Claiming My Asexuality. ~ Jayleigh Lewis

Via on Jan 17, 2013

For the vast majority of my life up until this moment, I have not discussed my sexuality with anyone.

I’ve kept it very private.

Why? Well, I’m a shy person in general, but there is one very specific reason I don’t talk about my sexuality.

I’m asexual.

What?

Even just writing these words leaves me pausing for a moment, doubting myself.

I know asexuality is a real thing; I’ve read a lot about it online (here and here—and there’s an online community here). It makes sense that there would be a “neither” answer to the question of whether one is attracted to one’s own gender or the opposite gender (leaving aside for the moment the question of what happens when someone identifies outside the two traditionally accepted genders).

In categorical terms, asexuality is the opposite of bisexuality. For bisexually-identified people, the answer to the question of which gender they are attracted to is “both,” and for asexually-identified people, the answer is “neither.”

It makes sense, yet it feels like a complicated matter to identify myself publicly as asexual. Do I really want to claim my sexuality, with all its irregularities?

I had never heard the term “asexual” used to describe a sexual orientation until two years ago. I’m 30 years old and I have lived the majority of my life not even knowing there was a name for my experience. Furthermore, I discovered the term online. I educated myself, slowly learning the differences between sexual experience, sexual attraction and sexual drive (more on those later); I didn’t talk about it to anyone.

It has taken me two years to accept that “asexual” is a pretty good descriptor for my sexuality. Before I could get to that point, I had to untangle many threads of confused concepts and unexamined ideas about sexuality which I encountered all around me.

Which ideas applied to me for real and which ideas had I simply taken on because I didn’t know any better? With a thick blanket of shame covering everything, it has only been that much harder to parse.

I have never experienced sexual attraction to anyone, of any gender. I didn’t even notice until I was well out of college.

How can it be that I didn’t notice? Shouldn’t it have been screamingly obvious since at least puberty?

Well, no, it wasn’t.

I think part of the reason is society’s conflation of the three concepts of sexual drive, sexual experience and sexual attraction.

First, we think, there’s sexual attraction. We are attracted to someone. If we happen to identify with the gender we appear to be, and we find ourselves attracted to those of the opposite gender, all well and good. We still encounter cultural stereotypes and norms with which we may or may not be in conflict, but at least our path is fairly well laid out.

If we find ourselves experiencing attraction to those of the same gender we identify with, or we find ourselves identifying with a gender we do not appear to be but still attracted to those of any gender, our path will be rockier, maybe very rocky, but there is still a path.

Next, we are told, we will want to follow through on the desire that has awoken in us. We may or may not feel it is appropriate to follow through, we may or may not be encouraged by those around us to follow through, but once the attraction is there, our sexual drive kicks in and adds its fire.

You could also say that sexual drive is always there—either actively seeking an outlet or mostly dormant, depending on the state of our hormones—just waiting for attraction to partner with it and give it a channel.

Then, the story goes, sooner or later, there is sexual experience. The twin energies of drive and attraction naturally want to actualize themselves. There may be frustration, but given enough time, almost everyone can find someone attractive to them and willing. If they don’t, we tend to assume that they can’t, that there’s something wrong with them.

That’s the story.

I don’t fit into that story.

During high school and college, I didn’t particularly want to pursue romance. Actually, I assumed it would come later, that I didn’t need to worry about it yet. I was jealous of friends and classmates who entered into romantic relationships, but not because I wanted a romantic relationship; I wanted my friends, and their relationships pulled them away from me.

Source: via Kit on Pinterest
Source: via Kit on Pinterest

If I had defined a romantic relationship then, I would have said it was an intense partnership that, because sex was sanctioned within its boundaries, made people act as if it was more special than any other type of partnership.

I just thought romance was a way to justify sex.

Maybe that should have been a clue to my orientation. Although I’ve learned since that romance and sex are not always tightly coupled (there are romantic asexuals), I have always had a hard time understanding what the point is of an exclusive partnership that is qualitatively different from a friendship.

It would have made more sense if I had realized that I am not ever sexually attracted to anyone; I am attracted to people all the time, but I do not experience sexual attraction.

My attraction does not differentiate between people who would make appropriate sexual partners and people who wouldn’t.

I do not feel a different type of attraction to anyone than the attraction I feel to, say, my best friend. This is why I felt so confused when she got married—I wanted to marry her, too! I thought I had just as much right to be attracted to her as her husband did, but that didn’t mean I wanted to have sex with her! And that was why she married him and not me.

So I am off the path, out of the story, before it ever really gets started—at least according to society.

The desire for a romantic relationship never came to me, but the desire to fit in socially became more painful the older I got. A year or so after I graduated from college, I realized that I was in a shrinking minority of women my age who had not had a romantic or sexual relationship. I began to wonder what was wrong with me and to feel truly alienated during conversations that centered around sex. I felt I had to hide my lack of experience, gloss over my different views on attraction.

Usually, when I tried to process my confusions and feelings of being different from others, the questions and suggestions started coming.

“Do you masturbate?” (As if it were anyone’s business—but the question proves that most people think there is a necessary link between sexual drive—an internal thing felt within the self—and sexual attraction—something felt for another. It’s as if those asking this question were checking to see if my sexual drive were faulty, if maybe that was my reason for lack of attraction and experience.)

“Do you know there are spiritual practices that involve masturbation?” (Thanks, and I’m sure those practices are great, but my lack of sexual attraction to other humans does not mean I must give up on the possibility of sexual experience with them.)

“Is it because you were violated?” (Fear of being sexual and lack of sexual attraction are not always easy to tell apart, but the process of discernment is made that much harder when people assume trauma is the basis of everything.)

The truth is, I wanted (and still want) to experience sex; I have a strong sexual drive. I want to explore the possibility of having biological children. I want to feel free to say those things and also say that I do not experience sexual attraction…and there isn’t anything wrong with that.

I think a lot of the shame I’ve felt around my sexuality has more to do with my lack of sexual experience than with my lack of attraction. Most people do in fact have sex, and most do it for the first time before they reach 30. There are certain ideas that tend to be stuck onto those for whom this is not the case.

They’re repressed. They’ve experienced trauma. They have horrible social skills. They’re hyper-religious. They’re too picky. They’re in denial. They have no libido. They’re letting their fears get in the way of living a full life.

I have to remove these ideas from me even as they cling on like burrs, because I can only see them clearly to examine them if I don’t unquestioningly let them stick to me. I can see that there is no necessary connection between any of these ideas and a lack of sexual attraction.

Or, in fact, a lack of sexual experience.

Sexuality, so personal and so intimate, sometimes so hard to talk about, is not always, as some might assume, automatically expressed. If it does not follow paths that are well understood, there might not be enough support for a person who wants to explore its meanderings. It might go underground or into disguise; that is no proof that there is something wrong with it.

If I had known at 12 or 14 that asexuality exists and is a valid sexual orientation, I might have started my exploration then.

I might have realized sooner that lack of sexual attraction, while often a handicap in this society that automatically chains together attraction, drive and experience, does not mean I cannot have the sexual experience I want. I do not have to wait until I feel this attraction, which is, to me, mythical. I do not have to psychoanalyze myself to find out why I don’t feel attraction.

I’ve often felt like I am less of a woman because I haven’t engaged with others sexually and that is not okay with me.

Truthfully, I think I just haven’t felt supported in thinking that there could be options other than casual sex with no emotional connection on the one hand, and sexual attraction leading to a relationship within which sex occurs, on the other.

Neither of these options feels right to me. I claim that truth now, even knowing it may someday change.

I don’t need to view myself as someone in a perpetual state of incompletion when it comes to sexuality. I don’t need to define myself by a lack or see myself as missing a piece.

I am not a void waiting to be filled. I am not a child waiting to grow up. I am complete, whole—and asexual.

I like to think there may be someone reading this who can relate, who may have different particulars in his or her story but who may have similarly felt a lack of support for exploration of a sexuality that didn’t fit any of the norms. This is why I write this. This is why I break my silence, even though it’s uncomfortable.

To that person: You aren’t alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. You get to tease out the truths from the untruths, and you get to let go of the ideas about your sexuality that don’t feel right, and explore further the ones that make you curious.

May you enjoy the journey.

Source: blackgreywhitepurple.tumblr.com via Anna on Pinterest

 

 

jayleighJayleigh Lewis is a writer who will one day write a book. She currently works as a spiritual advisor to college students as well as a freelance editor. She has a dream that one day humans will remember the integral role ceremony has in our lives and will learn to create sacred spaces within which intention may manifest. Learn more about her dream and read more of her words on her blog.

 

Like elephant Love: Loneliness, Dating & Relationships on Facebook.

 

 

~

Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

(Source: sticksk1nny.tumblr.com via Virginia on Pinterest)

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36 Responses to “Claiming My Asexuality. ~ Jayleigh Lewis”

  1. Rich K says:

    This is very brave. Thank you for sharing yourself!

  2. Stephanie Vessely svessely says:

    Thanks for sharing your story Jayleigh. I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable and share something so tender. I think sexuality is personal and complicated and that we should all get to decide what role it plays in our lives, without societal pressures (or the government for that matter). I give you props for sharing. I'm sure it wasn't easy.

    I can't claim to know how you feel or how you've struggled in your life. Despite this, I found lots to relate to in your article. As I've watched friends marry off, I too have wondered why our friendship suddenly becomes secondary. In some cases, I've lost friends completely. I hope that in whatever relationship I settle into someday there is room for all of the people I love and the gifts they share with me.

    Our society puts so much emphasis on sexual and romantic relationships, and on getting married and having kids. If you fall outside any of these accepted modes of being, it's hard not to feel alienated at times. So thanks again for sharing your story—it helps me remember that there's nothing wrong with me either.

  3. catherine says:

    very thought provoking ~ so thankful that you shared this.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Jayleigh. In a country where "sex sells" everything and it's a huge focus of our media in general, it's nice to hear a voice saying something else in an honest, eloquent way.

  5. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I will contribute another voice–that of the overextended, health-compromised, financially stressed, postmenopausal 55-60 year old woman who has lost her libido and her susceptibility to a man's mojo. In this age of Viagra/Cialis and keeping up with the "cougars" (who, should – by their very definition – be in possession of a lot of long green …) it is major TOUGH, even at MY age, to have a platonic (and by platonic, I mean Platonic) friendship with a similarly-aged male …

    It reminds me of Diogenes' search … trying to find an honest man … but I guess, that's easier …

    Single, unattached and non-Platonic-friended am I …

  6. Edie Lazenby edie says:

    Loved this article….bursting with honesty and integrity. Thank you.

  7. Kallie says:

    Thanks for sharing Jayleigh!!! I find myself questioning various forms of sexuality and relationships especially with how prevalent gay marriage has become in politics. I love hearing opinions that differ form the societal norms and walls that we have put up for ourselves. I think it's sad that we've created all these ideas that isolate people and make them feel disgusting or "slutty" or abnormal. I was raised to believe that only a man and a woman should be together and that you marry young so that you can have babies, grow old and then retire. Only now, in my mid 20s, have I really been questioning that rather than beating myself up for not conforming in certain way. Thanks again, for a whole new perspective.

  8. Bret says:

    As ironic as it is… That's kinda hot.

  9. John Doe says:

    Thanks for your honesty and courage. Being asexual may be a real blessing in disguise for you. Sexual attraction and sexual drive can really complicate and interfere with friendships. I’d rather have good close platonic friendships than all the complexity, confusion, and emotional messiness that accompanies sexual attraction.

  10. erica says:

    that's me! yes, i so know what you mean about being attracted to someone but not wanting to be sexual – like a 'non-sexual crush'. when i have a 'crush' on someone, i just want to hang out with him or her more and spend lots of time together, not be sexual. I was just explaining this to a friend recently, and she did not get it – that is, she could not relate. now i know there is a word for it. thanks!
    oh, and i did not have my first sexual encounter until i was 28. i used to be super embarrassed about this. now i am only moderately embarrassed. i'm now married to that man.

  11. just me :) says:

    great article, and I would just add that this is also a way of questioning the power/s. That feeling that you have to justify yourself (wheather it is lack of sexual experience or much of it) is something we have to fight against. we can be and feel as we want to and not feel ashamed about it!

  12. [...] Jayleigh Lewis, Jennifer Townsend, Kevin Macku, Edith Lazenby, Tara Lemieux, Terri Tremblett, Malin Bergman, ShaMecha Simms, Lacy Rammuno, Sara Crolick, Amy Cushing, Wendy Keslick, Rebecca Schwarz, Elysha Anderson, Maja Despot, Anne Clendening, Olivia Gray, Christa Angelo, Thandiwe Ogbonna, Stephanie Vessely, Caroline Scherer, Evan Livesay, Madison Canary, Karla Rodas, Sarah Winner and Sara McKeown [...]

  13. Lauren says:

    So love this. So love your sharing. The more we share, the more we know we are not alone in this world.
    Blessings, blessings, blessings.

  14. Natalie says:

    brave courageous warrior. peace and serenity to you. – Natalie in Philly

  15. It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can understand a lot of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really wonderful.

  16. Bryonie Wise laydowninthetallgrass says:

    Jayleigh, thank you for your courage and writing such a moving, honest piece. And thank you for creating a dialogue and touching many hearts. ~ Bryonie

  17. orb-weaver says:

    great topic! it has never really come up even in my many conversations on sex, since to my knowledge i do not know any asexuals. i am glad they exist though, it seems to make the whole spectrum complete. honestly, since recently joining this site, i've been let down at the cliches of most of its articles, so this was a refresher!

  18. nunh says:

    Excellent article. I could not help thinking that you must be an extremely productive person. Once I thought more deeply about the topic at hand, I felt rather foolish for thinking this. Thank you for sharing!

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Not so foolish. In some people, sexuality has the capacity to overproduce oxytocin in women. In which case, unless in a totally requited and meaningful relationship with a significant other, is a major deterrent to productivity, sorry to remind many people. Biology and not morality speaking. Plus my personal experience when younger.

    • Kathryn says:

      Er…well, positive stereotypes are nicer than negative ones, but "asexuals are such productive people!" isn't necessarily true. There are still video games and so forth to distract us, after all.

      • Vision_Quest2 says:

        Well, my personal definition includes having to earn your own living at a "day job" as part of "productivity." But you are right, asexuals can come from all walks, stations and relationship/financial supportedness statuses in life.

  19. bex says:

    wow. I think I get this. I t hink it makes a lot of sense to me. Resonates deeply with me. I've never heard of such a thing, and yet I think I have a lot of asexuality in me. wowow. thank you thank you

  20. [...] Claiming My Asexuality. ~ Jayleigh Lewis (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  21. jim fry says:

    The mark of exquisite communication is when we take others so deeply into our inner realms of experiences that they lose themselves. Your narrative provided me with a savory taste of an experience base I'd not previously encountered. Beautiful; raw; emotional & authentic.

    You are a rare gem, with facets most of us *don't* have. You have me pondering what it feels like not to have the sexual attractions I do possess. While often intensely pleasurable, they may be experienced as distracting and are often the source of *suppression* since there is a fine line between (any) attraction and *acceptable* (to self, other, all) interaction. There are some elements you are totally free from and liberated on fronts most of us, are not.

    Deep Appreciation, Thank You!

  22. [...] Claiming My Asexuality. ~ Jayleigh Lewis (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  23. Tommy says:

    I'm glad you recognize that there is a difference between romance and sex. Sex is great when you're romantically involved with someone :)

  24. [...] Claiming My Asexuality. ~ Jayleigh Lewis (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  25. Nicole Weinberger says:

    Own it. Whatever you are.

  26. touching_ground says:

    Thank you so much for writing and posting this. The first time I heard about asexuality I immediately felt resonance. Then, I started questioning myself because I can be aroused and feel the strong need to have an orgasm… Anyway, i love that you included the distinction between attraction, drive, and experience. Amazing! And that you kept reminding me each person has their own life to feel and live. I'm more curious now to continue questioning my experience and understanding of sexuality. xo

  27. [...] Jayleigh Lewis writes about claiming her asexuality. [...]

  28. Patti says:

    Just think of all the hurt and heartaches you have escaped. You give your heart, and it comes back damaged. I went to a certain university to "follow" a guy, I made many many decisions that were way too influenced by guys. I allowed emotional abuse just to "keep" a guy. No more. I, too, no longer make "love" connections. I think it's a dysfunction, though. We are social beings that should crave love interactions. Probably childhood trauma has impacted this. My heart is hardened.

  29. anotherblogbytony says:

    Thank you Jayleigh. This article describes my experience perfectly. I also didn't discover the concept of asexuality until the past two years, and I'm almost 30. Now I have something to label the fact that I have sexual drive but no sexual attraction. I also thought I was just a late bloomer in college. I felt a lot of shame about my lack of sexual experience, too. I never sought out sexual experiences because subconsciously, I knew in the back of my mind it would be dishonest and a performance. For awhile I tried to "fix" myself but I couldn't. I thought I wanted sex because it was something you were supposed to want. You have written a great article.

  30. The banter put? his ability around the cops throat?? screw feign.

  31. The actual terrorists are the barf.. fell rigimes in Syria.. Iran.. N Korea… deal how these countries treat their people.. their women and children… disgusting!! I wish the US and its allies? act to use their personnel bully to exhibit the world that these actions module not be tolerated… yes war is messy… the innocent clear as well… but these grouping status to know that they have rights to charged.. and not be brutalized by their govs.

  32. Mebbie says:

    I was in love with an asexual for two years. He was dishonest with me at first telling me he could do a real relationship. He loved me passionately, but not sexually. I was married for 20 years and divorced for 5 when I met him. I was used to regular physical expressions of love, but I had been celebate during my time after my marriage. I still could not understand how someone could woo me, dance with me, hold me, and tell me how much he loved me, but only give me a kiss that a grandmother would give, or even a distant cousin vibe at times. It was painful to love someone and ache for their touch, but not receive that touch. When I ended the relationship, he was very upset. He could not understand my needs at all.

    Asexuality may be a legitimate orientation, but I feel they are destined to find each other or break many hearts. All my friends thought he was secretly gay, but he told me he tried to be with men too, he just couldn't get excited to be with anyone.

    Reading your story, I don't know if you are really asexual. When you fall in love and still can't have sex or even kiss your partner, then you can claim that mantle. Now I just think you're waiting to be in love to have sex. Which is a legitimate thing. I wanted to do that before marriage, but I slipped a bit with the wrong guys. I did wait until I was in love with the new guy, but it was not meant to be. We had sex twice 4 months after we fell in love and then never again. Please don't break someone's heart.

  33. Rhonda says:

    I just happened on your post and was very grateful to read your story. I've had a lot of similar thoughts and feelings. I am curious, if you don't mind sharing– have you ever had a boyfriend or a long-term relationship?

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