Sex. Glorious, passionate, electrifying sex! Sex in the movies. Sex on TV. Sex in the morning. Sex at night. All day, every day. Sex, sex, sex! More delicious than food. More vital than air. The sole spark of pleasure in this otherwise dull existence. Sex!
Being asexual has made me hypersensitive to the sex-crazed society that we live in. Hardly a day goes by on this campus where I don’t hear about sex in some form or another. Some poor yakker bemoaning their inability to get laid. A discussion in biology class about sexual reproduction. This Is Not a Play About Sex. And don’t get me started on my roommate. I think having open and honest discussions about sex is incredibly important, but at the same time, in an effort to push sex positivity, we sometimes lose the fact that some people simply don’t want it. And navigating this world can be challenging when your anaconda just flat out don’t.
While individuals who do not feel sexual attraction have been documented throughout history, only recently has a community formed around the concept of asexuality. As a result, asexuality often does not get the attention that other sexual orientations do. Many have never heard of it and few fully understand it. For people on the asexual spectrum, this lack of visibility can lead to feelings of confusion, brokenness and isolation. When sex is constantly being lauded as a crucial aspect of human experience, feeling no desire for it can make one feel somehow less than human. While I see simple labels as often insufficient for describing the nuances of human sexuality and attraction, I will say that, personally, I was greatly relieved to discover that there was a term for how I was feeling.
Another challenge that asexual spectrum-identifying individuals face is navigating romantic relationships. Many asexuals identify as aromantic, not feeling romantic attraction toward any sex or gender. However, a large portion of asexuals do desire some form of romantic relationship. In a society that so firmly links sex to romance, it can be hard to find a partner interested in a romantic but sexless relationship. Some asexual individuals overcome this obstacle by having sex with their partner, either because they enjoy it despite their lack of attraction or because they are neutral towards it but wish to satisfy their partner. For these individuals, a relationship with a sexual person may not be an issue. But for sex-averse individuals, who have no desire to have sex with their partner, the dating pool is narrowed considerably. While a relationship with a sexual person can still be possible, as someone who is sex-averse, my ideal relationship would be with another asexual-identifying individual. With that in mind, I tend to do a few calculations to figure out my dating opportunities whenever I go to a new place.
Let’s use Colgate as an example. With a student population of about 3000 and using an unofficial estimate that about one percent of the world’s population is asexual, there are theoretically 30 asexual students here. Now, let’s say about half would be interested in a romantic relationship with someone who identifies as a woman. That means, without factoring in my own preferences, there would be about 15 people here with whom I could potentially have a romantic relationship. And that’s before you even consider our compatibility. In conclusion, my love life here is an awkward mix between hide-and-seek and the Bachelorette.
So does this bug me? Yeah, a little. I want to cuddle and hold hands and buy dorky couple’s t-shirts on the boardwalk just as much as anyone else, but my chances of that are statistically slim here. But do I wish I were different? Not at all. I love my sexual orientation because it is a part of me and I love myself. Some aspects of my life would be different if I were interested in sex, but then I would not even be the same person. And that would suck; I’m kind of awesome just the way I am. The only thing I want to change is how the world perceives and understands asexuality. Taking the time to understand this aspect of my identity means recognizing a part of me that so often gets ignored amidst the perceived raging orgy that is college life. Increasing the visibility and understanding of asexuality and aromanticism can help those who identify with these concepts not feel like they are alone or somehow flawed. Finally, exploring others’ views and feelings is a great exercise in empathy, helping us see the world not as a straight-forward entity but as the sum of billions of perspectives. And I think that’s pretty darn sexy.