Since “queerness” as a concept entered into the public brain wave frequency, it has been inextricably tied to sex and sexuality.
And since sexologists, scientists, and psychologists began their journey to “figuring out” queerness, they have predominately focused entirely on with whom a queer person is having sex.
In fact, questions concerning the queer body, in general, are usually focused entirely on sex. From “But how do two girls do it” and “So do you have a Grindr,” to the fact that almost every queer show or event is saturated in sexuality.
There are very few representations of what queer intimacy looks and feels like outside of heavily sexualized dynamics, and sometimes it feels like we don’t even know how to interact with each other in a way that is not laden with sexuality.
This is why so many people have learned that the “A” in LBGTQIA+ stands for “Ally.”
But I’m here to remind you of one of the three things the “A” actually stands for: Asexuality (the others include agender and aromantic).
Now, like many things that are not straight and not cis, asexuality is brought up within the context of a spectrum. However, I reject the concept of spectrums because they require two opposing, binary end points, where I prefer to think of these things more as galaxies of possibility.
And as far as the asexual galaxy of possibility goes, it encompasses a variety of different experiences that all include a certain lack of sexual desire, interest, or attraction.
They can include folks who are sex-repulsed asexuals (people who have no sexual desire, sexual attraction, or interest and are actively turned off by sex); asexual folks who may be totally down for kissing and cuddling, but simply do not have any interest in engaging in anything more; demi-sexual (folks who only have sexual interest in people they have developed certain emotional attachments to); or gray-ace folks who have fluctuating sexual desire and sexual attractions – just to name a few.
Since there are so many different ways a person can experience a lack of sexual desire or attraction, there is no definitive definition of asexuality.
This is why I see asexuality as a beautiful galaxy of identities, encompassing a variety of ways people deviate from a standard definition of “sexual” orientation.
But in a world that is saturated in sex, not experiencing a sex desire or sexual attraction can leave you feeling like you are broken, like there is something in you that needs to be fixed or changed in order for you to engage in relationships in a “normal” “healthy” way.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you are not broken if you are not having sex.
This is something that took me a very long time (and many nights spent gallivanting through the Internet) to figure out for myself.
These feelings of being “broken” can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways, and in this article I will be exploring three ways they have shown up in my own life.
1. People Think That You’re a Waste of a Human Being If You Aren’t a Sexual Option for Them
As a teenager, I believed that I was defective and was never going to be in a relationship or have someone love me because I was not interested in sex.
This is how I felt when I refused to let my first boyfriend go further than kissing me – like a failure as a partner, like I was wasting my youth, and like I was letting the dream of casually fucking in my boyfriend’s car after prom slip away as I stared, terrified, at the condom in his wallet.
And these feelings were all wrapped up in heteronormative ideas of how relationships should play out.
That I was obligated to sexually please my boyfriend (because that’s what you do when you’re young and read as a girl), that prom night was supposed to be the night I finally “lost my virginity” to my fumbling partner, and that if I didn’t, I was a “waste of a nice face and good body.”
And that, no matter what every single teenaged romantic comedy that has ever existed might tell us, is completely untrue.
But unfortunately, as people who are not interested or not that interested in sex, asexuals are perpetually being told that we are a “waste.”
Further, it is something that speaks to something much larger than an asexual experience.
Many of us (particularly women and feminine presenting folks) are seen as sex objects. Consequently, we’re told that our only value is in our ability to please others, and because of that we must be sexually available and look sexual appealing at all times.
Many people, when they come out as asexual are told that they are now “useless” simply because they are no longer sexually available (this is also something that gets told to many lesbian folks when they divulge that they are not, in fact, available for male sexual gratification).
But here’s the thing: When people say this, whether they realize it or not, they are essentially telling us that once we take away that ability of others to take sexual pleasure in our bodies, that there is nothing left worth loving or admiring.
I am here to remind you that nobody, regardless of their sexuality, is here only to be a sexual object.
We are more than bodies, and there are so many beautiful and amazing things we have to offer the world besides sexual gratification.
2. The World Still Acts Like Queerness Is Contingent on Sexuality
The second thing I experienced was that, apparently, I could not be queer if I was not having sex.
At 18, I went to college identifying as a lesbian (I do not identify this way now) and like many queer kids in college, I quickly made a group of queer friends (affectionately referred to by others as “The Lesbian Mafia”).
While it might have felt good to finally be a part of a queer community, I also constantly felt like I needed to validate my queerness.
My hair needed to be gay, my clothes needed to be gay, my walk needed to be gay, and, of course, my sex needed to be gay. That is to say, my sex needed to be.
Many newly out queer kids feel this.
It is the feeling that, now that you have come out, you must work to maintain your queerness, that your queerness must be readable and visible, and if it was not, you were doing a disservice to your community.
Looking back, I realize that the things that I did, I did because I finally felt some sort of connection to a larger community. I wanted to remind people that I was a part of this community.
But, unfortunately, this led me to do things that I really didn’t want to do, but felt like I had to do to prove myself and my identity.
Now, as an awkward person with a low sex drive desperate to prove themselves in a sex saturated lesbian scene, I began to do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex, rarely one without the other.
I flaunted my sexual conquests with an air of butch lesbian internalized misogyny that said, “Hey bro, you think you’re cool? Bet you haven’t gotten as much pussy as I have.”
Now, I am not saying that I never enjoyed any of the sex I had, my sexual drive fluctuates.
But, as I recount my sexual exploits throughout college, I begin to realize that there was so much I did not enjoy, so much I did to prove myself, so much I let happen because I thought I was the one with the problem.
Looking back, I realize that there were too many times that I forced myself to have sex because my friend kept telling me “You’ll feel so much better about x once you get some ass” and how going out was not “successful” unless I ended up in someone’s bed, or bathroom, or alleyway.
I mean, who could blame them? Isn’t that how every famed TV girl gang hypes up a bummed out friend before they go out?
Isn’t that exactly what we have been taught to say by every media outlet we consume?
It’s important to realize that I’m not knocking anyone’s sexual behaviors, and I think that the amount of shit that non-men get for daring to be sexual is ridiculous.
But, it’s equally as important to realize that so many people are forced into sexuality (and that Black and Latinx asexual folks have a very different struggle than a white asexual person like myself).
As a queer person, I felt my identity and my sexuality could not be taken apart, that in order to “truly” be queer, I needed to engage in a certain amount and a certain kind of sex.
This is what drove me to be as sexually engaged as I was.
It ceased to be at all about my own enjoyment and became a constant game of trying to reaffirm the fact that I wasn’t simply pretending to be queer, that I had the sex toys and the condom wrappers to prove it.
3. People Believe It’s Impossible to Lead a Happy and Healthy Adult Life Without Sex
We live in a world that simultaneously leaves us all without proper sex education and access to information and protection, but tells us that if we are not having sex we are broken.
That if we stop wanting to sexually engage with our partners, we’re “ruining” our relationships, or that a lack of sexually activity is a red flag that your relationship (or partner) is broken or unhealthy.
Too many kids feel like they will never be loved, are told they will never be loved, feel like they are a waste, are told they are a waste, because our society tells them that the only way they can validate themselves and their relationships is by being sexually active.
Your body is not here to give pleasure to others. If you wish to do that, so be it, but you are not a waste of a body, of a face, of a person if you are not having sex.
There are so many more things about you that are so miraculous and beautiful, and if anyone tells you otherwise, tell them to go fuck themselves (because you won’t be doing it for them).
There are people out there who truly believe that there are more important things about a person than what they do in bed, and if your partner loses interest in you simply because you will not engage in something that makes you deeply uncomfortable, they weren’t the person for you anyway.
You get to define what happiness and healthy is for you, and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with sex unless you want it to.
If you do not experience sexual attraction, if you don’t desire sexual intimacy, or if your sexual drive is low, or you do not feel sexual desire, I want you to know that you are not less than and you are not broken.
Your personhood, happiness, or identity do not hinge on the amount of sex you do or do not have.
There are so many ways to be intimate, so many ways to love, so many ways to be beautiful, and sex is just one of them.
So, if sex is not one of those ways for you, I hope you have an amazing adventure discovering all the other ways that are out there.
Kris Nelson is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. They are a queer trans witch with a BA in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. Kris runs a blog full of short queer-centric radical prose, which can be found at thequeertimes.tumblr.com and a poetry blog that can be found at songswithoutlyrics.tumblr.com. Kris also runs an online store by the name of Spell-Bound, where they sell handcrafted wire work jewelry, crystal pendants, hand sewn tarot bags, and pendulums. They can be contacted at [email protected] and trans-witch.tumblr.com.