This is a simply asked question, but with a few levels to it that make it more complex. How do I know I’m asexual? What does it mean to be asexual? How does the sexual nature of our world make me feel? How do others react to me being asexual?
I think British born Australian writer and game critic Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw summed it up quite nicely in his blog about 3 years back:
“But having made the decision to not pursue any of this sex business anymore I’ve discovered a strange new world I never knew existed.
“It’s like I’ve eaten spam a few times from a few popular brands and in a few serving suggestions, and found I’m not really keen on spam, ‘cos it’s salty and slimy and looks like something you might find in the alien queen’s litter box. But I’ve found myself in a world that’s completely obsessed with spam. People spend their entire lives in pursuit of spam. Every single advert on TV sells their product by placing it alongside spam. Movies have to work in at least one spam scene to reach the broadest audience. People break up and get divorced because they don’t exchange enough spam. Soldiers are given time out to go have some spam. Low-risk prisoners are given spam visiting rights. People die for spam. Entire economies have been based around spam. Selling spam is the world’s oldest profession. The lack of spam has been linked to mental disorders. The only thing getting teenagers through difficult puberty is the thought of one day getting to have spam of their very own.
“And when I explain to people that I’m not that into spam they tell me I must be some kind of hopeless cissy girl, or that I just haven’t found the right spam yet. It feels like when a theist says ‘I’ll pray for you.’ Or when a parent of some hideous mewling womb dropping says ‘You’ll understand when you have one of your own.”‘ Quite infuriating. It’s just tinned meat, guys.”
Granted, Yahtzee is far more anti-sexual and aromantic than I am, but it really is like that. I can’t help but roll my eyes when I see a commercial with a close up on a super model with the camera panning down to her cleavage, and as she reaches down off screen, the camera pulls out to show her pulling a fry out of a McDonald’s bag. I get it, they want people to buy their food, especially their fries which are the big money maker for them, but really? Or it’s like the completely unnecessary sex scene in Bloodrayne (just to name one example). The movie was bad enough courtesy of being a video game movie and a movie made by Uwe Boll, but then they threw in this jail cell sex that not only makes me roll my eyes, but it shows off a lot of things that break what little immersion there was (even if the sex itself didn’t), like the guy wearing a digital watch in WWII era Germany. Or how about how almost every game these days has some horribly forced and shoehorned in romance, even ones where it’s completely out of place like a zombie survival game?
As for how others react, Yahtzee summed it up pretty well. I often have people fuddled and confused that I don’t have physical attractions to anyone (I do have emotional attractions, and have crushed on a number of people of both sexes after getting to know them), as well as that I don’t want sex. I’ve had sex, I can (but don’t always) enjoy it as long as my genitals aren’t involved (and that may change once I’m post-op and healed up), but I don’t desire or want it. If my genitals are involved, I’m either extremely uncomfortable, or extremely bored. I’m perfectly happy with just holding hands or cuddling. And people, especially those in the various adult alternate lifestyle communities that I associate with, are baffled by this. They think that maybe I’m just doing it wrong, or haven’t found the right person. And hey, they may be right on that last one. I may be demisexual, but even if that is the case, I’d only be sexual for that right person (or people, as the case may be), not for others. But that really hasn’t happened with any of my relationships in the past, so I doubt it. And when combining asexuality with being trans, it runs into other issues. There’s that whole “well, if a girl doesn’t want sex then she must really be a dude and is hiding it” mentality. In other words, even when I am no longer read as trans and most people see a cis woman, there will be people who will assume that I’m trans simply because I don’t want sex, which may lead to dealing with transphobia and transmisogyny.
Let me paint a picture of a common social setting for you. Imagine, if you will, that you’re out at a bar, and you see someone of the appropriate sex across the room that you find attractive. You probably think something along the lines of “she’s hot” or “he’s cute.” Maybe they think along those same lines upon seeing you. You flirt via non-verbal signals across the room, maybe one of you approaches the other, you start talking, maybe flirting verbally. By the end of the night, you swap numbers and/or go home together for a night of sex. If I were in that situation, I would be oblivious to the other person unless they approached me, seeing them as someone in a crowd but not having attractions. If I’m expected to be the one to make the moves and approach them, I wouldn’t. I’d either be bored (if alone), or focused on my conversation with friends. That’s not to say that the other person and I aren’t emotionally compatible, it just means that I have no desire or even recognition of the physical. And because I lack any interests, they may take that as a sign of something else, making a jump from point A to point B (both valid points) via a completely wrong and messed up train of logic. And thus, even when I’m post-op further down the road, there will be that increased risk.
So to get back to the main question, being asexual in a sexual world is a lot like being trans in a cis world. I feel like an outsider looking in, seeing things that either I crave (e.g. equal civil rights from being trans, a strong emotional relationship from asexuality) but finding myself forced to struggle to have (because it makes others uncomfortable, confused, or weirded out), or seeing things that others crave that I don’t and not understanding the fascination with it.
And as I turn it over to my readers, I ask, have any of you had something similar that makes you an outsider looking in? I suspect we all do even if we don’t care to admit it.