I think this can count as a submission for the September Carnival of Aces on Living Asexuality. This post, below, is largely about how I experience my own asexuality, in a very personal, “this obviously doesn’t apply to everyone” kind of way.
I don’t use AVEN. I never used it much. But before I discovered the asexuality tag on tumblr or the ace community on WordPress I was there, briefly, while beginning to try to figure myself out. And so I still track the two “What is Sexual Attraction” threads over there and get emailed when a new reply is posted on them. Those are literally the ONLY threads I still follow… it may only be one thread at this point (because they may have been merged or one may have died or something?).
A couple of weeks ago, someone posted something that sparked my curiosity. They said,
I apologize if this has been asked a million times but does having no libido make asexuality the default? How can one experience sexual attraction without having an interest in sex?
Personally, I can’t physically have penetrative sex. It’d be excruciating torture straight out of an Eli Roth movie. Is it possible to experience sexual attraction or desire when most acts are associated with pain?
Someone else replied:
I’ve always believed this to be the case, yes. I’ve considered myself “asexual by default” for that reason.
And they said more, but it’s irrelevant to the point I want to make here.
I don’t masturbate. I have never experienced arousal, or an orgasm. I don’t know how these things are supposed to feel. I can see sex scenes on movies/in TV shows, even pretty explicit ones, and feel nothing, regardless of the genders of the participants, and the same goes for reading erotic fan-fiction by talented authors.
I feel like I’m asexual by default, and I never saw that sentiment expressed until that post on AVEN. I really love how validating it felt to read that. I love the idea that yeah, I’m not the only person who is entirely non-sexual in every conceivable way and that is inextricably tied up in our versions of asexuality.
There is an article on the AVEN wiki about Non-libidoism: http://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.php?title=Nonlibidoism and the idea that at any point in the history of asexuality:
Some people considered nonlibidoism the only valid form of asexuality.
Well, it’s hard for me to believe that was the case. The thought is so foreign to me, and such a shock to read. I’m glad we have a community of asexuals now with a variety of experiences, some with sex drives, some without. And with a variety of other experiences too, from types of attraction they experience, including sometimes things that might be sexual attraction. I’m happy to be a part of the asexual spectrum and to acknowledge that we don’t all experience it the same.
But today on tumblr I came across a post, one of MANY that I’ve seen in the past few years, ever since I’ve began looking at asexuality-related posts on tumblr…
And it said at one part,
An asexual’s body is perfectly functional. It reacts to touch just like anyone else’s, meaning, an asexual will experience physical arousal and likely feel appropriate pleasure from sex when touched in a way that feels good to them personally. Asexuality isn’t the lack of sexual functions, it’s the lack of sexual attraction only.
When I read things like that, I have to admit, it hurts. It makes me angry intellectually, but my gut reaction is one where I’m just… sad. Where I feel like even among asexual standards, not just larger society but even among aces, I’m “broken”. It’s not often anymore that I think of myself as “broken”. I was in denial about my asexuality for months after subconsciously realizing it was likely my truth, most likely because I associated the orientation with being lesser, with being broken, with missing out on what it means to experience the joy of being human, or being alive. Once I accepted that nothing would ever get me aroused, that it would be impossible for me to enjoy sexual activities, that I wasn’t even “just” on the asexual spectrum but rather was a 100% asexual person who was also sex-averse and libido-less, I embraced it. I was proud to claim this sexual orientation. I was relieved to finally understand myself. I was able to relax and be happy with my sex-free life and feel a sense of not being alone with my problems because hey, I’m not the only asexual person in the world. I had a new community, a new identity, and it was liberating in a surprising number of ways.
But then people say “asexual people’s bodies function normally” and then explain that of course they have “healthy” reactions to touch, at least, or experience the thing “all people” do that is arousal.
I think back to the Preliminary Findings from the 2014 AVEN Community Census:
And I think about the how the number of asexual-spectrum who think they have an average sex drive is only slightly higher than the number of people who, like me, marked down that they truly feel their sex drive is 0 — nonexistent.
I know I’ve seen some people in the asexual community cite some study that says that asexual people masturbate at approximately the same rate as non-asexual people, but I’ve never seen the study linked, and I’m not sure what they were referring to. I find those supposed results hard to believe, but if true I am desperate to know, so if anyone can send me a link to look at, I’d appreciate it. I find it hard to believe because I have a strong suspicion that I’m not the only person in the world who has never had a sex drive and then ends up identifying as asexual. Whose lack of a sex-drive might explain my (their) asexuality.
I know some asexual people worry that because they do masturbate, they can’t “Count” as asexual enough, that this alone makes them “Sexual” (allosexual, zedsexual, non-asexual), or worse, they know they’re asexual and accepted into the asexual community, but they’re asked the intrusive question of if they masturbate by outsiders, and if they answer truthfully, that yes they do, they have a real chance of their identities being invalidated!! Of being told masturbating is “too sexual” and that they can’t “Count” as asexual if they do it.
But like the classic problem where it proves impossible to be an “unassailable asexual”, I have the opposite issue. I worry that I’m not really asexual, because clearly my body is broken in some way, why have I never gotten my hormones checked?, because if I just figured out a way to experience arousal and orgasm I’d realize I never was asexual, because I’m a freak who has never even masturbated so how can I know I’m asexual, how can it “just” be “another sexual orientation” for someone like me? It’s more than that. It’s a lack of me having any kind of sexuality at all. I worry that people will believe I’m broken, I’m not the right kind of asexual, that I’m a person that is a super-outlier, abnormal by far even among the asexual community, because even the average asexual has a sex drive, everyone writing their Asexuality 101 posts says that.
I don’t experience a lot of what other people in the asexual community do. I don’t experience any of the forms of “attraction” in a meaningful way, like a magnet being drawn to someone for aesthetic, sensual, sexual, or romantic reasons. I can enjoy cuddling or other forms of touch in a few cases, appreciate beauty, and romantically ship my favorite characters on a TV show together, but I can’t understand what it’s like to be drawn to them. I’m both WTFromantic and now, beginning to identify as aromantic too, and I really do feel like my aromanticsm is inextricably linked to my asexuality. Similarly, my non-libidoism is tied up in all of it. And while whether a person ever feels aroused or masturbates or enjoys orgasms is ultimately a very private thing, it feels oddly important to me that I don’t.
When I come out as ace and someone asks me if I masturbate, I don’t feel offended. I feel like yeah, they get how big of a question that really is, and I want to answer. I feel like it is relevant to understanding me, and my sexuality, and how and why I came to identify with asexuality. I feel like the whole world just doesn’t get me AT ALL if they are thinking I masturbate, even if they know I’m asexual and maybe don’t imagine me picturing anyone/anything while I do. But then I want to make sure they know that people can be asexual and masturbate. It’s just me that… doesn’t.
I don’t know why my non-libidoism feels so important to me, but when I read stories about the women for whom Flibanserin (Addyi) is supposedly designed, when I hear those NPR interviews with women who have lost their sex drives, I just keep waiting for people to bring up the women who have NEVER, ever, in their lives, not even as a teenager, had a sex drive. The 25-year-old like me who hasn’t lost their libido, but rather never had it. I keep wondering if anyone in the entire world — or specifically in the medical community — even knows people like me exist.
I know I’m not the only one. I’ve been going to Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic meetups and 1 person in the group told me he got his hormones checked (and they were normal) because he, like me, also has never had a sex drive. I know there was once an Official Non-Libidoism Society, and that there is a term for what I am because I am not alone. But sometimes it still feels like being a non-libidoist asexual means I’m broken, even among the asexual community. Sometimes it still feels like I’m even more different than the average ace when comparing myself to all of the zedsexual people out there. Sometimes I feel like I need to shout from the rooftops that I don’t have a sex drive and don’t masturbate, because whether it’s rational or not, whether it’s rooted in any reality or not, I just get the feeling that people are assuming, everywhere I go, that I do have a libido and I do masturbate and that I could enjoy sex if only I wasn’t repulsed or something. But my truth is that I’m not someone who physically could enjoy it. I’m averse to even kissing, and my lack of arousal is a huge part of what makes me feel so disconnected from a person when I’m doing it.
Does any of what I’m saying resonate with anyone reading this? I hope so.
And I really hope I haven’t upset anyone else who does have a libido or who feels differently about their lack of libido, feels it’s private or doesn’t matter to them or whatever. I know this is only my own experience, and I would never assume it applied to anyone else.