This is my entry for the May 2017 Carnival of Aces, which I hosted and chose to theme around “Kissing, Hand Holding, Bed Sharing, etc!”. The round-up of all 12 submissions that month can be found here. I’m sorry this post is so long. I’m sort of overflowing with thoughts. Also this was written in one sitting late at night so please feel free to point out errors. This was cross-posted to my tumblr as well.
I don’t feel like I need touch in my life much at all, most of the time.
That being said, I have the ability to really like it. In a kinda demi-sensual kind of way, if that’s a thing. (I’m 100% asexual, no grayness there, no sexual attraction, but if I have a lot of trust-feelings for you, like a LOT of positive feelings about our relationship, then there is a pretty good chance I’ll like touch.)
I am comfortable but fairly neutral with touch when it comes to me and small children. (They can still cross boundaries that make me uncomfortable, such as making me take off my glasses and then I feel overly vulnerable, which kind of happened to me a week and a half ago with a 3 year old in my extended family lol.) I don’t crave touch from small children – I crave other types of attention from children, I want to make them happy, I love the emotional reaction they can have to me at times, but I’m not overly touchy feely unless they initiate it. I am much more comfortable holding babies than holding any animal though.
With people who are peers though, fellow young adults, or from older family members… I can have positive associations with touch!
I have such a visceral aversion to hugs from strangers, and even with friends and family I’m not necessarily skilled at hugging because I so rarely practice the act so people think I’m uncomfortable sometimes when I’m actually not really, but my touch-aversion is quite selective and if I like a person a lot, hugging them can be the one type of touch I find myself actually yearning for, fantasizing about briefly even, or something I relish for the moment it’s happening.
It’s not a romantic thing for me, no kind of touch is, not really. When I say I like a person a lot, I mean “like” in the broadest sense. They could be friends, family, romantic partner, whatever.
The only things that “Feel romantic” to me tend to be language-related, or broad traditions around times like Valentine’s day, lovey-dovey sappiness, using words like “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”… idk.
Weirdly, I conceptualized intimacy really strongly in my head as a not necessarily romantic thing really early on, and a lot of types of things can feel somewhat “intimate” to me, can make me feel really bonded more than ever with people. Most often it’s conversation related, not necessarily “sharing secrets” but sharing really personal stories with the intention of building on the relationship with more of those types of conversations later on down the line. I only feel like I “love” someone – an aunt or uncle or cousin, a friend, etc – if I have a pretty high degree of intimacy with them.
Certain kinds of touch feel really intimate to me too. The first guy I ever tried dating, at the end of our (wonderfully emotionally intimate, conversation-heavy) first date, kissed my cheek. It felt so intimate, I felt like a flutter through my body and a rush of… something in my chest, a blush. I’d been on OkCupid for months and after messaging back and forth with him decided I was ready for my first date ever, and it was such a success. I mainly just did things I’d do with new friends, except I didn’t have any experiences yet, post college, as an adult making new friends. I just did whatever felt natural and comfortable to try to get to know him better and get him to know me better and it felt like everything was going right.
On our second date, all touch didn’t feel intimate at all. It felt bad. Uncomfortable. Forced. This same guy I felt SO intimate with did thing after thing to ruin my positive feelings for him. He betrayed me in multiple ways – being VERY late for the date, forcing me to walk way more than I physically was able and causing me extreme pain and exhaustion, implying he knew the restaurant we were going to was good from his personal experience and then it turning out he’d never been there, not being flexible and being willing to see ANY other movie when the one he wanted to see was sold out so instead making me stand (still in pain) for a long time while he looked up on his phone other theaters and called to see if the movie wasn’t sold out. And then on top of this disastrous date he touched me repeatedly. A lot of that walking was holding hands, and it was I think all about walking around the city with PDA and I hated that. Publicly declaring “we’re a couple” in a physical way probably is never gonna be a thing I’m comfortable with, and it didn’t feel natural, it was beyond awkward, and it was sweaty, and my hand started to cramp. Plus it felt really juvenile since despite this being my first foray into romance, I was already 22 years old.
And then he kissed me. At the end of that entire night, he started making out with me (I don’t really like the term French kissing but yes, that, with tongue) in public on a sidewalk at night. There weren’t that many people around. It being in public was oddly extremely low on my list of things that made that uncomfortable. Who cares what other people around might be thinking when I was a wreck, had literally just slept through most of a movie in a theater because I was so exhausted, and had no idea how to kiss, and I didn’t know what he was thinking, and didn’t know what I was thinking about the kiss yet either. One of us asked to “try again” after we pulled away and walked a few more paces of sidewalk. I knew I must be kissing wrong, this was… not pleasurable and beyond awkward. He asked if this was my first time ever kissing anyone and was shocked when I admitted it was, and I was frustrated because he should’ve known that already if he’d paid close attention to my dating profile. But I was mainly mortified.
I had completely repressed any inkling that I might be asexual until that night. I had probably first come across asexuality years earlier. I also had only a few months prior binge watched the entire series of House M.D. and took the ace-erasure episode in stride without even thinking anything of it lol. But after THAT KISS, the fact that asexuality existed came immediately back to my mind, and I couldn’t really shake it, however hard my internalized anti-ace sentiments tried to push it away. I really felt sure that this kiss felt exactly how fictional media had shown me “kissing the wrong gender” felt for monosexual (gay or straight) folks, or like kissing a sibling even, someone with whom you had no attraction. I was jump-started into questioning my entire sexuality that night, and I couldn’t help myself from crying on the metro in public on the ride home.
I researched how to kiss.
I asked my brother what kissing felt like the first time and if it got better. I went on a third date with the guy where we had a time crunch and he brought me back to his apartment after dinner in a restaurant. He wanted me to take off my shoes and the literal moment I finished, while I was standing in what I felt was a really awkward position near our shoes, he leaned in to try to kiss me for the first time since our second date. I wanted to give kissing him another chance but not like that. He wanted to kiss me while we were watching a movie sitting on separate chairs because he didn’t have a couch, too. And he also wanted me to definitely follow the plot. I said unless we paused the movie I was going to miss the plot, come on now. But we didn’t have time to finish the movie if we paused it, I was on a deadline to get back to the metro before it closed for the night lol. So I never ended up kissing this guy again.
But almost a full year later, the third guy I tried dating, I kissed a lot. Always in private. Always in much more comfortable positions. We cuddled a lot too which was moderately pleasant but it wasn’t as intimate for me as it was for him, and for him it often was psuedo-sexual and super-romantic, both things that made me really uncomfortable. This guy was my first boyfriend, I got past just dates and into relationship status with him. He held my hand in private while we were cuddling too. Cuddling… it felt frustratingly stifling some of the time, but it was so much better than kissing, and I might not have been quite identifying as asexual yet but I was HEAVILY questioning throughout our whole relationship and researching asexuality like every single day and I… I knew I was somewhere on the asexual spectrum from our second date when we tried kissing. I felt guilty for being asexual, for not liking kissing when he did like it, for always pulling away and kinda hating kissing actually, etc etc… so I think cuddling with him was an unspoken compromise I was doing, rather than anything I really wanted.
Honestly though, being that close to him was… maybe something I was indifferent to, because I wasn’t that emotionally intimate with him, so I didn’t have the necessary prerequisite to really want it. Kasey Weird mentioned in their submission for this carnival,
the best cuddling very much is a non-verbal dialogue of sorts: it’s active, and responsive to each other.
and I had an epiphany reading that that yes, yes it is, that’s what I was lacking back in 2013 when I did this cuddling with my boyfriend, that’s what I actually like about snuggling up against my dad or my brother when we’re watching TV and it’s cold and we’re tired, on rare occasions, that we do it in some kind of “sync” with one another, and it’s less all-consuming of my body or theirs, and it’s something I basically have never really gotten a chance to try with someone I feel entirely safe with since being an adult and it becoming a lot less socially “appropriate” to do it with family. I didn’t feel 100% safe with my boyfriend in 2013, because I knew all along he desired me sexually, and I have always been sex-averse even if I didn’t know it. Being the cause of arousal and the star of fantasies felt kind of like a violation of sorts, and in some ways just existing around him made me feel guilty. I think he was a great person and I was remarkably safe with him, he was letting me call the shots, he was understanding about my asexuality, he was patient and passive in many ways, but even so, I didn’t end up getting a chance to explore very much at all in terms of romantic actions or sensual/physical things with him. Our cuddling was kind of boring and not really my style. Same with our hand-holding. I decided I never want to hold hands “just to hold hands” ever again after that relationship, just like I decided cuddling really wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, and I was definitely not going to be having sex or kissing more people.
Rachel mentioned in the guest post submission this month:
But knowing that I supposed to be feeling something positive, and getting nothing from it internally, no matter how sincerely-intended the gesture, makes touch a dissonant and hollow experience.
And it’s just… SO TRUE. Like wow. That’s how I was feeling. Throughout so much of my relationship with my boyfriend, and even with the first guy I dated, especially, especially, when it came to kissing, which I knew was supposed to be positive, I’d built up for a decade that kissing was…
Okay so like a couple days ago I saw this “first line” generator to help you with your fiction writing endeavors going around tumblr: http://writingexercises.co.uk/firstlinegenerator.php and I kid you not, the first line I generated was:
The kiss reminded him of chemistry lessons in school, when if the right two elements were put together, they’d explode.
Now I know kissing is not always like that for allosexual people, but I think it must sometimes be, and it’s not even in the realm of possible for me. My kissing aversion is 100% a part of how I experience my sexual orientation. This isn’t about romance. I am asexual, and this kind of kiss described just… sounds sexual to me. Anything about “chemistry” between people feels sexual to me, unless maybe you’re talking about actors having great chemistry, sometimes that can be like… people can observe squishes (which are platonic) from the first meeting of two actors or something similar.
I really really crave acknowledgement that not liking kissing at all is a part of the asexual experience for not just me but for a lot of people. I’m tired of headcanons (including my own) where “it doesn’t matter” that a character is shown passionately kissing a partner or many partners because they ‘could’ still be asexual anyway. No I want kissing aversion to actually be shown on TV at some point. I want to read fanfiction where asexual characters aren’t written as thinking kissing is amazing. I want my version of asexuality represented! Where even cuddling is complicated and fraught at times. I don’t care about the characters’ romantic orientations that much. I care about the aspects of the asexual experience that would resonate strongly with me, like realizing you might be asexual from the awful/hollow/confusing experience of kissing alone.
I don’t necessarily want it to all be clear-cut romance-repulsion either, though! “Ew, gross, why would anyone want to kiss or say I love you or build a life with a partner” isn’t really an experience that resonates with me either. I told my queerplatonic partner I love him, I felt in love with him, and I would love to one day get married, probably wearing some color that isn’t white, definitely not kissing in front of family or friends or at any point in whatever relationship I end up in.
Besides, I get why people want to kiss. It feels different for them than it does for me. They like that feeling.
I know I’m not alone in how I feel about kissing.
This Reddit thread from a year ago titled Any other Asexuals here dislike kissing? started off with:
I’ve tried so hard to enjoy kissing but all it feels is wet and slobbery and overall unpleasant. Anyone else have similar feelings? I feel so alone about this.
And I hate that so many of us feel so alone about this! I’ve felt alone in this on-and-off since I was 22 years old. I am 27 now.
People replied to that poster with:
My mind wanders off to something else, such as dinner plans, or why we’re even doing this because it’s gross, etc.
A short peck is all right with me and is about the limit of intimacy to which I can go, anything more and it just gets repulsing and uncomfortable.
Can’t bring myself to even try an open-mouthed kiss
This is part of what made me feel like something was wrong with me for so many years
YES. I hate kissing
These were all different people’s answers!
And if you look at these 14 narratives of asexuals describing dating collected from around the internet, all of the references to kissing are negative!
redbeardace mentioned in his narrative here that:
I didn’t feel anything when I kissed her.
She explains: ‘Holding hands is as far as I would ever take anything. For me [sex is] just revulsion, it really is. Just, ugh, no. [Cuddling] – that’s OK. Not kissing.’
Julie Sondra Decker (/swankivy) was interviewed for Salon:
She wasn’t attracted to her first boyfriend but kissed him anyway “because I was expected to,” she says.
The first boy was basically an experiment, I guess, because I’d never been asked out before and I figured I’d see what it was like, but all I found out was that we didn’t have much in common and I didn’t like French kissing.
I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to even kiss my boyfriends, let alone have sex with them.
(Unsure if she ever decided she likes kissing women. It’s not mentioned there either way.)
Her quote reminds me of another issue, the relationship escalator and steps and how “okay, maybe not sex but AT LEAST KISSING” is really really expected, really early on.
I know some asexual people like kissing, especially many gray-asexual people.
But I wish more asexuals acknowledged that being asexual often can translate into not only sex-aversion, but relatedly kissing-aversion. Kissing without attraction should be understood to be “no fun”.
My dad and my brother can’t understand how any aces, people who don’t feel sexual attraction, could possibly enjoy making out. To both of those straight men in my life kissing is pretty inherently sexual.
But then again, there’s this one other touch thing that I think is linked to sexuality for a lot of folks, but it wasn’t for me. At an ace meetup once, we were in a restaurant in a kinda cramped part of the floor, and I think we were all getting ready to leave and standing up. One of my (asexual, of course) friends in the group wanted to get by me to head to the restrooms and without really thinking he very gently touched the small of my back as he walked by. And it just felt so intimate, like that kiss on my cheek did years prior. And I just knew it was not a sexual feeling. I don’t have sexual feelings. I’m sure of that now. I just really am a non-sexual person in every possible sense. I’m not actually like your average ace. But it was something positive, kinda like butterflies, kinda like “you’re in my personal space and it’s not a bad thing for once and wow, I don’t actually mind this at all”, and it’s not like I really was craving more of it. It’s just like. I was surprised that I could have that kind of reaction to that kind of touch. I was surprised I would notice to such a degree and I would feel that way.
I think maybe I can viscerally understand “electricity” at skin-to-skin contact with the right person, and I think if it’s brief and a fleeting touch rather than holding on/cuddling, that’s when that kind of “spark” of “oo, physical intimacy” could happen for me. I don’t see it as necessarily romantic in part because I feel like it could happen for me with family members or friends who I’m really just fine being “just” friends with and all sorts of folks. (I don’t see it as sexual for hopefully obvious-by-now reasons.)
It seemed like Mickey couldn’t keep his hands off Ian most of the time. Most of the time, it wasn’t even sexual. Mickey was always knocking shoulders with Ian when they passed in the hallway or hooking an ankle around Ian’s while they sat at the kitchen table or wrapping a gentle hand around Ian’s wrist when they were alone.
I like the idea that this kind of touch isn’t sexual even for allosexual people, at least some of the time.
Almost exactly one decade ago (ah I’m getting so old lol), on a very traumatic and memorable day of my life, my mom wanted to hug me one minute, and a stressful and rushed minute or two later she was yelling instructions at her boyfriend to prevent me from escaping the house, which included her shouting that he should call 911 on me. (He didn’t.) That minute prior she successfully hugged my brother, who didn’t hug her back, but I could not just stand there and let her hug me.
I testified in front of a jury a year later that I refused to let her hug me, and when prompted by my dad’s defense attorney clarified it was because she was abusive.
My touch aversion in most cases without a lot of trust first is likely very tied to all the physical abuse my mom inflicted on me over the years, things that didn’t usually leave marks (although, yes, I had a couple scratches that drew blood on my hand or forearm, like the one that caused a middle school science teacher to ask if a cat scratched me as he handed me the bandaid I requested). But things were quite violent in many ways. My mom was a master at abusive power dynamics and using her physical presence to terrorize. She trapped me in corners by holding onto the walls around me so that she wasn’t touching me at all, she pulled my hair so hard it knocked the glasses off my head repeatedly, she spit on me, she dumped a bowl of cereal on me, she ripped a beloved bracelet off my wrist, she threw the cordless landline so hard the battery compartment came apart COUNTLESS times after “speaking to” (screaming at) my dad and getting angry, and she’d yell to me to pick up the batteries and put the phone back together. Etc, etc. But like I said, it’s been a decade. And I am in many ways past a lot of the complicated stuff I had to grow up with. I have had enough practice with social rituals of hugging that I first leaned in to hug Robert’s dad when I saw him about 2.5 weeks ago, only the second time I’d ever met him, the first being over a year prior. I am more comfortable with myself than ever, in some ways.
(By the way, I linked to a Shameless fandom fic & podfic above, and in season 1 of that TV show, Debbie and Lip avoid hugging their toxic mother in a way that couldn’t be closer to my own reaction to my mother wanting to hug me. This series has plenty of things for a person like me to latch onto… despite not really being ace-friendly…)
I don’t actually feel like my touch aversion is necessarily tied to my asexuality at all, in fact, the more I think about it, and I also don’t know if I’m even touch-averse anymore. I think I only feel comfortable saying I’m sex-averse and kissing-averse.
My queerplatonic partner recently broke up with me, but a few days before he did, we got to see each other for the first time since November. He’d been on a 6 month Civillian contractor deployment to Afghanistan. We got “back together” as qpp’s in December, and around the end of January I started craving hugging him again, a feeling I’d only had around May last year while we were together the first time, kinda wanting brief contact with him. These feelings I shared with him this time, in January, and he said he wanted to hug me too and when we finally saw each other in May, we embraced for a brief second, and my face was in his shirt, on his chest… and it was something I wished could’ve lasted a few seconds longer. It felt comfortable and warm and just… nice.
I like the idea of one day having a new queerplatonic partner and getting to try touch a little more than just what I did with my last queerplatonic partner, which at our most intimate was sharing a blanket while watching a movie, being in a car together for hours, giving each other gifts, and allowing him to foot my bill when we were alone together a high percentage of the time (in part because I was unemployed and he had plenty of money in comparison… this was actually one of the most “Romantic” feeling things he did around me/for me/to me and it generally made me somewhat uncomfortable).
My fear though is that I will end up being more touch averse than I know at this current moment and really, no touch is what I want, and what if my future partner wants a lot more touching than I can comfortably provide in our relationship?? I’m really quite content without touch. If the person I end up with never wants to be hugged, never wants to touch at all, that would be fine. I was entirely ready to spend the rest of my life with Robert* and he and I didn’t exactly have a relationship with any meaningful degree of touch.
I imagine a few potential futures for myself. I imagine giving up on trying to find a co-parenting partner if I have to and figuring out a way to make fostering work while single, and I imagine still making an effort to keep up a level of non-physical intimacy with friends and family as much as possible. With as many friends and family members as possible!! I imagine I won’t be happy if I don’t try to be a parent, but I can totally be happy without touch. And I’ll be really happy I never had to compromise and you know, kiss anyone ever again. 😛
Or I imagine finding a person who I do partner with, possibly a poly arrangement even, so many possibilities as yet unseen. Someone I certainly don’t kiss (or have sex with). Someone who understands that my relationship with romantic orientation and romantic feelings and romantic coded actions can be complicated. Someone who I have a high degree of emotional intimacy with but who I may not touch at all, or who I may touch more than I ever imagined I would. I really just don’t know.
Then again, I think I’d really really like building a family with someone who hugs me to comfort me when I’m emotionally overwhelmed. I don’t think I need it, at all. But I think it would be nice. Because I haven’t had the chance to have that with anyone other than aunts and uncles at my grandmother’s funeral this past December (this was the trauma of their sister, my mom, being there and being herself that inspired the amazing hug stuff that made me feel engulfed in love), or back 8 years ago almost to the day when on the worst day of my life I had to be responsible for figuring out how to bail my dad out of jail, after my mom accused him of assault with his car (so assault with a deadly weapon), and he hugged me at the end of all of it. And it was kind of the most amazing feeling, like you need to have the worst day of your life before you can have the most powerfully comforting hug of your life, okay?? 😛
And it’d be nice to be with a partner where I might do the same for them, if that was their style, if they were not a touch-averse person in these kinds of moments. I’ve never had a partner be that degree of emotionally vulnerable with me, and when my partners have been somewhat emotionally vulnerable I’ve never known what to do or say. But I want to get to a point where I might be able to be a comfort. Maybe physically! I know my instinct when my cousin’s father died 3.5 years ago and he was 100% hysterically upset in the immediate aftermath was for me to just keep touching or trying to hug him as much as I could, it was complicated and my dad was doing this too on his other side. We were trying to get him to calm down at the same time too, I guess. Also after his eulogy for his dad, I was so proud of him. (He’s 7 years younger than me btw, so that’s part of the context of our relationship.) I told him I was proud of him and I hugged him, and I just… I needed the hug to convey my sympathy and love and pride through this physical touch, and I never had touched him this much before, but I already had a lot of the emotional intimacy framework, and he is not a person who’s averse to touch, so this ended up being my “love language” in this kind of moment?
I found so many of the submissions this month to be thought-provoking and relateable. I wrote a ridiculously long essay here that should’ve been broken up into multiple blog posts and that repeats a lot of information already conveyed in previous posts on this blog, dating back to 2014. But. I’m really happy to get it all out here.
Despite my sadness (and anger, and confusion, etc) over my recent breakup, which… I will talk about more in a future blog post… the combination of last month’s “Parenthood” carnival and this month’s carnival has left me feeling more hopeful than I might’ve expected at the potential to find a partner who is truly compatible with me in all the ways, in terms of also being kissing & sex averse, of not necessarily needing a heavy cuddling life, in terms of wanting adoptive parenthood, etc!
And if nothing else, I also feel more inspired than ever to try to write some kind of fiction – okay almost definitely just fanfiction for the near future, but maybe I’ll branch into original fiction if I get brave?? – that captures kissing-aversion (and sometimes complicated relationships to touch) in the characters! I really crave representation so badly that I think I need to forge a few of these kinds of things myself and I’m kind of excited to do so. I feel like I’m at a new chapter of my life, especially because of my breakup perhaps, but also just this being the year I finally am employed and… writing fiction is going to be a part of this. I know a lot of real aces out there need this. Is it weird that I’m smiling already at the potential, and the truth that the aces in my writing will hate kissing?