Talking about asexuality can be difficult. It’s not something that many people are familiar with. For a long time, I struggled trying to gain a handle on what it was that I was, or wasn’t, feeling. I just didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to grasp it. I think that my friend realized I was asexual before I ever did. She didn’t have the vocabulary either. It took another friend years later to finally give me the right words.
They made all the difference.
For a long time, I struggled to understand if there was something wrong with me. It was the feeling when I noticed that my relatives had stopped asking if I had a significant other yet, or the guilt that came with kissing someone and feeling bored and not knowing why.
Maybe some vocabulary will help. I identify as demisexual. Asexuality is not black and white — like any orientation, it comes with its own litany of distinctions. Demisexuals do experience sexual attraction, but only to certain people, and typically only after forming some kind of emotional connection. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel romantic attraction, just that it and sexual attraction don’t necessarily come as a package deal. It also doesn’t mean that I am sex-averse. Some asexuals have sex, and others don’t. Some have a desire to be in romantic relationships and others are fine by themselves, thank you very much. It varies from person to person. Asexuals encompass the sex-positive, the sex-repulsed, heteroromantic, homoromantic and everything in between.
Finding these words helped put a name to the confusion I had been feeling, and that made a world of difference. When the unknown is removed from something, it becomes familiar, easier to face, to understand and, eventually, to embrace. Asexuality is a part of who I am, and the ability to finally give it a name has been empowering.
For those who have been going through similar confusion, I hope that finding the right words can help. Know, though, that they do not solve everything. There will still be confusing times. Some people may tell you that you’re just a late bloomer or will insist that the “right one” will come along eventually. Some might say you just don’t understand yet because you haven’t had sex, or that they can “fix it for you.” It can be difficult to share with your friends and family when there doesn’t seem to be much common ground to stand on.
To be clear, I am not sex-repulsed, but I don’t feel a desire for sex. When I go to the bars with my friends I do see that attractive girl at the pool table, or that good-looking guy on the dance floor, but that’s where it ends. Yes, they’re very attractive. Do I want to sleep with them? Nope. I think this is where things get fuzzy for a lot of people. You can be asexual and still find people attractive. You can be asexual and still enjoy sex. What it comes down to in the end, at least for me, is that I don’t find I have any particular need to have sex in the first place.
Being any shade of asexual in college comes with its own unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to relationships. The prospect of romantic relationships is a tricky one for me. How does one balance the needs and wants of an asexual partner with those of a sexual partner? The best answer I can think of is to talk. To talk and to find a place in between that works for both parties while being respectful of each person’s boundaries. On the frustrating side of things, it can be difficult to find a partner that is willing or able to make those kind of adjustments, and there can be a lot of self-doubt surrounding the feasibility of a relationship without sex.
Outside of relationships, sexual situations in general just tend to feel uncomfortable. Listening to your roommate and her friend compare how often they have morning sex can be a hard conversation to be a part of. You might not know quite how to tell that girl at the party that it isn’t her, you’re just not looking to get laid. Or maybe you’ve found someone you actually are attracted to and you don’t have the slightest clue where to go from there.
If any of this sounds familiar, just know that you’re not alone. While asexuality remains far from being the most visible of orientations, there is plenty of support available. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is the world’s largest online asexual community and offers a place to talk for asexual and sexual people alike. It also holds a large collection of resources on asexuality, including pages specifically created for family, friends or partners of asexual individuals. Talking about asexuality is difficult but, bit by bit, we’re finding the words to do so.