over the internet, which leads to sampling bias, especially in cases where the links get passed around on sites like Livejournal which are largely made up of women in the first place. It is also more likely that due to cultural pressures to be sexual, asexual men are less likely to find out about asexuality and begin (publicly) identifying as asexual, even if they actually fit the definition. If not for those factors, would there still be a big gender difference? Who knows.

As for the second question, because asexuality is a lack of something rather than the presence of something, and particularly because all children are assumed to be asexual before puberty (even though that isn’t actually true), it’s very difficult for young asexuals to come to the understanding that there is a difference between them and their peers. It’s not readily apparent that there is anything different until you’ve gotten past the point at which the excuse that “you’re just a late bloomer” starts to become questionable to you, and this point varies a lot depending on the individual. Indeed, many of us are so well-trained that asexuality doesn’t exist that doubts about whether or not we’re just “late bloomers” plague us well into our twenties. There is no universally agreed-upon acceptable age at which you can determine that you are asexual for sure even within the asexual community itself, so many of the younger asexuals will be told that while it’s cool to hang out with us, they should still keep their minds open to other possibilities. We are often accused of “closing ourselves off” to possibilities by identifying as asexual by people who are not familiar with the community, but actually we may tend to be a little too cautious to leave ourselves open to those possibilities, in some cases. There are quite a few 13-14 year olds that I’ve seen already identifying as asexual, though typically people begin identifying as asexual later than that. The youngest I’ve personally heard of someone identifying as asexual is twelve.

Q: Could you add ‘sentually attracted’ as a term? I ask this as I want to flert and turn on a partner, but when the pants come down I become disinterested. As you may know it takes about 6 sec of physical contact for most guys to start pulling it out. (from Formspring)
A: Actually, I already use that term! :) The way I define it, sensual attraction is about wanting that skin-to-skin feeling, wanting to indulge in something that engages the senses without necessarily being sexual with one another. It’s not so much just wanting to cuddle, but more about wanting to be close in a sufficiently epicurean way. Like lying close while feeding each other grapes, for example.

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Have you got a question you’d like me to answer? Ask me here. Remember to check the FAQ page!

Q&A VII

All search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google/Formspring, so I take no credit for any spelling or grammar errors.

Standard Definitional Disclaimer: Asexuality refers here to a sexual orientation among humans.  It does not have anything to do with biology, whether that means the biology of non-human asexually reproducing species, or humans with non-standard anatomy (if you’re looking for that, google intersex conditions instead). Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction; it does not mean or imply that we are “not sexual” in any way at all. The term is analogous to homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. For a more detailed explanation on this, please check my FAQ page. Asexuals are a widely varied group that may have little else in common with one another aside from not experiencing sexual attraction to others as a general rule. I can only answer for myself. My answers may include sarcasm.

On to the questions!

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Q: how to be asexual (from Google)
A: This is one of those questions that makes assumptions that aren’t true. It assumes that you can learn how to be asexual, which implies that it’s also assuming that asexuality is a set of behaviors. Most likely, you’re looking for advice on how to be celibate. Celibacy means not having sex. Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is not really something that we can just turn off or on at will.

Q: can you make an asexual sexual (from Google)
A: No, you can’t. Don’t bother trying, you’ll do way more harm than good. PLEASE.

Q: is assexuality an emotional problem (from Google)
A: No, it isn’t. Social reactions to it can cause emotional problems, but the same is true of being gay. Asexuality is a sexual orientation just like being gay or bi.

Q: can a man be asexual and still enjoy sex (from Google)
A: Yes.

Q: am i sexually frustated if i bite my nails (from Google)
A: What the… Seriously? No, there’s no connection. You might be nervous if you tend to bite your nails, sure, but…

Q: why do people think it’s ok to ask if asexuals masturbate? (from Google)
A: You know, I wish I knew. I think it’s probably a combination of things, or different people have different reasons. It does kind of depend on the situation, as in a few cases it might actually be okay (and if you have to wonder if it’s okay to ask someone or not, then it’s NOT). I know a lot of people are genuinely curious, and curiosity’s fine (that’s what this question series is about), but thinking that it’s okay to directly ask someone whether or not they masturbate is something else. I think for some people it might be that they think that just because you brought up a word related to sex that it’s okay to ask you intimate details of your sex life… kinda like those people who think that if someone talks about sex they must be open to doing it with them. In other words, they can’t understand discussion of sex that is detached and intellectual, and/or don’t realize that by directly asking about masturbation, they’re making it personal. Others might think it’s a “problem” that you need to have them solve for you, even though you tell them it’s not. And plenty of people just start thinking that you’re wrong immediately and that they have to prove it to you. Still others probably just go around asking EVERYONE about masturbation, without knowing or (more likely) caring that it’s usually considered rude at best, and especially bad to ask of an asexual person. Whether they realize it or not, they almost always come off in a way that communicates “you don’t deserve the respect I give normal people.” The “problem-solvers” and the people who want to prove you wrong clearly start thinking of you as a problem, and forget that you’re a person with your own agency.

Q: can asexuals still find people attractive (from Google)
A: Yes, in other ways. We can think people are beautiful, for example, while not feeling sexual interest because of their appearance. Or a myriad of other kinds of attraction that I’m not going to get into here because it’s been done to death. Poke around if you want examples. I’ve written about it some, but other asexual people are a lot more into categorizing different kinds of non-sexual attraction than me.

Q: is it possible to have a sexual relationship with an asexual person? (From Google)
A: Likely I’ve already answered this question for you if you’ve found this blog, but yes. Yes, it is. I have several posts about this already, most notably this one on things that help, and this one on what NOT to do, and I have a few more coming up, including a guest post by my partner.

Q: how to have a nipplegasm (from Google)
A: LOL, I find it hilarious that this search term somehow led to my blog. I guess that phrase must’ve come up at some point. It’s also weird that this search has led to my blog more than once. I’m not going to actually answer that question because there is no surefire way for any given person to have one. Some people don’t. And I’m not terribly familiar with techniques—are there actually like named, distinguishable techniques for different kinds of nipple stimulation? It seems like the kind of thing that looking up on the internet would make worse, not better, because then you’d be more focused on whether you’re doing the technique as described and not whether your partner likes it.

Q: if you have been celibate for a long time do you need std testin? (from Google)
A: [Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR.] It seems to me that it would depend how long it’s been, and when your last STD test was. Some STDs can go a very long time without symptoms, or the symptoms might not show up at all (like herpes). And some (like HIV) may not show up on tests right away, so you can test negative even if you do have it. I’m told it’s standard to wait six months before testing for HIV, because it won’t show up on the test right away. But keep in mind that it can take a lot longer than that to be detectable in your body. If you haven’t been tested at least six months after you last had sex, go do it. And if you got tested like seven months after or something, you might want to err on the side of caution and get tested anyway, but I realize not everybody has the money for it. Look for a free clinic in your area.

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Nothing Gray About This: Re-evaluating Attraction

Last week there was an article posted about gray asexuality which quoted my blog and an older interview I did with the writer. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been taking a blogging break over the past few months, so I’ve been ignoring my blog-related email. As such, I missed her request for a new interview, and the result was that the information is somewhat outdated. It reflects where I was perfectly fine, but not so much where I am now. I’ve been meaning to make a post about this for a while now, and it also fits nicely with this month’s blog carnival theme (attraction), so I may as well do it now even though I’m a little late for the carnival.

I do not identify as gray asexual anymore. At the time when I started my blog, I did, and there were no other blogs or forums out there focusing on gray asexuality, so I decided to start a blog where I could sort of think out loud about it. But after thinking about it for a while, and feeling like my identity was sort of in flux between sexual and asexual, I’ve started realizing some things which have led me to identify as just asexual. I’ve thought about changing the name of the blog, but I don’t know what I’d change it to and the idea of not thinking in black and white is still important to me, plus that would involve a lot of broken links at this point, so I’m leaving it like this for now.

When I started this blog, it was during a time of immense turmoil and stress, in which I had just been subject to a very heavy load of anti-asexualism and some very nasty gaslighting. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from a play called Gas Light in which a man attempts to make his wife think she is going insane by subtly dimming the gas lights and then denying that anything has changed. It’s an attempt to make someone believe that their perception of reality is wrong. Or, in other words: “There are four lights!”

When I started this blog, I didn’t recognize that this was what had been going on. I didn’t know there was a word for it until someone else used it to describe my experiences (this happened more than once, and in several cases I would argue that it wasn’t whatever someone said it was, though now I think their perceptions were accurate while mine were skewed by the gaslighting). I don’t necessarily think it was entirely intentional, and it really doesn’t matter whether it was or not, but throughout the time I knew him, M was manipulating my perceptions of reality. I was already off-kilter at the time because I was in a foreign country, and just from that I was having bouts of derealization (another example of a word I didn’t know until later), but M played the game of doing things behind closed doors and then never acknowledging that anything was going on in public, with the additional standard Pick-Up Artist technique of ignoring/avoiding me and the other girls he must have been treating the same way (several other people told me about them). More importantly for the purposes of this discussion, he led a sustained campaign for nearly a year to convince me that I’m not really asexual, only ever dropping it for long enough that I would let my guard down thinking he had changed his mind.

Which brings me to discussing attraction.

I was attracted to M in various ways. I found him somewhat aesthetically attractive on a visual level (sort of a push-pull sort of thing; if I just saw him in a picture without meeting him I would have thought he was pretty average-looking, though a lot of people seemed to disagree) and considerably more so on a sonic level (he is a musician). I found him intellectually attractive in a way that I know that he understands well because he described similar feelings toward House at one point, albeit in a much more sexualized way than I would have put it. When he wasn’t being a hugely self-absorbed asshole, I enjoyed his company enough that I was willing to overlook his transgressions. I wanted to cuddle with him and kiss him, but I never wanted it to go farther than that. Later on I did sort of want to, but only in a “can I get myself to be okay with this?” sort of way and not in a genuine desire sort of way. I had a genuine desire to be able to be okay with doing sexual things with him, but in reality that wasn’t happening. That got really confusing.

There was another thing, too: I really fucking wanted to scratch him. I’ve always had kind of a thing for scratching, though it’s not something that turns me on, just something I like doing. I’m decidedly more sadistic than I am masochistic. I never asked him if that would be okay because he didn’t foster the kind of relationship where that kind of thing would be acceptable—he never made any effort to gain explicit consent himself, and consequentially he was abysmally bad at sex even when I did unambiguously consent. He made it out like he was so open and accepting of talking about things like that, but he wasn’t. He was blunt and open about talking about sex in public to the point of being considered quite rude, but as far as anything serious or important goes, any time I would try to bring up an issue I was having with him it was always “your problem, not mine.” So something like that was so far off the table I didn’t even consider it.

I had all of these different sorts of attractions to him at varying levels of intensity, and I was being constantly told that I was not really asexual to the point that I began to question whether all of those things added up to what people call sexual attraction after all. The kinky attraction was particularly confusing to me because of how intense (and intensely physical) it was. But the thing is, I still did not want to have sex with M. In an ideal situation, yes, I think I would have wanted to eventually, and had he been the kind of person who would ask me what I wanted and listen to me instead of telling me I was wrong, I probably would have found it enjoyable. But had he been that kind of person, he would have accepted that I’m asexual, if not from the beginning then at least after a certain point. Not having such intense pressure to think I’m “not asexual enough” would have made me considerably less likely to identify as gray in the first place.

At the time when I first started this blog, there had been a lot of arguing around AVEN about who counts as asexual and who doesn’t, with I think some members accusing moderators of not being “real” asexuals. Maybe it’s just that I stopped going to the AVEN forums, but in the three and a half years since I started this blog, I’ve seen a lot less of that kind of elitism. I’ve also, through blogging and also from conversations with my partner (who still needs to make a guest post here about it), come to the realization that desire and attraction are quite separate things, and wanting to have sex does not make you not asexual. I did sort of recognize that before, because obviously you can have sex with people you’re not attracted to, but I didn’t live it until after I met C. Since I saw so many more comments judging other asexuals for being sexually active and (gasp!) enjoying/desiring it back then, and since I was already inclined to doubt my own perspective due to the gaslighting, I internalized those stereotypes too much and thought I was further in the gray area than I actually was.

There’s still room for me to change my mind, of course. The nice thing about the asexual community is that we don’t deny that phases of sexuality exist, and we don’t consider it less valid to identify a certain way for a period of time and another way later. But for the past… mm, roughly two years, the “gray” part of my identity has become less important and fallen away. I’ve stopped hedging and doubting myself.

Now, I’m just asexual. And there really are four lights.