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.

3 thoughts on “Who Cares About Asexuality? (or: Why Visibility Matters)

  1. That was really confusing, without context, at times, including right at the beginning. I wished I could follow just a bit more of when/where/how/why this conversation was taking place.

    But thank you for sharing it just the same. From what I did read of it (and I did get tired after a while, because it is LONG lol, but I did get through the “non-sexual” and “asexual” part which was quite relevant before giving up) I understand completely why you shared it.

    I feel like this – how asexuals out there right now need to know they’re not alone – is never stressed enough. What we need is part of sex-ed in all public (and private) schools a small portion that brings up asexuality as a possibility for some people. That is all. It’d make a world of difference. People who are transgendered, gay, bi, ace – we all need to be exposed to the ideas of these possibilities before we feel them about ourselves, if possible, or at least before we stress about them for too long.

  2. This is why I talk about it too. I usually say to those people who are like “whyyyy do you have to talk about this???”–Go to any asexual website. Look at the intros section. Look at how many people A DAY post that they are so relieved and grateful to find a word for themselves and a community that knows. Now tell me this isn’t really important because it’s invisible to you. Keep telling me that–these people’s issues are pointless and really their pain is negligible compared to the *annoyance* you feel having to *read a story about us* once in a while. How dare we interrupt your life?

    This is also why I really hate the “why do you need to call ‘not having sex’ an orientation? Why do you need a label?” thing. We need it because things that exist usually have a word. If no word exists, that means no one’s wanted to say it. And that means nobody else understands. The power of a word is phenomenal. I see its power every day.

    I never felt like you. I never felt lost or broken, though I did wonder why I seemed to be the only one. It didn’t matter to me if I ever found other people who understood. But when those people found ME, I understood why it was so important that someone should be talking about it.

  3. I’ve been in the dark for 15 years…. that’s how long I’ve been sexually active; and that’s how long I’ve been denying the fact that sex does nothing for me. I used to do it because I thought whatever was wrong with me would one day fix itself. Then I found out I was asexual.

    I recently came out to my partner, the sex we were having stopped altogether and eventually we had to talk about it. I said:

    “Sex… it no longer makes sense to me”

    If there’s nothing to fix, if I’m not broken, what’s the point?

    I could have saved myself so much pain if only I’d known what asexuality was right from the start.

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