Since the dawn of time, humans have fucked. In beds, in showers, in nightclubs and elevators and ferris wheel cars the location doesn't matter, it seems, nor do the ages, genders, or even the number of people involved in the carnal act. Whether it's for procreation or pleasure, humans have sex; it's just what they do. Or at least, it's what the majority of humans do. But for every ninety-nine sexual people, be they straight or gay or something in between, there is one person who simply has no sexual desire whatsoever. This is what the poor young man who followed me into a Michael's craft store because he "thinks I have a fine ass" didn't understand. While his pathetic pick-up attempts would fail to win my heart anyway (honestly, did he think I would date a complete stranger just because he interrupted my critical analysis of scrap-booking stickers to compliment my butt?), his efforts were doomed from the start for one reason: I am asexual. All the clever pick-up lines in the world couldn't get me into bed with anyone, man or woman, because I am not sexually attracted to either gender. At all.
Finally embracing my asexuality after years of lacking a proper term for my sexual indifference, I must admit that I expected a warmer reception to my discovery. Instead, though, oftentimes the reaction I receive from most people when I broach the subject of asexuality is genuine confusion. Even barring the inevitable amoebic jokes ("what, so, like, you reproduce by dividing into another copy of yourself?"), I usually find myself forced to explain in infuriating detail exactly what asexuality is. While people seem to generally accept the existence of alternate sexualities like homosexuality and bisexuality, asexuality is apparently so baffling a concept that it warrants deeper inspection.
A few years ago, my frustration drove me to write a short, light-hearted essay called "Asexy Pride" which celebrated the freedom from sexual tension and drama which asexuality affords. I didn't expect much reaction when I submitted the essay to the art and literature website Deviantart.com, but the influx of comments I have received over the past two years continues to astound me. Asexuals of all ages and genders have left me jubilant comments, eager to share their own experiences and thank me for defending an orientation which they, too, have so often been told outright doesn't exist. One girl confided, "I get more enjoyment out of doing laundry than if I were to have sex. Laundry, vacuuming, etcetera... even chores sound more appealing!" Another shared my exasperation, ranting "for fuck's sake! I'm a twenty [year old] asexual female, and if in twenty years I haven't been attracted not a single time to a boy or girl or anything, shit, I think I know my own fucking sexuality". That's when I realized that I'm not the only one frustrated by the majority of the responses I'd been getting to my asexuality; asexuals everywhere are running into the same misconceptions. So let me untangle a few of these preconceived notions and shed light on this mysterious sexuality.
1) Asexuality doesn't actually exist - asexuals are just people who don't feel like having copious amounts of sex or who choose to remain celibate.
Until I started announcing I was asexual to friends and acquaintances, it never occurred to me that people might just refuse to believe in asexuality. I know it can be hard for someone of a certain sexual orientation to wrap his or her mind around a different one, but it's baffling to have someone simply tell you to your face that your sexual orientation (or lack thereof) doesn't exist. "Excuse me?" you want to reply. "Are you saying I'm wrong about my own lack of sexual attraction? Do you know my libido better than I do?" After all, the urge to have sex isn't exactly something you could confuse with another desire. It's not like I look at a hot guy and think "gosh, I'm sure hungry" instead of "damn, look at those abs!" No, I'm one hundred percent positive that the sight of the human body has never caused me to go weak in the knees, feel butterflies in my stomach, or get any of those odd "tingly" feelings that everyone talks about.
And this nonexistent libido of mine isn't temporary. As fluid as human sexuality may be, I firmly believe a person cannot be asexual "sometimes". You're not asexual just because you don't feel like having sex today, because you choose not to engage in sexual activities for an extended period of time, or because you find most people your age boring or unattractive or otherwise not worth your attention. Asexuality is different from celibacy and temporary disinterest. Asexuality is permanent, as intrinsic a part of a person as any other sexual orientation. To believe that asexuality is a choice, that it can be turned on or off at a moment's notice, undermines and belittles the role asexuality plays in a person's sense of self.
2) Asexuals are just closeted homosexuals who are ashamed of their sexuality.
The human body is disgusting. There, I said it. It sweats, leaks, oozes, and otherwise emits all manner of foul fluids and gases. Flesh sags in unattractive wrinkles and rolls, dusted in a fine layer of hairs like the arms of an ape. Lips are moistened by a spongy tongue riddled with germs and food particles and who knows what else. Why would I want those puckered lips on my own? Why would I want that infectious tongue wriggling around in my mouth? I understand most people are willing to overlook the grotesque byproducts of the human body for its more attractive qualities and the thrill of intercourse, but I simply can't imagine why I would ever want to put my mouth on an organ someone else uses to pee. No thank you.
My intense aversion to nudity and the human body is the reason why I have never understood the "repressed homosexual" argument. I'm not asexual, just a lesbian who won't admit she has a thing for nice tits or long legs? No offense, but I think I would know if I were sexually attracted to women. You can't spend much time on the internet without stumbling across pictures of half-naked coeds almost bursting out of their skimpy lace outfits, so I can say with all surety that women don't turn me on. I'm much more likely to wonder where a scantily-clad model bought that cute school-girl outfit than to imagine her lounging on my bed with a "come hither" expression. Asexuals aren't repressed. Asexuals aren't in denial. Asexuals simply don't see anything in a naked body beyond physical characteristics. Sure, they may perceive beauty in the human form, but that beauty doesn't translate to lust. An asexual may believe a man is handsome because of his straight nose and angular jaw, or a woman beautiful because of her ivory skin and long lashes; like admiring fine art, such features can be appreciated from afar without the desire to touch or covet. For example, I often joke that I have a lesbian crush on Ukrainian-born actress Milla Jovovich because of her pouty lips and curvaceous body. But given the choice of either spending the night having wild sex with the starlet or watching horror movies with her, I'd choose Resident Evil and popcorn every time.
3) Asexuality isn't a natural sexual orientation, but the result of past trauma or abuse.
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the belief that homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse is pervasive among many religious organizations. Unfortunately, it's not only the religiously zealous who believe that asexuality is caused by some trauma in a person's past. While most logical people now seem to agree that sexual orientation is determined biologically and therefore technically beyond a person's control, asexuality is still seen as a deviation from the norm. I can't count the number of times I've had to append a comment about my asexuality with "don't worry, I wasn't molested as a kid or anything." Apparently, in order to lack sexual urges, you must be scarred, depressed, or otherwise intensely damaged.
Although this excuse will illicit a groan from most readers, I'm going to fall back on the "blame society" bandwagon as the source of the molestation misconception. After all, we're so bombarded with sexuality from a young age that it's impossible for most people to imagine a life that lacks interest in, or even just physical desire for, sex. Even in a time when the spectrum of sexual orientations is introduced to children sooner and sooner, those kids are still presented with few options: you can be straight, gay, or bisexual. I had never even heard of asexuality until I took an introductory psychology class in my freshmen year of college. Asexuality isn't even on the radar of most high school health classes yet, so when someone is asexual, most people assume something has made them that way: they have been abused or suffer from some psychological disorder. Yet in my experience, most asexuals are happy and healthy, not troubled deviants or victims.
4) Asexuals just haven't met the right man or woman or asexuals are late bloomers and therefore naïve about sex - if they just try it, they'll probably like it.
"Late bloomer" I am not. I'm twenty-one years old; my puberty is past. My unfortunate teenage acne has cleared, I've been menstruating for years, and my breasts aren't going to grow any larger without some artificial assistance. By any society's standards, I'm physically an adult. So why do some people consider me a late bloomer, as if I'm some seedling sprung too late from its shell? Why does my asexuality suddenly relegate me to the awkward preteen years when one still waded through new and unfamiliar emotions? There is no magical time frame after which an asexual will simply wake up one morning and shout "eureka, I'm straight!" or "of course, I'm gay, how could I have missed it?"
Could I just be naïve about sex, then? Hardly. I sat through ninth grade health class just like everyone else. I know how sex works and where all the parts go, and it seems like a pretty graphic act to me. I'm not afraid of sex; I just don't particularly feel the need to engage in anything that involves words like "thrusting" and "penetration". Nor am I going to pick up a stranger at a bar just to see what all the fuss is about. After all, if I can't be certain about my asexuality without first engaging in sexual intercourse, can't the same be said of any orientation? "You can't know you're not homosexual until you've given gay sex its fair chance." "You can't know you're not bisexual until you've taken part in at least one threesome." When it comes to sex and sexuality, I don't believe "you won't know until you try it" is always the best advice. Better to follow your gut instinct, and my gut tells me that gender doesn't matter; no one's getting into my panties.
5) Asexuality is a problem; asexuals should be pitied and "fixed" so they won't be alone forever.
Society paints a pretty bleak future for unattached adults: single serving Lean Cuisine dinners eaten in front of the TV; evenings spent piecing together old jigsaw puzzles or playing Solitaire for hours on end; conversations not with your significant other over candlelight and wine, but with your seven cats over a gallon of cookie dough ice cream. You become the crazy cat lady down the street, the awkward third wheel at every social function, the focus of rumors and bad jokes and sympathetic blind dates. "But don't you want to get married?" people ask in shock. "Wouldn't you be happier, you know... with someone?" Somehow, your solitary lifestyle scares others more than it does yourself. Inevitably, this pathetic existence is extended to all asexuals, as if asexuality alone dooms a person to an incomplete life. But asexuality doesn't equal loneliness. After all, relationships are about more than just sex (and in fact, sex sometimes complicates things further). Many asexuals date, either other asexuals or non-asexuals willing to forgo intercourse, and form loving, sexless relationships. Even asexuals such as myself, who have no interest in romantic relationships and choose to remain unattached, are still surrounded by a supportive network of friends and family. Asexuality frees a person from the troubles of dating, the trials of sexual tension, and the tribulations of romantic confusion. With those worries out of the way, relationships are much simpler.
I'm not standing on my soapbox here. I'm not proposing an Asexuality Awareness Month (though I do appreciate the alliteration) or that asexuals start parading through the streets. All I want is to show that asexuals don't need to be fixed or altered. We only want the same recognition of our orientation as everyone else, and I think it's high time we got just that. I want society to celebrate a person's asexuality the way it embraces every other sexual orientation. After all, one isn't always the loneliest number; in my experience, at least, one can be perfectly content on its own.