[March 2016: I no longer really identify as ace much, for the same reasons that I don’t identify as any particular gender – I’m no longer in the business of trying to predict or prescribe myself and my attractions (especially since they warrant so little action in the real world) and I’m trying to cut down on the amount of snappy jargon I use in favor of more long-winded descriptions of my lived experience. This post may or may not have been an attempt as “adding epicycles” to a broken framework. The term “asexuality” doesn’t serve me anymore (and the culture certainly never did) so I see no reason to keep using it. However, it seems like a few aces liked this post, so it’s staying. It’s funny – the jist of what I was trying to get at here, that “shit is complicated and socially constructed and cannot really be compartmentalized” needed to get away from the traditional framing of queer theory to really be actualized! ]
So to answer some of the questions put out by this month’s prompt before I get started:
Are you interested in such?
Yes! And I’m very passionate about and interested in the culture and narratives surrounding this rarely-visited corner of sexuality, so double yes.
Because, to put it simply, it feels good. In the body, in the mind, in the soul.
Do you think that being asexual makes it harder to express or fulfill such desires or not?
I’m going to hedge my bets on “yes”. For reasons I’ll go into below.
Do you think that such things are oversexualised or that there should be a wider acceptance of nonsexual kink or does that not trouble you? Relatedly, do you think there’s a lack of resources for asexuals interested in such or not?
Yes, yes, and yes. The thing that the aforelinkedto post that I was responding to made me realize was that indeed “instrumental sexuality” is a thing, and it did very much need a word to describe what that thing is. But it is not paraphilic sexuality. And people who practice in instrumental sexuality are practicing something that is immoral because it is, by definition, oblivious to the presence or lack thereof of consent. When we talk of “oversexualization”, we usually mean to approximate a concept that is better served by the term “instrumental sexuality”; that is, complete, and oftentimes self-righteous, objectification of others for personal (sexual) gain. Because, let’s face it: there is nothing inherently unethical about individual sex acts, and I’m sure most aces would agree with me. It is the lack of obvious consent, or that the consent was coerced in some way(given under threat of something), or contextual cues that hint to us, as viewers, that the consent was not important enough to depict is when things get iffy. It’s the wholly pervasive attitude of entitlement to sex and sexual imagery that I think is what aces find so extremely off-putting.
Do you think that an asexual experience of kink is fundamentally different from a sexual one, or not?
Of kink? No, not really. I don’t feel like my status as an asexual has hindered my ability to relate to others who share my paraphilia at all, and there are many kinksters/fetishists who are sexual but don’t participate in sexual play. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I take the position that “kink”, “fetish”, and “paraphilia” all mean very different things, and rarely do I use them interchangeably. (I go into it a bit… in, well, many of my posts because I’m a stickler about making use of a better vocabulary, but here and here are good reads for that.)
I’m going to start off by saying that… I have no idea what it’s like to be another ace doing their aceness. This is me and my relationship to sexuality.
Okay, so, for as long as I could remember I thought I was your average sexual cishetero girl. I can assuredly blame this on the fact that nowhere in any media I was exposed to was I ever presented with an alternative to this reality, aside from the vaguest notion of lesbianism. The fact was that it didn’t matter what I actually felt like, how strange it was to hear my friends talk about crushes and kissing, dating, the allure of a sexual relationship, it was that sexual, romantic, relationships were an eventuality for everyone, and that was that. No ifs ands or buts. Nevermind the fact that I was an adult before I realized that touching myself was something I could actually do (and then realized that it was something I didn’t have to do ever again), or that when I fantasized, it was of weird stuff that I’d never really heard anyone else talk about.
So I didn’t have any language with which to describe my thoughts and feelings. I had access to words like “sex”, “crush”, “make out”, “date”, and that was it. And for a kid growing up in an area where sex ed was minimal and the act itself described as being PIV intercourse when a man and a woman love each other, how else was I to conceive of my own wibbly-wobbly fascinations that just bordered on the sexual? Like, sometimes they involved penises? So clearly me thinking about penises meant I was thinking about sex and that I was a heterosexual girl that was desiring heterosexual sex with a boy. But what about the times that I thought about boys’ mouths (and being able to fit in them)? Well, boys kiss girls with their mouths, so obviously I was thinking about some form of making out. What of the times I thought about sitting on a boy’s shoulder, laughing and adventuring? Clearly, boys and girls only act like that when they’re dating, so I must have been imagining a date (for some reason, the dinner and movie slipped my mind, but it was still very much a date).
And all of these thoughts, of course, were, at their core, driven by an innate desire for me to have a penis in my vagina.
I went along with that. It served me well enough for many a year. Coupled with the cultural expectation that women/girls don’t make the first move ever, and that made such an unchecked belief even easier to internalize. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in sex, you see, it was that no boys were interested in me, duh! Nevermind the fact that I hated being asked out on the occasion that such a thing did happen, and could never imagine myself partnered up at all and would turn down each one. These were pesky details and/or behaviors I could chalk up to being an insecure teenager. (I would turn them down because I wasn’t good enough? Oh it makes so much sense now. Silly me, wanting the peen but being too scared to get it.)
College came around and I started actively trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I was clued in when I became aware that I had a list of favorite tags on AdultFanfiction.net–that’s how oblivious I was used to being–with which I would find new porn to read and not feel any inclination to masturbate to. “Maledom” was #1, so I looked into it. Long story short… I consider myself a full-fledged BDSM kinkster. Shortly after that I found an author that was a prolific writer of size-difference sex and relationships, which led me to finding out that I was a macrophile all along. Several years later, and here I am.
So how was I able to go so long, and function as well as I did, without having any clue that I was asexual? The answer lies in what I’ve started calling “approximate sexuality” or “approximate sexual attraction”, a mechanism by which I could mistake the entirety of my paraphilia, various orientations (which are all andro-, by the way), and my intense fascination with tactile sensation for sexuality and want for sex. I am capable of feeling romantic attraction (which I have reason to believe is a secondary attraction), tactile attraction (as opposed to sensual, which seems more “huggy” and “cuddly” to me), and paraphilic attraction (or kink attraction, which I’m sure would be a better term for lots of folks). These attractions produce various desires: wanting to be emotionally intimate, wanting to be physically intimate, and wanting to enact/explore paraphilic themes therewith. Slap a fetish for male genitalia on top of it all, and what do you get? Something that looks freakishly like heteronormative sexuality. But this still isn’t heteronormative sexuality, not by a long shot: the uncanny valley is the extent of its mimicry, and I was acutely aware of this vague, weird, homunculus of a sexuality since before puberty and could never put my finger on why it felt so different.
Now I can’t help but begin to wonder how the myriad constellations of others’ expressions of asexuality and attractions can be lined up just so as to trick the eye into seeing something sexual where there is none? How often does this happen? How many people, unaware of their asexuality, continue to operate under the assumption that, well, they’ve gotta be sexual because X, Y, and Z? How many people are distraught, like I was (for a very short period of time, thank god) that they were broken because they’d kept trying to fit their square peg in the round hole instead of understanding that there was a whole world of square holes out there?
I have sex, and I enjoy it; I’m still ace. I practice BDSM, I indulge kinks and paraphilias; I’m still ace. Likewise, speaking French does not make me French. When I’m having sex for sex’s sake, I will always occupy that spot in the uncanny valley of being just fluent enough in this language of sexuality to get by. But if I have sex for another reason? A paraphilic, fetishistic, kink-tastic, reason? If sex is a means to a non-sexual end? Then that’s my native tongue, and I will sing it from the rooftops.
And I want it to be understood that I’m not using you when I have sex with you. I’m using the sex act itself as a proxy for something that I can’t conceivably get much of anyplace else, and the fact that you’re attractive, and funny, and enjoy my company, and find me hot just makes that experience worthwhile. So what if one person playing Frisbee finds in the game a zen moment while the other finds exhilaration? Who ever said they had to get exactly the same thing out of any given moment together? Sure, it’s a penis in my vagina, but it’s also so many other things. But at the same time, let’s just say that if I could get my paraphilic fulfillment in another way, and just as easy as I can currently get sex, I would be investigating it with my SO. (I have no idea what this alternative means would look like, so I can’t even begin to say anything for certain beyond that. Would it replace sex for me? I have no idea, but it would be a competitor I’m betting.)
I’ve been grappling with the idea of possibly having a sexuality despite being ace, and I think I can now safely say that I have a proxy sexuality (I use sex to accomplish nothing but a slew wholly different, non-sexual stuff), whereas before I knew that asexuality and the various attractions existed, it was approximate (my tendency to fantasize/desire non-sexual stuff was approximated by the mainstream model of sexuality out of necessity). But I’m a grown-up now, and thank god I’ve discovered that there are grown-up words for these things–if there aren’t, I make them up–and I’m not just restricted to those same four words that I used in gradeschool to describe me and my attractions/relationships. Sometimes you want fantastic accuracy with these sorts of things; after all, you can’t cut a diamond with a sledgehammer.
So I’m hoping that these words and concepts that I’ve kinda-sorta outlined here in passable detail help somebody. Maybe it’ll be a useful tool if someone is overwhelmed in trying to tease out the threads of their identity and attractions because it just seems so hopelessly complicated for some of us– and I’ll admit it, sometimes I envy the seeming simplicity of others’ asexuality. Or maybe they’ve figured it out already and can look at this and go “hey, that makes a lot of sense!”. Figuring out where we’ve been is a crucial part of figuring out where we are right now.
My parting words, I suppose, are this: Have whatever kind of sex you want, or don’t have any at all. Your fetish/kink is fine without sex, and your asexuality is fine without celibacy. So go git ’em.