Q&A XI

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 asexuals avoid dating (from Google)
A: Sometimes. I avoided it for a very long time, because I felt like I would be pressured to do sexual things, and because I thought it would be very structured and have too many rules to follow. I didn’t want to follow a cultural script that would encourage others to put me in a box that I don’t fit in. So for a while I just went (or intended to go) straight from friends to “in a relationship” status with people I was interested in. Then I met my fiancée, and accidentally ended up going on a date with her even though we had planned to go out as friends. I learned that dates don’t have to be that structured, and they’re not all that different from hanging out as friends. Now, I go on dates several times a week. But not all asexuals are like me; some just don’t want to date, or don’t see the point of it.

Q: are physical looks important to asexuals (from Google)
A: They can be. For some asexuals looks don’t particularly matter, though for me they actually do. I need to have at least a neutral response to looking at a person in order to be with them, as if I find them disgusting I’m not likely to want to be around them for very long. Prettiness is a bonus, but not a strict necessity for me. I also care about the way that I look and the kind of image I present to the world, and have several different styles I wear depending on my mood, some of which are deliberately strange. Sometimes I will dress down, and sometimes I will dress up, depending on how comfortable I am getting attention for my looks that day. Occasionally I have been known to experiment with what I wear to see whether people treat me any differently than they do when I dress “normally.”

Q: I’ve found that the older I get and the more in tune with myself I become, I find that while I enjoy masturbation, I’m less interested in having a sexual partner and would prefer someone I can emotionally connect to. Could it be possible I’m asexual? (from Formspring)
A: It’s possible you might be, however it’s also fairly common for *sexual people to feel that way too, especially as they age (from what I understand). The key difference is that the asexual people don’t feel any kind of sexual attraction, while the *sexual people do. So, are there still people that you get turned on by in some way, and would have sex with if not for being primarily concerned with emotional connection? If so, you are probably not asexual. Only you can know for sure, and sometimes it can be very difficult to figure out exactly what “sexual attraction” means. Give yourself some time to think about it, and realize that it’s okay not to know the answer!

Q: To the extent that there is an answer to this in the abstract, how do you think asexuals would feel about sexual people who chose celibacy? My hope is as kindred spirits, my fear is as tourists or wannabes. (from Formspring)
A: I think most of us would feel more like kindred spirits with *sexual people who choose to be celibate. There are a lot of similar issues that both asexuals and *sexual celibate people face, so we can relate in that way, and I’ve found that celibate people tend to react to asexuality with particularly enthusiastic support. Just the other day I had an interaction with a celibate person who had the “Wow, asexuals are AWESOME!” reaction, in fact. I don’t see why asexuals would see celibate people as tourists or wannabes, however, there are some reasons why asexuals might come into conflict with celibate people. The enthusiasm they have for asexuality can be a little too much sometimes, and it can feel like we are being idealized or even fetishized (by that I mean in the same sense that some Western people get overly obsessed with Japan because they think it’s the most amazing place, and by extension Japanese people, not necessarily a sexual fetishization). A lot of times the reasons why celibate people see us as kindred spirits are not reasons that we agree with, especially in the case of religious celibacy. Asexual people are often assumed to be religious due to the confused conflation of asexuality and celibacy, but in fact many of us are atheists, some of whom even actively oppose religion. So while we generally support celibacy as a legitimate life choice, we sometimes oppose the specific reasons why some people choose to be celibate. If someone is celibate because they’ve actually thought hard about it and come to the conclusion that that’s the best choice for them, awesome! But if someone is only celibate for religious reasons, believes that celibacy is the only good choice, pushes celibacy onto other people and/or believes that asexuals are “purer” or “more enlightened” because we don’t feel sexual attraction… well, those people are not so likely to be considered “kindred spirits” to asexuals.

Q: why does my fuck buddy confide in me so much? (from Google)
A: Well, gee, I dunno, maybe your fuck buddy trusts you and thinks you’re a good friend? They must be mistaken about that, though, if you’re so annoyed or worried about having their confidence that you’d google that. Apparently you aren’t actually interested in hearing what they have to say. Way to go, jerk.

Q: does greg house get nicer (from Google)
A: That one gave me a laugh.

Q: why date (from Google)
A: Because you want to, ideally.

Q: how do different sexual customs around the world increase the incidence of sexual dysfunction? (from Google)
A: Wish I had the expertise to answer that one. If anyone else wants to take a stab at it, feel free to answer it in the comments.

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

PSA: Attraction and Desire are Not Synonyms

So there’s a new study out about asexuality (which is free to read, and available here), and I’ve barely started reading it, and I’m already annoyed. Check this out:

“[AVEN] holds that an independence from sexual desire is the key feature of asexuality, claiming that ‘an asexual is someone who does not experience attraction.’ Asexuals might choose to develop an emotional closeness to particular individuals that is devoid of sexual contact. Or, they might engage in sexual behavior, but experience no desire or pleasure in the act.” (emphasis mine)

But… but… that’s not what it says at all! Not experiencing sexual attraction is NOT the same thing as being independent from sexual desire! And asexuals CAN take pleasure from sexual behavior.

Look, really, what is so hard to understand about this? It’s possible for an asexual person to experience non-attraction-based desire for sex. Nothing about my partner (or anyone else) is sexually attractive to me, and yet I still sometimes think, “Oh, that would be nice.” Because it’s pleasurable. Imagine that.

I am so sick of this misconception being perpetuated. I really wish people would cut it out.

Reading further, their measure of whether a person is “behaviorally asexual” (i.e. whether they are virgins, though they refer to it as celibacy even though it is a measure of lifetime rather than current/recent sexual activity) is 1) for males, answering “no” to the questions a) “Have you ever had vaginal sex with a female?” and b) “Have you ever had anal or oral sex with a male?” and 2) for females, answering “no” to the questions a) “Have you ever had vaginal sex with a male?” and b) “Have you ever had sexual contact with a female?” Meaning that apparently, males and females who have had anal or oral sex with one another still count as celibate? What? No. Stupid.

I find it really bizarre that there are such vastly different standards for what counts as homosexual female sex vs. heterosexual sex. I mean really, any sexual contact vs. specifically PIV sex? And why exactly doesn’t anal or oral sex count if it’s between a male and a female? But it does for any other combination of participants? Plus there’s the issue of manual stimulation, which counts as sex, but only if you’re a girl with another girl. What’s up with that?

I also just don’t think that trying to retrofit some old demographic survey to figure out how asexuals might have responded is going to result in any meaningful data at all, considering that there weren’t any responses provided with the idea of asexuality in mind. Make new surveys with new response options, and THEN analyze the data. Even if their definitions of what constitutes asexuality weren’t so ill-conceived, this is really just grasping.

I am not impressed.

In Flux: A Gray Manifesto

It occurs to me that although I started this blog specifically to talk about issues that affect gray-asexuals, I haven’t actually addressed the issue directly, except on my about page.

So to rectify this, I want to go into more detail about my personal identity, my political identity, and my reasons for choosing to present myself to the public the way I do, even though that public identity is too stark to match up with my true identity.

I am out as an asexual to everybody I associate with for long enough that the subject comes up (which is usually fairly quickly, though not in the case of professional associates and extended family members). I am out as gray-asexual to only a select few. This is because most people do not have enough of a conceptual background in asexual discourse to understand what I’m talking about, and do not care to acquire it. Which is just as well, because most of the time I am not willing to spend so much time educating others on the particulars of my existence, especially when they would like as not reject it anyway. I only trust those details to those few who are either asexual themselves, show a keen interest in asexuality, or those I would be intimate with. In that latter case, I will quite patiently and persistently attempt to build understanding, but it’s an absolute deal-breaker if I ever determine that it’s impossible to create. No exceptions.
Continue reading

Giving it a Wide Berth: The Three A’s

As Ily observed in her blog a while ago, asexuals like teetotaling. Although not all of us are teetotalers, many of us are, or have been at one point in our lives, including me. My attitude towards alcohol has changed a lot over the years, from, “That stuff is nasty and horrible!” to “Whatever, just stay away from me when you’re drunk,” to “Okay, so you want vodka and what?”

To understand my changing perspective, it is necessary to understand my background as a survivor of domestic abuse. I won’t go into exhaustive detail, but suffice it to say that my father is an alcoholic, so naturally, for a long time I had a very strong knee-jerk reaction to alcohol of any kind. I could see only its negative effects, just a bunch of people running around stupidly heedless of the damage they were causing. I’m sure it didn’t help that I have such a serious and introverted personality that parties were never my idea of fun to begin with, but of course my terrible experiences of being forced to deal with violent inebriates exacerbated that tendency a thousandfold, to the point that I never wanted to have anything to do with most of my peers, at the age that they all were starting to go out and party. I’m sure there will be some people who would say that these traumatic experiences and the subsequent disidentification with my peers are what “caused” my asexuality, or whatever, but I don’t think the two are related (or rather, not causally related). After all, my sister went through the same experiences, and she’s about as sexual as she can get. Had I felt any sexual attraction, I’m sure I would have felt more of an impetus to get over my disgust in order to act on it. But as it was, the connection between alcohol and sexuality actually turned me farther away from any vague inkling I might have otherwise had to try it.

If abuse laid the foundation of my youthful hatred for alcohol, it was asexuality that poured the cement. I mentioned earlier that in my early teens, I considered myself celibate until further notice. At the time, I did not understand that I was different from my peers in a fundamental way, because I had not yet recognized that they were all developing a kind of interest in others that I didn’t have. I had absolutely no understanding of sexuality, although I did know that sex was something I was supposed to take an interest in at some point. I just thought that point would be far, far in the future (which it was), and I made the decision to focus on other things until I was sure I was mature enough to handle it. I knew because I had no interest that I hadn’t reached that point yet. It didn’t occur to me that perhaps some of my peers were ready for it; I simply thought they were getting themselves into big trouble. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Continue reading

Acting Like an Asexual

I think it’s weird when people talk about “asexual behavior.”

I have no idea what that phrase means. For that matter, I don’t really know what “sexual behavior” means either, since that can cover such a broad range of activities—even ones that are fairly harmless, like dancing, can be described as sexual.

But it bothers me. There are so many things out there that are so associated with sexuality, that if an asexual (or at least a known asexual) does it, it’s considered to be contradictory to their asexuality. Flirting, for instance. I have always tried pretty hard not to say things that could be considered flirting, because it makes people assume that I’m sexual (and interested in them). But maybe I want to show romantic interest in someone… How do I do it? How can I do it without leading someone to assume that I’m sexually interested in them as well? Honestly, the fact of it is, since I’ve always avoided flirting, I have no idea how to do it, period, let alone make that distinction clear.

Another thing is making sexual jokes. For years and years, I would laugh at others’ jokes, but never say what I was thinking myself for fear of whatever they might think. I’m sure I probably came off as prudish, but I’m not really. I’m not squeamish about sex at all. In fact, I’m fairly desensitized to it. I find it kind of fascinating, in a distantly intellectual way. Ironically, I have an acquaintance who often comes to me for advice about sex, because I know more about it than she does herself, even though she is sexual.

Oh, and then there’s the big one: having sex. And one step up from that, enjoying sex. Like, if I’m asexual, and I have sex and don’t find it completely repellent, then I’m not a “true” asexual or something. Whatever. Asexuality is not celibacy, we all know that, but for the sake of the people who wander in here from google, I’ll say it again: asexuality is a preference, celibacy is a choice. I prefer not to have sex, I don’t find that it comes naturally to me. Even when I’m bed with the most attractive guy I’ve ever met, whom I’m completely in love with, I’d rather just sleep with him literally. But if he wants to have sex, I’ll do it (provided he will look out for me). And, although this hasn’t matched my actual experience yet, I believe that on some level, it can be enjoyable for me. There was that one time that if it weren’t for the physical pain that inevitably comes with not being used to it, I probably would’ve found it mildly pleasant. But I just don’t feel a need for it, and I don’t think I ever will.

I really do wish that people understood asexuality a little better, because I find myself being less than completely true to myself with other people because most people have a much more rigid view of asexuality than I do. There’s a public face and a private face, and the public one is oversimplified so that I can get along a little easier. It’s like wearing a mask of my real face, with certain features exaggerated, and others covered up. I guess it’s more like makeup than a mask. But it’s tiring to keep up sometimes, and it makes me break out under the surface, so here, I take it off. Here at least, I can recognize that although I’m close enough, I don’t completely fit the definition, and certainly not anyone’s ideas of how people that do fit that definition can or should act.