Category Archives: Demisexual satisfaction
For my contribution to January’s Carnival of Aces, I hope to explore how my sexuality impacted my view of my physical self. Sex and gender feature obliquely. A person is much more, and I hope I can delve a little into those deeper layers.
Being demisexual means, to me, that my lust or arousal is triggered very rarely, and always, only, within the context of a pre-existing significant emotional connection, whether the person on the receiving end is real or fictional. On a day-to-day basis, this means I experience the world stripped of all sexual connotations and subtext, the way we imagine only a child can. I know it’s there, the same way I know the planet is round. As an intellectual point of interest only.
Physicality, for the purposes of this post, is the sense or experience of the body. Body image. The experiencing of sensory input. Bodily contact, movement. The material part of myself.
Here’s where sexuality and gender played the biggest role.
As a woman I often saw – see – my body in third person. Subject to the approving eyes of others, which made shopping a harrowing experience when I let the insecurities get to me. I wasn’t particularly aware of it, until a large part of those doubts disappeared.
Redefining my sexuality meant I wasn’t obligated to feel love or lust like others anymore. There was a new normal that gradually asserted itself.
What I didn’t expect was for that ball to bounce back. I stopped imaging my own body as attractive or sexy. It became a (much less sexual) collection of all the features that remained. Healthy, tall, cold or hot, numb or sensitive, tired or brimming with energy.
Other people’s view of me became just that, somebody else’s problem. I sloughed off much of the fear and worry with losing that objectivation. My physical person turned into a tool to experience myself and the world as it was.
If I still step outside myself it is with much more enjoyment. My wardrobe is far, far more varied. Dressing myself has become an exercise in gender performance* or practical consideration or deliberate presentation.
The asexual community was really good for me when it came to deconstructing concepts such as relationships and attraction, how these aren’t simple, how these aren’t the same for us. How they might be different for each individual, in fact.
Thing is, I don’t have much to go on. I don’t feel attraction often, I haven’t a big history of many relationships that I cannot sort into easy categories like “friends” and “family”. So beyond some self-examination and speculation, it’s not a productive place for me to go.
However, I do have a fully functioning body. What’s that doing, then, if it’s not feeling the lust other adults do? Cause I certainly don’t feel frigid, or like a mind in some earthly prison. I am much happier now than I ever was with my body, in fact.
Turns out it’s just… experiencing the world. Sunshine on skin. Fresh food for tastebuds. Physical exercise for stretching muscles and losing energy. Good music for the ears.
I was grounded in my senses like any other human being. It should have been self-evident, perhaps, but it was a revelation. Because once I knew, I could do it more deliberately. And the world is a fantastic place. Who knew?
I feel I have been told: being asexual means you’re less happy because you cannot experience that ultimate completion of the ultimate connection between human beings that is the sexual act for expressing romantic love. Accepting asexuality, or demisexuality, means that – on some level – you will be alone. I feel I have been told a lie.
We probably cannot fulfill – and must redefine – some societal expectations and our normative role, within our cultures. True. We will probably need to be braver to find what we seek, and seek longer than the average Joe. True.
I cannot love more or less for having redefined myself. I do not seek less affection from my peers and my family and my community.
In fact, I seek more. I find more. Because, get this, I finally know what I want. Having my world stripped of all the illusions that came with thinking myself heterosexual, means a haze of confusion that isolated me from others is gone.
For example, I feel (fear?) that I’m rarely going to have a sexual or romantic partner. I also know I want physical affection. Just because repeated experience tells me I feel better for having it. So I dare to cross some of those lines that my individualistic society draws, and hug, and touch, within the context of all the platonic relationships I have. What I find if I dare is, most people respond, often smiling, in kind.
I know that I want to feel good things, and together with someone. So I simply go do stuff I like, and bring some company. Intimacy and shared experience achieved.
And yes, that’s simplification, but the lesson I am learning remains, which is, I want stuff from people, together with people, and often they’re simple, about touch and company and intimacy, and there are many ways to get those things. And because it’s all about finding ways to love people and be loved, this journey of discovery is in and of itself enjoyable.
I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of how discovering my sexuality has had – by and large – a positive impact on how experience my body, in relation to itself, the world and others. I am very curious to hear how your sexuality has impacted you, on this and other levels.
It’s a subjective experience, and one that evolves, but I do believe it’s a significant one. For me, at least, it’s meant a lot to have an ace spectrum along which I could (re)define myself. It’s given me back my body in ways I didn’t even know I’d lost it. I hope it’s helped you in some ways too.
*I hope I’m not overstepping any bounds here, but I feel that, even being a cisgender female, there are days when I am, if you will, more or less feminine (and in Dutch female and feminine would be the same word, here (vrouwelijk)). It plays a significant role in what I put on in terms of clothing, jewelry, make-up, hairstyle, how I walk, and yes, sometimes even influences my choice of activity, or is influenced by my choice of activity perhaps, I’m not sure. The biggest deal – for me – was how much of this remains once sexual subtext/connotations were taken out of the equation, and it’s all the more enjoyable for it.
So after reading up on sexiness… This post and all those it links: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/an-exploration-of-not-wanting-to-be-sexy-and-of-never-feeling-sexy/
I realised, I’m unaccustomed to thinking of myself as sexy, and as nice as it is to be appreciated that way… it’s made me rather self-consciousness. Especially since I rarely consider anything visual sexy myself, as in causing the buzz in my mind and lower body that’s a precursor to desire or causing attraction.
So, as celebration and affirmation, here’s a list of what I find sexy.
Minds. Interesting bubbles of humanity. I could be delighted by them and revel in them all the livelong day.
Acts-ideas-agents. The trifecta of the body’s input, the mind’s input and the heart’s input. Done right, any input that works on all three levels and is contextualised as “sexy” can get really intense. Charged.
Sensation. Touch. Just. Works.
So, considering all that, am I sexy? All of the sexiness I perceive is based in interaction, preferably the reciprocal kind. It’s rather hard for me to consider it a personal quality.
Although… If a person is the source of much of it… It does tend to get associated with him. So, perhaps, after being sexy with a person for a while they become it, by association.
Contains non-graphic mentions of sex and desire.
I desire, more to the point, I desire someone.
It’s neither the easy, mostly romantic crushes I’ve had before. It’s not uneasy romantic-and-sexual attraction I have little experience with or even just fumbling around because I think I feel something. I want this to go somewhere.
The difference is huge. Like trying to go down the highway in fifth gear instead of first. Where before I rarely wished to go up the ramp to speed down that road, I want to now, because I feel I could just hurtle along at close to a hundred miles an hour. Sixty should not be a problem. All just because I want this now, with a person. It’s an odd sensation, and in and of itself enjoyable.
Being at this point, I can also say: I am so very glad I explored my identity.
I have words for what I want in a relationship. I can explain how I want to fulfill my desires, how they arise and how they are best satisfied. I can do this in relaxed late-night conversations because I possess the language and lack the shame.
No, I haven’t talked sexual identity. That’d need a load more trust on my end. I am still in the closet to most people.
Still, it’s good, with a specific partner, just to be able to trace out a road map of what I want with them. What I’ve wanted in general. How it matches their desires. What I’ve done and not.
At once the freedom to have sex and talk about it and the freedom to not have (had) it when I don’t want it.
You’ll notice I have omitted gender. ‘s one of the biggest adaptations I made to how I think of relating to another person in any context. Gender plays a role, to some degree, but like sexual attraction comes secondary to who a person is, for me.
The same goes for the divide between a platonic, romantic and sexual relationship… These relationships have become less… other… from each other. Rather, they act on bunches of different levels, and which levels they operate on develops. Depends on the person, the progress of the relationship, the desires of both (or several) people in the relationship.
Yes, the current one happens to be of the opposite gender, the next one likely will be. But honestly, when it could be one month or five years before I desire another this intensely, and I can’t even know whether I’ll desire them romantically or sexually or both or on another level altogether… The categories are… less relevant.
I do not… lack anything, as I was afraid I would.
I am free to be demisexual, and to me it works like this:
I am attracted to another person, in their entirety. My mind will run ahead of my body. Fantasy, before act. Friend, before lover. Mental as well as emotional as well as physical connection. When it comes, the attraction is intense, and the configuration of desire which I feel and express is unique to each person and each relationship.
Be warned, somewhat explicit stuff. Third part of the three-parter for the September Carnival of Aces.
A big part of my (sexual) identity’s always been what I read and imagine. Basically, all of the stories I consume and produce, all of the worlds I’ve lived in, however fleetingly. They allow me to be more than what I am in my daily life and experience more than what I’d be into in actual fact.
The first twenty-five years of my life I did not feel sexual attraction. I wasn’t actually sure of or interested in this fact until after I did experience it and became aware I hadn’t before that point. A large part of it is a rise in confidence and emotional comfort. I do believe this is due to my demisexuality, that emotional well-being affects whatever capacity for a sex drive I have and attraction I can feel indirectly. Crudely put, if I cannot put myself out there, I cannot let others in well enough to form the emotional bond that precedes sexual attraction.
I did have a very rich fantasy life. I read far and wide. I imagined all sorts of scenarios. What drew me to them, I think, was the idea of being that close to a person, a craving for physical sensations and new experiences. They did a little for me, sexually, but never gave rise to more than mild arousal.
It has deeply affected how I experience sex now that I do have a libido. Physical stimulation’s mostly window dressing. I depend almost entirely on mental stimulation. I can and have masturbated fully clothed in public without moving an inch while others presumed me to be staring out a window, bored. I’m also far more easily attracted to fictional characters because they give rise to a deep connection almost immediately, especially if they’re the point of view character.
On the other hand, discovering demisexuality and experiencing sexual attraction to a handful of real-life people has started to affect what I wish to read and fantasise about. I no longer crave the idea of being close to people now that I can be for real, even if it’s platonically. The physical sensations seem less important and few concepts are new or stimulating anymore.
Instead, I’ve started to retrace what I could be attracted to in real life. Romantic relationships rich in emotional intimacy. Ensemble stories that explore friendships and being part of a group. Crushes in which the sexual component is small or comes later or even not at all, to see what in the range between platonic and highly sexual I’d ever be interested in.
It’s made for an interesting change in reading material. It’s also made for interesting fantasies that, were they movies, probably wouldn’t even shock a five-year-old. They arouse less, but engage my interest in far more areas at once, which suits me better.
Shhh, I am dreaming.
Of a time after we’ve restored the actual relationship to its proper place as the thing that is defined by itself, rather than by some of its probable features, sex, romance, marriage, children…
Of a place where we have no limits to how sex and sexuality works in our minds, and only enough rules to moderate our behaviour by what does not harm others…
Of a culture in which the full variety of friendships and platonic relationships, from quick and companiable to deep and lifelong has been restored and accepted and verbalised…
Of a community in which we can relate as easily to God and other people as we wish, without narrow hoops to jump and big blind spots that hide so many of us…
Of people who are alright in their relationships and can find what intimacy they wish, without restriction or misunderstanding, having the words to communicate what they wish…
I dream of opening the door to the full variety of relationships we could have, that asexuality hints at by its existence. because through asexuality we are crossing out the word “essential” before all of the features we thought intimate relationships should have and replacing it with “possible”, and adding a whole host of features we have forgotten, all of the attractions and intimacies asexuality has barely started to (re)discover and name.
One philosophical point that stares me in the face is the dichotomy between body and soul or mind. Love has become the expression of the soul. Sex of the body. Asexuality says we do not wish for sex and your typical love and relationships with our bodies and minds, as one whole. We need to discuss them as one coherent entity if we are to be accepted.
Traditionally, the sexual drive is seen as lust, a drive of the flesh and therefore worse than the more superior desires of the soul or mind. In modern times, sexual desire is located in the body, the focus of research is on how body is the instrument to both give and receive whatever acts flow from attraction. It is seen as natural, because we’ve all got similar bodies, right? A lack of sexual desire is a physical dysfuntion…. right?
To be asexual is having an experience alien to humans, whether you view it from an old-fashioned or modern perspective about how sex and sexuality works.
Or so we’re told.
But if body and mind are one… if we do not receive signals from others that excite us sexually, and do not put out those signals, if we experience an absence of sexual desire or the absence of a wish to express a sexual drive or even just attraction to any specific partner, or whatever asexuality is, if all of these are seen as coming from the same source, the subject, body and soul, then can it be weird?
Then we can simply be on the asexual spectrum, body and soul, and some signs of that can be perceived through the senses, or through instruments, some expressions of that asexuality occur in our mind, conscious or subconscious, and it’s all part of the same process, no bit invalid, no bit not ours.
After all, by sheer volume, we are a pretty common variety of human beings, not a single anomaly, which means the sexual drive is not an essential feature of the human condition.
A group that advocates the need for less sex in relationships… is religious leaders. I am only acquainted with my own, so excuse the Christian bias, here.
Here’s why this isn’t helpful: they still advocate for intimate relationships outside family to include romance, marriage, children and sex, albeit after marriage. Such relationships are elevated in importance over all others. Worst case, relationships with people of other religions and friendships with other genders are actively discouraged.
Aside from the misinformation and social problems this causes, this theory is especially weird when contrasted with practice.
My religious community has provided me with a half-dozen types of relationships, from “habitual greeting on a Sunday, but member of the same community” to “see them every week in small groups and also hang out randomly because they’re cool people” I have no words for outside of that community, because “fellowship” has become a weird and icky word in the Christian propaganda.
It’s a relationship sandbox for people re-entering society after some type of isolation, such a long-term therapy, and sought out either by individuals or by organisations encouraging them to go to church. Social engagement is important, too, whether through volunteer work or by churches cooperating with non-profits and grassroots initiatives.
On top of that, and hardest to explain, is how central and intimate a relationship with God is. I guess with one or multiple gods, or saints, if your religion is different. Prayer is a private conversation. A religious text is a personal diary or a letter as much as it is a history. Science is an exploration into the endless wonder an eternal mind produces. Human variety is an expression of how limitless we can be, not how limited we are.
In other words, a church can provide a feeling of community and a platform for platonic (and yes, romantic or sexual) relationships few other organisations can. Prescriptive attitudes and a bias towards monogamous heterosexual marriages is detrimental to that.
So to this questionaire1 I’d like to add:
- Do you exclude any people or individuals out of principle?
- Have you ever outright told people they were “wrong”?
- Do you have a pro-active anti-discrimination policy?’
- Do you organise activities aimed at socialising?
- Do you encourage or discourage relationships of any kind?
Further reading (and image)
1. Self-evaluation guide for welcoming churches (blog post).
Away from my homeland, I cannot describe the geological age the typical friendship takes to develop in Holland without sounding ridiculous.1 The first year you meet and have coffee, go on outings. The second year you might have dinner together and visit each other’s birthdays. The third year you might go on vacation together or stay over. At some point, you are introduced to each other’s families, love becomes unconditional and you will share all of your sorrows and all of your big life events. When families expand with partners or children, these are absorbed into the friendships. Gender plays no role in these relationships, except that friends tend to be of the same gender and friendships with women tend to be more physically intimate. After growing for a while, friendships settle at a certain level of intimacy and stay there. These friendships can weaken over the years or endure a lifetime.
After my stay in the U.S., I could not describe how I’d experienced friendship there without sounding ridiculous.2 After a first meeting, either a group event or happenstance, you know each other enough to decide you like the person, and from that point onwards, they’re “a friend”. Intimacy, or at least its appearance, immediately shifts to the desired level and will likely stay there. Actual closeness grows more gradually by going through through the motions until they feel natural. None of this makes either the initial wish for friendship or the resulting relationship any less genuine. Nor does its sudden end when people grow out of touch or the instant reconnecting when people meet again. They are the simple effect of a more nomadic existence.
What I describe are abstracts, actual friendships are as different as the people that have them. My point is, the ideas we have about relationships, both platonic and not, are limited by the culture we live in. We follow a certain plan… but is it the best? The American idea for “friend” is different from the Dutch one… aren’t we limiting ourselves?
When we do not prefer a typical relationships that involves romance or sex, aren’t we better off opening the door to a multitude of relationships? And doesn’t that oblige us to explore, at least in theory, the length and breadth of the varieties of relationships we can have, outside of the carrot that’s been dangled in front of our noses all our lives, when we don’t want the carrot?
- The difficulty of making friends in Holland has become proverbial amongst expats, rather hilariously explained in this blog post “How to Make Friends With the Dutch“.
- Americans are sometimes thought shallow, but it’s largely (underestimated) cultural differences, see this article for an intercultural analysis of that impression.
Remember how sexualities were defined in the nineteenth century? And homosexuality actually became a thing, and then a criminal thing, and then a controversial thing, and then a semi-accepted thing? Well, before it was a thing at all, friendships were apparently much richer and more varied than afterwards.1
I do not know what species of platonic relationships we lost, in first becoming aware of and then liberating our sexual drives and orientations, but we forgot. We’ve replaced them with history about uptight prudes and romance novels about grand forbidden passions, sexual love. As enjoyable, as those are, the Victorian era’s become the straw man to our sexual revolution and individualism.
Dare we imagine that they had friendships that satisfied them in ways only our sexual and romantic relationships do? Dare we imagine that they had family and community close enough to them that outside of sexual attraction, they were not unsatisfied? Dare we imagine that even today, we have such relationships, with best friends and close family and more? Relationships with people we cannot define because their existence and the words for them have been retconned?
1. “But Were They Gay? The Mystery of Same-Sex Love in the 19th Century” kept poking at me. Article in the Atlantic by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz.