Asexuality: A Blessing I Wish I Had

This post was written for the January Carnival of Aces, which is being hosted by Demisexual and Proud. This month’s theme is “Asexuality as a Blessing”, which I think is a great topic! Unfortunately, my entry is a bit more negative than the topic deserves, but I’m publishing it anyway, as it gives me a chance to express some thoughts I’ve had for a while.

Once, when I was still a baby ace, someone confronted me about my interest in asexuality. They expressed the usual scepticism associated with the identity, and asked me if I thought I might need to get my hormones checked. I could have explained that asexuality was a valid sexual orientation that was not necessarily caused by hormonal imbalances. I could have reassured them that I was not actually asexual (this was before I learned the word “demisexual”, when I still thought of myself as an ace groupie, rather than a member). But I didn’t. Instead, I asked a question:

“Why would anyone want to experience sexual attraction?”

To me, it was an obvious question with an obvious answer: They wouldn’t. Sexual attraction was a pain in the neck, and anyone who didn’t experience it should thank their lucky stars, not go looking for a “cure”.

There’s a set of standard responses that people get when they come out as asexual. One of them goes along the lines of: “Oh, you’re so lucky! I wish I was asexual! It would make my life so much easier!” I understand why aces resent this comment, but when I see it mentioned I always feel a bit uncomfortable because…

Okay, I’m going to say something now that’s probably going to be really unpopular. But it’s something I’ve been thinking since I first discovered asexuality, and I really feel I need to get it out. You ready? Here goes:

I wish I was asexual. It would make my life so much easier.

Yeah, I just said that. Post your flames, send me your hate mail. But first, maybe read the rest of this post.

The problem most people seem to have with that comment is that it implies aces have it easy, and ignores the feelings of isolation, self-doubt, and brokenness that can result from being such a small minority in such an erotonormative society. Also, sex is granted a central role in romantic relationships, which are, in turn, held up as the most important kind of relationship. Without any desire for sex, asexuals find it difficult to form close relationships.

But if not desiring sex makes forming relationships hard, desiring it doesn’t exactly make things easy. Discussions in the ace community can sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that if someone wants sex they must be able to form sexual relationships, but that’s not how it works. Loneliness is a problem sexual people face, too. Sexual attraction isn’t some sort of automatic ticket to great relationships; it may, in fact just mean you need to add “sexual frustration” to your list of grievances.

And I’m far from ignoring the isolation, self-doubt, and brokenness that asexuals face. On the contrary, I’m all too familiar with them! As I wrote in “Asexual, Allosexual, and Other Labels that Don’t Quite Fit”, and “Shame”, being demisexual kind of means I’ve got the best – or worst – of both the asexual and allosexual experience. I’m still a sexual minority, I still find my feelings and relationships devalued, and I still feel alienated from mainstream society. It’s just that I also happen, on rare occasions, to experience sexual attraction.

And I hate it.

At the time of the conversation in question, I’d had two crushes in my whole life. One was on the boyfriend of one of my best friends. The other was on an acquaintance who I knew had a girlfriend. I had no interest in breaking up these relationships, and probably wouldn’t have been successful if I’d tried. I later developed a crush on my roommate, someone who didn’t return my feelings but whom I still came in close contact with every day. And then I began to have sexual feelings for someone I’d been hanging out with a lot and was beginning to care about as a friend. I knew he didn’t like me romantically, and our work situation meant we would soon be parted, but we got along well, and I was determined to enjoy his company as much as possible while it lasted.

All you gold star asexuals who have never experienced sexual attraction, you’re just going to have to take my word on this: having unrequited sexual feelings for someone you care about SUCKS. It’s not just that you can’t be around them without being plagued by sexual desire. It’s that the only alternative – avoiding their company – is just as bad. You’re caught between two equally painful alternatives: the sexual frustration of being with them and the emotional heartache of not being with them. And chances are, whatever you do, you’re going to have a little of both.

I don’t feel the need for a sexual or romantic relationship in my life. I’m platoniromantic, which means I value commitment, intimacy, and affection equally in all kinds of relationships. Finding those things in platonic relationships has been hard, but since none of my crushes have been requited, getting those things from sexual relationships hasn’t been an option, either. Instead, I’ve focused most of my energy on finding people who value close friendship and nurturing my relationships with them. Developing sexual attraction to these people doesn’t help with the process; it’s a pitfall that threatens to inhibit intimacy and ruin our friendship. I’m lucky enough right now to live with one of my best friends, who is monogamously married and has child. Even though I’ve known her for years and see her every day, I don’t have any sexual feelings for her – and I’m deeply grateful for this. Because I know I’d be unable to act on such feelings, all they would do is to turn a perfectly good friendship into a source of pain and frustration. Crushing on her would be my own personal nightmare.

Of course, my feelings on this subject are biased by my own personal life situation. As someone who seems destined to be perennially single, I really can’t see the upside to experiencing more sexual desire. If you’re in a romantic relationship with an allosexual, if you’re interested in dating, or if you want to have children, you may well think that more sexual feelings would make your life easier.

And while this post has largely been a complaint, I’m actually very lucky. Because, though sexual desire does cause me a lot of misery when it occurs, it occurs quite rarely. Being demisexual means I’m not free of sexual desire the way asexuals are. But at least I don’t have to deal with as much of it as most people.

So I suppose asexuality is something I have, and, in my life, it’s been a blessing.

It’s just a blessing I wish I had more of.

7 thoughts on “Asexuality: A Blessing I Wish I Had

  1. sildarmillion says:

    This makes me wonder … maybe I am experiencing sexual frustration. It’s not a feeling I’ve had any prior experience with, so I wouldn’t know how it feels. All I know is that it is directed at one person and one person only. And the tragic aspect of it is that while he was a dear friend, I don’t think I can stand to be around him because of this thing I am feeling.

    I don’t feel comfortable talking about this with most people. If I did, I expect they would tell me to hook up with someone else to relieve this frustration. But I am repulsed at the thought of that kind of intimacy with anyone else. It just leaves me confused wondering … are people really so, well, substitutable, to allosexuals? I don’t understand how people can take their unrequited sexual feelings for one person and relieve them with another.

    I still don’t “identify” with demisexual. I had been so comfortable being ace and had embraced that about myself. But this experience really upended a lot what I understood about myself and the experience isn’t very comfortable.

    Thanks for your incredible essays. They’ve helped me process much of what I’m feeling.


  2. Rachel says:

    NOTE: None of my comment is meant to be a rebuttal or refutation of your essay. As someone with a very different perspective (I’m a multi-repulsed “hard” aro ace), I’m interested in comparing notes, not saying that you’re wrong.

    – It always angers me when people say things like “I wish I was asexual. It would make my life so much easier.” As an aro ace lacking even the slightest hint of socially-approved attractions and indeed multiple repulsions, the idea that my life is simplified or improved by that is pretty insulting. “Man, I wish I was aro/ace, then I could focus on my career/whatever without distractions.” Really? I wish my career prospects were indeed improved by being aro ace and “free from such distractions,” because it hasn’t worked out for me so far. And because I am a repulsed aro ace with no real relationship prospects, my options for a fulfilling adult life are drastically reduced. It’s pretty clear to me that allo people don’t actually want to be aromantic/asexual at all; they just want to be free of the messiness and inconveniences that attractions involve. If they really wanted to be aromantic/asexual, they wouldn’t be stigmatizing and pathologizing us the rest of the time.

    – I admit that I have an empathy gap the size of the Grand Canyon when it comes to the angst of unrequited feelings. Being a “hard” aro ace (calling myself gold star carries a lot of implications about my life that are patently untrue), I’m inevitably going to be the one doing the not-reciprocating, and I’m the one who gets perpetually demonized for my not-reciprocating. And I find it tremendously insulting that I am expected to act apologetic over my lack of feelings.

    – Come to think of it, a lot of this post reminds me of Queenies’s post from last year:

    If you haven’t read that already (or, heck, even if you have), I’d love to hear how that parallels your experiences.

    Final words:

    We come from very different places evidently, but I loved reading this and would like to hear some more of your thoughts. I hate the community infighting over how contradictory experiences “threaten” certain segments of the community, so I hope that this is accepted as an invitation, not a condemnation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blue Ice-Tea says:

      Thanks for your comment (and for the disclaimer, which averted the anxiety I might otherwise have felt). I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves about these things. Different people have different experiences. One person’s experience shouldn’t be read as “invalidating” or “threatening” anyone else’s.

      “As an aro ace lacking even the slightest hint of socially-approved attractions and indeed multiple repulsions, the idea that my life is simplified or improved by that is pretty insulting.”

      Yeah, I can understand that, and, for you, life probably isn’t made better by being asexual. But, in my case, I really do think I would be happier without sexual attraction. And I can’t think of any downsides to asexuality that, as a demisexual person, I don’t already have to deal with.

      “If they really wanted to be aromantic/asexual, they wouldn’t be stigmatizing and pathologizing us the rest of the time.”

      Hopefully you don’t think I stigmatise and pathologise asexual people! And, seriously, I don’t think all allosexual people do, either. I mean, yes, as a group, a lot of negative messages come out of the allosexual community. But I think there are also a lot of individual allos who have quite respectful attitudes towards asexuality. There are plenty who don’t, of course, and I understand your frustration with those people. I just wouldn’t make a blanket statement about all of them.

      “I admit that I have an empathy gap the size of the Grand Canyon when it comes to the angst of unrequited feelings.”

      That makes sense. Unless you’ve actually experienced sexual attraction, I don’t think you can understand what it’s like. Um… imagine you had a favourite pet that you developed an allergy to, so that you couldn’t be around them without breaking out in hives? Kind of like that. But not very.

      “I’m inevitably going to be the one doing the not-reciprocating, and I’m the one who gets perpetually demonized for my not-reciprocating. And I find it tremendously insulting that I am expected to act apologetic over my lack of feelings.”

      For sure. It is absolutely not fair to shame someone for their lack of sexal/romantic feeling. But, on the flip side, the person who does have unrequited romantic/sexual feeling doesn’t deserve to be shamed, either. That was pretty much my point in “Shame” ( I think as a society, we’re really hung up on the idea that if something bad happens, it must be someone’s fault, and we’re quick to look for someone to blame. But unrequited sexual feelings are no one’s “fault” – not the person who has them and not the person who doesn’t. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happens, and, frequently, it’s both parties that end up suffering from it.

      Yes, Queenie’s post is pretty good. I definitely relate to parts of it, although I can’t tell from the post whether Queenie is talking about unrequited romantic or sexual feelings. Assuming it’s the former, then their experience is obviously a bit different from mine. I don’t separate romance from friendship, so if I say I have a “crush”, it always means I want someone sexually. Still, I’m certainly familiar with the experience of unrequited desire, and, like Queenie, I try to focus on the positive (trying to be a good friend to the other person) rather than the negative (not having my feelings returned). Although I haven’t read as much queer fiction as Queenie, I have found that some unrequited queer love stories resonate with me, and perhaps this is why. (I’m talking movies like Strawberry and Chocolate, The Crying Game, and even the film version of Brideshead Revisited). I also agree that a certain amount of unrequitedness is part of almost every relationship. No matter how well two people get along, chances are there will be times when one loves a bit more or wants a bit more than the other, and I think that’s okay. Part of being in a healthy relationship is being able to deal with these situations.

      I can also second this statement of Queenie’s:

      “I’m pretty much exclusively attracted to people I’m close friends with, so my desire to Not Make It Weird way overweighs my desire to say anything. I’d much rather have a close friend I have inappropriately big feelings for (and never act on) than make someone else uncomfortable and potentially jeopardize our friendship. So, unless I’m pretty certain that they feel the same way or the situation is becoming untenable as is, I don’t make it weird. … I don’t think it’s sad. I’m not a martyr or ‘suffering in the friendzone’ (ew)–it just is what it is.”

      One possible difference between me and Queenie is that Queenie does seem to be interested in forming romantic relationships, and worries about the “puddle problem” of trying to do so within the ace community. For my part, I’m not looking for a romantic or sexual relationship for its own sake. I’m interested in friendship. I consider all my friendships to have an element of romance, and if one of them turns sexual, that might be nice, but it’s not necessary. So I’m not not looking for one kind of relationship or another, or concentrating my search in one community or another. I’ll take the frienships and the friends that life brings me.


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