My previous post came with a challenge attached to it: taking the decision to stop hiding, and standing in the world as fully and unapologetically yourself.
And so it is only fair that I take up that challenge for myself. One of the areas of life where people tend to struggle with the idea of coming out, is sexuality. My personal experience is no different. As this is a pagan blog, my intention is to use this as an opportunity to investigate the relation between my sexual orientation and my druidry.
First, the facts. I am asexual. In short, that means I do not experience sexual attraction to other people, whatever their gender. As a result of that, I have never had sex.
Yes, that is right, I am still a virgin. A common question at this point is: how do I know that I do not want sex, if I’ve never even tried it? Because I just know. Ask any gay person, and they will probably tell you that they knew they were gay before ever having had sex with a man. It is precisely the realization that they wanted it, that drove them to start engaging in sexual acts. As for me, I have simply never felt the urge. For myself, I am happy this way, as I don’t feel I am missing anything. (Whereas, if you were to tell me now that I can never eat chocolate again, now that would be another matter entirely, gasp :-). I mean, even the simple act of writing this sentence makes me want to drop everything to go and find some chocolate.) So yes, I understand quite well what attraction and desire are. But I simply do not feel attracted towards sexual activity with anyone.
Why am I writing about this? Because I think it is important that the world begins to be aware about the fact that people like me exist, and that we do not need fixing. This is simply the way we are wired.
And I hear some of you thinking -what’s the big deal? If you don’t want sex, then how is that anybody else’s problem? For sure you are not facing any of the kinds of oppression gays or trans people are? Which is partly true (I think trans people are some of the bravest people on the planet actually, for that matter), but only if you discount the kind of issues that are caused by the experience of invisibility.
In popular culture, the idea is extremely pervasive that love and sex are the same thing. In almost every movie, at some point there will be a scene where a person tells another that they love them, followed by them kissing, and maybe having sex. If one person wants this sexual intimacy and the other doesn’t, the conclusion may well be let’s just be friends instead. So, when growing up, what you are told is that at some point, you will fall in love with someone, which means you’ll want to have sex with them, and maybe because of that you’ll want to marry them. And those are the relationships that apparently are supposed to matter most, as friendships (the relationships without sex) are often portrayed as being of lesser importance (or how else am I supposed to interpret sentences like ‘lets just be friends’, when a relationship request is turned down?)
If you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, this general narrative will probably still makes sense, except of course for the major complication that you may end up falling in love with what some would call ‘the wrong kind of person’. I am in no way discounting the very real pain caused by that (and yes, in some ways you DO have it harder than us), but at least for yourself, you still understand how the world works, and what sexuality is.
Now, what does it feel like to grow up asexual? To explain that, I would like you to first consider the story of the Selkie women for just a moment.
Many tales are told of selkies, seal women who come to live in the human world for a time, either by choice or because someone has stolen their seal skin, and so they cannot now transform back to seal form. Have you ever tried to look at this tale from the side of the Selkie? Wondered what it is like to live in a world that is mostly familiar, yet so different from your own in so many ways?
The Selkie will have moments when she sees people do certain things, where she has no idea why. Which nobody bothers to explain. Because without her skin, she looks just like them, so it simply does not occur to anyone that they might need to explain things. Because everybody knows about this, right? This is simply the way things are…
Growing up asexual is very much like this in some ways. Quite a number of basic facts regarding sexuality are never spoken of or explained, because it is assumed that everybody knows or will be able to figure it out on their own anyway. Because everyone experiences sexual attraction, right? If you want to know what it is, you will find out when you meet the right person…
But there are some of us who actually never experience this feeling. And since it is rarely spoken off, this feels very much like being blind, while not even realizing that other people are able to see. And sure, you hear them talk about colours, and you even think you understand what they are talking about, yet your interpretation couldn’t have been more wrong…
Still, during puberty you cannot fail but start noticing more and more that you are somehow different. If you are like me, the conclusion you draw is that it must be you that is to blame, that it must be that you are somehow incapable of normal human relationships, because you fail at dating. Or, I also know of others who do decide to play the game, and have sex even though they don’t want to, because they think that is what you are supposed to do in order to be in a relationship (essentially allowing themselves to be raped voluntarily).
So, it may be a struggle that is much less visible than those of most other LGBTQIA people, but it can still cause very deep psychological wounds, many of which could be avoided if asexuality were a universally known sexual orientation, so that teenagers would at least have role models to understand who they are. (And, it would also help us if the taboos of talking about sex were lifted: more explicit education about the technical aspects of sex would make it much easier for us to become aware of the fact that we are missing a sensitivity that others do have.)
So, how does all of this connect to Paganism? To put it crudely: where sex-positivity is something that attracts a lot of people to Paganism, for asexuals, it is often the other way around, where we may risk feeling even more misunderstood than in regular society. For surely, the fact that you choose not to have sex must mean that you are unevolved and unspiritual, right? (At least in some circles, that seems to be the narrative.)
There’s so many ways in which my asexuality has influenced the way I engage with Paganism, and it has coloured my ideas about some very common concepts within it. This is one of the topics that I want to begin exploring on this blog. However, there’s so much to say that I will split this up over a number of future blog-posts:
To appear over the coming months
– Beltane and the need to celebrate diversity
– Struggling with the Goddess: in search of self
– Maiden-mother-crone: exploring the divine feminine from an ace point of view
– Exploration on the connection between sexuality and mysticism: could mysticism be a sexual orientation?