I was finishing up high school when I first heard about the term asexual. It didn’t make sense to me back then because it just seemed so obvious to me. Of course, there would be people who don’t want sex; what makes them so unique that they want to be labeled for it? Six years later, I put on my clown makeup and acknowledged that I was wrong about what I thought asexuality.
Being asexual means that you feel little to no sexual attraction. It might be confusing at first, but it isn’t the same as not wanting to have sex, though that can be a part of it.
After looking into it and seeing others talk about their experience, I realized that I have always been asexual. Something about it clicked in my head, and things just started to fall into place. I felt whole and seen. But what if I’m wrong?
They say that asexuality exists on a spectrum, that each person’s experience is unique and different. But all of my asexual friends seem to have very similar experiences and views, and I sometimes wonder if my experience is less valid. It feels like an unwritten rule that to be genuinely considered asexual, you must entirely defy the norms surrounding sex.
The few tv shows and books I’ve seen about asexual characters always choose to have them avoid sexual or romantic interactions altogether. Take Radio Silence by Alice Oseman for example, one of the lead characters in the novel is revealed to be asexual but the novel goes on to make it sound like something else when it continues to insist that the character in question is ‘platonic soulmates’ with the lead character.
And off the top of my head,I can think of a single asexual character whose sexuality wasn’t later questioned because they chose to engage in the act of sex. Just look at Jughead from Riverdale. For those of you who don’t know, Jughead was confirmed asexual in his own comic series back in 2014 or so but on Riverdale, he began dating Betty Cooper and many asexual fans were outraged. The discourse came to a head when the characters were implied to have sex and many fans wrote off the character as being just cist-het.
There is a striking lack of the diverse experience that one might expect based on the word’s definition. But if this is the experience most asexual people relate to, then maybe I’m the odd one out?
I’m not sex-repulsed at all, and I don’t want to forgo ever experiencing sexual relationships. I find the idea of sex fascinating. I’ve read up extensively to try and understand what the experience is like for people. The emotional connection that comes with sex is something I genuinely wish to experience.
And yet, the idea of actually engaging in the act leaves me confused and uninterested. I’ve never met anyone I felt comfortable enough to touch me, let alone try to engage in something so intimate.
But maybe that’s not related to being asexual?
I grew up in a conservative Pakistani-Muslim household. And like most South Asian households, we were the type of family where conversations about sex or periods or anything remotely related had to occur in secret. And I still struggle with a lot of that. I often wonder if my supposed asexuality is just a manifestation of how sex is viewed in my culture instead of a genuine lack of sexual attraction.
But even then, it is expected that I will want sex at some point. That I will grow up and get married and wish for children or make love with a husband that I’m not even sure I want.
The older I get, the more I realize how prevalent sex is in society. And it leaves me feeling very confused about my identity. When I was younger none of this mattered. Whether sex was good or bad, it wasn’t something I had to think about. But now I can’t escape it, it’s in tv shows and books, in songs and vague conversations that I overhear when walking down a school hallway. And now that I’m old enough to get married it’s brought up vaguely and implied in conversations with family. And I’m sick of having to think about it all the time because I don’t have any answers.
Sometimes I want to have sex. Sometimes I feel horrible and icky for even imagining that. I’ll read novels and fanfictions where they describe the acts of kissing and sex in great detail, but I shy away from tv shows that use sexual humor too often. I sometimes lie in bed wanting to try it, touch myself, and see how it feels.
But then I don’t do it, can’t do it. It feels better to create imaginary people and use them to explore the idea of sex in my mind.
These insecurities eat me up inside occasionally. But surprisingly, a conversation with my mother one day helped me come to terms with many things.
It started because someone on a tv show made a joke about another character being asexual. My mother didn’t grow up in a society where she would have ever had the opportunity to hear almost anything about different sexualities, and she was confused.
I happened to be nearby at the time, so she called me over and asked me what the word meant. And the look on her face when she let the words sink in is something I’ll never forget. She blinked at me and said, “There’s a word for that? I always thought I was the only one.”
Of course, that one conversation couldn’t solve everything. And we haven’t even talked about it since. But it still meant the world to me to know that someone close to me has struggled with something similar and made it out okay.
It gives me hope that I’ll one day find an answer for myself, even if it doesn’t match what everyone else says.
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