Asexuality and "Transsexual, Transylvania"
It is the winter of 2013 and I am standing on stage in a line of virgins. Rocky Horror Picture Show virgins, to be precise. We are facing a crowd of drunken, laughing college students and graduates. Each of us has a V drawn in red lipstick somewhere on our bodies — on a cheek, an arm, a leg. Mine is cradled in the shallow V-neck of my dress. For all that the skirt is knee-length and my tights are opaque, I feel as exposed as my neighbor who’s wearing booty shorts.
I wish I knew someone in the audience.
Since it’s Santa Cruz, it’s also themed: Pokémon. I have seen at least one man wearing a luxurious fake fur vest, a gold thong, and nothing else.
Our Dr. Frankenfurter for the evening plays announcer. Light glances off the sparkles on her corset as she announces the game at hand: each of these Rocky Horror virgins, who have never seen a live shadow cast of the movie, must compete to become the Virgin Sacrifice. Who wins? Whoever makes the most convincing Pokémon orgasm noise.
Because of course.
Dr. Frankenfurter goes down the line of virgin competitors, assigning the name of the Pokémon each will have to mimic. As she gives me mine (Clefairy), my mind goes blank. I’ve never excelled at improv. What does this Pokémon even look like? I had a poster of the original 150 Pokémon on my wall for 10 years but now, under pressure, I can’t remember a single one.
Out of time. Even though we’ve only had a few seconds to think, Dr. Frankfurter is already going down the line again, asking for our best orgasms. But nobody else is trying to tailor their noise to their assigned Pokémon. They’re just enthusiastically moaning away.
So when it’s my turn, I grab my hair with one hand, hitch up the front of my skirt with the other, and howl, “CLEFAIRY” in my best orgiastic voice. Then I let my knees give way and fall flat on my back like I’m an ‘80s rock star wailing on a guitar.
The crowd goes wild.
That night, even I wouldn’t have guessed I was asexual.
I’ve always loved romance.
I devoured every shade of the genre through middle and high school. My stomach fluttered over tender confessions and stumbled outright over sex scenes.
I dreamed of my very own prince. Or at least a hot senior to make out with.
Neither ever came.
It was easy enough to dismiss at the time. I had crushes, but there was never the right moment to act on them. First I was too awkward around boys to try. Then I was too busy with schoolwork and college applications.
As the years went on, the reasons changed: I intimidated guys. I had too much reading to finish. I was too in love with my classes to focus on people. Every time I met up with friends from high school they’d ask about my love life and I’d wave off their questions with a smile. I was comfortable in my singleness.
But from time to time, I still wondered.
I end up tying with one of my neighbors for the title of Virgin Sacrifice. This makes things a little more complicated.
For anyone who’s never seen a shadow cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, let me explain. During the show, a live cast acts out every scene while the film is playing. Every actor wears a full costume and everyone in the audience is invited to do the same. Members of the audience shout responses to lines and lyrics as they play on-screen. Various props are distributed to the audience, as well, so that we can participate in more physical jokes, like putting a newspaper over our head during the rain scene or throwing toast. It’s like watching a favorite movie with a group of friends, but on a much larger scale.
The Virgin Sacrifice comes into play about halfway into the movie. On-screen, this is the scene in which the sensuous Dr. Frankenfurter separates and seduces both of the movie’s virginal heroes. On-stage, this is when the Virgin Sacrifice performs a sexual act. Nothing literal — at most, it involves partial nudity and sticky food.
Normally, the Virgin Sacrifice does this with Dr. Frankenfurter. Tonight, I’ll be doing it with the other winner.
In front of a packed theater.
Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t know anyone in the audience.
I knew what the word “asexual” meant by the time I graduated college, but it wasn’t until several months later that the term really caught my eye. Living at home and without a job, I felt more lost by the day. Tumblr became a refuge and an education all on its own. Discussions of racial, gender, and sexual identity piled up in my feed. I read each with interest and growing humility, but never really connected with them.
Until I saw the words “turned on by sex in stories but not with other people.” I froze — and then scrolled quickly past the post. I still regret not exploring that further. But this term, this new definition of a familiar word, stuck with me.
It soon became an anchor. Words are heavy, especially those of identity, but this one felt right. By December, I’d come to terms with the idea, if to no one else but myself.
When the seduction scene starts to play on-screen, my co-winning Virgin Sacrifice and I are summoned. Before walking on-stage, the actress playing Dr. Frankenfurter briefly explains the plan. My co-winner will take off his shirt and she will cover his chest in chocolate syrup and have him hold a chocolate kiss between his teeth. From there, it’s up to me to lick all the syrup off and grab the kiss — without using my hands. Simple enough.
As we walk onto the stage and she starts prepping my co-winner, I consider what I’m about to do. Acting has always been fun for me. At fourteen, I’d read aloud as Romeo in my English class for our entire unit on Romeo and Juliet. I’d enjoyed the skits my French teacher had us write and perform. But the best part was always the audience’s reaction. What could I do to get a rise out of this group?
I’m wearing a thin white shift and tights under my dress tonight. So when Dr. Frankenfurter finishes her prep and steps back, I make a show out of stripping off the dress. The crowd cheers and hoots their drunken delight.
Then I get to work.
I didn’t come out to anyone for two years. I don’t know why. At the start, it felt too new and fragile. I didn’t want to defend it. Even later, once I was more comfortable, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up. It was a big deal, but I didn’t want to steamroll over every conversation by announcing, “Hey, I’m asexual!” I wanted something natural.
When I came out to my sister just before Christmas, I’m not sure it felt “natural.” But it did feel right. And that ended up being more important. She listened and asked a few questions. She thanked me for telling her. She told me she loved me. And that was that.
A few months later, she sent me a letter and a package for my birthday. In the letter, she said that she’d tried to find books or stories about being asexual, but hadn’t liked any of them. So she told me I should make my own. In the package was a blank sketchbook and markers.
I cried a lot that year, but that was one of the few times that I was also smiling.
I start at his navel. I drop to my knees and the crowd behind me roars with laughter. I had expected to be more nervous at the prospect of licking someone, but their cheers propel me onward.
I scoop up the bottom of the chocolate happy trail with the confidence of someone much, much drunker. I need to finish this before the seduction scene on-screen is over, but I do my best to draw it out. I lick up his belly in rough zigzags. When I reach his chest, I pay special attention to the sensitive skin around his nipples.
By this point, the movie and the crowd are so loud that I can’t see or hear my co-winner’s reaction. He stands stock-still with his arms out the entire time. As far as I can tell, he isn’t turned on by this display. But isn’t that the point? I’m putting the “play” back in display.
I haven’t gotten all the chocolate off his chest, but by now I’ve reached his neck. So I pull back and straighten to my full height. I’m just a little taller than him.
I hover a few centimeters from his lips. I gently grab the tip of the chocolate with my teeth and pull out. The prize is mine and the crowd screams.
It’s the closest to a kiss I’ve ever come.
Then it’s done. We both give a bow, I grab my dress, and I float back to my seat. My tights are ripped at the knees and it’s 2 AM-cold when the show finally lets out. But several strangers stop to say hello and tell me how much they liked my performance. I smile the whole way home.
That night is a good case study of my complicated relationship with sex.
I love porn and romance, but I’ve never been turned on by another person. I’ve had crushes, but I’ve never wanted to sleep with any of them. And I love, love, love performing sexuality — but for me, that’s all it is. It’s play. It’s a performance. I’ll always crack dirty jokes, get butterflies in my stomach over a touching or a steamy passage in a book, and channel Mae West when I go to karaoke. But that’s all I’m interested in.
For me, being asexual doesn’t mean being uninterested in sex. It just means my libido is a little less active than my taste for drama.