Happy Ace Week! No, this isn’t about last night’s Doctor Who special, although I could talk about that for hours. This is about asexuality awareness. I’ve talked some online about how I started identifying as asexual last year, but I don’t think I’ve ever “officially” come out or really opened up about it publicly, and since I wish I’d seen more people (especially men) talk about it in the past, because maybe then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to start to figure things out, I’m going to talk about it here and now.
For a long time, I thought being asexual simply meant being averse to sex and not wanting any part of it in a relationship. That misunderstanding is part of why it took so long for me to see it in myself. Really, it’s a pretty big umbrella covering a lot of varied terrain. (Plus, you know, sexuality is fluid and can change over time, so even though I can look back and see aspec aspects all through my life, some people might be allosexual for a lot of their life and then later move into ace space. Frankly, nobody has to justify or defend their sexuality and identity. Right? Right.) But what it boils down to is this: romantic orientation/attraction and sexual orientation/attraction are not necessarily the same thing, and not everyone is driven by romantic and/or sexual feelings when it comes to relationships with other people.
These days, I identify as demi/biromantic (having romantic feelings for more than gender, but my romantic feelings come from the emotional connection of friendship) and greysexual (shorthand for “Look, sexuality and sexual attraction can be complicated and not always easy to pin down, so there’s this big ol’ grey area and I’m standing in it”). Do I get romantic feelings for people? Do I want to be in a romantic relationship with someone? Yep. Do I have sexual feelings for people? Do I want to be in a sexual relationship with someone? Ummmm, kind of, maybe, in certain circumstances, but it’s not the driving force in what I want in relationships. I used to think it was a big driving force, but having thought a lot about it over the past year and a half, digging through a lot of buried feelings, I’ve come to see how libido, social expectations and models, toxic masculinity, and a whole lot of other factors can make someone think sexuality is a driving force for them when…really…it isn’t.
Okay, I’m not going to go into a lot of details because I’m pretty sure there are people who will read this who don’t want to know the intimate details of my sex life and it’s not something I feel super comfortable talking about. But some history:
Despite having romantic feelings and strong crushes all my life, I didn’t start dating until my junior year of high school, in large part because I was afraid of what would be expected on me physically and felt sure I would “do it wrong.” When I did start dating, there were things I liked to do and things I thought I’d like to do but didn’t feel ready for. As I moved into adulthood and got into sexual relationships, I definitely wasn’t sex-averse, but in hindsight, I can see that what I wanted out of sex was emotional intimacy–to express it and reinforce it. If I felt like the emotional part of a relationship was flagging, surely sex would bring it back to where it should be, Plus, adult romantic relationships always include regular sex, yes? The way most people talked about it, the way our pop culture portrayed relationships, if there wasn’t regular sex in a relationship, that relationship was having big problems that could only be solved by getting back to regular sex.
It was only in the past few years that I got to know people who were openly asexual and/or aromantic and I started learning more about the spectrums. You can have a high libido and be asexual. You can think people are hot and be asexual. You can enjoy looking sexy and be asexual. You can enjoy sex and still be asexual. You can be sex-averse or sex-indifferent and that’s not weird or broken. You can be allosexual without having romantic attractions to people and that’s not weird or broken.
I’ve personally come to better understand how emotional intimacy and sex aren’t inherently intertwined. Even if I’m sex-positive and enjoy sex, the more I separate it from my romantic attractions and stop making it part of what I actively seek in relationships, the more I feel like my authentic self. I’m being truer to myself, and that feels absolutely ace.