Trigger Warnings for rape, discussions of loss-of-virginity, etc. Please tell me if I should word this differently or add something else to this list.
I found out about the sex-positive movement before I found out about asexuality’s existence.
I watched pretty much every one of Laci Green’s videos and I also heard Dr. Darrel Ray speak in various atheist podcasts I listened to, and there were probably a few other places that sex-positivity seeped into my world.
At first, when it was a distant possibility for me, when I wasn’t close to dating anyone, when I knew I’d be single for the forseeable future (so the next few months), I loved learning about sex. And the sex-positive movement felt like a great place to do it.
At a basic level, I’ve always thought that “Sex-positive” was a reactionary term to the idea that sex is inherently a negative, sinful thing (or at least certain kinds of sex – premarital, homosexual, “sodomy”, etc). Sex-positive people are people that recognize that there is nothing morally wrong with fully consensual sexual acts of any kind, and sex-positive people on the whole believe that shaming people for things that aren’t hurting anyone – being gay, their specific fantasies and kinks, etc – is wrong. (Yes, the sex-positivity movement is a lot more complicated than that, but that is how I viewed it and… and how I mainly still do, when looking at it on its most basic level.)
So when I first was actually dating and realized I felt no chemistry when I experienced my first kiss, and I got to the point of considering “Is there a chance that I am asexual?”, I finally went on to the AVEN forums, which was the only place, at the time, that I knew to look for any asexuality discussion.
I really LIKED the “it’s great if people who enjoy it have sex” rhetoric being something around there on that site, and I agreed with it, and if I had posted more than lurked, I might’ve ended up repeating the sentiment myself. I’m fairly certain I myself never said anything along those lines over there, but I read what other people wrote. I read a rape-survivor’s experience on that site where she wanted to have surgery to repair her torn hymen because she wanted her virginity back, and never wanted to lose her virginity (she was ace and sex-repulsed) and I appreciated what people said in response to her about virginity being a sexist and antiquated concept and I don’t remember if the issue of her being raped was handled properly or sensitively enough, but my impression at the time was that people were generally kind, understanding, and wanting to make the world as a whole a better place by encouraging people to adopt sex-positive views. I think people handled her rape as a serious thing that is very different than just “losing your virginity”. I felt immediately comfortable in the sex-positive environment I saw on AVEN.
If everyone had been super negative sex and shamed allosexuals for things that allosexuals didn’t deserve to be shamed for, I would have felt uncomfortable in the community. For all of the people who say that AVEN made them feel uncomfortable because of their sex-positivity, I just wanted to express the alternate viewpoint that I, myself, actually felt more comfortable there because of it. I was already a sex-positive person. And I needed a sex-positive place or else I wouldn’t have felt I belonged.
I think one main reason why this sex-positive sentiment was important to me at the time, even though it turns out I am somewhere between sex-indifferent and sex-averse myself, is because I legitimately wanted to understand myself, and I knew that a relatively common societal belief is that losing your virginity makes you “dirty” and that sex is shameful and sinful, or that enjoying porn is “Wrong”, etc… and so I spent a lot of time trying to make sure I wasn’t repressing any true desires. I didn’t want “sex-negativity” to be the only reason I didn’t feel anything positive toward the prospect of sex, so I made sure that yes, I was thoroughly on board with the prospect of sex-positivity and agreed with that philosophy. I became sure that I didn’t think less of other people for giving in to temptations that were not hurting anyone. And I got to the point where I knew I wouldn’t think less of myself for doing such a thing either. I wouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to give in to my own temptations, if I had any. It was only then that I could fully realize and accept that I didn’t have any sexual temptations, and in fact had some small aversion to sex/sexual things – the opposite of a sexual temptation, really. I had a temptation to avoid it.
I hadn’t realized yet how much the sex-positive movement had hurt me, though, because I’d entrenched myself in it for years and the compulsory sexuality there is insanely strong. Being in a sex-positive environment means surrounding yourself with the FALSE rhetoric that we are all “sexual beings” (meaning allosexual) and we all feel sexual attraction and we all enjoy sex or will someday when we finally become sexually active, and everyone will be sexually active eventually, and the idea that anyone who doesn’t masturbate or doesn’t feel sexual attraction is LYING. I didn’t realize how wrong these messages were at first. I internalized them as true, and then felt very confused when I myself didn’t line up with any of them. When my experiences & feelings contradicted all of them.
I also remember seeing the sentiment over on AVEN that it was OKAY to be a virgin for life. To never want to have sex, not even “just to try it”. The compulsory sexuality that I had been so entrenched in in the sex-positive movement was being challenged, and it was jarring for me. It was that feeling of “Wow, wait, I maybe won’t ever be “Ready” for sex, because it’s not a matter of “not being ready yet” for me, it’s something else, it’s my sexual orientation” and combined with that, it was “Wait, is it really okay? Don’t I have to have sex?” Because I had internalized so much about compulsory sexuality, I couldn’t really believe that it was acceptable to never have sex. I felt like it still was compulsory for me to try sex, but my personal experiences on just a few threads on AVEN’s forums I don’t think were making that feeling worse. I think they actually said some good things that combated the compulsory sexuality mentality.
I think heteronormativity and compulsory sexuality both hurt me, growing up and into my adult life, and they made me take longer than it should’ve to accept my true asexual self and my true sex-averse feelings. I think AVEN and the sex-positive movement have both broken free, almost entirely, from heteronormativity, but that they both are entrenched in compulsory sexuality. I think it is possible to be a sex-positive asexual posting good comments on AVEN forums that combat the compulsory sexuality narratives, just like it is possible to try to combat compulsory sexuality even if you’re a sex-positive allosexual… but it is also possible to be a sex-positive asexual posting comments on AVEN that perpetuate compulsory sexuality. I was lucky to not run into people telling aces to try sex, and I am aware that I was lucky.
I just wanted to share my point of view and what I experienced.