Asexual people are regularly told we “should” be indifferent enough to “just try it.” (Meaning sex, of course. Because if we ID as asexual, we’re usually assumed to be virgins.)
Asexual people who feel they are too repulsed to “just try it” are assigned a “fear of sex” and dismissed outright by people who don’t think trying sex is a big deal.
Asexual people who HAVE “just tried it” and didn’t like it (or, as is sometimes the case, found it horrible) are dismissed outright by people who think we did it wrong, did it with the wrong person/wrong gender, or ruined the experience for ourselves by expecting to hate it.
Basically, this suggests that the only authentic way of experiencing sex is to engage in it without prejudice, enjoy it, and stop calling oneself asexual (ignoring, of course, that some asexual people can enjoy sex and still feel that their orientation is asexual).
But let’s look at indifferent and repulsion reactions. Here is something to keep in mind before you slap an asexual person who reacts this way with judgment on why their failure to love sex is pathological.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a straight person, but everyone has told you your whole life that you “should” like the same gender in your bed. You imagined as a child that you would fulfill this expectation by developing those feelings, but no, you feel straight even after you’re finished becoming an adult. So you feel something is wrong with you, and that you “should” desire gay sex, and that message (plus a drive to connect with others emotionally or romantically) leads you to seeking out a consummate homosexual relationship.
You do it. You don’t like it. You either felt actively sickened by the experience or you at least didn’t enjoy it the way everyone says you should have. Either the experience itself or the experience of not connecting in this supposedly fundamental way leaves you out in the cold, wondering what’s wrong with you, why this doesn’t work for you, why it wasn’t the transformative experience everyone else talks up, why you can’t feel what everyone else feels. That’s pretty scary, isn’t it? To have everyone look down their nose at you when you say the sex you had was either something you could take or leave or something you would really prefer to leave, thank you?
I think people who say we should be open to pursuing sex no matter how we THINK we’ll feel about it don’t understand why “just trying sex” IS too tall an order for some of us. There are plenty of people out there who don’t have to be sexually attracted to their partners in order to have sex with them—and some asexual people are in that camp—but it’s not normally considered unreasonable to be unable to stomach sex with a person who’s not attractive to you.
Unless you’re asexual.
Then you’re expected to acknowledge that your feelings are wrong or weird, and you’re led to believe that jump-starting your active sexual attraction experiences is possible through pushing yourself into sex. But since last time I checked most heterosexual people don’t believe they can be turned gay by having gay sex they aren’t interested in, I’m pretty sure we’d all be on the same page if we could agree that sexual attraction is not like vampirism—some kind of desire that’s absent completely until it’s bestowed upon you by the person who bites you. Most folks agree that a person can tell who they are attracted to, and that they are well within their rights pursuing only those partners.
Again, unless they’re asexual.
It’s a double standard for asexuals. We aren’t trusted to be the authority on our feelings, and we’re told that this is so because Sex Is Good so there must be some form of it we WILL desire or enjoy. But asexuality—the state of not being sexually attracted to anyone—isn’t a condition that limits our capacity to understand ourselves and authentically choose what intimate experiences we want to have.
So before you tell an asexual person that they “should” be indifferent enough to give sex a try, or that they “should” never have a revulsion response to having sex … think about how you’d feel if you were told the same thing about how you’re supposed to feel about having sex with partners you’re not attracted to.
And think about how frustrating, demeaning, isolating, and scary it would be to live in a world where that message is the master narrative by which you’re expected to define your most cherished relationships.
Think about that. And then don’t say it.
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