Hail, brave content creators, welcome to the April edition of the Carnival of Aces. With the spring equinox behind us, Passover and Easter upon us and April Fool’s day tomorrow and everything around us blooming and reproducing… Well, no time like the present to feel melancholy. Or cheerful. One of the two.
This month’s theme’s inspired by a medieval Flemish-Dutch sentence:
Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic enda thu[,] wat unbidan we nu[?]
All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?
Penned in the 1100 by a monk, probably to test his quill, it’s the oldest sample of my native language. It’s always struck a chord.
Rarely does a shift in orientation work out in a person’s life according to expectations. We wander into such wildly unexpected and unknown futures.
I think we need those stories.
So the question for this month:
How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?
Prompts to help the creative juices flow (feel free to deviate):
- All the (other) birds:
- Was there a clear or typical path in life that you decided to diverge from, when others didn’t?
- My nest:
- What life have you begun to build since your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations changed?
- Except me and you:
- If you had to sketch a potential life or partner or relationship or family, what are some of the ingredients that make it a good, safe, peaceful and/or joyful prospect?
- You’ve decided you do not wish for a partner and may find fulfilment in your life through alternative means, please share!
- Still waiting
- What expectations for your life are you uncertain about or struggling with after having discovered your (a)sexual and/or (a)romantic orientations?
- Leave a link to your contribution, be it post or vlog or art piece, in the comments.
- Send your contribution to my email: email@example.com so I can host it on my blog.
- Leave your thoughts on one of the prompts in the comments.
Please do let me know if you’ve contributed somehow, I do wish to honour all the awesomeness. If you have specific preferences for pronouns and/or descriptions for your submission, let me know those as well, please. Late submissions added throughout May.
Associated posts, links to be added as they appear:
- Parade of posts for April (on this blog)
- The March parade (luvtheheaven’s blog)
- The Call for submissions for May (hosted by Prismatic Entanglements)
- All of the Carnival of Aces parades! (Asexual agenda)
I live in a progressive society.
I am ‘not sexually active’, rather than a virgin (maagd).
Virgin and maiden and damsel (in distress) are the same word in Dutch.
Everyone is the hero of their own narrative.
I was a child in the nineties.
We were never told we should be the damsel.
Thus, it remained a word for other people.
…Born from the Virgin Mary… (geboren uit de maagd Maria)
Except that was not the Mary I liked or pictured.
My Mary was the respected wife of a middle-class carpenter with half a dozen children, who had been exiled to Egypt and returned to Israel only to move to a completely different town and build a new life there succesful enough to afford a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the only woman on the planet to have raised God the Son with reasonable succes and saw him go off to do inexplicable things and then had to bury her eldest child.
The woman who went and asked that same Jesus for a miracle because her friends’ wedding was about to go off the rails.
The Virgin was a blue and white robed statue in old chapels.
Thus, it remained a word for other believers.
I was never asked if I was a virgin.
Society never impressed this word on me, but went out of its way to reject it as oldfashioned.
I was always asked if I was sexually active.
So, I was ‘not sexually active’.
Thus it remained a label for other cultures.
I never needed the word to describe or defend the fact I did not have sex.
It was rather taboo to ask if someone had ever had sex.
If you had it, presumably you boasted.
If you did not speak of it, it was assumed you simply did not have it recently.
I moved too much so I did not grow up in one place.
I did not have a family that considered my sexual activity its businesss.
I had no people come on to me uninvited or presuming they could have sex.
Thus, it remained a line of defense for other people.
I did have talks with friends, of course I did.
It is really easy to turn the conversation to other aspects of a relationships.
People really love to talk about their own experiences, if they talk about it at all.
I also had kind enough friends that they simply respected my being single as a choice.
When I had a relationship, it felt so utterly personal, tender, vulnerable, I was circumspect.
In talking to my partner, the past seemed so much less relevant to discuss than us, now, until it didn’t exist anymore.
Thus, it remained a discussion I never had.
Every single doctor I have ever had.
Are you sexually active.
I get, perhaps, a look.
Thus, it remained a question I was never asked.
The only time the issue of virginity was raised, was in a religious context.
It came dripping with bad and worse associations. Submission. Purity culture. Patriarchy.
I felt revolted at the mere idea of identifying with it.
I like having my judgment respected when it comes to my sexual activities.
I like having the freedom to discuss what I did and did not do without immediate censure.
I like having no law or rule dictate or limit my activities so long as I do not harm or harrass anyone.
I like the sense of safety and respect and responsibility that awards.
I like the idea that I answer to God, and God alone, when it comes to whatever consensual sexual activity I engage in.
The idea that I make choices to follow what I believe is right freely, in my own time and without outside pressure.
I like it a lot.
I like sexual freedom.
Thus, it remained a discussion I tried to avoid.
I am not a virgin.
I have never had occasion to identify with the word.
I have never much discussed it and when I did, disliked it.
I do not apply this label to myself.
Ironically, people will apply the label if I am ever very clear about the limits to which I have been sexually active.
I cannot even make sense of where that line is drawn.
Is there one?
I do not wish to be a virgin, with all that that entails.
I am simply ‘not sexually active’.
Lady bits will be discussed in this post.
I live in a progressive society.
I am ‘not sexually active’, rather than a virgin (maagd).
There are reasons for this. I want to illustrate that.
It’s always felt so… natural (vanzelfsprekend).
With great glee, teen magazines and sexual education revelled in one fact when I grew up.
Only one percent of girls would have their hymen intact and bleed when they had sex.
Hymen. In Dutch, literally virgin seal (maagdenvlies).
The accuracy of the statistic wasn’t important.
Its repetition was.
Scientific fact or fiction as a mantra, a talisman.
Your hymen will 99% likely not be intact.
It meant, do not fear sex.
It meant, it won’t hurt, try it.
It meant, you are safe, don’t worry.
It meant, there is no magic.
It meant, there is no unforgivable sin.
It meant, you will still be the same person.
There is no magic.
Your body cannot be a sacrifice.
Your blood does not have special powers.
You will not be targeted by evil sorcerers or monsters or bogeymen.
There is no unforgivable sin.
You are not more virtuous for having had less or more sex.
You are not more holy before you have sex.
You do not have to be an angel.
You will not be a slut.
You do not need to be ‘kept safe’ for your own good.
You are safe, do not worry.
You are not in danger because you are innocent or beautiful.
Others’ lust is not on you.
Sexual harrassment is a crime.
We make laws, we bring justice.
If you are in danger, we are on your side.
We will teach you how to speak up.
We will teach you how to fight.
We will teach you how to be prudent.
We will teach you how to wield our laws.
Do not fear sex.
You will still be the same person.
Your body is yours to do with as you please.
We have enshrined this in the declaration of human rights.
We are dedicated to bringing this freedom to everyone around the world.
This freedom is your inalienable right.
Try it, it won’t hurt.
Here comes the sticking point.
What if I don’t want to try sex?
Then I don’t, I suppose.
They said, your hymen will likely not be intact.
You may not have a detectable hymen in the first place.
It may break when you ride a bike or a horse.
It may break when you insert a tampon, fingers or a device.
It may break with rigorous physical activity.
They said, be careful with the vagina, that may be narrow.
The vagina may be narrow.
I have discovered the truth of this last part.
It is a flexible channel with muscles around it.
Go figure what inactivity does.
The Dutch ride bikes regularly from age four.
I have always wondered if other nations had a higher percentage of intact hymen.
I preferred tampons.
We swim a lot, in Holland.
Hobby, outing with friends, day out in summer, exotic vacation.
Imagine having a 25% chance of not being able to do that.
It’s hard to bend over and see, easier to touch lady parts.
We were informed it’s good to clean and be familiar with those lady parts.
We were told about a terrifying host of things that can be wrong .
Mostly, I remembered it was good to inform a doctor if anything seemed off.
That means knowing how my genitals looks when they’re alright.
Relevant: stimulating devices.
I explored enough to know parts were functional.
I found that it worked differently for me, however.
It took me a while to figure out, hey, other sexuality.
Upon the stage of public opinion, the Dutch don’t really have conservative evangelicals.
We have conservative Muslims.
They are not considered white, so they are ridiculed more openly.
Thus, Christian girls worry a lot less about being a virgin, at least in a clear physical sense.
Muslim girls, well-informed, do worry about not being virgin in any discernable physical way.
I have overheard several serious discussions of the wonders of goat’s blood packets in the marriage bed while on the train, over the years.
An intact hymen is for other cultures and other times.
Physical inspection was for horrible quack-doctors among Victorians.
Physical mutilation is for horrible witch-doctors on other continents.
Here, just sign a petition, send a card.
Except, not really.
I read about sexual education going out the window.
I read about girls not knowing about or being scared of their own genitals.
I read about women feeling scared about not having an intact hymen.
I read about people getting sick, of STDs spreading again.
I speak to fellow Christians honestly believing this is all a good development.
I am speechless.
Your hymen is likely not intact.
It’s just a little fold of tissue.
I find I am holding a talisman.
Image and official rules over on The Global Aussie.
So, this is taken me two weeks, but I loved the idea of this 🙂
Thanks to janitorqueer for tagging me into the Liebster Award.
Rules of the game, in the tag-post:
1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award logo.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Nominate bloggers who you think are deserving of the award but also help promote newer bloggers with less followers.
4. Tell the bloggers you nominated them, in a comment on their blog.
5. Give them 11 questions of your own.
The first few questions…
- What inspires you most when writing/blogging? A creative outlet for demisexuality and all it brought with it, especially at the start, with the two-fold goal of finding a sense of community and hopefully providing some informative posts for people similarly redefining their identities and lives.
- Are you religious? Yes… and Christianity is definitely significant in my writing, I think most of all because faith and sexuality both feel like fundamental parts of my self.
- Did you enjoy your education? (high school, university, etc.) Yes and no. I love learning stuff, but secondary school was a gauntlet due to a lot of uncertainties. University I adored because I studied something I loved. Graduate studies was a whole other ball-game again, that… no.
- What is your dream job? private tutoring in what I studied, with someone else doing the admin and client acquisition.
- Boxers or briefs? yeah… on that subject I mostly appreciate it that my roommates have different preferences when it’s my turn to do laundry. Easier to tell apart.
- What important values do you live by? Love others as you love yourself… and that can be split up into
- a) Each person should know they are invaluable;
- b) I am fascinated with every interesting mind I encounter;
- c) It is essential that everyone recognise that everyone else is incalculably precious and not to be wasted, and that this is embedded in everything from international law to household rules;
- d) Everyone has agency, needs and unique talents and worldview, so satisfaction of basic needs, freedom of choice, freedom of information, accountability, equality and a healthy support network are essential for each human being to function.
…since that leaves me with five questions, here goes, pulled from other sources.
- What would people be surprised to know about you? I was a scout and know three ways to build a camp fire.
- What is your greatest joy in life? Succesfully getting an idea I’m very enthusiastic about from inception to final execution. There is no bigger high.
- What is the favourite country you’ve visited? Ireland. It managed to combine an idyllic countryside with an inexhaustible source of culture and some of the best music and loveliest accents I’ve had the pleasure to hear.
- Craziest idea you ever got in the shower? Top five non-humanoid aliens I’d want to meet. Especially the part where I was speculating on safe methods of preserving my body while communing with noncorporeal entities consisting of thought.
- One sentence that sums up your 2017. The advance of human commodification is horrifying, enraging and inspiring (to write about).
Questions for the tagged ones:
- What was the catalyst for you to start blogging, and what keeps you writing now?
- What do you consider the best part of yourself?
- What stranger, friend or family has continued to be an example throughout your life (describe what they mean to you, if you want to keep it general)?
- What is the most important choice you ever made, to you personally?
- If you had to describe yourself in a movie tagline, e.g. the callous reporter or the down-to-earth jazz musician or the calm old soul, what phrase would you use?
- Congratulations, you are now the President of the United States. What’s your first executive order?
- Earth has been destroyed and you flee the planet. Describe the space ship you’re on.
- What is your favourite superpower?
- What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
- You get one freebie to smack a person in the face without consequences. Who will it be?
- What polysyllabic (big-ass) word has become a common word in your vocabulary?
Tagged ones (which are just plain good blogs, and didn’t already get tagged, go read):
P.S. “Liebster” is something like “sweetie” in German, and River Song was one of my favourite characters. So, that.
My contribution to the March Carnival of Aces, about physical health and bodies. Go check out all the contributions.
Explicit language about sex, though I try not to be graphic.
For twenty-five years all the landmarks of developing sexuality and romantic relationships pass me by.
I blame my impopularity, my insecurity, my anxiety, my depression.
I have a few crushes. I think those feelings are attraction.
I look at a man I have known for several years.
In disbelief I feel my lower stomach roil with heat and my groin clench. I flush.
I flee to the hallway and slide down a wall.
That was sexual attraction. Out of nowhere. Already waning.
I realise I have never, ever felt it before.
My mind explodes.
I find the word “asexual” online. I read, ferociously.
I am demisexual, I decide.
I feel highly relieved.
The general practicioner looks at me. “Are you sexually active?”
I tick the box for single on the document, on every document.
I am in Amsterdam during Pride week.
I buy a purple dress and paint flags on my hands.
No one recognises asexuality as a thing. I comfort myself with forum hopping.
Weaving through the crowds I realise the most important thing about Pride is intangible: lack of expectations.
People bring their kids to experience a place and time when anyone’s sexuality and gender can be anything and it is okay.
It is festive, but I am alone and unknown. I leave early.
On the way home I buy a black ring and put it on my right middle finger.
There, I am out.
I take a photo.
I fill out another form. Yes, I’m single, dammit.
For the first time, I want there to be a question about sexuality.
“I’ve been flirting with you for ages!”
“I honestly didn’t notice.”
“Oh my God.” Skype makes his laugh a muffled thing. “Do you like me? I mean, you were not responding, so.”
“…yeah. But. I wasn’t gonna say anything. This is online.”
“You were just gonna pine. Pathetically.”
“Well, yeah. I’m… kinda glad to be having this conversation, though.”
I discover that being in love comes with heightened awareness, especially of my body in the world.
Flirting, once I’m aware, is an addictive adrenaline rush.
I feel tender, vulnerable.
I stop blogging. This is for me.
“Your vagina’s kind of narrow.”
I glare at my doctor. What part of ‘never sexually active’ was unclear?
“You never masturbate?”
I shrug. “Yeah.”
She grimaces. “This may hurt.”
She slides in the I.U.D. Aside from a dull ache, it’s fine.
Five years’ worth of birth control, installed.
Our flirting, our conversations continue.
I am shameless. I grew up in a culture open about sexuality. I see no reason to hold back.
I find my imagination has the greatest influence over my body.
Anticipation can buzz for an entire day beneath skin.
I want touch, I crave it.
The flip side, he lives in another country.
I love the attention, the banter.
I want company. I want another body, close.
The calls become explicit too, sometimes.
I delight in the celebration of body, it is so new.
I am, perhaps for the first time, interested in manly bits.
I love the touch, even imagined, even removed. Giving and taking.
I love the gaze. I love the sounds. I love the play of talk and touch and exploration and affection.
However, as it becomes more… focused, it becomes less interesting.
Reality is less without imagination fully engaged.
The more it is about just the genitals, the less my body and mind are into it.
The popping, crackling full-body fizz as we suggested, flirted, started, settles down into a low, steady buzz in my belly, depressingly familiar from masturbating.
Now, as then, orgasm is simply an end. A sudden stop to pleasant sensation, like stepping in a cold shower.
I have learned not to let that buzz culminate and tip over, but now it does.
“Did you finish?” he asks and I answer in the affirmative.
I do not fake that, but I fake how it makes me feel.
I fear he notices.
We end that call and I curl up wanting to cry.
Orgasms do not work as advertised and I want an afterglow badly.
The foreplay is not supposed to be the highlight, dammit.
When I start counting in months, I feel his physical absence acutely.
The difference with friendship turns out to be the level of preoccupation and the territoriality that comes with it.
He is a missing limb, in my thoughts but never under my hands.
We drift apart. His disinterest grows and I become stiffer the longer I want more than I can have.
I start babysitting, for some money.
Children, I discover, like touch, especially when they can dictate it.
Since touch has always equaled affection in my family, it is very, very easy to love the kids.
I also discover babysitting can stop from one day to the next.
The first time it ends I cry for several days on the couch, I simply think I am sad.
The second time was longer, much worse, and I realise how much more territorial I was over kids than even a romantic partner. Even when I knew they were not mine.
I am preternaturally aware of my womb for several months.
After the third time is bad, so bad, I swear off babysitting.
I fill out another form. I tick single, and no, for sexually active.
A year in my new town, I finally feel comfortable to start touching the people I have come to know.
A hug, a supporting hand.
I do not realise just how much it relaxes me until I am asked what’s made me so cheerful.
I meet my new doctor.
“I am not sexually active, no. I am on the asexual spectrum.”
She gives me a weird look at my wide, wide smile.
Two years seems to be the mark for me to be settled enough to start feeling attracted to people.
A grinning woman, oozing charisma and feminity, makes me weirdly cheerful and want to stare like a creepy stalker.
At the coffeestore, to make it more cliche.
No flush, no buzz, though. No desire to touch.
Oh, oh. Aesthetic attraction, I realise. For a real, live person.
I meet a young woman, single.
She is going to be a foster parent.
It is a revelation. Many ways lead to Rome. I need not take the most common one.
My anxiety hits me over the head again, out of nowhere.
My sex drive remains. I still feel the occasional attraction, mostly aesthetic or romantic, once even the flush of sexual.
I blamed all the wrong things when I was young.
I am demisexual, and it is simply my nature, not a symptom.
I have tried to cover all the feelings that relate to my body and are encompassed by my demisexuality.
This is not a complete account, I have chosen to include the first (or only) time I felt or acted on certain attractions.
I decided to leave out times when that attraction was not directed at a real person but a fictional character, especially since sexuality seems to function very differently in imagined and real scenarios.
I joke, sometimes, that my demons are all inside my head. A life of insecurities fed by a vivid imagination and an intellect as adapt at self-deception as it is at self-reflection.
I have a hard time acknowledging that this internal conflict is legitimate.
I am fighting myself.
It’s not real.
(Others won’t care.)
I have buried what I want so far I do not have words.
(On top, in ascending order: Fears. Excuses. Euphemisms. Silence.)
I grasp at vapour eminating off what cringes in the shadow.
(I put you there, I am sorry.)
It is reflex, when someone starts in on abstinence, starts in on homosexuality being a sin.
Stop. Listen. Internal fact-check. Extrapolation of world-view. Phrase counterargument. Project likely reaction. Stay quiet.
Empathy. Open-mindedness, I used to think.
The truth: I am weak to claims that it isn’t polite to talk sex and politics and religion.
I allow the dominant discourse to go unchallenged.
When I speak, it is in the other’s words, the other’s paradigm.
Intercultural. Bridging gaps, I used to think.
The truth: I would rather step on my own convictions than another’s.
I contradict myself, from conversation to conversation.
When I attempt to speak honestly, either feeling safe or feeling too angry to curb my words, I still struggle.
I still slant what I think to an angle or omit controversialities or insert rationalisations.
Simplifying, explaining, I used to think.
The truth: I do not wish to break relationships, and worry too vividly.
When I break down in a safe space, with a trusted person, I do not control the words.
I sketch the shape of fears grown like fungus in the dark, hardly knowing the place they arise from.
Venting, being open, I used to think.
The truth: I am scared of things I have not dared to examine, for fear of what I need to change.
I have an outlet, and the status quo continues.
What do I want?
I sit in a dark room staring at deeper shadows.
My eyes adjust.
I am accepted.
What do I fear?
I stare back at myself, older, hands hidden the shadows.
Perhaps holding children, adopted, biological.
(Deliberately a single parent, with added stigma.)
Perhaps holding a partner, unknown age, gender, religion, ethnicity.
(A relationship, might be rejected)
What do I fear?
(Will I remain acceptable?)
If you let go, you could easily step forward, I do not tell myself.
If they stay secret, you could easily stay there, I do not tell myself.
If they come with you, they could get hurt, I do not tell myself.
What do I fear?
(Deeper, go deeper)*
Finding my future self empty-handed.
I look up at the light.
No one I love deserves to live in a pit like this, I tell my future self.
Duh, she answers.
(I imagine she fears less.)
I am accepted.
I still fear the church.
I remain silent, I twist my words, I hide what I believe.
I lie, because I am scared of the future.
I fear having to pay a price for my heart’s desires.
What do I fear?
My present community.
A potential future family.
I am fighting myself.
If I do not win, it will be real.
(Go on the offence)
* I watched Revolutionary Girl Utena, all three seasons in a single weekend. I love fantasy that deconstructs shit, and this came with a bonus absolutely gorgeous queerplatonic relationship (or so I interpreted it). Definitely recommended. (And free on youtube here!)
The starting point: a TED talk by Helen Fisher on romantic love that is part of my reading up on sexuality.
I perk up five minutes in.
“I began to realize that romantic love is not an emotion. In fact, I had always thought it was a series of emotions, from very high to very low. But actually, it’s a drive.” (5:27)
My notes, based on what she says –
Three drives – three parts of the process
- Sex drive – to notice – select people to have a relationship with from a crowd
- Romantic drive – to focus – exaggerated attention, behaviour and emotion towards a specific person
- Attachment drive – to remain – a stable bundle of affection, attraction and behaviour towards a person to whom one has committed.
(May trigger in any order – important later)
I hesitate, then make a second list.
- If sex drive not(/rarely) triggered – asexual? – alternative selection process?
- If romantic drive not triggered – aromantic? – alternative method for focusing on specific person(s)?
- Attachment drive – independent from either
In the first flush of ideas of what it could potentially mean, the sweeping click-click-click of possible patterns, I dream big. Research statements for bold, new discoveries.
Attachment drive independent becomes –
The potential succes of relationships that asexual and aromantic people start is entirely independent from their romantic or sexual orientation.
Sex drive / romantic drive not triggered becomes –
Asexual or aromantic people formulate alternative methods to select and court potential partners from (zed/allo)sexual or -romantic people.
Alternative methods perhaps implies –
Asexual or aromantic people use methods to select and focus on partners similar to those they use to select and notice people to form other sorts of relationships with.
As I am writing reality trickles back in.
2018, not 1998.
Not Terra Incognita. Just new to me.
I sigh and go to add questions to my subjects-to-read-up-on list.
Demisexuality means this: sex drive may trigger simultaneously with or after attachment has formed.
This is why I may be dismissed: these drives do not necessarily trigger in order for anyone.
Attachment may come before sexual attraction for anyone. Romantic feelings may come before sexual attraction.
Asexuality: sex drive exists, but is irrelevant.
This is why I dislike being dismissed: I have been sexually attracted, in passing, to only half a dozen people in my lifetime. Other feelings, however, I have felt far more often.
Alternative methods are developed.
If one chooses to try for a relationship. If. Or it happens accidentally.
I am amatonormative, (and heteronormative?).
Aware, but still stuck with these trappings.
Progress. Not answers, but some questions to ask.
- How do I select anyone I wish to know better from among strangers?
- How, from that point, do they become friends or a potential partner?
- What makes that difference for me?
- How do I become territorial or obsessive over people for a time?
- What emotions/attractions/behaviour/thoughts overflow if one person preoccupies me?
- What does attachment look like for me (if I have enough data to say)?
- What are my alternative methods?
- What are others’ alternative methods?
- Do we see a difference in our brain, do we have something that lights up instead of the regular instincts?
I begin and discard several blog entries entitled The Three Drives.
I know too little yet, about brains, about sexuality in brains.
What questions do I elect to answer first?
Also progress, no need to go back and edit impersonal “we” and “you” back into “I”.
I think, therefore I am.
Demisexual. Questioning. Discovering.
Delighting in it.
Discovering my demisexuality, how seldom I really look upon other people and find them attractive in the sexual sense, had a profound impact on my body image. It served as a crowbar that cracked open what I thought was “normal”. Most of this process I became aware of as it happened.
I’ve tried covering this subject a few years ago, but back then I was still in the middle of all this, so I hope this paints a more complete picture of what changed for me.
Step one: shaking off the sexy
If I don’t really think of others sexually, why should I think of myself this way? This sat on the back-burner in my mind while I grabbed clothes and wondered, is this too sexy? Do I even know what sexy is? Do I want to know?
No, I decided. I didn’t, because it really didn’t make me happy. It was just a source of uncertainty. I wanted to stop thinking of myself that way. Shed the gazes I imagined sliding over me. Stop speculating how I looked in others’ eyes. I wasn’t someone who got a kick out of that. I was someone who grew worried.
I talked with other women, sometimes friends, sometimes parents whose kids I served, when we’d had one of those sermons (especially after I’d moved. My new church was more conservative). In these conversations about being female and how that affected seeing one’s body, one subject kept returning. How watching your clothes and how they functioned as you moved through the day was a form of self-defense, both against sexual assault and possible disapproval. The shame that came with acting more indecently, like pain, served a purpose, was a warning signal. Wasn’t it?
No, I decided. It really wasn’t my problem what others thought of me, it was theirs. And in assuming others would disapprove of me, or assault me, I was doing them a disservice. A life’s worth of experience told me that guys are most likely to behave themselves if everyone (including them) think that they can and should. And, really… if I was unsafe, how I dressed or was regarded was probably irrelevant, compared to knowing how to throw a punch, act confident and have a working phone with me.
So, I contradicted those thoughts whenever they arose. Gradually, they stopped coming.
Step two: end of shame
As those thoughts disappeared, it had a large emotional impact. Those worries (Am I sexy? Am I decent? What do others think?) carried a heavy load of anxiety and shame with them. When they stopped, it took a load off my soul I hadn’t been aware of before then.
I am from Holland, where nudity is less taboo than most places. Still, it’s a pretty loaded thing, titilating, scary, even when everybody pretends they’re all fine with it. In other words, still sexually loaded.
Breaking the link between “sexual object” and “my body” made it a much more comfortable thing to inhabit, to regard. Even spots or a few more pounds or a week’s neglected shave carried far less weight, since my body didn’t need to satisfy anyone but myself.
There were times, mostly in the second year after shifting from “heterosexual-by-default” to “demisexual”, when a feeling of euphoria would occasionally come over me simply because I was happy with my physical self. I laughed. I came bouncing down the stairs eager to greet the day dressed in flesh and bones that suited me well.
Step three: rational chastity
To be chaste, in the original sense, is to act morally, with only an emphasis on sexuality, according to the culture or environment you inhabit. Which is very different from chaste in the colloquial sense. I’d always liked the original meaning.
When my sense of self started changing, I asked God what his will was. I asked that a lot, especially the first few years. There just isn’t any guide as to how asexuality or demisexuality should intersect with Christianity, so really the only thing to do is pray.
Here’s what I believe to be true, and feel free to disagree: that I stopped to think of myself as sexual object was a blessing. Losing the guilt and shame over my body was nothing less than God’s will. In this, my demisexuality served my spiritual growth. I lost self-consciousness and negative thoughts and emotions I never should have had in the first place, but were imposed by my culture. Both a sexualised wider Western culture and the must-hide-body-from-men Christian culture.
So then, what should guide me instead? In determining what to do with my physical self, to care for it, to clothe it, to move it. Again, I asked God. I believe the following to be the answer: I have a functional conscience and enough information to make good choices. By letting choice guide me, rather than anxiety or shame, acting chaste (appropriate in a given context) becomes an act of obedience to God. I am thus more able to love my (physical) self now.
If I then also believe that others will act decently, that is further obedience. Namely, in that way I love others. Or, if you will, I treat them as I would want to be treated.
Step four: appearance of joy
When I stopped regarding my body as sexual object, my relationship with each part of my personal routine and wardrobe changed as well. I’ve mentioned my clothes, but really it also included washing, skin products, hair, jewelry, general demeanour, how I moved, what I bought, physical activities, packing for trips, preparing for social occasions and even the spaces I inhabited and how I decorated those. Overall, I just felt much happier and more confident about all of them, which meant they cost less time (angsting) and became more varied (through experimentation).
Each old thing was a little new, because I revised what I thought of them. When everything stopped being even the slightest bit sexual or (in)decent, I had far more mental space to tag possessions as feminine or casual, practical or colourful, suiting certain moods or occasions as I liked them, not as I thought others would regard them. Oddly, since I felt more free to think of them as I liked, they also felt more like they were mine, closer to me, just as I was closer to my body. I believe I’m rather territorial, since that pleased me to no end.
I remain rather lazy with my appearance, but I feel pretty good about it, regardless of what I do with it on any given day.
Step five: satisfying senses
Since my relationship with my body and the world I experienced through it improved, I also started noticing just how much that world and that body affected me. This was part of my wider search of how to give my life meaning given my changed identity. I figured out I am a sensual person. In the relationship sense, in that I feel the desire to connect to the people I like through touch and physical affection is a big part of relationships for me. But also in the me-on-my-own sense.
Buying cotton rather than synthetic textures for my clothes. Bringing a ceramic mug to American-style coffee stores so I don’t get a paper one. Cooking for texture as well as for taste.
I could go on, but, in the context of this whole re-defining my body image, it was a doubling down in my happiness with my physical self. By being more settled in my body I unlocked this source of pleasure.
Step six: heretical heteronormativity
The interaction between my faith and my sexual orientation reconciled them for me. This change in my body image and everything that followed was a large part of that.
It affected my opinion of how many Christians talk about sexual orientations. Initially, I thought of Christian communities as something of a refuge, where the pressure to look and act sexy was less, and lack of sexual activity was far more accepted. However, I came to feel as restricted within the Christian culture I inhabited as I did the wider secular culture, just… differently.
I’ve also felt very good with how my demisexuality enabled me to have a more positive body image and my faith was a help, not a hindrance, with that. It might sound odd, but I believe that such a change in identity is a potential source of spiritual growth to a Christian. Being other, it can be a start to rethinking so much. Living far more consciously, and far more true to the self. That can in turn deepen faith, if to live better equals to live more according to God’s will. If God is loving, and accepting and that acceptance is felt, after seriously questioning it.
In this, then, I find myself opposed to the dominant doctrine, which sees no problem in condemning people for their gender or sexuality, while others who commit what’s defined as serious sexual sins are invited back into community with gratuitous forgiveness. The first church I went to, I found myself accepted. In the current one, while it is very heteronormative, their commitment to “salvation is for everyone” gives… wiggle room, which I’m still negotiating. I’ve had several encounters where that heteronormativity crosses into hetero-exclusivity, organisations whose message could be summarised as “we welcome everyone as-is, but you’re not going to heaven unless you can be molded into an abstinence-only monogamous acting-as-heterosexual person.”
This, to me, is the line where that heteronormativity crosses into heresy. The absolute basic message of Christian faith is that everyone was created by God in love and has a full right to that, as they are. So, I find a community I’ve belonged to all my life hurtling in completely the opposite direction to what I believe. And, in having another sexual orientation, I also find myself belonging to the “them” potentially condemned.
Step seven: know thyself
I am Christian. I am demisexual.
I feel good about my body. My body feels good in the world. I feel better about my body in relation to others. I have learned to love myself and others and the world around me more. I believe this to be a blessing from God. Having a different sexual orientation has been good for my faith. I still feel I belong to the Christian community, but I finally have some understanding with how it also alienates those that I feel kinship with because I no longer identify as heterosexual.
Thanks for reading, if you’ve gotten this far in this very long post. Be aware this is the reconstruction of a personal journey that is, by its very nature, subjective. If your experience is different, I would love to hear about it. If this in any way helped you in some way by reading it, I’d also love to hear from you.
God bless you and have a fantastic life.
I told her I was asexual on the getting-to-know-my-patient form.
(Use language they might know.)
It was a test. She passed.
Reward unlocked: basic trust.
She leans forward, in an overstuffed armchair.
I am twisting my fingers, seated on an overstuffed sofa.
“Do you feel like you’re denying yourself anything because of your sexuality?”
I do not feel any less than whole, but…
Non-default sexuality. Limited options.
(There are paths you cannot walk. Choices have consequences even if you’re free to make them.)
“Yes, I do.”
“What, then? What don’t you let yourself have?”
“I don’t know.”
Sex. Love. Relationship. Loneliness. Family. Future. Life. Community. Connection. Status.
I type in mental keywords until I see what’s labeled ‘denied’.
Relief, which ebbs when I realise most results are coloured with doubt (do I want this) and dread (where do I even start) and trepidation (must research alternatives).
“I figure it’ll just be, y’know, harder for me. Or different. Don’t really know how to fit things in my life that I want.”
“I’m not normal.”
“Don’t put yourself down, now.”
“Actually… I like being who I am, a little weird. What it means for my life, though, not a clue. Which kinda brings us back to the whole no-clue-having about my life in general that brought me here.”
What helped, before, upon discovery of my demisexuality, was others who struggled, or didn’t. Their stories.
…must research alternatives…
Find a Let’s Play for asexuality.
My identity: demisexual.
Widen the search parameters, lieutenant.
What I say in my head: not ‘impossible’ but ‘difficult’.
How much have I denied myself, thinking that?
How much, by leaving things undefined, unexplored, chaos.
By choosing nothing, what did I choose?
Lesson from a therapist: a good one will not just accept, but help.
Questioning sexuality included.
Reward unlocked: active trust.
In writing this, I have had to go back and change every ‘we’ and ‘you’ into ‘I’.
False sense of safety in generalities and impersonal language.
How much have I denied myself?
Must research alternatives.
I stick my tongue out at the advertising, after checking the isle is empty.
I buy chocolates.
Quest part the first: Count Your Blessings.
Reward unlocked: family hugs.
I debate whether to post this. Therapy is personal.
It is exactly the sort of story I’m seeking.
I trawl blogs.
I am not alone.
Still comforting, several years in.