This is my (late) entry for the November 2015 Carnival of Aces, which has the theme “Reasons I Should Have Known I Was Asexual”. (Whoops, time got away from me and it’s December already. Well, in the wee morning hours of December 1st I’m trying to write this quickly and squeeze this in under the wire.) For more info on what the Carnival of Aces is, look here.
I’ve read multiple people saying for this Carnival of Aces theme that they should’ve known they were asexual sooner (and often should’ve known they were aromantic too) because they were so obviously sex-repulsed (and anti-romance) in the way they acted and the things they said throughout all of high school, or otherwise for years before discovering the label.
They use anecdotes of the form “I was so ace, I ___”, most of which I don’t personally relate to. I understand that some of them are perhaps a bit exaggerated. Often the stories are told in purposefully amusing ways and they are entertaining sometimes to read. I do appreciate everyone sharing their experiences, even if they aren’t the same as my own. I love learning about what other people in the asexual community went through.
But growing up, or just looking back now in retrospect, things weren’t really that obvious for me when it came to my asexuality, and I didn’t say or do things that seemed drastically different than my heterosexual peers.
lilo-the-awesome-one’s submission is one of MANY examples that has moments like the ones I’m talking about. She said, for example:
I actually remember one time in preschool I was thinking about how someday I would have to get married. The thought absolutely sickened me. I thought boys were gross, and girls… Well I couldn’t see myself marrying one either.
And, well… I don’t relate to that at all. When I was a young child I dreamed of getting married one day. I looked forward to the limited stuff I knew about romance — even despite my parents getting divorced prior to the age when I really started forming solid long-term memories. And I always thought traditional, heterosexual romance would happen for me, which, once I knew what sex was, would include sex in my hypothetical future.
I don’t really think I “should have known” I was asexual before discovering the word for it.
But what I do think is that I should’ve “known” that I was asexual a little sooner than I did. I found out about the word asexual when I was still in college, when I was 20-ish.
It took 3 full years for me to embrace being asexual, including months – months!! – of dating a heterosexual guy where I did not yet know.
(I am possibly mis-remembering when I came across the word. It is possible I was 21, in which case it was still 2 full years. It was a lot of time, either way.)
When it came to my own relationship with turning down sex with my wonderful boyfriend who went out of his way to make it clear that “no” was an option, I still found myself feeling like I was broken if I actually wanted to say “no, never”. So regardless of everything else, the compulsory sexuality of society had made me put ‘yes as the default’ in my head already, and saying no, even just to myself — actually acknowledging consciously that “I don’t want to do this” — was really, really hard. I felt like no *wasn’t* an option because all I had heard, my whole life, is that eventually everyone has sex, and that everyone loves sex. I had never heard of an option of someone not ever having sex, unless they were doing it as a major sacrifice that took effort, or unless they had been forced into celibacy by unfortunate circumstances. Even once I first heard of asexuality and how plenty of asexuals don’t like sex and the concept of how potentially being a virgin for one’s entire life would not be the end of the world, my entire lifetime of being told the options are being “Ready” for sex or “not ready *yet*” was really hard to unlearn.
That comment is a bit ramble-y, but hopefully my basic point got across?
I wrote a whole blog post about my experience trying to have sex, consenting to sex despite being sex-averse, etc, which explains it in much more detail.
Coyote has written many things over the past few years that have really resonated with me and my experience of coming to asexuality.
Those blog posts make me feel compelled, for whatever reason, to leave rambling, long comments like that. 😛
Somehow, back around 2010, maybe 2011, when I was 20 or 21, when a twitter acquaintance of mine mentioned having asexual friends, it did spark my curiosity enough for me to ask what she meant, and she sent me a link to AVEN’s homepage.
And so I proceeded to read AVEN’s definition of asexuality and read the entire FAQ and walked away from it thinking something along the lines of “wow I’ve learned something new about other people in the world” and “interesting, this might be important to know, I’ll keep this somewhere in the super far recess of my mind”.
For whatever reason, even as I read about asexuality’s existence, I didn’t consider it as a possibility for myself. At that point in my life I had my HEART SET on experiencing the joys of romance, first kisses, losing my virginity, the ecstasy of orgasms… all of it. I hadn’t yet struggled, really, with being asexual and not knowing the word for it. No. I’d lived a blissful existence of ignorance of just-how-different I really was from other people. As Coyote once so eloquently wrote,
Experiencing sexual attraction is supposed to be a part of Selfhood, and asexuality is a component of the Other, the unfathomable, the damaged, wrong, unrelateable, and nonsentient.
I’d never even heard of asexuality as a sexual orientation before, and it fit me perfectly, but I was too content fooling myself into thinking I was merely “inexperienced”, a little late to my first kiss and stuff, but when it would happen I’d still be straight — I’d still be normal. I didn’t look into it more.
I feel like, looking back, perhaps I should have known I was asexual then and there. Reading the AVEN FAQ, why didn’t I know then I was asexual? It wasn’t like I wasn’t asexual then. I have no memories of having a libido, of having sexual attraction toward anyone, of having any sexual fantasies, etc. I have always been very, very, asexual. But somehow, none of that was resonating with me yet, at least not on a conscious level.
For the next year or two, till the end of 2012, I never heard about asexuality’s existence again, never met an asexual person (or at least not one who was aware and/or out to me), never did anything to remind me about asexuality.
What I did feel was that I was becoming more and more of a “social failure”. I felt judged by my family and friends, even if they weren’t really all that vocal about anything, even if it was probably more in my own head than actually on their minds all that often.
I felt the pressure to try to start dating, to finally experience a first date, a first kiss, a first everything. Being a 22 year old virgin was… the equivalent of being a loser. I didn’t want to make it to 23 without even trying to get my first ever boyfriend. I had never been asked out in my life. I had asked a guy to junior prom when I was 17-years-old but he’d turned me down. And then I just… hadn’t really tried. I wasn’t just waiting for a guy to ask me out, though. I could be progressive, feminist, in the 21st century, be a girl asking a guy out. I just… never saw a good opportunity. There was this one guy I really thought I had a crush on who I met in chorus Freshman year of college, but when we became Facebook friends I realized he was gay. And time just passed… and I turned 22, and graduated college, and moved back home.
My brother and his girlfriend encouraged me to try online dating, and I heard positive things about OkCupid from one episode of a podcast I’d listened to regularly. So I joined.
And I put off meeting anyone in real life, I was quite picky, I guess. I wanted us to really be a good match. I had intensive foot surgery and figured I’d meet up with someone once I was all healed, which would take months.
And the first guy I decided I liked enough to meet up with, when we had a really fun first date that ended with a kiss from him on my cheek, I was excited, I felt like everything was falling into place, that I must feel like all heterosexual young women feel after their first date ever that goes well.
And then… after a lack-luster first kiss (really, series of attempts at a first make-out session) at the end of our second date, all of a sudden, for whatever reason, I completely, 100%, remembered asexuality was a thing, as if I had just heard about it yesterday. I knew it, I’d had it tucked away in my mind just for a moment such as this, a moment when I realized, “Hey, wait a second, this is a sexual thing, isn’t it? Kissing passionately with tongue?” and that “Hey, if I’m SO not into it… maybe I’m asexual”. My immediate thoughts were that this MUST be what kissing your sibling feels like, or kissing the wrong gender (like kissing a guy, if you were a lesbian). And somehow I instantly started to wonder if I might be asexual.
It still took me dating 2 other, different guys (so 3 total) and having one (the final guy of the 3) who I called a boyfriend for months before I was able to fully accept I was asexual. It took experimenting, and giving it time, and a ridiculous amount of research and hanging around the asexual community. It took a full year after that night I had my first kiss and started questioning if I might be asexual for me to embrace that I was asexual.
I already referenced that submission from lilo-the-awesome-one above. I’d used it as an example of what I don’t relate to. At the end of her post, though, she wrote:
In eighth grade, I have no idea where, but I heard the word asexual for the first time. I remember googling it, and being like, “is that me? It kinda seems like it, but I’m not sure. Maybe I’m not grown up enough.” And so I put off accepting myself for two years! I KNEW I was ace, but I refused to let myself accept it because I was scared to be different, and didn’t want to end up being wrong.
And that? That I certainly do relate to, strongly. That was what my experience was, just at an older age.
I… I definitely feel like something was wrong with the way I internalized anti-ace sentiments. With the way I hoped I wouldn’t be ace, despite on some level realizing a lot of it fit me.
I should have known I was asexual as soon as I looked into it. I fit into this community so completely.
So why was I still so sure I was heterosexual until I tried kissing?
And why was I so unsure of if I was asexual or not until after months of dating a guy? And why did I tell myself I needed to try having sex, prove to myself I was really a non-libidoist, really a sex-averse person before I could accept asexuality as my truth?
I don’t have any real answers.
But I feel like it shouldn’t have been that way. I feel like I should’ve been able to say I was asexual sooner.