CW: Ace-shame, emotional intensity, narrowed focus due to said emotional intensity.
I have different levels of tolerance for sexual material depending on how delocalised said material is. I use the word ‘material’ here to encompass behaviours, verbal references, media, social nuances which make reference to sex and anything else along those lines. I am positive to the idea of sex as a thing people do as long as it is consensual and doesn’t affect any person adversely.
In an academic sense, I am objectively fascinated by the sociology of sex and relish the ‘outside-looking-in’ perspective lent to me by my asexuality. It is a mystery to be solved, an ambiguous tapestry of nuances and sensations for me to pore over, reveling in the sense that the answer is perpetually just beyond my grasp. It’s also interesting to consider as a literary theme, though I am perhaps at a disadvantage in this case due to my incomprehension.
In a social sense, I am sex-averse, though I often overanalyse or take bawdy jokes too literally, pointing out their flaws objectively before it occurs to me that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. The aversion manifests in a low tolerance for the saucy details of friends’ relationships. I get a degree of aromantically compersive joy out of the relationships of friends. (Also yes, you caught me, I’m a shipper.) The sexual component of such relationships, if there is one, remains an indistinct blur in the ‘would rather not think about’ box on the top shelf of my mental garage. More sexualised verbal exchanges or suggestions in everyday social life tend to leave me palm-on-forehead with eyes alternating between screwed shut and wide open as I grimace at the now-unwelcome images brought forth by my adept and visual imagination. Anything pornographic makes me very uncomfortable, though I have a high tolerance for sexual themes in literature providing they don’t intersect with violence.
These are little things that embellish my delightful personality, and colour both my social interactions and my studies. I’d like to say before I continue that my asexuality is a pivotal and treasured part of my identity, that I am strong in my asexual identity and, given the choice, would certainly not choose otherwise. I simply couldn’t imagine myself any other way. I wouldn’t be myself, someone I’ve spent my whole life reflecting upon and discovering. So with that disclaimer to ward off the well-meaning therapy pushers, here comes the big one.
I am personally sex-repulsed. This means that the idea of myself engaging in sexual behaviour with another person disgusts and distresses me. Every instance of tolerance for sexual material referenced above is in a situation in which I myself am somehow disconnected from it, a separate, sexless entity.
Personal sex-repulsion in a vacuum free of societal influence is not a source of angst, but when combined with other factors, such as my romantic orientation, it can become quite the temperamental mind-monster. I’m a pretty handy mind-monster manager thanks to my growing experience with a few particularly dangerous species, but sometimes they break their chain to chase a butterfly or you drop a succulent dead thing into their pen for some reason and they eat their way to dominance.
As a celibate ace, sex is the thing which I Absolutely Will Not Compromise On, which necessitates any romantic/queerplatonic relationship I pursue to be sexless. Unfortunately the heart wants what it wants and there are many more non-aces than aces in this colourful world, so I’m statistically a heck of a lot more likely to get warm fuzzies and sing the silent song for people with sexual needs or expectations that I
can’t won’t am not going to satisfy. I know sexless mixed relationships can work perfectly well, but there are several inhibitions and patterns of thought I fall into which cause me quite the twinge. Attempting to initiate a relationship is like opening a can of worms and tipping it all over the target of my affections. Keeping my feels hidden and just waiting them out is like swallowing the can of worms so they break out inside you, where they can’t bother anybody else. The latter is the more attractive option. But whenever your thoughts tentatively try to take a step down the road to positivity, they’re beaten back by guilt.
Guilt because I think I’m ‘inflicting’ myself upon someone, depriving them of something they might desire/want/need/whatever. Society has sewn little pervading ideas into my subconscious which war with the things I know consciously to be true. It is these pesky little threads which are the source of this guilt, and they’re tricky things to unpick. This one says: “If you enter in a relationship with someone you owe them sex.” But my body is my own. Pick. I’m not obligated to consent to anything which makes me uncomfortable. Pick. Anyone who doesn’t understand this part of me is not a good person for me to be with in the first place. Pick. But the needle comes back. It comes back when I see romantic relationships depicted in the media. It comes back when well-meaning people just assume I’m sleeping with someone based on our interactions and congratulate or tease. It comes back when I look at someone and my heart beats faster and my skin warms and my mind sings and I remember that I’m not enough for them…will never be.
Because I don’t fathom sex as an expression of intimacy, I don’t understand why anyone would want it and I can’t for the life of me comprehend the reason society expects me to surrender my body to someone in order to prove they have my heart.