"You're Such a Waste": Too Attractive to be Asexual
CW: sexual assault and harassment
One of the strangest things to me is the way humans obsess over their bodies. We obsess to the point where we think we have a right to make comments about other people’s bodies. It’s a very weird thing and something that I think about a lot. I don’t exercise, but I do yoga at least four times a week. I don’t eat healthily, Burger King is my best friend most of the time. However, my body only reflects the yoga and not the multiple late-night fast food runs a week. I’m small in stature and tiny in frame. One of the first comments people usually make about me is how little I am. It’s a thing. I don’t hate my body (that privilege is reserved for my face) but I’m not as into my body as other people seem to be.
When I first started identifying as asexual, one of the reasons I wasn’t believed, especially in the case of men, was because of how my body was seen as attractive. The first time I was told I couldn’t be asexual was because it would be a waste of my pretty face and nice body. It was by a guy I was attempting to talk to. I liked the idea of him, and he seemed nice enough. It was the first time we’d hung out in person and I remember him looking at me weirdly as we waited in line at the movies. When we got inside the theater I asked why he’d been staring at me so hard. He answered with “It's funny, you don’t like sex yet you look that.” And he waved his hand up in down in my direction, “You’re such a waste.” I can’t even tell you what movie we saw because after hearing him say that, I spent the entire time thinking about it. It didn’t hurt me exactly, it confused me. To him, I was a waste of time. I was also a waste of a good body and a nice face. To him, because I don't allow people to touch me and enjoy my body physically, I’m a waste of a person. We never spoke again after the movie but it impacted me in a long-term way.
I often think about the way we as a society view the human body. Usually, the human body is viewed as only two things, (1) something sexual and (2) the thing that keeps us alive. What I mean is, if you aren’t talking about bodies in a medical way, more than likely you’re talking about them in a sexual way. The way a person looks has a lot of bearing on how others view them and how they treat them. There are beauty standards and weight standards, best-dressed lists and whole shows that talk down to someone for what they look like or what material they cover themselves with. Every year People Magazine picks a man in the entertainment industry who is supposed to be the “Sexiest Man Alive.” Women in the industry have lost out on opportunities because their face and/or body isn’t pleasing to someone in charge. It’s a society thing that I wish we could either do better or get rid of altogether, especially when it comes to talking about bodies in a sexual way.
Most often, it’s assumed that if your body looks nice or you get "in shape" that you’re doing it for two reasons, (1) your health or (2) because you want to be considered "sexy." Actors who do a lot of action films are often required to get "in shape," mostly so that when they take their shirt off their body meets the standard society tells us is "good." It rarely has anything to do with their character needing to be so visibly attractive or "in shape." Regardless of where it originally began, this mindset has tumbled over into our daily reality, as many people keep their bodies fit for the purpose of pleasing others. Of course, it’s not always the case, but it’s far more likely than not. We are obsessed with how we are perceived by others. We change our looks for others. We twist and turn our general being so that it appeases and appeals to others.
Also, it seems that many associate how your body looks with how much you have sex. A person who isn’t "in shape" and maybe has fat or body rolls isn’t looked at in a sexual way. They’re considered unhealthy and disgusting by society, deemed almost unworthy of sex. It’s almost as if sex is a special activity that only socially acceptable bodies should be able to have. So, when you have someone who is considered "in shape" and has a socially acceptable body, but is not in any way interested in sex, people don’t deal with it well. It shocks and confuses them. It’s a backstroke against the norm current we’ve been stuck in for what seems to be so long. And sometimes it brings out the worst in people.
In my last relationship, the guy I was with told me he was only with me because I have a nice ass. He told me that my interest in writing, my love for superheroes, and even the way I prefer to keep my hair short were all things he disliked about me. But according to him, my body was too nice for him to pass up. Later, when I disclosed to a different guy that sex, in general, makes me uncomfortable and I don’t like having it, he commented that it was a shame God got my body right but not my mind. Another hurtful comment, another slap in the face. I was once again just a means to an end. I could just say that men are trash, but I think it runs a bit deeper than that. The backlash that I sometimes get from men when I tell them that I’m not interested in sex with them or anyone else is really something to behold. The idea of a woman who men consider pretty and/or sexy to not desire to engage in intercourse doesn’t register. And because they can’t understand it, they think it gives them a right to literally say anything.
I don’t get as much backlash from women, but their disapproval comes in a different form. They talk to me like I’m a science experiment. I’ve had women who I barely even know read my posts about asexuality only to then jump into my DMs to grill me endlessly. The constant lines of “girl maybe you just need to find the right dick” or “just be a lesbian, sex with us is better anyway,” as if my issue was my sexual partners and not that sex makes me uncomfortable. Others, who were, at one time, people I considered friends, often made the suggestion that it was the traumatization of being raped that has set my mind to this way of thinking. They dismissed my claims that just because I willingly had sex before that this didn’t mean it wasn’t uncomfortable for me; the discomfort just got incredibly worse after being raped. The two were not and are still not mutually exclusive.
For the most part, I like the way I look. There are a few things I would change, but not much. I like the brownness of my skin, the wideness of my eyes and the thickness of my thighs, but there are things I hate about my body too. However, I try not to give those things too much thought. I don’t view my body as a means to obtain sex or a way to catch the eye of others. It’s a vessel that holds my soul and organs in place, it’s the thing that categorizes me as a human. However, when comments were first made about how my body and face were a waste, I found myself separating my mind from my body. I started disassociating anytime anyone showed the slightest bit of interest in me that wasn’t just a friendship level. I started not being able to handle the gripping anxiety I would feel whenever the topic of sex came up, the way my stomach would knot itself anytime I had to try and explain that I wasn’t into sex even though I was seen as attractive. Because I don't desire intimacy, it's almost as if my body can only exist as ugly and "out of shape" in people’s minds. It’s a strange social norm to just assume that those who are perceived as ugly and not "in shape," are or should be those who do not engage in sex. It’s strange how people have a difficult time understanding that sex is not desired by all of us. I honestly would be perfectly happy if no one looked at me in a sexual way again, even though I’m fully aware that will never be the case.
My confidence in my body, if you can even call it that, clashes with my absence of interest in sex, and while it doesn’t bother me, it has made me take a deeper look into so-called "Body Positivity." Since becoming more in tune with asexuality, I’ve noticed that the hand body positivity extends to most doesn’t quite reach to me, whether it’s because of the confusion surrounding my sexuality or the underlying belief that you can’t be body positive if the positiveness isn’t for sex-related reasons. While I don’t know which one is true, if either, I just know that when I wear tight clothes and let skin show, it takes people by surprise that I’m not doing these things to gain sexual attention. And for those that already know I’m asexual, my comfort in my body makes them question if I’m really the orientation I say I am or am just traumatized. The idea of a woman being okay with her body "just because," is apparently a new idea that’s just getting its footing.
Identifying as asexual is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to come to terms with in my life. Not because of others' comments, even though those can hurt, but because, as much as I talk about pushing back against social norms, up until some years ago, I fully believed in them. I didn’t break out of my conditioning until I started having feelings and experiences that no corner of the normative umbrella could help me with or that I could even relate to. I thought I had been the odd one out before but nothing compared to the ostracized feeling that labeling myself as asexual has brought. I don’t mean ostracized in the sense that no one will talk to me, I mean it in the sense of feeling like you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t enjoy this one thing that we’re all supposed to love. I know I’m not alone, thanks to the internet, but I still feel alone because everyone around me has, at one point or another, said something that could have been hurtful. I can chalk that up to my thick skin, which I’m thankful for, but I know that there might be other black girls and women out there who aren’t as thick-skinned. Really all I want is for my writing on asexuality to help another black woman or woman of color realize that the way she feels is okay. If she needs some validation, I’m here to give it.