Why I prefer to define asexual as “I’m not interested in sex”

**Slinks in late to my own blogging carnival** Well, at least I’m consistently last-minute?

CW: Some mentions of Christianity, Tumblr Ace Discourse

When I was editing my post about not experiencing split attraction, I made some small changes to the way I was describing a certain topic. The changes were to change the sentences offhandedly defining asexual as “not thinking sex is interesting” to “not thinking people are sexy.” The decision was intended to more closely fix with the popular definition of asexual (the no sexual attraction one) and while I don’t regret the edit in the context of that post, it doesn’t change the fact that the original definition was the one I prefer.

Asexuality has always been about disinterest to me. Even back in middle school when I was given the “sex is a great and beautiful gift from God meant to be share between a married man and woman for the sole purpose of procreation” spiel which passed as my sex education, I remember thinking, “This sex thing sounds really weird; I don’t understand how it could possibly be the greatest human experience.” That feeling didn’t go away as I got older, though my understanding of it was hampered by the fact I was 100% certain I was heterosexual (after all, no one had ever suggested the possibility that I might be anything else).

In high school, I figured that everyone else was so interested in sex and dating because they thought they had to be to fit in so I just mustn’t be as susceptible to peer pressure as everyone else was. My family and—let’s be honest with ourselves—every adult I knew, thought the fact that I wasn’t boy crazy was because I was a Good Catholic Homeschool GirlTM whose parents were doing a good job raising her. I believed them. How embarrassing.

In undergrad, before I actually considered the possibility that I might not be straight I had a phase where I described myself as being able to pass as asexual. I mention this all the time because I think it’s absolutely hilarious in hindsight. The reason I’d thought this was because of a friend of mine we’ll call H. H was ace, but she didn’t talk about it very much beyond the fact that she never wanted to have sex.

Thing is, I’ve never found descriptions of asexuality that focus entirely on not wanting to have sex particularly relatable. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense because I am sex-averse and have some admittedly huge hang-ups about sex, but my sex-aversion has never been as simple as just “I never want to have sex.” I thought I was sex-indifferent for a long time because of this and only recently realized my mistake.

Because I’d never really heard about asexuality before I met H, I made that assumption which is the bane of aces doing 101 education everywhere and assumed that asexual meant sex-repulsed. Based on that assumption, while I wasn’t interested in sex and didn’t really understand why it would be a big deal to not even have sex on your wedding night the way my (allo) roommate thought it was, I could only be asexual-adjacent because I was hypothetically willing to give this sex thing a try to figure out what all the fuss was about.1

I didn’t find a description of asexual that I related to until later on when I started actually using Tumblr and I found this post. This post compares being ace to not liking coffee and it was especially relatable to me because I also don’t like coffee. Reading it back now as I write this, while there are some qualms I have with it2 I still like how the OP gets across how complicated their feelings about sex are, because mine are much the same.

Needless to say, I owe a lot to the “asexual is when you don’t experience sexual attraction” definition. I would have never realized I was ace without it. I’ve known basically as long as I’ve been calling myself asexual that I never would have made that realization without the Ace Community. Some aces do come up with the word asexual all on their own,3 but I’ve always known I wouldn’t have been one of those aces. I likely would have continued on as default-heterosexual indefinitely. When I first realized I was ace, I assumed that I would have gotten married because the world I grew up in put marriage in the same category as high school; ie something that happens to everyone. Now, I think that I would have just never met anyone I really liked and ended up as a 70-something who had never been married and was perfectly happy alone.4

Ultimately, I am asexual because I don’t understand why sex is interesting or why other people want to have it. “Everyone else experiences sexual attraction and you don’t” is the best explanation for why that is that I’ve ever been given, especially since the other explanations that have been offered to me all operated on the assumption that I was either a) lying to myself about my feelings or b) more moral than everyone else.

So then why would I not define asexual in terms of sexual attraction all the time? Firstly, it is an issue of clarity and not making things awkward. I can’t shake the feeling that the sexual attraction definition skirts a bit too close to talking about whether I have sex or am capable of being sexually aroused. The Anti-Ace Brigade agrees with me; that’s one of the reasons they insist asexuality is nsfw and shouldn’t be discussed around minors.5 There’s also the issue that most allo people assume sexual and romantic feelings are inherently the same in all people6 so if I say “sexual attraction” I then have to explain what it is, which is many cases basically is talking about sex. If I say “I’m asexual; I’m not interested in sex” it’s easier to understand and it’s a lot farther from talking about sexual things.

Secondly, “I’m not interested in sex” just feels more accurate overall. I accept that the reason I’m not interested in sex is that I don’t experience sexual attraction, but that’s a question of theory not a question of identity. I feel asexual because I don’t think sex is interesting; I don’t think sex is interesting because I don’t experience sexual attraction.

TL;DR: “I don’t want to have sex” is not a useful definition of asexual to me. “I’m not interested in sex” is my preferred definition and useful in the wild, while “I don’t experience sexual attraction” is the theoretical “this is why I’m like this” definition.

1 Emphasis on the word hypothetical; I have reason to suspect that I would not be so willing to try sex if it ceased to be a thought experiment.

2 Namely that I think it falls into the trap of framing an ace person having sex as a compromise they make because they want to make their allo partner feel good. I wish more discussions about sexually active aces focused on what the ace wants and gets out of having sex not on what they’re willing to give up to make the allo person they’re with happy.

3 I offer this post by autism self-advocate Jim Sinclair as an example, because I’m still trying to recover from the sentence, “Sexuality is a hunger waiting to devour my autonomy.”

4 To be honest, sometimes I wish this is what had happened because the issue with claiming an identity is that you run the risk of turning out to be wrong and then you’ve mislead everyone.

5 One of these days, I’m finally going to manage to get my thoughts on the role minors play in Tumblr Ace Discourse into something coherent and then you’ll all have to watch out.

6 In other words, they make the exact opposite mistake the SAM does. Can we please have a happy medium, people?

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