I’m Asexual, and I’m OK

I’m a lot of things. A librarian. A scribbler of words. A maker of the best peanut butter-and-jelly-and-potato-chip sandwiches this side of the Mississippi.

I’m also asexual.

Granted, I don’t admit that last one to very many people, and for good reason.

asexy flag
The Asexual Pride Flag, developed, designed and voted on by the largest online community of asexuals on the Internet, AVEN.

When I was 23, I finally stumbled onto a word to explain why I had never felt sexual attraction to anyone, and why I had never found sex appealing. After accidentally finding AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) and finding thousands of like-minded individuals of all genders and from all walks of life, it was like finding the last piece of a complicated puzzle I hadn’t even realized I was struggling to put together. In our hyper-sexualized world and amidst the sexual awakenings of friends and peers, I had come to the conclusion that I was simply a freak of nature, and no one – save a few fictional characters with a seeming lack of sexual interest in others – shared this part of me.

I need to get this out of the way right here and now: I was never molested. Never raped. Never sexually abused in any way. I come from a loving home with great parents who have been married for almost thirty years. Sex was discussed openly and without shame in my home. Religion was never tied to sex. My hormone levels are prototypical. My “plumbing,” if you will, is prototypical. Let me make this clear: there is no discernible biological or environmental reason for my asexuality. I feel that I have to preface this piece with that disclaimer, if only because asexuality is often tied – incorrectly – to past abuse or biological issues, when in many cases, it simply is not true. I also believe that such a erroneous causality does an injustice to any person who has suffered sexual abuse or certain medical problems, and has overcome those issues to enjoy loving and fulfilling sexual relationships in their own lives.

Quite simply, I was born this way; in my mind, this is nature, not nurture. It is also not abstinence or celibacy – my asexuality is not self-imposed.

The first person in whom I confided was my friend Rian. He was someone I’d met on a now defunct message board about Taoism and Zen, and we’d kept in touch over the years through email, phone calls, MySpace, and later Facebook. Rian was, and is, a very open-minded individual; in each other, we found another person with whom we could share all of our deepest thoughts and darkest emotions about the world. We made sense of the world together, and explored all manner of philosophies and religions through mutual independent study, simply because it was an interest we had in common. He’d vaguely hinted a few times that he was interested in dating me, but never pushed it – he seemed to value our friendship over a potential romantic relationship, and gracefully let the matter slide when I did not reciprocate. During one late night phone call in my dorm room, the topic of sex arose and I found myself admitting openly, for the very first time, that I neither cared for sex nor sought to pursue it. “I just don’t experience sexual attraction,” I admitted, somewhat sheepishly, perhaps naively feeling that he, out of all of my friends, would be the most open to this proclamation.

If an observer had tapped into our conversation right at that moment, they could not be blamed for thinking I had just admitted that I spent my free time slaughtering infants and consuming them.

I was both awe-struck and terribly hurt by the conversation that followed. First, he accused me of being a virgin – which I am not (more on that in a minute), and even if I was, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference – and therefore I had no right to say whether I liked sex or not. When he’d ascertained that this was not the case, he then launched into a stilted and totally inaccurate speech about biology and how it was simply not possible for a human being to never experience sexual longing, and how unnatural it was. I felt about as tall as a blade of grass that had been crushed underfoot. I’d just had all of my darkest fears realized – that most people, even a close friend of several years, viewed asexuals as deviant, malfunctioning human beings, unworthy of an opinion on matters of sexualities.

For weeks afterward, I carried around the deep hurt of that conversation. My feelings reeled from being openly furious one moment, to crying quietly in a corner somewhere the next, to wondering if what he said was correct: that I was irrevocably defective in some way. I didn’t dare tell another soul about my asexuality for four years afterward, guarding the secret close to my heart, terrified that someone would find me out.

I have had three sexual partners in my time. All of them were men, and all of them were wonderful men. None of them pushed me for sex in any way. All of them were gentle and caring individuals. I did care for them deeply in my own way, but sex was always something that I felt like I should do, that if only I kept forcing myself into it, then eventually something had to click, some switch in my brain would be activated, and I would suddenly be just like everyone else, normal and horny. Everything around me – movies, commercials, books, my peers – made it very clear that pining for sex was normal, and that the absence of that longing was cause for therapy, pills, and endless shame.

Remember that “eww boys” phase of childhood? And then suddenly, around sixth grade or so, things start changing. Suddenly, your friends are interested in romantic relationships. Boys begin to hold hands with girls in the hallways. Maybe you see one girl steal a quick kiss with another girl in the bathroom. Your classmates start tittering at any phrase that could be construed as an innuendo. Your friends pin posters of teen idols in their bedrooms, and spend sleepovers gigglingly fantasizing about that cute boy or girl in your algebra class.

That never really happened to me.

I played along, of course. Middle school society being what it is, I had to play along if I didn’t want to be a total pariah. But there was a growing panic inside of me when I began to realize that this wasn’t a silly game my friends were playing; they really did want boyfriends (or girlfriends) and kisses and stolen romantic moments by the water fountain. This is when I began to obsess over the possibility that there was something wrong with me – why didn’t I want any of those things? Why did my romantic fantasies stop at hugging? Why didn’t I fantasize about falling in love and raising children with my soulmate? Why did the very thought of sex make me want to sigh impatiently and ask if we could talk about something more interesting? Nevertheless, I forced myself to have boyfriends. I kissed. I made out. I had sex. Why did those things feel empty, meaningless and more or less unwanted? Why didn’t I have any inclination to seek those things out, instead waiting until my friends starting badgering me to just go on a date with him, just one date, he’s soooo cute?

For a while, I considered that perhaps I was gay, but I decided pretty quickly it wasn’t that, either. In those days, there were only three things you could be: straight, gay or bi. That was it. If you didn’t fall into one of those categories, well, it was just unnatural.

At that time, I truly did not believe that real, live asexuals existed and so instead I began to unconsciously search for asexual characters in fiction, not even realizing that that was what I was doing. I understood Sherlock Holmes’ distaste for romance and love, without hating either of those things in other people. I identified with The Doctor. Peter Pan and I got along splendidly.

I didn’t want to be alone, even if it meant that the only people who understood me were fictional.

Pretty much this.

That changed when I found the AVEN forums. Late at night alone in my first post-college apartment, I read story after story from people who felt like I did, who were as confused at the anger and hate spewed at them over their asexuality as I was, who had searched for answers as long and as fruitlessly as I had. I learned that there were famous people – insanely talented artists, comedians, writers, actors – who openly identified as asexual. Though it is relatively rare, asexuality regularly occurs in animal populations, thus rendering the argument it’s totally unnatural a moot point. It was the deepest sense of community I’d ever felt, even if I wasn’t a frequent poster. Just knowing there was a sizable population of others similar to me was like balm on a wound that had festered since my early adolescence. At last, someone was telling me that I was not broken, not defective, not a freak, and best of all, that I was not alone.

It was long road towards acceptance and I’ve mostly arrived at it now.  I have told several close friends of my asexuality, and praise be to the heavens, they have understood and accepted me wholeheartedly. Even Rian eventually came around to the idea, and apologized profusely for his outburst. I don’t begrudge anyone their sexuality, whatever it may be, because I no longer begrudge my lack of one. I know myself. I know – know in the same way that others know they are gay, straight, bi, or anything else along the endless spectrum of human sexuality – I know that I am asexual. I am not defective. I am not broken. There isn’t anything wrong with me. This is who I am, and I refuse to apologize for it anymore.

There are a lot of clueless and truly hurtful assumptions made about asexuals, assuming a person knows what asexuality is. Many people believe they know you better than you know yourself, or try to make clever jokes like, “So does that mean you reproduce by yourself? Hurr!” I guarantee that all asexuals have had phrases like, “It’s just a phase!” “You just haven’t met the right person yet!” “You’re just a prude!” thrown at them over and over and over again. And it isn’t true. It just isn’t fucking true. Asexuals are as varied as any other sexuality: some of them want to marry, some of them don’t. Some of them masturbate, some of them don’t. Some enjoy romance, and some of them don’t. Some want families of their own – adopted or biological – and some of them don’t. Some asexuals even have sex once in a while, for a myriad of reasons, and some of them, like myself, are simply uninterested and don’t. And it’s ok. All of that is ok. No one has the right to deny your sexuality – or the lack thereof.

I dream someday of a world when I can politely turn down a date by gently saying, “I’m flattered, but I’m asexual,” and not have that be the start of an incredulous and ultimately pointless argument. Someday, I’d like for single asexuals to be able to adopt children without putting on a ridiculous façade for adoption agencies who feel asexuality is deviant and therefore an unhealthy influence on a child. I’d like to continue to live my life, happily single and sex-free, without invasive questions about it. I’d like to be able to look my future son or daughter in the face and tell them that Mommy doesn’t want a romantic partner, but if they’d like one someday, that’s perfectly fine and we’re all just the way nature made us.

One day, I’d like the world to stop believing I’m defective.

49 thoughts on “I’m Asexual, and I’m OK”

  1. I’m Asexual and I’m OK
    I don’t have much of a lust most days
    It’s not that you’re not sexy
    It’s just that I don’t care

    ((to the tune of the Lumberjack song. Sorry for “most days” but it scanned, damn it )

  2. Fuck yes. One of my good friends is asexual and he is the loveliest guy I know, he’s sweet, affectionate to his friends, understanding, good-hearted and incredibly hard-working. Yet whenever he tries to express his perfectly natural orientation, he’s treated like a freak or like some prude. But he more than anyone else understands respect for orientation, and this guy who’s apparently just waiting to get laid has a better understanding of what it’s like to be LGBT than any of the so-called liberal friends of mine who make sweeping assumptions about sexuality.

    The day asexuality gains a rightful place as part of mainstream sexuality will be a good one.

    1. Yes, oddly I seem to be the go-to person for my friends’ sex problems. I guess because they know I’ll tell them when they’re being an idiot about sex, or if they are dealing with too much bullshit in getting laid. I’m like a disinterested third party, I suppose.

  3. *hugs* I’m so happy that you’ve found this part of yourself. :D.

    I have too many friends with sad stories and hard times leading up to coming to terms with their (a)sexuality, so I always feel the urge to cheer when I see someone coming out or talking about being asexual.

    I’m sexual myself. I have a lot of asexual friends, and honestly? They’ve taught me so much more about how to word my sexuality than sexuals. Maybe that’s because I’m autistic and have a hard time wording things for myself. Or maybe it’s because I have sexual privilege, and found myself surrounded for a long time by other sexuals who never needed to define things the way and the detail that I’ve seen in the asexual community when friends have invited me to read essays and things.

    It’s the gift of diversity in the species- especially in humans. So much can be awesome when we accept the truth of how diverse people really are.

  4. What makes this such a good article is that, regardless of the reader’s sexuality, it applies. This a part of life that is not open for comments unless the person whose life it is says so. Looky-loos—find your own life and live it. You’ve earned this:

  5. What boggles my mind most is when I run across members of the LGBT community who spew this kind of crap about asexuality.  I mean, as an openly bisexual woman, I’ve heard it all – “it’s a phase” “you just haven’t made up your mind yet” “you’re a dyke” etc. etc.  I can’t understand how people who have dealt with having their own sexuality judged that harshly can then turn around and judge someone else’s like that.

    That said though, although I know this is controversial, I do believe that an asexual person interested in a relationship should let a partner know that early on.  I’m not saying it has to be first date conversation, but just like any really important long-term relationship thing (sexual orientation, children, an aversion to marriage, etc.) I think it’s fair to put that out there before someone else invests too much time and effort into a relationship that wouldn’t work (I know that an asexual person and a sexual person can have a relationship, but I do think it’s important – I for instance couldn’t do it, because sex is an extremely important part of a relationship for me.)  What are your thoughts on this?  I know it’s a hot topic these days, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. I actually agree with you wholeheartedly about the “early warning” thing as it applies to asexuals dating, and I think many asexuals would agree with you. Because most people are sexual, I think it is important to let a potential partner know early on that sex will not be part of your relationship – or that it will be a very small part of it, if an asexual person wants to go that route. It would save a lot of stress and heartbreak in the long run.

      1. Exactly!  I do think this applies to pretty much anything (I have always made a point of making sure anyone I’m with knows I’m bisexual early on, because if someone has a problem with it, I certainly want to know early on!)  I guess Dan Savage, in particular, has received a lot of flak for this viewpoint, but given how many offensive things he’s said (and I say that as a huge fan, but it’s true) it surprised me that this was so controversial.

    2. I don’t think I could be in a mono-romantic relationship with an ace, but if I had other partners that they were cool with? I don’t think I’d mind having a romantic non-sexual relationship with an ace so long as they understand what being poly means for me.

      (I personally can both have romantic and  sexual relationships with multiple people. they aren’t always one in the same. I am capable of being sexually monogamous- it’s not a natural state for me, but I can do it- but I have no control over if I love more than one person. I can refrain from acting on it mostly, but. . . I love multiple people. that’s just how my romantic attraction works, let alone my sexual attraction.)

      My need for sexual/sensual activities isn’t one I can discard. It’s not one I absolutely need to fufill constantly (though I could) but it is, for me, a need. So I’d need an ace partner to understand that I will be having physical intimacy with other people, and that it’s NOT a reflection on them or our relationship.

      Basically, the same issues I have with other relationships, except sexual monogamy isn’t even a question. :)

      1. That’s completely reasonable, and I know that one option for an asexual/sexual relationship is non-monogamy (on whatever level.)  I just don’t think I could do that.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s possible for me to get my sex needs fulfilled elsewhere, but I am emotionally a monogamy kind of girl, and sex is absolutely necessary for that kind of emotional connection and monogamy, so I know it wouldn’t be right for me.

        And kudos to you for having your romantic and sexual needs figured out.  The world needs more of that.

    1. AVEN is awesome too. Even as a sexual person myself, I’ve found their wiki so helpful in helpign to sort out my romantic and sexual orientations. I love it. It’s wonderfully thoughtful and deals with so much stuff that a lot of us sexual peeps don’t spend enough time thinking about.

      I’m always super glad to direct people who come out to me as asexual there to start with, it seems like a cool community for some people. (Obviously it’s not appropriate for everyone but it is still a good first place to start looking.)

  6. Thank you for sharing this. And I’m sorry for all the bad, dumb reactions you’ve encountered. It strikes me as sad and bizarre that there are people out there willing to express anger or hate over someone else’s asexuality. Shouldn’t be surprised with all the random hate that’s out there, but still.

    If only someone figured out how to convert hate into usabe energy, I think we could power this entire planet.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this article. I identified as asexual for a short time, and I was involved in some asexual communities then. As I mentioned in another comment, while this WAS a result of trauma for me, I’ve known plenty of people who are asexual who just were simply that way. I never really thought twice about it.

    I really wish it had greater acceptance. I try to explain it to people, but it’s startling how many just don’t know much about it.

    1. Your atheist article and this one form a dynamic duo of what reactions people face when they are perceived as “rejecting” fundamental concepts rather than simply “choosing wrong.”

      Admittedly, you guy are known to me as screen names on a vast illusion-of-anonymity plane of electronic existence. Still, I am glad for @silverwane and @sharpestshark both.

      End scene.

  8. Ok, so I have a question. I think my sister may be asexual, but perhaps not know about the community/not be wiling to talk about it with me. She mentioned it in passing some years ago, but now she has a boyfriend. Is there a way to ask her/make this information available to her without being rude/weird? I also don’t want to assume, in case she isn’t, and just has a low sex drive or something. It’s all very confusing for me. Although, if she doesn’t want to talk about it, I know it’s not really my business.

    Basically, I feel like my sister and I are losing touch and I don’t know what to do about it. Thoughts?

    1. I’d stay away from asking her outright if she’s asexual, or even from making it too obvious that you think she might be asexual. I don’t know how old your sister is, but if she’s still young-ish, then she might still feel uncomfortable about her sexuality (whatever it may be) and still trying to figure it out for herself. If you do feel you want to bring asexuality up in a conversation, you might mention in passing that you saw something on TV about asexuals, or you’re reading a book with an asexual character, and hey, you thought it was sort of interesting and what are her thoughts on that? It may be that she’s never heard of asexuality, and may be interested to know more, or she might just be uninterested in talking about it.

    2. Maybe you could just link her to this article and be all, “Hey! I came across this neat article. What are your thoughts?” That’ll get you talking, even she never wants to tell you whether she’s asexual or not.

      As for drifting apart, I don’t know the circumstances of your relationship with her (close, long-distance, ages, etc), but I’d suggest making a weekly time to hang out (if she’s down for that). It could be going out for coffee, sharing a pot of tea, watching a favourite television show, playing cards, volunteering… I know if my brother lived closer to me, I’d want to be able to make time to hang out. But that’s just me.

  9. Thanks for this, really. I wasn’t sexually active until I was already in my early-mid 20’s. Before that, I had certain personal discomfort issues, mainly stemming from insecurity about my body, but I also never really felt the desire for sex. I remember a friend, who was quite on the opposite spectrum from me as she was very vocal about her voracious sexual appetite, used to berate me for saying “I’m fine never having sex, thanks” because I hadn’t. It was somehow unacceptable, because of lack of experience, for a virgin to insist that she didn’t crave sex, and I didn’t know enough back then to say that just because a gay or lesbian person might not have had sex, doesn’t mean they don’t know that they’re gay or lesbian. Asexuality – although I still grasp for a better term, personally – is just another form of sexual identity.

    My path has taken me in another direction, where on a gradient between asexuality and heterosexuality, I stand somewhere in a happy medium. I can go without sex for months or longer, without really feeling like I’m missing out, but when I’m with partner and we’re in the mood, we have fun and it’s enjoyable. (Is that a form of bisexuality in itself? A neutral sexuality where the preferred resting state is completely unperturbed, sexually? Hmmm) but I still enjoy reading articles that promote visibility on the issue. There is nothing more hurtful than vocalizing and trying to decipher your sexual identity, and having people belittle it as you being confused/broken/hormonally unstable.

  10. I’ve read a couple of articles on asexuality lately and this one was most helpful I think in understanding it.  Thanks for sharing.  I get so sick of dismissive know it all attitudes like…bisexuals are just gay and can’t admit it to themselves…gay women aren’t really gay they just need to get laid well…asexuals just haevn’t met the right person, etc etc.  Really? You really think you know A COMPLETE STRANGER’s most deeply held feelings better than they themselves do.  It’s moronic and I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it.

  11. Sometimes I feel like society places so many hurdles in our way to happiness. You can’t be too sexual because then OMG!SLUT. But if you have no sexual urges, then you are defective. Apparently though it is perfectly acceptable to be sexual and repress the fuck out of yourself. Or to hide your (lack of) desire.

    And then there’s society’s bizarre focus on romantic love. Sure. It’s great and all, but I think it’s high time we stop assuming that everyone wants or needs to have a “better half”. Or that you can only have one.

    Lovely article, by the way. Now that I’m mostly done ranting. Mind if I inquire (because I couldn’t discern it from the article), do you also identify as aromantic?

      1. Haha! I’ve always been pretty nonchalant about bathroom use, so it’s always interesting for me to see the flip-side of the coin. I remember once my friends were talking about how they couldn’t poop at a boyfriend’s house and I was all, “That’s a thing? Have I somehow messed up any potential future with my boyfriend because I freely used his bathroom for its intended purpose?” Turns out my boyfriend didn’t care about me using his washroom and I think a pretty good portion of the population feel the same way (provided you don’t Tasmanian devil it up while you use it).

        Also, I’m super classy. Poop.

      2. Smart. Bathroom sharing can be a serious dealbreaker. My boyfriend and I are talking about getting an apartment together and we found a cheap one-bathroom one, to which my mom said, “well. You just have to decide how much you want to stay together.” And she is right. So we will look harder now.


  12. Very well written article!  I’m glad to see the subject being openly discussed, well, anywhere, especially from a perspective that isn’t “omg what is wrong with these people!?”

    I have an odd personal relationship with asexuality in that I actually used it as a way to deny my own issues with sexuality (mostly a persistent and dreadful fear of it).  I swore for some time in college that I just wasn’t interested, but I don’t know that I ever really believed it.  I finally renounced it entirely about a year ago, knowing that it never really fit.  In a way, I am that case that people who don’t understand asexuality assume all asexuals are like – just in denial.

    Despite that, I choose to believe people when they say they are asexual.  It’s up to me to trust that they have done their own soul searching.  And even if they are like me and have issues with sexuality, what business is that of mine?  How someone defines themselves is their business alone and it’s unbelievably rude to tell someone they’re wrong about something so completely personal.

    1. On that note, I love it when people actually believe others when they say they identify with whatever sexuality. It drives me up the flipping wall when people disregard my sexuality because they’ve known people who once identified one way and then identified another way. Bisexuals get the short end of the stick in this way all the freaking time. No, as a bisexual/pansexual/ohgivemeabreakweneedanewwordsexual, I am not going through a phase. And even if I was in stuck in a phase, I currently identify as bisexual so at least for the moment, please believe me when I call myself that. Just accusing someone of lying about their sexuality is super frustrating.

      It’s no one’s damn business whether the effiminate straight-identifying guy is really secretly gay or not. And it’s no one’s damn business whether someone has sexual attraction, does not or is anywhere on that spectrum.

      So in conclusion. Yes. YES. I totally agree with you.

    2. I also identified as asexual due to issues; mine was thanks to sexual assault. The way I think about it is, even though I ended up changing, that still didn’t invalidate how I felt then! And I also faced many of the same things SharpestShark mentions. I had friends tell me that they didn’t think anyone was actually asexual, and it was deeply upsetting.

      And, just because I changed, and just because mine was because of trauma, of course doesn’t invalidate the experiences of anyone who DOES identify as asexual.

    3.  I choose to believe people when they say they are asexual…  How someone defines themselves is their business alone and it’s unbelievably rude to tell someone they’re wrong about something so completely personal.

      THIS. Maybe in ten years they’ll be defining themselves differently, but damn if it’s any of my business to tell them they’re wrong about who they are.

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