This is, finally, my second post for the April 2014 Carnival of Aces. Asexuality will come up eventually if you keep reading, I swear it will. 😛 (Sorry it’s a tiny bit “late” and now it’s already May. Time got away from me.)
When I took a Philosophy 101 course in college and they got to the section where we’d discuss the concept of Free Will (and whether or not it exists), not much was actually new information for me, personally. I had already been persuaded by arguments for Determinism when listening to the Reasonable Doubts podcast in my free time for over a year prior to taking the class. However the class did introduce a few things to me… the idea of compatiblism, which actually I might prefer over just outright dismissing all of Free Will as a whole… terms like “volition” and how they affect the debate, etc. One of the most memorable things for me was when they explained how you might have conflicting desires at once. Two examples:
You want to stay in bed for another hour and sleep more
but at the same time,
You want to go to work (and get there on time), because you know it’s the only way to make money, to not get fired so that you have the option of going to the job tomorrow, etc.
You’re addicted and your body is telling you just how badly you want a cigarette, and you really do feel like you would love to smoke one right now
but at the same time,
You want to quit smoking, for any number of reasons.
I think it is obvious how people can have these types of contradictory desires at once, but it’s interesting to think about them in terms of free will. However, the point of this post is not really to discuss free will, but rather to discuss an analogy between my relationship with alcohol and my relationship with sex before this month’s Carnival of Aces is over. Yes. I’m getting there as fast as I can.
For me, compulsory sexuality works in society in such a way that it feels like “peer pressure” even when you’re all alone, and to me there feels like a culture of compulsory alcohol drinking too.
And it means I end up with conflicting desires:
My actual desire to not have sex/not drink alcohol
at the same time as
My desire to fit in, to do what is expected of me, to do what I always expected I’d one day do and one day get great pleasure out of doing.
It’s an assumption that everyone loves sex, that everyone has sex, and that everyone feels sexually attracted to people too. If you’re not a member of a conservative religion, it is assumed that you probably aren’t a virgin once you have gotten to your mid-twenties in age and people don’t think twice about it. And honestly, most of the time that doesn’t affect me too much, as a 24-year-old asexual sex-averse person who qualifies as a virgin under most definitions of the term – and who plans to remain a virgin for life. Because most of the time whether or not I’ve had sex before doesn’t matter. If I’m with my social circle of friends or family, I’m not expected to have sex right there with them/in front of them. So no one really needs to even know that I am different from them when it comes to sex. Most of the time it’s just not relevant.
But with alcohol, drinking is something you’re expected to enjoy, expected to do all of the time in front of all of these types of people. And each and every time I’m offered an alcoholic drink, I feel very… embarrassed about declining it. I shouldn’t feel a need to justify it, and I generally don’t have any justification, but I still feel… self-conscious about not wanting to drink. About being unusual, about not feeling the same way toward alcohol as everyone else.
I had been planning on writing this post before ever seeing Sara K.’s take on this subject, but she said many things that ring very true for me over on The Notes Which Do Not Fit. One of which was:
“People find it weird that I was essentially following the laws about underage drinking, and making no effort to break them. In many of my social circles, you are expected to say that you snuck in alcohol before you were of age.”
I feel like people do not realize how they make people like me and Sara K. feel when they “expect” something of us like that, something that ends up not being true. I can’t help but wish I “fit in” more sometimes, because everyone else fits in and I’m stuck outside smiling along awkwardly, pretending to relate, or admitting quietly that I don’t.
But Sara K. said:
“However, I think the pressure to drink alcohol is not nearly as strong as the pressure to have sex.”
…and I disagree. To me, the pressure to drink is what feels stronger in a lot of ways than the pressure to have sex. There are certainly pressures for both, and people probably feel stronger about sex things, but in my life many people also don’t like to talk about sex all that often, but alcohol is something they’re always happy to discuss openly. The pressure to have sex with someone only applies if you’re actually in a romantic relationship with someone (or in an environment where everyone is being picked up for one-night stands, which I’m sure no one would be surprised to learn is not a type of space I frequent). You feel pressure to have sex in general in life, sure, but for me, drinking is the thing that ends up being a thing I actively have to refuse to do much more often. Not having sex is easy as a single person, I don’t even have to say “no” to anyone. But when it comes to alcohol, I have to constantly, throughout my life, say “no thank you,” and it is always a reminder that I’m different than other people when it comes to how I feel about alcohol.
You know how people sometimes very rudely suggest to asexual people “You need to try sex! You won’t be asexual once you try it,” and this even gets into corrective rape-threat territory? Well no one has ever actually said that to me and made me feel uncomfortable in that way. I am lucky to have avoided that thus far in my life. However my brother and his girlfriend have explicitly said to me: “You need to get drunk! Come on, we’ll take you to do shots” or “Just try it” and all sorts of things like that. Eventually my brother accepted that I wasn’t interested, and he’s nice about it, but at first the pressure people were exerting on me to drink was making me very uncomfortable, like I wasn’t really being given the option to say “no”, and that was upsetting to me.
Sara K. also explained that:
“it is a major coming-of-age rite when you can finally drink legally. This is not unlike how ‘losing one’s virginity’ is considering a defining coming-of-age rite.”
And for me, that rings so true. Not only that, though, but also it took me years to come to terms with the fact that my own expectations for “growing up” needed to be shifted. That for me, I was coming of age without the normal rites of passages, that I wasn’t gonna ever grow into someone who enjoyed getting drunk or enjoyed having sex. Those things aren’t me, and it took a lot of time to get to the point I’m at now, a point of acceptance that those things don’t have to be rites we pass through on the way to adulthood. That we can be adults without them. And that it is okay and that we’re not missing out on any more than anyone else, not really, because no one experiences everything possible.
Ironically, when I was still hoping I was not asexual and dating my boyfriend and trying to get up the nerve to do sexual stuff with him… when I was trying to figure out if there was a way to increase my non-existent sex drive from “zero” to “something” and all of it… I considered getting myself drunk to see if it would help. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was not comfortable with sexual things, and I was also not comfortable with the idea of drinking to see if it would lower my inhibitions enough to help me be more interested in sex. 😛 Now, I am glad I didn’t pressure myself into doing either thing.
I did experiment a tiny bit with sexual activities with my boyfriend in a completely sober state of mind, and I was more comfortable because of that. I never was interested, but I was able to realize sex wasn’t my thing through a positive experience of doing only as much as I was comfortable with, doing it with my boyfriend who I loved and trusted completely and who respected my limits and everything else. The same is true of my limited experiments with alcohol, which I explain here. I drank just enough to start to feel a bit of the effects of drinking when around my dad, which was me being in a fully safe space around a person I trust completely and I didn’t drink things I didn’t want to or which scared me (like trying a shot), I didn’t drink enough to get drunk… I didn’t drink really again after deciding I didn’t like it enough for it to be “worth it” for me.
Honestly, I’d always prefer to drink a virgin strawberry daiquiri over an alcoholic one, and I’d prefer to remain a virgin for my entire life rather than find myself in some future relationship actually having sex for some reason. I just wish the word “virgin”, both in reference to the drinks and in reference to us human beings, did not have the connotations it did. Because I am not immature, waiting till the day I am “allowed” or “old enough” to drink the “real thing”. No, the virgin form of a strawberry daiquiri is sweet and delicious and just as real, and for me an even more wonderful experience than drinking alcohol. My life is not incomplete without alcohol, and my life is not incomplete without sex. Since accepting the fact that I am a sex-averse asexual… I find myself more sure of what I want for my life and my future, and that makes me happier in many ways than I ever have been in the past.