Why I feel raising awareness is important and why I appreciate the existence of a community
I am from an earlier generation than the majority of tumblr, so I wanted to share some of my experiences as an asexual and the reason why I’m so grateful that blogs like yours exist today.
Like many people in my environment I was brought up to believe that being perceived as desirable and/or marriage material is a strong criterion for defining my worth as a person. Even now, much later, this is hard to shake off.
Being of a curious nature and assured that romantic love is the thing to aspire to, I developed a fascination and curiosity about it. Later I would realise that my perception of the subject was not shared by my peers. The connection, the fascination between two (or more) people that I perceived as “romantic” was nowhere near what my friends were interested in. On one side, this was very pleasing to my very conservative family, on the other side, my lack of interest for the “hunt” was considered weird by my schoolmates.
I had no label for it. There was no name and no community because the internet and all its possibilities and social networks were yet to come. I thought I was a “late bloomer”. The problem with this was - I felt it put me somewhere behind my peers. Like they were all in a club I was not allowed to join and it was the only existing club. Like they were developing into “proper people” faster than me. I couldn’t have that. So I pretended to be interested in people in the same way as they were. Because, surely, it was only a matter of time until my slow self would also become “right”. As an avid reader and researcher I had no trouble finding the proper language to appear on the same level or even further “in the game” than my peers. My sexual persona was sufficiently convincing and as the years went by, the lie became so comfortable I almost forgot I was lying. An “I’m currently not looking for a relationship” here, a “yes, there was someone, but it was nothing serious” there, or implying I’m in unrequited love did the trick. Some of you might know the insistent nature of questions about marriage and relationships you start getting at a certain point.
I accumulated some experience with flirting, kissing, role play and various kinks that, in theory, seemed interesting, to give my constructs more credibility and substance. I read more erotic literature than anyone in my social circle and tried to recreate the feelings the various authors were describing. I tried to be heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual…anything. I overanalysed my gender identity and even tried tantric meditation courses to “awaken my sexual energy”. There was always the hope, that this time I would feel the spark everyone was talking about, this time I wouldn’t be “wrong”.
You would have been tested to find anyone more involved in or better informed about anything concerning sex than myself back in those days. I was an asexual obsessed with sex! What a waste of energy this must look like to everyone! It wasn’t entirely bad, though. Some areas focused heavily on psychological interaction and deep trust, rather than physical stimulation. Those were nice to discover.
As my time at university progressed, the latent anxiety about my “wrongness” grew. It got worse every time I, for lack of a better term, fell in love with someone. For me it meant intensely craving regular interpersonal exchange, making them understand they were special, beautiful, luminous and incredibly precious to me, maybe kissing and certainly hugging, nuzzling and snuggling the living daylights out of them! And yet…I could never truly approach them, because what could I offer?? The eventual goal for anyone would be a “rich and healthy sex life” and despite all my theoretical knowledge, me deriving no pleasure whatsoever in the actual deed would have put a damper on the whole thing. Even the idea of actually doing the things I knew I was expected to do filled me with dread. So I was left heartbroken and convinced that, really, I had no right to feel heartbroken.
I was never afraid of ending up alone. Being alone was fine, even pleasant! My fear only centred on what I thought of as my “disability” being found out. And that was never going to happen, was it?
It was. You can imagine how it went - I met a person, we became close friends and were compatible on a level that I’d never experienced before. And the perk - they were in a romantic/sexual relationship. So no danger for me, right? Wrong. I found out that being asexual does not stop you from wanting emotional commitment. And here my true agony began. I desired something while not being able to give anything worthwhile in return. This is how I perceived it. Any story I knew that featured a person unable to give their partner sexual pleasure claimed they “had it coming” when they were cheated on, dumped or ended up living in a broken relationship (or, of course, finally finding Mr./Ms. Right to cure them). I didn’t want that for the person I cared for or for myself.
I won’t bore you with the details. I started distancing myself. My beloved wouldn’t have that. Their relationship was terminated and I got a declaration of love I was overjoyed to hear. Would I try to make the one I adored happy? Of course I would. Alas, at some point the “wrongness” had to be addressed. Although I trusted this person very much, I was prepared to being laughed at or told I was repressed, damaged or insufficient. Instead I got understanding and the promise that whatever physical contact I was comfortable with would be enough. I was too shocked to process it at the moment. I was always worried that it was just pity speaking, or the expectation that eventually I would “come around”. This worry haunted me. I couldn’t believe anyone could possibly tolerate an “incomplete” relationship. My instincts pushed me towards withdrawal and keeping silent, letting us drift apart as friends. Again, I found an unexpected patience combined with a fierce insistence on making it work. Sentences like “With you I found a greater intimacy then physical contact could ever give me” and “I want to be a part of your life, and I want this relationship more than anything” along with many “I love you"s made me come out of my shell again. There was even some joking about it - "In the near future I’ll be too old for that kind of thing anyway, so don’t worry”. I can’t describe the amount of understanding and love I got in this relationship.
Still, it was constantly on my mind that I was unable to fulfil an important task. My partner seemed reasonably happy, though. So happy, in fact, that the “issue” was no issue at all and in a conversation with a close friend who was devastated about not being able to get “a normal relationship” my partner’s tongue slipped - “What’s a ‘normal’ relationship even supposed to be?? There are no rules for happiness! Look at us! We’re not having sex and we’re still very happy!” When I found out about it, the shame crushed me. I was unable to do something so basic! I was “wrong”! Not one of the “proper people”! And now an outsider knew about it! The thing I spent a big part of my life covering up! All my effort now seemed pointless. I felt incredibly betrayed and devastated. I asked for distance and said I needed a break until I gathered myself.
This may seem ridiculous and you might say - “There’s nothing wrong with being who you are! Own up to it! Just be yourself!" And, of course, you are right. And this mentality is more recent than you might think. I spent many years of my life in an environment where "be yourself” was little more than a pretty phrase from movies about teenagers who went through a makeover to become more attractive for their love interest. “Being yourself” just meant adapting to the environment, or at least covering up your “insufficiencies”. And this is hard to shake off. Even today I struggle with it.
The story has a happy continuation, though. My partner was devastated about the mistake and tearfully apologised countless times and again - understood why I was upset. There was no judging, no “get over it already” or anything like that. And that’s what made me realise (after I had some time to gather myself) that what we have is more important to me than hanging on to my carefully crafted mask.
We are still together and as happy as any couple could ever be. We have loads of fun and grow together as people. In case it matters to anyone - I’m a woman, my partner is a man.
I am so grateful that blogs like yours exist and that you are raising awareness and giving a community to people who are going through the same things I was going through, showing them they are “proper people” and “right”. With the onslaught of sexual expectation thrown at people every day it’s easy to lose oneself if what you are is deemed “inexistent”. The community gave me a new term to describe “the wrongness” and for that I’m truly grateful.