Young, Attractive, and Totally Not Into Having Sex by K McGowan
(Link): Young, Attractive, and Totally Not Into Having Sex by K McGowan
- It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter.
- In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex.
- They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual.
- Not sure what these terms mean? You’re not alone. The definitions are still in flux, but most people who describe themselves as demisexual say they only rarely feel desire, and only in the context of a close relationship.
- Gray-asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest. Then there are the host of qualifiers that describe how much romantic attraction you might feel toward other people: Genevieve says she could theoretically develop a nonsexual crush on just about any type of person, so she is “panromantic”; Sean is drawn to women, so he calls himself “heteroromantic.”
- If the taxonomy seems loose and even confusing, it’s because the terms were created almost wholly online, arising on gaming-site forums and a nest of interrelated Tumblrs, blogs, and subreddits.
- They don’t necessarily describe fixed identities but serve more as beacons for people to locate each other online. While the rest of the world was using the web to invent and gratify new pervy thrills, these people used it as a wormhole out of a relentlessly sexual culture. It might be the only corner of the Internet that is not laced with porn.
- So although labels are a big part of it, demisexuals and gray-aces don’t get too caught up in the lingo. They tend to be pretty comfortable with the idea they might change. A few months after that Friday at the outreach center, Genevieve realized she is more of an asexual than a gray-ace, and Sean now isn’t sure if he’s demi or ace. “Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual,” says Claudia, a 24-year-old student from Las Vegas. “Us aces are like: whatevs.”
- Friends and family often find such identities flat-out strange and assume that it’s all some kind of postadolescent phase or that something is seriously wrong. They might wonder if it’s really just a stop on the way to homosexuality or maybe the result of trauma or a hormone imbalance. But to those who embrace this approach to sex, it’s just how they are. Sex is “fascinating from a clinical point of view, but personally? No,” Rae says. “I have better things to do with my time.”
- The conventional wisdom today is that lust and gratification are natural and healthy, a nonnegotiable aspect of being human. We presume that freedom of sexuality is a fundamental human right. But the idea of freedom from sexuality is still radical. It is an all-new front of the sexual revolution.
Asexuality has slowly been coming out of the closet for more than a decade. In 2001, a Wesleyan University student named David Jay created a website called the (Link): Asexual Visibility and Education Network. It started as a repository of information about all things asexual. When forums were added a year later, members started trickling in. By 2004 there were a thousand. Today there are some 80,000 registered users.
- But for some people, the idea of being completely and entirely asexual still didn’t quite fit.
- The word demisexual seems to have come into being on an AVEN forum on February 8, 2006. It was coined by somebody who was trying to explain what it was like to be mostly, but not entirely, asexual.
- The term caught on only in the last few years, and now most people who are demisexual say their desire arises rarely and only from a deep emotional connection.
- For a demisexual, there is no moment of glimpsing a stranger across the room and being hit with a wave of lust. “I’ve only ever been sexually attracted to three people in my whole life,” wrote one self-described demisexual, Olivia, a few years ago. “My partner is sexually attracted to that many people during particularly sexy bus rides.”
- Beyond that, there’s a lot of variability. Some demis and gray-aces have occasional flare-ups of desire, some say they’re indifferent to sex, and others find the thought of it repellent. Some masturbate. Others, like Claudia, even write erotica. “It has no relationship to your actual desire to have sex with someone in real life,” she says.
- Some demisexuals say they have strong sexual urges that just don’t connect to anyone in particular. “I want to have lots of crazy, kinky sex, just not with anyone,” says Mike, a 27-year-old Canadian who works in a factory. “If someone tried to initiate something, I’d throw my hands in the air and run out of the room screaming.”
- … Although there’s no definitive proof that hormones have nothing to do with it, most asexuals go through puberty normally and don’t seem to have hormonal or physiological problems. In one of Brotto’s studies, asexual women’s physical arousal responses were no different from other women’s.
- ….Friends and family, not so much. Brotto’s study of 806 men and women, published in 2013 in the journal Psychology & Sexuality, found mental health issues were more common among asexuals—perhaps as a result of stigma and isolation. “Everyone is pressuring you: ‘Why aren’t you dating? You need to get laid. Why aren’t you paying attention to these women?’” Mike says.
- In general, asexuals aren’t persecuted so much as shunned and mocked. “We’re not demonized—we’re laughed at,” Genevieve says. In one recent small survey conducted by two psychologists at Canada’s Brock University, asexuals were rated negatively. Asexuals just seem less than human, people said.
It’s not that she’s a prude, or too shy, or timid, or just hasn’t met the right guy. Genevieve is endearingly nerdy, but she’s also a bit badass, the kind of person who loves bugs and science but also cracks dirty jokes and looks good in a leather jacket. She’s 26, tall and pretty, with long golden hair. (She has taken periodic breaks from school to work and play music.) And—surprise!—she’s married to a man she calls the love of her life, a rugged Tennessee country guy named James.
- …It wasn’t that she [Genevieve, rock band lead singer] was antisex in principle or morally opposed to what she saw. That part of the scene just didn’t appeal to her, and she knew she’d soon be expected to play along by making her image sexier, wearing her skirts shorter and her tops tighter. Disillusioned, she quit the world of rock and roll: “I thought it was about art, and they were just going backstage and fucking people.”
- …..Over curries at a Thai restaurant near campus, Genevieve, Sean, and Rae lament the almost complete invisibility of asexuality and its variations in mainstream culture. Last summer, an asexual woman, Julie Sondra Decker, published a primer on the subject, The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality.
- And there have been a few pop culture glimmers, such as the recent flurry over Daryl Dixon, a character on the zombie show The Walking Dead. A fan fave, Dixon is a mysterious, brooding hero who’s never been involved in any romantic or sexual scenarios.
- Responding to speculation that the character was gay, creator Robert Kirkman recently described Dixon as “somewhat asexual” during an episode recap. “Tumblr exploded,” Genevieve says. “Yeah, it’s just a television show … but this just doesn’t happen.”
Edit. Feb 24, 2015
Jezebel recently ran this coverage of the same story – this is a site that usually mocks and ridicules celibacy and virginity – there is usually little respect for people who choose to abstain sexually. The article also mentions demisexuals.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that sexual deviants and hedonists only seem to respect being sexually abstinent if it is chalked up to an “orientation,” rather than a CHOICE.
Which is hypocritical, because the progressives, left wingers, etc, often are blow-hards insisting that everyone respect everyone else’e choice. They want you to respect their “choice” to sleep around like sluts, but they refuse to respect people who choose to sexually refrain.
- Such designations may sound strange to anyone charting themselves on a fairly “normal”—that is to say, culturally reinforced and gender-aligned—lust spectrum. Even within this spectrum, there are so many questions and variances. How much do other people inspire lust in you, and what people, and in what way, and how quickly, and does it line up with what you were taught you should feel, and how comfortable are you with that? We may be growing accustomed to dealing in these categories, but less so when the category is lust-free.
- And, reading McGowan’s piece, what is refreshing about asexual status is that its proponents are so much more fluid about the terminology of their own desire, and much more open to the notion that their feelings today may or may not be their feelings tomorrow. “Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual,” 24-year-old student Claudia told McGowan.
- The idea that a sexual identity could fundamentally be fluid is an idea that often inspires anger in others. Bisexual people know all too well the implication that they should just “pick a side.” But for many asexuals, any final question is unanswerable.
- And I would argue that sexuality is fluid for many people—many more people than admit as much, or even understand as much after a lifetime of conditioning. The ability to embrace that ambiguity comfortably can signify the opposite of dysfunction: being deeply attuned to yourself. Being aware of your own complicated response to lust in a world where everyone else’s appears far more straightforward and predictable takes a certain bravery.
- But try telling that to the friends and family members of asexuals, who often stigmatize their loved ones when they wonder—as McGowan notes—whether these orientations are simply the result of a phase, closeted homosexuality, hormone trouble, or trauma. Many of McGowan’s interview subjects insist to her that they are not simply shy prudes. Some of them, like one Genevieve, dream more of talking on the phone and handholding then intercourse (she was called a cold fish growing up). It took her three years before she felt interested in sex with her boyfriend, James, who waited patiently. They are now married.
Regarding this quote:
- “The idea that a sexual identity could fundamentally be fluid is an idea that often inspires anger in others.”
Yeah, including liberals – liberals also get angry at people like me who ID as “X” (in my case, hetero) but who refuse to have sex for whatever reason. According to many liberals and feminists, we are weirdo losers if we are not hiking up our skirts and having sex with other people.
(Link): Asexual and Happy – from New York Times
(Link): Why Aren’t Millennials Having Sex Anymore? via Relevant Magazine
(Link): Asexuality and Asexuals