Am I the only one?
At least since high school, I’ve been aware that I was sexually different from my peers. I don’t know if there was a first moment when I realized this, but I have a few memories that stand out. Once I was riding on a bus with a few other male students. The conversation turned to a topic many asexuals have come to dread: “Who do you think is hot?” Before this point, I had never been in such a conversation before. I had been asked who I liked, but I could answer that because I did occasionally get crushes on girls, which usually lasted a while. One of the guys on the bus answered the question, talking about this one girl. One of the other boys teased him about how he liked her. But he responded that he didn’t like her; he just thought she was hot. I was taken aback by this distinction. Everyone else understood it, but this meant that there was this experience of thinking someone was hot entirely separate from liking them that I had never felt. When it was my turn to answer the question, I said I didn’t think anyone was hot. No one believed me.
I grew up in a conservative religious environment, and people might think that living in that context would be easy for asexuals. After all, don’t religious conservatives, constantly telling teens to save sex for marriage, simply assume that all adolescents are asexual?
No, they don’t. Not even remotely. They assume that all adolescents are sexual, have sexual desires, and that’s why the need to resist temptation must be stressed. If they thought teens weren’t interested in sex, they wouldn’t aggressively admonish them not to have it. In the messages I received about sexuality, my asexuality put me in a peculiar position: I followed the rules easily enough but was functionally told that people like me don’t exist. Not having sex before marriage was easy; I didn’t even want to have sex within marriage. They said that sex is really great, so I figured that once I got married, I would do it and would learn to like it the same as everyone else, although I kind of hoped that when I started having sex, I didn’t have to be present. Still, the possibility that I might not like sex never crossed my mind.
They also told us a lot—at least they told the guys—not to watch pornography and not to commit the sin of lust. Not watching porn was easy enough, but there was no acknowledgement that some guys might not even be interested. And the message about lust was clear: it’s something that all guys struggled with. If you were a guy who said it wasn’t an issue for you, you were lying. My problem was that when they told me not to commit the sin of lust, I couldn’t figure out what on earth they were talking about. Everyone else seemed to understand the concept; I wasn’t even sure if it was something I was capable of doing. Sometimes when looking at people, I was aware that sex existed, but I felt that when people talked about lust, they had something else in mind. I just couldn’t tell what.
Growing up asexual in a context where you’re expected not to have sex is going to be different than growing up where you feel you are expected to have sex. In my own adolescence, I had a strong sense of being different from other people in a way that I couldn’t identify, but this feeling was probably considerably less intense than what many asexuals experience. I felt different and alienated, although this was dampened by the fact that many of my high school friends didn’t date. But I never felt broken.
In middle and high school, I would sometimes get crushes on girls. My first semester of college, I had a girlfriend I wasn’t attracted to. That went badly and didn’t last long. A couple months later, I had a crush on someone for a couple weeks, and after that I didn’t get a crush on anyone for five years. After my rather short-lived disaster of a “relationship,” I found passages in the Bible typically interpreted as talking about the gift of celibacy. I assumed I would like sex if I had it, but I also knew that not having sex was really easy for me. I read some commentaries on those passages, hoping to find others like me, but I never did. Also, I didn’t want to be celibate my whole life. Though I didn’t date and this wasn’t a problem for me, I really wanted to get married someday. Celibacy is as much about forgoing family life as it is about not having sex.
Sometimes I attempted to find others like me, but without success, because I never thought of the term “asexual.” I read about sexual variation in a human sexuality textbook. I did some google searches trying to find others who didn’t get hotness. Everything I found made it pretty clear that people like me—especially guys like me—don’t exist. That didn’t help. I also read things that talked about how physical attraction—especially based on appearance—was important in creating initial interest in starting romantic relationships. I thought that maybe that was why I was so rarely attracted to people.
I wanted to be able to have a romantic relationship, but, because of cultural expectations of gender roles, the infrequency of my crushes was a real problem. Since I’m a guy, if I want a girlfriend, I’m supposed to initiate things—other than the above mentioned ex-girlfriend, no one has pursued any such relationship with me. Even the few times I was attracted to someone, these have never gone anywhere for various reasons. It was this problem that led me to go to my university’s counseling center a year and a half ago trying to understand myself. The counselor I went to asked if I had looked into asexuality. I said that I hadn’t. A few days later, I decided to google it and found AVEN.
Having finally found somewhere I feel I belong, I tried to find out absolutely everything I could about the subject. When I had read everything I could find, I tried to read up on related topics I felt would be important for future work on asexuality. This quest has led me in some unexpected directions: writing an asexual blog, making a website to promote the academic study of asexuality, doing activist work, even appearing in the news one time. A few years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be doing this. I always used to be the guy who was totally clueless about sexuality.
Still, I have made less progress with respect to the main issue that drove me to AVEN in the first place. I love analyzing things and I’m not bad at generating new ideas, but relationships have never been one of my strong points. I’m shy and I have difficulty in conversations with more than a few people—talk often turns to TV, movies, sports or sexual humor, topics that don’t interest me and that I’m too ill-informed about to discuss.
In the asexual community, sometimes people talk about different romantic orientations: people can be hetero, homo, bi or aromantic. At first, I considered myself heteroromantic. Now, I have no idea how to identify. Sometimes I feel that I’m too aromantic to identify as romantic or to have anything approaching a traditional romantic relationship, but that I’m too romantic to be happily uncoupled for the rest of my life. Perhaps what I really want is a sometimes live-in, permanent best friend. I really don’t know. Probably what this really means is that I still have a lot of things to figure out.