Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Miss me with your "we are all sexually broken" hot takes. I'm asexual.

Tweet from Matt Smethurst (@MattSmethurst) from 6/6/18 "No one has ever gone to heaven for being heterosexual. We are all sexual rebels needing to be clothed in the radiant purity of Jesus Christ."
So I saw this tweet and decided I have to write about the Christian teaching "we are all sexually broken." I have some Things To Say because I'm asexual.

Here's how this idea goes. It comes up in the context of anti-gay Christians trying to make their homomisia sound like love. They say something like, "Yes, same-sex attraction is a temptation and acting on it is definitely a sin. But that doesn't mean we think we're morally superior to gay people. We have all sinned sexually- being straight doesn't make that okay, it's still a sin. We all have sexual desires for things that God forbids. We are all sexually broken."

(Note: "Broken" here is a Christianese word that basically means "sinful down to the core.")

Now, any queer Christian can tell you this is a bunch of nonsense because in reality there is a huge double standard. Straight people's "sexual sin" is seen as normal and understandable and doesn't get them kicked out of church, but LGB people's "sexual sin" is taken as a sign that there's something horribly wrong with them. And it's laughable to require gay people to be single forever and claim that's the same thing as requiring straight people to get married before they're allowed to have sex.

But what I want to talk about is how this teaching erases the existence of asexuals.

Back when I believed in all that teaching about "sexual purity," I felt so bad about how "impure" I was, and I even occasionally "lusted" and enjoyed it and felt guilty about that. I had crushes, I was so romantically attracted to boys, and tried to work hard to "guard my heart" even though I had these romantic feelings all the time. And sometimes, rarely, I even had thoughts of kissing a boy. Oh gasp, the horror! At least if it's a crush, it means the guy has some positive personality traits I find attractive, so I can pray about whether or not God is telling me he is "my future husband." But a desire for physical touch and nothing more, wow that is the height of sexual sin, isn't it? I remember at night, hanging out with friends playing board games, and this thought crossed my mind- "what if I kissed him." Oh what was wrong with me? Oh how "sexually broken." And I wanted to dwell on that idea, to actually make a choice to continue thinking about how I wanted to kiss him- and that was definitely a sin. There were other occasions where I thought a guy had nice legs and I thought about how it would feel to stand so close to him that my leg was touching his leg. I believed that was "lust" and I was so sinful for wanting those things.

That was my situation back then. Dealing with all that romantic attraction toward whatever boy was my current crush, trying to control it and not get "too emotionally attached" because then it would be "an idol" and I might stray from my devotion to God. And also occasionally, very very occasionally, a desire to kiss or touch a boy- and this was a completely different thing because it was toward boys I didn't even have romantic feelings for. And I liked it. Sometimes I would let myself spend several seconds fantasizing about that touch. And I was sure that was a sin. I was sure it meant I was "sexually broken."

Fast-forward to the first time I had sex (and I'm proud to say it was BEFORE we got married). And, well, I never had a desire for THAT before. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I'm asexual. All that "lust" I was fighting back when I was in purity culture, that wasn't actually sexual attraction at all. That was romantic attraction and sensual attraction.

I started to realize how there was a whole huge world of sexual desires that people typically have, that I never had at all. I never had a desire to masturbate- instead, I was afraid to touch my own genitals because in church I was warned about how "easy" it was for people to become "addicted to masturbation." I never had any desire to watch porn- but was afraid of "addiction" to that too. I dated a few guys but it never even occurred to me to wonder if I might be interested in having sex with them- but I was afraid and set up rules for myself like "don't sit on my boyfriend's bed" because church people warned me "one thing leads to another." I watched romantic comedies and felt extremely awkward during scenes where characters discussed sex or took their clothes off, and I thought everyone else felt awkward too- it never occurred to me that somebody made a deliberate decision to put this scene into the movie because some viewers would enjoy it.

When I said "sexual sin" it meant "choosing to spend several seconds imagining kissing a boy who is definitely not the one God picked for me." I didn't know that when other Christians said "sexual sin", they meant something more along the lines of "going online and clicking on porn, getting aroused watching it, and masturbating." I never even knew about arousal, you guys.

I never had the desire to have sex, but I lived in fear that my romantic desires were an indication that I could potentially be so sinful as to desire sex.

I never thought, "isn't it a little odd that I don't have a desire to masturbate?" Ha. No, of course not. Ha, what a joke. Masturbating was a horrible sin, you see, so of course if we are following God perfectly, we won't have a desire for it. And of course, I was not following God perfectly, because I occasionally noticed a boy's legs. I was concerned about that, not about my lack of sexual desire. Ha. Far from it.

So about this "we are all sexually broken" ideology. It's not true that everyone "sins sexually"; some of us are asexual and literally don't have sexual attraction at all. Though I suppose that even my asexual "sins" would count as "sexual sins" under purity ideology. But there are other asexuals who don't even have those other types of attraction either- they exist, and I am NOT OKAY with Christians' attempts to erase them.

But, actually, finding out I'm asexual has led me to see how "we are all sexually broken" is even more messed-up than I thought. Now that I'm an adult and not in purity culture any more, I have discovered that most people just view sex as a normal part of life for adults- regardless of whether or not they're married. Just a normal thing. It's normal to have sexual desires. It's normal to masturbate. It's normal to have sex- even if you're not married.

And I had no idea before. I'm asexual, so for me it's not hard to not have sex. But now I realize that for most people, that's not the case. Far from it. And the church has taken this extremely normal desire, which almost everyone has, and labelled it "sinful" and "broken." I never realized how unhealthy that was, not until I found out about asexuality and realized that other people weren't like me.

One last thing I want to say: I'm talking about asexuality and the idea of being "sexually broken," so I should mention that it's common for asexuals to feel that we are "broken" because everyone else is interested in sex and we aren't. That's wasn't my experience (when other people were interested in sex and I wasn't, I just felt morally superior to them) but it's very common for asexuals. No, being asexual doesn't mean we're "broken." We are fine.

And having sexual desire does not mean non-asexual people are "broken." This ideology- which tells people to feel guilty over their normal, natural desires- is what's broken.


You asked and I answered~ In my 2018 Reader Survey, one of the top 5 topics you voted for was "purity culture." Hence this post. :)

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