I made this slide set for Asexual Awareness Week 2013. It tells the story of an asexual ghost in the world of Pac-Man, from loneliness and isolation, through visibility and awareness, to acceptance.
So… This is really hard to say, but I feel that I have to tell the truth. You all deserve to know.
I don’t really like Doctor Who.
There. I said it. I’m awhovian.
I don’t hate Doctor Who, I just don’t really care for it. I know I’m supposed to. Everyone else does. I’ve tried to like it. There’s been the black and white ones, the ones with the question mark umbrella, the ones with the bow-tie, and the ones with the guy that played “The Actor” in that episode of People Like Us. I even had a Doctor Who book that taught me about Timelords and Tardises back when I was ten. But none of them grabbed me. I just don’t feel it.
Sometimes it’s difficult to be around ”normal” people when they start talking about River Song or Daleks or Time Travelling Telephone Booths. I just don’t understand them. Sometimes, I feel broken and alone.
Regarding other “ace” things…
I think our flag is kinda ugly. It’s great that we have one, I get the symbolism, and I’ll use it where appropriate, but come on… Black and white and grey and purple bands? Looks a bit like a broken Atari game. But still… It’s mine, it’s ours, and I’ll take it. Plus, the colors themselves are fairly distinctive.
Cake. I like some cake. Not all cake, but some. I tried to get a cake for AAW in order to celebrate. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to sell cake for one. So I had to get a big unfrosted cake and some frosting to go with it. That meant I had to try to put frosting on the cake. I failed. I also thought about bringing the cake into work, but I realized that I didn’t have any kind of cake transportation device, so I’d have no way to frost it at home and still get it to the office without creating a huge mess. So much uneaten cake. Sad.
(Now I’m reminded of the “Celebrate with Cake!” ads from GTA San Andreas…)
I’m not a ring person. I tried wearing a black ring all week and I hated every moment of it. It felt like everyone was staring at it, which, I guess they’re supposed to do, since it’s for visibility and all, but… It just felt weird. It seemed like it was in the way all the time. And my fingers just aren’t built for rings. No one mentioned it, either. Next year, I’m going to have to find a bracelet or something instead, because I don’t think I can do the ring again. (The ace shirt, however… That one I can do, even though it’s not my typical style.)
Then there’s cuddles. Not a big fan of cuddles. Even with kittens. (Kittens themselves are okay, though.) Cuddles were often uncomfortable for me and I usually felt like I had to fake interest in them.
Anyway, this concludes my Asexual Awareness Week series. Stay tuned in the future, when I return to my ordinary question-and-answer/wall-of-text posts. Thanks for reading!
One of the most common question asked of asexuals is “Do you masturbate?”.
The answer: Yes. I do.
(Not all of us do. Some of us do, some of us don’t, and some of us can’t.)
(BTW, it’s NOYDB. So stop asking. Anyway…)
It generally confuses people when we do, though… (It even confuses us sometimes.)
It’s not just “scratching an itch” for me. It’s not “just a biological function.” It’s not “cleaning the pipes.” It’s not a way to calm an undirected libido or prevent nighttime accidents. It’s not some bothersome vestigial leftover of the sexuality I’m supposed to have. It’s none of that for me.
I do it because I like it. It feels good. It’s fun.
And it does not invalidate my asexuality to feel this way.
Asexuality means that I’m not sexually attracted to anyone, it does not mean that my equipment doesn’t function. It functions, and how.
You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to become aroused. You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to experience and enjoy an orgasm. All you have to do is touch your sensitive bits in the right way and presto!
I never understood the old religious claim that “Masturbation isn’t necessarily a sin, but lust is, and you have to have lust in your heart in order to masturbate, because you’re fantasizing while you do it.” It just didn’t make sense to me. I never had lust. I never fantasized. When I first heard it, I was young and had only recently started masturbating. At the time, I just figured that I was new and I hadn’t figured out quite what I was supposed to be doing, and that when I got older, something would kick in and I’d start fantasizing and feeling lust and have to confront the moral question then. (And all this even though I was never actually religious…) But all that happened was I got older. The lusting and fantasizing never began.
I don’t fantasize. I just can’t. I’ve tried, though. I tried to picture naked people doing naked people things. I tried to imagine erotic scenarios. It never worked for me. I tried because it was supposed to help. It was supposed to turn on the sexual overdrive and make everything ten times more exciting. All it did was distract me. I had to concentrate so hard on the mental stage direction that I lost focus on what I was doing. It was so much effort to get the imaginary naked woman in the right pose and performing the right motions that the slightest stray thought would kick me out of the fantasy and force me to start over.
If you start to plan out the script of your sexual fantasy because your brain doesn’t do improv in that genre, that’s a pretty good sign that something is up.
That bothered me for a long time. Everyone else fantasized while they masturbated and I just couldn’t. That bothered me more than my lack of interest in dating ever did. Not wanting to ask a girl out could conveniently be explained away by shyness or social anxiety. But not being able to include her in a sexual fantasy that would have stayed in my mind and been free of awkward conversations and fear of rejection? That made me feel broken.
I eventually overcame that, well before I discovered asexuality. I realized that it didn’t do anything for me, I just didn’t think in that way, and it wasn’t actually a problem for me. I enjoyed masturbating adn I wasn’t going to let something like that stand in the way.
So, that brings up what is probably the second most common question asked of asexuals: “If you’re not attracted to anyone, what do you think about when you masturbate?”
What do I think about? Furniture. (No, really. I have planned out how to decorate a room while involved.) My day. The plot of some TV show. Video games. Politics. Music from the 80’s. The next vacation I’m going to take. The weather. But most of all, I think about two specific things:
“That feels good.”
“That feels even better.”
I think I’m going to use “Attraction, not Action” instead of “Orientation, not Behavior” to talk about asexuality from now on. I accidentally used it in a Facebook post this morning because I was in a hurry and couldn’t remember the “orientation” line. Seems to work better anyway. Shorter to type, too. Plus, it avoids the objection that some other people have about asexuality being called an orientation because it’s not exactly “oriented” in any particular direction.
I’m sure I’ve heard it before, though. I just can’t figure out where.
I’ve been in love before.
She invaded my dreams. She monopolized my thoughts. I’d talk to her for hours every day. I’d smile whenever I saw anything that reminded me of her. I’d laugh about something she said days after she said it.
I wanted to spend every moment with her. I wanted to share my life with her. There were no secrets.
I saw her face when I closed my eyes, I felt her touch after she was gone, I smelled her hair on the breeze, I heard her voice in the silence.
She was everything to me.
I just wasn’t all that interested in sleeping with her.
I’ve looked at porn before. In fact, porn is a big reason how I knew that I was different sexually than most other people.
You see, everyone else seemed to really like porn. Really really like it. And I didn’t. Not all of it, anyway. After I got past the initial rebellious feelings of “OOH, I’M LOOKING AT BOOBIES!”, I just felt bored.
I was supposed to like it. I was supposed to fantasize about taking part in every scene. I was supposed to turn into a drooling horn dog at the mere hint of an exposed nipple.
But I just didn’t.
It was repetitive.
It was fake.
It looked uncomfortable.
It was formulaic and predictable.
Thoughts ran through my mind…
No one ever does those things.
That would pull a muscle.
The camera angle is horrible.
The lighting is horrible.
Why is she pretending to have an orgasm when no one in the scene is touching anything capable of producing that reaction?
I didn’t want to do pretty much anything I saw. I could not imagine myself in the scenes.
I wasn’t disgusted by it. (Well, most of it, anyway…) I didn’t have a moral objection to it. But I wasn’t all that excited by it, either. Yes, I would sometimes get aroused, but more often than not, I’d become distracted by poor staging or unrealistic activities and lose the arousal before I could really put it to good use. (Yes, I’d get aroused. Arousal is not the same as attraction. I’d get aroused because, well, it’s sex, and some part of my brain knows that sex thoughts should produce an erection because sex thoughts may be followed by sex. Plus, being the owner of one of the sets of equipment shown in the videos, I knew that some of the activities would be pleasant, so a signal would get sent downstairs to prepare it for those sorts of pleasant activities.)
Sometimes I’d pause the videos and look in the background to see what books or movies or games they had on a shelf, or to figure out what city was in the background out the window. Little mysteries like that were often far more entertaining than the repetitive in-out-in-out mechanics in the foreground.
At first, I just thought that I hit a bad batch. Like maybe everything I looked at just wasn’t all that good. There were a few pictures of “cute” girls that were nice to look at, but I didn’t find any “hot” girls that I’d like to have my way with. That’s what porn is supposed to be all about, right? So I went exploring. Surely there was something out there I’d like.
Maybe I’d like blondes.
Maybe I’d like brunettes.
Maybe I’d like black women.
Maybe I’d like Asians.
Maybe I’d like redheads.
Maybe I’d like skinny girls.
Maybe I’d like fat girls.
Maybe I’d like goths.
Maybe I’d like S&M.
Maybe I’d like grannies.
Maybe I’d like nannies.
Maybe I’d like shaved.
Maybe I’d like natural.
Maybe I’d like cheerleaders.
Maybe I’d like lesbians.
Maybe I’d like gay men.
Maybe I’d like two on one.
Maybe I’d like three on one.
Maybe I’d like big breasts.
Maybe I’d like flat chests.
Maybe I’d… Maybe…
I went through just about every permutation, combination, variation, deviation and perversion that’s on the Internet and virtually none of it appealed to me in any way. (Well, okay, there was a bit of aesthetic attraction toward the redheads, but other than that…) The vast majority of it was dull and boring. The more it turned to stereotypical “porno movie with porn stars” (You know, the “Did you order a pizza, ma’am?” variety), the less appealing it became.
That bothered me. I was supposed to like it, right? I mean, I was supposed to have a primal reaction. There were supposed to be urges and all that. Everyone else got all excited by it and talked at length about all the hammering, nailing, screwing, and various other assorted construction-related metaphors that they fantasized about doing with this porn star or that porn star. All I got was a feeling that I’d wasted my time and money.
It wasn’t until I discovered that I was asexual that I realized what was going on. It wasn’t that I just hadn’t found some narrow subniche that would do it for me, it wasn’t that I’m just picky, it’s that nothing would really do it for me, ever. Porn would never trigger the emotional reaction in me that it did in other people. Where other people saw a stream of fantasies and desires, I saw a poorly filmed video of mostly naked people doing things to each other that neither one really seemed to be interested in being a part of.
Now that I know I’m ace, I’ve gone back to look at porn from time to time. I’ve realized that the stuff that I do find interesting is almost always well-lit, well-framed, in-focus, it has a pleasing array of colors and shapes, and the people in the shot generally seem to be willing and engaged. In other words, it seems to be far more important to me that the picture be a good photograph in general, rather than necessarily be erotic or revealing or whatever.
So, in conclusion, what I guess I’m really trying to say here is: If you happen to make homemade porn videos, buy a bright light and a tripod and smile once in a while. Seriously.
The words “hot” and “sexy” might as well be in a foreign language. I don’t relate to them at all. They always seem to be used to describe people or things that I find artificial, impractical, and unappealing.
I had a girlfriend once who complained that I thought she was “cute”. She didn’t want to be “cute”, she wanted to be “hot”.
My brain is simply not wired to understand it. When someone says “Check her out, she’s so hot”, what I see is someone with oversized lips, plastic skin, breasts that’ll make her lose her balance, a face with more paint and spackle on it than my house, and it’s all wrapped up in clothes that cannot be comfortable to wear. Those features stand out and scream that I’m looking at an artificial creation instead of a person.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a person to like that sort of thing. I’m just saying that I can’t.
I do experience aesthetic attraction. There are certain people or types of people that I do enjoy looking at. Those people will stand out and I will notice them. But all I want to do is look. It’s like I’m looking at a cute puppy or beautiful picture.
Those are words I understand. “Cute”, “Beautiful”, sometimes even “Pretty”. I see people who I consider cute or beautiful. There is always something about them that will stand out. Maybe it’s the clothes, maybe it’s the hair, maybe it’s the smile. But whatever it is, it always feels natural. It feels real.
But even so, I get the feeling that I experience aesthetic attraction even less often than most people experience sexual attraction. It’s a rare feeling.
I’ve had sex. It wasn’t a compromise. It wasn’t solely for her pleasure. It wasn’t to save the relationship. It wasn’t a violation.
I did it for me. I did it because I wanted to experience it.
On the whole, it was positive. It felt good. I liked it.
It wasn’t the mindblowing experience I was led to believe. It didn’t sexually awaken me. I didn’t start craving sex with every waking hour of my life. I didn’t suddenly start to feel sexually attracted to her or anyone else. I felt like I was acting.
That was nine years ago. I haven’t had sex since. I don’t miss it.
I’d do it again in the right circumstances.
I never really got sex. It always seemed alien to me. When everyone else was busy turning into horny teenagers, I was oblivious. Whatever subsystem got switched on for their 13th birthday never got enabled in me.
Whenever I looked at “sexy” celebrities, I couldn’t see the appeal.
Whenever I looked at some girl I was told was “hot”, I wasn’t driven wild.
I never pictured people naked. I never wanted to jump someone’s bones. I never felt like an uncontrollable raging horny beast.
And I never understood anyone else who did.
I’ve known for years that I’m not like other people when it comes to sex, but I always just thought I was simply not very good at being straight. I tried the girlfriend and sex thing, but still never felt an urge to have sex. It always seemed like everyone else was pretending and I just wasn’t in on the game.
But that wasn’t it. That couldn’t be it. The rest of the world simply couldn’t be acting all the time in such a consistent manner. If everyone was just faking it, surely someone would have pointed out that the Emperor wasn’t wearing anything.
It was earlier this year that it finally became absolutely clear that there was something fundamentally different about me. Not necessarily wrong, not necessarily broken, just different. I was 31 years old, I hadn’t had sex in over eight years, and it didn’t bother me one bit.
So, if I was different, what was I? I embarked on a journey of discovery and very quickly came across asexuality, and instantly knew that’s where I belonged. Everything seemed to fit and everything in my life retroactively started to make sense when viewed with this new information.
What is asexuality to me, then? Well, even people who do experience sexual attraction aren’t sexually attracted to everyone, so they know what it’s like to not be sexually attracted to someone. So, just imagine that applied to everyone and that’s how it is for me.
Or for those who may be more visual: Imagine a sunset. The beautiful dance of colors, the way countless hues mix together and constantly change as the light fades. Now picture that same sunset in black and white. You can’t see it. The sunset is effectively gone. Asexuality is like seeing a sunset in black and white. I know that other people can see the colors and they talk about how amazing and beautiful it looks and how their life wouldn’t be complete without seeing a sunset now and then, but I just can’t see the sunset. It’s not there for me. It looks the same as any other time of day. But I don’t feel like I’m missing out, because I’ve never seen it to know what it is that I’m missing out on.
And sometimes, a sunset still looks awesome in black and white.