worst thing about being asexual? others trying to fix me all the time
September 17, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

 
Perhaps being in the Cult of Groot would help?
posted by sammyo at 10:08 AM on September 17, 2014


she seriously compiles her youtube arguments?
posted by p3on at 10:10 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I decided since then to trust myself as the arbiter of what’s “enough” and have turned down plenty of offers since, and because I have yet to feel any sexual attraction to anyone, I have never allowed anyone else to talk me into anything I know I don’t desire.

It's both awesome that she has recognized this and fucking bullshit that she needed to learn it and that her saying "I don't feel like it" wasn't enough before. I hate that people, including but not exclusively women, need to justify their choices and desires to so many people so often.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:15 AM on September 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


I could tell if people were physically attractive in a normative way, but that didn’t inspire any reaction for me or any desire to be closer to them, possess them somehow or touch them.

Oh this is so true for me. Beautiful people are beautiful, but I can't imagine wanting to touch them. It would be like seeing a Tang pottery horse and feeling a compulsion to maul it about.
posted by winna at 10:15 AM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Where do desires come from if not societal pressures?"

I don't need anyone else to know when I'm hungry.
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on September 17, 2014 [37 favorites]


Man, I don't know if I "exactly" identify as asexual, but finding the asexual community was so valuable and important to me. I knew I wasn't really interested in dating or romantic relationships or most kinds of sex, but there was always this sort of background noise of like, "Wait...is this right?" I still remember when I first read the FAQ on AVEN and got to this passage:

It may be tempting to hold back on accepting your asexuality in the hope that eventually you'll 'bloom' into a sexual person. I'm not saying that might not eventually happen, but consider this: do you want to spend your life thinking of yourself as an undeveloped person, living for the dreamed of day when you'll become whole? Might you feel more comfortable accepting who you are now as a whole complete valid person? Maybe one day you will “bloom”, and if and when you do, you won't have lost anything by being comfortable in the mean time.

And I realized my biggest fear about my sexual orientation was that I would wake up one day and want a princess wedding to a dude who I had sex with thirty times a day and that I would be totally unable to have anything like that because I had missed the window for learning how to be normal. It was such a relief to have someone tell me that I was okay right now and that I could bop along doing my best and it was ALL OKAY. MAN, that was important to me.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2014 [53 favorites]


[Comment and some replies removed; please let's not immediately derail this thread with an argument that the link author is naive about their own sexuality.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


I wonder if it's not more helpful to describe human sexual functioning as a variety of dimensions rather than categories. Overall sex drive, degree of homosexual vs heterosexual orientation, and "fetishistic" orientation come to mind as a few dimensions. Psychiatry is gradually changing from an old-fashioned view of personality "types" to a dimensional approach which places all individuals on 3-5 dimensions of personality functioning. It turns out this is a much better way of helping people understand their strengths and weaknesses than applying a label like "histrionic personality disorder". On the other hand, self-applied labels can serve a psychological function in a way that telling someone how many standard deviations from the median of a distribution you are cannot.
posted by fraxil at 10:41 AM on September 17, 2014


For me, as a cis straight guy, this is something that I don't understand, the same way that I don't understand being attracted to men. Being attracted to women — romantically, sexually, etc. — is such a fundamental part of how I experience the world that it's hard for me to map it mentally. And it's harder for me to think of common ground — with lesbians, I understand being attracted to women; with gay men, I understand the feeling of attraction if not the object. But with asexuality, it's like atheism — even though I'm (by now) an atheist, it's something that to me is a fairly negative identity, defined by its lack.

I mean, I understand the decent way to treat people who identify as asexual — accept their subjective description of their lack of desire, don't interfere or undermine their ability to pursue (or not) their orientation. I accept that it's a thing.

There are two other thoughts that strike me on this: First, for many people, asexuality or lack of desire, arousal or any of the other normative sexual responses is something that they don't want, and hence the general view of it as a medical problem. But it is kind of impossible to know how much that meta-desire is driven by normative, sexualized culture, i.e. how many people would feel that their lack of desire was a problem if lack of desire was more accepted as a state that it's possible to be happy in.

Secondly, in thinking about identities based on lack or negation, the only one that I can think of that feels to me like a coherent identity is veganism/vegetarianism. Both are defined through not eating meat, but for very few vegetarians or vegans I know does the identity end there. There's usually a philosophical component, as well as a desire for tasty food that meets the strictures of the diet. I wonder how applicable that framing is to asexuality, especially asexuals that are not aromantic.
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 AM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


[A couple more comments removed. mary8nne, I'm not sure what's up but you are not doing a good job with commenting right now and you need to step away from this thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of an old Paula Poundstone bit that cracked me up:
Every time I tell a guy I don't like sex, he always says the same thing: "well, you'll like it with ME!" What, am I talking to Sam I Am? "I do not like it in a house, I do not like it with a mouse!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on September 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


The asexual community is a goddamn gift, because having folks around who say it's cool to not want sex at all has a sort of curb cut effect for making it ok to not want sex in lots of situations. As someone who bought into a lot of the whole "you need to give your partner sex" thing in my youth, especially from "sex positive" voices and Dan Savage in particular, and experienced sexual coersion because of it, I'm really glad there are voices out there that might keep other kids from going through the same thing. It's nice to have permission, now, to be able to say that my sexuality is pretty fluid and I'm going through a mostly asexual phase right now; some folks are less fluid and are like that all the time and that's cool too.
posted by NoraReed at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2014 [53 favorites]


"...my biggest fear about my sexual orientation was that I would wake up one day...and that I would be totally unable to have anything like that because I had missed the window for learning how to be normal."

Giving up on any hope of ever being normal in any sense was liberating for me.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:53 AM on September 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


I've long thought it would be cool to have the option of being asexual. If there were a pill to neutralize one's sexual desire without any other side effects I would be all over that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


As someone who bought into a lot of the whole "you need to give your partner sex" thing in my youth, especially from "sex positive" voices and Dan Savage in particular, and experienced sexual coersion because of it, I'm really glad there are voices out there that might keep other kids from going through the same thing.

Me, too. I went through a lot of really unpleasant experiences because I didn't know that it was okay to just opt out of the whole process if I wasn't interested. There have been times in my life that I was interested, but on the whole I wish there'd been this kind of community when I was younger to give me some kind of quasi-understandable term to tell people to explain why I wasn't dating.
posted by winna at 10:57 AM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wonder if this is what the Bible speaks of as the gift of celibacy?
I think I have mentioned around here before that way back when I had a friend who identified as asexual. At the time he was a bit confused, wondering why he didn't identify as either straight or gay...I don't think asexuality as a concept was spoken of much if at all back in the late Seventies. At least our (at the time decidedly nonchurchy) group of friends was unfamiliar.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Of course it's ok to opt out. Do whatever you want, nobody's business but your own.

I do wonder what the current state of professional (that is, sexologists, psychiatrists, etc.) thinking is on asexuality. I mean, I would tend to think that it's an orientation, or rather, a normal if somewhat uncommon variation on the spectra of human sexuality, but I don't think we should necessarily exclude the possibility that there's something else going on. Subjective experience and identity is important, but that's no guarantee that there isn't some sort of underlying pathology.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2014


Of course it's ok to opt out. Do whatever you want, nobody's business but your own.

That is not a message that is communicated very often to sixteen-year-old girls.
posted by winna at 11:03 AM on September 17, 2014 [48 favorites]


This is largely a really insightful piece, but I think that the author undermines it a bit by framing asexuality so strongly in Ms. Decker's teenage experiences.

Zounds, her sex drive didn't emerge in the long years between 14 to 16! Look, certainly some teenagers are already highly-motivated to engage in full physical sexual relationships with other people, but a lot of teenagers just aren't "there" quite yet. The popular perception that all normal teenagers are hormone-driven, madly sexual creatures involves some bluster and projection to some extent.

I'm not questioning Ms. Decker's asexuality, to clarify.

I can imagine how frustrating it must have been to be dismissed as a late bloomer rather than asexual well into adulthood -- but for the article to put her teenage years up front as evidence just isn't a great way to dodge that perception. Later, Ms. Decker states her self-awareness around this very effectively.

"So I used the “nonsexual” term with the full understanding that I was fairly young and with an expectation that I would grow and change. I did grow and change. But that part of me didn’t."
posted by desuetude at 11:08 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I envy the asexual; I imagine that, without sexual desire, romantic crushes and all those things, one must have so much more cognitive bandwidth for other things.
posted by acb at 11:12 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it is likely that these are those never-married people or people most excited about living in a monastery that we have always known.

But in my experience, the world doesn't care whether you are or aren't having sex or involved with someone. I don't talk about my relationships with my employers or bring significant others around to company events. I rarely discuss my social life with my family. Plenty of people end up in life never permanent partnered to someone. Parents might be disappointed, but that happens. Meanwhile, life goes on-- my friends and family get married, have children, die. If people ask if I am seeing someone, I might answer yes or no depending on the circumstances, but people in relationships are wrapped up in their own ones. If I am not involved with anyone, they might feel sorry for me, but they don't feel I am committing any kind of transgression that needs to be corrected.

The only people who are directly affected by asexuals who might give them a lot of grief are the sexual spouses or partners of asexuals. But in that case, asexuals should probably marry each other rather than trying to figure out how to get sexuals in their relationships to accept them.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I imagine that, without sexual desire, romantic crushes and all those things, one must have so much more cognitive bandwidth for other things.

Like learning Portuguese, for example.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:18 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really liked the post on asexuality and trans experience. It was affirming and spot-on about the fact that sometimes the two relate, and sometimes they don't, and either way, it's ok. In particular the author addresses the claim that if someone is asexual, and then after gender transitioning realize they are no longer asexual, that this somehow proves asexuality isn't a real thing, or they weren't really asexual before transition:

If they see an example of a person choosing to use a more appropriate label later in their lives if their sexuality is fluid or they simply shift perspectives, they will try to use this to support the idea that asexuality isn’t real if that’s what they wanted to believe in the first place. Confirmation bias is a really shitty thing … and the people who are eager to mock trans people and/or asexual people over what they perceive as “confusion” and “immaturity” within the ranks really have a terrible argument (not to mention they’re being nasty).

I've seen this phenomenon work in the reverse as well, when a person who comes to identify as asexual after gender transition, and someone holds up as "proof" that transitioning is damaging (because, of course, it can't be healthy to be asexual).

Anyway, the advice the author gives, "People who understand that identity can shift and that asexuality is a description (not a decision) will have no problem accepting you should this actually change for you," is simple but excellent.
posted by DrMew at 11:22 AM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Screw 'normal'. Screw 'tolerance'. Teach acceptance.

And yeah, I guess if you're asexual you can replace 'screw' with 'to hell with' above.
posted by Mooski at 11:26 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


What if you're an asexual atheist?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then I've probably played D&D with you.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2014 [27 favorites]


In practice, I've been more or less asexual a lot of the time in my life. (My level of interest in sex varies over time but tends toward the low interest side in general.) I may still have the basic biological urges, but as far as my own conscious personal identity goes, I don't tend to think of my sexuality as particularly central to my identity (in fact, I look at it more as a necessary and often inconvenient evil like other biological functions). I like sex, as far as it goes, and I recognize that it's a very basic biological drive, but it's not that special or important to me, generally, and it can be very hard to see eye to eye with/understand others who see it as more central.

Once when I was working as a busboy/dishwasher at a seafood restaurant in north Florida as a younger man, one of my coworkers (who was one of those good times loving good old boy types, constantly on the verge of jail for unpaid parking tickets or worse) insisted that I answer a question. He had evidently gotten in some trouble with a lady friend recently, and wanted me to help ease his conscience. He asked me if a beautiful blonde stranger approached me at a party and started rubbing herself all over me, would/could I refuse to have sex with her. He didn't like it when I answered "That depends," but I pointed out that, at the very least, I'd want to try to establish that the woman wasn't HIV positive first. I expected my answer to be received as a sort of joke at the time; believe me, I wasn't feeling too comfortable in the situation to start with, because I knew the guy's type and sensed the danger all too well. My coworker wasn't amused. Instead he got really upset that I didn't have his back and called me a fag. He went on to steal my paycheck later that night before skipping out on the job and never returning. All because I wouldn't reflexively go along with the suggestion that as a man I couldn't possibly stop myself from having sex with any random blonde who might take an interest in me and act on it.

That was one of the first times I realized just how dogmatic some people's views about sexuality and identity can be, and how self-serving those attitudes often are.

Truth is, I don't even know if I really could hold out if a woman I found physically attractive ever decided to seduce me against my wishes. But I'd like to think I would at least try to avoid situations where my potential weakness could get the better of me, and at least acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with trying to exercise a little more self control when it comes to sexual desires.

Anyway, tl;dr, regardless of your orientations, tendencies, etc., if you don't share the common values of the culture when it comes to sex, be careful or you can expect to get punished for it.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:38 AM on September 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


I imagine that, without sexual desire, romantic crushes and all those things, one must have so much more cognitive bandwidth for other things.

If I have learned anything from Tumblr, it is that the right and proper thing to do is dedicate that energy to dragons. (I say this as someone who is on the asexual spectrum and wishes to shed her flimsy mammalian flesh and become the fearsome scaly monster I was always meant to become, though. YMMV.)
posted by NoraReed at 11:38 AM on September 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm an asexual atheist. I'm out about it in my profile. The day I realized I never had to have sex EVER AGAIN was one of the best days of my life. No shit.

I am not a prude. I have taught sex education. I have had sex with women and men. I just don't like it. Not a fan, seems like a chore, no desire, not a turn on, big old yawn-o-rama.

When I was having sex, I felt about the same way about it as I did about cleaning out my chicken coop. It was something that needed to be done, but once it was over, I could forget about it until next time, now that there's no "next time", what a fucking relief. Literally.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:39 AM on September 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


That's a great blog post, DrMew. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by Corinth at 11:44 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I wish people would stop trying to fix me. Or wondering when this phase will be over. I'm 43 freaking years old. I've never enjoyed sex and I'm okely-dokely with it, the question is, why aren't you okay with me being asexual?
posted by Sophie1 at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


Oh, that blog post was one of the ones I hadn't clicked on in the FPP. Doh. Either way, it's great.
posted by Corinth at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2014


Whatever happened to the idea of sublimating sexual desire anyway? That was a neat idea, even if Freud was generally a quack.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:48 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm with Sophie1. Sex, despite once in a while being worth the effort, is largely such a fucking goddamn bore. Even at its rare technicolor best with someone actually proficient, it can't really compete with seriously fun sensory activities like listening to a new record, reading a good book, taking a nap, walking a dog.

It's interesting in some ways to be a mostly asexual (or indifferent-to-sex) feminist because that can be really fraught. People tend to think that if you're not personally pro-sex or sex-embracing (heh), that means you're reading from some Puritanical repression-of-women script or something. Whereas I'd say the whole "All People Must be GGG" trend is equally poisonous since it just tries to stuff us all into yet another patriarchal round hole.

(There's no way to talk about this without horrible double entendres, is there?)
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:53 AM on September 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Can't say I identify with, but it is fascinating to learn about all these degrees of humanity. The intertubes can actually be useful!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think asexuality as a concept was spoken of much if at all back in the late Seventies.

Surely we called it 'being frigid' back in those days? Or is asexuality somehow different in a way I'm not getting?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:00 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sophie1: "I've never enjoyed sex and I'm okely-dokely with it, the question is, why aren't you okay with me being asexual?"

I'm ok with that. If that use of "okely-dokely" was serious, on the other hand... That's really not cool.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've only ever seen "frigid" used in the case of women. For men, we've tended to use other (no less pejorative) terms.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:07 PM on September 17, 2014


FelliniBlank: "It's interesting in some ways to be a mostly asexual (or indifferent-to-sex) feminist because that can be really fraught. People tend to think that if you're not personally pro-sex or sex-embracing (heh), that means you're reading from some Puritanical repression-of-women script or something. Whereas I'd say the whole "All People Must be GGG" trend is equally poisonous since it just tries to stuff us all into yet another patriarchal round hole."

I'd say that "all people must be GGG when in a relationship with another person, unless otherwise specified and agreed upon". Most people want, expect, and have a right to expect sexual intimacy to be a part of a sexual relationship. If that's not your thing, then that's cool, but you probably should be up front about it, and not be overly surprised if that means people don't want to be in a relationship with you.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:07 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've only ever seen "frigid" used in the case of women.

That's true. I wonder if the distribution of asexuality is skewed by gender?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:14 PM on September 17, 2014


Even at its rare technicolor best with someone actually proficient, it can't really compete with seriously fun sensory activities like listening to a new record, reading a good book, taking a nap, walking a dog.

Agree with this so much. There are plenty of things that if you were to tell me, "You can never do this again for the rest of your life," I would be terribly upset and life would probably get pretty unbearable for me. Sex is nowhere near that list.
posted by dogwalker at 12:24 PM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, Wikipedia seems to suggest there's a strong skew toward asexuality among women, with only around 3--5% of unmarried males in the mix, versus 14--19% of unmarried women.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:26 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I found out about asexuality from "The Crying of Lot 49". Just thought I'd mention it.
posted by I-baLL at 12:49 PM on September 17, 2014


Most people want, expect, and have a right to expect sexual intimacy to be a part of a sexual relationship.

I'd bet the ranch there's a whole lot more variation to the actuality of "what most people want" (especially across a lifetime) than the cultural norms of any era leave room for.

Anyhow, as klang notes, it is weird that these "absence of" labels (asexual, atheist, etc.) get treated as Major Identifiers, when they're mostly off the radar to the people who don't care about them. X particular activity or way of thinking, which is very important to some people's lives and self-concepts, is for others merely one of many, many trivial things they're basically indifferent to in daily life. There are jillions of activities I have spent approximately zero minutes doing or thinking much about in the last couple of decades (unless they come up in conversation or a MeFi thread or something): playing video games, duck hunting, watching American Idol, knitting, playing the tuba, having any type of sex, putting on make-up, making homemade beef jerky, painting a mural, learning to dance ballet.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:51 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, Wikipedia seems to suggest there's a strong skew toward asexuality among women, with only around 3--5% of unmarried males in the mix, versus 14--19% of unmarried women.

Unsurprising.

Both because it's arguably still harder for men to admit to having no interest in sex, more easy and accepted for women to do so while the "rewards" as coming out as asexual may be greater for women (no longer having to run the risks of dodgy dates and such).

I think as a society we overrate sex and being a sexual being quite a lot, for understandable reasons and there are possibly quite a lot more people for whom sex is not all that attractive or desirable.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:01 PM on September 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


But with asexuality, it's like atheism — even though I'm (by now) an atheist, it's something that to me is a fairly negative identity, defined by its lack.

Alternately, it's a group of people whom society has decided to define and other by their lack of a thing society demands, finally standing up and saying 'Your demands of me are nonsense, I'm just fine thankyouverymuch.'
posted by FatherDagon at 1:07 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Or maybe testosterone does a thing.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:10 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


it is weird that these "absence of" labels (asexual, atheist, etc.) get treated as Major Identifiers, when they're mostly off the radar to the people who don't care about them

Very true FelliniBlank, I would much prefer that asexuality was thought of as similar to or the same as not playing tuba, but it's not. It really is society's favorite hobby. So much so that we don't even think of it as such. There is a reason that I use the "absence of/negative" labels, however. I am far too frequently misidentified. With religion and sexuality both, at least in the U.S., we are so prone to being assumed status quo, that it catches people off guard when one identifies as non-Christian and non-straight, much less non-religious and non-sexual.

Meanwhile, veganism/vegetarianism seems to be much less defined by its lack, at least to me, because it has the positive association of eating only certain foods, the lack is only part of the matter.

I saw this a lot when I was doing HIV prevention work. It is extremely hard, if not impossible to organize a community around not having HIV.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:11 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


It would be like seeing a Tang pottery horse and feeling a compulsion to maul it about.

I mauled a Tang dynasty horse once. (More than once, in fact.) It's everything it's, uh, cracked up to be.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I envy the asexual; I imagine that, without sexual desire, romantic crushes and all those things, one must have so much more cognitive bandwidth for other things.

Romance and sexuality aren't necessarily linked. You can have huge crushes on people, fall in love, have intimacy and support, join your life with them, kiss and snuggle whole bunch for all your years, and not actually be that interested in sexing up each other, or anyone else. It's tougher to find though.
posted by fleacircus at 1:17 PM on September 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


The only people who are directly affected by asexuals who might give them a lot of grief are the sexual spouses or partners of asexuals. But in that case, asexuals should probably marry each other rather than trying to figure out how to get sexuals in their relationships to accept them.

Or they could opt out of dating/marriage altogether.
posted by Anne Neville at 1:46 PM on September 17, 2014


I found I was much higher on the asexual spectrum while I was living with my parents. I'm sure there is, at least for some people, a social element to it. And that makes it unsurprising to me if it turns out to be more common for women.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:47 PM on September 17, 2014


When I first met my sister-in-law, I was sure she was gay. Why? No reason other than a "feeling." But then I wondered if she were asexual. Why? She has never expressed to me nor anyone else in her family any interest in any gender. But you know what? It's none of my damn business, so I no longer wonder about her sexuality, nor care. What matters to me is that she is a delightful person and is happy being who she is.
posted by Kitteh at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


"He asked me if a beautiful blonde stranger approached me at a party and started rubbing herself all over me, would/could I refuse to have sex with her."

I like sex a lot, but having been ins situation like this, it's not that difficult.

(At a show I was covering, talking to some friends, the managers and other band members, some publicist gets drunk and starts like, hanging on me, and eventually tries to go for my zipper while we're all standing around talking. During this, my buddy leans over and whispers in my ear, "She's the hottest chick I know — she's married!" like that was supposed to explain the overall WTF-ness. It was seriously like trying to keep a dog out of a garden.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 PM on September 17, 2014


I'm not asexual but accepting that other people are and even empathizing has never been a problem for me because I'm outside the mainstream in other things. Like, I do not like to be touched, by any humans, including close family, with the exception of my husband. So that recent AskMe about finding a workplace where everyone hugged all the time made me recoil in horror.

I hope asexuality becomes very widely accepted as an orientation and continuum so people on it will feel comfortable being themselves and exploring their options.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Or they could opt out of dating/marriage altogether.

Yeah, because without sex, who could legitimately want to spend their lives with anyone else? The only reason not to want to be lonely is for the sex. Wait--what?

What's always been puzzling to me is how many men are functionally asexual on a biological basis (impotent, in other words), and yet, still insist on taking Viagra and various arousal aids to force themselves to conform with their idea of what a proper man should be. I always picture some poor schmo hooked up to an elaborate machine with wires moving their limbs to make them go through the motions of caring enough about life to keep doing mundane things even though the actual fire in their belly died long ago... I mean, taking drugs to make it possible to want something you don't actually want just because you're supposed to want it? It's enough to make the Buddha's head spin! I mean, sure, in relationships where a partner deserves physical affection--but old dudes on the prowl? What's up with that?

Actually, I've always been especially curious about this: In the case of impotent men, is their desire to go on having sex with medical assistance purely social in origin? I think it might be. So maybe that cohort offers a nice clean boundary for investigating questions of cultural versus biological attitudes toward sex and sexual orientation. I'd think in most of those cases any remaining sexual interest would be purely cultural wouldn't it? I mean, with the exception of cases where there's direct physical injury preventing the sex organ itself from being functional, rather than hormonal issues effecting general arousal...

I like sex a lot, but having been ins situation like this, it's not that difficult.

Context would be everything for me. Once had a 70 year old bar fly lady just straight up grab my crotch in a blues club my friend's band was playing. That offer wasn't tempting. Where I'm less clear how well I'd hold up is if I were cornered alone by someone I would otherwise be attracted to who was aggressively coming onto me. When I was younger, I would most definitely have just gone with the flow--and probably would have ended up with regrets, because I never could separate out the physical and emotional stuff very well when it came to sex, though I tried.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:15 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd say that "all people must be GGG when in a relationship with another person, unless otherwise specified and agreed upon". Most people want, expect, and have a right to expect sexual intimacy to be a part of a sexual relationship. If that's not your thing, then that's cool, but you probably should be up front about it, and not be overly surprised if that means people don't want to be in a relationship with you.

How about "sexual incompatibility is a perfectly good reason not to remain in a relationship, it's entirely respectable if it's your only reason, but there's no particular reason to expect anybody in particular to do anything in particular?"
posted by atoxyl at 2:19 PM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


In the case of impotent men, is their desire to go on having sex with medical assistance purely social in origin?

I think you're conflating desire with physical arousal. It seems likely to me that some men who aren't physically able to become erect could still feel attraction or desire or sexual need. Do some people want to still drive places even if their car had a flat tire? I suspect yes. For other men, it could be social pressure I suppose or desire to please a partner.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:24 PM on September 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


Actually, I've always been especially curious about this: In the case of impotent men, is their desire to go on having sex with medical assistance purely social in origin? I think it might be.

I think it's so clearly obvious that it isn't social in origin that I'm a little bit flummoxed that you think the opposite. Why are you discarding without consideration the idea that impotent men might be taking Viagra because they still have a very strong desire for sex but have a medical condition which renders it very difficult to fulfill that desire?
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on September 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


I'm not asexual but accepting that other people are and even empathizing has never been a problem for me because I'm outside the mainstream in other things. Like, I do not like to be touched, by any humans, including close family, with the exception of my husband. So that recent AskMe about finding a workplace where everyone hugged all the time made me recoil in horror.

This makes me crack up laughing, Squeak Attack. I also hate being touched, in that same sense (by humans, though by and large barring my (at-present hypothetical!) bf), always have, and had the same...revulsion? mini-freak-out? when I first read that AskMe. All hugs all the time sounds like a nightmare. Even my mother still thanks me on the rare occasions I allow her a hug. I don't think an aversion to touching has anything to do with sexuality, though? Is it just sex that asexual people don't like or don't want, or do many people generalize from not wanting sex to not wanting any touch from other human beings? For me, I feel sexual desire (not uhhh in some undifferentiated way like in the "hot blond grinding on you" example, but in the context of being attracted to someone in particular), even though I don't feel comfortable with touch in general.

Anyway, I do think that it's important that people feel empowered to own their own lack of interest in sex, whether in a particular circumstance or in general. I sure didn't feel empowered like that when I was younger. Even as an adult, it was/is difficult for me to remember that if I didn't actively want something, I could say no and not try to please the other person anyway. I guess I always thought that it was ultimately irrelevant whether I felt desire or not, I kind of "had" to go through some motions or put up with some stuff regardless or else I was being antisocial. Hmmm.

I don't relate to being asexual in the sense of not having sexual desire for anybody, because I do feel desire for some people, and part of how I express love is through sex. BUT. I do think that there's a lot I could learn from that kind of comfort in non-desire, even for people or in situations where you're "supposed" to be sexual or feeling desire.
posted by rue72 at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually, I've always been especially curious about this: In the case of impotent men, is their desire to go on having sex with medical assistance purely social in origin? I think it might be. So maybe that cohort offers a nice clean boundary for investigating questions of cultural versus biological attitudes toward sex and sexual orientation. I'd think in most of those cases any remaining sexual interest would be purely cultural wouldn't it? I mean, with the exception of cases where there's direct physical injury preventing the sex organ itself from being functional, rather than hormonal issues effecting general arousal...

Have you never experienced "whiskey dick" or the equivalent associated with other recreational drugs? Or just anxiety related performance issues? I certainly find desire fairly distinct from physical arousal. In fact taking the likes of Viagra tends to highlight this as you can stay very hard no matter what's on your mind. Or looking at it the other way around I think most men also experience not-particularly-sexual erections pretty frequently.

I actually think current treatments for sexual dysfunction in women may come closer to raising the issue you propose - for example Wellbutrin, which my friends who have taken it report does increase thoughts of sexual desire. But even this... I mean say you and your partner used to have incredible sex all the time, with the strong desire and fulfillment thereof being part of what made it so good. But right now you're taking a high dose of an SSRI and experience diminished desire and performance and therefore have stopped almost entirely. You still have those memories, you still know that sex was something you used to love to do and still might want to see if you can revisit that experience someday.
posted by atoxyl at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I've long thought it would be cool to have the option of being asexual. If there were a pill to neutralize one's sexual desire without any other side effects I would be all over that."

Try Zoloft. The removal of sexual desire was so common a side effect, queers on it used to wonder if it was a fundamentalist xian plot.
posted by Dreidl at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Actually, I've always been especially curious about this: In the case of impotent men, is their desire to go on having sex with medical assistance purely social in origin? I think it might be.

Sexuality is a complex spectrum that goes way beyond "does this person react with blood flow to the genitals when their genitals are touched / when they anticipate their genitals being touched." I won't argue that modern marketing for erectile dysfunction treatments (and to some extent the social construction around erectile dysfunction as a medical condition) aren't wrapped up in social expectations, but desire and physiological reactions are two intertwined but ultimately separate things. (See also: the shortcomings of chemical castration for sexual offenders.)

This may delve into TMI, but it might also be clarifying for some of the folks here talking about non-reactivity and revulsion. I identify as asexual. I indulge in self-love regularly. I get aroused when touched or when exposed to graphic visual or textual or aural representations of sex. I'm not opposed to having sex, per se. I just don't experience sex with a partner any differently than I do sex with myself. I've never been sexually attracted to another person. I find other people intellectually stimulating, but not sexually stimulating.

The growing awareness of asexuality in recent years has been a good thing for me. Not only has it made me regard myself more kindly, but it's made me more understanding of sexual people. I used to get particularly judgmental about people who entered into ill-advised sexual relationships, people who broke vows of celibacy, people who cheated. While I get that sexual people are still completely capable of self-control, I used to be outright baffled about why people would ever make stupid decisions related to sex because couldn't you just...not entertain the notion of having sex with someone?
posted by northernish at 3:30 PM on September 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry--I meant for my hypothetical cohort to be limited to men who suffer lack of arousal due to an inability to get in the mood. I assume a significant subset of men who can't get an erection also can't really get aroused sexually at all. I do not know much about the isssue, so I'm prepared to be educated if necessary. But I'd think at least the subset as I've defined it (if it exists) would have sexual interests that would be purely cultural/social in origin, wouldn't it?
posted by saulgoodman at 3:31 PM on September 17, 2014


Both because it's arguably still harder for men to admit to having no interest in sex, more easy and accepted for women to do so while the "rewards" as coming out as asexual may be greater for women (no longer having to run the risks of dodgy dates and such).

Also, the in-your-face sexualized imagery in Western culture tends to be targeted at heterosexual men; if we assume that one's sexuality is at least partially environmentally caused, there's a lot less stuff that's made to sexually arouse women, so it'd make sense for less women to be sexual. Also, more women than men have sexual trauma in their pasts and may not feel sexual because of that (or partially because of that, or for reasons related to that); some of these people may choose to identify as asexual.

This does not mean that all asexual people have experienced abuse or trauma, but that asexual identity and community can provide a place where people who have had trauma and who don't want to be sexual are able to not feel like something is wrong with them or they are broken.
posted by NoraReed at 3:34 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think an aversion to touching has anything to do with sexuality, though?

I wasn't trying to imply a connection at all. Just giving an example why I can relate to, and completely believe in, asexuality despite not experiencing it myself.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:34 PM on September 17, 2014


Here's a twist to add to the mix. As I have been sexual in the past, I can orgasm, but again, sex, even the orgasming part is just not that interesting to me. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it is what it is.

Also, as for asexuals being in relationships, I've been married to a highly, I would even say extremely sexual gay man for 15 years. Obviously our relationship isn't based on sex and it actually works brilliantly for both of us.

I admit we're sort of an odd case though.
posted by Sophie1 at 3:51 PM on September 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


But I'd think at least the subset as I've defined it (if it exists) sexual interests would be purely cultural/social in origin, wouldn't it?

I guess, but with the amount of caveats and ifs that you've included you've almost moved into tautological territory. You've posited a subset of men who do not get erections because they don't get into the mood for sex in the first place and furthermore decide to take Viagra to get erections despite not being in the mood, and to then engage in sexual activities with other people because they've taken Viagra even though they don't want to have sex.

That's probably true but it's true primarily because you've defined this subset of men so narrowly and specifically that it almost has to be true. Like if I wondered if drinking liquor was primarily done for social or cultural reasons and decided to exclude people who like the taste of alcohol, exclude people who like the feeling of being inebriated, and exclude people who drink a little bit a day for health reasons. Sure, yeah, the people that are left probably drink for social or cultural reasons but what of it? I've defined that subgroup in such a way that the alternatives have been eliminated.
posted by Justinian at 4:17 PM on September 17, 2014


Well, Justinian, I'm trying to isolate the cultural social stuff, so it's not tautological to correctly id criteria that would yield the right cohort. It's interesting precisely because it starts to get into the territory of more general questions about what desire really is in the first place.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:43 PM on September 17, 2014


I'm sorry--I meant for my hypothetical cohort to be limited to men who suffer lack of arousal due to an inability to get in the mood. I assume a significant subset of men who can't get an erection also can't really get aroused sexually at all.

You are conflating two separate things (or spectrums, really). There is one spectrum of "how interested are you in sex?" and another of "how easily can you become aroused?", and while they are related they are not at all the same thing. The Viagra ads are targeting men who are very interested in sex but who cannot become physically aroused. Plenty of people are in other places on those spectrums; I suspect that the frustrations come from people who are opposite extremes on both, and satisfaction comes from having them in alignment.

I don't relate to asexuality at all, but I think the world is richer for having all kinds of open and accepted differences in it. I suspect that a lot of great writing and art has come from people who we might identify that way currently, and that there is probably great social value in having accepted roles and understanding of people who don't fit the sex-centric model of relationships. I'm glad these things are being discussed -- it certainly was never mentioned when I was a kid outside of jokes about Catholic priests.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 PM on September 17, 2014


I wouldn't call myself asexual, but like some other folks talked about above, I'm just not as fascinated by it as many people seem to me to be, and our culture certainly is. I don't have any interest in being part of any asexual 'community' (because my interest in other people's sexuality pretty much ends at being committed to letting them do it any way they damn well want to as long as they don't harm anyone else) but if such communities help others, then more power to them.

After having a relatively (judging by talking about it with other male friends and acquaintances, gay and straight both, over the decades) moderate sex drive most of my adult life and occasionally feeling like a bit of an alien because of it, I've long since made my peace with who I am, and I am very happy indeed as I turn the corner into my 50s to find even that moderate level of desire waning somewhat.

Good sex is happyfun goodtimes and all, sure, but for me at least, it's freeing just to not be compelled by my biochemistry to think about it all the damned time. I crave and enjoy physical contact with other humans, but sexual intercourse itself? Seems like more trouble than it's worth, to me, mostly.

But like I've said to more sexy sexed up sexysex people who've been friends my whole life -- if that's the way you roll, then go to it. Just don't go wandering off chasing potential sex partners when you promised to sit down and have a few drinks and a chat with me this evening, damn your horny eyes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think this is one of the more delightful social terms to start slowly spreading into general usage, the separation of gender, sexuality and romantic desire into spectrums, so that you have people increasingly able to articulate or frame their identities as complex and changing, rather than a couple of boxes and anything that doesn't fit into them is strange. It's an open framework rather than checkboxes.

NoraReed, don't give up hope, with biotechnology someday soon you will be the dragon you were meant to be - and there's always Skyrim until then!
posted by viggorlijah at 6:21 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have been wondering if I am creeping towards asexuality. I think technically I would not qualify, but when I find the people around me to be as sexay as George Costanza in his undies and I can't find anyone IRL that I'd want to nail that also wants to nail me, I kinda wonder if it's me rather than them. So to some degree I think I get it a bit.

I have a friend that I suspect is asexual. She dates a lot and definitely wants someone, but it seems pretty clear that she doesn't want a relationship to be even a tiny bit sexual, and when I say that, I mean like "holding hands" level. I think she's had enough ah, past trauma to not want to go there, though she hasn't super clarified that to me. She is usually mentally interested in someone, but it tends to be someone who's taken, out of the usual age range, and/or not the right sexual preference. I fear she'd freak if someone reciprocated and was available and then she'd have to deal with that issue. But as long as her online dates never pan out and the crushes remain uninterested--in short, she's not dealing with someone single who actually would want sex--I think she'll be okay. As long as she's not leading anyone on with that. Though I think dating asexual folk might be better in the long run, but it's up to her.

The other person I heard of who's asexual is a husband of a relative, who told her he wanted to "wait until the wedding night," and by that I mean, wait to tell her he's impotent and refuses to use Viagra and never wants sex again. I don't think that shit is right to pull on anyone. Asexuality is fine as long as you also date someone who is, I think.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:56 PM on September 17, 2014


Call me crazy, but I would feel really weird about telling other people who they should or shouldn't date and what the terms and conditions of their private interpersonal relationships should be.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:22 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


In my experience SSRIs/SNRIs did not make me asexual - I still had the desire to have an orgasm, just not the ability. I did think about sex less, but it was no less a pleasant, slightly intoxicating thought to have than previously.

I do really wonder what it would be like not to want sex at all as an adult - I haven't felt that way since childhood, and even as a kid I think I remember having what I can only describe as proto-sexual thoughts (though, you know, hindsight).

Really appreciate the asexual-and-adjacent MeFites for sharing their thoughts here, btw!
posted by en forme de poire at 12:21 AM on September 18, 2014


When we talk of being gay as an orientation, it makes perfect and reasonable sense that gays would date each other-- that is, after all, what they are trying to have the freedom to do in peace. But whenever asexuality as an "orientation" comes up, somehow the assumption that asexuals should find eachother is considered unreasonable in favor of "sexuals need to understand and accommodate asexuality."
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 4:24 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


There is one spectrum of "how interested are you in sex?"

When we start getting into questions about how interested people are in certain activities or behaviors, even if we're talking about sex, surely that's getting us into the realm of social and cultural values and out of the realm of biology to some extent? Well, that's what I'm interested in isolating. What parts of our sexual attraction and identities are social/cultural versus biological? It's a tangled mess, for sure, but it's not all biology, and I find the idea that some edge cases might help us better understand the landscape fascinating. I think even what arouses us reflexively in the moment is shaped/influenced by our long-term beliefs, attitudes and memories of prior experiences, so it's no minor question what role the fuzzier stuff might play.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:21 AM on September 18, 2014


But whenever asexuality as an "orientation" comes up, somehow the assumption that asexuals should find eachother is considered unreasonable in favor of "sexuals need to understand and accommodate asexuality.

I don't see anyone saying that here. I mostly see "when you date someone, don't assume they're into sex as much as you are", which sounds like solid relationship advice to me.

Incidentally, I personally wonder if part of people's reactions to asexuality being what they are is because we're familiar with people who feel alienated from their own sexuality by their culture. For instance, I have female friends who are sufficiently fed up with the way US society deals with female sexuality they've decided it's easier not to deal with sex outside of serious long-term relationships, even if they might desire otherwise. I wonder if people are familiar with that sort of sentiment and think that that's really what's going on with asexual people. (Surely, though, you could just take people's word for it, when it comes to sexual identity.)
posted by thegears at 6:38 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Asexuality is fine as long as you also date someone who is, I think.

But whenever asexuality as an "orientation" comes up, somehow the assumption that asexuals should find eachother is considered unreasonable in favor of "sexuals need to understand and accommodate asexuality."


The critical piece missing here is communication. What we need, is to not lie to our partners. My husband knows I'm asexual. I know my husband sleeps with men. Ta da. Problem solved. If these terms were unacceptable, we would not be in a relationship with each other. Period.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:42 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


When we talk of being gay as an orientation, it makes perfect and reasonable sense that gays would date each other.

It makes perfect and reasonable sense to me that a gay person can date anybody(ies) they damn well want to, who also wants to date them, or not date, as they prefer. Really, I have no idea what makes other people compatible or incompatible as partners, friends, family, coworkers, whatever, and it's none of my business.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Awareness.

So... this is one of those public conversations I've been grateful for but I have trouble being involved in (Tumblr feels like a loud shouty debate, kind of a house style for social justice talk, which I think I can see in the blog posts linked here). It also feels too personal to talk about, outside of close friends, especially as a topic I'm not wholly decided on.

On one hand, this label would have been immensely helpful as a teenager, when my understanding was that I was somehow broken. Mostly I was lucky to find friends who obsessed over TV shows and hobbies rather than love lives. But relationships were a big topic in other groups, and it's never been easy to broach that topic (all the bravado/sex-positive/shaming/gossipy matchmaking politics). It would have been nice to have asexual as a valid orientation out there.

Now? It doesn't really come up. If anything, it's more about in relationship vs. not in relationship. And I'm not claiming sexuality of any sort as central to my identity. At most, if I really had to pin it down with vocabulary, I would say I'm somewhere between low sex drive and pan/bisexual (if it's a split second choice, I'm more picky about potential partner's voice or build, than gender). "Asexual" doesn't seem to add much, aside from misconceptions about wanting kids or having PTSD about sex or who knows. Also assuming while dating you'd communicate to see if you're compatible asap, using sentences not labels.

All said, I think when you are figuring out what you want from life and/or being a teenager facing peer pressure, it is very useful to have this label-- even as a temporary toehold. So yes I am on board with greater awareness of asexuality. Not to be confused with celibacy or repressed desires. Even if I have feelings here about making a personal issue political. (Can we just skip a few years to the part where it's normal already.)
posted by ana scoot at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


@en forme de poire, no(?) adult desire

I can only speak for myself, but I would agree that in terms of desire (like, spontaneously feeling hungry) I do still feel the same as I did as a kid. I've never thought about it. But I don't think that's particularly remarkable (is there a clear line between childish vs. adult desire for everyone else? I would be interested to hear). Also, desire being different from emotional depth. There's a level of commitment and trust and other warm fuzzy things that goes beyond kid capacity I think.

Three (perhaps disqualifying?) exceptions and situations:
1. One afternoon when I was about 19, for about five hours I was ridiculously distracted by potential makeout opportunities with strangers, like 80% of the students walking in. It never happened again, but... if this is how most people feel, I truly admire and I have no idea how anyone gets anything done.
2. A year after our breakup I finally met up with an ex (zero desirous feelings). Then actually being face to face, my brain kept noticing how well he was filling out that new shirt and wondering what it would that feel like. Feelings went back to normal as we talked and I remembered dealbreaker.
3. Finally, yes the plumbing works. I've consulted the bits down there re: orientation (no epiphany).
Likely TMI: Aside from the lack of hunger, it's hard to even get in the mood unless I'm feeling super cared for, safe, relaxed something like that (otherwise I'm all the grossness like saliva and breathing and warm overpowers the fun stuff)... it's hard for me to compute feeling desire if you haven't already been touching for a while, so I guess it's really in the moment, none of that pining away stuff.


@klangklangston, medical problems and identity philosophy

Before I had heard of this a few years ago, I was going with late bloomer. I haven't had a crush since middle school yet. For the longest time I just assumed it was the same with everyone else, and that the romance talk was largely people trying to fit in (and/or taking COSMO too seriously).

I'm open to the possibility that maybe something is wrong, because low sex drive can be a symptom. I haven't had all the blood tests in the world (hormones, nutrition). But I don't have any suggested problems (diet, exercise, stress, depression, being trans or gay, secret childhood traumas, religious shame, etc). Least not currently. I don't think it's self-esteem either; I don't feel unattractive and I don't have dating troubles (yet?) (not that they all work out of course, and it's not continuous). Not sure what else.

Philosophy and identity-wise, I'm okay as is or if it changes.

Fun fact, for a while I was hoping I'd be more into sex or turn out lesbian, so I could be a True Feminist (I know better now). Not having much of a sex drive is maybe the ultimate housewifely stereotype.. which is kind of a bummer. It's not so good for talking about enthusiastic consent or being sex-positive. It's such a minefield, I don't see how this topic could be safely and productively brought up outside of close friends, it's so easy to hear something judgmental or offensive if you don't have rapport.

This is all just me though, keeping in mind that I'm not in any way involved with asexual activism. For what it's worth, I do have a friend who I think has similar ambivalence about sex who cares more about her indie punk fashion/music identity much more than her straightness, but it's not something I talk about a lot.
posted by ana scoot at 8:06 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I should note re: asexual activism - I have never actually met another identifying asexual in person. I have never carried a sign and generally with strangers, I identify as queer so I don't have to field questions about masturbation and childhood trauma and the like. So activist, I am not.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:18 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I should note re: asexual activism - I have never actually met another identifying asexual in person. I have never carried a sign and generally with strangers, I identify as queer so I don't have to field questions about masturbation and childhood trauma and the like. So activist, I am not.

Yeah, same here, though it's obviously fine if people have strong orientation or gender identifications and/or find it enjoyable or helpful to be parts of communities based on them. Again, none of my business except to support people's choices about the not-harming-others things that are right for them. In terms of my me-ness, it's more orientation=irrelevant, gender=irrelevant -- except insofar as the broader culture uses their own narrow ideas about and obsession with those things as clubs against me and others.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:46 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, Wikipedia seems to suggest there's a strong skew toward asexuality among women, with only around 3--5% of unmarried males in the mix, versus 14--19% of unmarried women.

I 100% believe asexuality is a real thing that exists, but I suspect that this number is heavily influenced by social norms. Women aren't "supposed" to want sex. I remember a thread a while ago about a potential drug to increase female sex drive, and a lot of the comments in the thread were like "lol it's a plot by men lol." And that was here in liberaltown.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:58 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


What I found most fascinating about the article was the discussion of women as resources and/or commodities, and how asexual women are opting out of being resources. Such as this: female asexual people get the usual main course of invalidation with an additional side helping of misogyny. If we’re not available for sex, then, hell, what are we for? Comments directed at asexual men often speculate about what might be wrong with them, but comments directed at asexual women consistently contain fury and violence and disappointment at the idea of a woman who isn’t performing her perceived duty on the planet: satisfying a guy.

And this: when a woman isn’t “taken” (by a guy), it doesn’t really matter what she says; she’s fair game. Dude will respect some absent dude’s claim on a woman, but he won’t respect her word. That woman is Not Being Used. That woman is Up For Grabs. Those are the rules. But what’s this? A single woman who doesn’t want to be partnered? That’s impossible.

I surmise that this ties into the inevitable "hurf durf single women cat hoarders" meme. Cats are known for not being biddable and eager-to-please, as (most) dogs are. That makes them, in some people's eyes (and particularly those of a certain sort of man, IME) useless resource-suckers. Perhaps there's this idea of asexual, unpartnered women - especially older ones - as useless resource-suckers. The nerve of us, taking ourselves off the commodity market! Being asexual, unmarried, and voluntarily childless means that, to some people, I've flunked some kind of Real Grown-Up test.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


Just like in other areas of gender-role performance, the norms around women's sexuality and the expression thereof are just a mass of contradictory, conflicting, insane weirdness designed to ensure that, regardless of how we do anything, we're constantly aware that we're doing it wrong, whatever "it" happens to be.

We are definitely supposed to want sex more than women of my mother's generation (born in 1923) were supposed to. We're just not supposed to want it too much, or in certain ways, and we're only supposed to want it with certain approved persons in approved manners. We're supposed to consider sex and love the same thing.

We're supposed to have supremely fulfilling porn-star sounding orgasms from 2 minutes of "foreplay" and 5 minutes of PIV intercourse. But only in a modest, demure, non-sweaty manner, of course.

We're basically supposed to be sex-bots who enthusiastically do the things some non-existent stereotype of a straight cis-man finds interesting, exciting, and flattering for precisely as long and as much as he wants them, then turn off and become non-sexual the rest of the time.

And yes, we're simultaneously supposed to be "above" sexual desire and physical urges in general and be somewhat resistant to sexual overtures while eventually giving in and appearing to enjoy them. Because men like a challenge but don't like actual rejection.

There's a lot of revolting crap women are "supposed" to do or not do, all at once. One thing I'm sure of is that I don't need a medication to cure my normal, contented, healthy state of being. If you would like to take a medication to help you achieve your normal, contented, healthy state of being, more power to you.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:03 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


But whenever asexuality as an "orientation" comes up, somehow the assumption that asexuals should find eachother is considered unreasonable in favor of "sexuals need to understand and accommodate asexuality.

I don't see anyone saying that here. I mostly see "when you date someone, don't assume they're into sex as much as you are", which sounds like solid relationship advice to me.


For anyone still reading this thread, I'd love it if you could clarify this for me (I hope this isn't clueless or insensitive... I'm surely somewhere on the asexual spectrum myself but haven't thought all this through).

The writer says:
For instance, there are still some places that have consummation laws. In these places, a partner who desires sex can legally annul a marriage if the expected intercourse is not allowed or not possible, and this affects sex-repulsed and sex-reluctant asexual people, among others.

I am unclear on why an asexual "lobby" (if such a thing existed) would oppose annulment on this basis? Why would an asexual person wish to continue a relationship with someone who wanted sex as part of that relationship?

It seems like there's some odd overlap here with conservative doctrine on marriage, i.e. that you don't have sex before marriage, and after marriage you work it out. In conservative Christian doctrine in particular, "withholding" during marriage is strongly discouraged. This way of thinking leaves no room for exploring sexual compatibility as a fundamental part of a relationship, and certainly (it would seem) doesn't allow for asexuality.

I don't agree with this, and I wonder why the author would oppose consummation laws that would give a non-asexual person an out in a non-reciprocal relationship? It seems like annulment would be the best solution. Unless the asexual partner believes he or she has a right to the romantic/legal relationship regardless of the other person's sexual desires?
posted by torticat at 5:41 AM on September 19, 2014


torticat, I don't claim to have insight into consummation laws, but I parse this as power balance. It's the sexual partner that has all the power in the relationship. Cultural issues like this don't exist in a vacuum. Why are they married in the first place? You can't end a marriage because your partner is forcing you into sex against your will.

You don't have to annul the marriage just because you have the option; you could instead use that lever to torture the other person for their insolence.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:19 AM on September 19, 2014


You can't end a marriage because your partner is forcing you into sex against your will.

What? Who says you can't?

Also, as a very sexual person, if I somehow wind up married to an asexual person it will be because they misrepresented their interest in sex in order to get me to marry them, and I will absolutely divorce them, because sex is very important to me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:22 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


showbiz_liz: In places with consummation laws, I expect it would the government, or by proxy the community, saying you can't. Because you're not a person: you're property. You don't get to decide who to marry, or who to divorce. Your marriage was probably arranged and payed for.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:25 AM on September 19, 2014


Ok, granted, but that's not something that's only a problem for asexuals.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:35 AM on September 19, 2014


I think it's completely reasonable that asexuals would have the same problems as everyone else.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:56 AM on September 19, 2014


You said "It's the sexual partner that has all the power in the relationship" and "You can't end a marriage because your partner is forcing you into sex against your will" and "you could instead use that lever [of, what, the expectation that people who are married have sex?] to torture the other person for their insolence" and I guess I'm just not sure what you actually MEAN by any of that. Like... in a society where people expect partners to have sex AND you are unable to get a divorce AND spousal rape is legal, asexuals will have problems? 1. Sure 2. What does that have to do with the conversation?

You were responding to torticat, who was basically saying "I think it should be allowable to annul a marriage with an asexual person if the partner isn't asexual and is unhappy." Your response seems to have nothing to do with that at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:25 AM on September 19, 2014


The question was "Why would the asexual lobby be opposed to annulment on the basis of 'no sex' when they don't want sex?"

The way I make sense of that is: It is not the face-value of marriage-annulment that is the problem, but the power politics involved, in which they have no self-determination. I would be surprised if it is as simple as "I want sex, you don't: Marriage annulled; everyone's happy." Someone is probably going to get stoned, or at least ostracized.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:26 AM on September 19, 2014


I would be surprised if it is as simple as "I want sex, you don't: Marriage annulled; everyone's happy." Someone is probably going to get stoned, or at least ostracized.

So what's the solution? Sexual people must remain married to asexual people? How is that better?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2014


"In places with consummation laws, I expect it would the government, or by proxy the community, saying you can't. Because you're not a person: you're property. You don't get to decide who to marry, or who to divorce. Your marriage was probably arranged and payed for."

It doesn't seem like you're very familiar with the law — in every state, even ones with consummation laws (numbers of which differ in different accounts and I haven't been able to find a straight number on), marital rape is against the law. Likewise, imagining that states with consummation laws means that marriages are arranged and paid for is a mistake; California includes lack of consummation as a cause for annulment. (From what I can tell, consummation is the difference between divorce and annulment in states with consummation laws. But like I said, I haven't investigated all of them.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2014


Yeah... I didn't have the impression that consummation laws were only in sexually repressive places. I did a bit of googling too and found "some states" and the UK, at least.

I do hear what you're saying, I-Write-Essays, about the imbalance of power: that a marriage can be annulled on the basis of no-sex but not on the basis of sex-required. I'm trying to figure out in what way(s) it actually is problematic for sex to be a default assumption within marriage (assuming people can still work out awesome arrangements of their own, as Sophie1 discussed above).

I can see it as a matter of principle (i.e. if sex is required by default, then how much, how often, etc.) but don't see that becoming some kind of legal slippery slope? Apart from that, it seems like the only way non-consummation becomes a practical problem is when there is a) massive failure of premarital communication, as showbiz_liz said; or b) religious restrictions, as I mentioned, that keep people from discovering incompatibilities until after marriage.
posted by torticat at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2014


First, yes! Super-happy that people are not having sex, and sexual experiences they don't want to.
Trying to have sex with people who weren't doing it for me, as a teenager and a young adult? Urgh. So glad I'm so much quicker to cut and run.


As far as asexual self-identification goes, I find this interesting, as I was checking out a porn tumblr, created and curated by a high-libido self-described aromantic asexual woman recently.
See, from what I understand of her self-definition, I'd be described as asexual for most of my life.
If we were going by my self-definition, I'd describe her as primarily male-attracted bisexual.
(I'd self-describe as male-attracted bi - oh, and aromantic).

I think there's a perception that society is more hypersexual than it is. I mean, sometimes, for some people, yeah it is, but for everyone else - where's that quote? You wouldn't have to advertise it so hard if that was so.
It sucks for teenagers though. I mean, semi-sexual? Wow, no wonder you'd feel isolated if you thought people genuinely were attracted to pretty much ANYONE of the appropriate gender.
Orientation labels generally describe who you're NOT attracted to, but for 99% of people, you're still not attracted to everyone, or even most people, of the appropriate gender.

We have so many hurdles at which people are not attractive, before we can get to the people we do want to sleep with.
a) Physical attraction
b) Mental attraction (aka your terrible opinions have turned me off)
c) Some kind of scent thing - Eh, I get close to people, and, no matter how hot I thought the were, nope, they're not sexual to me
d) They're actually good in bed. Body language is hard to learn, and being in sync is hard

*) The other person desires me also (I'm not sure which stage this comes in, probably way earlier).

Only about 1 in 10 of the people I sleep with, pass that bar.
Further, I don't think my sexual attraction to someone fully develops until after I've had a satisfying sexual encounter with someone.

It took me years to figure out how it works. I realised that unlike popular opinion, no matter how long I'm dating, and how commited, or even really, in love, I am with someone, for me, that first time is pretty much a predictor for how good it will ever be. It gets better with time, but never enough for an 'Ok' to be an 'AWESOME!'. Also, that I actually have very little idea of who is going to work out, til I sleep with someone (kissing is not as strong a predictor as I would have thought). So, basically, I have pretty low standards with who I initiate a sexual encounter with, and high standards of who I'll repeat a sexual encounter with.

As a female, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about what has been a sucessful relationship strategy for me, which I am very, very happy I don't buy into.
Because otherwise? I would never have had a satisfying sex life, or really, bothered with a sex life at all.

As it is, I'm happily sexual.



Sexual attraction, I believe, is something we learn.
Like hunger - it can take months for a breast-fed baby to figure out a bottle is something that makes hunger go away. It's entertaining, sure, but if they're hungry? "Why are you trying to distract me with this bottle? I'm HUNGRY!"
People don't reliably know what will satisfy their sexual needs, until after the fact. And even then, it's often the repetition of 'this met my needs', 'this met my needs' - oh, I'm now attracted to whatever is meeting my needs.

Some people will define only attraction that ends in sexual encounters with someone else, as valid. So, the woman from tumblr at the top, even though she has specific attractions in porn, identifies as asexual, whereas a friend of mine, who slept with less people, identifies as gay, because of his porn preferences. As long as you're only defining yourself, that's fine.

Unfortunately, many people assume that, maybe because they developed from asexual to sexual, that it'll be the same for everybody.
And treating everybody as having the same needs, always works out well. Not.
posted by Elysum at 5:18 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


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