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?


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

19 comments:

  1. 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?

    A very difficult question and one I've been thinking about a lot recently. Part of the problem is just what you described--we all assume that everyone means the same thing by "sexual attraction." I sometime wonder how much variation there exists in sexual people in terms of what feelings they're labeling as sexual attraction. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some things certain people feel and label sexual attraction, and there other other (sexual) people that don't experience that feeling, but do experience other feelings that could equally validly be considered sexual attraction.

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  2. I think you're right and that each individual is a unique world of experience, and when we communicate with each other in words, it is about parts of our worlds that approximately intersect. I am sure each sexual experiences what they call "sexual attraction" slightly differently, and that there is no universal preexisting objective "sexual attraction" OUT THERE, for which this term is only an obvious corresponding label. The language we use is only one possible (socially dominant) way of parsing reality, and unfortunately, growing up, nobody tells you that, you kind of have to figure it out for yourself.

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  3. I think i will be reading your blog more from now on. You are pioneering "terra nova", and its caught my attention.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I send you my encouragement, and ultimate gratitude.

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  4. Thanks Anonymous! And I would like to hear your thoughts too, I love having input that stimulates me to investigate deeper or go in a new direction. Too bad you are anonymous.

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  5. "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 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."

    I always had to translate ideas to and from my language to the sexual norm. As a guy with your 3 other 15yr old buddies, looking at sports illustrated, I saw "attractive" women... but I couldn't wrap my head around the word "hot." - why designate a slang word for such a strong emotion, it's cheapens it.

    Thanks much for this post. It puts my feelings into words I couldn't and describes my point of view in ways I never considered. I am still not sure about how to allow/relax myself to express my emotions... without it being misunderstood, even with friends who know my asexuality.

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  6. Eureka! I think you have just nailed down for me what it is that I'm not feeling: "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." For sexuals, at least for us males, attraction is accompanied by immediate sexual imagery--undressing with the eyes. This must be why I have seen many sexual men, some religious but some not, avert their eyes in the prescence of a provocatively dressed woman: It provokes a reaction that they consider dangerous and uncontrolable. I never understood this before, because my reaction is "hey look, a beautiful woman, what a pleasnt image." Thanks for your post. Now I'm certain that I meet the AVEN definition of an asexual.

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  7. I'm glad you are now more content with yourself having recognised your orientation. I come from a background where being different felt very theatening. I hate being different and can't see a way out of it, logic doesn't work. I feel I am missing something very precious and for me unobtainable. I would deperately love to be happy in myself.

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  8. Thank you, just so much for this. You've put down in words what I've been trying so hard to express to myself. It clears the border quite a bit. Thank you again.

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  9. I really appreciated reading this. I'm currently trying to work out if I'm asexual, and I definitely have the frustration that you talk about, of not having enough dialogues about sexual attraction with others. I'd also like to echo Anonymous on June 12, about religious issues of looking away, and I was wondering if you have/would write about what I've heard called the "Chivalric" religious culture and asexuality.

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  10. Hi Brent, I don't have much to say about chivalric religious culture without specific prompting, as I'm not currently affected by any religion - but maybe you can share some thoughts about it? It seems you have some.

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  11. I see people have posted quite a few interesting things. What I'm wondering is, can i be considered asexual if have, as most say, never been attracted to anyone, but am often very horny? and I mean i try to get some release at least once a day (and i am female).

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  12. Yes - a sex drive is different from sexual attraction; many asexuals have a sex drive and a need for sexual stimulation or release, but still no attraction to doing that with people. Asexuals with a sex drive often see masturbation as a simple biological need, and have compared the wish to do it with other people, to a wish to have your nose picked by another person :)

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  13. Thank you for the reply! Wow, um, that's kinda sad. But it does explain why I never really get what people are talking about when they say someone is really hot or something. I mean, I see it, but more objectively than most, I guess. What about when you're in a relationship? Will there be sexual attraction there eventually?
    Now,i don't think I've ever compared those two, but I have to admit I can't ever really see myself having sex with someone... but this is where it sort of doesn't make sense; I would actually kind of like to have sex with someone, but it gets weird if I ever picture it with anyone. Is that normal?

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  14. I feel exactly the same as anonymous (July 3) above. I want to get married and have kids. I want that relationship. I want to have sex with someone. But I just can never picture it with any person I've ever met.

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  15. In the last few months I've come to realize I'm asexual, which did take a couple of months for me to think on and accept, but I was very happy once I realized I'm different, and WHY I'm different. I could never look at someone and go, want to have sex with him (or her). Instead I would think, 'pretty' or 'good-looking', and looking was all I ever wanted to do. It was a relief, because family and friends kept saying this was normal, and what I should want these things, but I just never understood it.
    To me, asexuality means I'm interested in people, but never their bodies. I can like the look of someone, but it's like admiring a painting. I feel emotional attraction, but I would never be tempted to act any further than friendship. It doesn't mean I don't have a sex drive, or even that I don't like porn, because I do. I can even fantasize about having sex, but I never want anything more than fantasy.
    I also think too much into my interactions with other people. Am I flirting unconsciously? (because I've never actually tried to flirt with anyone) Is he flirting with me? (I can only ever tell when it gets so strong it's actually creepy)
    I also agree with anonymous (July 3) and ali215. I kind of want the relationship - but really, I think I mainly want the norm for society, what all of my family and friends think I should want.

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  16. I actually just want to say thank you, to everyone who posted their stories and questions on this page. I can't quite put into words what I'm thinking right now, but this has helped me accept that part of me, and accept that it's okay not to feel the same as the other people in my (fairly young) age group.
    I've always had problems interacting with the other teens around me, who are always flirting, talking about sex, and doing a whole other lot of things I just can't quite comprehend. My last relationship was very uncomfortable for me because she put a lot of emphasis on the act (not forcefully, it was just always there). I'm not afraid of 'growing up' or of sex -with the right person-. I'm just not as interested as they are. It's nice to see (for the first time) that other people see things at least a little like I do.
    Thanks again.

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  17. I think for asexuality, having a lack of sexual attraction is key. It's something I never understood because I always thought I was sexually attracted to men, just didn't want to have sex with them lol. But now I realize that sexual attraction is the desire/interest of having sex with this person. I am attracted to men in the sensual/romantic sense. And I don't fantasize about men sexually, just everything leading up to sex lol. I wonder what they call that. It's so enlightening to read about asexuality because I had to defend my lack of sexual interest as not being "boy crazy" lol. And I was more excited to kiss and cuddle than bang lol. So, I'm happy that there is more information about asexuality now...

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  18. *Can someone help me?***
    This article is probably the most helpful I have found so far. I'm still trying to figure out what I would be considered objectively; I've always just assumed that the attraction I feel towards people is what is called "sexual" attraction, but I recently discovered the terms aesthetic and romantic attraction, which I think fit what I feel much better. For example, when I see someone I think is very attractive, I never fantasize about having sex with them, instead I literally get a strong urge to draw them XD (and I often do lol). But at the same time, I don't have an aversion to the idea of sex; I occasionally look at porn and masturbate, but never to anyone "real", just an anonymous person who I "love" emotionally. If I ever have a flash of someone real when I'm doing it, it weirds me out and I feel like I am somehow violating them. But I am still unsure because I've never been in a romantic or sexual relationship, even though I'm in college. The closest things that might describe be may be gray-asexuality or demisexuality (because I think I would like sex if it was with someone I really, really trusted emotionally). Also, I've only really had one full-blown crush in my life, and honestly my strongest desire was to hug him. I know labels don't define me, but I am curious as to what an outsider might consider me based on what I have written here.

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  19. Hi. I've only recently started considering the possibility that I may be asexual. I used to think the fact that I've never been sexually attracted to anyone was due to shyness. But really I'm not that shy anymore. I'm 28 years old and have never even come close to having sex. I like to flirt and especially guys seem to be easily attracted to me, but I always pull back when I sense they want to act on it. I masturbate and it used to be great, but not so much anymore. I want to have a satisfying sexual relationship, but I've never met anyone I want to have sex with. What do I do?

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