art by Hannah Langford Berman
In honor of this year’s Asexual Awareness Week, Loud and Alive is bringing you different perspectives of different people, all of whom identify as asexual.
It’s Asexuality Awareness Week, something which seems extra-special to me now, since October also happens to be my favorite month. It feels like a sign, you know? When two things that are important to you just happen to coincide. Like it means something.
Like maybe I should dress up as an ace of hearts, with bloody organs all over the place or something.
But even though Halloween is among my favorite talking subjects, that’s not what I’m here to talk about right now. I’m here to talk about something significantly less fun (for some of us, anyway), and hopefully less spooky.
Sex. What is it? Does oral count? Hand jobs? What about the back door? How do you define sex? Can it be defined differently by different people? How does it work? What’s the big deal about sex, anyhow?
Sex, as far as my mother is concerned, is anything that involves penetration. What a ghastly word, right? Penetration. It’s like health class all over again, and I’m the one turning green in the back.
When I was in high school, I was pretty well-known for a variety of reasons–I was a troublemaker, for one. I set the record for how quickly and how often someone could get detention without being expelled. And I was loud, and dramatic, and I wore those bright red and purple miniskirts from Hot Topic, with all the chains.
And I was also known for being the school slut.
Shocking, I know. A slutty asexual? Isn’t that an oxymoron? A bad joke? Hey, what did the school slut never say? “I’m asexual.” Good one, a real knee-slapper. Everybody laughs.
But yeah, that was me. What can I say? I’m a rule breaker.
I was the girl under the bleachers. I was the girl who let her boyfriend finger her under the desk in history class. I was the girl who made out with all my friends at parties for attention. I was the girl who went down to all the basements filled with suspicious mattresses that were stained with what I hoped was beer.
It wasn’t just about the sex, though. I was a virgin until I was seventeen. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I definitely worked the slut thing. I wore the low-cut tops and the short skirts and the tall clunky boots that made me look like Julia Roberts. I flirted with all the guys and sat on their laps and let them kiss me. But teenage boys are pretty easy to corral, if I’m being honest. We’d make out and I’d let them feel me up and then I’d feign sleepiness or my period, and let them brag to all their friends about how far they got.
So it wasn’t about the sex. It wasn’t about anything physical; it was about the rebellion. Sure, I got talked about and stared at and avoided by some, but I got to choose how they saw me. Everything was on my terms.
Also it really pissed off my mother, so. Win-win.
It wasn’t until I got an actual bonafide boyfriend my junior year, that I realized where my vixen facade had gotten me–dragged to a different basement and held down on the couch. Not on my terms at all.
He didn’t rape me–although he didn’t exactly take no. I had to get him off with my hands, and I nearly threw up on his crotch the whole way through it. Then he slobbered all over my mouth, and sent me home. For the first time, I felt truly disgusted by sex and everything that it offered. Until then, it had just seemed like a vague concept; me underneath, some guy on top, we fit together like puzzle pieces and (if I don’t end up pregnant or stuck with an STD) it’s a fun time had by all.
That’s what the media told me, anyway, and what I could gather from my older cousins and sexually active friends.
According to my mother, sex–for anyone under eighteen, at least–was a horrific experience and reason enough for disownment. I’m not kidding; she found out I was having sex at seventeen, and kicked me out of the house.
But that was a year later. At this point in the story, I’m sixteen, I have some guy’s jizz all over my hands, and I’m trying not to cry on the walk back to my apartment.
This is what sex is, I remember thinking. I’ll just get used to it. Everyone else does.
I really, really didn’t want my mother to be right.
And in the end, I did get used to it. I liked making out, and foreplay. I still do, actually. I like the leading up to it, the touching and the kissing and the anticipation of what’s to come. I just don’t like the actual, well, for lack of a better word, climax event.
That’s not to say that I don’t like orgasms. Orgasms are a helluva drug. They help me sleep. They help me focus. They help me de-stress. And they’re good for your skin, too; a real miracle worker.
But it’s the–what, exactly? I’ve been asking myself that for years. If I like the build up to sex, and I like the main effect of sex, then why don’t I like sex itself?
I still don’t have an answer. I maybe never will, and that’s something I’ve just kind of accepted.
I lost my virginity to my boyfriend senior year. A different boyfriend. He was sweet, and patient, and in the end that’s what won me over. It wasn’t even his idea.
And it hurt like a sonofabitch. I mean, tears-in-my-eyes kind of pain. He was horrified, convinced that he’d ruptured something, and neither of us knew what we were doing.
The second time was only moderately better. He came, I didn’t, but I pretended to. Not even to stroke his ego; I just wanted it to be over.
And that was just how it went for a while. We’d have sex. I’d pretend to orgasm, so he would be content to move on with whatever we’d been doing before.
The worst part was that I always initiated it. This thing that I didn’t even like, that I was timing as soon as it started. Because I thought that anything less was abnormal. A sign of an unhappy relationship. Just because I couldn’t come, didn’t mean he shouldn’t, right? A good girlfriend doesn’t deprive her boyfriend of an active sex life. And we were teenagers, weren’t we supposed to want to always go at it? So why was I so much more interested in literally anything else?
The irony of this story is that he and I are still friends and, years later, both realized individually that we are asexual. He’d been pretending the whole time too, wouldn’t you know.
After him, after high school, there were others. Not many, but enough. I’m twenty-two, and not exactly a lothario, but I have a pretty decent list of sexual conquests under my belt. Sure, I don’t remember most of them, because I was pretty drunk, but so what? This was Europe after all, where I could legally drink alcohol at sixteen, and started two years before that because I was tall for my age.
I was eighteen, and intended to fit the Wild Child name to a tee. Which meant a lot of nightclubs, a lot of drinking, and a lot of casual sex.
It was not my finest hour.
Fast forward two years later, and I’ve got a pregnancy scare, an arrest record, and I’ve had to smuggle myself out of a country. I’ve had my fill of the wild life, and I’m ready to (try to, at least) grow up. A little.
Thus, my asexual awakening, if you will.
I can’t actually remember what I was reading. Whether it was a blog post or a wikipedia article, or something I saw on the news, I don’t know. All I know is that it was written by a demisexual woman, who was describing her experiences with sex, and it was like she’d taken a mirror and reflected my teenage years back at me.
I felt like someone had changed the light settings on the universe, and everything was suddenly crystal clear. This was it; I now had an answer to the unasked question that had been living inside me since I was fourteen years old. I was demisexual.
Except, it’s hardly ever that simple. Or quick.
Half a year after that, I realize I’m not as straight, or even heteroromantic, as I thought. Once again, the brightness setting changes, and everything is even more clear. What will I self-discover next!
Well, as it turns out, it’ll be that I’m not demisexual. I don’t experience sexual attraction at all, no matter how emotionally invested I am in someone. What I’d assumed was sexual attraction to past boyfriends I actually liked, was really just fondness. I had a heart boner. Nothing more.
But I’m still sex-positive, right? I mean, I didn’t hate sex (except those first several times), and I liked the idea of it. I liked getting off. I liked foreplay. I liked reading smut. All of that meant I was okay with sex, right? I just didn’t care about it.
Wrong again, past Tierney. You are so sex-repulsed it’s not even funny. And now without the addition of alcohol and crippling self-doubt and confusion to propel you into putting yourself through half an hour of gross bodily fluids and boredom, you’re free to say no! And more importantly, you now know why you want to say no!
Because sex is gross (to some of us, anyway), and I have better things to do with my time. Like plan a Halloween costume that suits my need for puns.
Tierney is a 22 year old insomniatic writer from the southern United States. She spends most of her time writing, fighting with strangers on the internet, and building custom furniture. Her professional goal is to be a true Jane of all trades with a resume 30 pages long which reads like an adventure novel. She lives constantly in a state of kudoclasm– the feeling of your life flashing before your eyes except it’s daydreams of your future; the feeling of living with your head always in the clouds and bouncing ideas against the world. You can join her there on her Tumblr.