Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The First Time I Heard Of Asexuality ...

Aladdin and Jasmine on the magic carpet, holding hands romantically. Image source.
Remember back when I was trying to be Andrew Marin? What I mean is, I was a good evangelical Christian who believed it's okay to be gay but it's not okay to "act on" one's same-sex attraction, and I had all this compassion towards LGBT people who had been excluded and demonized by the church, and I was going to get to know them and "hate the sin, love the sinner" and show them that they still need to follow all the church's rules about sexuality and gender but like, it's cool because God loves us.

Ah yes, back then, when I started attending the LGBT group at my college, and reading articles written by LGBT people, and learning as much as I could. Listening to them instead of trying to tell them what to do. Haha, little did I know that this process of listening and learning would cause me to realize the church was all wrong about this. And that's how I became an ally. (And then, years later, I discovered I'm asexual.)

(Show of hands, how many of you ex-evangelicals made that same journey- from "hate the sin, love the sinner", to ally, to IDing as queer?)

Anyway, it was back then, in that context, that I first heard the word "asexual." In a list of definitions related to the queer community. The list said "asexual" means a person does not experience sexual attraction. And I was like, wow I can't imagine that, why would you not want to have sex?

Which might sound weird to you, given the fact that actually I am asexual. So let me explain. The problem was I had the wrong definition of "sex."

Christian purity teaching said that sex is an amazing and beautiful gift from God. It's sacred. It's the most intimate and the most vulnerable you can be with another person. It's giving yourself to your partner. It creates a bond between you that will last forever. It's two becoming one. It's so powerful that it would be dangerous to do it with someone you're not married to.

Always described in terms of emotions and love and connection. And because I'm extremely romantic, I really really wanted that. [Note: It's also totally fine to not want that.] And so I thought I really really wanted to have sex.

Ha. Nope.

So years later, when I quit believing all that purity stuff, quit believing unmarried sex is a sin, and finally did have sex with my partner, it was ... wut? Like, it wasn't a deep romantic expression of love, it was a difficult biology problem of how to put our genitals together in a way that feels good and isn't painful. Yeah, I knew that in a technical sense, sex means you do stuff with each other's genitals, but I didn't think it would feel like that. I thought it would just feel like love.

Kind of like when you're on a plane, sleeping, having a very smooth flight, and you sort of forget you're even on a plane. Like you know, intellectually, that you are thousands of feet up in the air, but it doesn't feel like you are. Or when you eat a pineapple imported from some faraway tropical island- you don't think about how far that fruit traveled to get to you, you just eat it. In the same way, I thought that, during sex, I would know that technically what we were doing was messing around with our genitals, but that wouldn't be a fact I'd need to be aware of. It would just happen automatically and I wouldn't need to pay attention to the practical mechanics of it. Instead I would just lose myself in the feelings of love and closeness.

Yeah, that's not what happened.

I guess for other people, sex maybe does feel that way- all that romantic intimacy stuff and "giving yourself" to your partner- maybe for some people it does feel like that. And that's fine for them. But what's not fine is how they talked about it in church like a one-size-fits-all thing. Everyone is straight, everyone should get married, everyone will feel the most emotionally close to their partner (ahem, spouse) during sex.

So I realized that what I had was romantic attraction and sensual attraction. Not sexual attraction. But there was no way I could have figured that out back when I first heard the word "asexual," back when I believed my romantic attraction would definitely turn into sexual attraction if I didn't "guard my heart."

I now realize that the way Christian teaching on "sexual purity" describes sex is NOT inclusive of asexuals. It acts like we don't exist. It says there is one specific way that emotions, romance, love, and sex relate to one another, and that it should be that exact same way for everyone. It erases the existence of asexuals, aromantics, polyamorous people, people who are perfectly fine having casual sex with no long-term relationship, etc etc etc.

And back when I was in that environment and bought into that teaching, there was just no way I could have known I was asexual. Even when the definition was right there in front of me.




This post is part of the July 2018 Carnival of Aces, an asexual blog carnival. This month's theme is "Then and Now."

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