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…

5 thoughts on “Social Anxiety and Asexuality

  1. I have social anxiety to a certain extent, as in, I can converse with people, but I don’t like too close of contact. I have a personal space bubble that I need respected. I am a germaphobe, not cripplingly so, but to the extent I don’t like people breathing on me, talking to close to my face, I am not real comfortable with touching, hugging. And, I am asexual. I have had crushes, but I cannot see myself being physical with another person. I am 57, and I know who I am, but it is often very hard to live in the real world, with this, and anxiety issues. My anxiety makes me fear so much. Even getting a flue shot or a blood draw is something I have to psych myself up for to a ridiculous extent. I fear surgery, tests, doctor’s visits, I don’t like to sit in church because it makes me anxious. So, I do relate to a lot of what you are feeling.

  2. Hi, I’m sorry if this is long or seems to ramble. But I really relate to this and I don’t know a lot of people in real life who are both asexual and have social anxiety. The combination of these two things has made me feel like an alien. When I told my friend that I felt this way, she told me basically that I was wrong/arrogant to think that nobody else thought that way except me. However this was not at all what I was implying, I know everyone has thoughts like that sometimes/that everybody has problems and there’s no comparison to who suffers more, etc. But that is just how I honestly feel and it hurt when she berated me instead of saying, “Yeah, I feel like that too sometimes”. I feel like I’m not human sometimes because of my non-existent sexual interest/attraction to fellow humans, and also because of being bullied and having permanent anxiety about social interactions. On top of that, I have a paraphilia, which has caused me a lot of unnecessary guilt and way more confusion about my sexuality in the past then there would have been if I were ace with nothing on the side. I have actually met an asexual in real life, but we weren’t that close due to our contrasting personalities and interests. We were acquaintances, and I never once told her that I was asexual. I knew it, but wasn’t 100% sure then. Even now, I feel like I can’t say I am as long as I have a paraphilia. I’m afraid that society would tell me that I’m not and that I’m a fetishist, but I don’t do any fetishist activities. They are purely fantasies/fictional.
    I’m extremely grateful to finally have access to all these resources. I’ve read that some asexuals have different things that arouse them, and others don’t and that it’s normal and that you are ace as long as you don’t have a desire to have sex with someone. I just can’t shake off this feeling that I’m a fraud or that I’m bad/ don’t really belong anywhere for some reason. I’m afraid of the possibility that I’m really sick or evil deep down even though I have no desire to hurt anybody. I have dacryphilia, but am not sadistic or masochist, I hate seeing anyone suffer.

    • I feel the same way. Though I don’t have a paraphilia – in fact, so far, I haven’t experienced any kind of sexual attraction at all – I feel like a failure of a human being for being unable to relate to people on such a basic, primal, level. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given that I can’t even relate to people on any other level.
      I have a form of social anxiety that allows me to interact and deal with people for the most part, but prevents me from forming any kind of deeper relationship. With asexuality that means that my brain never stops analysing, never turns off and is never overcome with “emotion ” or “attraction” or any kind of social lubricant. I can’t “be in the moment” or “let myself go” and I hate it. Unfathomably I have a boyfriend who is happy to take it slow, but how do you tell someone that even taking it slow, we might never get past the first base? I don’t even know how I feel about it, about him. I’m conflicted because I feel like an awful person for being unable to reciprocate, but I’m terrified I’ll just end up alone.
      I’ve never met another asexual person. Even reading these posts, it still feels like fiction. It’s hard not to believe that I’m simply defective.

      • You worded exactly how I felt for the past 20 years of my life. I never really understood the concept of love, nor the ‘feelings’ that it came with. Watching fairy tales where the princess was always saved only with the ‘true love’ of a prince, I didn’t understand what exactly was so attractive about a person that you’ve only met once or twice other than the fact that they were pretty/handsome. Whenever I had a crush on someone I didn’t really see the person as a sexual/physically attractive being. I rather liked them for the positive qualities that I thought they (and most times, didn’t) have. I always labeled my crushes as ‘infatuations’ because they never really progressed to anything further than that. Just this past week I was speaking to a friend about a boy I’ve talked to a couple times that I found ‘cute’. Only later did I understand that that friend may have thought I found him physically attractive and not mentally/emotionally attractive as I have come to terms with.
        I struggle mainly because people don’t exactly believe that asexuality exists. I live in a community where any kind of deviation from heterosexuality is a sin (yes, I did grow up in a religious family and community. I personally do not identify with this religion for many other reasons other than my sexuality). I’m still trying to grasp the fact that I may actually be asexual, and not because I’m an emotionless monster. I just don’t really feel anything deeper than something superficial whenever I’m in any kind of kinship/friendship, even with family I’ve known for all my life. When my grandmother who took care of me for most of my life died, I didn’t shed any tears until 2 months later when my mother upset me so deeply that I began to cry uncontrollably. Whenever someone is romantically interested in me I become fearful and shut myself in because I know in the end all that person really wants is progression and I wouldn’t be able to give them that sexual satisfaction (because sex is just not something that I would spend my time with that person for) that they want/need. I still have to find someone who will respect my sexuality and my space enough to understand that even though it will take me a very long time to open up, I have emotions and one of them is just not love.
        I have social anxiety but for different reasons. One of them is just because of the emotional abuse that I suffered at the hands of immediate family members (who I miraculously still live with during the summertime. I’ve had periods where I never contacted them for months at a time and they gaslighted me for it but I digress) but also because of the fear and pain that knowing in the fact that if I did make friends and outside relationships, I will not be able to actual feel the emotions that I seem to project out on a deeper level. If someone came up to me and said that their dog died, unless I had numerous interactions with the said animal and had some good times with it, I wouldn’t be able to feel anything other than a sympathy for that person. Don’t even get me started on romantic relationships.
        But you aren’t defective. It’s hard to believe but you aren’t defective because you just don’t feel something society deems as ‘love’. I feel a sense of comfort in that, because I’ve had way too many friends that have gotten hurt because of terrible relationships they stuck to in the name of ‘love’ when in reality the person just wasn’t the right person for them. There are more ace people out there than you think. And you are valid to feel those things, because I have days where I think I’m defective too. It’s a learning process, and I hope you get to come to that understanding and have peace of mind :)

  3. Wow! I want to really thank you for putting out this page and info to all who made it possible. I have been feeling so awful lately like something was terribly wrong with me and now it all makes sense. I didn’t lose my virginity till I was 26 and even then it was like “Eh might as well everyone else is.” It’s great to know I am not the only one out there.

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