Wednesday, April 2, 2008


One of the wonderful things about the internet is how much it facilitates learning stuff, lots of stuff, stuff you never even thought about thinking about. This week I have been learning about asexuality through a fantastic website AVEN. Asexuality seems like one of those things that it seems obvious exists, like the stock market or electricity. And like the electricity and the international markets, I have no idea how asexuality works, or at least didn't until I became fascinated by this website (it didn't tell me anything about the nasdaq but that's ok, I'm not really interested)

I am not asexual, I have known I had a sex drive for a very long time, pretty much ever since I bought Pulp's, 'Different Class' .
Not only that, but I think sex is pretty much the most interesting thing ever. How ,when, why, with whom, how what we do is connected to and/or constructed by the world in which we live. I could talk about sex until the cows come (yup there it is, the worst joke I have ever made) I appreciate that some people like to keep these things private, which is probably why it is all so interesting.

So learning that there are a whole group of people out there who just don't have sexual attraction to anybody, seemed like a bit of an alien concept to me. Hard to get to grips with, what do they do in relationships? how come they don't want to have sex, I mean that's like not wanting to eat surely?
The more I read of this site the more I realised that asexuality is a perfectly valid thing, and the fact that the world we live in is so hyper-sexual (at least our western one) explains why few people understand asexuality. Part of me was like, 'huh, lucky them - never have to worry about going ages without sex'. This is a completely stupid reaction; in a world where everybody expects sexuality being asexual could be very isolating. It must be very difficult having people think that there is something wrong with you (probably more tough than extended dry periods)
Asexuality is probably less understood than homosexuality even though it is not a particularly difficult concept. You may be attracted to men, women , (trans men trans women queers tick as many boxes as you wish) or just nobody. There are people I am attracted to and people I am not, it is perfectly logical and valid that a person just might not be attracted to anybody.

The AVEN website is fascinating because people are so open about their relationships and sex lives, I guess because they frequently encounter so much curiosity. Where I do think that it would totally be within their rights to say - 'we are asexual, deal with it, and fuck right off with your patronising curiosity' I do find it fascinating hearing so many people talk about how their relationships work in a totally non-sexual context. (Even though again, it's not very difficult to understand, I have very emotionally involved friendships with people I am not sexual with.)
Most of the relationships people speak about, do seem very deep and worthwhile and there is even something appealing about the way that they are always looking for something which to me seems 'beyond sex'. Though thinking about it, it's not really 'beyond sex' it's just without it. An absence of something that has never been there anyway. For a sexual person, the mutual understanding and emotional connection may be 'beyond sex', because we tend to measure our relationships by the act of intercourse. Sex first, other stuff later. People we sleep with, people we don't. It's romanticising asexuality to assume that their relationships are automatically 'deep and meaningful', they may or may not be, asexuals are just not oriented toward sexuality so they just won't want sex, or at least they won't have sexual attraction. They are not choosing something very deep over something shallow, they just don't want sex. It's like if a person just doesn't like chocolate so they don't eat it. They may or may not be healthy ( they might stick to fruit and veg, or they might always eat fry ups for example)
Still I find myself admiring these relationships that don't have sex at their core, and can't help thinking that maybe sexuals have something to learn from asexuals in the way we value relationships.

Then again, I also can't help fancying the pants off the main spokesperson for asexuality David Jay....

This is a trailer for a documentary on asexuality which looks quite interesting.

I guess it's good to understand other people, and there are so many things in life that make us aware of the massive multiplicity of experiences, and allow us to step outside our own.
It does make me wonder where asexuality and feminism all fits together. if you believe sexuality to be socially constructed then that goes for asexuality too. We don't want to be hetero-normative, how does asexuality fit into that? How does one avoid being 'sexual-normative'? Perhaps this is all rather individualistic and there are plenty of much more pressing issues out there above and beyond the sexuality of individuals.
Anyway that's all for now, would be interested in the thoughts of others.

1 comment:

GMH said...


I was very impressed by your post. AVEN is a great site. I sometimes post there.

It is very annoying being an asexual in todays hyper-sexualised culture. It's interesting that you point out sex as being one of the most interesting things about being with someone. For me it bores the hell out of me. I watch the L Word and they have very long sex scenes. Usually I fast forward. I get it. They are having sex and it's integral to the plot but I don't need to see 3 minutes of seduction.

I'm always wondering how much this intercepts with my feminism. Naturally being repulsed by sex, I find our culture very difficult and can see how it treats women. Is this just a strong reaction on my part though? I do like to think that I can accept others sexuality very well but do I ever go too far? As 1% of the population, am I ignoring others sexuality? I think I have a healthy balance. While most porn bores me, I can still draw the line between boring and offensive. I don't think I'm alone in thinking so.

More people should be aware of asexuality but unfortunately this interest can become offensive. I had an encounter in a popular gay bar where the men were fascinated but asked annoying questions (as previously identified as lesbian, it goes along the lines of "have you always known? Are you sure?") whereas the girl in their group was downright hostile. She thought my rejection of sex was a criticism of herself (the reason why she was out on that particular night was to go home with somebody). According her, everybody is the same and have the same sexual urges, to which I pointed out that it was a fallacy. "All you need is a good fuck". Well, analytically speaking I've had many but it doesn't turn me. It's interesting to know that even not wanting sex if a threat to others.

Incidentally, I want the tshirt saying "Asexuals have other things on their mind". It is too true and I'm thankful for it.