My Funny Valentine
And February blows in, bringing with it that certain sense of love in the air. Hallmark commercials go into overtime, perhaps attempting to sell us on plush toy bears that kiss each other whilst electronically beeping an Al Green tune. Shop shelves fill with cheap chocolates in heart-shaped boxes covered in bright red, embossed foil. Restaurants fill to overflowing with couples out to celebrate their special connections. And all of it is supposed to have a sweet and more-or-less innocent feel about it — and I suppose that it does, providing, of course, that you accept the definition of love in the Western world: love is money. Just as, at different times of the year, money becomes the birth of a Savior, or the birth of a loved one. But just at this time of the year, money becomes love and love is that most wonderful and personal of chores that drives people collectively mad. When love works, it is beautiful and when it doesn’t work, it launches sappy careers that make us cry in recognition even as they make us cringe. How much time has been devoted to the pursuit of the perfect relationship in America alone? How many love gurus have written best sellers? How many psychologists have spent hours a day discussing the subject on radio chat shows? How many movies, novels and pop hits have described the pangs of first love, the last of lost love, the lovely, lovely loveliness of love? Frankly, I haven’t a clue. And I imagine that you really don’t, either; however, I believe that we can agree that sum total of all this spent time is rather immense. And why not? Love drives us mad, love inspires us. Love, let’s face it, ensures the continuation of the species — or, at the very least, promises to provide a certain number of pleasurable hours a year, spent in the most intimate of intimacies with that special person or persons with whom you have chosen to share the next leg of your life, if not the entirety of the rest of your days. But what of those of us who are quite vocal in our disinterest of that most intimate of intimacies? What about the asexuals? What about the people of AVEN? What about me? Surely, love is something that is forever closed to me. Surely love simply confuses me and confounds me. Surely? Not. See, I am about to let you in on a little secret that has been very well kept in the hypersexual community in which we live: sex is not love. Certainly, for most, sex is a very important component of love; however, in and of itself, sex is rather inessential for an overall sense of intimacy. Do you love your best friend? Your mother? Your father? Closer and more distant members of your family? Do you love your dog? Or cat? Your birds? Your children? Of course you do. But, naturally enough, sex is very correctly and, in most cases, legally barred from playing a role in any of those loves. But the love for a partner, the love between two consenting adults, must be rather different from the aforementioned loves. Well, of course it is. That kind of love is the kind that can be discarded once it becomes inconvenient while the others are more or less permanent. Try leaving your children on the turnpike and you’ll see what I mean, I’m sure. But use any one of the fifty ways to leave your lover, and you will find that in most cases, it works. And there is nothing wrong with that. This is normal and even natural. It might be sad, and it might leave a sense of loss, but, hey, it happens. To an astoundingly large percentage of those who pledge their troths every year. Which goes to show: fun sex might be, but binding it isn’t. That having been said, however, it doesn’t follow that asexuals eschew relationships, as such. It simply means that we pursue a fundamentally different kind of intimacy with our partners: an intimacy which, ideally doesn’t include sex. I say ideally, because there are asexuals who have sex. And that is far from counterintuitive, and it says nothing about either the nature of asexuality or the accuracy of their asexual self-identification, any more than the fact of Oscar Wilde’s two children overturned his conviction and incarceration on charges of homosexual activity. Sexuality isn’t about what you do, necessarily. It is about who you are and what ideally you would do, given a life unimpacted by the demands of others — and most humans do not live such lives. Most of us do have the demands and desires of others to contend with. And, although we identify as asexual, it does not mean that physically we are so. We do have sexual identities and sexual organs which, for the most part, function normally. Given this fact, however, how does an asexual go about forging a relationship with someone else? For other sexual identities, there is no problem, even if one is confused as to how to proceed. The literature is legion: homosexuals have a wealth of material, much of which has been published in the relatively short time after the Stonewall Riots. The polyamorous have many of the more interesting stories in the Bible as well as a few hundred of the 1001 Arabian Nights. Heterosexuals have, well, pretty much the entirety of human history. But the asexual has very little to go on beyond the various articles and threads posted here on AVEN. Basically, we are making it up as we go along. Which is as heady a feeling as it is intimidating. There is a definite sense of possibly going about the whole thing incorrectly, as well as a notion that anything could possibly be permissible. In the face of such uncertainty, asexuals who choose to pursue intimate interpersonal relationships have special challenges to overcome. Which brings us back to February and that special holiday that falls on the fourteenth of that month every year. What do asexuals do for their Valentines? What do their Valentines mean to them? Well, Chris and I did exchange gifts, this year. We did go out to dinner. And he means more to me than anyone else with whom I have ever been involved — and that does include the lovely woman to whom I was married for six rather turbulent years. Because, for the first time in my life, I am honestly myself with the person who loves me. I am asexual, and, as such, I can interact with him completely as myself. And that is, indeed, a very special feeling. But it wasn’t an easy road to get here. As many of the attached members of AVEN did, Chris and I met before either of us had heard of asexuality. When I added the element of asexuality to our lives, when I declared that sex was something that I simply would not want to pursue with him, I imagine it took him by surprise. I am fortunate, unbelievably lucky, in fact, that, after a brief time of complete disbelief, Chris decided I was more important to him than whatever fleeting joy he might occasionally gain by sexual activity. I am luckier still — and my mind fairly boggles at this turn of fate — that Chris began to explore this site and began to see himself in what he read. We are, just at the moment, rather unique, even in a community as large as AVEN: we are currently the only couple on AVEN who are both active members of the board and who both identify as asexual. That makes the question of sexual activity fairly easy for us: neither of us has a particular interest. But there are many members of the board who are currently involved with non-asexual partners. And I imagine that their relationships are completely unlike the relationship that Chris and I share. Why? Because different people express their sexuality in different ways. This is true of every sexual identity on the planet: do you honestly imagine that what you get up to behind closed doors is identical to the things your neighbors get up to? Or what your parents got up to? Or what your children will? Of course not. But, for some odd reason, there seems to be a belief that asexuality must be different from other sexualities in this regard. No, in fact, in this one regard, asexuality is just like any other kind of relationship: we all go about it differently. Which is also perfectly normal and natural. When you think about it, isn’t every relationship completely unique, with the roles and activities tailored to suit the needs of the individuals involved? The lack of sexual desire is simply one aspect of an asexual relationship, just as the types of activities pursued in a hetero- or homosexual relationship is only one aspect of those relationships. At the end of the day, there is still the rest of one’s life to contend with: there are still bills to pay, places to go, people to see. So you can see where the confusion comes in: asexuality comes in all shapes and sizes, and the resultant relationships are as varied as the people involved. So, my relationship would still be unique, even if every involved member of AVEN partnered exclusively with other asexuals. It would be the only relationship for us. And, yes, we are lovers in that we love one another deeply. And, yes, we are partners in that we share each other’s lives and support one another as much as we can. But as for the other details, those other scatological questions that non-asexuals often ask us, generally including a litany of practices that people reel off trying to find out what we do and do not consider to be sexual in nature, I will just say that our bedroom door is as firmly closed as anyone else’s and, as it only houses us, it is as private as anyone else’s as well. If you ask, sure, we’ll tell you that we are asexual, but that is as juicy as the details are ever going to get. And that is as it should be.