For Asexual Awareness Week we reached out to bloggers who identify somewhere on the asexual spectrum to write posts related to asexuality and YA. We’re happy to bring you the third post in this series! Check back every day this week for more posts from other great guest bloggers.
by Em Murphy
When I realized I was asexual, everything made a lot more sense. I was in my last year of college and when I finally acknowledged that I wasn’t attracted to anyone, it made me a lot more comfortable with myself and with how I interacted with other people. It helped me realize how my expectations regarding my relationships with other people didn’t always match what was actually happening, or what I had hoped would be happening.
Growing up, I read constantly. I read all kinds of books, but my favorites focused on interpersonal interaction and relationships. Sometimes I read books about characters older than me, and I took a lot of my social cues and expectations about what was to come from them. After all, if it was in a book, it must be true, or at least close enough, and I could expect that similar events might happen to me. A lot of the young adult books I was reading involved romantic plot lines, often a slow burn over the course of the novel ending with some sort of denouement at the end, like a dramatic kiss or lots of making out or more.
As much as I liked the slow burn, the building attraction, and the intensity of feelings, I could never really get on board with the making out at the end. When anything beyond kissing happened, on- or off-screen, I lost interest and felt detached from the story. I didn’t know why I felt that way, why I could be so invested and feel the same tingly feelings in my stomach when the protagonist of a book talked about the object of their affection, but suddenly lose interest when anything went beyond emotional attraction. The butterflies of early attraction, of interest before Anything Happened were very familiar to me, but the other feelings? The pants-feelings about other people? I couldn’t understand them at all, but I thought I should.
This feeling carried over into my real-life interactions, when I felt very emotionally attached to and invested in people, but completely disinterested sexually. I had crushes on people, I wanted to spend all my time with them, I wanted to hang out and hold hands and giggle with them. I didn’t mind kissing, sometimes, because it was kind of like holding hands and giggling, sometimes, but I felt sick to my stomach when it went beyond that. I couldn’t explain why, though, because I thought I was supposed to feel a certain way and I didn’t. Normal people wanted to do more than kissing, and I didn’t. For a while I wrote it off as being immature, or not ready for things, or just assumed that I was dating jerks and that I wasn’t attracted to them because of that.
When I somehow came across asexuality online, though, everything made sense. I understood why I felt some—but definitely not all—of the butterflies I had been reading about. All of the books I had read growing up, all of the models on the library shelf in front of me, involved straight couples with very heterosexual interests and behaviors, and I couldn’t relate to it all. But it turned out that not everyone feels that way! That not everyone experiences sexual attraction! That I wasn’t the only person who felt tingly in the stomach about people and nothing more, and that that was actually how I felt! By the time I realized this about myself—that I am, in fact, asexual—I had gotten pretty far into my own head about what was wrong with me, why I didn’t feel like everyone else. Knowing that other people also didn’t feel sexual attraction changed how I understood myself and let me be more forgiving of myself, especially regarding my interactions with people I was interested in or who were interested in me. I didn’t feel like I was doing everything wrong anymore. It was a relief.
I think that reading about different kinds of attraction could have really made an impact in terms of how I processed my feelings and desires. If I had read books when I was younger that portrayed characters that weren’t sexually attracted to anyone, I might have been more frank with myself about what I felt, I might have been more able to see what was actually going on in my head. If I had read books with asexual characters in them, I would have saved myself a lot of worry and anxiety. If there were more books with asexual characters, maybe more people would know what I mean when I say I’m asexual and wouldn’t think I was just making it up. As it is now, I’m glad that asexual visibility is increasing and that more people know what it is and are writing about it.
Em Murphy likes mountains, card games, and people not making assumptions about her sexuality. She would love to talk with you more about being ace. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.