Saturday, December 26, 2009

On commitment

I've had a lot of programming around believing that a really mature intimate relationship is of course something that is monogamously exclusive and committed. Making this kind of promises, however, goes against what comes naturally to me. And so voices come up in my head accusing me of being irresponsible, immature and inconsiderate. So today I would like to make a case for how this can be seen from another perspective. I am probably not going to be able to see all sides of the situation, and my bias will come through, and I just want to say I’m aware of that and welcome input on whatever I may be blind to.
Let me look at commitment first. What are we actually talking about? The voice that comes up strong is the one saying "you're afraid of commitment". It’s the trump card, calling 'chicken’. The person calling ‘chicken' is assuming that making a commitment to “being with” someone for the foreseeable future is a value shared by all. This person views commitment as something desirable, though difficult to attain and maintain, since it possibly goes against one’s assumed fickle and treacherous nature, and so someone willing to make the ‘sacrifice’ of committing, is seen as valiant, strong and noble. The value of "commitment" upholds consistency as something to be desired, as in: I made a choice to be with this one person, and now I should stick to it, because this is how I continue to know that the decision I made in the first place was a good and right decision. If I were to move on from this one person, it might mean to me that I made a wrong decision in the past, and that would be distressing (usually in proportion to the length of the relationship). Or, if I were to move on, it would mean I am weak and unable to deal with problems that arise in any relationship, it would mean I am a failure. Or, I feel such love for this person, ergo it means we should keep trying to “be together” as a couple. People say things like, “I want this relationship to succeed”, and they mean they want an agreement of me+you=couple to be permanent, stable and safe. In fact now that I put it that way, I’m seeing a deeply Christian morality behind the idea of commitment. There’s a lot of implicit belief in human nature as being essentially sinful and wrong, and to remedy that, we must “do the right thing” (as opposed to the “wrong” thing) and make relationship contracts that will override our “destructive” natural impulses, and abide by those contracts to ensure everlasting correctness and righteousness.
From my perspective, I am not afraid of commitment any more than I am afraid of smoking cigarettes. It just has no appeal to me. It’s not that it’s only fear of getting cancer that’s keeping me from smoking - it's that I have never felt a desire to light a cigarette in the first place. And, trying to be a consistent person is not a value that I share. Even more, the idea of “committing” to someone just makes absolutely no sense to me. I promise to “be with” you? What does that even mean? Oh, I know what it means on a most basic operational level – I will not have sex with any other person. That is foreign to me in so many ways. First, I don’t know what it means to be “with” someone, so all the issues around entering relationships and ending them are bizarre to me. My internal experience is that my close relationships with people may change in intensity over time, but they don't end, nor do I enter them. There are no defining moments of “getting together” or "breaking up”. It’s as if the whole society is taking very seriously some rules that are permanently confusing to me. I’ve found that I can have sex and yet feel no attachment to that particular person, no sense of “being with”. I’ve also found that I can feel deeply intimate and one with someone, and yet there is no sex or desire for sex involved. Sex is irrelevant to me, whereas to others it seems to be pivotal in how they construe that relationship.
My best understanding of what it means to “be with” someone, is this. A person wanting to have an agreement of commitment and exclusivity, really wants to experience mutual trust, total intimacy, closeness and love. Those are wonderful things to experience. And for some reason, the way they are able to completely trust and open to somebody, is if they can have a guarantee that they are their partner’s most important person, valued above anyone else, and will continue to be so in the future. In a sense, they want a reassurance of a kind of unconditional love and acceptance, in order to give the same back. So I guess exclusive relationship contracts really work, when both people need that, and give those unspoken promises to each other simultaneously and call it “getting together”. It’s exhilarating to feel that you are free to exchange this complete trust and openness and love, and it also explains the corresponding drama and grief over loss of such reassurances – it’s as if unconditional love has been lost to them. That is tragic.
As for myself, I first thought that I was entirely incompatible with the idea of commitment. How could I possibly make promises about how I was going to feel about someone later on, when the mere thought of fixating some kind of safety for my future like that, in terms of “what should be”, is terribly deadening, and I can just feel it draining aliveness and spontaneity and delight out of the flow of a relationship in the present moment. Then it occurred to me that there is something I want to commit to – no, something that I don’t even have to try to commit to, because I am already committed to it through and through. I can’t commit to “being with” a person. But I am committed to, and always respond and am attracted to, a person’s willingness to be open, transparent, intimate, real. I am committed to being the same way. I am committed to truth and to addressing any issues, difficulties or incompatibilities as soon as they arise, rather than sweeping them under the carpet or hiding anything unpleasant in the interest of trying to “stay together”. I would much rather have full disclosure regardless of where that leads, than to try to make myself look acceptable so that I can have the safety of being “with” someone. I am committed to doing whatever with another free agent on a purely voluntary basis, from delight in each other, rather than trying to “make” a committed relationship work. Now does this mean that because I have made no contract of commitment, I am going to turn on a dime, and after consistently being close and intimate with someone, simply abandon them one day without warning? I am open to that risk – but I think it’s highly unlikely, and I believe that kind of situation is actually more likely in relationships where the goal is to stay committed to each other regardless of what’s going on for you, rather than in relationships where you are open to acknowledging and discussing any changes and developments as they arise. I can’t imagine ever just “dropping out” of the life of anyone I have been close with, if they are still willing to continue opening and growing with me. Whether this involves sex at some point or not, whether we are currently close or far apart, doesn’t matter much to me. There are people who have touched my life deeply, and I never stop loving them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sexual attraction

Since declaring myself asexual about a year and a half ago, I have done more experimentation, had more candid discussions and experienced more diverse situations involving sexuality than in my whole previous life. And I have been able to do that because I now felt secure in the knowledge that the only thing that is required of me, is to follow my own natural impulses, and there was no pressure to act in any way that I might have previously thought I needed to act, out of an obligation to comply with “normal”. So I want to shout that from the rooftops to “experts” who fear that asexual people are closing themselves off prematurely: I and many others share your value of self-exploration. Very much.
I am fortunate to have experienced a trusting, emotionally intimate and mutually supportive relationship with a close friend, who does feel sexual attraction towards me. Now that I know that a) I am not required to respond, and that b) I am free to have any reaction, people who are attracted to me no longer freak me out, and I feel quite comfortable addressing this. I feel open to receiving and feeling whatever is being felt by them or me.
I’ve found that although it never occurred to me to have sexual ideas (I may have wanted to be more physically affectionate) before my friend’s attraction was made explicit to me – I am able to respond to the feeling of sexual attraction. My body senses and resonates with the longing, and feels a quickening of energy when near, which is enjoyable. At some point, I want to write a separate post about the concepts of “proceptive” and “receptive” sexual desire – I seem to lack proceptive, the initiative and drive part, but am capable of receptive arousal. At the same time, I can’t seriously imagine initiating something like this without a strong desire on the part of the other: I just wouldn’t believe myself.
So recently I’ve been feeling the feelings that this brings up. It still doesn’t really involve sexual fantasy in terms of body parts, but it does involve an attraction to something. It occurs to me that the desire I feel, is basically for surrender. It’s a desire to be completely open, free, loving. Desire for absence of any conflict and tension, utter flow and total intimacy, absolute nakedness in the sense of having nothing to hide, being completely real. I imagine these are desires shared across sexual orientations. I may or may not express them through sex – it would not be my first choice, as I lack the primary drive.
The presence of this person inspires a great openness in me. And I think I get now that what is commonly referred to as “sexual attraction” is when you think you need that particular person to cause these wonderful feelings of letting go, openness and unguardedness for you. I find that problematic. It places the responsibility for feeling your feelings, on an external stimulus. Whereas in fact, the way I see it, what’s primary is my longing to be completely open, real and transparent. The reason there is attraction to a particular person is because we somehow only ALLOW ourselves to feel those feelings around them, because we consider that person safe. We close down around other people because we consider them unsafe. I realized this in the middle of a wave of gripping desire to be close to my friend. That what I really wanted, was not this person per se, it was the feelings I am able to have with them. I realized: “I’m really longing to surrender.” And what came to me was – “Just be the openness.” Allow yourself to feel that much intimacy and flow, right now, with yourself. That switch was very soothing and nourishing and pleasurable, and released the obsessive focus on the person instantly.
This is not to say that I intend to just be by myself all the time. Only that there’s a possibility to share this intimacy with each other freely, rather than obsessively, rather than believing the other person has to provide it for us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Casual relationship

I found a term for a satisfying and fulfilling style of relationship that I engage in. It's called "casual relationship". I like the Wikipedia definition because it does not stress the sexual aspect.

So here's my definition, patched together from various sources and my own interpretation of it:

Casual relationship. A relationship with emotional and physical closeness, that may involve sexuality or may come close to sexual expression, when desired. There is no aspiration to long-term commitment and no expectation of exclusivity. The relationship may be part-time and does not dominate one's life and choices. It may be strong and intimate, but is intended to endure only so long as both parties wish it to. It includes mutual support, affection and enjoyment.

I read about this on the web and see biased language such as "motives for entering a casual relationship", or "because they are unwilling to commit to a full-fledged relationship" and "doesn't have time for a proper boyfriend". So I want to categorically declare that this type of relationship can be a legitimate relationship in its own right and not a transitional stage on the way to something else, or a compromise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Question everything you know

Browsing through the forums on AVEN, I come across many young people just entering the community, asking the same question: "Am I asexual? Do I belong here?"

To them I want to say: Welcome. There is no stamp of approval and no authority to declare who is “really” asexual. We are just people who have found that none of the generally available sexual-orientation labels have been a good fit. The fact that you are searching and wanting to be true to whatever it is you really feel or don’t feel, means you belong. Here is a place where you can be perfectly honest with yourself. What you (don’t) feel or want, is natural and okay, for the simple reason that you actually (don’t) feel or want it, and you are a human being, so it must be natural for some human beings. There is no "correct" way to be asexual.

A lot of effort has gone into trying to get “asexuality” accepted in the eyes of society as a fourth “sexual orientation”, to kind of legitimize and rationalize that if you tweak and rearrange existing models, asexuality will fit in too. And reorienting mass mentality to include the possibility that you exist (!) can be perfectly useful in practical situations. But my personal take on it is that I opt out of the whole “sexual orientation" model. I abandon the existing preconceived ill-fitting framework and build my own interpretation of the world, based on how I myself actually experience it. There is so much more hue and variety in real life than any model can encompass. The labels “straight”, “gay”, “bi”, are only a lens we use for convenience so we can have a feeling that we are able to manage and contain an infinitely complex reality. People don’t realize that, and implicitly believe that humans should conform to the language labels they happen to have inherited from the way their society arbitrarily parses reality. My own feeling is that the concept of “sexual orientation” is due for a rethinking.

Our entire language around relationship matters is dominated by terminology and styles of speaking that accurately reflect the experience of people (males in particular) who are strongly driven by sexual attraction. In addition, sex has been historically associated with virility and power and strength and dominance and all sorts of desirable qualities that leaders in a tribe will possess. And they are the ones who have set the standards for all of us, who have described their experience for all of us, who we have been programmed to emulate and look up to. However, not everyone's reality and internal makeup is that of a specimen who is driven to rise to the top of the clan and mate with many individuals. Enough people in the world do experience sexual attraction that most of society seems to be able to at least relate to that, and view sexual partnership as the be-all and end-all of personal happiness and fulfillment. But then you see people who are radically unlike that “ideal”, and they are questioning if their experience of themselves and their lack of wanting to mate, is legitimate or is it pathological. Good grief people! Of course it is legitimate. It is just the way you are. Your world has been interpreted for you through the eyes of somebody else. It’s time to acknowledge that, and take back the right to be yourself. Discover for yourself what you actually feel. Invent your own language to accurately reflect your own experience, and know your own needs and desires. Own what you feel. There are so many ways to like people and be connected and intimate and loving with them that have nothing to do with sex. We only think they should, because we have been programmed to believe it.

One thing I do give psychologists credit for, is that they say something is a “disorder” only when it causes you distress. To all the new people who are feeling troubled: if there is anything causing distress, I would encourage anyone to investigate it. For example if there is a social anxiety and you are suffering because of it, I would recommend working with that. It may well be that after you relax around people, you may discover that you could enjoy having sex with them. It may equally well be that after you have worked through your fears around being with people, you discover that you actually enjoy being by yourself, or that you still don’t experience any sexual attraction to anybody. But now you will be able to state it with confidence, and won’t feel like you have to hide. In either case, you win. This community is a good place to explore your feelings. Being true to yourself is always a good guide. I like that quote from dr. Seuss: “Always be who you are, and say what you feel, because people who mind don’t matter, and people who matter don’t mind.” Good luck.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Different ways to say

I feel so grateful and blessed for the people in my life and for all the understanding I receive. I was talking to a friend online who lives in another country, and we had not seen each other in a while. We came to the subject of relationships and he was asking me if I was open to a new relationship. I kind of went, well, it's complicated, and he asked about the details, so I started explaining how I felt and what I had discovered and gave him the link to Aven FAQ.
At one point he was trying to make sense of it and saying, wait, I'm confused, so you don't really want sex, but you like sensuality? I tried to ask him to say what exactly was confusing, but he just turned right around and said: I didn't get it, but emotionally I got it. There are just different ways of saying "I love you".
Even right now as I write this, I feel deeply touched by that kind of understanding and acceptance. That, to me, is an act of love. Just seeing me as I am, without trying to find any reasons for it.
One of the other things he said, when I was explaining how I've never really cared about sex, was - "You have always felt this way?" And I said "Yes". And realized how his question underscores for me that what I have always felt is not the same as what he has felt. That this must be new and odd to him. That he, in fact, must have those desires I find so hard to comprehend. Realizing that I had never imagined him as a sexual being. That I have the automatic assumption that all my friends are like me: even though I intellectually know they are sexual, instinctively I assume that they just form relationships the way people watch television, because it happens to be there and it's an imitation of what society does. But to think of my friends as genuinely desiring sex with one another, and having it be an important component of their relationships. Still wrapping my head around that one.
I imagine it must be the same in reverse: even though someone intellectually knows that you are not sexually driven, they will automatically make unconscious assumptions about what you are like, based on what they themselves are like and have always known. Just because they haven't yet deeply considered what it would be like to really LIVE from a different perspective. Can't blame that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How does asexuality feel


So I have several ideas what I want to blog about here, but I never get around to it. It's much easier for me to produce text if I'm responding to something or dialoguing, rather than creating content from scratch. So I'm plugging my answers to the survey here, to fill this blog. But don't read them until you've completed the survey yourself, okay?

1. How would you define/describe asexuality?
This is a tricky question. It assumes that there is an "asexuality" out there in the objective world in the same way a "table" is out there in the objective world, and can be grabbed and defined. But the word only means what anyone uses it to mean. So when I use the word, I don't want to imply that I am referring to something objective out there.
People use the word to mean various similar things, the one thing there seems to be some consensus on is that it is a "lack of sexual attraction". That of course brings up the question "what the hell is sexual attraction", and people who ostensibly don't experience any, are poorly qualified to describe it.
So while this definition may make sense to people who experience sexual attraction and know for sure what that feels like, I feel a sore lack of a definition that would describe the asexual experience "from the inside". We are forced to define ourselves by the absence of something we don't understand to begin with.
If I try to approach a definition, I would have to say something like "asexuality is a way of relating to the world that does not refer to sexual relationships or to oneself in a sexual context, as a means of seeing or defining oneself".

2. How would you define/describe sexual attraction?
Good one. I don't know. I've wondered that myself. I used to take it for granted that I knew what sexual attraction meant. It took me several decades to figure out that what other people mean when they say this, may actually not refer to anything in my experience. I used to think I was sexually attracted to pretty much everyone I felt friendly towards, because I wanted to touch them. That was embarrassing and I unconsciously believed there was something wrong with me. After some intense soul-searching and frank conversations, it turns out that people referring to sexual attraction mean a kind of magical pull towards someone that overcomes them, they have no power over it, and they begin to fantasize about how pleasurable it would be to engage in sexual activity with that person. I started to consider the strange possibility that maybe I don't know what that means.

3. How would you define/describe sexual desire?
It seems to be a clear wish that you want to have sex with someone. Which seems strange and arbitrary, from this perspective - how can it be so clear to you that you want to engage in that particular activity with someone? Having the need for a term for "sexual desire" seems like having a need for a term for "desire to make peanut butter jelly sandwiches with someone on Tuesday afternoons". Like, how do you know that's exactly what you want? I mean, it might be fun or interesting if you did that, but how often does it come up as such a clear expression?

4. How would you define/describe romantic attraction?
That's more an emotional thing. It's happened to me a few times, to various degrees of intensity. It's when someone is very very important to you and you want to be equally important to them, in its extreme stages wanting to be the most important people in the world to each other. You are especially elated to spend time with that person and love everything about them, and are in heaven if they show affection or attraction to you. It's a kind of extreme form of attachment. You think about them all the time and you are totally dependent on their attention. You put all your energy and hopes in life into this person. It's tiring and distracting and addictive. This person is your euphoria drug.

5. What are some factors that initially lead you to consider yourself as an asexual?
I was considering whether I was bisexual, because I was suffering an identity crisis I guess and a failing relationship, I was trying to be absolutely truthful to myself and had to admit that I had been attracted to people regardless of their gender. I was browsing some bisexual forums and came upon the word "asexual". I linked to Aven and felt relieved to discover that it was actually possible, valid and legitimate to not have the feelings I had always been telling myself I am supposed to have, and very healing to consider the possibility that maybe I'm not just horribly repressed.

6. How would you distinguish asexuality from a sexual dysfunction such as sexual desire disorder?
Simple. If you used to have sexual desire, and now you don't, but you want to have it - then you have a problem. If you never had sexual desire and don't miss it, then you're asexual. As for distress, yeah distress can be experienced, but the distress is not inherent to being asexual, it's caused by the social stigma and feeling different and unacceptable.

7. How might you have described your sexuality BEFORE you came across the term 'asexual'?
I guess I always checked the "heterosexual" box, though I always kind of felt like a fraud. Like I'm misrepresenting something I myself wasn't exactly sure of. It's like being asked about your religion and then given three choices, none of which you really identify with in your heart, but you don't realize that it's possible to not be part of any of these religions because everyone in your country belongs to a church, and it's unthinkable that you wouldn't too. Just before discovering asexuality, I started to seriously consider "admitting" that I was bisexual.

8. What questions would you use (without describing or using the term 'asexual') to identify an individual who might be asexual but has not yet come across the term?
What a great question! This touches directly on my need I expressed above to have a definition "from the inside". Because I didn't immediately identify with "asexual", it took me a little while to overcome the brainwashing that says "everyone is sexual, you should be sexual, those [asexual] people are just broken". I would ask questions such as:
- Was there ever a time in your life from which point on it was clear to you what sexual attraction means?
- If it was okay to never have sex, would you feel deprived to never have sex again?
- Is there anyone that you consider "hot", and how would you describe what that means?
- If you have a relationship to the word "hot", what happens in your body when you see someone that is "hot"?
- Has sex ever seemed like a chore, and have you ever wondered why people get so excited about it?
- Did you often feel out of place as a teenager when other kids hooked up with each other, and you didn't know how to or what it was all about?
- Did you ever invent crushes in order to not be different from your friends and have something exciting to talk about?
- Did you ever fail to relate to all the fuss about makeup and hair and scents and making yourself look attractive to the preferred gender?
- Have you felt confused about what sexual messages you might be sending, and have felt shy about being free with your body because you never knew how it was going to be interpreted?
- Have you thought that surely, people cannot think about sex every day, or been stunned to discover that most people actually masturbate regularly?
- Have you been embarrassed by sexual jokes because you couldn't relate or didn't get the reference and suddenly everyone was laughing hysterically and you felt left out?
- Have you had the opportunity to have sex with someone you really loved, and often felt like this is something you should want to do, though if you could have it your way, you'd be perfectly happy to just snuggle?
- Have you always felt like there was something strange with you in the area of sexuality, that you felt different, though you could never quite explain what was wrong?
- Have you felt pressured to talk about your sexuality and felt like a fraud for describing how you thought you should feel, not how you actually felt?


I’d love to hear if people can come up with more questions to ask someone who might potentially identify with “asexual” but hasn’t yet heard that asexuality was possible!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cuddle world

I recently had the privilege of spending a week with a group of (non-asexual) people where the social norm was that cuddling was allowed. Where emotional and physical intimacy and openness were welcome. Where hugs were freely given and received. Where it was okay to gaze at each other and even spoon with each other and it did not mean "I want sex". It meant "I feel affectionate and want to share it with you, if you want it too." And because that was the understood norm, and well, also because the people involved in this were pretty awesome and having-their-shit-together specimens, there was a lot of freedom and very little neurosis around touching. I felt so at home. Yes, it is possible. I even came to a point where I had my fill of group cuddling and wanted to step away. I'd always suspected that I would be the cuddle-craziest in a situation like that, but turns out I wasn't. I discovered it was possible to feel "I've had enough". And I feel fulfilled and encouraged by the whole experience. That humans can be that loving with each other without the manipulation of sexual and predatory and possessive games. What joy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


New word to add to the vocabulary of asexual experience: squish! I get squishes!

I added "squish" to the Urban dictionary: go vote it up so it can rise in the rankings!

Invented in this thread on Aven.

Others have described it beautifully, so I will copy:

I've been trying for a looong, loooong time how to describe the "crushes" I get on people. It was getting frustrating having to say "I got crushes on people, but they weren't really crushes because blah blah, and so blah blah blah......." So I finally decided to just pick a word, and I'm calling them SQUISHES. I just have a desire to talk to the person and be friends with them. I may desire romance for a brief period of time, but then I'll be over it and I'll be glad that desire passed. [...] There's one guy that I have a squish on right now. He's very sexual, so I know a relationship would never work out. And that's fine by me. I don't care if he ends up with a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, because I don't want to be exclusive with him, I don't want to date or have sex with him. I just want to spend some time with him, talking and laughing.

i sort of have that when i am friends with someone but it's sort of a mushy kind of friendship, or when i'm unusually fascinated by someone i've just met, sort of a "i have really got to get to know and be close to this person." but it's just a desire for a deeper friendship, not a relationship.

I used to say I got "friend-crushes", which involve me feeling very impressed by somebody or thinking that we'd get along really well; as a result I really want to be friends with the person. I'm told these feelings are stronger than the feelings most people have for friends. But perhaps now I can call my "friend-crushes" "squishes".

>>>I hate to be the skeptical one here, but what exactly is the difference between this and wanting to be friends with someone?<<<<
There's a big difference. Maybe if you've never felt it, it might be hard to imagine... but it's just like having a crush, only platonically. For me at least (I'm not sure if this goes for everyone), I really look forward to seeing them, I think about them a lot, I have a very high opinion of them, and I really care about their opinion of me. Other friendships develop because you just happen to spend time with the person... but I will go out of my way to spend time with my squishes, and I get super-elated when I get any kind of proof that they like me/want to spend time with me.

The desire to get to know someone can sometimes be a lot more intense for certain people I know, with lots of happy fuzzy feelings associated with it. But it doesn't happen with every person that I'm wanting to get to know better.

I will probably use this. I've had squishes. For me it's the nervous, butterflies in my stomach feelings. Usually I don't want to date them, and sex was never a goal. Using the word squish would avoid all the assumptions people would make if I used the word crush.

You've made me realize that precisely because I do have squishes on them we will never be close friends the way I want us to be. I care about their opinions too much. Which sucks.

Squish is perfect lol I love it, great way to describe it!

To sum up, a squish:
- is an intense feeling of attraction, respect, appreciation and admiration
- is a desire to be close and connected and important to each other
- is not a desire to have sex or be in an exclusive romantic relationship
- gives you a nervous or excited feeling when you're with that person, and you may act kind of silly
- makes you think about them a lot
- gives you disproportionate joy to see that they like or respect you back
- makes you feel delighted that this person exists!

My squishes, in contrast, have often been on people who I did end up becoming close with, and yes, the squish does wear off in the sense that the nervousness and excitement die down, but the intense feelings of affection and appreciation remain. They are all still my squishes. I love being able to use a noun for it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vicarious attraction

I have to write this somewhere, it is just too bizarre not to mention. I've been noticing that in a situation where someone is strongly sexually attracted to me, I can feel it - or I feel something - through empathizing with how the other person feels, or how I imagine they feel. It's not even thinking about it, I can reproduce a physical response. I can see a picture of myself and, bringing that other person into my awareness and knowing about the intensity of their feeling, experience a thrill, a strong pull of attraction in my whole body. Attraction to the person in the picture, apparently. I get a kick out of that. I think this is similar to romantic attraction, it evokes something I have felt on occasion in my life, the rush of seeing someone or a picture of someone who was very important to me, or receiving their letter. Without being sexually aroused, I think. But with this vicarious thing, even when someone was appreciating my, um, physical attributes, I could identify with that, looking at the same picture of me and feeling a kind of tug from my core, a kind of boost of energy, like electricity, and a knowledge how satisfying it would be to merge with that body. Is that what they call sexual attraction? I just think it's weird that I can feel it for myself. (I've heard of autosexuality - but when this feeling happens, I have no desire to do anything about stimulating the body I'm sitting in - just that I see the picture of myself as if it were someone else.) It's like identifying with a character in a movie or in a book, I can re-live something akin to what they are describing - I just can't take it seriously in real life.

And I can persuade myself to a certain extent that I'm feeling the same thing for someone who is attracted to me - but I question that, I question that it's really coming from me - because it's so easy for me to drop the idea of pursuing any kind of sexual relationship with any person. To have certainty that there's no chance of that happening, and that they don't want that with me for whatever reason, just feels like a relief and a complication taken away. Then I look around and wonder where my "need" evaporated to. Just yesterday it seemed I might be interested and willing to experiment with sexuality with you if you ever wanted to - and today, knowing that you would not want it to happen, it's a complete non-issue, unnecessary, and I feel happy to move on.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Comfortable with sex

At this point, after scrutinizing physical reactions, sensations, thoughts and feelings that occur to me, for a number of months, I could assert with a great deal of integrity that I don’t mind sex. I don’t have any scruples about being touched “down there” when I know that it's within a context of a reasonably loving and trusting relationship. The fact that another person has different physical responses and experiences, is no longer scary, because I've left behind the fear and anxiety that there's something wrong with me if I don't experience the same. So for me now, sex feels neutral to pleasant, and I like the fact that the other person seems to be enjoying it so much.

It’s a particular way of touching, and I don’t draw an arbitrary barrier between sexual and non-sexual touching. That would only make sense to me if I had sexual feelings that I needed to differentiate from other feelings. But when I don’t operate within the context of sexuality, it’s all just touching. And there's nothing wrong with it and I don't have any reservations about it, I just am not as focused on this one type of expression as most people. And my body doesn't inherently tell me that touching one person in this particular way now signifies that we are exclusively pair-bonded, and that if I were to touch another person in that way, it would signify some kind of betrayal. That attitude just seems completely invented and random, and I wonder how it is that most people understand it and subscribe to it so implicitly and intuitively.

The thought that I have not allowed myself to have (because it’s socially unacceptable), is that actually, I probably wouldn’t mind being naked and having sex with people I feel pretty close and trusting with, if there was interest on their part. I haven’t tested this in practice, but I sense that if such a situation arose, I wouldn’t have a problem sharing that kind of touch with several different people in the same period. The only reason I would be holding back is because I know that having sex does create the expectation of pair-bonding, and I am reluctant to send out the wrong message, or rather to have my behavior be misinterpreted.

The way I can participate in this is, essentially I’m responding to the energy of a partner: if there is a sexual charge there, I can pick it up to a certain extent and have fun with it, play with our responses. The only thing is, I guess it’s not as much fun for them with me as it would be with someone more sexually-driven. Maybe kind of as much fun as a hearing person and a deaf person going to a dance together. They will move and have their own enjoyment, but they are not sharing your experience. I don't get “lust”, or maybe I do, for moments at a time, but then it eludes me again. So people may in the end conclude that sexual activity is not something they particularly want with me anyway. And that settles that!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Breaking it Down

The way I was trained to think from a very young age, was this: you want to find a perfect person (of the opposite gender, of course) who you will have romantic feelings for, have sex with, want to pair-bond with as your partner, and want to have children with and live happily ever after.

It's amazing how ingrained that perspective is, unconsciously, and how I have to intentionally question it and "manually" readjust my attitudes or actually choose something other than my automatic assumptions. Even now when I'm becoming close to someone, there's this momentum of thought that says the only way to safely proceed is for this relationship to follow a particular track towards increasing commitment, and that I should employ certain tactics to make sure that this person becomes attached and bonded to me in a unique way so that we will need each other more than we need anybody else in the world.

Screw that. I don't want to manipulate anyone this way. I understand a lot of people would find following that track mutually enjoyable - good for them. But I can't do it and feel clean about it at the same time.

But what I wanted to write about was "breaking it down" - break down this perfect person that is supposed to fulfill me and make my life complete. Break them down into needs.

It seems that several wants, usually conflated into meaning one and the same thing, can actually exist quite independently of each other, in the same way that yawning and sleepiness can exist independently of each other. If I want one of these things with a particular person, it does not necessarily mean I want any of the other things. What I want is always something to be verified with my own feelings, and not assumed. So this is how I break it down at the moment:

1. Need for meaningful, intimate emotional and spiritual connection.
This is my primary need in relationships and what comes up the most. I'm not particular about who I have that with - I can have it with anyone who shows themselves to be willing, open and capable of intimacy and radical honesty, even if we have differing opinions or interests or are at different points in our life paths. I don't care. Give me truthfulness and transparency any day, and I will be irresistibly drawn to it. That's my ultimate passionate attraction. There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing and knowing each other as we are.

2. Need to pair-bond.
Now this is the confusing part, I always used to think that wanting #1 must mean that I want #2, must necessarily lead to #2. That when I'm feeling #1, I should already be planning for #2. I'm seeing now that the two do not necessarily overlap, and expecting them to overlap is an unexamined simplification. I don't get a lot of desire for pair-bonding and never have. Pair-bonding is what girls did with each other growing up, when they were best friends and shared everything, and it was a world I was never privy to - I never "got" how you were supposed to do that. Pair-bonding is what you are expected to want with your romantic partner, when you start thinking as a "we" rather than an "I" and you plan everything together and buy things together and people see you as a unit and invite you places together and address you in plural and always have you sit together. I've experienced some of that once, in the early stages of my longest relationship to date. But it did not stay, and I can't honestly say I feel any need to find a particular special person to settle down with and see myself as paired with.

3. Need for sex.
The fact that this can exist independently of anything else, has been covered at length in many different places. Further broken down into need for sexual release (masturbation will do) and need for sexual intercourse with particular people. Neither of which I experience.

4. Need for intimate loving touch.
I experience a lot of that, and do desire and crave it as a physical, visceral, most immediate expression of trust, closeness and affection. I'm often frustrated and feel blocked because the kind of physical closeness I would enjoy with my dear ones is normally socially sanctioned only within relationships that are romantic and sexual.

5. Need to have children.
Never experienced it, or only in a somewhat detached intellectual way, as something I think I'm supposed to want. I'm fascinated by some women's accounts of the clear sensation of a biological urge - and only reaffirmed in my knowledge that I have never sensed that.

And so I attempt to exist, feeling a bit alien living from a template that is unlike that of most people, not even knowing yet where I want to go with this. But as I am, so my world becomes - and unsubscribing from common unexamined beliefs brings me in touch with new people more open to experimentation. Which I'm happy about.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Just a small visibility achievement that probably no one noticed, but anyway. It's a principle. When you register with a physician, they ask you all sorts of interesting questions that don't see their own slant or bias... Like are you currently "using" alcohol. Or lumping the use of cocaine and marijuana into one question. And at the top of the list, the obligatory question about your marital status: married - single - divorced - widowed. WTF? What does it matter to them? Oh this time yesterday when I signed up with a new doctor, I was extremely lucky, one of the options was "partnered". But that didn't quite fit either, so I made another check box, "complicated", and checked that one.

Then the nurse asked me again about my marital status, and I just paused for a long time and smiled at her and said, "I'm not sure". We then established that what she was really needing, was the name of the person living with me - for some reason? I asked her why do they ask that and how is it relevant, and she was genuinely surprised and said, "I don't know! I wonder about that!" Then the doctor asked if there were any people or animals living with me, so I laughed and told him I was happy that he was asking a more specific question. I asked him too about why they want to know about marital status, and he also said he didn't know, and that it was probably a hold-over from a hundred years ago, and everyone just keeps doing it.

Everyone just keeps doing it. It's not that people are intentionally bigoted, they just don't often question habitual realities.

Anyway the asexual visibility thing. For whatever reason the doctor's form feels like it needs to ask you about your sexual preference. And it gave me two options: "males" and "females". Not even "both"! So I felt really smug and wrote "neither" in the blank space next to it.

Nobody asked me anything about it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Relationship 2.0

This is going to be about undesired sexual attention. In AVEN forums, I often see people complaining and freaking out about those sexuals who won’t leave them alone and just don’t get it. And what I hear in their frustration is asexuals wanting respect and wanting to be believed and acknowledged and seen for who they are, because there is (not surprisingly) probably still some insecurity and fear about asserting themselves as different, and the hope is that being believed and respected by other people would bring these asexuals the peace of mind and comfort in their own skin, that they need so much.

Fact is, if by a fluke of fate you find yourself asexual, it means you just set yourself up for MORE exploration of “relationship” rather than less. That’s right, you can’t sustainably use the “asexual” label as a way to avoid having to deal with people because you just can’t handle them. Because your label is going to be continually challenged and disbelieved and suspected. And unless you’re comfortable hiding out in your room forever playing video games and chatting online only with other people who are safe because they are “asexual”, you will have to continually question and carefully observe what is going on in the relationships that you enter into. One of the things that I liked most about AVEN when I first found it, is that you were being invited to not assume this as a monolithic identity, but rather to use the word to describe yourself for as long as it makes sense to.

So as with everything else, in order to assert yourself, it's best to come from a place where you are really, really comfortable with yourself. If you go out into the world saying to people "I've determined that I'm asexual and I never ever want to have sex ever, how gross" while you still have doubts and insecurities inside of yourself, and so you’re really invested in people believing your statement, because you think that will help you believe yourself – well you’re just not going to be convincing. People can always feel that you’re not sure of yourself, sometimes subconsciously, and they will respond to your insecurity with doubt and dismissal, sometimes also subconsciously (even if they verbally reassure you). So how do you become sure of yourself?

It’s paradoxical, but the more flexible you are and the more you allow for your identity to not be fixed, the more stable and unshakable you are. It’s scary because we are used to having firm and solid definitions of everything. And society’s rules are not made to accommodate a lot of “I don't know". Nevertheless. The ultimate tool you always have at your disposal is telling your own complete truth, and sometimes that truth is “I don’t know”, or “I don't relate to that question" or "I'm not sure what that word means" or "I don't remember ever feeling that way" or “I have mixed feelings about that”. Just be as truthful as you can – and speak from your own authority, from what you really, really know to be true for yourself. But the more you try to present yourself to people using external labels of identity, the easier it is for them to dispute that.

It’s like in literature, you have passive and active characterization. I can write a novel and say “John is outgoing, friendly and cooperative”, or I can narrate a story in which John does and says certain things that demonstrate his character. Which are you more likely to believe, the conclusions that I’ve made for you about John, or the conclusions that you’ve drawn yourself based on what you have seen about John?

I haven’t actually said to anyone “I’m asexual”. In some relationships, I’ve mentioned that asexuality is an orientation that I relate to and understand the most. Other times, that hasn’t even been necessary, I’ve just described how I feel about certain aspects of sexuality. And what I get back from friends is a lot of understanding and support and acceptance. I’m making sense to them, even if their experience is different.

Does everyone who is trying to romance you necessarily have to know that you identify as asexual? I don’t think so. There’s someone who is really, really in love with me right now, and since I’m living the crazy experiment of not knowing and not defining my relationships inside the friendship/romance dichotomy, so I’m living from a place where nothing HAS TO happen, I’m allowing myself to simply enjoy his company and enjoy as much physical affection from him as I like without having it have to mean anything. At the same time I’m also being super attentive to myself and clearly knowing what I do and don’t want, and communicating my boundaries. I’m allowing this powerful intense energy to flow towards me from him, while knowing where I stand, and allowing any response that arises in me, to happen. Even allowing for the possibility that if at any point the unlikely impulse comes to have sex with him, I will. Everything is so much easier when I no longer tell myself that I have to resist or fight anything, or on the other hand that I have to follow and fall in and reciprocate. Just doing what comes naturally. I’ve let go of a lot of guilt there. As long as I was telling myself that I should be a certain way, there was plenty of discomfort. Now I allow myself to feel anything that is felt in the moment, and it’s great to have that validation in real time from within my own body that no, I don’t actually want that.

You are strongest when you don’t have to convince anyone. When they tell you how much they want to be with you, can you, instead of wincing and trying to get away, just look them straight in the eye, feel what’s going on for you right then and there, and express it? I would personally find that much more believable than hearing “I’m asexual, leave me alone”. I think it’s a great challenge for asexuals to learn to absorb and deal with and become comfortable with direct sexual energy – and I see it as an inevitable part of maturation, to be willing to face that at some point. This guy who’s in love with me, I simply told him that I was very open to people, and that that didn’t mean I wanted a relationship - but that I knew this could be confusing. And he WAS confused, but he said that I was wonderfully strange. :) Well, I enjoy being strange. And if at any point he wants to ask more, I can explain more. But I don’t feel like I HAVE TO make him understand what I’m all about. And that’s freedom.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What would you ask an asexual?

I took this asexuality survey for the National University of Ireland. Their idea is to explore the experience of asexuality and sense of identity as an asexual, and I'm really glad that they provide space for essay-type answers rather than pigeonholing you into multiple choice. And happy that someone took this on, and would really like to see the results!

"How would you define your gender identity" is a relevant question, since I would expect many respondents not to have a strong gender sense. Some other questions seem largely irrelevant, like how does ethnicity or age or religion affect your asexuality. Age probably only has relevance in that people take you more seriously the older you are, but that goes for everything and not just asexuality. I'm curious about religion, as a disproportionate number of AVENites seem to be non-religious/atheist/agnostic. Pretzelboy is also making some guesses as to why so many don't have a religious affiliation. I guess the assumption many people on the outside make, is that being religious and believing you should not have sex much, makes people asexual... But in reality it seems rather the other way around. My completely unscientific 2 cents would be that a lot of religion is about instructions how to deal with sexual desires and channel them towards some spiritual ideal, doing right as opposed to wrong; and as asexuals are already living the experience of being outside of society's norm and not even having to control their sexual appetites, not fitting in and thus not having a strictly black-and-white view of the world, that kind of religion simply does not seem relevant, and has little appeal for them.

Some good questions in this survey were around relating to others, disclosing one's sexuality and how that has been accepted. How does asexuality fit into your self-concept. Other questions were decidedly too generic, like listing the good points and bad points of being asexual. And I would like to see more specific, juicier questions being researched, such as:

- When did you first realize you were asexual? Have you ever felt sexual? How did you discover this identity, and how did it feel? What did you identify as before?
- Do you ever fall in love? If you are attracted to people, do you have a gender preference?
- How do you feel about touching and sensuality? Hugging, kissing? How do you express affection and how do you view intimacy?
- What kind of close relationships would you ideally like to have in your life?
- Have you been in sexual relationships and how do you negotiate that? If you have had sex without actual desire for it, why did you do it?
- Do you want to have a family, children?
- Do you have a sex drive? Do you masturbate and how do you view masturbation? How about orgasm?
- Do you have a spirituality/religion and which? Does it bear any relation to your asexuality? How much does your (lack of) spirituality/religion define you?
- How was sex viewed in your family of origin, and do you think that has had any effect on your asexuality?
- When did you first realize that someone was sexually attracted to you, and how did you know? Are there particular areas of daily life that are confusing to you and that you would like more understanding around by people in general?

You know, lots of questions researchers could ask. Just imagine that your best friend comes out to you as asexual, what would you be curious about?

Update: Here Pretzelboy suggests some good Topics for future research in a more methodical way than me.

Recognize an asexual

I stumbled on these posts on AVEN here and here, talking about wearing a black ring on your right middle finger as a sign that you are asexual.

I like the idea of increasing visibility, especially among each other. I went and bought myself a nice-looking but inexpensive black band off of Ebay. And although I don't expect to be seeing large numbers of people sporting black ase-rings just yet, I want to support this as I'm hoping that the symbol will penetrate public awareness over the coming years and make it a little bit easier to exist as a legitimate minority. So this post is kind of an encouragement to spread awareness for all those who wish to pick it up. Wear a black ring on your right middle finger when you want to claim an asexual identity. Tell everyone who is interested in your ring, and let them know that this subculture exists. I'd complement this with the "ace of hearts" symbol where appropriate.

Hopeful vision of the future: guy tries to romance girl who seems to be playing hard to get. Guy checks her left ring finger. Nothing. Then guy checks her right middle finger. Guy sees black ring. Guy knows and understands that this means she is not interested in sex with him, thank you very much, and does not take it personally. People do not pressure you with questions and expectations about getting together with someone, or getting married, are not continuously suspicious of your permanently single status. The hope is that maybe one day asexuality would become at least as commonplace and accepted as being gay is today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's stopping you?

I usually have a judgmental reaction when I hear quasi-scientific statements to the effect that “x characteristic evolved IN ORDER TO y”. It’s the same Creator-with-a-Purpose-in-Mind paradigm masquerading as a more impersonal Nature/Evolution-with-a-Purpose-in-Mind. Why doesn’t anyone expose that kind of thinking? It's ubiquitous in popular press and supposedly research-based literature. It’s people with a coat of science over a core of superstition.

But today, I’m going to allow myself just that kind of completely subjective, unscientific and unjustified speculation, which will not increase objective understanding of humanity one iota. It will be more like a rant that’s not rationally founded. (Although I wouldn’t object if anyone can point to scientific research connected with such questions! I’m just too lazy to spend time on research myself. It’s easier to shout out opinions from the bleachers.)

I’m speculating that the “purpose” of sexual attraction in the human species is so that individuals who find themselves in the inexplicable grip of this powerful drive are forced to get beyond the otherwise powerful fear we humans tend to have of the Other, and become physically close enough to perpetuate the species. This might also explain why society conditions us to believe that the most intimate relationships are necessarily our sexual relationships. That only this apparently immense force over which we have no control, can bring two people to get over themselves and allow themselves such intimacy and vulnerability. It’s like those episodes of Star Trek (yes I’m a geek) when the screenwriters wanted to allow their viewers to be voyeurs of a romance between two characters which would otherwise have been unacceptable: they seemed to always invoke some strange mysterious alien force that inhabited the body of this or that person and made them act in a romantic and sexual way towards another crew member, right? So that when it was all over and the alien force departed, we could rest assured, it’s still okay, the fabric of our inhibitions has remained intact, and it’s back to business as usual.

Well as far as I’m concerned, it’s the same thing with non-sexual intimacy. One would think that with our higher faculties we would no longer have to fall back on sexual reflexes if intimacy is what we want. But still we are programmed to believe that we can only be ultimately intimate and vulnerable and real with other people if we are simultaneously sexually attracted to them, and want to have sex with them. It’s as if wanting to be emotionally/physically intimate and completely open is something shameful, and we need a legitimate excuse (our alien force, or in this case sexual attraction) to enact it. As if to say, no, really, I would leave you alone if I had a choice you see, but this attraction thing is forcing me to want to be intimate with you, I’m terribly sorry. As if the only legitimate place in which complete intimacy was allowed, was if there is a sexual contract of couplehood in place; otherwise we have a different contract: to continue to play the game of being afraid of each other and hiding from each other to various degrees, because we are, after all, “just friends”. It’s then tricky and confusing to navigate those waters of expectations. I want more intimacy and at the same time I'm afraid to demolish implicit societal agreements. But it's happening anyway.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Recognizing lack of sexual attraction

I think people should talk more about sex. No, let me rephrase that to be more accurate. I’m disappointed that in my past, I did not initiate talking about sex more. So many assumptions would have revealed themselves so much sooner. Or would they? Maybe I just wasn’t ready for it.

When I first encountered the term ‘asexual’ and the asexual community online, I was averse to the idea of considering myself asexual. I was too much in the mindset that there was something wrong with "these people", that they were just immature; especially after reading some posts by teenagers who seemed to simply fear the powerful unknown sexual experience, fear growing up. At the time I was seriously considering if I should be calling myself bisexual. It was only months later that I came to AVEN again, having faced more of myself and dropped more preconceptions. And I could read it with new eyes, and laugh with the joy of recognizing my own experiences described, with the joy of not being alone.

One of the first things I noticed was the fact that asexuality was being defined by the absence of something that an asexual person would by definition not understand to begin with. “Asexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” That statement works for the sexual world, it means something to “normal” people. How about an internal definition? How does an asexual person experience themselves from within, without referencing something that is not part of their world in the first place? An asexual person who hears the official definition might not recognize themselves in it.

See, I had never even considered that I did not experience sexual attraction. Because it did not occur to me that I was any different from everybody around me who talked and acted as if we were all experiencing this same thing. I figured I must have it; I have attraction to people, it must be sexual. And I always felt awkward and insecure, because in reality I didn’t understand it, I didn’t get it. It was almost completely mystical to me. Sure, I was always able to recognize very obvious and overt sexual come-ons, but most my interactions were more subtle, and there was always a nagging question at the back of my mind, in all relationships, whether something sexual was happening or not. Always wondering – is this it? I like this person - does that mean that I want to date them? What was the magic formula by which people recognized this in each other? I kind of assumed that I must be sexually attracted to some degree to pretty much everyone I liked, and to all my friends. That any look, touch, gesture, expression, word indicating closeness, could be seen as leading someone on, could be somebody’s subtle hint or meaning something. I preferred to block this out of my awareness most of the time, because it was too much to handle. But overall, it affected me, I found myself alternating between being very open and very reserved – never knowing how friendly is too friendly. Mostly being more reserved than I would have wanted to be - just to be on the safe side.

Last year I had some pretty direct and graphic conversations about what “sexual attraction” actually meant to different people, and how they experienced it. And I’m told that it is CLEAR to them, that it hits them suddenly and unmistakably, that they have specific sexual fantasies about the person they are attracted to, that it’s this amazing and magical pull, and so on. I feel like I’m off the hook! When I allowed for the option that this sexual attraction business is just not something that I experience or should necessarily experience, it did wonders for my self-confidence and how I show up around people. I’ve felt so free since then, like a huge weight was lifted off my back, the weight of having to be so careful because you don't know how things work and human relations never quite make sense to you. I feel much more at ease now to look at people, touch them, be open with them - and I know that however they want to interpret it, is their own business. Because I know where I'm coming from, and I keep checking with myself. And since I've recognized my asexuality, I have experienced loads of attraction that I allow to come out as it happens, because it's just what it is, but having sex with someone or wanting to make them my significant other does not occur to me, and that’s perfectly acceptable. I can simply be who I am. There is no expectation. And if this amazing and magical pull does happen some day, I want to be able to allow it just the same.

So how would asexuality be described from the inside, so that an asexual person who does not know of asexuality, might recognize it when they read about it? So much of my self-description has been by negation lately; what can I say that I do want?

Update: Found this thread discussing Defining asexuality from an asexual perspective. Hope to get back to this!