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!


  1. Great questions! Gosh, I sure am asexual. However, I wonder how sexual people would respond to those questions, and how much crossover there is between a/sexual answers.

  2. Oh my gosh! It's surreal to see we came up with so many of the same questions, like inventing crushes, not getting sexual jokes, and being shocked to discover other people really did seem to think about and seek sex all the time.

    Here's my best recreation of some other ones I had:

    1. Do friends and dating partners tell you that you are:
    damaged, sexually repressed, a prude, innocent, a late bloomer, picky, confusing?

    2. Does making out turn you on, or do you find that your partner is usually more excited than you are?

    3. When romantic relationships have ended, have you ever felt upset, or were you usually just relieved?

    4. Do you prefer first dates to 2nd and 3rd dates, because a kiss is not expected?

  3. Becky: Nowadays, I get that sexual innuendo is happening when everyone gets excited way out of proportion. However, I'm no longer embarrassed to stay poker-faced. In fact, I can stare down a sexual joke and the sexual person will be more embarrassed than me, hahah! But remembering when I was a teenager, this was torture. I was so shy when people alluded to sex: I knew that a reaction was being expected of me, that people were looking at me to check out how I would respond, and I didn't know what the right reaction was, so I just panicked and blushed very hard each time.
    As for romantic relationships ending in relief: good one! Yes. I was recently in a conversation where someone said: "You know those heart-wrenching breakups you can only have when you're in your twenties, we've all had them, right?" And she looked at me, expecting I would support her. I was just silent for a few moments, then I said: "No, actually, I've never had a heart-wrenching breakup. So I'll just stay out of this conversation." And they all looked at me with what seemed to me like a mixture of disbelief, awe and admiration. LOL But it's true, I don't relate to that at all. The few relationships I've had before my one really long-term relationship, felt more like a favor to the other person, and when they ended, it was, oh, I don't have to keep doing this. Well, that's it then. Even with my long-term relationship, it was: oh, I so wish him to find a good partner, I would be so happy for him.

  4. Inventing crushes? Not getting sexual jokes? Masturbatory habits? I think that these questions are very biased from the females side. Guys rarely talk about their crushes, so there's no need to invent them in order to pass. I get and even invent sexual jokes. I've been recently surprised discovering than some guys don't masturbate (even when they lack other kind of sex) or masturbate very sparsely.

  5. You know, reading a lot of this stuff (and answering that questionnaire!) actually make me feel like I really do belong with the asexuals... which I'd been questioning for a long time, so thanks.

    Although apparently the people doing this survey's main focus is on sexual dysfunction disorders--which sound exactly like asexuality or gray-asexuality, except pathologized. >.< Great that they're not ignoring us, but it would be quite a relief if those diagnoses had some other criteria added to them, like, "Evidence of a medical problem" and "Change from a previous more sexual state" and a note added that many people choose to identify as asexual and live satisfying lives, regardless of the source of their asexuality.

  6. I think I was in a lighthearted mood, after all the deep soul searching questions and my rant about wresting asexuality from the grips of pathology and distinguishing it from sexual dysfunction disorders...

    Among a few other questions I asked~

    Describe Angelina Jolie. (If you answer: she's pretty, she does a lot of aid-work, she seems like a bad ass, i like her tattoos--you may be ace)

    Such great questions every one added. I was a bit exhausted from trying to put myself on paper (well screen, but you know what I mean). I wish I'd taken more time to add more questions.

  7. I'm really glad I found this blog. I've been struggling with my sexuality for too long now, and I definitely can relate to a lot of this. My aesthetic/physical attractions tend toward the same-sex side, but I've never really had much of an urge to do anything sexual with anyone. I think much of my confusion stems from lacking an understanding of various terms (e.g., 'sexual attraction'), so it's great to think about what questions one can ask oneself to get around that.

  8. Thank you for sharing all your perspectives. The thought and time and effort you put into this are immense, and immensely helpful, be them questions or answers.