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.