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.

Continue reading

Asexual Character Spotlight: Data

So, I’m a nerd. And I’ve been rewatching Star Trek TNG lately because the gf hasn’t seen it yet, which is just not acceptable for someone as space-nerdy as her. She seems to like it, while I am rediscovering my love for my favorite asexual character.

When I still browsed AVEN a lot, I saw a few people who had avatars or quotes of Data, and seemed to identify with him like I do. Data is very much a classic character, so I expected as much. I feel like, if anything, I’m just going to be rehashing things people already know. But after doing a quick google search, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that’s been discussed a whole lot, so I thought I might as well talk about him a little.

Like most asexual characters currently out there in the media, Data is not human, though he desperately wants to be. The very fact that he is not human is one reason why asexuals, as well as other people who feel alienated or outside of society in some way, are more likely to identify with him. But the anatomically correct android takes it several steps further than a cute, appliance-like robot character like WALL-E could, for one because he is in a show that is much more adult and thus has the possibility of actually exploring sexual themes; and two, because his goal is to become as close a facsimile to humanity as he possibly can. He fervently explores humanity and tries very hard to understand “the human equation” as best he can.

I particularly identify with this attitude because that is exactly my attitude towards sexuality. Like Data (who engages in sexual activity with Lieutenant Yar, telling her that he is “programmed in multiple techniques”–and taking into account his performance at every other task, we can be sure that he functions more than adequately), I can and have engaged in (enjoyable, even) sexual activities, but I still fail to understand the human urge or “need” to have sex, because I do not experience it. I’ve had people go so far as to tell me that I cannot possibly be human and still feel this way, though obviously since I am human, those people are mistakenly twisting the facts to fit the theory, and not the other way around. Clearly human sexuality is in actuality more varied than most people would like to think, but my main question (unanswerable though it may be) is why do other people feel this way? How does it affect their perspective on love, the way they feel towards their crushes, and so on? I have a tendency to drive people crazy asking them endless questions about how they think about love, sex, intimacy, and other related topics, which I think is frustrating to them mainly because they’ve never thought about it before, or certainly not in such detail as I request.

Essentially, I want to know what other people feel. It’s not that I want to change myself to feel the same way they do, because I’m perfectly happy with my own lack of… not interest, because I am certainly interested in human sexuality. From a distant, analytical perspective. Sound familiar?

If I were denied the full range of human emotions, I would yearn to be human, too. But I already am human, and I have those emotions. Why should I want to feel a form of desire that would only continue to frustrate me?

One very intriguing thing that Star Trek implies about sexuality is that it is contingent on having emotions. Anyone who hasn’t seen First Contact and doesn’t want to be spoiled, please refrain from highlighting the following text: Remember that creepy scene with the Borg Queen? She turned on Data’s emotion chip and then tried to seduce him, and seemed to be succeeding. In effect, before the emotion chip is activated, Data is asexual. After? He may well become borderline sexual, and able to experience sexual attraction, although he would still have no particular need to have sex.

This implies that sexual attraction itself is an emotion. Is that an accurate presumption? I’m not sure. It could be. Or it could be that the emotion Data was experiencing was purely his intense desire to be human, channeled through a sexual circuit. Is this not similar to what many people do with regards to intimacy?

This is merely an observation, but it seems to me that many sexual people do channel their emotions through the act of sex, as a sort of release for them. I don’t really understand this behavior, (and again, I feel like Data because of it), but I do see that it happens. It seems I’m just not wired to experience sex from an emotional perspective. Would I be, if I were sexual? I wonder.

And so I continue to ponder the puzzle of human sexuality, seeking answers that I will likely never be able to attain. In a way, I think the search is more important than the ultimate conclusion.

So what is a sex drive, anyway? What does “libido” mean?

Both are questions considered so basic and well-understood that most people would scoff at hearing them asked, but actually, this concept is not so well defined as people would think.

It’s pretty clear that both refer to a desire for sex or sexual acts strong enough that it becomes a motivating force. The problem word in this definition is “sex.”

A few weeks ago, I was playing Truth (we are too lazy to come up with dares) with a couple of friends of mine, and, not being able to think of anything else to ask, I fell back on the standard, “How many people have you had sex with, and how many were guys, and how many were girls?”

The friend I was asking shrugged his shoulders in honest confusion. “Well, what counts as sex?”

This highlights a problem with certain acts being categorizable as either sex or not sex, depending on who you ask. Intercourse, both vaginal and anal, is generally considered to be solidly within the “sex” category. Oral and manual sex (I had to clarify that because he didn’t know it meant fingering/handjob, so I suppose I should here too, to be on the safe side), on the other hand, despite being identified by the word “sex,” are considered sexual acts, but are not necessarily categorized as sex. The same is true of frottage, or dry-humping, which if I remember correctly, was interestingly enough the only kind of sex engaged in by (I believe) Greek homosexual males, because they considered the anus dirty. If these men had a desire only for this specific act, but not for any other sexual act of any kind, would people (according to our cultural mindset) consider that to be a sex drive? I’m not sure.

There is a clear heterocentric bias revealed by the way that people think about sex. It’s all about penetration, and because of this idea that sex is necessarily penetrative, many people think that lesbians can’t have sex with one another. The only reason that they think that gay men can have sex with one another is because anal sex mimics vaginal sex in that sense. When people think of “gay sex,” they automatically think of anal sex, rather than any other sexual act. In actuality, most of my gay friends tell me that they rarely (if ever) engage in anal sex, because they find it uncomfortable. Of course there are plenty of gay men who DO engage in it, but the idea of anal sex as the ultimate gay sex act is pretty overinflated, I think, by those with no experience to the contrary.

All these conflicting ideas come into play when it comes to the question of virginity status. Some people would consider anyone who has not had vaginal intercourse to be a virgin, others would consider anyone who has not had vaginal or anal intercourse to be a virgin, and still others would say that even if you’ve only had oral, you’re not a virgin. Some people try to avoid all this confusion by separating each act into different types of virginity, because focusing on people’s status as virgins or not virgins is not really worthwhile anyway.

I think the biggest definitional point of confusion about having or not having a sex drive, within the asexual community at least, is this: are we referring to a purely physiological drive for physical pleasure when we talk about sex drive and libido, or are we referring to the desire for sexual interaction, too? And if we are not referring to any desire to engage in sexual acts with another person, are we using terms that would make that clear? Are we using terms that would fit in with a typical sexual person’s understanding of those words, or are we causing extra confusion by contradicting their ideas?

Asexuals who masturbate typically say that they have a sex drive, or a libido. They feel physiological, sometimes accompanied by mental arousal, and this drives them to masturbate. The distinction is that they do not feel sexual attraction, so there is no motivation for them to act on it with another person, although they are motivated to (sometimes grudgingly) satisfy it by masturbation, and may be able to enjoy having sex with another person even if they are not attracted to them, depending on how comfortable they are with acting outside their orientation. This makes sense to me, but would it make any sense to someone who is not familiar with asexual discourse? That, I’m really not sure about.

I asked my sister, and she gave me something completely different. She said her definition of a sex drive is the “frequency and intensity of the need for sexual intimacy.” Whoa, intimacy? Now you’re talking about emotions. That’s totally different from what the asexual definition is. The way I see it, sex and intimacy are not necessarily connected at all. I can (and have, once, sort of) felt intimacy during sex, but much more often, I feel distanced from my partner, and I don’t feel intimate because of the sex itself anyway. According to my sister’s definition, then, I cannot possibly have a sex drive, because I don’t even know if I can even experience “sexual intimacy,” much less have a drive to seek it out.

I asked her also if she knew the difference between the terms “sex drive” and “libido,” and she started quoting the dictionary, admitting that she didn’t know. It seems that the terms are used almost interchangeably, but I’d be interested to see a run-down of what subtle differences there are between the two terms. It seems to me that “libido” carries a lot more connotations of weird Freudian “psychic energy,” whatever that means. Freud’s theories, though… interesting, all seem very vague and unprovable, anyway.

Oh, and at the end of my lovely little conversation with my sister, she argued with me about how she doesn’t think asexuality exists, and how I’m just a prude who is totally unqualified to talk about sex because I haven’t experienced it. *cough* Little does she know. Now you see why I post this blog anonymously!

Friendship Day

My calendar informs me that today is Friendship Day, but I’ve never heard of such a thing. A quick wikipedia search tells me only this:

International Friendship Day is celebrated annually, on the first Sunday of August, in several countries. It was initially declared a holiday in honor of friends in the United States by the U.S. Congress in 1935.

What? 1935? That was 78 years ago! Why haven’t I heard of it until today? Where’s the publicity? Do we value our friends so little that even Hallmark won’t try to cash in on this? I’m astonished that we even have a holiday for it!

Why is it that Valentine’s Day is such a big deal, but Friendship Day is relegated to the realm of the forgotten? So many people are single on Valentine’s Day anyway, and so the celebration doesn’t even apply to them (unless they do the Singles Awareness thing, but that’s more counter-culture than mainstream), but I’d venture to guess that almost everyone has friends. Why don’t we celebrate them? Make them feel appreciated? Why don’t we use this day as an excuse to get together and have fun, like they do in Argentina?

It saddens me that we are so focused on romance to the exclusion of other kinds of relationships, that so many people maintain their friendships only until they get married. The biggest problem with society today, in my opinion, is that intimacy is relegated strictly to sexual relationships. Only one type of relationship is validated, and the rest are seen as unimportant.

Even if nothing else ever comes of it, I hope that asexuals, as people who blur the line between friendship and romance (or, in the case of the aromantics, who don’t seek romance at all), will help to challenge these values and create a more open society with regard to the forging of human connections.

Maybe one day this holiday will be remembered and given the attention it deserves.

Fear of Intimacy

It occurred to me that my previous post kind of vaguely hits on one of the common things that asexuality is dismissed as, i.e. fear of intimacy.

“Oh, you’re not asexual, you’re just afraid of intimacy.”

I suppose I am, to some extent, afraid if intimacy, if you define “intimacy” as being emotionally open and vulnerable to another person who may not care, which I don’t know that I would, because it seems to me (and I’m no expert on these things, so I’m not entirely sure this is what they’re referring to) that it really involves being afraid even though you’re sure that the person you care about DOES care about you in return.

Under those circumstances, I would have no problem. I’m certainly not afraid of sex; that’s fine, as long as I know my partner will look out for me. I can be emotionally open, too, if I’m sure of my partner.

But if I’m afraid of intimacy, I think asexuality is the cause, rather than the effect. I am only afraid of getting involved with other people because I know I don’t care about the same things they do, and they probably don’t care about and are not prepared to give me the things that I want out of a relationship. I’m willing to compromise, but they may not be. To get into a situation where I’m giving up so much, and getting nothing in return… well, that’s painful, and to be avoided. And that fear is actually legitimate, because it’s perfectly plausible that I’d get myself into such a situation if I don’t exercise caution.

If I were sexual, I would still have to worry about getting into a situation like that, but chances are, since I would have much more incentive to get into sexual relationships, I wouldn’t be so vulnerable in sexual situations. I would feel that I was at least getting something from them, beyond the satisfaction of seeing my partner satisfied, and so it wouldn’t be so much of a drain on me. I wouldn’t have to be so careful, because I wouldn’t have as much reason to be afraid.