7 years old… A mate and I are in the back of a class, mucking around in a picture dictionary instead of listening to the teacher. We find the page dedicated to adult male and female anatomy, and tease each other about what the other will look like in the future. My mate Jack continues looking at the female drawing for hours afterwards, and I can’t understand why.
11 years old… Everyone in my year has a crush, and those who don’t, are simply in denial. I don’t have a crush, but I am not in denial either.
14 years old… Every sleepover with my friends inevitably brings the up question “who’s your crush?” Confused, but also slightly concerned about how much interest my friends have in the matter, I fake having a crush on a guy named George. George works at Crust Pizza with me and we talked about Pokémon for 5 minutes last week. My friends seem relieved that I finally have a crush, and tell me that I’m “growing up at last”.
16 years old… Nothing prepares me for the disappointment that is sex. Movies, books, the people around me, have all communicated that this will be one of the best moments of my young life. The boy underneath me, who has been waiting for this moment for months, is certainly feeling it. He gives a light laugh and asks me how I found it, to which I respond something vague, understanding already that I mustn’t say how I truly feel. To myself, I wonder if I’ll grow into it in time.
16 years old… That same boy asks me about my fantasies, things I privately dream about doing with him in the deep hours of the night. I have none, and tell him so, but he doesn’t believe me. We act out some of his fantasies, though I’m not very good at being the highly dominant, sex-hungry minx he dreams of.
17 years old… I have discovered the fourth sexual orientation, asexuality, and now identify with it. As the boy and I stroll through Paris late one night and he’s starting to get frisky for the girlfriend he hasn’t seen in months. I come out to him under the influence of a bottle of good French wine and in response to my inability to bear sex any more. Dumbfounded, he tells me we’ll find someone who can fix me.
17 years old… Just one night later, we’re having sex again. I turn my face away, unable to look at him, and he grabs it, turning it roughly back towards him. I can feel the rising horror and distress at what I’m making myself do reach the level where I can’t hold it back, but I manage to restrain it long enough for him to finish, and for me to turn away from him. The tears spill out and over my cheeks, and I make no move to wipe them away.
18 years old… One quick but bitter break-up and a few months later, I’m in a parked car with a youth from the north of England, kissing him. Curious to see if my asexuality has shifted, I move his hand to my chest. When nothing has changed within me and the touch makes me recoil, I shove his arm away, both shuddering at what I’d done and frustrated at my inability to be “normal”.
20 years old… I understand why Jack spent hours looking at the drawing of the naked woman in the dictionary. I understand why everyone was so excited about their crushes, and assumed I had one too. I understand why the boy was so excited to have sex, and sought it out almost every time we were alone, and I understand why he was so shocked when I revealed that I was asexual. And I understand why fooling around with someone new elicited the same response in me as it had with him.
But I still do not feel it, and am at peace with that fact – despite what the rest of the world may think.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone experiences no sexual desire for people of any gender. Usually present for most/all of a person’s puberty and adult life (although occasionally induced through abuse or trauma), asexuality is as real a sexual orientation as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and pansexuality. Due to its relatively low (est. 1-3%) frequency in the population, however, very little research has been conducted into the secrets of asexuality, and as such not many people know that it exists, or if they do, many assume it is a phase or a result of past experiences.
Asexual people may or may not masturbate, may or may not be party animals, may or may not seek out a platonic or romantic life partner, may or may not have sex (as I did for a year), and may or may not be repulsed by sex and sexual things. Asexuality is worthy of recognition, and deserves a place in the sex-ed programs that take place between years 6 and 10. Asexual people coming out deserve to be free from assumptions that they are broken, that they are somehow “wrong”, or even inhuman. Like other Queer identities, asexuality deserves representative portrayals in the media and in fiction, not caricatures that provide titillating stories or an opportunity to gawk at someone as though they were in a zoo.