Missing a Permission Slip

[Content Warning: Discussion of masturbation and sex and stuff.]

Not too long ago, over on Asexual Activities, there was a discussion about aces having trouble masturbating in one way or another.  So I started writing about the problems I encountered learning how to do it.  Along the way, I realized that there was something else getting in the way that I’d never really thought about too much.  It’s always been there and the strength of it comes and goes, but it touches pretty much every interaction I have with sexuality.

I don’t feel like I have permission to have sexuality.  It doesn’t feel like it’s mine.  It’s like I stole it from someone else and I’m going to get in trouble if someone finds out that I have it.  And I’ve never read the instructions, so I have no idea how to use the thing anyway.

I know that sort of sounds like guilt or shame, but it doesn’t really feel like that’s what it is.  Guilt or shame implies that I think I’m doing something shameful or that I’m guilty of doing something wrong.  I know it’s not anything that’s wrong and I know it’s not anything that’s shameful.  It’s like one day I discovered that there was a mysterious $1000 deposit in my bank account.  It’s not mine, I don’t know where it came from.  I should tell the bank that they made a mistake, but everyone else says that they got the same mysterious deposit, and they’re going around spending it, with the bank’s blessing.  But I don’t know what to spend it on and it doesn’t really belong to me, so I keep it in the account.  I check on it once in a while, and it’s always still there.

Let’s start by getting some terminology out of the way.  I’m not using “sexuality” as a synonym for sexual orientation.  I am asexual, and that’s not in doubt.  It’s likely even a large contributor to why I feel this way.  I’m using “sexuality” to refer to my feelings, thoughts, interactions, reactions related to sex and other stuff in that general neighborhood.

Now, some statements of fact which feel relevant to what I’m going to talk about:  I own a penis.  I experience physical arousal.  There are external factors which sometimes cause physical arousal.  I masturbate.  I enjoy it.  I have sex toys.  I look at porn.  I have had sex twice.  Fifteen years ago.  I live alone.  I am asexual.


When I hit puberty and first learned how to masturbate, it was something beyond top secret and fraught with peril.  Messages from all over were telling me how terrible it was.  You’ll go blind!  You’ll grow hair on your hands!  You’ll go sterile!  It’s a sin!  It was something only losers did.  My ultra-Christian neighbor from an American Taliban household even gave me a mixtape that had a Christian Punk song about how “Masturbation is artificial sex” that probably detailed the eternal fiery horrors that awaited those who went downtown.  (Fun fact:  The pervy neighbor kid mentioned in the other post?  Same guy.)  Of course, none of those messages were coming from my parents.  They never talked to me about it, but I suspect their thoughts would have been “Lock the door and clean up after”.  But those messages were so pervasive from other places that they absolutely tainted how I felt, even though I didn’t believe most of them.

And it tainted what I did.  No one could ever find out.  I would take precautions worthy of an undercover agent.  Only in the shower, where the evidence will be washed away and if someone walks in, I can say I’m just cleaning it, nothing else going on.  Eventually, that expanded to being willing to do it while sitting on the toilet, but in that case, I had to use toilet paper to wrap myself and catch every drop.  (Not sure how I was going to explain that if someone walked in…)

Either way, securely locked in the bathroom was the only place I was willing to do it for years.  On extremely rare occasions, I would grab a bit of hand lotion from the front room, but that felt like a mission behind enemy lines.  The house had to be vacant and expected to remain that way for hours if not days, all the doors were locked and checked, all the rooms were cleared, and then I’d make my move, grabbing a bit of lotion and running to the safety of the locked bathroom.  I was terrified that every milliliter of lotion was being tracked and that I’d be discovered, so I did not do this often.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to try it in my bedroom.  I think my parents were going to be gone for the weekend, and I was home alone.  I triple checked the house to make sure it was empty, closed all the curtains in the house, checked the garage to make sure their car was gone, locked all the doors, then went into my bedroom and locked that door, too.  I didn’t strip naked and get comfortable on my bed in order to have the most relaxed and pleasant experience possible.  Instead, I was kneeling in front of my bedroom window, watching the driveway through a crack in the blinds, just in case.  I kept my clothes on and did the deed through my fly.  Not only was it all wrapped up in toilet paper, I added a layer of paper towel, to be extra special sure that everything would be contained.  That happened maybe twice, total.  Too risky.

Masturbation was something I did, but not something I felt I was allowed to do.  It felt good, but it really wasn’t something I was able to enjoy, because I constantly had to be on guard or taking steps to hide the evidence.

I mention all of this, not to tell funny/embarrassing stories of my youth, but to detail how secret and forbidden I felt the whole thing was, and the lengths I felt I had to go to to conceal it.  And certainly, I’m sure that other teenagers went through the same sorts of cloak-and-dagger routine to hide what they were doing.  But some of that never left me.


Fast forward, years later.  I have my own place.  I knew by then that masturbation was common and that it didn’t cause random hair growth, etc.  It had, by then, largely turned into something I was able to enjoy.  But there were still limits.  It was still done in the shower most of the time.  I was able to occasionally work up the nerve to do it naked and relaxed in bed, but that was rare.  I lived alone.  No one would catch me, no one would know, but still, it somehow felt like the locked bathroom was the only truly private, safe place I had.

I had moved beyond using toilet paper and had discovered that various lubricants worked much better.  But those had to be purchased.  At a store.  Where I had to get them off a shelf.  Where I had to walk around the store with the item in my cart.  Where a checkout clerk had to scan them.  They are going to know.  They are going to know why I’m buying hand lotion.  They are going to know and they are going to report me.

Buying sex toys was a multi-faceted operation.  First, finding the toy involved a lot of false starts and cleared search history.  When I finally found something, it was probably a couple of weeks before I actually made the purchase.  I used a second browser and completely cleared out the history when I was done.  No one else ever used my computer, but you could never be too careful.  (Not to mention the fear that the computer would somehow glitch out and start forwarding the order receipt to everyone I knew, or that it would set a picture of the item as my wallpaper and not let me change it.)  Then, when the item arrived, it was dropped off at the leasing office, so I had to go in to pick it up.  They have x-ray eyes or the box broke open so they know somehow.  They know.  They’re all going to laugh at me and I’m going to get evicted now.  I even remember thinking that my new job would find out about it somehow and fire me.

Who did I think was going to find out my dark secret?  Why did I think it was a dark secret?  I knew there was nothing wrong with it, but why did it feel wrong?

But no, not wrong.  Not bad.  Not in itself.  It wasn’t about someone discovering that I masturbate, it was about someone discovering that I was in possession of something that didn’t belong to me.  That act, those feelings, that glimmer of sexuality, I wasn’t supposed to have that.  I could pretend that it was mine, I had learned how enough of it worked to get by, but in the end, it wasn’t mine.  And any time I tried to embrace a part of it or expand on what I knew, that put me at risk of the whole thing falling apart.  Changing routine is what gets you caught.


I’ve been talking about masturbation a lot, because that’s my primary interaction with the world of sexuality, it’s not just that I feel like this about.  Anything remotely sexual seems to set off the same alert buzzers in my head.  I remember agonizing for a month about whether or not I should stop by the Student Health Center at college to pick up a free condom, because it seemed like a good idea to know how they worked.  Even when I went to the health center a couple of times for something unrelated, I couldn’t bring myself to grab a few, because someone might see me.  For years, any sort of undressing had to be done within the protection of the locked bathroom.  I couldn’t change at the closet where all the clothes were.  If I didn’t have a towel after a shower, I would have to dart to the hall closet to get one, after carefully peeking my head out the door to make sure no one was around. Sleeping in the nude was right out.  Hell, sleeping in anything less than full clothes on even the hottest nights wasn’t something I felt I could do.  (And this is all when I lived alone in my own apartment and there was no reasonable expectation that anyone would be there.)  Whenever coworkers or friends talk about sex, I tend to shut off and pull back into my shell.  Certain types of sex scenes in movies make me uncomfortable to watch.  Beaches in Hawaii were unpleasant because of the amount of skin present.


While things have changed and gotten better over the years, this still comes up even today.  I rarely go downstairs in my house unless I’m fully dressed.  I still think that the mail carrier and neighbors will know what’s in certain packages I get, or that some package thief will grab one and blackmail me over what’s inside.  Any book that’s remotely sex related (Even a general anatomy reference guide) doesn’t get put on the bookshelf, it gets hidden.  So does any movie with “too much sex” in it.  I’ll clear my clipboard if I ever copy/paste something remotely sexual.  I’ll hide the hand lotion whenever someone comes over.  Sex toys are removed from the closed cabinet in the headboard (that no visitor would ever open) and hidden in the closet.  I even feel weird about having a box of tissues near my bed, because of the potential association it might have, even though I really do only use them to blow my nose.  And I’ll censor what I talk about or feel weird about posting on Asexual Activities, even though that was deliberately designed to be an uncensored place to talk about those sorts of things.

And it’s not a general “Sex is bad, run away” reaction, either.  When I’m in a scenario where I have permission, where sexuality is expected, it’s fine.  When I had a girlfriend, we did sexual things.  I was awkward and I had no idea what I was doing really, but I didn’t feel like I shouldn’t be doing any of it.  At work, I had to test the adult filter settings on a service we ran, which basically meant searching for porn all day and making sure that the nudie pics showed up in the results or were blocked, depending on the settings.  That was just doing my job.  And I can dive in and research all sorts of random things for people who have questions on Asexual Activities, without any issues at all.  But if I want to know about those things personally, I get a bit nervous.

So, what’s going on?  Why do I feel this way?  Why do I have so many blocks and caution signs put up around so many expressions of sexuality, even when they’re completely private?  Well, the two broad areas that I think are coming into play here are society’s views on masturbation (specifically male masturbation) and the fact that I’m asexual, and the way those two things interact.


Society basically requires men to masturbate.  If you don’t, you’ll be a two pump chump, your balls will fill up and explode, you’ll become a slobbering ball of horniness, and you’ll get cancer.  But masturbation is only permitted in very specific scenarios.  It must only be done when there isn’t a suitable partner available, and when it is done, it must be done while fantasizing about an acceptable person.  And regardless, you’ll be mocked and ridiculed for doing it.  You’re a pervy loser who can’t get laid.

Masturbation is seen as a replacement for “real” sex.  You’re not supposed to do it if real sex is available.  If you are forced to do it, due to a lack of real sex, you must be imagining having real sex with someone while you do it.  It is not to be done within the context of a relationship, unless it somehow involves your partner, because the involvement of your partner allows you to claim that you’re doing it for them.  It’s never permitted to be pursued in its own right, it must always be a substitute, never the main event, and any pleasure you take from it must be surrogate pleasure that’s being provided on behalf of your fantasy.

You can use porn to help, but not too much of it or the wrong kind of it.  Oh, and by the way, any amount is too much and any kind is the wrong kind.  Possession of nudity in all forms makes you a pervy loser worthy of mocking and ridicule.  (Unless it’s an oil painting, a sculpture, or soft-focus photograph, then that’s art and therefore perfectly acceptable.  But you’re not permitted to be aroused by that in any way.)

Sex toys are an absolute no when you’re alone.  If you’re a pervy loser for masturbating, you’re an especially pervy loser if you use a toy.  If you’re using a toy, you’ve given up hope of ever getting “real sex”, so you’re trying to find a second-rate simulation with a sleazy blow up doll.  You’re so perverted that you’d rather fuck a rubber pussy than use your hand.  And if the toy gets you off, you must have the hots for an inanimate object.  It doesn’t help that sex toys for men have a stigma of being creepy and weird (likely because so many of them actually are creepy and weird).

And finally, look at how it’s portrayed and discussed.  If it’s ever brought up in a movie or a TV show, it’s a punchline.  When it’s mentioned in the news, it’s universally negative.  It’s a peeper at a window, a creeper in the bushes at the park, or a movie executive abusing his position.  It’s never a positive sexual health piece about how it’s normal and safe and fun and here’s these awesome toys to try.  There are dozens of examples of where masturbation for women is held up as an empowering act, an important skill to learn.  Hell, there’s one movie where it literally brings color to a dull black and white town, with so much energy that it sets a tree on fire.  But when it’s a man involved, he’s invariably a dirty, pervy overly horny creep who can’t control himself.

 

That sort of constant stream of negative messages will really mess you up.


Being asexual adds a number of complicating layers on top of an already complicated situation.

I mentioned earlier that I felt like I didn’t have permission to have sexuality.  Well, a huge part of that is that it feels like my own body never gave me permission.  It physically responds when prompted, yes, but that’s all mechanical.  It seems like other people will start to become interested in sexual things, and think “Am I allowed to do this?  Do I have permission?”, and their body will respond with a resounding, hormone charged “YES”.  Yes, you have permission to think you’d like to have sex with that person, in fact, why don’t you think about that when you touch yourself and it’ll make the whole thing better.  My body doesn’t do that.  My body’s all “What are you on about?  I don’t understand what’s going on here.  Do you need something?”

Sexuality in our culture is supposed to be directed at someone.  You can only wear “sexy” clothes when you’re trying to attract someone, not because you like how they look or because they’re comfortable on a hot day.  You can only masturbate if you’re fantasizing about someone and you’re treating it as practice for the “real sex” you’d rather have, not because you just want to get off.  You can only have sex because you find someone attractive and want to share a moment with them, not because you just like the way orgasms feel when they’re provided by someone else.   Your sexuality is never really yours.  Even when it’s entirely in your imagination and private, there’s a part of it that’s directed outward, and it’s that part that makes it acceptable.  But I can never do that.  I can’t include anyone else.  My sexuality isn’t directed at anyone, my asexuality won’t let that happen.  My sexuality can never be acceptable.

And when an expression of sexuality isn’t directed outward, it’s treated as if there’s something being hidden.   Touching yourself while imagining being with your partner, that’s fine.  Jacking off to nudie pics, that’s fine.  Pleasuring yourself to a fantasy about the person that was in front of you at the coffee shop that morning, that’s fine.   Using a toy supposedly modeled on a porn star, that’s fine.  But masturbating to nothing?  Well, come on now, you just can’t do that.  What are you thinking about?  If you can’t say, then just what kind of dark, depraved secrets are you hiding?

I can’t even look at porn right.  Porn is supposed to be fantasy fuel.  I’m supposed to want to be there, I’m supposed to put myself in the scene, I’m supposed to imagine what I’d do with the person featured.  Everything is supposed to be a stand-in for my penis.  The cock on that guy is supposed to be mine.  That toy is supposed to be my disembodied penis.  Those fingers, are they supposed to be my fingers or my penis?  I can never tell.  And if there isn’t a surrogate penis in the scene, then I’m supposed to mentally introduce my own into the picture.  Every shot, every angle, every position, they’re all designed to indicate that the surrogate cock or imaginary penis is being worked on.  That seems to be how everyone looks at porn.  That’s why that sort of porn is so prevalent, that’s how everyone describes their reaction to it, that’s even how people frame their objections to pornography, that it encourages lustful thoughts, because you’re imagining committing adultery and/or fornication.

But that’s not what it does for me.  I never picture myself in the scene.  I never teleport my penis onto another body or into the plastic shell of a toy.  That doesn’t work for me.  That sort of emphasis is dull and boring and leaves me confused, wondering whether people really like that sort of thing.  This is supposed to be a turn on?  That’s supposed to be hot?  Doesn’t that chafe?  Isn’t that tiring?  I’m pretty sure I can’t bend that way.  For most people, porn is a way for them to explore their sexuality, to let their fantasies wander.  But for me, it’s a big wall.  My body and my mind are just standing there saying “Nope, you don’t belong here.”  I don’t have permission.

(And honestly, even when it’s a video I’ve taken of myself, I can’t put myself in the scene…)

That’s not to say porn never works at all.  It does.  Sometimes.  Rarely.  It’s best when the performers seem to genuinely be having a good time, doing things they actually want to be doing, instead of trudging through a script for the camera.  My response feels more empathetic than sexual.  They seem to be having a good time, doing things that feel good, so I can have a good time, doing things that feel good.  But a lot of pictures and videos have to be clicked past to get to that sort of thing, and all that clicking and clicking feels like a chore, especially when I know that almost all of what I’m clicking past is going to be more than adequate for other people.

And I seem to be repulsed by the stereotypical “porn star” look.  I don’t know if it’s the glossy fakeness of it all, or the overt, deliberate sexuality of it all, but something about it is a quick ticket to the land of “nope”.  It’s not appealing and I don’t even remotely understand what is supposed to be appealing about it.

There are some people who I find pleasant to look at, but pretty much none of them would be considered “sexy” by a jury of my peers.  And while it’s pleasant to look at them, it’s not a sexual pleasantness.  Sex isn’t in the picture.  If I try to fantasize about doing things with them, it all falls apart.  In the rare event that there’s someone in porn that I find pleasant to look at, that certainly helps things, but I don’t understand why.  I don’t think it’s anything about the pleasantness that’s subconsciously sexually enticing to me, because if that were the case, I’d be able to get the same enhancement by thinking about someone I find pleasant to look at that’s not in a pornographic context, but that doesn’t work at all.  Maybe it’s that because it’s pleasant to look at them, I’m able to look at the images for a longer period of time without getting bored?  Maybe I feel more comfortable?  I don’t know, but the whole thing feels like there’s some sort of neuron in my brain that would normally be responsible for sexual attraction, but it’s confused and not wired up correctly, so it just spends its time taunting me.  It’s arousing, but why?

The world of sex toys was not made for asexuals in mind.  So much of it is driven by fantasy and an attempt to convince someone that it’s fine to use sex toys.  It’s not a rubber tube that’s getting you off, it’s an anthropomorphized rubber replica of some porn star’s anatomy of choice, and so therefore, it’s really her that’s getting you off.   Here are some direct quotes from the marketing of a few sex toys:

“Ever wondered what it would be like to bone me? Now you can screw me in the nastiest ways!”

“Let her love tunnel’s ribbed Cyberskin grip you so good as you slide home.”

“Flip this cheerbabe over and dive under her skirt for some steamy anal play!”

“Stop dreaming about your hot neighbor… and start doing everything you’ve fantasized about with her!”

To be clear, these were talking about 4-6 inch long rubber tubes.  It wasn’t hard to find marketing copy like this.  Pretty much every toy has something like it.  That sort of thing does not enhance the experience for me at all.  It just feels creepy and sleazy and misogynistic and makes me less interested in the product.  Does that sort of thing even work for non-ace people, or are they just as skeeved out by it?

Most toys have some sort of anatomical features.  Most common are labia, to resemble a vulva.  But there’s also mouths and butts and breasts and feet.  There’s even some that have mouth-breasts and foot-vulvas.  Some toys claim to have a G-Spot or a cervix, neither of which ever resembles those actual structures.  (Anatomy lesson for sex-toy makers:  The cervix does not get penetrated during sex and it would likely be excruciatingly painful if that happened.)  And for the more adventurous, there’s double-clitted aliens, zombie mouths, dragon cocks and mare vulvas.  But whatever features they have, they all have a few things in common:  They can’t be seen when the toy is in use, they have little to no effect on the sensations of the toy, and they usually drive up the price of the toy for no reason.

And even non-anatomical toys aren’t very ace friendly.  One toy mentions that it’s great for use with a partner, another that its open ended design allows “added oral thrills” with a partner, another has product photos where it’s placed on a naked woman.  And pretty much any toy that doesn’t look like a vulva is sold as a “blow job simulator”.  When you try to buy a toy, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some sort of genital depiction somewhere in the storefront.  If you look up lists of the best sex toys of men or look at male sex toy review sites, it’s pretty much guaranteed that cock rings and vibrators will be on the list, and it’s always about how “you’ll drive her wild” when you use them.  All of that is useless to me.  There’s never anything about the softness or stretchiness of the toy.  Dimensions are rarely mentioned.  There’s never anything about how a ring changes sensations or how to effectively use a Magic Wand style vibrator on a penis.  (I’m still trying to figure that last one out…  Nothing I’ve tried is reliable.)

I masturbate because I like the way it feels.  I use sex toys because I like the way they feel.  It’s all about the physical feelings.  It’s not about cleaning the pipes or about practicing for the Real Thing™.  It feels good.  Almost everyone else does it because it feels good, too, but no one’s allowed to admit it.  So they pile up a wall of excuses and rationalizations made up of desires and fantasies and imaginary health concerns to justify it and protect themselves from having to admit that they do it because it feels good, because that would be wrong.  And I don’t have any of those desires and fantasies, I don’t have anything besides the way it feels, so I’m all I’m left with is the feeling that it’s wrong.

And because I’m ace, I feel like I can’t talk about these things.  In a non-ace context, everything about sexuality is foreign to me.  I don’t understand the feelings, motivations, or goals that are in play.  If I try to read about masturbation techniques or look at sex toy reviews, it usually ends up with someone talking about how they just thought about “the girl from the bar I fucked last week” or that the toy “feels just like a blow job”, neither of which is remotely useful for me.  Every once in a while there’s something I understand, but it’s buried under an overwhelming mountain of stuff that just fundamentally does not make sense to me.  And in an ace context, these things just don’t get discussed.  All of these things are “sexual”, therefore they can’t be associated with an asexual person.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they think it makes them “less asexual” to do it.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they’re not comfortable talking in a semi-public arena about such things.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they don’t want to offend or alienate other aces.  When I talk about it, and there’s little response, I can’t tell if no one’s paying attention, no one understands what I’m saying, no one feels comfortable talking about it themselves, or if what I’m talking about or the way I’m talking about it is dirty, pervy, and creepy, so it drives people away.  So I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about any of it, even in the place that I created to talk about it.

 

There’s no place where the way I feel is allowed to exist.


What if I’m not averse to sex, but averse to sexuality?  And not because it’s gross or disgusting, but because I can’t understand it.  Maybe I feel like I don’t have permission because none of it makes sense, so it’s obviously not something I’m supposed to be a part of.  It’s like I snuck into the field trip for the wrong class and we’re all at the planetarium of naked people, but asstronomy was never covered in my class.  And it’s frustrating that I don’t understand it, because everyone else knows what’s going on.  And so I play along because maybe there’s something out there which will unlock my sexuality, that somehow I’ll find my permission slip.

 


ETA:

On deeper reflection, it feels like a large part of it is that my sexuality is not typically desire-linked, yet the general cultural conception of sexuality is.  So all these desire-linked concepts are being layered on my experiences by external forces, and I’m not comfortable with that.  I’m supposed to be feeling sexual desire for someone, I’m supposed to be able to connect that desire to my actions, I’m supposed to be able to kindle that desire through surrogate objects.  But that’s not what’s going on, don’t assume that’s what’s going on, don’t make me feel like I have to correct the record, don’t make me feel like I have to play along.

This outside overlay of desire-linked sexuality on top of what I’m feeling is alien, unwanted, invasive.  I don’t really see masturbation as sexual in the way other people mean it.  And so there’s a fundamental disconnect there which I keep trying to reconcile.  It’s just something I do that feels good, but other people/society/whatever keeps trying to layer meaning on it, interject their own analysis and inferences and innuendo or whatever.

It’s not so much that I don’t have permission, it’s that in a fundamental way I don’t recognize the concept of sexuality as it exists for most other people.  They’re using a different file format for sexuality, and I’m incompatible with it.  I don’t know what to do with the data being passed to me and just end up throwing a bunch of internal exceptions.

The Prospect of Romance

[This has been crossposted from a submission to AsexualActitives.com.]

A couple of years ago, a coworker began flirting with me.  Because it went on for a while (I saw them every day and we would spend hours together due to work), I was able to determine that flirting was indeed happening, which meant I was able to start preparing for a response if a move was made.

“Well, you see…  You’re fun to talk to.  And I like you, just not that way.  I’m sorry.  I’m what’s called asexual, so I just don’t work like that.”

Then the move came.

One day, I left a book of ViewMaster reels of dissected cadavers on their desk.  (Yes, that is a thing.  I own it because I’m into stereophotography and that’s an odd stereophotographic collectible item, not because I’m into anatomy or cadavers or anything like that.  They, on the other hand, were into vintage things with a morbid twist, so I figured they’d be interested.)  And that started the process.

We were in the office, so it’s not like we could just have a straight up conversation about anything like this without everyone else noticing or overhearing, so it began on the company’s internal chat program.  While they were pouring their heart out, I kept getting interrupted by people coming up to ask questions (which happens to me all the time at work), so it wasn’t ideal.  Among the words they typed were “I’m asexual too”.

Well, there goes my counter plan.

The conversation continued throughout the day.  We went to lunch (which I later discovered was considered a “date”), where they told me that they loved me and that they already had a boyfriend and that they’d never done anything like this before.  After work, we sat in a hallway talking about things for several hours as they inched closer and started touching my arm.  As we parted that night, they gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

For some people, this would be a dream scenario, but for me, it was extremely awkward.  I don’t know what to do with this sort of situation.

Should I give a clear no, ain’t gonna happen?  But how do I do that without losing them as a friend?

Should I make something up about “I don’t date coworkers”?  Well, no, they were thinking of leaving the place anyway, so they probably would just for the chance to be with me, at which point I would have ruined both their professional and personal lives.

Should I go for it and see what happens?  But there’s nothing appealing about being in a relationship with this person.  Specifically, there’s nothing appealing about being in a relationship period.  I don’t know how to do that and I don’t really want to do that.  I wouldn’t be good at it.  Going this route would lead to me being uncomfortably pulled into things I don’t want to do pretty much all the time, and it would lead to disappointment for them, and the combination of that would probably lead to the destruction of what had the chance to turn into a long friendship.

After agonizing over it for a day and a half, I told them the truth.  That it wasn’t anything against them.  That I just didn’t see a way that a relationship with me would work, because I’m incapable of doing the things that a relationship would require.  That I’d probably feel compelled to act like I was into it, even when I wasn’t, which would be stressful.  That I couldn’t be what they’d need me to be.

It was hard to do, but it had to be said.

After this, we remained friends until the end.  Ultimately, they transformed my life, both in silly ways (The adventures of the mountain goat!) and profound (Inspiring me to go to NAAC15).  No romantic relationship required.

How I Discovered I Am Asexual

This is how I discovered that I’m asexual.

This.  This one second of a TV-14 sex scene.

It wasn’t that I was repulsed or disgusted or bored or didn’t think the actors were “hot”.  It wasn’t anything like that.

It’s a standard TV sex scene:  Two characters fall into bed, exhausted from their simultaneous orgasm or whatever, but still with enough presence of mind to make sure their naughty bits are covered.

But watch it again.  See if you pick up what bothered me.

The guy falls straight back, to the lower right of the frame.  The woman falls straight back, to the upper right of the frame.

I was utterly baffled by the physical orientation of the two characters.

If they’re both falling straight back and they had just finished immediately prior to the cut to the scene (which is what’s strongly implied), then they should be falling straight back, in parallel, with her directly back on top of him.  Or maybe side by side, with one of them rolling or sliding off.

But they’re not parallel.  They’re at a roughly 45 degree angle to each other, with an intersection point around the center of her chest.  That would mean their genitals are not even remotely close to one another, it’s clear that there was no mouth contact, and from a position like that, even hand contact would be awkward. I suppose they could have been masturbating together, but why would they do that in a position where neither one could see anything?

So just what in the hell were they supposed to be doing there?

I have drawn this diagram to illustrate my confusion:

bonesorientation

As you can plainly see, there’s something strange here.

No, not with the clip from the TV show.  There’s something strange in that I launched a Zapruder Film style analysis of the clip from the TV show.  I didn’t once, in all of this, think “Look at those hot people having hot sex, that’s so hot”.

And then it clicked.  That’s pretty much the way I’d always looked at sex.  A puzzle to be solved.  A curiosity.  Not a desire.  Not a need.  Not a good time.  I looked at sex differently than everyone I’d ever heard talk about the subject.  There had to be a reason for that.  That’s what led to the investigation where I discovered asexuality.

This is how that one second of TV sex scene changed my life.

You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.

If you’re waiting to find out what it’s like to find someone hot, waiting, waiting, waiting, and it’s just not happening, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you find yourself retreating into your shell when the conversation turns to dating or sex, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you wanted a relationship because that’s what you’re supposed to do, not because that’s what you want to do, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you end up in a relationship and nothing feels natural and everything feels like you’re acting in a play but have never read the script, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you’ve had sex and found it boring, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you went through high school without going on a single date, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you went through college without going on a single date, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’re desperately searching for something that will turn you on, and constantly come up empty, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you looked at someone’s naked body in a sexual situation with more scientific curiosity than erotic desire, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever been baffled by why a sex scene was included in something, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve sat on the stairs alone, for hours, staring at the wall and wondering just what in the hell is wrong with you, why can’t you be normal, why aren’t you interested like everyone else is, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you suddenly realized, hours after someone talked to you, that the person was trying to flirt with you, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve felt that you’re masturbating wrong, because everyone says you have to think of someone while doing it, and you never have, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you find the entire concept of sexting completely baffling, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you find the entire concept of fantasizing completely baffling and impossible to do, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever told someone who’s trying to give you an erotic webcam show to “Go upstairs and put on a more comfortable shirt if you don’t like the one you’re wearing”, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you hear people talk about how horrible it is that they haven’t had sex for a month, and you wonder what’s so hard about it, because it’s been far longer for you and you don’t care, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever completely frozen when someone starts hugging or kissing you, because you simply do not know how to respond, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you tried kissing and couldn’t figure out what’s supposed to be so appealing about it, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve felt that people around you are just faking their interest in sex to seem cool, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you sometimes feel like you’re a failed man because your parts work, but you don’t want to use them with someone else like everyone says you’re supposed to be doing, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve been in a conversation with a group of other people, when suddenly it turns to which celebrity is the hottest, and the only thought that comes to your mind is “Please don’t ask me because I can’t answer that”, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

I eventually discovered that I’m asexual.  Maybe that’s what you are.  Maybe not.  I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers.  I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.  Really, I have.  Sometimes I’m still there, lost and confused.  But I’ve kept going, and you can keep going, too.

If you’re there now, you can talk to me.  If you want me to say more about any of these things, just to hear what I went through, I can do that.  (I’ve already written about many of these experiences, either here in the archives, or on my site: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/)

And if you’re someone who’s been somewhere, feel free to reblog and share where you’ve been, so others know they’re not alone.   Let’s keep going together.

An Ace At Work

[This post was written for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces topic of “Living Asexuality”.]

When I’m not working on an asexuality related website or gazing at my collection of vintage stereoview cards, I have what’s known as a “job”.  The specific nature of the job would either bore you to tears or make no sense at all (probably both), so I’ll just say that it’s in tech and the workplace is male-dominated.  When I go to work, I don’t stop being asexual.  Sometimes that makes me feel like I’m leading a weird double life:

  • Nights and weekends:  Totally open asexual activist, spreading the word about asexuality to anyone who’ll listen and a bunch of people who won’t.
  • Weekdays: Half closeted engineer, quiet in my cubicle.

As I’ve talked about before, sometimes I feel like an invisible visibility activist.  It’s not so much that I’m hiding that I’m asexual, I just don’t talk about it because it seems so irrelevant under the circumstances.  But then, when I really think about it, pretty much everyone else is broadcasting their sexuality in a number of ways.  So why should I keep mine hidden?

Now, I don’t deny what I am.  I’ll sometimes wear the ring, and when Asexual Awareness Week rolls around, I’m decked out in the ace colors.  But no one knows what any of that means.  I’ve gradually built a passive ace pride display in my cubicle, but as far as I know, no one’s actually noticed it.  It started with a black ring, then I added a small flag, and finally, I added a WhatIsAsexuality.com/Asexuality Archive promotional magnet.

IMG_20150914_113249128[1]

Anyway, what I’m really here to talk about is all the ways that being asexual is relevant to my day at the office and interacting with co-workers.

The Waitress At Lunch

“Would you look at that?”

“I bet you left a nice tip!”

“Let’s go to Joey’s for lunch.  There are one or two reasons I like that place!”

“You left your credit card there on purpose, just so you could go back and see that waitress again, didn’t you?”

As I mentioned, I work in a male-dominated industry.  As a result, I hear things like this regularly.  Those are all actual comments I have heard coworkers say to each other, discussing the “hot” waitresses at local dining establishments.

It’s not always a waitress, sometimes it’s a coworker, sometimes it’s a random woman on the street, sometimes it’s an athlete or celebrity, but whoever it is, the remarks are similar, and the effect they have on me is the same.  While conversations like these can be roundly condemned as sexist, boorish, and inappropriate, that’s not why I’m bringing them up.

I mention them because they make me acutely aware that I’m asexual.  That I’m different.  They’re said around me because “I’m one of the guys”, but in this area, I’m not.  Not at all.  I can’t relate to what they’re talking about, even though they think they’re making a universally recognizable statement.  While everyone else actively enjoys going to Joey’s (which is basically an upscale, swanky Hooters), that restaurant makes me distinctly uncomfortable.  (And the food is pretentious and overpriced, and the sodas are 3/4ths ice, so it’s not even a good restaurant…)

Whenever a conversation like this gets started, I pull back and shut down, because I can’t be a part of it.  And I don’t just mean I go quiet, I mean that I’m fairly certain that I physically pull away from the group.  I don’t know what I do exactly, but I know that the change in body language is striking enough to be noticed by other people.  One person even began to try and change the subject (Despite starting the conversation himself, usually…) by saying something like “Some people might get offended by this kind of talk”.  It was always clear who “some people” was.

But I’m not offended by it.  That’s not why I close down.  It’s more of a “Please don’t call on me” reaction.  I feel like I’m going to be “found out” if I don’t make some kind of crude comment or nod along with the crude comments others at the table make.  I’m expected to react approvingly in some way, but I can’t.  I have nothing to say on the topic.  If I move away and try to make myself as small as possible, maybe I won’t be directly asked to make a comment myself.  Maybe I won’t have to explain what’s going on.

Which brings me to…

The coming out.

I’ve never actually come out at work.  I’m not entirely sure that I’ve even said the word “asexual” in person to a coworker.

(Now, that’s not to say no one at work knows.  Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will fairly quickly discover that I’m asexual.)

I guess I don’t really know how to come out at work.  Other people can work it into a conversation or put a picture on their desk or show their partner around the office one day.  I can’t do any of that.  (Although, I do have a web browser “missing image” icon in a frame on my desk, but that’s as much of a nerdy joke as it is a reflection of my life.)  I can’t think of a way to casually work it into a conversation.

“So, what did you do this weekend?”

“I worked on my website about asexuality and went to an ace meetup.”

The response to that would probably be a blank stare and a muttered “…what?”

It would either kill the conversation outright or I’d have to recite the entire Encyclopedia Asexualica for them to understand.  It couldn’t be a quick, casual, matter of fact thing.  By then, all the effort would make it feel like I’m recruiting or proselytizing or something, instead of simply stating basic facts about who I am.

Beyond that, there’s the question of whether I’d even want people knowing…

None of Your Business

When you come out to friends or family, it’s often because you want them to know.  You want them to understand you, you want them to share in your life.  And if they react negatively, although it may be painful and difficult, it’s generally possible to cut them out of your life if necessary.

Work is different.  For eight hours a day, you’re stuck in a confined environment with people you didn’t choose to be around.  Some of them are your friends.  Some of them you don’t really know.  Some of them are your enemies.

I live in a very liberal city and work in an industry that’s full of liberals or libertarians.  Even the small handful of “I voted for Bush twice and I’d still be voting for Reagan if it were legal and he weren’t dead” Republicans at the office are generally totally down with the whole rainbow.  I do not feel like I have to hide who I am in any way, whether it’s for my safety or to keep my job or any of that.

That said, there are people I don’t want to know about me:

The President?  The CTO?  Senior Director of Marketing?  Those people simply do not need to know.  Why should they know?  They know nothing at all about me other than maybe my name.  I don’t need the one piece of personal information they have about me to be this.  I’d much rather they know that I like going on vacation and taking pictures.  I don’t feel I need to keep it from them or anything, I just don’t see the point in them knowing.

But there is one person I want to keep it from:  That Guy™.  You know That Guy™.  Narcissistic, arrogant prick who’s all talk and no substance, has a Masters Degree in Brownnosing and no real talent to speak of.  His career arc at the company is not driven by how good a job he’s doing, but how well he talks up the half-assed job he’s doing to managers who aren’t really paying attention.  He’s the sort of person you avoid interacting with as much as possible until he quits or gets fired.

That Guy™ is transparently manipulative.  You know that every conversation you have with him is just a way for him to find something he can exploit and use against you.

You are forced into silence out of fear.  Telling That Guy™ that you’re asexual is like dousing yourself in honey and rolling around on an ant hill.

He will scoff.  He will mock you.  He will gaslight you.  He will spread rumors about you.  He will deny it exists.  He will ask invasive questions.  He will call you broken.  He is the living embodiment of the comments section of an article about asexuality.  He will do all of these things just carefully enough that you can’t file a complaint with HR.

And you have to sit next to him for eight hours a day.

The Flirting Coworker

Occasionally, a coworker will develop an interest that goes beyond the professional.  They’ll begin probing and testing, trying to figure out if you’re interested, too.

My initial reaction to flirting is to ignore it.  This isn’t a conscious strategy to shut it down before it goes too far.  I’m actually terrible at detecting it, so I ignore it because I don’t even know it’s happening.

If it persists, I’ll eventually catch on that I’m being treated differently somehow.  Maybe they stand a different way.  Maybe they go out of their way to stop by my cubicle to talk to me about things that aren’t work-related.  There was even one woman who seemed to make it a point to lean over her desk whenever I was around.  (And it took me several weeks to even notice that.)

When it gets to this stage, I start to panic.  If the flirting is overt enough that I’ve started to see it for what it is, then the situation is serious.  I start to try to figure out how to say “Well, you’re nice and all, but I just can’t like you in that way…”  Do I say I’m not interested?  Do I say I don’t work like that?  Do I say that it’s not my area?  Do I just say nothing and run away?  What do I do?

So far, it’s only gone to the next stage once, where interest is explicitly stated and a request is made to change the relationship status from “Friendly Coworker” to “Potential Romantic Partner, Pending Outcome Of Probationary Period”.  (I think everyone else senses I’m a lost cause and gave up well before it got to that point.)  I had been practicing how to explain asexuality to this person for a week or so when it happened, but as it turned out, that was not necessary, because they came out to me as ace themselves!

That, of course, turned the rest of my script on its head…  I was expecting my asexuality to be the deal breaker, but when that turned out to be a known and desired quality, I had absolutely no idea what to do.  In the end, we talked for hours in a hallway and didn’t get much work done that day.  I went home and thought about it, and realized that it just wouldn’t work out, because I could not be who they wanted me to be.  We had a few awkward days in the office after that, but after those settled, we remained good friends.

The “Family” Conversation

People at work like discussing families.

“Do you have kids?”

No.

“Are you married?”

No.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

No.

By the time the conversation gets to this point, it’s not going to end up anywhere good.  They usually stop there, but I know it continues in their head.  “Well, why not?  I wonder if there’s something wrong.  Did he just come off a bad relationship?  Is he secretly gay?  Maybe I can fix him up with someone.  But who…?”  I can see that I’m a conundrum to them.

The conversation isn’t always about my status.  Sometimes they’ll vent about their wives as if I can relate.  As if I care.

I’ve taken to saying things like “I have a room full of video games and no one to tell me ‘no’.” as a way to lightheartedly deflect the conversation from the questions I know they really want to ask.  Sometimes I’ll even show pictures of the room full of video games.

I know that I’m looked at as odd for not having a family and for not looking to acquire one, but I know I’d be looked at as even more odd if I tried to explain why.


Before I started writing this, I barely gave any thought to just how much being asexual comes up in my work life.  I figured it was rare, that there were only a handful of times where it was an issue.  Now I realize that it has an impact, sometimes small and subtle, sometimes big and notable, but it has an impact pretty much every day.  And so many of these things are only an issue because I can’t just say “I’m asexual” and have people understand and accept what that means.

Now maybe I need to start thinking more seriously about the impact singlism has on my life at work…

Social Anxiety and Asexuality

[This post was written for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces topic of “Living Asexuality”.]

I am not good with people.

Let me rephrase that:

I am absolutely terrible with people.

I can’t approach most people to start a conversation. I can’t carry on a conversation that someone else starts unless it has a purpose or is on a small number of topics I’m comfortable with.

I avoid social events, parties, that sort of thing.

If you send me an email, I have to prepare myself before I can even open it, let alone respond.

Telephones fill me with mortal dread.

I got a perfect score on the “Introvert” portion of the MTBI.

If you need to find me in a crowd, I’m either hiding behind a camera, or I’m the one sitting in the corner, staying out of the way.

I’ve lived in my house for five years. In that time, I’ve only had five people in my house that I’m not related to. Three of them were the movers. One of them was the cable guy.

 

I am not good with people.

I am also asexual.

Those two facts are entirely unrelated.

 

I am not asexual because of whatever social anxiety I may have, and I don’t have whatever brand of social anxiety this is because I’m asexual.

Right about now, there’s probably someone screaming “But how can you know you’re asexual, if you’ve never bothered trying? Maybe the anxiety is holding you back!”

Well, no. No, it’s not.

If that were the case, the attraction would be there and would be fighting the anxiety. There’s never been a situation where I’ve thought, “I’d like to get with that girl, but I’m too afraid to talk to her.” I’ve have heard that sexual attraction is rather compelling. I have heard that it is often strong enough to help overcome social anxiety in some situations. And social anxiety wouldn’t get in the way of fantasies or thinking celebrities are hot or any number of other expressions of sexual attraction that don’t involve social interaction. But none of that happens with me. There’s nothing there. No conflict. No feeling like some part of me is being kept down by another part of me.

Beyond all that, there are people who have pushed themselves into my comfort bubble and expressed interest in me. In those cases, the anxiety part of the equation is canceled out. If attraction were there, it would be free to come of the surface. But it doesn’t. I even had sex with one of these people, and still there was no attraction present.

Don’t let anyone tell you that social anxiety invalidates asexuality.

Now, this brings us to an interesting collision in my life.  You see, I’m asexual and have social anxiety.  I’m also a fairly prominent activist.  I run websites, I wrote a book, all that stuff.  It’s sort of my mission to tell people about asexuality.

Except…  I can’t actually talk to people about it.

I wrote about this to some extent over in the post (in)Visibility Activist, but it goes deeper than what I talked about there.ometimes I get interview requests, but I end up putting them off for so long that it’s not relevant.  I have ideas for collaborative projects, but I have no idea how to bring the collaborators together.  I am unable to make contacts or reach out to people.  People who reach out to me often get silence in return.

I was invited to go to the North American Asexuality Conference earlier this year.  I wanted to go, but everything inside was fighting it.  Instead of finding ways to make it happen, I tried to find every excuse to get out of it.  It costs too much.  I don’t have a passport.  And on and on.  It took the demand of a dying friend to force me to go.  And even so, I had a full-on paralyzing freakout about the whole thing the day before the flight.

But I went.  And it was amazing.

Granted, I spent a good chunk of the time between sessions sitting in the corner, staying out of the way.  I skipped all the post-conference dinners and probably unintentionally offended some people with my inability to interact (If one of those people was you, I’m sorry!).  Even so, it was well worth going.  I learned so much and shared so much.  I even managed to sit on a panel in one of the sessions!  (For all the social anxiety I do have, somehow I managed to avoid stage fright.  Go figure.)

So here’s the thing I need to keep telling myself (and that you might need to hear, too…):  Just like there’s no One Right Way™ to be asexual, there’s no One Right Way™ to be an asexuality activist.  I’m not the hand-shaker.  I’m not the friend-maker.  I’m not the face on TV.  And I don’t have to be. 

After all, someone needs to sit in the corner, stay out of the way, and work on the website…

Asexual Intercourse

The following post is an auto-biographical stream-of-consciousness account of what was going through my mind the first time I had sex.  I did not know I was asexual at the time, I did not discover asexuality until years later.  It’s clear to me now that most of what I felt was because I’m asexual.

I’ve never read an account like this.  We rarely talk about it, and when we do, we hardly go into this level of detail.  It’s too personal, too private, too embarrassing, too conflicting, too confusing.  And so we stay silent.  And in that silence, we’re alone.

I’m presenting this for multiple reasons.  First, I believe that sharing stories can help us find what we have in common, and let us know that we’re not alone.  The only story we hear is that consensual sex is wonderful and amazing, when it’s not always wonderful and amazing for everyone, even in the best of circumstances.   Second, there seems to be a common narrative out there that having sex will cure asexuality, somehow.  That’s often not the case and I wanted to give an example that people can use as a counterpoint.  And finally, I wanted to provide an example that can be used to potentially help non-asexual people understand what it’s like for an asexual person to have sex.  In particular, some people can’t understand how sex is possible without attraction, or think that there can be no pleasure without attraction.

The story below is my experience .  It is not meant to be representative of how every asexual person experiences sex.  Everyone is different.  Everyone’s story is different.

The following contains descriptions of sexual activity and may not be suitable for all audiences.


I’m lying in bed.  Waiting.  Shivering.

It’s not cold.  I’m not afraid.  I’m not even nervous, really.  I’m just shivering.  I guess it’s the unknown.  This is supposed to be a big deal, right?

She’s in the bathroom, getting ready.  This was her idea.  Do girls actually want sex?  I guess so.

Should I be naked?  I think I should be naked for this.  But what if she wants to undress me as foreplay?  Would that make me seem too eager?  Because I’m not eager.  I mean, I’m not reluctant.  I guess I’m just curious.  I think I’ll keep my clothes on.

Now I’ve gotten hard.  I guess that’s a good sign.

Do I want to do this?  She said I could back out at any time.  That was the agreement.  She’s not forcing me.  Of course I want to do this.  But why don’t I WANT to?  Like really really WANT to?  Wasn’t there supposed to be some sort of uncontrollable urge right about now?  Some kind of irresistible force taking control?  I feel…  I don’t know what I feel.  I don’t need to do this.  No, I don’t WANT to do this.  I’m willing to do this.  Willingness isn’t wantingness.

Okay, am I ready?  We bought condoms and lube earlier today, so +1 for responsibility there.  I’m still hard, so that’s another point.  I read up on what I’m supposed to do.  Is that normal?  Do people generally read up on what to do, or do they just know?  I mean, I already knew WHAT to do, tab A slot B, all that stuff.  I mean the rest of it.  Do people prepare a mental gameplan for this, or do they just go for it and figure it out on the way?  Not like fantasize about it.  I tried that, I couldn’t.  I mean like actually come up with stage directions for what I’m going to do and backup plans in case things go wrong.

What if it just doesn’t work?  She’s mentioned that she’s worried about being too small, too dry.  She said it hurt the other times with the other person.  I don’t want to hurt her.  How would I know if I’m hurting her?  The lube should help.  How deep is too deep?  How do I know how deep I am?  What if I’m too big?  She said I might be.  Or was that some sort of ego-boosting ploy?  Was that supposed to turn me on or something?  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  Should I care?  Do other people actually care about their size, or is that all just an act?

Is it all just an act?  It feels like an act.  At least it feels like I’m acting.  Is she acting?  Why would she be acting?  Why would she push so hard for this, if this isn’t something she really wanted?  Because she thinks I WANT it-want it?  It should have been clear that I didn’t.

So why am I doing this, anyway?  If I don’t WANT it.  Um, because she offered, I guess?  Because she wants it?  But that’s not all.  I do want to know what it’s all about.  It’s supposed to be amazing, why wouldn’t I?  It’s supposed to feel good.  Really really good.  Better than my hand, better than her hand.  It’s supposed to be a big deal.  It’s supposed to-… I’M supposed to.  I’m doing this because I’m supposed to.  I’m supposed to WANT it.  Maybe if I do it, I will.  Maybe there’s a slipped gear in my head and doing this will jostle it back into place and I’ll start WANTING it.  Like I’m supposed to.

There’d better not be any babies out of this.  That would suck.  But that’s why we got the condoms.  We practiced putting one on earlier.  So we should be good there.  And I read all about their effectiveness when used properly.  So hopefully no babies.

But about earlier…  When we practiced putting on the condom.  When we were completely naked around each other for the first time.  When she took me in her hand and put me inside her.  “To see if it fits”, I think she said.  I don’t know what that was about.  I guess that means I’m technically not a virgin anymore already, even if it was just for a few seconds.  Was I supposed to do something?  Was I supposed to react?  Was I supposed to get started?  That wasn’t the plan, the plan was to wait until night, just before bed.  Was that a test?  Did she want me to make a move?  It wasn’t the plan.  Why didn’t I make a move?  That could hardly be considered a subtle sign of interest.  I should have made a move.  Any other guy would have, wouldn’t they?

Of course they would.  No other guy would have waited this long to make a move.  Any other guy would have made a move that first night at her place.  Who cares that her parents were upstairs?  That didn’t stop us from doing other things.  But we couldn’t then, no condoms.  But nothing stopped me from picking up a pack on my way up.  Why didn’t I?  And why didn’t it bother me that we couldn’t?

Even this tonight isn’t my move.  It’s her move.  If she waited for me to make a move, it would never happen.  I’m just along for the ride.

The bathroom light clicks off.  The door opens.  It’s time.

She walks out in her pajamas, hair back, a faint minty scent surrounds her.  She climbs into bed.  She climbs on top of me and starts kissing me.

I don’t understand kissing.  I don’t see the appeal.  A peck on the lips is fine, and there’s that spot on my neck that gets things going, but deep mouth kissing?  That does nothing.  “Deep” being the important word here.  It feels like she’s trying to eat my face.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my tongue.  It’s somewhat unpleasant.  It hurts my jaw.  She pushes harder, trying to force my mouth open wider.  I feel like a CPR dummy.  People like this?

I pull back and kiss across her cheek and down her neck.  I know I like that feeling.  Does she?

I move my hands up and down her back.  She’s not wearing a bra now.  That’s somewhat disappointing.  I kinda wanted to take it off.  Like that’s an important moment or something.

She moves to unbutton my shirt and I reach for her breasts.  The curve.  The nipple.  I caress them through her pajama top for several moments before reaching underneath it.  Shouldn’t I feel something now?  Shouldn’t I WANT this?  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I hope she likes it, because it’s doing nothing for me.

I roll her onto her back and lift up her shirt slightly.  I kiss my way up her stomach, then put my head under her shirt and begin kissing a breast.  She quickly takes off her top.  That’s the cue to take off mine, too.  I resume kissing one breast while fondling the other.  We’ve done this before.  I remember her instructions of “more pressure” when I get to the nipple.  I push with my tongue.  Is that enough?  Is this too much?  Should the pressure be constant or varied?  Is that even what she meant?

Do other guys like this?  I mean really like this?  They seem to be interested in breasts.  It seems like I should be enjoying this more than I am.  They’re kinda round, kinda squishy.  They’re okay, I guess, but I just don’t see the excitement.

Her hands are around my back.

I move up and begin kissing her on the face and neck.  I press my erection against her vulva, and she gently grinds through our pajamas.

I take my hand off her breast and begin moving southward with it.  I slowly cross her stomach, and run my hand down the outside of her leg.  I cross to the inside of the leg and work my way back up.  I cup my hand around the curve and press as I rub.

Am I supposed to talk dirty to her here?  What does that even mean?  I’d mess it up.  Anything I’d say would be ridiculous.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

She reaches into my pants and wraps her fingers around me.  She gently tugs.  Her hand feels numb and foreign.  I’m used to my hand, I’m used to the feedback loop.  She’s squeezing harder than I would.  She’s pressing on places I don’t press.  This feels strange.  It’s okay, but it’s not good.  Definitely not bad, just not good.  Neutral.

I reposition my hand, moving it under the elastic waistband of her pants.  I run it through her hair.  I like that she has hair down there.  I don’t know why.  I find the soft, warm flaps of skin.  I gently part them with my finger, and slide up toward the front, looking for the little nub of skin that I know is there.  We’ve been here before, too.  I’d like to get her off, but she doesn’t help me out.  I press as I trace a circle.  I don’t know if what I’m doing is working.  I’m not even sure I’m in the right place.  I guess she’ll tell me to stop if she wants me to stop.  I press a finger inside, slowly.  Soft.  Smooth.  Wet.  Warm.

She stops what she’s doing to me.  I return to spinning circles for a few moments.

She softly runs her hand across my balls, then moves to take off her pants.  I take off mine in return.

We’re naked again, for the second time that day.  She stops and looks me over.  She focuses on the area that was just uncovered.  There’s a look in her eyes.  Hunger, maybe?  She wants it.  I look her over.  It feels like an in-person anatomy lesson.  All the parts I’ve heard about are there, and I run over them in my mind.  Her breasts, her legs, her pubic hair, the little hint of labia…  But the most fascinating thing is that look in her eyes.  What is that look?  What is she feeling?

What am I supposed to be feeling?  Anticipation?  Sure.  Nervousness?  A little.  Lust?  Desire?  Where are they?  What are they?  Seeing her body is interesting, but it’s interesting in the way looking at a map of a national park is interesting.  I’ve heard about all these places, now I know how they all fit together.  It’s academic, not erotic.

She’s cute.  Her face is cute.  Her breasts are cute.  Her pale skin is cute.  The round tuft of hair is cute.  But not hot.  I don’t know what “hot” is.  She should be hot.  Other people call her hot, and they haven’t seen her like this.  She’s not supposed to be cute.  She’s supposed to be hot.  Cute is something you want to play with and pet.  Hot is something you want to have your way with.  She’s cute.  She doesn’t like that I think she’s cute.  It’s not enough for her.  But it’s all I have.

I don’t belong here.  Something’s just not right.  How long can I keep up this act?  Can she tell?  Maybe everyone feels this way their first time.

I move down and begin kissing her left thigh.  I gradually move my way up, toward the inside.

“Don’t,” she stops me.  I’m somewhat curious to try, because maybe that will make a difference, somehow.  But I move on at her direction, and kiss her stomach, breasts, face.  Was that a test?  Was I supposed to make a move there, too?  I don’t think so.  She talked about it before.  She said it felt good, but that it seemed tiring for the guy.  So maybe that wasn’t a test.

She rolls me over.  She climbs on top of me and presses her body against me as she kisses me.  Soft.  Warm.  I like the feeling as her nipples brush against mine.  My nipples are sensitive now.  I wish she’d pay more attention to them.  I try to guide her hand there, she doesn’t catch on.

She kisses down my neck, and rests her head on my chest.  I run my hands down her back and grab her ass.  My erection presses against her stomach, slightly wet at the tip.

That’s dangerous now.  Fluids and all.  I read about that.  Although unlikely, there could be sperm in that, especially after what we did earlier.  Better make sure that stays far away, until the condom is on.

She pauses as I reach between her legs to rub her.

She makes a move.  I know where she’s going.  I stop her.  Those two areas don’t touch without protection.

She rolls over to grab the condoms and lube.  We take out a condom and open the wrapper.  She takes the lube and rubs some on herself.

My erection is gone.  That’s a bit of a problem.  I know it’s just a temporary setback.  But still…  Moments away, and this happens.  I know it “happens to everybody”, but does it really?

She moves down and puts her hand around me.  She moves her face between my legs, and there’s a warm wetness of an exhale on my scrotum.  Problem solved.

I put on the condom as directed, and she applies a little bit of lube to the outside.  She wipes off her hand as she puts her head back on the pillow.

I move into position.

This is it.  This is the moment.  So why is it so hollow?  So empty?  Other people dream of this exact second for years.  They scheme and beg for it.  It’s nothing to me.

She’s lying on the bed in front of me.  Her hair falls on the pillow.  A faint smile on her lips.  Her eyes close.  Her breasts flatten and flow to the side.

I should WANT this.  I should NEED this.  I should have an uncontrollable urge to go on.  I shouldn’t be able to stop myself now.  But…  I could walk away right now and not feel any different.  Not feel like I missed out, not feel deprived.  Other guys would kill to be here right now.  But I could just go about my business and think nothing of it.

I part the lips with my fingers and guide myself in.

It’s so warm.  And enveloping.  It squeezes every part of me evenly.  It’s so different than my hand.  Better?  I don’t know.  Different.

Don’t go too far.  How will I know how far too far is?

I slowly push in as far as I think I should go.  Then slowly pull back out.  I don’t want to hurt her.  Go slow at first.  That’s what I read.

Pulling back out…  Wow.  That’s better than pushing in.  That’s definitely not something I can do with my hand.

I repeat a few times to get the hang of the motion.  I’d practiced using pillows and a plastic bag full of baby oil, but it wasn’t like this.

This alone won’t be enough for her.  That’s what I read.  I should make sure that I rub her as I go.  That’s supposed to help.  It’s awkward to twist my hand that direction.  I try to encourage her to do it, but she doesn’t take the hint.  She said tonight was about me, but I don’t want her to be left out.

Am I supposed to kiss her?  I think I’m supposed to kiss her.  But am I supposed to kiss her face or her breasts or what? Kissing her breasts seems like it’d require some uncomfortable contortions.  So I’ll kiss her face.  Hand goes to a breast.

There she goes again with the deep kiss.  How does her jaw open like that?  Should I tell her that it hurts right now?  No, that would be a bad idea.  Keep going.

In, out, in, out, in out…

I like the feeling pulling out almost all the way.  The way it softly wraps around the head and squeezes the tip.  The warmth, the pressure.  Yes, I like that.  And I like the feeling of my nipples pressed against her body.  The way they float across her skin as I move.

How long is this supposed to take?  I always hear stories of the first time ending almost right away.  Is that because they were more excited than I am?  I still have a ways to go.

How fast am I supposed to be going?  It seems like I’m going too slow, but it seems like going faster would just wear me out.

She wraps her legs and arms around me.

In, out, in, out, in, out…

I’m getting closer.

I look at her face in the dim light.  Her eyes are closed, her mouth is slightly open.  She’s lost in the moment.

In, out…  Definitely closer.

Should I be making some kind of noise?  I think I’m supposed to?  You always see that in movies.  But what kind of noise?  Aren’t those sounds natural?  Don’t they just come out in a situation like this?  Or are those sounds just faked?  I never make noise when I’m alone.

I’m on the edge now, and still nothing.  Where is the magical spark that’s supposed to wash over me?  Where’s the flame of passion?  Is this really all it is?

In, out, in, out, in, out.  Slow.  Stop.  Oh.  Right there.

My movement changes.  I feel the pressure building.  I push in.  My body goes rigid as a surge of pleasure paralyzes my body.  The automatic pulsing rhythm is the only part of me that moves.

I pause for a moment, still inside her.  I let my muscles relax, still inside her.  She whispers an “I love you”.  I respond, still inside her.

I slowly pull out, careful to hold the base of the condom as I’d read to do.  I roll onto my side and hold her.

Did that change my life?  Was that the best thing that’s ever happened to me?  Did that light a fire an awaken me sexually?  Was that earthquakes and fireworks and rocketships?  …  No.  None of that.

The warmth.  The softness.  The exquisite embrace on the head.  The brushing of the nipples.  The warm exhale.  The kiss on my neck.  The ending.  Good.  All of that.  But all physical.  All mechanical.  Emotionless.  Nerve endings doing their thing.  Felt good, yes.

I should probably take this thing off.  I have to pee, too.

Not mind-blowing.  Not amazing.  Not earth-shattering.  Not far above any other experience.  Wasn’t even the best orgasm I’ve ever had.  Far above average, but not the best.

My body liked it.  My mind?  What about my mind?  Acting in a play without a script.  Does everyone else have a voice in their head, feeding them the lines?  Or do they just improvise?  Why would they improvise?  Why would they make it up?  Why would they all play along?  Why not just give commands to kiss here, caress there, and get exactly what you want?  Why would there be a play at all if no one has the script?  Other people know the lines.  She knew the lines.  Why don’t I?

I don’t belong there.  I don’t know how to be there.

Is that all it is?  Is that what everyone raves about?  I don’t get it.

Maybe next time will be different.

Who Cares About Asexuality? (or: Why Visibility Matters)

Whenever asexuality gets mentioned in an article or in an interview, there’s always the inevitable remark in the comment section:

Why do you have to talk about this?  Who cares that you’re not having any sex?  Stop shoving it in our faces!

It frustrates me to see that kind of attitude, to see people who are unable to close their mouths and open their minds long enough to understand that there are people who are different than them.  And it’s not just anonymous Internet nobodies who share that view.  In his infamous appearance in (A)sexual, that’s basically what Dan Savage says.  But really, those people aren’t who I’m talking about asexuality for.  Ignorant jerks like that are a lost cause and not really worth spending energy on.

But the questions remain.  Why do I have to talk about asexuality?  Who does care?

Let me share a conversation that I came across the other day.  It’s between a guy in his early twenties and a girl who’s interested in him.  It’s a real conversation, edited slightly for privacy and to remove a few irrelevant bits.  It’s a bit on the long side, though, so please bear with it.

The Girl> Sorry, Joe and I are having an ass competition… Don’t even bother asking..

The Guy> I wouldn’t ask.

The Girl> Cast your vote anyway!

The Girl> I probably just scared you. :P

The Guy> Are you sure you’re not trying to scare me away?

The Girl> Hey, you scared me multiple times today.

The Guy> Yes, but this is one of those things that’s likely to get me rolling around on the floor beating the scarythought our of my head.

The Girl> I’m winning anyway. I don’t need your vote.

The Girl> Such a wimp. ;)

The Guy> And what gives you the idea that I would’ve voted for you, anyway? There’s only so much psychological trauma someone can take, and I’m well past that limit.

The Girl> Seriously, does that sort of thing actually disturb you?

The Guy> It was a part of the world I was happier not knowing existed…

The Guy> But does it actually have me rolling around on the floor, baning on my head to get the scarythoughts out? No.

The Guy> I’m not that messed up.

The Girl> Guys are supposed to be turned on by that, but I suppose you have all that repressed..

The Girl> And no, I don’t understand why they’re turned on by it either..

The Guy> If you want to call it repressed, sure. But I honestly don’t think of it that way. I don’t feel that I’m holding something down, that there’s something evil lurking inside that I have to keep hidden. It’s just not there.

The Girl> So it was never there?

The Guy> I don’t know if I didn’t get it, or if I just haven’t found it, or if I lost it somewhere.

The Guy> But it’s not bothering me. I don’t see why it should. I’m not excited at the prospect of looking at people’s butts. Somehow, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I like the fact that I’m not turned into a slobbering idiot by that sort of thing.

The Girl> You know, I kind of like that… It’s always bothered me that guys I talk to, and even some of the girls, obviously have other intentions while talking to me, and I know that with everything they say, they’re just trying to get a step closer… It drove me insane with Jake. He’d wine and sulk, and beg, and generally act like an idiot…

The Girl> er, whine

The Guy> Maybe I just take a functional approach to things. “Hey, wow, that looks like that would be comfortable when you sit down.” That sort of thing. I don’t see anything interesting in it. I don’t have a desire to touch it, I mean what would that get me? “It feels like it’s confortable, too.”

The Girl> I guess it’s just one of those things where there’s multiple ways of thinking about it… Not really sure that I could explain the other way, though… or if I would want to..

The Girl> I guess for me, it’s all about trust or something.

The Girl> And now I’ve really scared you…

The Guy> No, no you haven’t scared me. The words are coming, they just aren’t forming coherent sentences.

The Guy> The words… They want to speak, they want to curse society for thinking there’s something wrong with me, they want to ask myself if there is something wrong, they want to dig up my past, see where I went wrong, if I went wrong, they want- …

The Guy> They want to speak, but they have nothing to say.

The Guy> I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m just…

The Girl> Just what?

The Guy> You see what an ass competition can do to me?

The Girl> I’m seeing it, but I’m not quite understanding it…

The Guy> I guess you hit a gas line with your digging… It’s not my sexuality that’s repressed, it’s all of that.

The Girl> Now I have nothing to say… I’m still confused, I guess.

The Guy> I’m sorry for letting it out on you.

The Guy> Wow, this is a switch… I’m the one emotional, and you’re the one that can’t find anything to say. Never thought I’d see this side of things.

The Girl> That’s fine… I like it when you talk to me, and you’re talking to me…

The Girl> And I’m also curious, I guess. I know none of this is any of my business..

The Guy> I guess it’s that I have a name for everything but myself. I don’t have a place in the “Normal” order of things, and I’m fine with that. But I’d like a name… “I’m not into women.” “Oh, you’re gay?” “I don’t like men, either.” “Oh. What the hell is wrong with you?”

The Guy> No, if this is anyone’s business outside of mine, it’s yours.

The Girl> Non-sexual. Sounds pretty awful, but I think that’s the word…

The Girl> That’s the way I always assumed you were, too… I mean, even when I barely knew you.

The Girl> I’ve heard “asexual” used, too, but that makes it sound like you’re some sort of single-celled organism…

The Guy> I’m sure there is a name for it. One that no one’s ever heard and doesn’t have a clue what it means. Yeah, it’s probably something like that. Anything like that means “I can’t get none” to Joe Average. But “I don’t want none.”

The Girl> I actually went through times when I thought like that, too… The thought kind of disgusted me. But I realize that I was thinking in the internet porn site way, or whatever which -is- completely digusting.

The Girl> But obviously it wasn’t a permanent thing for me, I guess.

The Girl> Anyway, I just started thinking about it in that trust way, I guess… And it’s really a beautiful thing if you think of it that way.

The Guy> I don’t know if it is for me, either. I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and realize “Hey, I’m in love”. Or can I be in love anyway. the way I am now? It’s separate, so why not? Or don’t I have that, too?

The Girl> It’s completely separate, from what I’ve heard and experienced…

The Girl> Well, maybe not -completely-.

The Guy> I never felt any kind of physical attraction to Red. But was it real, or some concocted response to early teenage pressures? If it was real, why hasn’t it happened since?

The Girl> Because it’s “evil” now, I guess… You’re probably afraid of it. I mean, subconsciously.

The Girl> And you know the cliche quote that everyone would use here…

The Guy> Why don’t I think about you or Thursday and think, “Hey, I’m in love”? It’s “Aw, gee, she’s nice.” What’s not connecting here?

The Guy> Thank you for listening. I don’t know if this is going to help me (Or if there’s even anything to help), but thank you.

The Girl> I don’t know… If you don’t think it, then it’s obviously not happening, because you’d know if it were.

The Girl> I guess you should probably get to bed then..

The Guy> Oh, now you want me to leave, do you?

The Girl> No, I don’t want you to be even more tired tomorrow. :P

The Guy> If it’s something in my subconscious, it’s deep. It’s very deep. I don’t think one person could do that much damage. Maybe make me more reluctant to act, but there’s been enough time that something should have happened by now.

The Guy> I almost just said “Statistically something should have happened by now”. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I think too much. I’m probably not supposed to think, I’m just supposed to run.

The Girl> Well, you don’t talk to a heck of a lot of girls… And if you’re not physically attracted to people, you’ve not going to find anyone without talking to them…

The Guy> But every once in a while one gets in my path that I will talk to.

The Girl> Personally, I just can’t be attracted to people I first meet in real life. I guessI’ve just accidently trained myself to want to see what’s insane their mind first… Sometimes I see really attractive guys, and make eye contact, just for fun, but I don’t feel…anything, really.

The Guy> Why would it even necessarily be restricted to girls? I haven’t found Mr. Right, either.

The Girl> Exactly…

The Girl> But you don’t talk to a heck of a lot of -guys-, either..

The Guy> “Insane their mind”? You have been talking to me too much…

The Girl> errrr… inside!#$%

The Girl> They always have to make other words… always…

The Girl> Can I ask what it was that attracted you to her?

The Guy> “Attractive.” I don’t even have that concept defined for myself. There’s “What everyone else says is attractive” and then there’s the “That person looks interesting”, which I guess is supposed to count, but I feel more like I’m judging the look of a painting in an art gallery than being attracted.

The Guy> And people don’t like it when you take them home and hang them on a wall.

The Girl> But what made her different from, well, everyone else you’ve ever knwon?

The Girl> known even

The Guy> I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. The time and place.

The Girl> Did you actually know her? Like was she a friend?

The Guy> Yeah. We had half our classes together. We’d not do anything in PE together, we’d trade book recommendations for the essays in English class. That sort of thing.

The Guy> And my God, she actually liked the Grapes of Wrath. That right there shouldn’ve been a hint.

The Guy> Wait! She’s not the one that’s Evil! John Steinbeck is!

The Girl> So you -did- have a social life at one point, huh?

The Girl> How long did you know her before you started to feel that way about her?

The Guy> If you call that a social life… I call it talking to classmates in school. I didn’t spend often lunch with people, and I never went anywhere with anyone after school. Then again, it was Nevada… Nowhere to go. People hung out at the old gravel pit. Really, they did.

The Guy> I don’t remember. Months, of some sort. Not years or anything like that.

The Girl> What happened when you did? What felt different?

The Guy> I don’t remember.

The Girl> So you don’t remember how you knew?

The Girl> I’m not trying to pry anything out of your, by the way, so feel free not to answer that or anything else…

The Guy> No. I don’t remember the feeling, either. It’s like a stamp in a book. It’s the remains of getting knocked upside the head with an inky hammer.

The Girl> Well, anyway… Just because you think you -should- like someone doesn’t mean they’re the right person, or whatever… There’s plenty of people in the past that I -should- have liked, but there’s just something that wasn’t there… There’s even people right now. Sometimes there’s some flaw I can’t see past, it drives me insane that I could be so shallow. And even when I’m absolutely obsessed with someone online, there can be something that’s just…not there in real life.

The Girl> Anyway…

The Girl> Yeah…Go to bed… I don’t want to feel bad about you being tired tomorrow. ;)

The Guy> I’d probably end up tired even if I had gone at 10…

The Girl> More tired, then…

The Guy> And thank you for this. Normally I’d write these things, but I haven’t written them yet…

The Guy> I probably should, though. I mean, come on, “Coming to terms with an alternative sexuality”? That has Oprah book written all over it. And “Oprah book” means rolling in cash…

That is why I have to talk about asexuality.

That guy…  He’s in pain.  He’s broken and confused.  He’s different from everyone else and doesn’t have the words to explain how he feels.  He makes some jokes, sure, but that’s how he tries to deal with it.  He’s empty and frustrated and alone.

He’s … me.

That was a chat log of an actual conversation from 2002, between me and the woman who’d later become my first and, so far, only girlfriend (and not too long after, my first and only ex-girlfriend…).  It would be another nine years before I’d discover that asexuality was a real thing.  It was another nine years of being confused and broken and alone.  Another nine years of feeling like that.  And I had felt that way for years before that night.  Every time someone brought up love or sex or relationships or getting married, there was that emptiness, that confusion, that “What in the hell is wrong with me?”

She even mentioned the word “asexual” in there, and I dismissed it.  It was something I’d never heard of and didn’t have a clue what it meant.  I couldn’t be that.

But that one word would have made all the difference to me then.  Why didn’t I hear it?  Why didn’t I know what it was?  Why did it take me another nine years to find it?  To find me

So, who cares about asexuality?

I care.

I care because of all the time I spent lost in the wilderness, thinking something was missing.   I care because of all the time I spent looking at other people and seeing that I was fundamentally different than them, thinking something must be broken inside me.  I care because of all the time I spent not knowing where I fit in the world, thinking that I must not fit anywhere.

I care because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.

I have a place now.  I have a name for me.

I’m not broken anymore.

But…  Someone else is.

I talk about asexuality because somewhere else, there’s another person who is feeling lost and broken and alienated and confused, just like I was.  I do it because every person I tell might know that person.  I do it because every person I tell might be that person.

It only takes one informed person to be in the right place at the right time to change someone’s life.  That is why awareness matters.  That is why visibility work is important.  That is why I have to talk about this.  That is why I care.

…And Then What?

[This post was written for the December 2012 Carnival of Aces topic of “Dating and Significant Others as an Ace”.]

It was the first day of the ninth grade.  A new girl was in a bunch of my classes.  She had a funny name and long red hair.  Over that year, I found that she was smart, quirky, and had a dangerously sarcastic personality that matched my own.  She could play the piano and the cello.  She was going to grow up to become a doctor who would save the world.

People said we’d be perfect for each other.

I remember deliberating over all the options before deciding that she should be the one I’d have a crush on.  I guess I thought that’s how it worked.  Come up with a list of candidates, weigh their strengths and drawbacks, narrow down the list, then pick one.  Presto!  Instant romance!  Now, I don’t think other people tend to consciously choose potential romantic partners with the mental equivalent of a feature comparison chart.  (I suppose it’s a good thing they don’t, given that the runner up using this method turned out to be a drunken rodeo queen the next year.  Clearly, if you do use a mental feature comparison chart, make sure it’s comparing the proper specifications.  If you’re not looking at the right criteria, it can lead to some poor decisions…)  But, at the time, that’s how it seemed like it was done, so that’s what I did.

Anyway, I think I obsessed over her for months.  And by “obsess”, I mean that I would think about her name over and over and over.  Sometimes at night, I would attempt to telepathically communicate with her.  (To my knowledge, it never worked.)  As I was trying to send brainwaves in her direction, I would occasionally imagine her sleeping…  While wearing a full-length thick cotton nightgown with frills.  Once, on a family trip to the Bay Area, I spent the whole weekend with “I Love Saturday” from Erasure’s I Say, I Say, I Say album stuck in my head because, for some reason, I had associated the synthpop hook with her.

I never asked her out.

I was supposed to ask her out, right?  I mean, I was a boy, she was a girl.  I liked her, there was a significant probability that she held a positive opinion of me.  On top of that, we were in the same math class.  Obviously, we were made for one another.  So, clearly, I should ask her to be my girlfriend.

…and then what?

That’s where I got stuck.  I wasn’t afraid of being rejected.  I was afraid of being successful.  If she said yes, what on earth would we do together?  I just couldn’t figure that part out.

I couldn’t really take her on a date, because I had no money, I hate restaurants, and the nearest movie theater was about 20 miles away.  I couldn’t take her to the monthly school dance, since that would have been a traumatic social experience for me.  (Plus, my long arms and awkward steps are not allowed to attempt to engage in uncontrolled rhythmic motion, especially around other people.)  She lived ten miles away, so just hanging out and doing homework was out of the question, too.  And I wouldn’t buy her flowers or trinkets, because the entire concept of that sort of thing seemed silly to me.  I didn’t really see the appeal of the idea of dating anyway.

So why should I ask her out?  What would be the point?

I analyzed and theorized, worked through the options, and tried to come up with something that would work.  At one point, I think I even launched a misguided attempt to get her to be my girlfriend in title only, without any of the attached social responsibilities.  (That was less than successful.)  I don’t think I realized that I didn’t need to have a 23-step six-month plan for going steady.  Just talking to her at lunch and calling once in a while would’ve been enough to fulfill the boyfriend requirements.  (Of course, I’m terrified of the phone.  So that’s out, too.)  I guess I looked at going out as literally going out: That you and your partner had to regularly go out and do something, such as seeing a movie or going bowling or something.

Through all of that, no sex of any kind was ever in the imaginary picture.    I never even fantasized about her.  It’s not that I actively resisted those kinds of thoughts.  It just wasn’t something that I even considered.  I mean, look, even when I imagined her sleeping, I pictured her in what had to be least erotic sleepwear ever to enter a 15 year old boy’s imagination.  I think the furthest I got in my mind was maybe a brief hug and a kiss.  On the cheek.

(Well, okay, there was a vague sense that there would probably be sex in the far future, like maybe after the 527th step in the extended plan, which was something like “Get married at age 23″… But it only turned up there because people who date eventually get married, and people who get married have sex, not because of an actual longing for sex.)

Now, I was 14 or 15.  I was supposed to be clueless and awkward about dating.  I was supposed to make painfully embarrassing mistakes on the road to figuring it all out.  But…  I just wasn’t interested in figuring it out.  The idea of romance and coupledom held no real appeal.  I think I just wanted to be a closer friend, but societal pressure and gender expectations ended up twisting around my head.  It was like I was not permitted to have any female friends (Unless they lived on my street), so she had to be my girlfriend or nothing at all.

I figured that I’d eventually get “activated” and decide that I wanted to give the relationship world a spin, but that never happened.  I went all the way through high school and college without going on a single date, and that never really bugged me.  There were a few people I found vaguely interesting, but not interesting enough to do anything about.  I think a couple of people flirted with me, but that was completely wasted on me.

I’ve only had one girlfriend.  When I was 21, a woman from a forum I was involved in began expressing an interest in me.  I did not express interest back.  She left her boyfriend for me.  Still not interested.  She attempted to give me a topless webcam show.  I didn’t catch on and told her to put on a different shirt if she hated the one she was wearing so much.  She came to visit for the day.  I had an escape plan.  During the visit, she pounced on me and began caressing and kissing me.  I didn’t react.

You might say she was persistent…

Eventually, after months of begging and declaring her love and pleading and getting angry that I didn’t feel the same way and wishing that I would change, I came around and declared that she was my girlfriend. It was an LDR, so our relationship was mostly conducted online.  It really didn’t change much when we became a couple.  We still spent all day and half the night talking, just as we’d done before.  About once a month, though, we’d have a visit.

These visits were essentially dates.  We’d go to restaurants I didn’t like and felt obligated to see a movie together, even if there wasn’t anything particularly that great playing.  And occasionally, things would turn physical.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I had no internal “This is nice” barometer to guide me.  Obviously, when she touched me, there were some things that were physically pleasant, but overall emotionally, I was indifferent.  And when I touched her…  Nothing.

I didn’t feel anything when I put my arm around her.

I didn’t feel anything when we held hands.

I didn’t feel anything when I kissed her.

I didn’t feel anything when she had me touch her breasts.

I didn’t feel anything when I reached into her pants.

I didn’t feel anything when we slept together.

Wait…  I did feel something.  I felt like I was acting.  Like I was supposed to be following a script, but I hadn’t learned my lines.  The physical connection felt alien and forced.  I didn’t know how to respond.  There was a hollowness there.  Emptiness.  I was just going through the motions.  None of it felt natural.  Everyone else talked about how amazing all these things were, but for me, there was nothing.

And I lived in fear of being found out.

I did love her.  I think.  Maybe I’d just convinced myself that I did because I should.  Maybe I just convinced myself that I did because I wanted to be in love.  Maybe I didn’t understand the concept of love.

I didn’t cry when she broke up with me.  I didn’t beg her to reconsider.  I was relieved.  I had been feeling that I wasn’t in it for a while, but I just couldn’t bring myself to dump her after all she went through in the first place.  And it’s not like I had a clear reason I could point to.  There wasn’t anyone else, no horrible event that turned me away.  There was just that sense that something was missing, there was that hollowness that never went away.

That was ten years ago.  I haven’t been on a date or in a relationship since.  (Came close once, but didn’t quite get there.)  I don’t know that I’d actually like being in a relationship.  I certainly don’t need one.  When I think about having a girlfriend, I think about it in practical terms.  If I had a girlfriend, she could drive when we go on vacation.  If I had a girlfriend, she could help me load Ikea flat pack furniture boxes into my car.  If I had a girlfriend, she could do something about that weeds in the back yard.  If I had a girlfriend, she could make phone calls for me.  If I had a girlfriend, she’d get me to the hospital if I fell down the stairs.  But never anything about companionship or love.

So…  I don’t know.  Am I aromantic?  Am I just bad at being heteroromantic?  Is this all just extreme shyness and social awkwardness preventing me from being able to have a relationship?  Do I need to fling myself out of my comfort zone and experiment more, or would that just lead to disaster?  Is it asexuality coming into the picture and saying “Why Bother?”.

 

(By the way, in case you were wondering, no, that first girl didn’t grow up to become a doctor and save the world.  Instead, she’s making awful indie comedy movies with her director husband.  Had I known at the time, I might have been able to set in motion a chain of events that would have prevented those movies from being made, but I did nothing…  Or because I did nothing, did I, myself, set in motion the very chain of events that led to them being made?  Either way, I must live with the guilt…)

Living Alone

Although this is for the Carnival of Aces theme about age and asexuality, it’s not really about age or asexuality.  At least not directly.  Instead, it’s about something that comes up over and over when younger aces talk about growing up:  The fear of living alone.

I’m in my thirties.  I live alone.  I’ve lived alone for almost nine years now and let me tell you a secret:  It’s not scary.  Know why?  Because it’s awesome, that’s why.

Know what’s in my closet?  My clothes. Know who gets the blankets at night?  Me. Know what’s on TV?  Whatever I want to watch. Know who uses all the hot water in the shower in the morning?  I do. Know who gets to use the car tomorrow?  No one, because it’s Sunday and I don’t feel like going anywhere.

I live alone in a four bedroom house.  Know what’s in one of the bedrooms in this house?  It’s not a guest bedroom that has to be maintained for the in-laws.  It’s not a playroom for a rabble of rugrats.  It’s full of video games.  Nothing but video games.  I have video games from systems you’ve never heard of.  Do you know why?  Because it’s my house and I want a room full of video games.

I didn’t have to get permission when I decided to staple a hundred plastic plates to my wall to make a gigantic Tetris hallway.  I didn’t have to convince anyone when I decided to replace some lightswitches or put up some shelves.  I didn’t have to form a selection committee when I decided to put waterfall pictures on my stairs.  I don’t have to ask for forgiveness when I take over the dining room table for an art and/or science project that has no rational explanation.

(And speaking of the dining room table:  It’s cheap.  It’s actually a folding table.  But no one complains about it, because there’s no one here to complain.)

It’s wonderful that there’s no one here to stop me.  If I want to buy a copy of The Trouble With Tribbles on CED VideoDisc, even though I don’t have a VideoDisc player and no one even has any idea what a VideoDisc is, no one will tell me no.  If I think that it’s a good idea to try to build an air conditioner to draw up cool air from my crawlspace using a fan, a cardboard sheet, some ventilation tubing, and a whole lotta duct tape, no one will tell me no.  If I want Froot Loops for lunch, no one will tell me no.  If I want to lock myself away for five days while I build a fully autonomous real world implementation of “Robot Finds Kitten”, no one will tell me no. If I want to put pink flamingos, a garden gnome, and a random survey benchmark in my backyard, no one will tell me no.  If I want to replace the bulbs in the bathroom fixture with red, green, and blue bulbs so that I get white light, but awesome colored shadows, no one will tell me no. If I want to hang out in my PJs until 1 PM, then go naked for the rest of the day, no one will tell me no.  (But I don’t want to do that, because I’d probably just get cold.)

You know what I had for dinner last night?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know what I’ll have for dinner tonight?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know what I’ll have for dinner tomorrow night?  Pepperoni pizza.  Know why?  I like pepperoni pizza.  There’s no negotiating about menu variety or freezer space, and there’s no demands that I go to an overpriced restaurant that I hate.

And it’s not just inside the house where being single comes in handy.  I like to go on vacation.  So far, I’ve been to two decommissioned nuclear reactors and one atomic bomb detonation site.  I’ve seen the world’s largest frying pan, a life-sized statue of Yoda, and the landfill in the desert where Atari buried thousands of copies of the ET game.  I’ve stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I’ve gone where the streets have no name in Joshua Tree, and I’ve climbed underneath the bridge on the muddy banks of the Wishkah.  And I haven’t had to justify any of it.  I go where I want and stay as long as I like.  I don’t complain if I have to have spray cheese and crackers for dinner because I’m camping someplace that’s a hundred miles from a restaurant.  I don’t have to deal with anyone getting hungry or getting bored or getting tired or needing a pit stop ten minutes after I just bought gas.  Know how many outlet malls or art museums or roadside fruit stands I’ve had to stop at?  None.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in this world.

All the chores around the house are mine to do.  I can’t weasel out of doing the dishes or the laundry, and the overgrown jungle of a backyard is silently mocking me for failing to keep it under control.  There’s no one else around who I can get to kill the spiders for me, either.

As much as I like going on vacation, let’s face it, places like the Willamette Valley are much better if you sleep the whole way through them, and it’s really hard to do that if you’re driving. (Although, it would be a lot easier to do if it weren’t for that slight curve near Eugene…)  Also, there was that one cave in California where I decided that it was dangerous to go alone, so I didn’t go inside, even though it’s supposed to have an amazing wall of ice in it.

If I get sick, I can’t lay in bed all day while someone waits on me.

If someone has to call the mortgage company or make reservations or otherwise use that terrifying contraption known as a telephone, it has to be me.

If I go into a store, there’s no one else who can deflect the pushy salespeople.

And if I somehow get trapped in the crawlspace when trying to rig up that air conditioner I was talking about, there’s no one who’ll rescue me and I’ll die down there and no one will ever find my body.

Perhaps the worst part about living alone is that I don’t have anyone to help me load Ikea furniture into my car.  Have you ever tried to fill a Prius with flat pack bookcases all by yourself?  Let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

So basically, I guess what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be so worried about ending up alone, because being alone is what you make of it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go mount a giant pixel-art mural of a level from Super Mario Bros. on my wall.

(And no one will tell me no.)