|A cake colored with the asexual flag colors. Image text: "I'd rather be eating cake." Image source.|
First of all, definitions. Asexuality is a sexual orientation where people do not experience sexual attraction. However, they may experience romantic attraction- there are various romantic orientations, just like there are sexual orientations. Heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, aromantic, etc. I am a heteroromantic asexual woman- this means I don't have sexual desire, but I am romantically attracted to men, can fall in love, want to get married, etc. (I'm getting married this year, hooray!)
Asexuality is not the same thing as celibacy. Celibacy means you make a choice to not have sex. Maybe you desire sex, but you decide not to do it. Asexual people don't have a natural desire for sex, but they could still choose to do it. They also may or may not masturbate. They are often capable of being sexually aroused [but possibly in a different way than non-asexual people?]. Sometimes asexual people may choose to have sex because they're curious about it, or they want to make their partner happy, or they want to have children, or it feels good, or whatever reason. Being asexual isn't about behavior, it's about whether or not a person experiences sexual attraction in the first place.
[content note: okay, so next I'm going to talk about me... specifically, me having sex. if that's TMI maybe don't read it]
I grew up in purity culture- which not only teaches that no one should have sex before marriage, but also that all sexual desires are dangerous temptation and it would be better if we had no sexual desire at all. They taught us that we all have sexual desires- men more so than women, but still, we're all sinners so we all experience temptation to lust. And I had crushes on boys, and I was certain that if I didn't work hard to keep those feelings under control ("guard my heart"), then the desires would grow and grow into an overwhelming temptation to do the dirtiest sexual things imaginable. Purity culture said that's how it works. First you stay and hang out after bible study because you want to chat with a cute guy, and the next thing you know, you've had sex, your purity is ruined, you don't even know what happened. It's a slippery slope. And because I wanted so badly to be in a romantic relationship, and I had to work so hard to stamp down those desires, I was sure I had the biggest sex drive. I desired so so so much more than what purity culture permitted me to have- so I assumed that of course I also desired sex.
And then, after years of slowly working my way out of purity culture, I decided I believe premarital sex is not a sin. So Hendrix and I had sex. And ... yep, never ever had a desire for that before.
It wasn't like I thought it would be at all. I didn't know sex would be ... like ... just a guy poking his penis around between my legs. Like, that's it. I mean, I had sex ed class, I knew that in a scientific sense, that's what sex is, but ... no really, that's all it is.
Purity culture teaches that sex is THE MOST AMAZING FEELING EVER, but also very powerful and dangerous- so dangerous, in fact, that those of us who are unmarried aren't allowed to know any concrete details about it. Leaders in purity culture talk a lot about how great sex is in marriage, but they never actually give any information about what it's actually physically like. Not a word about genitals, about penises, about arousal, about erections, about orgasms, about clits, about semen, nope, nothing. They talked about it in such abstract terms, how it's about two people's hearts coming together in the most intimate way possible, how it's life-changing, how it creates a bond that lasts forever, how it's a beautiful gift from God.
So that's what I thought it would be. I thought sex would be a transcendent emotional experience, where you just get lost in your love for the other person and you forget that you even have a body, and the next day you still daydream about it because it was so amazing and romantic and you're so in love. And yes, I have had experiences sort of like that- for example, back in college, sitting on the couch next to the guy I was dating, feeling like everything is perfect and I could just stay there forever, and then when I leave him and go home and wake up the next morning, the first thing I think about is how it felt so good to sit there with him, so in love. That's happened to me. I thought sex would be like that, but even more.
Instead, it's like, here we are, in this bed, and I feel a little cold, and we have to decide what position to try, and it's kind of a lot of work to move around because I'm really tired and I just want to lay down, and my legs are bending in a weird way and that's uncomfortable, and also there is a penis here. And the whole time, I'm totally 100% aware of what's going on, completely in control, nothing happens automatically, instead, we have to do the work of choosing a position and then physically moving our bodies... It's not what I expected at all.
Yeah, I've heard people say that the first time is often awkward, and that purity culture gives really unrealistic expections about the first time ... but ... For me, it felt like "oh, okay, that's what sex is. Well now that we've done it once and found out what it's like, we don't really need to do it again." Which, I think, is probably not what non-asexual people feel the first time they have sex. Even though it may be awkward or painful, it's probably at least good enough that they still want to do it again. (... right?) For me, though, I was motivated by curiosity more than anything. My whole life, I wasn't allowed to know what sex was- to have any information of an explicit nature would be "temptation." It was like this big mystery- and it was interesting because it was a mystery. But then I watched porn for the first time, and I was like "... what's the point of this, why does the church act like porn is the most tantalizing and dangerous thing ever, it's just naked people bumping their bodies together for no reason, it's not that interesting." And then I had sex and... yeah, turns out sex is just people getting together to stimulate their genitals. That's it. It's not that interesting. Yeah, it can be romantic- but a lot of things are romantic.
And at this point I would like to address the objection "maybe you're doing it wrong," which is something people often say to asexuals. Yes, at the beginning, I was "doing it wrong," and I've found that with time, things have gotten better. It's not like we just tried once and then I decided I'm asexual. And I'm super-curious so I read a lot of sex-ed stuff online- I like Oh Joy Sex Toy (a webcomic that is very NSFW) and Laci Green (NSFW). And I've talked with doctors and a few other people about why I don't seem to "get" sex. (And everybody says "just relax" which is completely RIDICULOUS; if I were trying to relax, I would just fall asleep hugging Hendrix, not climb on top of him while trying to get my vagina to open, okay? There's nothing "relaxing" about that.) So no, I don't need you to give me advice about how to do it better.
Anyway. Yeah. I'm asexual. Back in my purity culture days, I thought I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted sex, but it turns out that sex is about getting together with another person to stimulate each other's genitals, and I have DEFINITELY never wanted that. I want romance, I want the feeling of being in love, being comfortable and warm together, touching each other, having a partner that I share my whole life with- but I personally don't see any reason anybody's genitals would need to be involved in that. Like if my partner wants to involve our genitals, then sure okay we can do that, but ... why ...
Purity culture makes it hard for everyone to figure out their sexuality- even those of us who are asexual. We're not allowed to actually ask ourselves what desires we do or do not have; we just live in fear of the desires we could have.