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 read a book on feminism, women and desire, femininity and sexuality. Another. And another.
My head gets stuck, thinking. I confuse several people with my doubts, speaking of it.
What does it mean, I wonder, I ask the page. For a demisexual. Or cross out demi and insert whatever applies.
Sexual freedom on the asexual spectrum. Liberated. How? What does that even mean?
I realise, exactly that.
Freedom, to be a complete individual with honest desires. No more and no less than what I am.
A shape of desires unique to me. To explore.
The freedom to explore. The myth – until I believe it, until it is fact – that I am worth an exploration. A sort of Grand Tour of the sexual world in words… until I come home.
Where I belong, with words and language that I shape.
To word the shape of myself, this new thing.
Take a bucket list. Cross out what I – only I, not what-I-should-be – don’t want to try. Keep what I do want.
The freedom, to edit later, how I worded myself first. To evolve, too, in the shape of my desire.
The desires I have, not what-I-should-be.
Should. A standard. A standard that is meaningless, if the world still assumes humans are all sexual.
I am free to deny. Liberated to say no. Or maybe. Or a little bit. Or very rarely, with that someone I meet once in a blue moon.
Maybe, in a few years, I’ll desire you that way. I will not desire you now. This is okay.
I am free. Yet.
It is a freedom that is an ideal, itself a desire. A freedom that takes years, to reshape myself gradually after that first break from being sexual.
A freedom that can be lonely, because “no, nothing, thanks, I’ll sit here, quietly” can be easier than a full reshaping of the self until it can be said: “This, this is what I do want.”
To dare say.
But, I want. I want to word myself positively. I want to be free. I want to speak in desires.
I want more than to simply say: I want no sex, I seldom want sex, I want sex very rarely with maybe this person in that circumstance.
I feel I am bursting at the seems with want. For a full partnership, for love, for a future.
Sex, the thing unwanted, seems paltry.
I do not want to live defined by that.
So, I attempt words. I try to reshape the self. I strive for the positive, for the wanting.
The freedom to desire only what I want. No more, no less.
The freedom for words, for actions, unpunished. Room to speak. Room to grow.
The desire for acceptance, for fulfillment.
A life in freedom.
A self free to desire.
Desires freely worded.
Freely denied, too.
A freedom that only invites and does not demand.
Isn’t that desirable?
I can unite my desires and my freedom. I will.
I want to, to reconcile these, and have words.
Got Valentine on the brain.
I do not want your naughty bits
I don’t want any sex
I do not want your dirty talk
No beast with the two backs
I do not want your nakedness
I do not want you bare
Unless you wish to sunbathe too
Unless you wish to share
I do not want your fondling
I do not want your touch
Unless you lack attraction too
Want cuddles just as much
I really want your loving, though
I really want your heart
I really want to love you too
I really want to start
I really want to share a life
I really want your mind
I want to know just what you think
Return that trust in kind
I really want to know the joy
I really want to court
To buy the roses down the street
Cook food that you adore
I want your love and no regrets
Society can fuck off
To love you, honestly myself
True love, so help me God
For December’s Carnival of Aces, about staying in the closet, I’d like to write about my own struggles with my fellow Christians. Thinking I should tell them about asexuality, feeling I can’t.
I am a practicing Christian who identifies as neither hetero nor gay, but as demisexual. I’ve explored my sexuality in my mid-twenties. I’m from an open culture and a liberal church and a loving family.
Aside from a few private conversations, I am in the closet. This blog has a pseudonym. Acquintances don’t know and, mostly, don’t ask.
Part of me just doesn’t want it. Sexuality is mine, not for others to know or judge. As a woman, you’re too quickly an object anyway. I honestly love being a sexual subject, undisturbed, not much noticed because of beauty or age or behaviour. Unshamed and as such, unashamed. Not harrassed so far and yes, I’ve been lucky but I can say this for my country: people can just be people.
One drop of acid in all the honey…
I dread to speak of asexuality to my brothers and sisters in faith. At the same time, how the hell are they going to get informed, given a fair chance to be a constructive part of the discussion, if someone doesn’t speak up?
After several hours’ bible study and arguing in prayer, I can only conclude the following: the core of the Christian gospel holds for sexual natures and behaviour as it does for any part of us. In other words, being Christian, you believe you are forgiven any wrongdoing, you believe you are loved. You believe this is a base to build an awesome, joyful life and be a good part of humanity. More to the point, you believe all people are loved, equally, by a God whose say-so you’ve accorded the absolute and ultimate authority.
I felt confirmed in my own faith and practice. I felt the more puzzled by why sexuality, any (a)sexuality should be a problem. I felt the most surprised by my own troubled and continued silence.
Why can’t I come out to fellow Christians, if I believe God Himself is alright with my demisexuality?
Truth is: I’m scared.
I don’t believe most of my fellow Christians obey God. I have seen them exclude, discriminate and commit violence on people with other sexualities. It does not inspire confidence. I have found some of them to be as proud as the Israel chastised by old-testament prophets. I think them to be so far from the truth, sometimes… will I be accepted in my lifetime?
Yes, by some. Not by others. But fear speaks in black and white, not shades of grey.
I have trouble quantifying exactly what my concerns are. I can’t say what would be the correct course, for one community to engage the other. On a personal level, it’s silenced me. It may do for a while yet.
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.
After a rather intense period of self-discovery, I’ve dropped off the map and what at first seemed to be going to be a few slow weeks turned into months that I needed to invest in other parts of my life.
Having made peace with my (a)sexual self, it stopped being a necessity to research it, think on it, write about it, but.
Even back when I first started, I experienced a sense of freedom and a sense of dread. Neither has subsided. I have, however, started to reap some sizable benefits from being comfortable with and informed about sexuality.
To be honest, I want to record the progression of that, how demisexuality works as an accepted, integrated part of myself, because so far, it’s been good.
And I hope, somehow, somewhere, I can be of the same benefit to someone as other bloggers, researchers and community members of the ace community have been to me.
So you’ll see me around, though with less frequency than before.
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.
Part two of the three-parter for the September Carnival of Aces.
I could write a thousand posts about future fears or current worries concerning my religion and my sexuality. I could show you a thousand shades of theology and at some point, I will get to examining helpful ways of uniting the discourses of Christianity and asexuality.
For today, though, allow me to take you to the real intersection of those identities, where personal faith meets demisexuality, in the heart. The full measure of what the greatest command, love others like yourself, does to me.
I am human. A potential for terrible sin and a potential for awesome goodness coexist inside me, wrapped in a fragile body. In order to be the best flawed mortal I can be, at any given time, I need to be able to accept myself fully, while knowing the worst of what I am. I also strive to do what good I can without crossing my limits or forgetting to enjoy it. I love myself.
If demisexual is what I am, I should discover and accept that part of myself and work to incorporate in into my person and express it honestly.
Everyone is human. Each person a creature of unimaginable complexity and incalculable worth. Each person an agent for good and evil. Each capable of empathy, of imagination, of intelligence and stupidity. Each needing other humans to love and to be loved. Each worthy of time and expense and relationships. Each both powerful and limited by society, by their own minds, by circumstance. Each an other to be loved.
Everyone should be loved and gender and sexual identities should not limit that, as they do now. We should explore all the different ways we can love and practice those that suit us.
Everything is creation. Even the smallest slice of science highlights a reality wondrous beyond our wildest dreams. As much as we say, open-minded as we are, our perceptions are limited and limiting and the greatest and scariest thing is to walk beyond them and discover something new.
Confronted with an unfamiliar aspect to humanity, such as asexuality in all its shades and variations, the best I can do is to discover it and understand its implications.
I am a human amongst others, in a creation vaster than I know. And I know that the best I can do, here, now, is to love others as I love myself. For those I love, it means I need to love them well. For strangers, it means I need to accept them as beings with an equal worth to myself, deserving of the same empathy, the same consideration as I, whoever and whatever they are. For my enemies, it means I can wish better for them and work to mitigate whatever evil is committed.
Loving myself, loving others, is ever evolving, always a work in progress, and always worth doing, always rewarding. I can work up hate over what’s wrong in the world or work to clear the path and appreciate that which is good and strange when it comes my way. I choose the latter.
I am mortal. I cannot do as much good as should be done. I cannot love everyone equally. I have no control over the world, over each group, or even completely over myself.
I will stumble over my own prejudice and privilege, fear others’ disapproval over my sexuality and regularly be tied up into knots over whatever mistakes I made. But when I fall, and I will, there is so much to get up for and discover.
I can love myself. I can love others. I can love all of it and it’s best life I could wish for, whatever shape it takes.
I am demisexual, and if I was thus created, who am I to tell God it’s not good? The same goes for the way others are.
Another multiparter for a Carnival of Aces, this one for the September edition, about living asexuality and experience… so I wanted to share a little of my current experiences as a demisexual, and in the next two posts, about how my Christian faith and avid reading have affected my experience of my sexuality.
I identify comfortably as demisexual, as belonging to the “rarely to never sexually attracted to another person” part of the population. I have constructed a foundation. On it, I can build an understanding of my interest and behaviour towards potential significant others. I can see the consequences of my deviating desires on a personal, social, moral, intellectual and spiritual level.
Building that understanding will continue during my lifetime and beyond, since it happens within a community and orientation only now defining its vocabulary and parameters. Nevertheless, it’s boon to my mind, which demands to know itself, and to my soul, which is relieved to love itself a little more. Most though to my conscience and curiosity, pleased to understand the human condition a little better and thus improved its capacity to act and explore and dream.
I have spoken of my demisexuality to my closest family. I have spoken of asexuality to some open-minded strangers. Living life as demisexual has affected me, even in the span of a few months. I want to look at the changes it’s wrought.
Atypical – I’ve always conceived of myself as part of a formless crowd, where sexuality is concerned. The post-modern open-minded heterosexual, or something. I’m really not, now. I feel I’ve wandered out into a far field, overgrown and only crossed by a few. It’s made my exploration of my sexuality relevant beyond personal discovery, which helps to keep me writing. It’s also scary, to be other, even in a small way, which keeps me quiet for now, but also researching.
Shameless – I’ve shed the need to feel anything when presented with a sexual cue. I may or may not feel something and that’s okay. It means I feel free to act in a sexualised context as I do in any other, which will probably make me a bit weird but mostly makes me more comfortable. It also means I’m leaning more towards indifference about sex than I thought I was. At the same time, it’s allowing me to discover what I actually do like.
Aware – I haven’t felt the need to educate myself as acutely in years. Here were aspects of identity and experience essential to people’s sense of self, and I had no idea. I’m still learning and I’m loving it. All of the new words, all of the new concepts!
Lonely – The largest and most recent discovery, or more an articulation of a formerly indistinct and un-articulated desire: I want. Not sex, but I have a longing for connection and company and intimacy usually associated with sex and relationships with a sexual component. I’m still discovering how I want to fill that gap exactly.
“In five years, when we all have families, with or without kids…”
I’ve fallen out of touch with secondary school friends, as you do when you move to other cities and choose different universities and majors. Still, we’ve managed to see each other for some big life events, one of which happened this month.
After the initial stiff how-do-you-dos and overviews of the recent past, we reminisced. About the past, but mostly about the future, now that we’d all reached that limbo of adulthood between being a student and a respectable member of society.
The subject of choice this evening, an imaginary point five years in the future, when we’d see each other again, our early thirties. We’d have partners, from our gender of choice, and some of us would have kids. We’d catch up, have fun, let the kids run around. Be set for life.
But… we’d all have families, was the assumption.
Will I? I thought. I don’t know.
So far, I’ve been single and rarely bothered by that fact in itself.
What I don’t want is to live alone and thinking about it, I rarely have. All told, less than a year out of my life.
I moved out early. Then, like most people with small purses and studies to complete, I lived in rooms with family members or land ladies or room mates. Every time under the assumption it was necessary and temporary. Interspersed with regular visits to the parents to relax.
The dream always being that I’d someday reach nirvana, a salary big enough to buy my own house and a little later, support a family together with my partner. A dream dreamt by society.
I’m not sure it’s my dream.
I want to explore relationships, yes, I know that much, but I’m not sure I need or want one for the rest of my life, if I don’t meet a person I fall in love with. I do know I love company.
My thoughts turn to old stories about spinsters living together. To Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. To the many ads for room mates nowadays and how many friends end up living together for a few years after college.
What if I lived like that the next few decades, rather than starting a family?
I honestly wouldn’t mind. I’d love to find someone, preferably a family member or a good friend with whom I can share my living space.
I could be single, but not alone, not a single-person household. Not if I can help it.