Imagine Never Being Sexually Attracted to Another Human. That’s How I’ve Felt My Whole Life

This article was originally posted on on May 30, 2017, but a site revamp in 2019 shifted this to their archives. The original article can be found here or copied below:

Imagine Never Being Sexually Attracted to Another Human. That’s How I’ve Felt My Whole Life

By Elyse Springer

Imagine Never Being Sexually Attracted to Another Human. That’s How I've Felt My Whole Life : PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou / Getty
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou / Getty

It’s 2008 and I’m at a bar with my girlfriends, drinking overpriced cocktails and listening to terrible remixes of Top 40 pop. A group of hot guys are on the other side of the bar. My friend nudges me, gestures at one of them and says, “Damn, I’d do him.”

Several months before, I’d gone on a few dates with a guy I met through a friend. Our short-term relationship ended with him calling me a “frigid bitch” because I didn’t want to have sex with him. That night in the bar, I looked at the guy across the room and recognized he was gorgeous, but felt absolutely nothing in terms of sexual attraction. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” Even so, I’d learned a valuable lesson from that ex who called me a bitch. I knew now, at 22 years old, that I just needed to play along, to laugh and agree. I learned how to act like any other “normal” college girl enjoying a night out.

I’ve been asexual my entire life. Until I was 25 years old, I thought I was a broken bisexual woman—attracted to both men and women, but utterly uninterested in going to bed with any of them.

I remember the day I discovered the word asexual. A friend had recently introduced me to Tumblr, and I was obsessed with the show Doctor Who. While searching through posts, I found someone talking about how they thought the Doctor was asexual. They defined the word, and explained how it related to the character. And while the post is long gone from my browsing history, I will never forget the moment I realized what the word asexual meant.

Asexual. Ace. Someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Like me.

Odds are that, unless you’re queer, you’ve never had to redefine your entire identity. You might have never felt profoundly out of place, either, like a piece from the wrong puzzle trying to force a fit. So I struggle to find the words to explain how powerful this moment was for me: the moment when I found an identity. The moment I got to define (and redefine) myself.

I wish I could say that after discovering asexuality, my life turned into a fairy tale, with Disney birds singing at my shoulders, parting skies and cake being had by all. Nope. It was another three years before I was comfortable enough to even say the word asexual aloud, let alone use it to describe myself.

Society is fixated on sex. We’re told that anyone who doesn’t want sex is unnatural. Society is wrong.

Society is fixated on sex. It’s everywhere we look. I can’t remember the last show I watched that didn’t have a reference to sex, a funny and immature joke about sex or, you know, a lot of sex. (I’m lookin’ at you, Game of Thrones.) From young adulthood on, we’re inundated with the idea that sex is normal, a vital part of being human. We’re constantly told that wanting to have sex is to be human—and that anyone who doesn’t want sex is unnatural. Society is wrong.

I have never once in my life experienced sexual desire. I have, however, had sexual intercourse, because one magical, beautiful seven-letter word doesn’t undo 25 years of society telling me that I should have sex, that I need to have sex.

In that time, I had spent at least three years fighting against myself. I dated a fantastic man who was patient and understanding, and who showed me that sex could be fun and even pleasurable. I went out a few times with an amazing woman who was way, way hotter than anyone I should be able to pull in. I felt horrible when I had to admit to both of them that I didn’t want to have sex. “It’s not you,“ I said. “It’s me.”

The problem was that I still wanted companionship. I didn’t want to feel alone anymore. I also didn’t understand that I could have my cake and eat it too.

Definitively, being asexual means not experiencing sexual attraction or sexual desire. It doesn’t mean you don’t have sex or can’t enjoy sex. It doesn’t mean you’re broken, backward or any less human, even if the rare ace TV character, such as Riverdale’s Jughead, ends up being stripped of his or her asexuality. And being asexual doesn’t mean I’m blind. I can spend hours discussing the many virtues of Jason Momoa and have been known to rewatch The Thomas Crown Affair a hundred times because Rene Russo is hot as fuck. But while most people would jump at the chance for a romp in the sheets with their celebrity crushes, I’m perfectly content to admire them from afar. (Or up close: Call me, Jason. Let’s get coffee sometime.)

I’m in my thirties now, and I finally feel like my identity fits. It’s taken a long time, and I’ve formed a lot of amazing friendships online with other asexual people. Communities like Tumblr, AVEN and the queer romance community helped me realize that I am not alone. There are millions of us out there.

In the last year, I’ve started working through another identity milestone: not only am I asexual, but I’m also aromantic. I’ve never been in love before and have never felt romantic love for another person. Do I want to be in love? Sure. I write romance novels, after all. But I’m learning that “happily ever after” can mean something different for everyone. For me, I’m happy just as I am.

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