Asexual Awareness Week: How You can Help Celebrate It
You likely didn’t know, but today’s the start of Asexual Awareness Week! If this confuses you, please read on to learn all the essential info.
Quick intro: asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to others. Roughly 1% of the population identifies this way. This isn’t a choice, like celibacy — asexuals just don’t desire sex with others. Asexuals can still have sex drives and relieve sexual tension with our favorite one-handed pastime. But this energy is never directed towards thoughts of sex with others. Some feel romantic attraction, others that don’t identify as aromantic. And like many orientations, asexuality isn’t black and white . There’s many different levels of asexuality out there.
Also we love cake. It’s incredible. Don’t get between an asexual and their cake.
It’s tough to share with others though. Many asexuals come out and hear cynicism, disbelief, laughter, or even anger. It can be like telling someone unicorns are real, and that you’re a unicorn. It’s a hard sell, but you try anyway because it’s who you are. And hearing disbelieving responses about a huge part of your identity hurts. It’s like practicing guitar for years for your mentor to say you’re horrible.
It can put make many asexuals quiet, reserved, and not able to change this for years. Asexual Awareness Week aims to change all this by sharing more information about asexuality. It’s usually through factual info, like above, and personal stories, like below.
How I Found Out I was Asexual
The first signs my own sexuality was different were in high school. They were small but added up.
My friends would comment on how hot a passing girl was and it’d go over my head. Movies showed high school boys looking at female classmates and ranting with sexual desire. In those situations, at most I’d feel a touch of excitement that went away a second later. Occasional sights of groping and kissing in the halls rarely made me feel jealous. They were just out of place and a bit gross.
In my junior year, there was a porn video incident in the track and field house. I was reading a book and waiting with everyone in the locker room before practice. Several guys across me were snickering at a smartphone. The one holding it asked if I wanted to watch, but I said no. He grinned and slid the phone in front of my book anyway.
You can imagine whatever video you want, I’ll just say it was graphic. I felt disgusted and covered the screen until he pulled it away. He shrugged and stared at it again, even when the coach started talking to us.
I still remember his expression. He looked entranced, no smile, yet I saw the excitement under the surface. It confused me. Seeing an attractive girl distracted me like a new movie trailer: a fair amount, but it never dominated my thoughts so much.
I never even had sex dreams. Several nights I was lucid dreaming and tried to summon a hot girl out of curiosity. Without fail, the second they appeared, the dream would collapse like something from Inception. The world blurred, the ground shook, random things fell from the sky, and then just a dark bedroom wall.
With all this confusion in my head, I did what any confused teen would: asked Google for answers. So I found AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, and read about asexuality. How asexuals can have a sex drive but still not feel sexual attraction. The different shades of asexuality, ranging from demisexuality to nonlibidoism. How, instead of feeling rejected or hated by society, many felt confused or invisible to it. It all clicked with everything I’d been feeling.
So two months after finding the site, I began identifying as asexual. It was tentative since part of me thought I could still be a late bloomer, and wanted to prepare if that happened. But until then, asexuality felt like the right fit. It still did up to when I graduated college a few months ago.
My Asexual Identity Now
Over time I identified more as demisexual, where sexual attraction can happen with a strong emotional bond. With the (very few) romances or emotional connections I had in college, given enough time I did feel some sexual attraction. But otherwise most sexual things still went over my head.
One of the hardest parts of asexuality, at least for me, is the doubt. The nagging worry that one day sexual attraction will find me and this identity would shatter. That’s the bad part of defining a sexuality as a lack of something. There’s the fear that someday, sexual feelings would appear and your whole self-image collapses. It’s like defining your self-image by a lack of acne. There’s that worry something deep inside you, out of your control, would appear to cover your face in pimples.
Except this extends well beyond the hormone-filled teenage years. Even now the doubt hasn’t completely faded. In a society where sex pops up everywhere, there’s always a chance it’ll pop up in me.
Getting through all four years of college without this change has helped, but only so much. Looking back, lots of doubt lingers like fog. There’s questions I still brood over and am starting to understand.
Is being a virgin bad?
In my starting college years this seemed true. Almost every guy I talked to about this wasn’t a virgin. If they were, they didn’t like it. Virginity was a sign of inferiority as a man, and a sign you were wasting your great college years. The thought clung to my head like an angry bug, dragging my mood down at random times.
But the bug stayed at school during the breaks. At home things were fine, and thoughts of virginity became irrelevant. Sex was just a thing that I hadn’t done, like the thousands of other things I hadn’t done. The things I’d never do but wouldn’t regret not doing. A person can’t do everything in life anyway, so they set priorities. Sex was never high on my list. Sex was that book I sometimes flip through but never take the time to read through and take to heart.
Did my brief times of small sexual activity make me a hypocrite?
It seemed to be true for a long time, and the biggest reason I stayed in the closet (or pantry, as asexuals say). But I realized people can do things for many reasons other than acting on desires. Especially in college, when there was a powerful idea that any kind of sexual activity was normal and right. Not doing it was abnormal and wrong, and I felt I had to change that.
But regardless of how “right” the world thought being sexual was, it didn’t feel that way with me. Even with mild enjoyment of sexual activity at times, it never felt “right.” All that brief sexual activity, in the long run, only affirmed my current identity. It was often my environment, not desires, that made me briefly act or think sexually.
Would being straight be better?
This is the one question I knew the answer to from the start: no. It was never about having a certain identity. It was trying to understand my real identity, whatever it was.
That’s much tougher than it sounds, and it may be the hardest part for asexuals. Defining a sexuality by a lack of sexual feelings can feel like calling a machine without wheels a car. Some people have a hard time seeing any person not having sexual feelings at all. Many asexuals hear this and it’s like hearing they’re less than human.
Take that feeling and sprinkle it throughout every day of your life. It adds up and wears you down. It isn’t easy to “just suck up and deal with.”
I feel that’s one of the biggest goals of Asexual Awareness Week. To make people a little more aware of these small ways society can be rough for asexuals. No person or group is at fault for this. But that doesn’t mean every one shouldn’t try to change this. Even just a little.
The smallest steps in awareness still make a positive difference. We should treasure all positive change, no matter how small. When the end goal seems impossible, they’re all that’s left.
So don’t be afraid of asexuals. As you can tell,we’re less likely to bite than most people. Plus we’re happy to share some cake with you. What more reason do you need to help celebrate Asexual Awareness Week?