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Vol. 2, Issue 1


Asexuality and Sex

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Vol. 2, Issue 1


Asexuality and Sex

The Asexual, Vol. 2, Issue 1

Lead Editor: Michael Paramo

Editorial Board:
Ai Baba, Geoffrey Colaizzi, Evelyn Elgie
Katie Halinski, Joe Jukes, Sydney Khoo

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo


On Asexuality and Sex

As ace people, how do we comprehend the role of sex in our lives? Are sex and the asexual figure expected to abstain from engagement? If we hold desire, are we expected to suppress it? What are the intersections of asexuality and sex? “Asexual” as an identity does not represent a singular sexual reality or state of sexual being. In the ace community, we are neither entirely with or without sexual desire; with or without engagement in sexual activity; with or without sexual drive. Although there are stereotypes of the asexual figure as being wholly non-sexual, repulsed by sex or anything remotely related to sex, and without any trace of attraction towards others, the ace community remains quite diverse in its complex relationship with sexuality and attraction.

As ace people and non-ace people alike, we all must navigate life with a sexual expectation attached to our bodies. It becomes internalized, reinforced, and replicated through the major veins of society: in the classroom, the doctor’s office, by our parent(s) and/or guardian(s), and further institutions. Sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, and other oppressive forces condition us to manage our (a)sexuality with constant consideration to our existences at the intersections of social identity. As ace people, this sexual expectation, though applied differently, constrains us to sexual considerations. As we realize our difference we may begin to believe ourselves to be broken due to our internalization of the social narrative that sex is normative.

Our asexual identities therefore remain positioned within a power grid of sex, in which the validity of our aceness is continually measured in relation to the sexual. Deriving bodily pleasure from sexual acts may place our asexuality under question, especially as inter- and intra-communal gatekeeping remain pervasive in a manner that underscores how ace people who engage in sexual activity navigate and validate their own identity. With the release of sexual pleasure may come an onslaught of guilt, as if we have “betrayed” an identity that is to be a-sexual – without sexual feelings or desires – and crossed silently in the night into a “normative” sexual realm. Would it then be correct to assert that with a sexual expectation there also exists an “asexual expectation” – a belief that if one is to claim asexuality they must live up to an existence without sex?

For our Sex issue, The Asexual has invited writers and artists under the ace umbrella to explore the intersections of the sexual and asexual. Many of the forthcoming pieces grapple with sex through personal narratives, defiant artistic statements, and academic approaches to asexuality. In doing so, this issue incorporates related themes of attraction, desire, gender, kink, and more. Examining sex through an asexual perspective not only addresses widespread misconceptions of asexuality as entirely nonsexual, but also propels us to consider asexuality apart and beyond the sexual realm.  
 

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Table of Contents

Spectrum

Elyse Jones

 

Summer Camp

S.J. Waring

 

Initiation

Steph Keahey

 

Space for Aces: Finding a Home in a Sexual World

Jennifer Smart

 

My Waking Up

Adolfo Gamboa

 

The "Threat" of Sex

Lauren York

 

Dear Sex Ed

Gretchen Turonek

 

Asexual Community Participation: 
How often? Why? Why not?

Brian Fink, PhD

 

Pride and Prejudice

Anna María Mengani

 

Speaking Sex:  
Asexual Perspectives on the Language of Sexuality

Joe Jukes

 

On Shedding Shame: Embracing My Asexuality

Melissa

 

On Being Asexual and Kinky

Bob O'Boyle

 

Omophagia

Shastra Deo

 

"Meaningless Sex"

Heidi Samuelson

 

Beyond Sex: The Multi-Layered Model of Attraction

Michael Paramo


Spectrum

Elyse Jones

Elyse.jpg

I created this piece to challenge the notion that all asexual people don’t have sex and/or have no relationship with sex. A common problem asexual people face is infantilization, or the thought that asexual adults are childish and immature. Asexual people experience little to no sexual attraction, which others sometimes interpret as wanting nothing to do with sex, including all sexual content, thoughts, and objects. However, this is false. Asexual people have sex, asexual people have sexual fantasies, and asexual people own and use sexual objects such as condoms. Asexual people also do none of these things. Thus, I used 96 condoms to create the asexual flag. Like sexuality itself, the behaviors and desires of asexual people exist on a spectrum. Within the asexual flag, which represents the asexual community, I symbolically created this spectrum by completely opening some condoms, slightly tearing others, and leaving some completely untouched. This represents the idea that some asexual people are comfortable with sex, some feel more neutral, and some are repulsed. Some asexual people have sex often, some have it seldomly, and others do not have it at all. Some asexual people watch porn, others do not. Some asexual people are part of the kink community, and others are not. A failing of this piece is that it is phallocentric. Obviously, neither penises nor condoms are required for sex, but I used it as a sexual symbol to communicate my ideas.

Elyse Jones (she/her) is a senior college student studying English, Women's and Gender Studies, and Fine Art. She has loved reading, writing, and making artwork her entire life. She is asexual and queer. She loves Star Wars, her dog Jack, and educating people about asexuality. She presented on asexuality and race at Creating Change 2018 in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter: @BombshellGinge.

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Condoms, acrylic paint
4 feet by 3 feet


Summer Camp

S.J. Waring

Summer Camp is a poetry performance piece by S.J. Waring. Written below is a transcription of this recording. 

This piece was written after one too many frustrating questions about my asexuality. Although some asexuals do enjoy sex, for me sex has always been something demanded from me or something I was left out of. I have been made to feel broken more times than I can count. I have had people tell my partners that it must be an inconvenience to date me – and I have had partners agree with them. However, after years of feeling like I was broken or that my identity made me unlovable, I learned to stop putting that kind of blame on myself and instead to take a closer look at the people and the culture that made me feel this way. This poem is a way to make up for every time I thought that my asexuality was the problem and to tell the people that criticized my sexuality that they were the ones in the wrong. I hope other asexual teens can listen to this piece and understand that they are enough, and they should not have to change their boundaries if they don’t want to.

I remember the last summer of sleepaway camp, when
everything changed in a way I could feel like molasses dripping from the air
The girls I roomed with practiced their handjobs on tennis rackets, 
met boys on dew-wet soccer fields at six AM.
And every midnight they whispered from their bunk beds about sex,
What they’d done, what they hadn’t done, and when they asked me
I told them the truth, which was that I was waiting to learn what someone else’s lips felt like
and I have never felt so small and so stupid
like I wasn’t following the relationship rulebook and I told myself
That I had to do better.

After that summer, I learned
That apparently it’s everyone else’s business
what you do when you don’t want other people to see.
How much money would it take for you to stop being asexual?
How much safety would you give up if you were asked? 
I have heard them talk to my partner
About how much of a fucking inconvenience I must be. 
I know that they see me, see us, 
and think that whatever love we have
Is half-formed and stumbling
think that love is only for making and not
For just being. 

They do not know that I
Kiss like the world is ending, I
Am drawn to her arms like the tides and the moon, I
Will spend hours with my body warm in someone else’s hands
Not doing anything but just lying there.

I have loved people who thought
That I didn’t love them
Because I wouldn’t get naked for them
They couldn’t realize that every time I sent them a poem
Or told them a story
I was undressing myself, peeling back silken words and lacy mystery for them
Until i shivered in every room, skin bare, notebooks scribbled over
Waiting for them to realize that there was value in the things I gave them
But no one gains respect from their friends by saying
guess what I took from Sarah last night?
Her favorite fairytale, her fingers on the guitar strings, her baby pictures, her baseball cap. 

Being an asexual poet is
To write about being called broken but here, 
I am calling them broken, I am telling them right now
That when you told me you loved me you should have meant that
You loved every black-gray-white-purple piece of me, you should have meant
That you would not, even as a joke, ask me who I would let you fuck if it wasn’t me.
I am saying that I should not have been asked how far I would go
How far I have gone because I
Am ten million miles down the road of falling in love, I
Am at the pitstop between her heartbeat and mine, I
am somewhere on another existential plane, worlds away
From the point system you used in middle school on which
I score approximately five points (don’t quote me on that)
because I have already broken my own personal scoreboard into tiny pieces across the court
I have blown myself out of the water
I have already gone farther than I thought I could make it
I have stopped telling myself that feeling safe isn’t sexy

And I am too old for summer camp but if I went back
I would tell them that I know what lips feel like
I know what sharing a bed feels like
I know what eye contact in the darkness feels like
And I don’t need to know much more than that. 

 

S.J. Waring is just another queer teenage girl living in New York and writing poetry. She started writing because she always has something to say and started performing so she could make people listen. She often spends hours looking for literature she can relate to online before coming to the same inevitable conclusion: it’s not there because she hasn’t written it yet. Find her in Rookie Magazine, Cicada, or watching conspiracy theory videos in bed.


Initiation

Steph Keahey

 

I spend hours on the couch
thinking over
how to initiate.

Maybe I'll lie on the bed,
naked, and surprise
you with my body.

Maybe I'll pounce
on you and crash
my lips into yours.

I stand by the bedroom,
hands in my pockets,
“So ... do you want to do something?”

 

Steph Keahey is a biromantic asexual from the Pacific Northwest. She spends her time writing to instrumental music, a cup of lemon tea close at hand. Her interests include: hiking through the mountains, playing video games, and attempting to befriend every animal she encounters. Her work has been published on ThurstonTalk.com.


Space for Aces: 
Finding a Home in a Sexual World

Jennifer A. Smart │ uNIVERSITY OF Southern California

 

Contemporary political spaces and pop culture are rife with discussions regarding the ever-broadening spectrums of sexual identity and orientation. As societal recognition of this array of identities expands, it is instinctive to form conceptual frameworks around labels such as pansexual or demisexual. Asexual is one such label which has met with misrepresentations — perpetuated in medicine, the law, and popular media — due to both the lack of a strict definition and a pervasive “sexual assumption.” This paper explores the importance of building a strong community and support network for asexual individuals, increasing psychiatric research on the orientation to dispel pathologization, and bolstering visibility for the so-called “invisible orientation” by reframing popular representations of asexuality.

The year is 1996, and newborn baby Judy nestles into her mother’s arms for the first of countless comforting embraces. Her summation of faithfully functioning organs clothed in unblemished, suede-soft skin betrays no sign of poor health. At age 7, Judy clamps her fingers tight over her eyes when Wendy kisses Peter Pan. Her parents share amused smiles and shake their heads. At 12, Judy misses school, bedridden with the stomach-churning dread of facing a friend turned suitor. You’ll grow out of it, her parents reassure her. By eleventh grade, the groping hands crowding her nightmares beg otherwise. “Jude the Prude,” classmates mutter. You just haven’t met the right person yet, her mother consoles. At 17, she looks away when Wendy kisses Peter Pan and catches a fleeting flash of sadness on her boyfriend’s face. She ignores his open palm on the armrest. When I’m an adult, I’ll understand, she tells herself. At 18, an abstinence pamphlet placed prominently in her college’s health center proclaims, “Everyone feels sexual attraction.” Almost everyone, she mentally amends. Desperate Google searches surrender swaths of sexual dysfunction and phobic diagnoses until one result catches her eye: Asexuality Visibility and Education Network. A click unleashes thousands of forum posts telling stories just like her own, enfolding her as if to say what she always wanted to hear: You’re not broken. For the almost 70,000 members of AVEN, Judy’s experiences are uncomfortably familiar. Before finding their home online, many asexual people internalize messages that they are broken or immature from intimate sources, the unfortunate consequence of systematic erasure. Building a culture less hostile towards asexuality involves forming inclusive asexual communities that fight for visibility and accurate representation in queer, academic and medical discourses.

Unlike other marginalized sexual and gender identities, asexuality fights an uphill battle against societal messages that it does not exist, or that it indicates a lack of humanity, notions which create an experience of omission for asexual people. The definition of asexuality has been a topic of considerable debate over the past 50 years because of the importance in distinguishing sexual attraction, behavior, and self-identification. The most commonly used operational definition is “a sexual orientation characterized by sexual attraction to no one” (Decker 22). The assumption that sexuality is uniform and universal has led to asexuality’s pathologization and association with sexual dysfunction despite the evidence that at least 0.75% of the American population exhibits asexual behavior, attraction, and identification (Poston & Baumle). The proclivity to view asexuality as a treatable illness extends beyond medical professionals to the non-asexual majority, making asexuals targets for disdain and prejudice. A 2012 study found participants more likely to view people not interested in sexual contact as machine-like and devoid of other traits linked with “human nature,” exposing undercurrents of unacknowledged anti-asexual prejudice in the average person (MacInnis & Hodson 729). Discourses of all types, from medical journals to popular sitcoms, perpetuate subtle misunderstandings of asexuality that indicate an underdeveloped societal conception of human psychosexual complexity. The issue of awareness not only prevents closeted asexuals from finding a community of their peers by depriving them of relevant vocabulary, but also bars academic and medical recognition by rendering potentially asexual spokespeople invisible.

The first battle in the struggle for mainstream recognition of asexuality is gaining understanding and acceptance from the queer community through the authority of respected LGBTQ organizations. The most commonly-used initialism LGBT literally stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, but as the sexual minority movement expanded to emphasize all non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities, a popular variant adopted the letter Q for Queer. Queer is an umbrella term which encompasses all of the marginalized orientations and genders left off of what would have become an increasingly lengthy alphabet soup. This is where asexuality comes in. Like homo- and bisexuals, “aces” constantly battle the presumption that they are heterosexual, are pressured to deny their true nature, and suffer extreme feelings of isolation while forced to endure the potentially prickly process of “coming out” to friends and family. Counterintuitively, specific educational efforts are often met by uninformed, superficial vitriol from collections of strangers, queer and otherwise, purportedly motivated by “pity” for asexual people. To many, asexuals are either squatters on LGBTQ territory, freeloading off of hard-earned political and social gains that they don’t need in order to practice their lifestyle, or repressed, sex-negative celibates. These knee-jerk reactions perpetuate erasure and debilitate the asexual political cause by preventing it from reaching LGBTQ institutions that would be natural allies if properly and uniformly educated. In order to break the cycle of misinformation, one major LGBTQ non-profit needs to blaze the frontier for reframing sexuality: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), an institution dedicated to eradicating sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination in school environments. GLSEN has the unique position of being a highly conspicuous resource for questioning youth, and can therefore use its influence to alleviate a lot of teen angst by simply introducing asexuality as a possible orientation. Asexual teens face alienating media portrayals, which paint people their age as bundles of raging hormones, and dismissive attitudes from their peers and parents, who insist that they’re late bloomers. A recurring theme in many asexual coming-of-age stories is the lapse into depression after attempts to ask questions about their sexual orientation in high-school GayStraight Alliances fail to reveal any answers. Because GLSEN works directly with local LGBTQ chapters and GSAs countrywide, they could easily distribute brochures and flyers detailing the basics of asexuality and pointing the way to online resources like AVEN and Asexual Explorations. Even inclusion on their prolific “Safe Space Campaign” posters—which currently only mention LGBT students and allies—would simultaneously spark curiosity in confused asexual students and encourage a movement of LGBTQ solidarity in their support, empowering them to come out and join the rallying cry against heteronormativity.

As important as it is for the asexual identity to be acknowledged by queer communities and discourses, the accessibility of a distinctly asexual forum facilitates necessary internal discussion and enables external academic research. The consciously asexual population’s continual growth has given rise to multiple such outcroppings on social websites like Tumblr and Reddit, but arguably the most cohesive nexus of activity is the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Founded by college freshman David Jay in 2002, AVEN’s message boards house hotbeds of activity ranging from romantic advice request threads to active visibility projects. AVEN has developed its own culture complete with in-jokes, pride symbols, and an entirely new vernacular. Terminology like “poly-pan ace” (polyamorous panromantic asexual) draws ridicule from those unfamiliar with the separation between romantic and sexual attraction, but finding words to puzzle out models of intimacy is essential in a world of non-traditional relationships. Yet for all of its richness, AVEN’s legitimacy is anything but cemented. Methodological issues confronting academic research on asexuality—including lack of a consensus on its definition and qualitative differences between self-identified and “closeted” asexuals—have resulted in a dearth of hard evidence for its existence. The majority of investigation originates within the community from AVEN’s yearly census and a smattering of asexual-identifying scholars such as Andrew C. Hinderliter (“Methodological Issues for Studying Asexuality”) and Julia Sondra Decker (The Invisible Orientation). From the outside, this looks like a pharmaceutical company giving the thumbs-up to its own drugs without FDA oversight: possibly accurate, but hard to take seriously. Generating interest within academia starts with targeting budding graduate students in Human Sexuality Studies programs at large universities. Asexuality is a relatively unexplored frontier, an enticing notion to PhD students pressed to produce original research for Master’s theses. David Jay and other pioneering asexual researchers could appear as guest lecturers in core sexuality and queer studies courses and host open “Asexuality 101” events on-campus in order to give students insight into the ace community, filling in the inherent gaps in outdated textbooks. After presenting, they could remain on-call for the rest of the semester to advise interested students in terms of viable research topics and methods. Giving asexual advocates a voice in the classroom would go a long way to make ace students feel welcome on their campus; college life can be exhaustingly isolating for people who don’t relate to the sex-saturated culture, so removing the pressure on asexual students to explain themselves may make them feel less alien. Incorporating asexuality into collegiate curricula and increasing the number of studies on the subject will not only generate discussion about the numerous modes of attraction and whether there are normative levels of each, but may also provide basis for the de-pathologization of asexuality.

With the pressing evidence of an extensive body of research, the American Psychological Association will be forced to divorce lifelong asexuality from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and reform their restrictive norms of human sexuality. The most prominent source of invalidation asexuals suffer is the treatment of asexuality as a disease or disorder that demands correction. Asexual people that seek counseling for depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues often encounter insistent attempts to instead “fix” their sexual orientation. The few studies on the subject up to the present imply that lifelong absence of sexual desire is not pathological (Bogaert), but the American Psychological Association (APA), whose Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used worldwide as a key guide for diagnosing pathologies, is largely to blame for continued clinical refusal to recognize asexuality. By the DSM-V’s guidelines, any asexual person in “distress” for reasons related to their absence of desire can be deemed mentally ill and eligible for hormone treatment with psychiatric therapy. Ironically, APA ruled Sexual Orientation Change Efforts unethical in 2007 after their task force’s review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation revealed no abnormality in samesex attraction (APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation). Assuming future research continues to validate asexual identities, AVEN, LGBTQ allies, and sexuality academics have the power to petition the DSM subcommittee of the APA to change their stance on asexuality. The first step would be to revise the APA guidelines, which currently read, “sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes” (American Psychological Association 1). While explicitly exempting lesbian, gay, and bi identities from medical stigma, this categorical conception of sexuality uses Kinsey’s outdated binary model and leaves no room for asexuality. If bisexual people do not have two distinct sexual orientations, it is nonsensical to imply that asexual people do not lack one. A truly comprehensive definition should therefore logically include attraction to no sex or gender. From there, action should also be taken to make note of asexuality in the definition of HSDD in order to either expressly exclude it or warn against misconstruing it as symptomatic of sexual dysfunction. This would set up sturdy framework for the depathologization of asexuality by first encouraging therapists to acknowledge its validity, and then standardizing sexual orientation affirmation in asexual cases. Asexuals who wish to pursue therapy should not fear erasure in what is meant to be a guaranteed safe space, and an APA stamp of approval also prefaces gradual avenues into common knowledge—the ultimate achievement for asexual visibility.

Tackling problematic representation in contemporary LGBTQ, academic, and clinical contexts is vital to setting the stage for mainstream asexual recognition. That said, in the long run, attaining goals in these areas is akin to picking the low hanging fruit in terms of increasing visibility. As lofty as these discourses may seem with such a small community, the most daunting barriers to widespread acceptance lie in more popular discourses such as television and movies. The dominant culture is one of mass consumption such that the media people partake in informs their worldview, establishing norms of gender identity and sexual orientation. Even a seemingly benign weekly sitcom like The Big Bang Theory has the power to lead millions of viewers by example into unintentionally intolerant behaviors. Unlike respected institutions such as GLSEN or the APA, mass media is notoriously difficult to hold responsible for any societal damages it precipitates, especially with the limited support of a comparatively tiny online community like AVEN. Massive conglomerates have little motivation to cater to quiet, niche groups of insignificant financial consequence. However, the collective force of an expanded asexual demographic backed by allies from backgrounds in queer activism and academia alike would likely raise the stakes to make accurate representation a higher priority. Only then can asexual individuals like Judy begin to look beyond the horizon to a future where their identity is not only visible, but embraced with open arms as another healthy variation of human sexuality.

 

REFERENCES

American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better
understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Retrieved from www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.pdf.

APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (2009). 
Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 

Decker, J. S. (2014). The invisible orientation: An introduction to asexuality. New York, 
NY: Carrel Books.

MacInnis, C. C., & Hodson, G. (2012). Intergroup bias toward ‘Group X’: Evidence of
prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance, and discrimination against asexuals. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(6), 725-743. doi:10.1177/1368430212442419 

Poston, D., & Baumle, A. (2010). Patterns of asexuality in the United States. Demographic
Research
, 23, 509-530. doi:10.4054/demres.2010.23.18

 

Jennifer Smart is a 21-year-old 2D animator and documentarian based in Washington, D.C. A recent graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, she has spent two years as an editor at National Geographic Digital, and currently works at Newsy editing and creating animations for long-form digital documentaries. She has openly identified as asexual since age 13, but her (a?)romantic identity remains an enigma. You can find her various works and writings at lehenp.com. She/her pronouns.


My Waking Up

Adolfo Gamboa

 

“I’d like to be like you 
How am I? 
Well…I don’t want to be offensive. I just don’t understand how you can withstand to be alone for so long. How don’t you have someone? How aren’t you with someone? I wish I were as strong as you. You don’t mind being alone.” 

That’s an extract of a conversation that I had with a friend. After that, I just stopped talking because I didn’t know how to answer. I haven’t had a relationship in years, and even before that it took me years to be with someone. All those relationships didn’t last very long and always lacked a sexual element. I enjoyed being with someone, to feel loved, to love, to go out, and to explore mutual tastes. But always, when they asked me to get laid, I just felt disgusted. Sometimes, I pretended I liked to be near that. I closed my eyes or asked them to shut off the lights, but that never worked. I never felt excited, my body didn’t feel pleasure, and I barely felt stimulated.  

In the beginning I couldn’t understand why I reacted that way. All the romances displayed in movies and books depicted sexual intercourse as the closest thing to melting with a lover, to leave behind all that sickening individuality and be part of an upper consciousness. That, or sex, would be characterized as the maximum expression of pleasure. But when I was about to live it, I rejected it. I couldn’t stop wondering why I didn’t felt aroused if, in front of me, lied the remnants of Eden. I thought that there was something wrong with me and that I was a coward because I had missed the chance to “archive” sex. 

Suddenly, in that moment, many of my male friends would brag about how many people they had banged. It seemed as if it were a competition. The more sex, the greater they were. It seemed to me that to prove your manhood you had to be like a hunter – collecting female sexual partners – otherwise you were seen as less. So, I had to confront a crossroads, and the questions about my identity expanded. Who am I? What do I want? What do I like? Whom do I like? What do I want to do with my life? How do I build my masculinity?  

With my family and most of my male friends, I was supposed to prove my masculinity through female sexual partners. All of them gave up quickly on me. Some of them understood that I was different, even if they didn’t say it, and they showed me respect. Others whispered about me and my sexuality. I always was the kid that preferred books over girls. They warned me that I was going to be like my uncle that, until then, had spent his whole life studying and had no wife or offspring; the only one in the family without a divorce. He had a thriving academic career and comfortable life, but in the eyes of the family he was a failure because he was alone. I still don’t understand how all the effort and work could be meaningless just because you don’t have someone. It’s never enough to just have a successful life. In other’s eyes, you must prove that you’re also sexually capable by driving it until its last consequence: a progeny.  

We exist under oppressive dispositions that sculpt our minds and bodies so deeply that it becomes hard to realize who we are. Even the one who has suffered from them can make others suffer by the very same methods. They know that it is wrong and sadistic, but that’s “how the things are done.” When my uncle finally saw me with a girl – my best friend – he embraced me excitedly, congratulating me for not confirming what the whispers had once said. Despite everything, he assumed that the only possible relationship between a man and a woman could be one in which the female was a sexual object.  

A couple of times I found myself sharing my life with people who made me feel as though my heart was on the brink of exploding. And, all those times, it was weird because I never felt attracted towards them in an aesthetic or sexual way. At very first glance, they were only common people. I could never have imagined that we were going to develop a bond so strong. Since we were kids, we have been told that we should be like “beautiful people” – white, athletic, rich, able-bodied – and that the pinnacle of love was sex. We grew up hearing that we had to admire and aspire to be with these alluring people, so that we could have sex with them and have nice children: “hay que mejorar la raza.”  

So, I couldn’t understand why I was so in love with people who were deemed to be unattractive to the common eye. If the ultimate aim of desire was sex, to produce offspring that could go higher in this hierarchy, I was doing it all wrong. Was my desire wrong? I liked the shared laughing, the long talks about the cosmos and the nothingness, holding hands, kissing, laying on the same bed and cuddling, but when it came to sex, I was allergic. My interest toward them was not sexually based, so when things became close to sexual, everything crumbled, because I wasn’t able to give them that.  

It’s generally understood that the base of attraction is sex. That’s how the binary distinction between a friend and a lover is created. The particularity of the lover is sexual attraction. If you are in a loving relationship, you are expected to engage in sexual encounters. Following that logic, lovers are supposed to have a sexual desire. But, what happens when someone lacks it? Can they still be lovers? Are they only friends? Is it possible to have a relationship of that kind that doesn’t involve sex? So, these questions were posed to me several times: What are we? Do I really like you? Do you love me?  

I liked them. I loved them. But, how could I establish a coupled relationship that was not based in the assumption of a sexual ontology of desire and attraction? To them the sexual element was something unnegotiable, so we had to take different paths. I think it is possible to redefine that assumption, because non-sexual desire and attraction are real. And that is only one of many possibilities. Desire and attraction are sexually mystified signifiers. The possibilities of love and relationships are as wide as the language itself. They can be founded almost on anything, as well, and they can be developed towards sex or not. The shared imagination and the common agreements are the limits.  

Returning to my introductory conversation: being human doesn’t imply a sexual ontology of desire; sex is not the ultimate manifestation of love; not all humans feel sexual or aesthetic attraction; some humans do not want to be sexually involved at all. I am not strong because I can “withstand” to not have sex or have a long-term relationship. Moreover, I don’t consider myself to be strong. I am just being myself. I understand, as well, that finding someone is always a hard thing. But, as you can imagine, it turns out to be a little bit harder when you are not only asexual, but a sex-repulsed ace too. I am just trying to survive in a hypersexualized world.   

 

Adolfo Gamboa studied political science in the UNAM and hated it. Currently he is trying to find out what to do with his life while writing his thesis. He has coedited and published in some student magazines. His main lines of interest are the history of cities, urban space and politics, religion and politics, comparative systems of thought, Sufism, and literature. He's also an enthusiast of vegetarian pozole and cinema.


The "Threat" of Sex

Lauren York

 

CW: menstruation mention, lengthy discussion of rape

A few years into my period, I began looking for a better alternative to pads. My mom bought me a box of tampons – the smallest they had, she said. I had avoided tampons all this time because I doubted I’d be able to insert them, but something about sitting in my own bodily fluids for hours on end finally broke my will. I studied the instruction sheet that comes in each box. I positioned myself accordingly on the toilet and tried to calm myself. It was difficult to relax, however, with the cardboard tube poking at such a sensitive place. After ten minutes of increasing pain, I admitted defeat.

When I mentioned it to my mom, I made a joke that I’d never be able to have sex. The joke lost its humor as I began contemplating how true it was. I’d heard that a girl’s first time was supposed to hurt. A chill of fear ran down my spine as I realized just how much pain I would be in one day.

Around age 19, I came out as asexual. I was ecstatic to discover that there was a word for what I was; I was asexual, not broken, not wrong, not doomed to die alone. My identities of aromantic and agender would come later, but right now, I was asexual, and I was safe. I would never have to have sex because I didn’t experience sexual attraction.

The responses to my coming out were what all of us have come to expect. My aunt said I wasn’t really asexual, that I just hadn’t found the right person yet. My grandma said that if I was asexual, it was because I’d been abused as a child and just didn’t remember it – I still haven’t completely forgiven her for that. My parents didn’t say much, but looking back, I’m sure they either didn’t believe me or didn’t understand what I was saying.

As I connected with the ace community, I heard anecdotes of the other negative but usual responses to coming out as asexual: you’ll change your mind, don’t label yourself, and my least favorite: what if your partner wants it? They made me sad at the time – sad for my ace family who had to face such ignorance. Now such responses make me tremble on the inside. It wasn’t until a few years later that I would realize why.

Sex can be a weapon – a dagger that can leave wounds that will never fully heal. I’ve heard it said that while murder kills a body, rape kills a soul. Its destructive capabilities are well-known, which I’m sure is why women are the primary targets of rape threats. Corrective rape is used as a brutal cudgel against those who are viewed as wrong. The idea that someone can be “raped straight” is yet another sickening and evil facet of rape culture. But I want to submit that there is a more shadowy threat of sex that affects asexuals in a different way than it does straight people or even allosexuals. This threat of sex – the implication that a lack of sexual attraction will eventually produce negative consequences – is why I no longer find safety in my asexuality.

Apart from the tangible monster of rape, there are specters – threats – of sex that permeate an ace’s life. Most of them lurk in the negative responses we get to coming out. All of the disbelief, even the well-meaning reassurance that we’re not really asexual, can be translated thusly: “You not feeling sexual attraction is so unthinkable that it’s impossible. You don’t truly know yourself. You will want to have sex one day. You will.”

My defiant nature compels me to shoot back, “Or else what?” What will happen if I don’t want to have sex, not ever? What will you do about it? What will anyone do about it? The obvious answer to my unasked questions makes me tense and wary.

It’s even worse when they bring up a hypothetical partner, because I can see the scene play out all too clearly. What if my partner wants it, and they won’t take no for an answer? I’m 5’3” and have trouble opening heavy doors. I’d like to think I’d be able to activate some sort of hidden beast mode to save myself, but that’s just not realistic. I’d be at the mercy of anyone stronger than me, which is just about anyone over the age of 10. So what if my partner wants it and I don’t? Should I hope that I picked a decent partner? Or should I close my eyes and pray?

The unwanted sexualization of ace bodies is another example of the threat of sex from society. While people who present as female usually bear the brunt of unwanted sexualization regardless of orientation, aces of color have a special struggle with sexualization. This stems from racist stereotypes – the fiery, sexy Latina; the amorous Latin lover; the promiscuous, overbearing black woman; the sexually aggressive black man. Aces of color are forced into these boxes by a sexual society that is then disbelieving when they declare themselves sexually unavailable. The backlash of rejecting sexualization when they are “supposed to be” a particularly sexual group is surely an exhausting, painful experience for aces of color at best and dangerous at worst.

A society as permeated with sex as ours is bound to show a lack of understanding towards those who have no interest in the activity. However, a conscious choice is made by people, which makes up the attitude of society as a whole, to be hostile about it. Only recently has America been more accepting of non-straight identities, and it can be argued that such an acceptance still comes with a lot of catches.

I certainly wouldn’t claim that it is the fact that non-straight allosexuals still have sex that has gained them acceptance. I would believe it, though, if such a similarity were used to throw asexuals under the metaphorical bus. Aces themselves are guilty of doing the same thing to aromantics – the “At least we can feel love!” shtick others aromantics just as “At least we experience sexual attraction!” others asexuals.

Indeed, there has been a shocking amount of animosity in the LGBT+ community towards asexuals. It seems to be mostly online, which is especially unfortunate since the internet is the prime and often first resource for those questioning their sexuality. The reception from that very vocal minority still creates those implied threats of sex via outright rape threats and more delicate turns of phrase that amount to the idea that aces (and aromantics) are invalid due to their lack of attraction. This perceived invalidity is used to argue against ace inclusion in queer spaces. A threatening ultimatum is issued, whether purposefully or not: be attracted to the “right” people in the “right” ways or risk ostracism.

Finally, but not of less importance, is the threat of sex in the medical field. One of my therapists told me to my face that she didn’t believe in asexuality – in every other sexuality, yes, but not mine – and that she could “give me something” for it. Were I less educated and much meeker, I may have accepted a medication I didn’t need just because a medical professional believed that I had to feel sexual attraction. The medicalization of asexuality remains pervasive despite the recent declassification of asexuality in the DSM. Asexuals could be treated – or not treated – for disorders just because of their orientation. Medicalization, then, is less of an implied threat than a direct one, possibly forcing aces to choose between trusting their doctor with personal information and receiving treatment. If the lack of sexual attraction is treated as a disorder, it is undoubted that asexuals can be and are threatened with sex in ways other than direct assault.

Despite the rather grim tone of this article, I don’t want to give the impression that aces are doomed to have no control over their sexual destiny. It’s true that there are people who commit evil actions with no regard for the bodies of others, but that doesn’t mean aces should resign themselves to being victims at some point. Asexuality is an incredible, beautiful thing. To face a world seemingly obsessed with sex and proclaim your lack of attraction is bravery at its finest. Those of us who feel comfortable doing so can challenge the threats of sex when we’re able and encourage our allies to do the same on our behalf. It will be a process. It will difficult. It might even be dangerous. Still, I believe that we will be able to shift the dominant narrative from when you have sex to if you have sex.

I used to wear my asexuality like a suit of armor. I found safety in my identity. That was before I realized how normalized language conveys an expectation of sexual activity, and an implication that I will eventually have no choice in the matter. To keep a partner, to be accepted in my own community, to receive accurate medical treatment, and, for some, to be considered an acceptable representation of their race – it is suggested that we must want to have sex, or at least be sexually available. The threat of sex can be explicit, but for aces, it’s often obscured by academic and well-meaning words. Fighting these threats could incur the implied consequences, but I believe that those of us who can fight, should. Only by challenging the preconceived notions of the necessity of sexual attraction will those notions be shattered, leaving a more accepting world for us all to enjoy.

 

Lauren York (codename: Alice Galaxy) is an asexual, aromantic, and agender aspiring architect and writer. When they’re not publicly raging over the world’s injustices, they can be found working on their veritable library of unfinished novels (most with queer protagonists), playing video games, or sleeping. You can find Alice’s plots to singlehandedly fix every one of the world’s problems on Twitter @jimperbamming.


Dear Sex Ed

Gretchen Turonek

 

Dear Sex Ed,

 

It’s been a while. Long enough that I don’t think anyone would blame me for burying this and moving on with my life. But the fact of the matter is that we need to talk about how toxic you are before you hurt someone.

I was, by a more conservative definition, a fairly typical teenage girl: cisgender, conventionally attractive, well-behaved, studious, and romantically interested in boys despite being chronically dateless. You were an abstinence-only sexual education program at a public high school in southeast Michigan. We existed in a culture where teenage sexuality was both an expectation and a taboo: something that was a fact of life but needed to be avoided at all costs for health and moral reasons.

This was fine with both of us. Me, because I wasn’t interested in sex anyway, but wouldn’t realize for several more years that I was asexual. You, because that was just the way you did things. Your message was one of fear, of denying urges that you assumed we all had. That intercourse was only to be done with an opposite-sex, lawfully-wedded spouse for procreation. That sexual partners could be represented with chewed Oreo cookies spit into cups of water. That the consequences were pregnancy and disease that could not be reliably prevented except through complete abstention.

What you said seemed fine to me. You were just another science class that I needed to pay attention to and pass. I felt no urges to experiment with sexuality, and you were an authority telling me that I was right to think and feel that way. I didn’t come away thinking that I was broken or inferior: on the contrary, you made me believe that I was better than my peers for my sexual disinterest. I was special. I was “not like other girls,” who expressed desires that I could only mimic through using their language.

Do you realize how much damage you’re doing?

Not to me, necessarily. I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t hurt like I could have been. All I ended up doing was confusing a handful of potential partners. It would take me a few years to figure myself out, and I probably could have done it sooner with more information, but I can’t pretend that I was hurt because of you.

Do you know how many people you hurt? I can’t even tell you. The people who got pregnant or sick because they didn’t have the knowledge to safely explore. The people who did feel ashamed because they felt like some part of themselves was broken or wrong and they couldn’t help it. The people who didn’t have all of the privileges that I did and that would never have the opportunity to learn otherwise.

It’s true that we live in a sexual society. It’s true that it’s the expectation that teenagers will experiment sexually. It’s true that I had a very easy time wrapping my mind around the concept of denial and, by this logic, I’m proof of concept that teenagers can simply be told not to experiment and will agree unconditionally.

But you cannot work with those assumptions. You cannot present incomplete information and expect that a room full of teenagers won’t at least entertain the idea of filling in the blanks. The world won’t stop being sexual once we enter it, and we need to be able to have frank conversations about that in a safe environment. Teenagers cannot afford to be ignorant about sexuality, regardless of their orientation.

So, talk to them. Talk about different kinds of attraction and assure them that they’re all valid. Talk about safety, about contraception, about resources they can use to learn. Talk—really talk—about what does and doesn’t work and show them hard numbers to back it up. If they’re going to have sex, give them the knowledge they need to do it properly; if they’re like me and not going to, then the information will still be useful from a health and safety standpoint.

Make them talk, too, even if it’s anonymous. Have them talk about the expectations and challenges they face about their bodies and sexualities in a world where these ideals are bought and sold. Have them talk about their relationships to make sure they’re healthy. Have them talk about their questions so that they can get their answers from someone who knows the answers.

You can’t tell a room full of teenagers “no” and expect them to go with it. Learn how to talk to them, not for your sake, but for theirs. It would have helped me, and it probably would have prevented a lot of people I knew from being hurt. That’s what you told me you wanted: now prove it.

 

Sincerely,

Gretchen

 

Gretchen Turonek is an asexual ciswoman that lives and writes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She’s also a trumpet player, tabletop gamer, wife, and cat mom. She has a website and blog where she writes about writing and can also be found spending far too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.


Asexual Community Participation: 
How Often? Why? Why not?

Brian Fink, PhD │ University of Toledo

 

Asexuality has been considered as the “invisible orientation.” (Decker, 2014) Research related to the asexual population has seemingly focused on the theoretical aspects of asexuality. However, there is a wealth of data available from the Ace Community Census that can be analyzed for more pragmatic purposes. Over the past decade, there have been numerous non-academic articles and online discussions where the inclusion of asexuals in the LGBTQ community has been debated. Recently, the Equinox Gym was under fire for releasing a short pride film entitled “LGBTQAlphabet: Six Letters Will Never Be Enough” because the A stood for “Ally.” Some LGBTQ groups are asexual-inclusive and may be places for asexuals to thrive, particularly if they are also another queer identity, such as homoromantic (Decker, 2014).

It would be fair to say that the asexual population is, at best, on the outskirts of the LGBTQ community. In the community-at-large, the asexual population still appears to be relatively unknown and without improvements to both the online and offline experiences, asexuals will continue to be marginalized in society.

It is estimated that approximately 1% of the population is asexual, according to a study of 18,426 individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland (Bogaert, 2004). However, it is reasonable to speculate that their prevalence has increased over the years. There are asexuals who remain hidden in the closet and this is due, at least in part, to difficulties being out among their family, friends, and the general public. One has to wonder if the online and offline communities that do exist are not only well-known to asexuals, but how welcoming are these communities?

There is debate online as to whether or not asexuals belong in the LGBTQ community, with those arguing against inclusion, in part, based on a lack of systematic oppression. For people who want to be accepted and welcomed for who they are, discrimination from the LGBTQ community is both ironic and troubling. Rather than use oppression as an indicator for inclusion, perhaps it would be best to use the fact that we are all human beings as the criterion for welcoming individuals to a place they can call home. The lack of a harmonious, welcoming environment only serves to further alienate the asexual population. Comparative victimization, in which groups may exclude others based, in part, on their level of real or perceived oppression, does no benefit to anyone.

With this in mind, asexuals may have to find asexual-only communities. Finding other asexuals may be difficult, particularly offline, where being out may not be considered safe. As asexuals continue to struggle to find inclusion in the LGBTQ community, they may be forced to stay isolated, perhaps not participating in any asexual community whatsoever. Prior research has dealt with asexual communities and sexual norms (Przybylo, 2011), but what about asexual communities as simply, a community? Some researchers feel asexuality is at odds with traditional gender roles and threatens the self-concept (MacNeela, 2015), and can make it difficult to relate to non-asexuals (Carrigan, 2011). However, regardless of our orientation, we are all human beings. We should be able to relate at that most basic level of our existence.

This research study will both quantify asexual community participation and identify the reasons why asexuals do or do not participate in communities, both online and offline. Knowing and understanding these reasons may help in the development of real-world methods that can be implemented to improve the experiences of asexuals in existing communities. It is also possible that new communities could be created based on data that is taken annually from the Ace Community Census. This, in turn, can create more awareness of asexuals, more inclusive communities, and build greater acceptance of asexuals in the general population. The long-term goals are to ensure that asexuals feel a sense of belonging in any community so that they may be more likely to come out of the closet and enjoy their lives.

 

METHODS

Data from the 2016 Ace Community Census, a survey completed by 9,870 individuals from around the world, was analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 23. The 2016 Ace Community Census was a community research project by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) Survey Team. The survey, which took approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to complete, was open to anyone over the age of 13, including both asexual and non-asexual individuals.

Responses to specific questions as to why asexuals participate and do not participate in online and offline communities were analyzed and themes were determined and reported. Data specific to both online and offline community participation and frequency were assessed and reported by the label that respondents most closely identify.

 

RESULTS

The majority of respondents most closely identified with being asexual (64.5%) and considered their sexual orientation to be asexual (71.8%) (Table 1). The reasons for participation in communities listed in Table 2 are not exhaustive, but reveal the themes that were reported by numerous respondents. Additional comments included, but were not limited to, talking about topics other than relationships, an obligation to participate, sharing political opinions, reading posts, lurking, and keeping up with opinions.

The reasons for non-participation in communities listed in Table 3 are also not exhaustive but reveal numerous themes. Additional comments included, but were not limited to, disliking the tone or level of debate, not connecting with members of the group, not having much in common with others besides being asexual, drama, and bad posting rules in online communities.

While the majority of respondents had met someone offline that was asexual, gray-A, or demisexual (Table 4), fewer than 20% participate in offline asexual groups. Of these participants, just 3.2% of questioning individuals and 8.0% of asexual individuals participate at least once per month in an offline group. In offline LGBTQ spaces, experiences tended to be positive among those who provided an actual ranking (Table 5). However, there was considerable variance in feeling the most recent offline LGBTQ space they participated in was intended for them, particularly among asexuals, as 511 of 3,350 (15.2%) reported “Not at all.”

For online communities, Tumblr was the most popular for asexual participation. Reading or watching content was most common in Tumblr, followed by AVEN, YouTube, and Facebook (Table 6). Posting or commenting in online communities was most common in Tumblr and Facebook. 

 

DISCUSSION

One of the questions in the Ace Census asked respondents for reasons why they currently participate in asexual communities (both online and offline, where applicable). While there were responses they could have checked (to find people like myself, to learn more about myself or asexuality, to be an advocate, to talk about asexuality, to have general discussions, to find friends or partners, N/A – I do not participate in asexual communities); several respondents decided to write in their own specific reason(s) by the “Other” option.

There are many reasons why asexual individuals reportedly do or do not participate in online and/or offline groups (Table 3). Asexual individuals want to be part of a community where they feel safe, validated, are respected, and have a voice. Online and offline communities can be a place for support, friendship, discussing experiences, asking questions and seeking advice, social activities, happiness, and raising awareness of asexual individuals and their rights.

However, fear of outing oneself, age differences, familial disapproval, discrimination, harassment, infighting, unwelcoming communities, lack of nearby groups, and uncertainty of finding asexual communities are just some of the many reasons why asexual individuals in this Census do not participate in online or offline groups.

One of the strengths of this study was analyzing the Ace Community Census data collected from 9,870 respondents from around the world. Being an online survey, it may skew the responses to those more familiar with using the Internet, which tends to be younger individuals. The mean age of respondents was 23.1 years and 95% of the study population was age 36 or younger. The ages ranged from 13 years to 109 years.

With this research, evidence-based improvements can be made to existing online and offline communities and new communities can be created that best reflect the findings from this census. Among adult asexuals, there may be a fear of meet-ups with asexuals under the age of 18. The inclusion of more age-specific discussion forums, similar to what AVEN provides online, would be a helpful method of connecting similar-age asexual individuals. Online posting policies could be edited to better create a welcoming community sent to current and new members. This action, along with diligent post moderation, could be implemented to improve the online experience and maintain a more civil, respectful, and accepting environment.

It is fair to state the asexual population is a minority within the LGBTQ+ community. Though asexual awareness has improved over the past couple of decades, the asexual population still struggles to connect with each other, while also finding their acceptance in society. Future research efforts should focus on a more practical, evidence-based approach to addressing the issues facing the asexual population.

 

REFERENCES

Decker, J.S. The invisible orientation: An introduction to
asexuality
. 2014. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY.

Bogaert A.F. (2004). Asexuality: prevalence and associated
factors in a national probability sample. The Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287.

Przybylo, E. (2011). Crisis and safety: The asexual in
sexusociety. Sexualities, 14, 444–461.

Gupta, G. (2017). “And now I’m just different, but there’s
nothing actually wrong with me”: asexual marginalization and resistance. Journal of Homosexuality, 64, 991–1013.
 
Carrigan, M. (2011). There’s more to life than sex? Difference
and commonality within the asexual community. Sexualities, 14, 462–478.

MacNeela, P, Murphy, A. (2015). Freedom, invisibility, and
community: a qualitative study of self-identification with asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 799–812.

 

Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Ace Census Population
Which of the following labels do you most closely identify with?
Identity    N    %
Asexual    6,367    64.5
Gray-A    1,063    10.8
Demisexual    848    8.6
Questioning if asexual/GrayA/    1,054    10.7
None of the above    538    5.4
Total    9,870    100.0
        
Sexual Orientation
Orientation    N    %
Asexual    7,067    71.8
Gay    109    1.1
Lesbian    218    2.2
Pansexual    354    3.6
Queer    1,044    10.6
Straight    608    6.2
Bisexual    447    4.5
Missing    23    
Total    9,870    100.0

Table 2. Reasons for Participation in Online and Offline Asexual Communities
Acceptance
Ace humor
A way to remind myself it is ok to be ace.
Ask questions and seek advice from other aces.
Be able to better defend myself against harassment.
Belonging
Clear misconceptions about non-ace people and sexual attraction.
Coping
Discuss alternative definitions to asexuality.
Ease anxiety.
Feels like coming home. 
Friends
Fun
Happiness to meet other people like myself.
In hopes that younger people will figure themselves out sooner than I did.
Learn about the evolving conceptualization of sexuality.
Participate in educational dialogue with non-ace people.
Positivity
Safe place
Social activities
Spread awareness in the LGBTQ community.
Support
Talk about gender
Talking about personal experiences.
To be comfortable in my own skin.
To be in an asexual-positive environment.
To be informed enough to treat others who identify as asexual in a relatively informed manner, in order to be a more kind and decent person.
To be part of a community.
To be visible so that other aces know they are not alone.
To encourage aces to create their own community that suits their needs.
To feel normal.
To help individuals and offer advice.
To help my friends with understanding.
To not feel alone.
To stand up for our rights and the rights of all other LGBTQA+ people.
To talk about aces in LGBT spaces.
To talk about relationships.
To vent my frustrations over ignorance about asexuality.
Trust
Understand why people have problems with asexuality.
Validation 

Table 3. Reasons for Non-Participation in Online and Offline Asexual Communities
Afraid as a demisexual that I am not ace enough.
Afraid friends or relatives would find out and out me.
Afraid of outing myself.
Afraid of the impact it might have on my partner.
Age
Age group seemed too young for me.
Asexual elitism
Being called “it”.
Busy
Cannot drive.
Depend on others for money and transportation.
Depression
Did not consider asexuality to be a part of the LGBTQ community.
Did not know there were any communities.
Family disapproval and prejudice.
Fear of ace discrimination.
Feeling the need to prove I am ace.
Going to new places and meeting new people is scary.
Group is far away.
Happily closeted.
Harassment from non-asexuals.
Have not come out yet.
Have not found a suitable community.
Have not looked.
Homophobia.
I am quite old now and used to being in the closet about everything towards everyone.
I do not feel the need to be in a community.
Infighting between various populations of the asexual spectrum.
Introverted
LGBT community not welcoming.
Like observing more than participating.
Negative discourse
Non-ace people kept causing trouble.
Online site “ace discourse” made the ace community contentious and unsafe.
Online site filled with people disagreeing with asexuality.
Religious reasons.
Shame
Shyness
Social anxiety
The vibe turned me off.
Too much hate and toxic discourse.
Unsure about identity.
Unsure where to find ace communities.
Worried it would affect my career.

Table 4 – Meeting Others and Participation in Offline Asexual Groups
Have you ever met someone offline who identified as asexual, gray-A, 
or demisexual that you know of?
    Asexual
N (%)    Gray-A
N (%)    Demisexual
N (%)    Questioning
N (%)    None of the Above
N (%)    Total
Yes    3,954 (62.2)    698 (66.0)    575 (67.8)    507 (48.4)    397 (74.9)    6,131
No    1,910 (30.0)    253 (23.9)    192 (22.6)    400 (38.2)    80 (15.1)    2,835
Unsure    491 (7.7)    106 (10.0)    81 (9.5)    140 (13.4)    53 (10.0)    871
Total    6,355    1,057    848    1,047    530    9,837
Missing                        33
                        
How often do you currently participate in offline asexual groups?
    Asexual
N (%)    Gray-A
N (%)    Demisexual
N (%)    Questioning
N (%)    None of the Above
N (%)    Total
Never    5,071 (80.0)    876 (82.9)    712 (84.4)    943 (90.8)    454 (88.0)    8,056
Few times a year or less    752 (11.8)    115 (10.9)    89 (10.5)    61 (5.9)    39 (7.5)    1,056
Once a month    179 (2.8)    24 (2.2)    11 (1.3)    9 (0.8)    4 (0.8)    227
Few times a month    223 (3.5)    28 (2.6)    22 (2.6)    21 (2.0)    7 (1.3)    301
Few times a week    82 (1.3)    10 (0.9)    8 (0.9)    3 (0.3)    10 (1.9)    113
At least once a day    29 (0.4)    3 (0.3)    1 (0.1)    1 (0.1)    2 (0.4)    36
Total    6,336    1,056    843    1,038    516    9,789
Missing                        81

Table 5. Experiences in Offline LGBTQ Spaces
How was your experience in the most recent offline LGBTQ space you participated in?
    Asexual
N    Gray-A
N    Demisexual
N    Questioning
N    None of the Above
N    Total
Negative    137    26    26    21    13    223
1    156    43    24    22    15    260
2    477    82    64    67    38    728
3    821    178    117    119    97    1,332
Positive    1,473    249    213    205    179    2,319
NA    3,303    485    404    619    196    5,007
Total    6,367    1,063    848    1,053    538    9,869
                        
To what degree did you feel that the most recent offline LGBTQ space
you participated in was intended for you?
    Asexual
N    Gray-A
N    Demisexual
N    Questioning
N    None of the Above
N    Total
Not at all    511    91    76    76    32    786
1    573    121    75    77    37    883
2    756    130    105    95    61    1,147
3    589    113    79    89    87    957
Mostly    621    121    113    95    119    1,069
NA    3,317    487    400    621    202    5,027
Total    6,367    1,063    848    1,053    538    9,869

Table 6. Reading, Watching, Posting, and Commenting on Online Sites
How much do you currently read or watch content from …?
Site    Never    Few times a year or less    Few times a month    Few times a week    At least once a day    NA    Total
AVEN    4,308    3,528    1,138    375    109    412    9,870
Non-English asexual forum    8,493    446    174    89    31    637    9,870
Tumblr    1,615    1,283    2,009    2,639    2,055    269    9,870
Livejournal    8,554    516    140    23    7    630    9,870
Blogs (excl. Tumblr and Livejournal)    6,950    1,333    752    211    57    567    9,870
Facebook    5,870    1,145    1,010    812    546    487    9,870
Twitter    7,166    818    751    405    189    541    9,870
Reddit    7,891    639    410    259    98    573    9,870
Youtube    5,020    2,419    1,439    410    97    485    9,870
Meetup.com    8,878    227    138    27    5    595    9,870
Chat room    8,540    370    172    103    96    589    9,870
                            
How much do you post or comment in …?
    Never    Few times a year or less    Few times a month    Few times a week    At least once a day    NA    Total
AVEN    8,379    748    178    66    46    453    9,870
Non-English asexual forum    9,121    141    72    15    4    517    9,870
Tumblr    5,041    1,970    1,514    745    244    356    9,870
Livejournal    9,207    84    19    3    0    557    9,870
Blogs (excl. Tumblr and Livejournal)    9,028    210    78    18    8    528    9,870
Facebook    7,663    906    565    197    61    478    9,870
Twitter    8,403    506    279    127    43    512    9,870
Reddit    8,903    303    109    27    5    523    9,870
Youtube    8,794    403    121    35    6    511    9,870
Meetup.com    9,145    120    45    6    0    554    9,870
Chat room    8,833    204    115    83    74    561    9,870

 

Brian Fink is a Professor of Public Health and an epidemiologist at the University of Toledo in Ohio. He is interested in combining his research skills with his asexual orientation to learn more how asexuals can have happier and healthier lives.


Pride and Prejudice

Anna María Mengani

 

CW: stalking and sexual harassment

When puberty starts, many of us must face the sex talk. Not just the ones given to us by our parents or teachers, but also the ones many of us have with our friends and peers. Middle school was a very constricting place. There’s a saying that goes “curiosity killed the cat.” It’s never once resonated with me. I was never curious… but I was scared. In middle school, I was scared to be judged, categorized, ostracized, and most of all… alone.

Being different was frightening in this environment. There was such an undeniable feeling of peer pressure to conform to societal standards, which is why I always felt like I had to conceal my asexuality. Unlike other sexualities, if you don’t bring up sex, you don’t really feel pressured to talk about it. It had been an easy dodge for me, until my adolescence.

My situation only worsened in high school. Thoughts of losing one’s virginity are pervasive in imaginings of high school student life and are thought to be a part of the high school experience. My first year of high school became far too real for me. I would countlessly overhear porn and sexual fantasies from old friends. It was a time when I had to endure the complexities of growing into my body, being catcalled on the street, dating, and being surrounded by outright misogynistic peers. My peers would sexualize my body, and force unsolicited verbal advances upon me:

“You probably sleep around a lot because you have the body for it.”

“I wish I had your boobs; I’d hook up with all the guys.”

“Why don’t you show some cleavage? What’s the point of having boobs then?”

“Don’t you feel ashamed for wearing that? You’re just asking for it.”

My experience as a Latina seemed to exacerbate these responses further. People would assume, just because I was Latina, that I was inherently more sexual. Latinas are often perceived to be sexy women who are passionate with voluptuous bodies and curves, which may seem positive, except when those stereotypes are reinforced upon you unwillingly. Without a choice, I would get comments from people who looked at my body rather than me as a person:

“Your hips don’t lie.”

“You have to sleep around because you’re Latina, right?”

So, when I told people that I was asexual, I wasn’t believed. My asexuality was seen as a cover up for being “prude,” “celibate,” or “inexperienced.” Whenever I mentioned how uncomfortable I felt talking about sexual acts in depth, or how I wasn’t interested in hooking up with anyone, I felt pushed aside and ignored:

“You have to have sex. Have you really tried everything? You can’t be asexual.”

Eventually, I gave in.

I started dismissing my own feelings for the approval of others. I was losing focus of my own identity, with the endless voices in my head screaming: “This isn’t right, this isn’t who you are.” The one screaming the loudest was, “I want to be normal.” This newfound feeling as a 14-year-old was dangerous. It was a danger that I couldn’t get away from, growing more intensely by the minute. I caved into a point of almost no return. I started seeking validation of my worth from others. This search for validation led me to the worst two years of my life. I sunk into such a deep anxiety that I still suffer from to this day.

This anxiety stems from a few factors, but it originated from a person who I thought I knew. For the sake of privacy, I will call him Antonio. Antonio was the first of few people I was able to share nearly anything personal with, including my asexual experience. I considered him a close friend who I had mutual interests with. The spring of my freshman year of high school, he began acting different towards me. He started flirting and being touchy with me. It was a side I had never seen before. Soon, I realized he had a crush on me, but I never felt the same.

The one-sided love on his end transformed into anger and frustration. He would go weeks or months without speaking to me and blamed it on his home life. When we did talk, if I rejected him again he would leave for a while. He wouldn’t talk to me at school, and his anger and frustration only worsened because we lived a block away from each other. When friendship turned to anger, and multiple red flags began rising, I was naive. So terrified of being alone, I thought I could fix what was already broken.

Sometimes things that are broken cannot be fixed. I ended up learning that the hard way. Living a block away from Antonio was an ordeal. He would follow me home, stalk my social media, gang up on me, and try to get physical with me.

In May 2014, I was making my way home from high school. I took the s56 bus that stopped two blocks away from my old house. There were two of the same buses that stopped. I rode the first bus, and Antonio rode the second one. I started walking down the block, taking the long route because it was a beautiful spring day, and I felt like listening to music while enjoying the weather. The flowers were blossoming, and everything looked so perfect. When I looked back at the buses he was running down the other block, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. At that time, in May, we hadn’t talked for a couple of months. When walking down the second block, which I lived on, I decided to walk up like usual instead of around the block because I saw him waiting for me. I thought nothing of it, and just thought he wanted to talk. When we met up, it felt like usual. We just talked, and he asked me about my day. Nothing felt off except he didn’t usually go out of his way to walk the opposite way as me. If he saw me walking he would normally just call me over. We were friends. Suddenly, in the middle of talking… he kissed me.

I was horrified.

“Don’t tell anyone,” Antonio said.

I couldn’t think, speak, or move. I’ve rejected him three times, but three times was not enough for him. While walking home, I started crying and trembling with disbelief. My mother was waving at me by the mailbox outside the house with our new puppy, oblivious to what had just transpired. By the time I got to my house, I had wiped away all my tears, so I didn’t have to explain to my mother why I was sad. My puppy leaped out of my mother’s arms and ran to me. Everything faded, and I felt so relieved for a moment. There was nothing else in that moment except for my family.

A moment didn’t last.

Days later, my phone was being spammed with notifications. They were messages from Antonio attempting to apologize.

I couldn’t forgive him.

Actions speak louder than words. Accepting an apology from him would make it seem like what he had done was right.

It was wrong.

Even while blocking Antonio on social media, he still found ways to try to contact me by making new accounts or by bothering old friends to contact me.

The stalking online and in-person persisted until the end of my sophomore year of high school in 2015.  

‘No’ was never an acceptable answer to him, always a ‘maybe.’ A ‘maybe’ turned into depression, fear, but, most of all, anxiety. I kept asking myself:

“What am I doing to make him stalk me?”

“What have I done wrong? Was I giving the wrong signals?”

“Why can’t he accept I don’t like him?”

“Is my asexuality causing him to hurt me like this?”

“Does he view me as weak because I’m a woman?”

Countless nights of not being able to sleep with agonizing worries about my safety almost pushed me to the point of isolation once again in my life. Towards the end of my middle school years, I lost most of my friends. I felt like an outsider, not only in my own friend group, but also at school. Getting out of bed was physically draining. My grades were slipping along with my motivation, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t speak, and the months leading up to graduation were a blur, but I remember how I felt. I was angry at myself for being uncomfortable with a topic that came so naturally to everybody else except me. When I lost my friends, very few stayed. Months before graduation I attempted to open up, and I let someone in when I shouldn’t have. Antonio misunderstood my kindness for weakness, and my longing for a friend as a longing for him. When finding out about my asexuality, he negated who I was for his own desires. Not wanting to have sex or an intimate relationship with someone should never put you at risk of harm. A threat of a restraining order should not be the reason for threats to stop. Never feel guilty for being authentically yourself.

 

Anna María Mengani is an 18-year-old Mexican who is still trying to find their place in the world. Born in Texas and raised in New York City, she is hoping to become a professional musician someday. She can also be found at your local karaoke bar scream singing to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. Snapchat: Yunggkta Twitter: @annamengani.


Speaking Sex: 
Asexual Perspectives on the Language of Sexuality

Joe Jukes

 

1. “Sexy” is not a term I have used to describe myself. It is however a term with which I have recently been confronted.
2. Sex is a term with which I do not find identification. It is a term that I have come to know and understand in a messy fashion, as well as a practice I choose to engage with and glean enjoyment and validation from as an asexually-identified person.

During one recent moment of intimacy, during sex, I was called “sexy.” The speaker – a partner, a co-agent with me in an act of sex, an evocator, an interlocutor, (a compliment-giver?) – sought to flatter and to validate me in the midst of a union forged under the watch of sexuality. I laughed; the term itself, so wholly unbefitting of my personhood, and over-extravagant in its dramatic deployment, cut through an air of tenderness and speared my body, fixing me in sex and in “sexy.” All this and more occurs in the very moment I negotiate with the culture and structure that defines my absence-identity – in sex. The two of us giggle like infants at the exchange before continuing.

But the adjective sticks in my mind. To engage with John L. Austin and Judith Butler is to understand that a term is performative in the act of speech – to be deemed “sexy” is to hold oneself in the subjectivity of the speaker or rather to be fixed there involuntarily. To become in a space and time a “self” of that which is “sexy” is to align selfhood to “sexy” and all the meanings, sensibilities, and practices with which it is to be so. When I profess to labour over my appearance and behaviour in ways that defy sexualisation, what agency can be spoken of in the moment those very things, along with the relations held between myself and a speaker, also themselves become “sex(y)”? The question then arises whether to refute one’s name despite the relation pursued (here, what might be named a sexual union), whether to engage with “sexy” and inhabit it agentively, or to ignore the act of naming it/me altogether in a way that also ignores the beloved speaker. None are “correct,” all are weaponised, and a dialogue ensues not between two parties, but triangularly between the one who names, the one who is named, and the structure that brings the name into existence. How I allow asexuality to define me, and how I engage in sexuality and sex, are both negotiations – and fraught ones at that – caught in language as well as desire. In fact, it might be said that speech is dually driven by the desire of speech to speak and of speaking desire itself.

In formulating the above, I herald a discussion of how language and speech come to shape our understandings of sex, and by extension of asexuality. And I seek here to tentatively explore what can be theorised through linguistic metaphors pertaining to the asexual and the sexual. I believe such a method is in large part enabled by an asexual vantage-point and comes from the daily negotiation of sexuality’s grammar in our collective pronouncement of an identity marked by difference, absence and queerness.

Let us begin at the mouth. With what do we speak? I cannot bring myself to say it is with the mother-tongue. The circumstances of our conception and birth are bound – if not merely physically, then also representationally – by coitus, sexual union and a heteronormative, reproductive imperative. We are brought into the world by sex: from the missionary position to the desire to reproduce. The mother-tongue is already Oedipal, the mouth already has Daddy-issues, or less flippantly, the condition of life as asexual is always already sex itself (even queer reproductive methods cannot escape emulating to some extent or another this sexual pre-origin). Further, the individual-authentic metaphor of the mother-tongue cannot adequately account for the difference of an asexual’s relation to sex and sexuality from the mother’s (sexual) role of “parent.” Sex birthed me, but it is not comfortably nor naturally vocalised by me. Sex is not my mother-tongue, it cannot be.

Yet to grow up “asexually” is to be immersed in the language of sex, or rather to “surface” from that immersion and come to know one’s foreign relationship to a sexual-tongue. To live is to have fluency assumed and to exist under sexua-linguistic forces that aim to ensure one’s fluency. I have laboured to be proficient, or more assuredly, I cannot escape my own desire for proficiency in sex as a vehicle to a legible life. What results is a deeply personal and absolute understanding of that which I am not, an intelligibility within a system of compulsory sexuality – a “sexual script” – or rather, an already-linguistic formation of myself that exists outside of sex in any active sense but sounded-out by the language of sex. To clarify, I, and copious other asexuals, know full well what “sexy” is or is supposed to mean. We are all too aware of what constitutes the attractive or desirable; that sexual attraction can be subjective and taste-based (dialectal?) despite the fact that it is to a large degree unexperienced by asexuals. Just as one can understand “Schadenfreude” based on its usage rather than any knowledge of the German language, asexuals understand the meanings of sex in its various socio-societal forms without the need for translation. My engagement with/in sex is not translation. It is mutually intelligible: a speech act in which I become a present absentee, a sexual asexual, a proficient-foreigner, a contradictory mode of legibility-as-survival. Whilst my engagement with sexuality’s grammar is subject to mispronunciation, slippages in syntax, and perhaps a limited vocabulary, my language is one of necessary in-betweenness. Is it a patois?

Do I speak a slang, a hybrid? Do I speak another language altogether? Am I a mute in a language system unfit for me? Am I vernacular? Am I illiterate? Asexuality regarding sex is more than silence I am sure. Sex is a language that we necessarily speak to be heard, a vocabulary one must use, even if to express its inadequacy, and here it is crucial to reinvoke Butler in reminding that speech acts themselves are not merely words: speech is action.

As a sex-participant asexual I ask whether my involvement within sexual-cultural systems amounts merely to a clumsy use of broken sexu-speech. Am I striking a pitiful tune of dischords and conchords with sexual scripts? All the while, I know myself to be heard, dialogue is present – even if it is triangular. In such a conversation, for the asexual, caught in the grammar of sex and its syntax which holds lives in rhythm and meter, one’s (il-)literacy pronounces one “Other,” or the non-Other, the illegible. Sex becomes mediated – and perhaps this is truism between all people – by a paranoid translation in which one’s ability to speak freely is constrained and ordered by sexual scripting, wherein touch is speech, a caress forms a sentence, a gaze becomes a question mark, a climax embodies a ...? Can kink ever become a dialect, then? Would “femme” or “butch” engender an accent? Is there potential for queer to exist as a codified slang? And how would sexual conversation ring out between and across this variability in ways that account for asexual voices and beings?

Suffice to say, just as those asexually-identified people who imbricate themselves in the form of sex raise questions, so too do the abstinent, the sex-repulsed, and many other asexuals who do not engage in sexual activity. When I say I cannot escape my desire for a legible life in “Sex,” it also follows that anyone pursuant to an “illegible life” cannot either achieve this, for the performative force of “speaking life” becomes also “speaking Sex” and/or “speaking non-Sex.” To behave “asexually” is a speech-act, to render oneself off-script is to write a non-script: and a script is still a script. Non-sex remains sexual in a framework that enunciates sex in the nth degree of every sound. Where the sexual script is absent and disengaged from, where silence appears to endure, entendre and meaning continue sexuality’s grip on the vocal and verbal. One who does not engage in sex, one who does not converse, is still called – perhaps called “sexy” just as one who does engage in sex. Words tar bodies in their vocalisation, naming continues, the space between words opens a chaste and virginal space on the page into which sexuality drains and desires. The space between words dazzle in their vast emptiness, on pages bleached white. Silence is better seen not as the non-Script, but the non-descript, the legible anti-presence.

When I dress and move, when I attempt to seduce, when I have sex, I (re-)engage with the scripts that make me “sexy.” I allow the word to speak for me, and I try to get a word in edgeways in the din that ensues. Engagement in sex is powerful because one rubs up against the language through which one exists. Engaging in sex entails often the proliferation of speech beyond and apart from the spoken word, desire flows through communicative avenues of the bodily, the atmospheric, and the psychic. It must be said that here I follow the script. The conditioning “immersion” of the media, the social, the formal-political acts through me in the sexual relation. At once asexual self, and a sexual self, I cannot deny the snatched euphoria not of orgasm but of linguistic clarity. Within the sexual encounter, there exist turns of phrase or swells of prose in which I gain the fluency of the mother-tongue, in which translation is a moot point, and in which the phonetic or definitional distances of mutual intelligibility cease to be. A speaking-union as much as a sexual-union, the pursuit of which, whether for partner-satisfaction, physical release, or any other reason, is temporarily removed from the structuring constraints of language and speech. To repeat: a sex through which sex is transcended from (in the sense that the form of sex becomes powerless over the “named subject” in the exact moment that an asexual self can snatch a breath from the “immersion” of socio-sexual conditioning logics). To re-ground this point, I am alluding to moments of union in which even the concept of asexual and sexual are forgotten in fleeting ways – ways that render language momentarily useless. Asexual-sexual togetherness in sex (though not always in the act of sex) in which I, “the” asexual, disengage from the act of naming that calls forth my difference, my deficiency. Instead what follows is a condition in which “sexy” can only then be reconfigured, and only for a second or two, in a name-change. And I can laugh.

So yes, I can be “sexy.” Perhaps sexy is “to the eye of the beholder” too, but this does not detach it from a sexual system/script that both visualises and verbalises sex for and by the beholder. What is valuable from this discussion, I think, is mutual intelligibility within and across words such as sex and non-Sex, sexual and asexual (though these are not oppositional binaries). Asexuality becomes a language alongside Sex and Sexuality that is both not wholly foreign, and not wholly (il-)legible. Whilst I have not here considered the explicitly Gray-A or demi-sexual experiences, nor sex between asexually-identified couples, I have spoken from instances of personal experience and attempted to think through these instances with regard to speech and language. I have tried to bring into usage the concept of sexual scripts that convey both the power of Sexuality in calling forth sexual subjects, as well as ways that such scripting can be multiplied and negotiated. Many questions no doubt go unanswered but by avoiding claims that might universalise asexual narratives I hope that the present discussion holds the beginnings of ways of reimagining the sexua-linguistic contexts for asexuality today.

 

Joe Jukes is currently studying for an MA in Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex, UK. Their primary research interests concern theory, including Queer- and Gender Theory, Critical Theory as well as Cultural Geography and Rural Studies. They have published in The Asexual before, in the Body Issue, and are hoping to pursue a PhD working towards the creation of “Asexual Theory.” Their Twitter can be found here: https://twitter.com/JoeeJayyy.


On Shedding Shame: Embracing My Asexuality

Melissa

 

I discovered the word “asexual” when I was 16. It was, for me, as it has been for many asexuals, a veritable revelation. I reveled in claiming this newfound identity that so keenly described my experience and connected me to a community of people like me. I envisioned an idyllic life free of romance, assuming based on my time in high school that I would never want to date.

Then, I entered college and was astonished to find that dating could actually be a possibility. There was a guy in one of my early friend groups who was knowledgeable, witty, and kind. We would eat breakfast together before class and, in the evenings, I would play piano for him in the music practice rooms. There seemed to be an electricity between us that unnerved me with its unfamiliarity, and soon he asked me to go out with him. I knew that I wanted to continue the connection we had, so I decided to be open with him and come out as asexual.

My disclosure ended up stunning him into silence. He spent an excruciating amount of time trying to decide if he still wanted to date me, before finally telling me “no.” I spent the next few weeks shedding many tears and agonizing over the incident. Was it really that bad to be asexual? Did this make me that undesirable of a person? Sure, I didn’t experience sexual attraction, but this guy and I had really connected – did that not count for anything? At the time, I had no frame of reference to know how being asexual would or wouldn’t affect a romantic relationship; I only knew that this core part of my identity was clearly something that could repulse others, and thus I came to internalize a distinct sense of inferiority and shame for it.

The next guy came along a month after that experience. He was part of a study group that would meet in the dorm lounge where I would do my homework. A casual exchange of words one day became a three-hour-long conversation, the topics of which I cannot recall but which were riveting enough to make us fall into a six-month relationship. We were spectacularly ill-matched: he was majoring in engineering and felt himself superior to humanities students while I was studying in the humanities. It was my first relationship and I didn’t recognize the host of red flags that manifested as neglect, contempt, and apathy. He would walk away from me with his friends, ignored my messages, skipped out on my birthday celebration, and would refuse to see me. And I made excuse after excuse for him, because, in my mind, I had placed him on a pedestal. Why? I had internalized the idea that I was undesirable, so I saw him as some sort of magnanimous saint for accepting my asexuality. Every time I was wounded by his actions or inactions, I would tell myself that he was a good person and that I needed to be a better girlfriend. This led me down a road of even lower self-esteem that pressured me to remain in a relationship that was exceedingly detrimental to my emotional well-being.

Thankfully, something clicked after that ordeal. I don’t recall any particularly dramatic shift in my thinking or any epiphany that roused me from my self-loathing; it was only a small, quiet miracle of self-acceptance and the gradual shedding of shame. I volunteered at the campus LGBTQ center in my second year of college and was surrounded by peers of all sexualities, genders, and presentations. In that space, our departures from cisheteronormativity were welcomed. I began to truly embrace my asexuality as something to be celebrated and a beautiful way to experience human connection. No longer did I view myself as an undesirable partner merely for my absence of sexual attraction; I realized that if others treated me as such that it was due to a lack of awareness and not any fundamental flaw that was inherent to asexuality. The spirit of apology I used to have when disclosing my orientation dissipated, replaced by a keen sense of pride.

After I adopted this attitude, the quality of my dating life rose remarkably. Instead of being a stumbling block for me, asexuality became a convenient way to filter potential dates. People who were completely accepting of asexuality also tended to be open-minded. I formed relationships with people who were compassionate, knowledgeable about social issues, and working actively to combat inequality. To them, my lack of sexual attraction was a characteristic akin to my eye color or height; it was a non-issue for our relationship, and even an aspect they found worth appreciating. My eighteen-year-old self, devastated over that first rejection, never would have imagined such a positive outcome.

My reconciliation of asexuality with dating has been a work in progress. There are occasions when someone’s misconceptions of asexuality affect the way they engage with me, which can cause lingering insecurities to surface. Still, throughout this journey, I have learned so much about the ways I bond with others and have met some truly fantastic people. Asexuality is such a valuable way to experience and navigate human connection, and I now know much better than to feel otherwise.

 

Melissa is a queer disabled asexual and multi-generational Asian American based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was born and raised. When not working as a legal writer in U.S. immigration, she is usually playing music, writing, or trying to work her way out of her latest millennial existential crisis. Connect with her on Twitter or Instagram @melissarenren.


On Being Asexual and Kinky

Bob O'Boyle

 

In 2016, at the age of 35, I came to an important realization about myself; something that answered many latent questions I’d had for years, explained a lot of feelings I’d had with regard to sex and attractiveness, and that helped me feel more comfortable about myself. I realized that I’m asexual. Long before that, though, before I even knew what sex was, I realized that I was not “normal” in an altogether different sort of way.

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’d watch it whenever it came on, happily taking in reruns whenever they were shown, because that meant more Turtles. One episode, though, captured my attention like none of the others. 

“The Case of the Hot Kimono” featured a recurring villain by the name of Don Turtelli.  He was your basic gangster archetype, dressed in a nice suit and fedora, employing a couple of hapless goons. But there was one thing that Turtelli did that set him apart in my mind and captured my imagination for years to come. Whenever the Don captured someone and needed to extract information from them, he would pull out a long feather and tickle their bare feet.

It makes sense, right? This is a kid’s show, so he can’t do anything violent. However, most people harbor at least some small fear at the idea of being tickled, let alone tortured by tickling. It was just supposed to be a way to move the show along, I’m sure, but the second the feather stroked April O’Neil’s bare sole, causing it to wiggle frantically, and her laughter emanated from the TV and entered my ears, I was captivated.

From then on, I wanted to tickle girls as often as I could, especially if I thought they were cute. It became part of my flirting technique, insofar as I had a flirting technique, and was the first thing I searched for when we got the Internet in my sophomore year of high school.  I hadn’t started masturbating yet, so I didn’t know that tickling was a turn on for me, but I did know that I liked seeing girls tickled, particularly on their bare feet, and I wanted to talk about tickling with as many girls as I could.

While my classmates were concerned with who they could talk into seeing naked or getting their hands on any sort of porn they could, I’d read tickling stories, look at tickling pictures, and impatiently wait for tickling videos to buffer on our 56K modem. I didn’t care about who the newest Playboy Centerfold was, and I didn’t realize that wasn’t “normal.” The one time I actually got to see a Playboy, I didn’t get what the big deal was. Pictures of naked women didn’t interest me at all. Someone that I played soccer with got red-faced angry with confusion when I told him I didn’t masturbate. He wanted to know why, and all I could tell him was that I didn’t want to; that it didn’t interest me at all.

I decided somewhere in this time that I wasn’t going to have sex until marriage, since it seemed like the smart and right thing to do. Besides, I wasn’t interested in having sex anyway, so it just made sense. But I would absolutely continue to check out tickling sites, join tickling forums, and start buying tickling videos. This is no small feat in the late ‘90s, because downloading and streaming videos hadn’t even been considered yet. Plain brown envelopes would arrive in the mail for me, and I’d hoard the VHS tapes like a greedy dragon, despite the fact no one else was asking about them at all.

By college I’d managed to get into a relationship with someone who was also celibate until marriage, which was a perfect fit in my mind. Of course, we learned ways around that, as folks in their late teens/early 20s will do, but I still didn’t feel a motivation to do anything more. Even French kissing was highly uncomfortable to me; it felt sloppy and kind of gross, but I did it because my girlfriend liked it. Tickling, however, that was different. That made me feel good down there, and eventually I figured out that I could do something about it.

College gave way to graduation, a distance relationship to sharing an apartment, and clumsy dry humping to attempts at “actual sex.” With those attempts, of course, came complications. I’d be ready to go, but she wasn’t, and because foreplay felt like it took forever, I’d lose interest. Or the condom was too difficult/complicated to put on, so my erection would disappear due to lack of attention. Or I couldn’t feel anything through the condom, so I wouldn’t orgasm, and she’d start to hurt from all the activity on her most sensitive areas. I started to worry that there was something physically wrong with me, that maybe I was impotent, because she would orgasm in no time, but I couldn’t even hold an erection. Because asexuality had only been coined as a term a few years prior to us sharing an apartment, I had no inkling that could be the case.

What made things especially complicated was my prevailing interest in tickling, often looking at sites when my girlfriend was asleep, or after she left for work; really anytime I could be and was alone. By now I was getting better at masturbating, learning what worked and what didn’t, and I could orgasm with no problem that way. So now the question became: am I masturbating too much and leaving nothing to enjoy from sex?

I tried to avoid masturbating entirely, but sex didn’t get any better for me. She would try helping me with her hand after she was finished, but still nothing, save for complaints of a tired wrist from her. It became more notable when I did orgasm than when I didn’t. But I would just shrug it off and keep doing it to please her. Now the idea entered my mind that the fact I was circumcised was the issue. After all, with no foreskin to protect the most sensitive part of me, I had just become desensitized over the years. It sounded perfectly reasonable, except that I could almost always orgasm from watching tickling videos.

My girlfriend became my wife, and we tried new ways to solve this apparent sensitivity issue. Thinner condoms, new positions, foreplay more focused on me, adding tickling to foreplay, since by this time she knew of my fetish. None of it worked consistently. I started to get more annoyed when she would come looking for sex, partly because I knew how it would end up, but mostly because I felt like it was a waste of time, and that I’d rather be doing something else. By this point AVEN had been in existence for about five years, but I’d never heard of it, and thus had no reason to search it out.

Concerns led to discussions, which sometimes led to fights. Turns out she didn’t like to be tickled and was just putting up with it for my sake, much like how I was putting up with sex for hers. We tried watching a porn video together, and the whole concept, including watching the video itself, made me highly uncomfortable. Low libido/sex drive entered my mind as a reason for this disinterest in sex, but what was I supposed to do about that? I had heard that some people who experienced a fetish became so fixated on it that they weren’t able to orgasm without it. Was that happening to me? 

I eventually stopped thinking about it altogether, just accepting that I was unable to orgasm from regular sex and continued masturbating to tickling things when I could. I figured there was just something wrong with me, and that was that. 

Late in 2016 I reconnected with someone I used to work with who was bi and polyamorous; much more hooked on queer culture and nuanced than I ever was. She listened to my stories and suggested that maybe I was asexual. I was slightly confused, because the only asexuality I knew about was the reproductive kind we’re taught about in science classes.  A Google search corrected that assumption very quickly.

Finally, I knew why I wasn’t interested in sex, why I was “different” from all the other teenage boys in school, why I couldn’t achieve orgasm without doing it myself. I’m asexual! 

But… how could I be asexual and a fetishist? Aren’t those two things completely in conflict with one another?

After more reading, more thinking, and more self-analysis, I came to the same realization aces before me had come to, and aces long after me will find out: Not at all.

Asexuality is not celibacy, voluntary or involuntary, though it can take that form. It doesn’t mean that you “never get horny.” It doesn’t mean that you never masturbate. It means, at least to me, that you don’t “want” sex. It’s much like a dessert at the end of a good meal; you might take it if offered to you, but you’re not specifically looking for it either. 

Once I finally realized this fact, seemingly so basic, I felt whole at last. All the guilt I’d felt for masturbating “too much,” or losing the “mood” before anything ever got started, all melted away. I had finally come to realize the full truth about my sexuality. I am a fetishist, I am asexual, and I am wholly okay, as I always had been. 

I joined Tumblr recently, and I was astonished by not only how many people were also into tickling, but also how many of them were somewhere on the ace/aro spectrum. With each new person I talked to, and each new profile I read, it seemed like this Venn Diagram was slowly converging to become a perfectly round circle. Not only were people like me plentiful, but these folks are almost always about the same age that I was when I realized tickling was potentially something more than just a fun flirting technique.

Talking with them and reading various blogs and reblogs clued me in to something else about myself that I always knew but hadn’t really dwelled on before; it’s not sex that I crave, it’s physical affection. While tickling can be, and generally is, arousing to me, my desire is more for touch than being turned on. 

As an asexual person, the sensation of feeling another person’s skin against my own, the weight of their body, and the gentleness of their touch conveys all the sensations of love and feelings of desire that I imagine sex does for allo folks. As a fetishist, participating in an activity that is considered to be kinky and unusual excites me, like I’m part of an exclusive club, and partaking in a pleasure that only my play partner and I truly understand.  The intimacy and trust involved in a good tickle play session, in person or online, fills me with a contentment and joy that I’ve never felt from any sexual experience.

It took a long time for me to come to these realizations, and quite a lot of fumbling around on the edges of what was considered “normal sexual exploration.” I had to keep both feet on one side of the line for the sake of fitting in, while occasionally sneaking a toe across to see how it felt on the other side. For quite a while the words did not exist to describe what I was feeling, who I am. There was either no community for me to turn to, or a very small one, keeping themselves hidden out of necessity. But now that I know there are so many others who are just like me in both desire and deviance, I feel free and accepted, and most of all, valid.

 

Bob O’Boyle is a biromantic asexual male from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, by way of Northeastern Pennsylvania, looking to finally act on a longtime desire to write, and see where it goes. He can be found on Twitter @BlueArmyman117 and on Tumblr at bluearmyman.


Omophagia

Shastra Deo

 

you are carnivorous in your longing

night leached

to dawnbreak our

 

morning fettered by forgetting my

body open as

a wound

 

we are villainesque unrefrained

and despite my sleight of

tongue you know

 

all of my swords

are metaphors

 

my fist at the hilt my

throat not temple but sacrifice for

no-one taught me

 

not to want

or how to bear

baring your

 

belly with grit teeth

knowing we devour

all that we love

 

Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane, Australia. Her first book, The Agonist, won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was published by University of Queensland Press in 2017. Shastra's work deals with the intersections of trauma, memory, and selfhood, with a particular focus on corporeality and embodiment.


"Meaningless Sex"

Heidi Samuelson

 

Meaning. The very idea haunts me.

I studied philosophy for a significant portion of my life. And while philosophers don’t actually talk about the meaning of life, they do talk about what words mean, like whether we’re giving approval when we say something is “good.” They talk about how shared knowledge must be communicated through meaningful expressions.

But sometimes meaning is personal, a feeling, and not communicative at all.

Even if you can’t name it, sometimes you can see it. When someone lights up while talking about someone or something important to them. When you spend time with family members you don’t see often and feel that inexplicable closeness of kinship. When you have a collective experience like standing outside along the shore of Lake Michigan with a group of strangers to watch a solar eclipse.

Those moments are important, meaningful. But in getting older, I have realized that sometimes it’s important to recognize when something doesn’t have meaning. Not everything has to be important, not every holiday has to be perfect, not every night out has to be epic. It’s okay to not seize every day, to stay home, to hide. Life is full of tedious mundane actions that aren’t particularly meaningful and that you’d rather not do.

For me, sex is one of those meaningless things.

In a world where who you have sex with seems to matter a lot, where regular sex is considered part of a healthy life, but where sex can be used as a manipulative tool or a weapon – here, sex has many meanings that go beyond its basic biological function of procreation.

People today use the term “sexual identity” to describe an orientation, but the way you identify boils down not to something about you exactly, but about the types of people you want to have sex with. And if you’re like me and don’t particularly want to have sex with anyone, there’s a word for you, too.

The trouble with getting people to understand this is that “asexual” has a lot of meanings.

I know what it means for me, but I cannot speak for anyone else who identifies with the word. To me, it means I am a person without a sexuality. I’m simply not a sexual person. I can find other people attractive, and I do, but I don’t associate attractiveness with sex. I don’t look at people – celebrities, beautiful strangers, people I know and like – and desire to have sex with them. I get uncomfortable when I think about real people I encounter in my life actually having sex.

But I’m not sex repulsed, as asexual people sometimes are. I don’t mind sex scenes in movies. I don’t even mind some pornography. Sex that’s fake and contrived doesn’t bother me, sometimes it even arouses me.

Because I do have a sex drive. I’ve heard other asexual people describe it this way, too. For me it’s like an itch that needs scratching or a sore muscle that needs stretching. It’s a need for the physical release of orgasm and nothing else. It doesn’t have anything to do with other people. It’s not a social need. It’s a biological function that I can satisfy by myself.

The confusing thing about my asexuality is that I can’t totally rule out sex. I’m not opposed to having sex with other people of any gender identity. In an odd way, purely with regard to the act, I could be considered pansexual. I just never act on it anymore, because I don’t need to and because other people imbue the act of sex with meaning.

Sex doesn’t make me feel closer to another person in an emotional way. It doesn’t feel like an act of intimacy. There’s nothing special about it for me. If we can be honest about sex for a moment – it’s a messy physical act involving some kind of friction and maybe penetration. If done right, it can feel good for all parties involved. I’m just not sure where the meaning hides.

Somewhere along the way, the idea that sex is meaningful got tied up with the idea that sex is a way to express the worth you find in another person. And that’s why non-consensual sex is so dehumanizing. That’s why it breaks my heart when people think their only value as a person is the sex they can perform. That’s why it enrages me when people think sex is owed to them in exchange for a conversation or a date. That’s why it’s sad when people think their value as a person can be reduced to their sexual desirability from a partner or to the amount of sex they have.

These messages are reiterated so much in our culture that it’s hard not to internalize the idea that sex has meaning – even when it doesn’t feel meaningful to you.

It’s hard to avoid sex when sex is everywhere. I’m made aware of it in innuendo on local news broadcasts, in advertisements that use bodies and sexual norms to sell products, in news stories about politicians and company executives abusing their social status to get sex, in health research reported by mainstream media, on the covers of “women’s magazines” giving sex tips, in literature, in music, in nature.  

It’s especially hard to avoid sex when the message is that your life is incomplete, missing meaning, without it.

For me, having sex never completes me. On the contrary, it usually makes me feel worthless, even when I’ve had sex consensually. When someone is having a meaningful, intimate experience and you’re not, then you become an object that someone is having sex with. Maybe sex could work if it’s mutually agreed upon that you’re just using each other to get off with. Or if you need something specific out of sex like, say, within predefined rules like BDSM scenes. But when your sex partner doesn’t realize that you’re not on the same page, when they just don’t understand that it’s not the same for you as it is for them, then it makes you feel worse for not feeling what you’re “supposed” to.

I’m sure it’s true that sex has health benefits; researchers have found it boosts immunity and helps heart health. I’m sure some relationships benefit from regular sex. I’m sure sex can be fun if everyone involved is having fun. But I don’t have enough interest in sex to seek it out or to have it anonymously. It’s not worth it enough to me to find that ideal situation where I don’t feel like a body that someone else sexualized, where I don’t feel like an object at all, where I still feel like a person, but without the other person seeking meaning or falsely equating desirability with worth. My lingering interest in sex is probably curiosity – sex is so important to people and I’d like to understand why. But the only real purpose for it I see is a quick physical release, and I am proficient at doing that on my own.  

The truth is I associate sex with regret.

It’s hard to have sex when the other person tells you they love you before, during, or after, but you don’t feel any love in the act.

Because love has many meanings, too.

Romantic love is something I’ve come to realize I don’t feel. But it’s the one that everyone seems to want – eros, the erotic love, the love that is supposedly expressed through sex. The scene in the movie where the two leads finally confess their feelings for each other and can barely make it through the front door before they have their hands all over each other.

Dating apps, heteronormative romantic gestures, being identified by the word “girlfriend,” being evaluated and judged by another person for the way you live in a test of compatibility – it all makes me wildly uncomfortable.

But there are other types of love. The ancient Greeks had four words for it. C. S. Lewis even wrote a book about the “four loves.”

I think there are more than four. For all I know, there may be as many loves as there are human beings. Or maybe Spinoza was right and it’s all different modes of one love. But platonic love, familial love, the love for a community, the love of a piece of music that makes you feel like you aren’t alone in the world – these are the forms of love I can feel. But socially, these are somehow less valuable, less meaningful than the kind of romantic, sexual love I don’t feel. You’re supposed to be paired off, to want companionship, to crave intimacy. Marriage is the basic social unit of most contemporary societies, and marriage has come to be associated with love.

But it doesn’t work that way for me. What I really love is being alone.

I’ve tried to compromise. I’ve tried to convince myself that I feel more than I do. I’ve tried to appease other people at the expense of myself. Sometimes I think it might be nice to have someone who knows that if I’m listening to Wiretap Scars I’m probably sad, or to have someone to bounce ideas off of when I’m trying to make a mundane decision. But when it comes down to it, I really just want basic validation. It doesn’t seem to be “normal” to feel this way, to be this indifferent to romantic love and sex – things that carry so much importance to other people across the spectrum of orientations and identities.

This is simply who I am.  

But because I don’t feel that love, because I don’t see sex as an expression of meaning, somehow, in this world, who I am is less meaningful, too.

 

Heidi Samuelson is a writer based in Chicago and a former academic philosopher, earning her PhD in 2012. She wishes she knew what asexuality and aromanticism were when she was in her teens and early 20s. Her writing has appeared in the Open Court popular culture and philosophy series and can be found on Medium: https://medium.com/@heidisamiam/latest and Twitter: @heidisamiam.


Beyond Sex: The Multi-Layered Model of Attraction

Michael Paramo

 

This article was originally published via TheAsexual.com on March 9th, 2018. Online publishing platform Medium selected this article to be featured for the topic of Sexuality in March 2018.

Coming of age, I knew I was gay. But, something always felt... different.

At the age of sixteen, you could probably find me adoringly gazing at a male classmate in my Physical Education class. It was every weekday at third period. I knew that I couldn’t be seen looking fondly at the guy across the gym. There were cultural scripts to follow and threats of violence to evade. A gay boy like me wouldn't dare to cross them in such a toxic environment. I remember most vividly how his body allured me, and I wanted to be close to him. He lit a torch in me – a burning desire that I couldn’t dare act upon. Oh, the flurries of gay adolescent love. But, more importantly, it was a deep affection that I was not even certain how to act upon. I knew I loved men, but how did I love them?

In those glorious days of high school (I hope the sarcasm is conveyed properly here), I was a shy “overweight” gay adolescent boy who wanted to be left alone. I socially cued most of my peers to grant me my wish. I hid away at the third and fifth bell’s ring, which signaled the social deathmatches known as “Break” and “Lunch.” I shuffled on campus with my eyes plunging into concrete – a walking embodiment of “awkward silence.” While it was an effective strategy for getting most people to ignore my existence (or perhaps laugh at it from afar), it also ensured that I received what I utmost did not seek: attention. Because of that, I was never able to avoid the interrogations:

“Are you a faggot, Michael?” “Do you like dick? I know you do, fucking faggot.” “Do you want to have sex with men? Do you like it up the ass?”

It was a call with no response, an attack without defense. I was frozen, never able to rip words to counter from my throat. While others were convinced they saw in me what I could not see in myself, I was lost in the labyrinth of attraction. Rather than scream out my confusion, my insecurities and instabilities, I dealt with this puzzle internally. I knew, on some level, that I was drawn to others “like me” – from my male peers who would mock me to men of an older age, they brought me warm yet perplexing feelings. Still, it did not take long for me to learn that I was ambivalent to their “sexual play things," which never did much to unearth soothing tingles of pleasure within me. I had detached their genitalia from their bodies, and it was this dividing of the body, being charmed by certain parts and repulsed by others, that propelled me to asexuality.

While my identity is still in flux, internally confronting these traumatic interrogations buried the seeds of how I would come to understand attraction as multi-layered, in which various forms may function in social congruence or conflict with one another to construct our individual attraction-based positions. Attraction should not merely be classified as a sexual endeavor, a singular or universal mode of experiencing desire, love, or yearning passion towards another human being(s). Attraction is complex. For me, it is that feeling of, yes, that man is the eye of my desire, I crave to be with him, not with his dick (if he even is to have one) and not to engage in sexual intercourse, but because I want to embrace his body, to be close to him at night, to share my life with him, to tell him my secrets as we spill our emotions out to each other.

Yet, in terms of identity, what does this really mean? How do you navigate a society that seeks to unravel you carelessly and toss you away into overstuffed boxes that don’t really fit you, but also, for some of us, kind of do? It is difficult to speak of attraction as existing beyond sex, out of reach from its suffocating grasp, to those who understand it as solely being sexual object choice. I use beyond sex here not to claim that other attraction-based experiences are superior to the sexual, but to assert that they have agency to exist and thrive beyond its touch. In a society where love, attraction, and desire are intrinsically tied to sex, it is critical to consider how these experiences can operate beyond its reach. This is to say that if someone were to tell you that they were attracted to you, most people would assume and expect sex to be the core or defining part of that attraction, not a mere possibility. In our society, attraction implies sex. And, really, there is unfortunately no other way around it. The repercussions of this manifest in a widespread silencing of other forms of attraction as experiences that may exist independently from sex.

When sex is positioned as attraction's ultimate expression, we are restricted, only able to engage in romance, in sensual play, in adorning our bodies in sexy garments, for that greater goal: to reach sex, to touch sex, to feel sex. It is the sexual which is seen as the most real, the apex expression of love between humans and bodies. Sexual attraction is hegemonically understood as attraction itself. As a result, most people simply assume that “the rest” of a person's desires line up automatically and accordingly. This “rest” may involve any other dimension of attraction-based experiences, from traditional romance, to sensual pleasure, to aesthetic adoration, to emotional and intellectual intimacy, but it is always presumed to run in parallels, along preconceived notions of orientation. That is to mean, if someone is heterosexual, they are also to be heteroromantic, heterosensual, heteroaesthetic, and otherwise to be forever socially-exalted as “hetero.”

Of course, most of the time, they are. But before I progress onward, it is critical that I clarify what I mean here by forms or layers of attraction. Attraction is complex, as has been previously declared. Most people claim to experience each layer of attraction in parallel directions, so they never consciously confront any form independent of or beyond sex. Of the numerous forms in existence, these are several:

Aesthetic Attraction: Attraction based on a visual appreciation or captivation of the physical appearance or allure of another person(s). Aesthetic attraction may be completely disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction, and instead considers the visual aesthetics of another person(s). It may be described in a similar manner to appreciating or being captivated by the beauty of a striking natural setting. You may feel as though the person(s) in question is simply more visually intriguing than others, but not necessarily because of a sexual or romantic component attached to the attraction.
Emotional Attraction: Attraction that is predicated on personality rather than the physical appearance of another person(s). Emotional attraction often includes or represents the desire to be in non-tactile contact with another person for the purposes of forming, fostering, or maintaining an emotional and personal bond with them. You may feel fascinated or drawn to a person(s) based on their personality or aura, which may result in you wanting to be around them increasingly, without involving anything sexual, romantic, aesthetic, sensual, or physical.
Intellectual Attraction: Attraction that involves a desire to form, foster, or maintain an intellectual or mental connection or engagement with another person(s). Intellectual attraction may involve a connection to someone mentally that is separated from the rest of their bodies. It grapples with what the person(s) in question is thinking, and potentially includes a desire to interact or engage with that person(s) further in intellectual or mental respects, without necessarily involving any other form of attraction.
Romantic Attraction: Attraction to another person(s) predicated on a desire to experience contact that may be conceptualized as "romantic." How romantic attraction is defined remains relatively amorphous, yet clearly strays from sexual attraction, and is frequently entwined with a desire to be in a romantic relationship with another person(s). Romantic attraction does not have to be in congruence with sexual attraction, which is exemplified most prominently in the asexual experience. Asexual people may be both asexual and romantically attracted to anyone or no one.
Sensual Attraction: Attraction predicated on an inclination or passion to engage with another person(s) in a manner that could be described as physical or tactile, as well as intersecting with any of the senses. Sensual attraction may include the desire to hug, kiss, cuddle, hold another's hand, etc., while not including the desire for sexual activity or engagement. It may also include gaining gratification or being aroused by another person(s) through other sensory experiences such as smell. 
Sexual Attraction: Attraction to another person(s) that spurs a desire to engage in sexual activity, most often, but not always, being sexual intercourse. To be sexually attracted to someone is predicated on your desire to engage in contact with them sexually or to be aroused in a manner that generates such interest. This attraction may be based on physical qualities of the person(s) in question as well as other non-physical aspects yet remain tied to sexual desire or a desire to sexually be in contact with that person(s).

Beyond the sexual, other forms of attraction are not understood as independent, but rather, they are positioned in a flattened congruence in the shadow of sexual attraction. The hegemonic perspective on attraction may therefore be visualized as existing at the center of an orbital overlay. From this position, those who have internalized a "sex equals attraction” type worldview only gaze forward, always at the nearest, the most pervasive: the sexual. Their reach extended, they forever hold and never let go of sexual attraction. Their awareness to what lays beyond is eclipsed, blurred by sex. Of course, if the forms align, what exists beyond sex may not be so crucial to the person in question. However, when layers of attraction are not in congruence, things become messier, and far too complex to fit in the confines of such a limited model.

Attraction is multi-layered and molded by our individualized experiences. While sexual, for many people, is their primary mode of understanding their attraction-based position in this world, it's not exclusive. For example, I am a gay person. I know I like men. If I wasn’t asexual and aromantic, I probably would be at brunch right now on a Grindr date looking for sex with a man (it’s a joke). The point is, sex occupies a non-important and relatively nonexistent position in my construction of self and in relation to how I understand my gay attraction and desires. For many people in my life, this is difficult to grasp. When I say, "I'm gay," the majority tend to think: "oh, he wants to have sex with men" and not "oh, he may want to be in a romantic non-sexual relationship with a man" or "oh, he wants to be in a nonsexual sensual relationship with a man." 

This is because sex is first to be understood – positioned as necessary in the conception of attraction and in interpreting desire between humans. Sex eclipses other forms of attraction that arrange themselves in its unending shadow. For those of us (mostly ace and aro people) who find ourselves outside of this "sex equals attraction" worldview, our expressions of desire, love, and passion tend to be confronted with disbelief at best and perceived as outright lies at worst. When ace and aro people assert our asexuality and aromanticism as legitimate, our legitimacy is questioned, or we are ignored completely. Attempting to validate our relationships can thus prove to be difficult, wherever we happen to exist in the maze of identity.

All of us experience attraction in what I refer to here as a multi-layered model. We experience sexual attraction, or we don’t; we experience romantic attraction, or we don’t; we experience sensual attraction, or we don’t; we experience emotional attraction, or we don’t; we experience intellectual attraction, or we don’t. Like a beautiful but chaotic conglomerate of multi-colored threads or clay that comprises a vibrant whole; the levels mesh together and can frequently feel messy. Some colors may be missing completely, others may be deeply immersed in each other, while another is loose, hanging, nearly free. Each form of attraction may exist independently yet simultaneously in relation to others. Together, our experiences with attraction come to define each of our social attraction-based positions within this model. 

Some may experience sexual attraction, and the passion they feel towards others may be heavily entwined with sensuality and aestheticism. In other words, they may feel that their sexual attraction exists because of or in direct relation to their sensual and aesthetic pleasures that they derive from the act of physically viewing or touching another's body. In this sense, the layers of the sexual, sensual, and aesthetic may be merged, overlapped, in direct intimate contact with one another. One could not exist without the other. At the same time, for others, one layer or form may not be so deeply linked to another. As an asexual aromantic gay person, my gayness is not enmeshed with my (lack of) sexual or romantic attraction. Rather, for me, it is sensual love and emotional intimacy that defines my gay attraction, while sex and romance are relatively nonexistent from my attraction-based position. It is not because I lack sexual or romantic attraction that I am gay.

To further communicate the complex possibilities of attraction-based positions and their potential relational existences to each other, let us briefly consider the following examples that may further aid in conveying the attraction model explained in this article: 

Person A is a cisgender heterosexual man. While he is sexually attracted to women, he experiences homosensual bonds with other men. However, since sexuality and gender are heavily policed in our society, largely due to toxic masculinity, Person A never expresses his sensual attraction towards men for fear of having his privileged position as a heterosexual being called into question. As such, Person A simply assumes his position as strictly "hetero" or "straight" and does not explore these other facets of self. As such, his sensual desires that may deviate from heteronormativity remain silenced.
Person B is an asexual aromantic non-binary person. They do not experience sexual attraction or romantic attraction. Person B primarily identifies by their aesthetic and sensual inclinations, which happen to be panaesthetic and pansensual. Person B struggles with feeling validated. Their panaesthetic and pansensual identities are called into question due to misconceptions that asexuality and aromanticism means "no attraction" and "no desire." They often have to erase their asexual and aromantic identities and frequently feel pressured to engage in sexual and romantic activities in relationships.   
Person C is a cisgender homoromantic asexual woman. Person C attempts to navigate queer and gay spaces, but encounters issues due to her asexuality being perceived as "unqueer." Some gay people refer to her as "still in the closet" or afraid to "come out all the way." When she tells others that she is gay and also asexual, people assume that she is simply using the latter as a cover to be "respectable" or that she just hasn't "found the right person yet." As a result, navigating queerness proves to be difficult for Person C.
Person D is a homoromantic heterosexual person. As their experiences with attraction exist in social conflict with one another, they feel a sense of internal division and strife. Person D feels constantly conflicted in expressing their passions and desires for a relationship. Person D wants to be in a romantic relationship that could be defined as "gay," but finds themselves only sexually attracted to the "opposite" sex. As such, they are divided on whether to refer to themselves as gay or straight due to their blurry existence on this binary. 

Attraction may be a process that envelops and pours out on and through our bodies in tandem or it may be a very distant appreciation, a relationship without touch, a coupling without romance, a deep love without sex, yet still one that is valid and deserving of fulfillment. When attraction opens up, so do the identities that many of us construct our individuality upon. Is someone still to be classified as "straight" or not if they are heterosexual and homosensual? Is someone to be classified as "gay" or not if they are homosexual and heteroromantic? While it is presumed that most often attractions tend to not run in such immense social conflict with one another, these binaries may begin to destabilize as more people are encouraged to express the complexities of their actual attraction-based positions rather than defining themselves upon the gay and straight binary that is heavily embedded in society. 

As the attraction aperture expands, exploring attraction in more depth may challenge and change the meanings of various labels, from "straight," to "gay," to "queer." When does one gain access to queerness, and does any convergence from "hetero" attraction open that person to queer identity? Understanding attraction in this multi-layered way operates in inherently subversive respects to these binaries and the current status quo. Of course, at the forefront of this movement are ace and aro people, who have been identifying by these various forms of attraction beyond sexual and romantic for many years. It is there, out on the horizons of queer intelligibility, that attraction exists as a multiplex of love, intimacy, connectivity, passion, and desire. It is where expressions of attraction between humans are no longer based solely in the sexual, where passions beyond sex no longer are eclipsed, and where they may break free from its dark shimmer to be free.

 

Michael Paramo is a gay aro ace Latinx graduate student researching (a)sexuality, gender, attraction, and intimacy. They created and have served as the lead editor of The Asexual journal since October 2016 due to an intense passion to uplift and amplify the narratives of ace people. They intend to apply for PhD programs to continue their educational journey in Fall 2018.


About the Editors

Vol. 2, Issue 1

 

LEAD EDITOR

Michael Paramo is a gay aromantic asexual Latinx grad student studying (a)sexuality, gender, attraction, and intimacy. On the gender spectrum, they gravitate nearest to agender followed by male and prefer they/them pronouns but accept he/him. They created The Asexual journal after witnessing an absence of ace-centered discourse on queer-focused and general media platforms. They presently manage the journal and website. They are currently finishing an MA program in American Studies and will be submitting their PhD applications in Fall 2018.

 

EDITORIAL BOARD

Ai Baba is an aroace agender PhD candidate studying race, gender, and a/sexuality in modern Japanese history. Besides working on her dissertation, Ai is currently volunteering with the Asexual Census Survey Team, and also founded "ace to ace" (http://ace2ace121.wordpress.com ) to connect aces in Japan. Twitter: @not_alibaba.

Geoffrey Colaizzi is an androromantic demisexual agender person located in northern Virginia. They are an undergraduate student at George Mason University, and has presented their research on asexual relationality at the National Women's Studies Association in 2015 and 2017. While going to school part-time, they also work as a full-time HR intern and a part-time HR assistant. Over the past six years, Geoffrey has also been an activist in their spare time working to expand ace/aro awareness and inclusivity in local queer communities and spaces. Twitter: @inqueertime.

Evelyn Elgie is a queer ace poet, artist, and academic. Her work deals with mental illness, asexuality, deconstruction and landscape, and in particular a radical re-imagining of our cultural understanding of sex and romance. She holds a BA in Contemporary Studies and Creative Writing from the University of King’s College, and her poetry has appeared in Open Heart Forgery, Glass Mountain, and Hinge: Journal of the Contemporary. She is about to begin her master’s degree at the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia.

Katie Halinski is a non-binary grey-asexual from London. They are currently doing a PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic at the University of Cambridge, where they are researching human-bird interactions and bird symbolism in Old Norse culture. In their spare time, they enjoy playing bass guitar and watching films (the stranger the better). They can be found on Twitter as @Liminalitea, where they mostly post about kaiju, cats, the stranger parts of medieval culture, and mental health.

Joe Jukes is currently studying for an MA in Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex, UK. Their primary research interests concern theory, including Queer- and Gender Theory, Critical Theory as well as Cultural Geography and Rural Studies. They have published in The Asexual before, in the Body Issue, and are hoping to pursue a PhD working towards the creation of “Asexual Theory.” Their Twitter can be found here: https://twitter.com/JoeeJayyy.

sydney khoo is a non-binary and queer writer, born in new south wales, australia to malaysian-chinese parents. though typically located crying in starbucks or tweeting in mcdonalds, they can occasionally be found posting creative essays and short stories online. follow them on twitter @sydneykerosene.


Supporters

Vol. 2, Issue 1

 

The Asexual is an independent space that relies on donations of $1.00 or more via Patreon to fund this journal for ace writers and artists. Without this support from our patrons, The Asexual journal would not be possible.

Major supporters of The Asexual journal are currently donating $5.00 or more per month:

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Geoffrey Payne
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Julie Rozen
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If you would like to support The Asexual journal, visit Patreon.com/AsexualJournal.


All works in The Asexual are created by writers, artists, and creators who identify under the ace umbrella. Owners retain copyright of work upon publication but agree to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights and print rights as well as electronic and print archival rights. Owners also agree that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information visit TheAsexual.com. Cover photography by Michael Paramo.

 

Copyright © 2018 The Asexual

Vol1Issue4Back.png

Vol. 1, Issue 4


Asexuality and Race

Vol. 1, Issue 4


Asexuality and Race

The Asexual, Vol. 1, Issue 4

Lead Editor: Michael Paramo

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo


On Asexuality and Race

When an examination on the intersections of asexuality and race was announced as the upcoming theme of The Asexual, a minor, yet adverse, reaction to the direction of the issue ensued. One of the central purposes of this journal has always been to exist as a space that amplifies the voices of those who are the most marginalized and invisibilized within the ace community and beyond. In congruence with this objective, a message on the significance of prioritizing the voices of ace people of color and decentering the whiteness of ace spaces was explicitly asserted upon this issue’s announcement. This prompted a minority of responses questioning whether this was a valid stance, amidst a larger reaction of support.

The Asexual maintains the priority of centering ace narratives, perspectives, and activism universally, but especially those voices that so often go unheard. Regarding asexuality and race, as well as ethnicity, a recent community census conducted by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) concluded that an overwhelming majority of ace people identify as both white and non-Latinx. While this data, garnered through an online survey of thousands of ace people, does not provide a comprehensive perspective on the issue, it indicates the connections between whiteness and asexuality. Although there are numerous reasons why this may be the case, none of any validity should assert that there is simply a lack of ace people of color.

Overall, this issue broadly undertakes an examination of the many intersections of asexuality and race. It has adopted a diversified approach to addressing this theme, incorporating a range of writing and art, from personal narratives by ace people of color, perspectives by professionals and academics in the field of asexual awareness and activism, to projects and platforms that challenge exclusionary and problematic representations in media. The forthcoming pieces in this issue may additionally explore and connect with related themes of asexuality and ethnicity as well as transnational asexualities. The Asexual hopes for this issue to function as a necessary collection that propels these unobserved themes forward.

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The Asexual relies on support through donations of $1 or more via Patreon to fund this journal and website for ace writers, artists, and creators. Without this support, The Asexual would not be possible.

Support The Asexual on Patreon


Table of Contents

el ace

Julie Mejia

 

Indian Aces: Awareness and Activism in India

Dr. Pragati Singh

 

Well

Ashley Kleczka

 

Queen of Aces

Mandy

 

I Don’t Give A Fuck

Victoria Kee

 

Racing Ace: Asexuality, Race, and Social Justice

Lauren Barbour, Elyse Jones, and Alina Osborn

 

La Virgen

Kamy Martinez

 

Examining the Whiteness of the Ace Community

Michael Paramo

 

Finding Me

Nemo Siqueiros

 

I Am Asexual

Julie Mejia

 

Thoughts, Musings, and Life.

Bella

 

Verbalizing Attraction

Deepa Prasad

 

Rose Garden

Julie Mejia

 

Free Toy Included

Sydney Khoo


elace.jpg

el ace

Julie Mejia

 

Acrylic paint on a canvas
6 inches by 4 inches

Growing up Latinx, I struggled to find representation, even within queer Latinx communities. Asexuality is often looked over, if not completely ignored. This piece is my attempt to shine some much-needed light to the queer Latinx community.

Julie Mejia is an undergraduate at UCLA with a major in Sociology and a minor in LGBT studies. Julie grew up in Pasadena in a Colombian-American household. They/them pronouns.


Indian Aces: Awareness and Activism in India

Michael Paramo interviews Dr. Pragati Singh

 

Dr. Pragati Singh is a medical doctor by qualification and has worked as a public health professional in the fields of maternal, child, and reproductive health in India. Apart from this, she also holds an interest in specific fields, such as mental health, sexual health, and sexual mental health. In her personal time, she founded Indian Aces, a collective for asexual folk in India, in 2014, in the form of a social media page. She has been working pro-bono for the asexual community in India since. Today, the collective possesses a presence in both online and offline spaces, including multiple cities in India, as well as a few outside, such as in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

From her experience and learnings garnered through working within the ace community, she has developed her own unique model on sexuality which she teaches during workshops and training sessions. Pragati Singh is also an independent researcher. Her research study on asexuality was selected for the World Association of Sexual Health congress held in Prague in 2017, where it was presented in both the poster as well as oral presentation formats. Her findings were also published in the prestigious Journal of Sexual Medicine by Elsevier. Pragati Singh joins The Asexual for an interview on her advocacy and perspectives on asexuality.

MP: What originally led you to become an advocate for ace people in India and Indian ace people abroad?

Dr. PS: Honestly, I had no idea I'd be doing what I'm doing today when I started. When I first started looking online, I remember thinking there just HAD to be some community in India. I was surprised to find out there was just nothing. Absolutely nothing. I then waited for a while, assuming someone would come up with something. Again, nothing. In the meanwhile, I'd come across many Indian folk looking for fellow ace Indians all over the global community platforms. At one point, I just went, “WTH, I'll do it.” So, I started with a modest Facebook page. That's all I knew I could do. It lay redundant for a long while, where in I would occasionally post something, and then I forgot about it altogether. Then, someone texted into the page. I realized how important it was that I continue and don't stop. It ushered me back into action again in early 2016. And there's been no looking back since. Simply put, people needed it, no one else was doing it, and I knew I could do it. Today, I can also say I really like doing it. Back then, I didn't know.

MP: How has your experience in the public health fields of maternal, child and reproductive health, as well as your background as a medical doctor by qualification, influenced and supported your work?

Dr. PS: In all my academic and professional experience, there's been little to no discourse regarding sexuality, even though I've studied medicine and worked in reproductive health. This is pretty much the norm here. Sexuality just isn't in the forefront yet. We still have mothers and neonates dying from sepsis, diarrhea, and hemorrhage. Sexual health just isn't a priority. In fact, whatever understanding I have of sexuality today, is honestly in SPITE of my medical education. That being said, I feel like my qualification helps add credibility to the cases I make. Such as, me saying that hormonal imbalance does have an effect on libido or that certain medications do affect arousal, probably doesn't sound as far-fetched to my audience as it would if I were not a doctor.

MP: What is the Indian Aces and what is the story behind its creation?

Dr. PS: Today we are a self/non-funded, award-winning collective for asexual folk (or those on the spectrum) from or in India (or the Indian subcontinent). Started in 2014 and relaunched in early 2016, the community has grown by leaps and bounds. It serves as an online community platform, generating awareness, and receiving new members into their secret group on Facebook. Members also participate and represent in various LGBTQIA+ events and platforms that have so far been devoid of representation from the asexual community in India. We organize meetups for community members all over the country and have been able to do a few internationally too. We conduct independent research on the subject, and conduct workshops for professionals and allies and aces to understand sexuality and asexuality.

MP: How is asexuality in the Indian, or larger South Asian context, uniquely challenging?

Dr. PS: I'll speak mostly for the Indian subcontinent, though there are many similarities in all South-Asian cultures. Sexuality is a hugely taboo topic in India. This is not limited to personal spaces, but even academic and professional spaces. Additionally, the many other problems of third-world countries take precedence over sexuality-related issues, which are largely considered unimportant or at least non-critical. Never mind the fact that we have the world's largest youth population. Never mind the fact that sexual harassment and abuse is rampant in our nation. Never mind that marital rape is not considered rape as such in Indian law. To top all of this, there is no real sex-ed in our educational institutes, and the pressure to get married, by age 25 for women and age 30 for men, is huge in our culture. All of this basically means that for someone who's asexual in India, their adolescence would be a period of great confusion, owing to the lack of awareness and agency available right now. Their youth may probably be marred with unhealthy, broken relationships, with multiple failed attempts at having a “normal” youth experience. Then possibly getting married to an increasingly resentful partner, or worse, an abusive one.

MP: You have been leading workshops and talks on asexuality recently, such as an “Asexuality 101" workshop in New Delhi and a presentation at the World Association for Sexual Health in Prague. What have you found most inspiring about all of the important work you are doing?

Dr. PS: The best part of all of what I do, hands down, is the fact that people need it. It is evident to me that I mustn't stop, because people are constantly writing in to me asking for help, guidance, and a sense of belonging to a community. I constantly receive messages of appreciation and gratitude from people who felt alone and out of place for the longest time. There's nothing else that could motivate me the way that that does.

MP: From October 22nd to October 28th, you held several events for Asexuality Awareness Week. What are some particular challenges you have faced amplifying asexuality?

Dr. PS: In India, there is/was no real awareness on the subject of asexuality for the longest time. Somehow, in the past year or so, it has suddenly become a topic of great interest. This might sound like a great thing, but it's actually quite counterproductive because a lot of the information that's being peddled out is actually misinformation. They're feeding into all the myths about asexuality that I've worked so hard to erase for so long. It seems like media houses are all in a hurry to cover this “trendy” subject and are causing harm to the cause in return.

MP: What are your aspirations for the future of Indian Aces?

Dr. PS: I want the collective to become more widespread and community-led. While I'd always want to spearhead it, I wish more members would take it up as passionately as I do and take it up in whichever capacity they can. I've also been sitting on a matchmaking tool for the longest time, but again, it's hard to do everything alone, especially in the lack of funds.

MP: Thank you so much for your time, your advocacy, as well as for offering your perspectives on Indian Aces and asexuality for this issue.

 

Website: www.IndianAces.info

Facebook: www.fb.com/IndianAces

Twitter: @IndianAces_

Email: IndianAcesFTW@gmail.com


Well

Ashley Kleczka

 

Each state that knew my name

held it in its mouth only moments before spitting it out.

A multitude of times removed from a sense of belonging

that I keep searching for in the well of family history

 

Three steps down, and six feet under

I find the seeds of what could have been

Planted in soil that died long ago -

So I keep digging

And find nothing but dead ends

 

I mourn for the roots of mine that died before reaching water

Too much of one thing and too little of another to be considered ‘same’

Learning shame in the darkness of forgetting.

 

Each state that knew my name

Never knew that it didn’t belong to me, but the bitterness remains

An identity washed clean of heritage in stolen water

I’ll keep searching, but the roots will stop with me

 

Ashley Kleczka’s “Well” represents the poet’s longing for a connection with their grandfather who passed away before they could know him. Having been raised in a nomadic lifestyle and with the knowledge that the surname they carried wasn’t of any relation (due to familial complications) - it left the poet feeling like their heritage was stolen from them despite how hard their grandfather fought to make the journey from Veracruz to California.


Queen of Aces

Mandy

 

It started when I was thirteen.

Or, well, I guess you could say that the incidents could no longer be ignored after that point.

Before that, there was climbing up trees, riding bicycles and scraping knees; which gradually turned into “Them vs. Me” when dares to see who could reach the highest branches of a tree morphed into dares surrounding talking to boys. They would giggle and flip their hair, on the sidelines of the football pitch. I grew bored of watching the boys have all the fun, and fell into books.

Falling into books eventually turned into a full-blown argument where I was told I was too cold, uncaring, and a freak for wanting to spend more time buried in fiction than chasing after boys or gossiping about boys, or talking about boys, or… you get the idea.

They’d always been fake friends, though – more friends due to ease of access, as we all lived on the same street, than anything else. So, I shrugged off their accusations, shrugged off the months of lying to my face and behind my back, and dove even deeper into books.

The books I was reading then didn’t feature romantically inclined heroines, pining for the surly bad boy; they were still innocently gripping and sweeping adventures that I could lose myself in completely.

Thirteen changed things, though.

It usually does – first official teen year. First period. First tangible signs of hormones. First… boyfriend?

I gave it a try.

Physically, I was developing the way everyone said I should, and with that development, came societal expectations.

Thirteen came with sly glances from adults whenever I was near boys, less than subtle smiles and prodding remarks. And with it, the notion that everyone felt nervous to the point of nausea before a first date filtered into my consciousness.

It was normal to agree to a date with a guy and then feel so queasy you cancelled three times before actually going on the date.

Perfectly normal.

Expected, even.

Eventually, I forced myself past the nausea and stuck to it.

My very first boyfriend arranged for a group outing to the cinema, so the parental units wouldn’t know it was a date. He held my hand, we split the popcorn and drinks prices from our pocket money.

He broke up with me the next week at school.

All those nerves, all that worrying, and for what?

“You didn’t even care that I was there,” he said, shrugging. “You were more interested in talking to your friends.”

I pretended to be devastated.

My friends took up arms against him and his supposed slight to me, but I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t even be sad. All I felt was the overwhelming relief that I wouldn’t have to feel that terrified again.

After all, John had been right: he’d put his arm around me in the cinema, and I hadn’t noticed until the movie was over, too busy exchanging whispered observations about the movie with Luana who was seated on my other side.

I shrugged it off. Who needed boy drama when there were books to read and school to study for anyway?

*

When I was fourteen, enough time had gone by. I couldn’t hide behind the cinema disaster anymore.

I was expected to want to date, and no amount of trying to reference the cinema fiasco would get the questions about crushes and hot boys to stop.

I developed what, in hindsight, was probably a bond borne out of desperation with a guy I’d met online. And more than likely entirely fake, too. In retrospect, he was the ideal first crush for me: older, so he ticked the bad boy box; lived an ocean away, so no risk of ever having to meet him in person, or, god forbid, go on a date with him.

I lied through my teeth about him, and the entire situation. He was a good friend, who took me under his wing in a bustling online community. To my school friends, he was my dangerous older boyfriend from Norway who sent me pretty necklaces I’d really just gotten on sale off Amazon to sell the lie.

I was so desperate to fit in, to not be different or weird, a fake boyfriend was preferable. It made my friends swoon and sigh at how thoughtful or romantic he was, and also made sure I was left alone about crushes in real life – I was off the market.

Eventually real life interfered, and I was losing track of all the lies I had been telling, so I fake broke up with him, and that was that for another full year.

*

Fifteen was when it all spiraled out of control, like a freight train hurtling towards a brick wall without brakes.

And all I could do was watch in silent horror as my friends’ well-meaning meddling turned my life into a drama-infested mess.

The books I read changed too. They told of heart-stopping romance and swoon-worthy boys with dark hair and light-colored eyes.

So when asked about my crush, I adjusted accordingly.

I thought long and hard about it and then finally decided on the tallest boy in the class, Brian. Brian was blonde, so not quite the perfect image of the swoon-worthy boy from fiction, but he did have green eyes. All my friends nodded along, quite happy to accept that as fact.

“Of course. Then, if you went out, you could still wear heels.”

It was said like it was a foregone conclusion that if I’d had a crush on a shorter boy, heels would not be an option. Like I needed to be careful about hurting a fragile male ego if I dared to be taller than my date.

Still, that had been why I’d picked Brian, so I answered enthusiastically.

“He’s so your type!”

Was he?

“It’s his eyes isn’t it? So dreamy.”

Sure…

Truth was, Brian was actually a decent guy. But, after I singled him out as my supposed crush, it felt weird to even talk to him. I was always hyper-aware that someone could have said something to him and things could get awkward fast. It spiraled out of proportion. And because I always told them they weren’t allowed to try to set us up, the entire situation eventually boiled down to storms of giggles whenever we were around each other.

And then, confusingly, a completely different boy, Luis, asked me out, and, in a panic, I said yes.

There was a brief repeat of the awkward cinema scene, only without any friends around to buffer, his arm around me and his face that seemed to inch closer and closer just made the whole situation awkward. I ended up running out of that cinema room in a near panic attack and never spoke to Luis again. Another friendship ruined.

So when Paul kissed me – really kissed me – on sports day, I was confused. It had come out of nowhere.

For me, it had, anyway. My friends were quick to prove otherwise.

“No, he held the door open for you last week!”

“He asked for help with those dance steps.”

“He asked about the book you were reading.”

My confusion grew, as I realized that yes, he had done all those things, but somehow, for some reason, I had assumed he was just being friendly.

“Yeah well, we always thought he was gay and Pamela was his beard, so thanks for proving us wrong!”

They dissolved into giggles and I followed along, all while trying to grasp the situation I’d somehow landed myself in.

I never did manage to understand it.

Still, it got my friends off my back about Brian. And Luis. Now all they wanted to talk about was Paul.

Was he a good kisser?

He must have been, because so-and-so had reported we’d made out for very long. I couldn’t remember. The entire event was just one long span of surprise, followed by thoughts of how weird it felt to have someone else’s tongue in my mouth, followed by the pervasive thought of “this is awkward.” Where are the fireworks I was promised, and what the hell do I do about my teeth?’

I answered all their questions the way they expected me to, and that was that.

A few weeks later, Paul broke up with me for his ex, and I could once again stop talking about it and return to hiding behind the “too hurt to mention it” façade.

*

I suppose some kind of clue should have started rattling around by that point.

It didn’t. Not even an inkling. I thought, you know, I was doing everything I was expected to do. I was going out there, was kissing boys – albeit reluctantly – and not telling my parents about it. I was following the “Adolescent Handbook,” just like all the books and movies said I should.

And if I didn’t quite enjoy it all as much as everyone else around me seemed to, I chalked it up to me being what adults liked to call “exceptionally mature for your age.” I guess it was some sort of defense mechanism that never allowed me to look at the differences too closely, because of what they might reveal.

So I just kept on keeping on.

At sixteen, I discovered that learning to ballroom dance with a boy was one of the single most awkward situations I could ever imagine myself in.

That one I blame on the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice, actually. Dancing to create intimacy? Cue me silently panicking in the background. 

But I soldiered through and learnt all the steps needed to be part of the court for my friend’s quinceañera. Even though she put us all in huge, bright pink, poufy dresses. And little tiaras. Yes, there are pictures. No, no one will ever see them ever again.

And then I got the hell out of dodge.

*

I love dancing. Have since a young age, so it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea of clubbing.

Most times, it was me and my friends on the dance floor, having fun and drinking too much.

Until one day when clubbing became less about dancing for the fun of it, and more about my friends finding people to go home with.

That was when I found out that clubbing involved being groped and fondled by men, and having their erections pressed into you in a not-at-all-subtle invitation for more.

I stopped going to clubs after that.

*

I know what you’re thinking: compulsive heteronormativity is a bitch, someone give this girl a girlfriend!

Yeah.

Ironically, my family actually started questioning my apparent heterosexuality before it ever occurred to me to do so.

Starting at around age 18, my family have questioned me at least twice a year. And if they’re not asking, they’re happily informing me about the Greek island of Lesbos, and how it’s full of lesbians.

I kid you not.

It’s probably my own fault, for not giving a firm “no” the first time I was asked, rather hesitantly, if the reason I never had a boyfriend was because I was interested in girls. I hadn’t come across any other information out there, so, at the time, my response was to shrug and reason that that were the case. I was pretty sure I’d know by then, right? It seemed like the kind of stuff that would be hard to miss.

They accepted the answer then and let it drop, but ultimately, they took the question and ran with it.

But they’re well-meaning in their meddling, and at least they’re happy to accept me not being straight. Which was good to know once I figured some other stuff out.

But more on that later.

*

As it turns out, I did eventually get the chance to explore that avenue of thought. Even with me actively trying to avoid situations where such things might surprise me, and having friends who are happy to leave me be, life generally just… is what it is for me.

And what life is, often, is highly sexual – for most people, anyway. Or at least, that’s my understanding of it.

And even after years of knowing this, that fact can still sometimes take me by surprise.

Which was how I ended up, at age twenty-one, awkwardly seated for two hours in a stunning girl’s living room as she plied me with drinks, and only then realizing that she probably expected the night to end very differently than what I’d been imagining.

I’ll rewind.

I stopped going to clubs at eighteen, due to the aforementioned inappropriate dancing. So I found myself a dance studio and discovered the joy of dancing again. For three years, that was uneventful and wonderful. The class was mostly girls, and after three years of seeing each other twice a week, casual friendships were formed.

Enough that I didn’t think to question Ellie’s invitation to have a Harry Potter marathon at her house one weekend.

I know, I know.

In my defense, I had done that before with a friend during high school. It took us a whopping twelve hours, with little more than breaks for food between movies. We also napped for most of Half-Blood Prince because we were both in agreement that it was a terrible adaptation, and by that time, naps were needed. And also, it wasn’t on Netflix, so the idea that this was somehow code for “Netflix and chill” didn’t even enter my brain. Because, why the hell would it? My brain just isn’t wired like that. Besides, I take my Harry Potter marathons very seriously, thank you very much.

Anyway, so I’m there, fresh glass of wine in hand and Harry has just landed himself in Knockturn Alley, when she pulls that classic arm-over-the-shoulder move that my first boyfriend had tried all those years ago in a dark cinema.

Something clicked for me then, as I stared at my wine, wondering how it was that I had managed to fuck it up so badly and be just that oblivious. I guess you could say that I am always more comfortable around women. Maybe that’s because that is the way I am romantically inclined, so I’m less likely to try to run screaming for the hills. Or maybe it’s just that I feel safer, like a fellow woman is less likely to force me into something I don’t want. Probably it’s a mixture of both.

Either way, I’m always less on guard around women – and that includes being less aware of any undertones that might be sexual. Especially when I feel attracted to them anyway; it makes me more likely to forget that the way I feel attraction is very different from how most people do. So, that one is kind of my fault, in that way.

Still, everything comes full circle, I guess.

Wine, a befuddled Harry on screen, a very interesting and very cute woman next to me, and an increasingly uneasy me watching Harry muddle his way through Borgin & Burkes as I try to figure out a way to extract myself from this situation I managed to, quite by mistake, land myself in.

To her credit, Ellie didn’t look confused when I pulled away, but instead gamely paused Harry’s reunion with the Weasley family to hear me out. For one terrifying moment, I thought I might have misread the situation and she had not, in fact, been coming on to me.

Thankfully, I was saved from that mortifying scenario. And Ellie, beautiful, kind Ellie, heard me out. She asked some questions. And then poured us some more wine, hit play on the movie and cuddled with me for the next six films.

And as I settled into the feeling of her arms around me, it occurred to me that sometimes, letting your guard down and forgetting differences can be a great thing.

 

Mandy grew up in Brazil, but has spent most of her adult life in London. An out and proud gay ace, she likes to read and write about people like her getting a happy ending. Writing about homoromantic asexual characters is a newfound love of hers, and she is enjoying the chance to bring to life characters that see the world through the same lens as her. You can follow Mandy on twitter at @mandyrosask.


I Don’t Give A Fuck

Victoria Kee

 

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I Don’t Give a Fuck is a new web series that focuses on the perspectives of Maya and Jasmine, two friends who fall on very opposites ends of the spectrum of sexual orientation. The reason I'm creating this series is to address the serious lack of accurate, relatable, and open representation of asexuality in media, and especially for people of color. In general, there's also still just a huge question mark that floats over the topic of asexuality, which demands the spread of awareness in response.

Firstly, Maya is an asexual who is straightforward and sassy. However, since she has to deal with the persistent societal pressures to date and be sexually active, she finds it increasingly difficult to be comfortable in her own skin. At times, it seems that she can only be herself in online spaces or with her friends, but, when she’s not busy building up her online social presence, she’s working as an intern for a small production house. 

Jasmine is an incredibly strong independent woman who – quite literally – “don’t need no man.” She’s an aromantic sex-positive pansexual who is a programmer by day and a writer by night. Not the type for commitment, she’s a woman who boldly embraces the freedom to express her own sexuality whenever and with whomever she pleases – carrying herself with confidence and allure, often against criticism from her family and the unwelcome opinions of men.

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Although the two women have different perspectives and experiences in life, they often depend on and support one another as they face their individual challenges of being queer women of color in their 20s. So, this series is here to continue that dialogue and to help people understand what asexuality is, how we view the world, and to understand that each person's experience as an asexual (or someone sitting on the spectrum) varies from one person to the next. As for Jasmine, who is hypersexual, she's a woman who's challenging the stigmas against open expression of female sexuality. The two girls have very different perspectives on life but can relate in how society and their traditional-minded ethnic communities ostracize them for being who they are. Beyond sexuality, though, IDGAF focuses on the journey and growth of these two women as they break cultural traditions and expectations, challenge ideals of body image, and more.

While IDGAF is a series that ultimately celebrates inclusion and diversity, the primary reason it’s being created is to give exposure to an incredibly underrepresented orientation, which is asexuality. There is a large need for people like myself who identify as someone on the asexual spectrum to be able to see their narratives represented. While the existence of Todd, an openly asexual character on Bojack Horseman, is a good start for representation, we need to ensure our representation is intersectional by putting more stories told from the perspectives of people of color, women, and/or gender non-conforming individuals. The series will provide that diverse experience, while also creating a discussion around the meanings of intimacy and attraction.

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/idgafwebseries/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/idgafwebseries/

Instagram: instagram.com/idgafwebseries/

Tumblr: idgafwebseries.tumblr.com

 

Victoria Kee, who commonly goes by the name “Vic,” is a 25-year old filmmaker based in Virginia. She recently began to identify as demi-sexual last year, and has since fused elements of sexual identify into the subject of her documentary work, which often also consist of themes surrounding black identity, family, and the mundanities of everyday life. Instagram: @soeulcinema, Tumblr: kodacchromes, Twitter: @Victoria_kee


Racing Ace: Asexuality, Race, and Social Justice

Lauren Barbour, Elyse Jones, and Alina Osborn

 

Conference: Creating Change 2018

Panel Presented: Friday, January 26th from 4:45 to 6:15pm

Session Title: Racing Ace: Asexuality, Race, and Social Justice

Session Topic: Racial Justice: Knowledge

 

Presenters:

Lauren Barbour: Demisexual, bisexual, and half Japanese. She/her.

Elyse Jones: Asexual, queer, and white. She/her.

Alina Osborn: Asexual, queer, and half Filipino. She/her.

All three presenters are students from The College of New Jersey.

 

Description of Session/Presentation in Conference Booklet:

This workshop will help attendees become familiar with and improve existing knowledge of compulsory sexuality versus non-sexuality and asexuality. Session leaders will discuss how conceptions of race affect the aforementioned sexual identities and practices. We will discuss the role asexual identity movements can play in addressing the racialized (a)sexualization of communities. Participants will practice their advocacy for LGBTQI* communities to be aware and inclusive of the racialized beliefs shaping discourses on asexuality, sex positivity, and compulsory sexuality. Attendees will be able to ask questions and receive practical advice for helping others understand asexuality as it intersects with race.

 

Purpose:

This interactive workshop will help attendees become familiar with and improve their existing knowledge of compulsory sexuality versus non-sexuality (or the absence of sexual desire) and asexuality (the experience of little to no sexual desire) and how these sexual identities and practices are affected by beliefs about race. This workshop will also look at the role asexual identity movements might play in addressing the (a)sexualization of communities. Participants will have the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the workshop on compulsory sexuality, non-sexuality, and asexuality by working to develop talking points that are aware and inclusive of these narratives. Groups are encouraged to reflect on their own lived experiences wherever possible to help participants ensure their existing advocacy efforts for LGBTQI* communities are aware and inclusive of the racialized beliefs shaping discourses on asexuality, sex positivity, and compulsory sexuality. Throughout the session, attendees will have a chance to ask questions and receive practical advice and tools for helping others understand asexuality as it intersects with race.

 

Objectives:

· Understand (a)sexuality as an intersectional identity that is shaped by race

· Learn concrete strategies to talk about (a)sexuality in ways that are cognizant of the involuntary (a)sexualization of racial communities

· Understand that an asexual movement must address the nuances of racialized sexuality before being able to argue for an identity-based asexuality

 

Summary:

After the three presenters introduced themselves and defined some of the key terms of the presentation, Lauren Barbour detailed the history of hypersexualized and asexualized racial communities throughout history. Then, Elyse Jones discussed modern asexual history and identity of the past 20 years, detailing how racial stereotypes and the existing whiteness of the asexual community are two factors that contribute to the ace community remaining white. Afterwards, Alina Osborn discussed the present and future of asexual activism and how steps can be taken to dismantle the overwhelming whiteness of the asexual community. The three presenters concluded by facilitating a discussion about inclusivity, allowing the audience to take away information to use in their own activism.

 

PDF Download of Presentation


La Virgen

Kamy Martinez

 

Digital Art
Illustrator Program
4950 x 6000 pixels

La Virgen is a digital piece I wanted to play around with in Illustrator and push for a more minimalistic style. I wanted to create the image of La Virgen that’s more of my style and that I could wear on a shirt. I also wanted to challenge myself on using simple patterns and shapes that I often see in my culture.

Kamy Martinez is a Chicanx digital artist who has lived in California for most of her life. She studied art in multiple universities and now teaches in an art program for people with developmental disabilities and in a university during the fall. Her artwork focuses mainly on cute characters, but she has a large range of styles. She has two cats: Kiki and Chispa. Twitter: @kamycatt
 

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Examining the Whiteness of the Ace Community

Michael Paramo

 

As reported in a 2014 survey by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) of over 10,000 ace people, 77.3% of the community identified as white and “NonHispanic,” 5.2% as white and “Hispanic,” 3.9% as Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.5% as Black or African American, 0.5% as American Indian or Alaskan Native, 6.8% as Mixed Race, and 3.8% as “other” or simply did not respond to the question. Despite the problematic categorizations utilized in this community report (which referenced the United States census), it concludes that the ace community is highly white racially and “NonHispanic” or Latinx ethnically. Although ace visibility is changing, whiteness still dominates the community. This may be partially attributed to the fact that “asexuality,” as a contemporary identity category, originated within selective and highly white online spaces, such as email lists and blogs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, at the inception of the internet’s ascension into widespread usage. As a term, “asexuality” has remained relatively elusive and esoteric, yet to be adopted within public education or by mainstream media outlets on a widespread scale.

There is therefore an intrinsic level of privilege required to even be able to self-identify as “asexual” or “ace.” Those who do not possess access or awareness of these online spaces, or an internet connection in general, are far less likely to access asexuality, may largely be unable to self-identify as asexual, and will subsequently not be understood as asexual or ace in the community as a result. Exposure to these terms of “asexual” and “ace” offline can be difficult due to their relative absence in mainstream or public discourse. As such, the asexual identity may continue to be predominately afforded to white people, both due to their privilege regarding accessibility as well as the fact that, once gaining access, or possessing preexisting access (in reference to the white creators of these online spaces where asexuality as a contemporary identity originated), they may be more likely to disseminate knowledge of the identity and term within bubbles that are dominated by others like themselves.

In this sense, whiteness can become self-containing. Those who identify as asexual today may continue to perceive, whether consciously or not, asexuality as an identity predominately for white people tomorrow. This cyclical perception may continue to loop as new ace people gain access to the identity of asexuality. A looping effect may hold the consequence of ensuring that white aces, who are newly realizing their ace identity, feel more accepted in ace spaces in comparison to people of color. On the other hand, ace people of color may automatically feel excluded or invisibilized within the community and may be less likely to engage and participate in activities that concern the ace community as a result, such as the very AVEN survey that frames this article. While the results of the ace community census may appear to support the conclusion that less ace people of color exist, this fundamentally is not the case. Rather, they are less likely to self-identify as ace due to accessibility as well as the whiteness of the ace community and its relational issue of self-containment.

At the same time, visibility is also important. Representation can be powerful and often makes people feel validated in their own existence or identity. This is especially true for those of us who are only acknowledged in a very limited capacity or within selective spaces, such as ace people of color. However, existing asexuality representation, as important as it is, largely perpetuates the whiteness of the ace community. While asexuality representation within mainstream outlets has only just begun to ascend, ace people of color are largely absent from this growing trend, thus embedding within general audiences who are exposed to these representations, whether consciously or not, that whiteness and asexuality are largely entwined. Simultaneously, ace people of color, who may already not feel included within the ace community, are not seeing themselves being represented in the limited amount of asexuality representation present, and thus may also internalize ideas of asexuality as a primarily white identity.

On the most apparent of levels, it is evident that whiteness in ace spaces should be examined and dismantled so that the ace identity and community may become more accessible and inclusive to ace people of color. There are multiple solutions that can address this problem, of which the most useful is simply centering and amplifying the voices of ace people of color more actively and prominently. This can operate as a mechanism to deconstruct the perception of the ace community as predominately white and allow for ace people of color to feel more included within ace spaces. Other solutions include continued awareness of the asexual identity, particularly within offline spaces (media representation is important), so that the identity begins to enter the lexicon and consciousness of the public rather than solely remaining a predominately online self-identity within mostly white spaces, of which it originated nearly two decades ago.

 

Michael Paramo is a gay aromantic asexual Latinx demiguy and graduate student who founded The Asexual in October 2016. They have presented their original research at several national academic conferences, including the National Women’s Studies Association and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. They have been featured for their work on asexuality by Buzzfeed LGBT, Anomalous Press, and The Cake.


Finding Me

Nemo Siqueiros

 

Finding Me was a program I started back in August of 2016 at KPPP-LP Fargo-Moorhead 88.1 FM Radio, which is actually run out of the home I live in. After graduating from Minnesota State University in Moorhead, I wanted to be a voice for queer people of color in the community amongst the majority of queer white voices that drowned everyone else out. However, in this conservative community, queer voices themselves are overpowered by whiteness, as queer discussion doesn't address intersectionality enough. This fits within the mission that the People's Press Project has asserted to give marginalized voices a platform. On this program, I focus on local community voices and new unheard voices on topics that the community won't touch or talk about due to concerns of politeness. This program is for their voices, their art, whether they are musicians or visual artists, their hopes, their fears, and even their questions and my answers from my perspective. People these days are under the assumption that their gender and sexuality are static or that they somehow can't change. But, on Finding Me, you will always be finding me, your host Nemo Siqueiros, to help find you.

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On December 6th, 2017 at 5 P.M., I aired a show entitled “Hiding Behind the Rainbow” that addressed the central problem of defining sexual assault with studio guests Cindy and Duke Gomez-Schempp, station managers and operators of the station, and allies. In this show, I specifically discussed Kevin Spacey’s actions of hiding behind the rainbow after his assault of a minor surfaced in the media. Spacey’s “apology” was terrible, especially in the gaslighting exhibited via his “I don’t remember it that way” or “sorry you felt that way” narrative while also revealing his gay identity as a distraction from his actions. I firmly assert that rape, assault, and pedophilia does not belong in the queer community. Many people experience assault and don’t even realize it. Also, rates of sexual assault in the LGBT community, regarding statistics of gay men, bisexual men, lesbian women, and bisexual women are higher in comparison to heterosexual men and women. Even though the body may respond, this doesn’t mean that there was consent. Verbal and clear-headed consent is necessary. Women assaulting women, even if they’re cis, and without a penetration of the cis male sex, are still rapists or assaulters. On “Hiding Behind the Rainbow,” I therefore ended by addressing the important question: what is consent? To briefly answer, body language and words are crucial. If you’re drunk or the other person is inebriated/unconscious, or, in other words, not 100% there or is silent, there is no consent. It stands to reason that if both people are intoxicated, that both people don’t make the right choices or read the correct social cues. Just as drunk drivers are held accountable for injuring or killing another driver.

“Hiding Behind the Rainbow” aired weekly as a rerun at 5 P.M. every subsequent Wednesday until my following program with new content was released on the first Wednesday of the next month. Regarding the illustrated cartoon accompanying Finding Me, as well as the title of the show itself, Chelsea Lyons Kent is a figure running in progressive circles, is a felon in Florida, and was a Bernie delegate in Hawaii when she flipped the bird to the camera. She condoned sleeping with both men and women as well as assaulting them without their consent as being her "right." Whether she's bisexual or pansexual is moot, assault and rape are not okay. I compare this concept with Kevin Spacey and his assault of a minor, who came out as gay in his “apology.” I juxtapose these two as using the LGBT community to hide behind concepts of queerness as being "weird" or "taboo," which is inherently homophobic and transphobic and throws the community under the bus to reignite the false myths that LGBT folks are "perverse" and will "harm children." These are myths we've been trying to run from since the beginning of the first brick thrown by trans women of color at Stonewall.

 

Radio Facebook & Twitter: facebook.com/nemopotatoes & twitter.com/nemopotatoes (@NemoPotatoes)

Art Twitter: twitter.com/anem0nefish/ (@aNEM0nefish)

Art Tumblr: art-nemonefish.tumblr.com/ (@art-nemonefish)

Radio Page: kpppfm.com/finding-me

Support Finding Me via the “Donate” and “Underwriting” tabs.

Ko-Fi: ko-fi.com/anemonefish

Bio Page and more: nemo-siqueiros.carrd.co

 

Nemo Siqueiros busted out of the closet to the general public in 2011 because of his involvement in his high school play, The Laramie Project. His castmates at Fargo South High had invited the Westboro Baptist Church to his community to boost ticket sales. He exposed homophobia despite his school doing little to prevent the harassment that followed for his whistleblowing. He graduated and majored in University Studies with focuses in Art and Anthropology at Minnesota State University Moorhead. There, he found his gender identity, his pronouns he/they, his identity under asexuality as demisexual, and defined his own brand of masculinity. Throughout high school, he published editorial cartoons at the High Plains Reader which helped practice his passion in cartooning and art. He now applies his skills at KPPP-LP 88.1 Radio in Fargo-Moorhead, creating the first LGBT-focused/intersectional program in the Red River valley, Finding Me.


I am Asexual

Julie Mejia

 

I am asexual

Generally speaking, this means I don’t experience sexual attraction

I see the feminine body and I feel nothing

I see the masculine body and I feel nothing

Now when I see the body of androgyny, a spark of interest ignites inside of me

But this is not attraction

This is excitement

Excitement in representation

This is because I see myself in that body

In a body that abides by no rules

In a body that encompasses everything and nothing all at the same time

This is because I am agender as well

But that’s a story for another poem

I am asexual

But don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate beauty

Physical beauty

But I don’t crave it, I don’t hunger for it

The way the stereotypical 12-year-old boy hungers for the swimsuit models in the magazines

I don’t feel that

The way a closeted queer person sees their first same-sex celebrity crush on the screen of their television and realizes who they really are

I never had that

I didn’t like anyone

I tried to feel something

I tried

I tried

I tried to look at them with the eyes of desire

But I felt nothing

Not attraction

Nothing

It just wasn’t me

I am asexual

But my definition

My experiences

My words are my own

Don’t take them as gospel

They’re far from it

I am asexual

And for me it means I don’t find people to be physically attractive

For me it means I don’t crave sex or physical intimacy

For me it means that if I’m with my partner I will kiss them

I will hold them

I will show them the highest level of intimacy that I can

But it’s not rooted in physical attraction

It’s not rooted in how sexy I think they look in that tight skirt

It’s not because that new button-up shirt is getting me all hot and bothered

It’s not because they are so damn thick that I can’t contain myself

It’s because that’s how I show them I care

That’s how I show them love

I’m asexual

And I can be affectionate

I can have sex

…if I want to

…or I could not

Whatever I do that’s my business

 

Julie Mejia is an undergraduate at UCLA with a major in Sociology and a minor in LGBT studies. Julie grew up in Pasadena in a Colombian-American household. They/them pronouns.


Thoughts, Musings, and Life.

Bella

Bella is a 20-year-old Mexican law student who is interested in various issues, from human rights, to fashion, makeup, music, languages, and tv series. She loves writing and sharing her thoughts with others, as well as engaging in debates and conversations of topics she’s passionate about. Website: https://isaleala.wixsite.com/itslabellastyle


Verbalizing Attraction

Deepa Prasad

 

They say, I’ve always loved in parts, and it has always confused me. Is it loving in parts if that’s the only way you can love? If “parts” are all you will ever feel and have to offer? 

Attraction isn’t one single entity, although most people see it that way. There’s aesthetic, sensual, romantic, and sexual attraction. It has been claimed that about one percent of the population falls on the asexual spectrum, and we only ever feel some of these types of attraction or perhaps none at all. For the rest of the world, it’s all bundled together. If one type of attraction is missing, it’s considered as something lesser. 

You don’t love like other people do. You aren’t attracted to other people the same way your peers are. These words rattled around my head for years. It is true. I’ve only ever wanted an intellectual and emotional connection with my potential partners. The fact that they were sexual beings never crossed my mind. It was just something that never occurred to me. It was jarring. Was I supposed to think of them that way? How does one go about thinking of someone sexually, anyway? 

The first boy I ever had a crush on was pretty. I liked his high cheekbones, his long lashes, and warm brown eyes. I liked the way he smiled, like he had some mischief at play. And that was it. That was the beginning and the end of my crush on him. He was pretty. I never found out more because I moved away. 

I moved to a foreign land, my fourteen-year-old world turned upside down. We spoke the same language, but it didn’t mean the same in our worlds. I grew, more than I could have ever imagined. I learnt new crafts I fell in love with. I soaked up the beauty of the new land and I still think that a part of me lives there. 

The second time I liked someone, I fell for his brain. We shared our love for design and art. We traded secret words and secret smiles, only in the way shy teenagers could. Intellectual love was all I could ever offer him. Perhaps it could have grown but that didn’t matter. I moved away again. 

I spent the next few years trying to fit into the culture I was born into. It didn’t fit well, like when someone with slightly bigger feet stretches out your shoes. I gave up trying and let me just be me. 

I didn’t meet my third love until I was in my late teens. I loved him for his fearless attitude. We had little in common, but our ambitions held us together. We grew closer in the pursuit of our lofty dreams. But it wasn’t enough. He found love in someone else, and suddenly, we weren’t even friends anymore. 

I did what was healthy and moved on. I focused my energy on things that gave me joy. I poured my soul into it. I poured it into my craft, my sport, and the people in my life, in hopes that it would wash away the bitter taste, and it worked. 

My fourth love was by far the best. I loved him for all that he was. We shared almost everything, our deepest fears to our wildest dreams, and no judgement was ever between us. It was like slipping into your favorite old t-shirt after a long, hard day. Sadly, my love was too slow, and the moment had passed. 

Discovering my asexuality was a three-year journey. A slow, three-year journey, littered with small “a-ha” moments. When I come out to people, they always ask, when did you know? The truth is that there was no single specific moment. It was this slow realization that I wasn’t attracted to people in the same way. I thought about potential partners in a different way. Reflection helped understand how I was attracted to other people. My last two misunderstood romances helped me understand how my attraction is perceived. 

It takes me time to realize if I’m attracted to somebody. Call it oblivious, call it indecisive, call it whatever you want but I am just not immediately attracted to people. I need more information about the person to actually be attracted to them. Even after that, I’d only seek out an intellectual and emotional connection with them, which can be easily misconstrued as friendly. Now, I realize that I don’t know what it is that indicates crossing that boundary unless I verbalize it. I know what It means to me. I can feel it in my bones. Those feelings are hard to verbalize. It sounds like I’m offering them friendship when it’s much more than that. How do I explain that the “connection” they conceptualize as friendship represents a lot more to me? What does “more” mean to an asexual, anyway? I don’t know. So, for now, I’m stuck between friend and friendlier.


Deepa is a grey-aromantic asexual. Born and raised in India, currently in Philadelphia. She's a UX Designer by day, an amateur wordsmith by night. Instagram: @leapingcows


Rose Garden

Julie Mejia

 

Acrylic paint on a canvas
6 inches by 4 inches

One of my first attempts at exploring the female body through art. The roses are meant to symbolize all the beautiful powers of vaginas, but most specifically, the female ejaculation. 

Julie Mejia is an undergraduate at UCLA with a major in Sociology and a minor in LGBT studies. Julie grew up in Pasadena in a Colombian-American household. They/them pronouns.

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Free Toy Included

Sydney Khoo

 

I’ve never eaten a Big Mac before.

            My parents raised me Buddhist, and most Chinese Buddhists don’t eat beef. As a child, whenever my mum took me to the McDonald’s at Liverpool Westfields, she ordered a McChicken burger for herself, and a chicken nugget happy meal for me.

I never questioned whether there were other options to choose from.

Growing up as a second-generation Chinese Australian, I was constantly learning that the norm was actually just my norm.

When I’m four, I learn not all families eat rice at dinner. At eight, I figure out not everyone goes to Strathfield on Sundays for three hours of North Shore tutoring.

It’s not until I’m ten I learn you don’t have to learn a musical instrument – and that there are, incredibly, instruments other than piano and violin. And, of course, in my very own typical late-bloomer fashion, it’s not until I get into high school that I learn you don’t have to go to university.

Those things are optional. There are loads of people who don’t do any of those things and live to tell the tale.

“Wait until university to date.”

“Wait until marriage to have sex.”

Turns out those are optional too.

I’m told the steps are as follows: 

1.     Find the right person

2.     Fall in love

3.     Get married

4.     Live happily ever after

 

It’s not that the right person is hard to find – I just don’t get the point. Why do I need this ‘right person’? What purpose do they serve? It’s like being told to bring a plus one to McDonald’s for breakfast, except McDonald’s is life and breakfast lasts forever.

I mean, I could, but do I really have to?

Are steps 1-3 mandatory, or are they optional?

I’m simultaneously a teenager and an adult when I discover the term asexual. The TV adaptation of Sherlock has just been released and social media is going wild with speculation over Sherlock’s sexuality: Is he gay? Is he bi? Is he ace?

It’s imperative to know. The fanfiction depends on it.

Ace, I learn, is short for asexual. It’s 2010 when I google the definition. It’s the same, today, as it was the day I read it:

Asexual: a person who does not experience sexual attraction

At the time, I think nothing of it. It has nothing to do with me. I experience sexual desire. I like orgasms. In fact, I love orgasms. Orgasms are the best invention since chicken nuggets.

It’s not til later that I learn there’s a difference between sexual desire and sexual attraction.

Sexual desire refers to the desire for sexual activity, whilst sexual attraction refers to the desire to engage in sexual activity with another person.

To put it in cruder terms:

Sexual desire = I’m horny.

Sexual attraction = I’m horny for a person.

Turns out, it’s possible for asexuals to experience sexual desire. In fact, you don’t even have to experience sexual attraction to have sex. It’s common for asexuals to participate in sexual activity for any number of personal reasons, the same way heterosexual people might have sex for different reasons.

When I’m 16, I ask my mum The Question.

“Can you order me a dildo online?”

We’re in the car. The only indication that she’s heard my question is the car swerving slightly. I’d been planning this conversation meticulously for months. She can’t ignore me or walk away if we’re in the car, and she can’t yell at me if she has to focus on driving.

“Mum,” I say. “Can you order me – ”

“What for?” she interrupts.

I flounder. Does she want me to say it? “What do you think?”

            “I wouldn’t even know where to get one,” she replies, hastily.

            “I’ve emailed you the website,” I say. “And I’ll pay for it myself.”

            What can she say to that? I’m already not allowed to date or have sex. This is me, doing what I’m told.

“I picked one that’s on sale,” I sing-song. “50% off the recommended retail price. Free batteries included.” If there’s one way to win my mother over, it’s bagging a bargain.

It must be convincing, because two weeks later, there’s a brown box on my bed when I get home from school.

From my mid-teens to early twenties, I maintained the label celibate, namely because the terms bisexual and pansexual didn’t feel quite right.  Bisexuals experience sexual attraction to two or more genders. Pansexuals experience sexual attraction to all genders.

Wearing those labels felt like sleeping in a bed that wasn’t mine. As comfortable as the mattress was, as clean as the sheets were, I woke up irritable – unrested.

In retrospect, it makes sense. After all, I don’t feel sexual attraction to any gender, let alone two or more.

Demisexuals experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional bond with someone.

While it’s technically possible I just haven’t ‘met the right person’; it’s just as possible there is no right person because I don’t experience sexual attraction, period.

It’s hard to realise you don’t feel something when you’ve never felt it.

It’s like asking someone to give you a call if they see Birdie The Early Bird when they have no idea who that is.

My first long-term relationship is my last.

Surprisingly, sex has nothing to do with it.

It ends a little after one year but should have been ended much sooner. I hated it, being somebody’s other half, like I’d been merged with another until we no longer resembled two individuals anymore. I was no longer my own autonomous being. It was unbearable.

If that weren’t bad enough, after a lifetime of adhering to my parent’s wishes, once I was free, I had to constantly consider this other person. If I wanted to bugger off to another country for two years, I’d have to ask them first. If I wanted to adopt a child, I’d have to ask them first.

I didn’t wait 18 years to leave the nest, only to fly into someone else’s birdcage.

There is an important difference between romantic attraction and sexual attraction. Unlike sexual attraction, which is the desire to have sex with other people, romantic attraction refers to the desire to be romantically involved with other people.

I’ll give you an example: Grimace might be sexually attracted to all genders, but only romantically attracted to one. He might want to have sex with all genders, but only want to date other men.

Aromantics, or aros, are people who don’t experience romantic attraction. Not all aromantics are asexual, and not all asexuals are aromantic, but there are people who are both.

You already know where this is going.

The day I come out to my parents, I’m living in London. I invite them to stay in the dingy flat I’m renting for two thirds of my paycheck, and take a week off work to take them site-seeing.

It doesn’t go as well as I expected.

“Well…” my dad says, wiggling his moustache thoughtfully. “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?”

“We’re your parents; we worry about you,” my mum coos, clasping her hands together. “We just don’t want you to be lonely.”

Suddenly, I’m a child all over again.

The liberation that comes with adulthood is not something I take for granted. The ability to come and go as I please, to eat what I like and do what I like – it makes me unbearably giddy when I stop to think about it.

Sometimes, after going to the gym, I drive to McDonald’s and watch cartoons on my phone while eating a happy meal on my own. I post a selfie with the free toy to Twitter. It gets about five favs and only one of them will be from my mum or dad.

The problem with telling someone maybe you’ll like it after you try it is you’re essentially saying, “I know you better than you know yourself,” which is highly unlikely.

My parents will protest this. It was probably true when I was a child, but is definitely not true now.

How can I be so sure?

Ask either of them to write a list of my top ten favourite kinks.

There is no one, in this entire universe, who knows you better than you know yourself.

I wish someone had told me this in my early twenties. I wish someone had bought me an Oreo Mcflurry and an apple pie and told me, “You are the only one who has lived through what you’ve lived through, thought your thoughts, felt your feelings. You know yourself better than anybody else,” then vanished in a flurry of wizard robes and pixie dust.

Instead at 22, a straight boy in a snapback waggles his eyebrows at me and says, “Maybe you haven’t met the right dick.”

And hey, maybe it’s true. Maybe this guy I’ve just met knows me better than I know myself.

I mean, I’ve spent a good portion of my life thinking I’d hate having a bird crap on my face, but maybe I haven’t met the right bird.

What the hell do I know?

It isn’t as simple as preferences. It’s not as simple as, how do you know you don’t like strawberry-milkshakes if you’ve never tried them, because having sex when you don’t want to is different to trying new foods. After all, how do straight people know they’re straight if they’ve never had sex with someone of the same gender?

I propose to you, a different question:

How do you know you wouldn’t enjoy having sex with Ronald McDonald if you’ve never tried it?

Before you protest, yes, there are some people who would love to have sex with Ronald McDonald. Some people would consider that an honour. That majestic clown face smiling slyly at you. Lips red as freshly-squirted tomato sauce. Sizzling kisses, hot from the grill, pressed against your neck. Smell of special sauce stimulating your senses.

Some people are really into that, and that’s fine. But for some people, like me, having sex with Ronald McDonald isn’t all that appealing.

Have I tried it? No.

Am I sure I wouldn’t like it? Yes.

“You’re really missing out.”

I get told this a lot, and, unfortunately, not always in regard to eating beef.

In fairness, it could very well be true.

Maybe I am missing out, by not dating or doing-the-do. Maybe I’ve deprived myself by not having sex with Ronald McDonald. Maybe Ronald McDonald is the most incredible lay ever and all the nausea and discomfort I feel when other people touch me will vanish when I’m held against his sunshine yellow jumpsuit. Maybe Ronald McDonald is ‘the right person’ he would add a whole new level of happiness to my life that I can’t achieve any other way.

Maybe in an alternate universe where I bang Ronald McDonald, lick sweaty white paint off his cheek and fist my hands in his curly red hair, I experience an emotional and sexual awakening that the gods would envy.

Maybe down the track, we get married, and have beautiful half-clown children, and keep a weekly sex schedule to work around soccer games and clown-teacher meetings, or whatever normal people do.

I think I’m okay though, not living that life.

“Are you ever disappointed?”

I ask my parents this every few months. As happy as I am, that insecurity is still there, lurking at the back of my mind like the Hamburglar ready to steal my chicken burger even as I’m sinking my teeth into it.

Sometimes it’s over Skype or Facebook messenger, but sometimes, in a rare burst of courage, I’ll ask them in person, conscious of their matching wedding bands, and the way they naturally gravitate towards each other, like it’s more normal to be together than be apart.

 “Disappointed about what?” dad asks.

“That I didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer,” I clarify. “That I’m not married with 2.5 kids, a Lassie dog, and a Volvo.”

“No,” mum says. “Those people are boring anyway.”

“Yeah,” dad agrees. “Why is everyone in a rush to settle down? You’re still young. All of that can come later.”

“And if it doesn’t?” I ask.

“We’re proud of you,” mum says. “Even if you never listen to us.”

“And who knows,” dad adds. “The right person might come along when you least expect it.”

It’s 2017 and I’m at my local McDonald’s. I’ve still never had sex, or a Big Mac.

The cashier calls out ‘chicken nugget happy meal, apple pie and medium diet coke’. When I go to reach for the tray, another hand brushes mine.

I’ve never met someone with the exact same order as me.

The moment our eyes meet, it’s like every other person in the world disappears.

Just kidding.

McDonald’s have automated self-service stations now and no one ends up with the same order number.

Plus, I don’t make eye contact with strangers if I can help it.

Every week, I set aside a day where I get dressed up real nice, and take myself out. Sometimes I’ll watch a bad horror movie at the cinema and go to McDonald’s after, scroll through my Twitter feed, send a couple of messages to friends. If the internet is asleep, I’ll listen to music and read fanfiction.

            Later, after I get home, I’ll spread myself out on my bed, and thank myself for the perfect date, in the best way I know how.

            At least twice.

 

sydney khoo is a non-binary and queer writer, born in new south wales, australia to malaysian-chinese parents. though typically located crying in starbucks or tweeting in mcdonalds, they can occasionally be found posting creative essays and short stories online. follow them on twitter @sydneykerosene.


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All works in The Asexual are created by writers, artists, and creators who identify under the ace umbrella. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights and print rights as well as electronic and print archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information visit TheAsexual.com. Cover photography by Michael Paramo.

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Vol. 1, Issue 3


Asexuality and Body

Vol. 1, Issue 3


Asexuality and Body

The Asexual, Vol. 1, Issue 3

Lead Editor: Michael Paramo

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo


On Asexuality and Body

A human body may be nothing more or so much more than its physicality. As potential onlookers, we often consume anatomical and phenotypical qualities of bodies at first glance. Our perceptions may produce quiet whispers, seeping into our unconscious, or silencing screams, accelerating our heartbeats, but each body tells us something. What the body conveys is informed by the culture(s) we inhabit, from the media, family, church, school, and more. Our bodies themselves are reproductions and (potential) reproducers of this culture, as we become entangled by its desire for self-continuation. Our bodies are consumed in this self-perpetuating cycle. Is our body our destiny? Is transcending this system possible? We still can and do resist and disrupt, decolonize and deconstruct, unlearn and unpack, at least, we may try. Whether our efforts will triumph is an impossible question for another time.

If our bodies are the reproductive machines of society, where does the asexual body fit? How does one even define an asexual body? At the very least, asexual bodies are often left unmarked within society. One may be asexual, but this is difficult to discern through perception alone. Rather, our identities are often learned through our own intimate and/or public confessions, frequently producing disbelief and numerous other points of affect in the audience. In this transitional and critical moment in which we may decide to share our asexuality, our bodies quickly transform into subjects for dissection. Does what we say match what they see? Do our bodies look asexual to the audience? For certain bodies, being “asexual” already pre-exists as an assumed or impossible quality, with intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, age, queerness, fatness, disability, and hegemonic conceptions of beauty, among other variables, constructing this equation of understanding.

The forthcoming pieces by authors under the ace umbrella grapple with questions and concepts suggested in this introduction, examining topics of body positivity, identity management, reproduction, health, navigating relationships, intersectionality, and more to explore this theme of asexuality and the body.

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How to Disappear Completely

Ashley Kleczka

 

Oil and Conte Crayon Mixed Media Painting
24” x 48”

"How to Disappear Completely" was painted during a time in which the artist was first starting to readdress their personhood after coming out of a long-term emotionally and sexually abusive relationship. After many years of having their sexuality and identity invalidated it was a struggle for them to feel like their body was their own, and worth feeling comfortable in. It was a cathartic process that needed to pass in order to move on. If there is one thing that the artist has learned while on this journey of self-discovery, it's that being Ace doesn't mean being less of a person than anyone else.

Ashley Kleczka is a non-binary illustrator and game dev with an interest in fantasy, video games, and sitting down with a good book. They generally identify as greysexual and bi-romantic; a status that their now-husband is very accepting and supportive of.

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An Asexual Awakening

Emily Karp

 

Until I was almost twenty-four years old, I found myself still trying to solve the puzzles of sexuality. I was especially trying to figure out where in the picture I might fit. I believed the framework encompassed every adult human, so the question I asked wasn't if I fit, just where. Gradually, perhaps a part of me realized that only asking “Where do I fit?” over and over again was not revealing any answers, and maybe the question had to shift. Deep down, I stopped feeling merely curious to understand in the abstract, and started feeling like my whole self was wrong. The simple truth was that I did not intuitively know the answers, despite the fact that everyone around me seemed to possess such intuition. When I set off on a quest of understanding, no one warned me what I might uncover: that the equation had never even accounted for a person like me existing.

Starting in my preteen years, I found a lot of things very confusing. Did I believe that God really existed? (No, but I didn't yet know that atheism was a valid option, so I struggled internally with this question a bit, confused at the concept of having faith and avoiding admitting my actual lack of belief). Was my mother’s parenting style harmful enough to count as abuse? (Yes, it was. In fact, when I turned eighteen I cut off all contact with her, to protect my own mental health and possibly also physical safety. She still doesn't know I’m an atheist or asexual).

And then, there was that broad subject of human sexuality. That one was a doozy.

Continuing well into my teenage years, I abstractly questioned what emotions and thoughts were supposed to arise when I looked at someone that had captivated me. As a person clearly going through puberty on a typical schedule, I had learned that we all were supposed to experience the emotions and thoughts of crushes, and find certain people to be attractive. I certainly expected to be included in the experience. Since I was a girl, I knew these feelings would most likely occur towards boys. However, even if I turned out to not be attracted to men, all that would be remaining would be women, since everyone was supposed to be attracted to at least one of those two genders.

Eventually an array of television series and novels starring teenage characters, in combination with sentiments from peers and adults alike in my social circles, had convinced me that having crushes must have already started for me. I was still feeling confused by the whole notion of attraction—so clearly, I needed to do a better job analyzing my own experiences.

I would try to figure out if there was a chance I might be attracted to women, all the while aiming to determine which men were my type. Then, I'd leave the question alone for months—or even possibly years—at a time. Much later, I concluded that sexual desires were things I’d never feel, and so on some level, they'll always be a mystery to me. But with each passing year, the mystery felt more overwhelming—grew urgent to become demystified, even. I didn't know asexuality existed. I thought my mind and body were normal. However, a new feeling of cognitive dissonance was slowly emerging within my mind, threatening to tear me apart. Normal minds don’t struggle so much with this question. Normal bodies… well, it's a long story.

In my only romantic partnership, a relationship which spanned months, I revealed my body to my boyfriend. He treated me with nothing but kindness, and seemed to actually appreciate my body exactly as it was, both clothed or unclothed. I had been unprepared for him to have such positive feelings for my body. My body is overweight, my hair often full of frizz, and my face is just as acne-ridden as a teenager’s and without any makeup to hide the blemishes. Society had instilled in me a shame over how I looked, but here was a twenty-two-year-old guy who felt only respect and admiration for me, and as a twenty-three-year-old in her first significant foray into long-term dating, I floundered.

I felt uncomfortable—in fact, in a vague sense, I felt on the brink of violation—to know I was wanted in a sexual way. I didn’t understand yet that I was sex-averse, and therefore being the star of someone else’s sexual fantasies would mean that they would be wanting something from me that I could never give. My boyfriend wasn’t imagining me, but rather a non-existent version of me that wasn’t a sex-averse ace. In hindsight, I realize that imagining me in that light stripped me of such an inherent, defining part of my entire lived experience. However, I didn’t know how to frame those feelings and reactions at the time, so I tried to be grateful for his compliments of my body, and for finding me sexy.

My boyfriend didn't do anything wrong, but my relationship with him left me in a constant conflict between how I wished I felt versus my true feelings, as well as in a state of denial about how atypical my complete lack of libido was. My boyfriend had been incredulous to learn that I'd never masturbated; it wasn't conceivable to him that a person might not have the ability to get aroused, to orgasm. It wasn't merely that I had never felt a strong urge to “get off”—I physically cannot get aroused. I tried my best to honestly explain how I’d only just begun to realize that my body might be a bit dysfunctional in that regard.

It’s hard to explain just how much internalized shame I possessed over having never masturbated. It started with my insidious small-town public-school health classes. There, I’d had the woefully inadequate type of sexual education where one learns all the reasons abstinence is ideal and then eventually learns, much later, from a pop song’s lyrics or a television show's jokes, more details about what sex entails.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to learn, which I eventually did from podcasts I listened to and videos I watched on YouTube, that women can masturbate. Even if many women don't… I was taught that they all are capable of it. It was implied in a lot of the secular feminist spaces that I frequented, that all women should, from a moral standpoint, be pleasuring themselves and are missing out on a joy of life if they aren't. The attitudes towards women who hadn’t orgasmed were pity at best and harsh judgment at worst. The concept of a teenage girl or young twenty-something-year-old woman physically not being able to become aroused at all was never mentioned, not even in passing.

Unless you’ve experienced hermeneutical injustice firsthand, it is really hard to sympathize with just how broken or lonely you feel every time you hear a throwaway joke about how everyone masturbates and how if anyone says they don’t, they must be lying. These seemingly knowledgeable people caused me to doubt it was even true that I had never been sexually aroused, because they had never heard of such a person existing. Losing one’s sex drive from age, injury, drugs, or a hormone problem is possible. Existing without libido is not even taken into consideration. Even among asexuals, experiences like mine often feel forgotten or invisible.

I’m grateful I found the word “asexual” when I did. It took me a few months—and a lot of attempts to fit inside a heteronormative mold—before I finally accepted that I'd never feel sexual attraction, desire, or arousal. Lack of arousal was central to my journey; for roughly a decade it’d been holding me back from understanding myself. Once I was with my boyfriend, I developed a hypothesis: I might feel something like sexual desire if only I could figure out how to get myself aroused. So, I researched arousal and desire as much as I could, and then I tried being somewhat sexual with my boyfriend. I did these things mainly because I couldn’t accept I was ace until I had confidence that my body definitely wasn’t going to get aroused—when I was sure I had tested a variety of scenarios.

A few months before I reached my twenty-fourth birthday, I realized that all of this effort, this research, this experimenting with sexual stuff, was for naught. I wasn’t willing to subject myself to physical pain, which is sort of what not being aroused leads to when a cis woman tries to do anything with her genitals. This meant I was left with the option of embracing a new future for myself, a sex-free future. It only seemed like a choice because I finally knew there was an asexual community out there—a community that thrived on puns about disliking sex and where I wouldn’t be the only person unwilling to have sex in my future.

I figured out I was a non-libidoist, sex-averse, asexual—who was also kissing-averse—and immediately ended my relationship with my boyfriend. The breakup was amicable enough, and I only cried once. My emotions hit their peak when he validated me by saying he knew I couldn’t choose my sexual orientation and that it wasn’t my fault. We ended things because of sexual incompatibility, and afterwards, I never doubted for even a second that the breakup was necessary.

While getting into my pajamas one evening, I came to the realization that my underwear probably would never be seen by anyone else except me, ever again in my life. Remembering with wry amusement that my mother had once spent hours raging over the new bras I'd purchased not being sexy enough—she had called them “old lady bras"—I now knew that in my future I'd never have to stress or feel shame over my bras. In fact, I’d never have to show anyone my naked body ever again. I wouldn’t have to stress or feel shame over my stretch marks, or body hair, or whatever else anyone cared to have critical opinions on.

I had an epiphany about how my underwear and my nakedness were no longer only shielded most of the time, as there is no until I am in a sexually active relationship again. It was—and is—so very freeing for a sex-averse person such as myself to know all the inevitable sexual intimacy I’d thought had been in my future was no longer inescapable. I simply chose to reject it. It is empowering to know certain areas of my body are fully my own, just for me, for all of the foreseeable future. I reclaimed my body from a hypothetical uncomfortable future that I thought was my destiny before I had the framework and words I needed to understand myself.

Of course, there are still obstacles occasionally, such as with shopping for clothes. I understand now that I prefer to embrace a modest type of femininity when possible. The less sexy a straight man would be likely to find me in the outfit, the better—and yet I still do want to feel pretty. My ideal scenario is for other people to see me as attractive in the same exact way that I find people attractive: aesthetically, rather than sexually.

I now understand my aversion to people finding me or my body sexy. Knowledge really is power. I do my best to embody the type of prettiness that I want others to notice. In addition, I’ve discarded my shame over how I’ve never once orgasmed or even felt aroused. If I need to remind myself to be okay with myself as I am, I consciously think about how my life so far has already been full of plenty of joy and excitement in more than enough non-sexual ways. I’m more comfortable in my own skin than ever. I come out as asexual on a pretty regular basis to various family, friends, and acquaintances. I feel truly happy, confident, and at peace.

 

Emily Karp is a 27-year-old living in Maryland who has known she was asexual since she was 23. It has, however, been much more recent that she determined her complicated romantic orientation fell between panromantic and aromantic on the gray-aro spectrum. She co-hosts the Recovering from Religion podcast. She blogs about a variety of topics, including asexuality, under the pseudonym luvtheheaven, on the WordPress blog From Fandom to Family. Most of her closest offline friendships these days were formed through regularly attending her local ace meetup, Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic.


Being Asexual and Overweight

Krystal Cooper

 

It seems that in society today we are told that skinny is better and more attractive, and being overweight is, not only unhealthy, but unattractive. If you’re overweight that means you’re less likely to find a significant other, romance, considered unattractive, etc. For the longest time, I have struggled with being overweight due to a combination of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism. I did everything I could to lose weight because I wanted to be like the other girls in school. I wanted to be thin, have a boyfriend, and be popular.

The funny thing is, I didn’t want a boyfriend for the romance or relationship. I just wanted a boyfriend to feel normal. Most of the girls I knew were boy-crazed, so I just went along with it to feel like I fit in. In fact, most of the things I did in middle school were to fit in. I put myself through a lot just to feel like I was normal. In the eighth grade, I joined a gym that I walked to after school every day. I worked out for about two hours every day, not including the required physical education class that I took. I went on diets and even stopped eating briefly, all to try to lose weight.

When it didn’t work after a year, I honestly gave up. I didn’t know I had PCOS at the time. That was something I would find out in tenth grade. So, I gave up, and continued being the shy, quiet, girl who focused on nothing but schoolwork and books. All through high school I wondered what it would be like to be thin, to have a boyfriend, and to be normal. All I wanted was to be normal, because, in my mind, I wasn’t. I was overweight, which must have meant that I was ugly, which meant no boys would want to date me. I resigned myself to a life without a significant other.

Then, I graduated from high school and started college. I was still shy, overweight, and I still hadn’t had a boyfriend. I began wondering if I was weird or abnormal because I had never had a boyfriend, or kissed a boy. I had never danced with a boy at a school dance. These things haunted my mind, and it all went back to one thing: being overweight. I concluded this to be the cause of all of my problems. It was why I was so shy. It was why I never had a boyfriend. It was why I felt the way I did. I was so quick to blame my problems on my weight. I was so quick to even think that those were problems to begin with, because I still believed that those things were normal.

Eventually I had to take a human sexuality class for my degree, and honestly, I was nervous to have to take such a class. I, from a young age, never wanted to talk about sex. I thought it was disgusting, and I felt uncomfortable watching or reading about sex scenes. However, that class ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. We started our section on human sexuality and suddenly, there it was in my book, the term that would change my life: Asexuality.

I had never heard of it before, and I was curious. I read about it in my textbook, and then I did some online research, and suddenly, everything clicked for me. I realized I wasn’t abnormal, and there was nothing wrong with me. I was a sex-repulsed asexual. That moment was very freeing to me, but I still had a long way to go. There were still times that I had my doubts. Maybe I was only saying this because I hadn’t ever had a boyfriend. I still thought I didn’t have a boyfriend because of how I looked. It wasn’t until recently, last year actually, that I really accepted who I am.

Accepting my sexuality actually helped me with my body image. It made me realize that I don’t need to be skinny to attract a significant other because, ultimately, I didn’t really want a significant other anyway, and even if I did, I would want someone who likes me in spite of my weight. It also made me realize that the only reason I should lose weight is so I can be healthier. In the last year, through eating healthier and exercising more, I have lost weight, despite all of the obstacles. When I have setbacks, I don’t feel as bad anymore either. The pressure to be thin so I can be attractive to others is gone, and it is a true relief.

That’s not to say that I still don’t have my troubles. I do. Society is still so focused on the importance of being thin and attractive. Sex is still everywhere. Being overweight and asexual now, there are people who are not always nice to me. I’m told my sexuality isn’t real, or that I’m just confused. I’ve been called “fat,” “whale,” “ugly,” and so many other awful things. The difference is, in the past those comments would have had me in tears, and now, I am confident in who I am, for the most part.

I just want others to be confident now. If there is any way I can inspire even one person through this writing, then I have succeeded. We in the asexual community have a long way to go in gaining understanding and acceptance. We who are overweight have a lot to overcome in terms of discrimination and body shaming. The only thing I can think to say to you, at this moment, is that there is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful, not based on what you look like, but by the things you do, and the way you treat other people. Don’t let other people tell you who you are. Decide that for yourself.

 

Krystal Cooper is a 27-year-old, recently realized sex-repulsed asexual whose main goal right now is to spread awareness and gain acceptance for the asexual community. She has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Ferris State University and an Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Northwestern Michigan College. She has a passion for writing and social justice causes.


Body Shaming

Mehreen Qaisar

 

My life is poles apart

In comparison with counterparts

When I was thin, I was considered physically weak

When I gained weight, I was labeled as meek

I wonder why body shaming is considered an art

By the so-called tarts

There is always a possibility

Fatness is associated with Asexuality

Why show just the negativity

When being “Plus size” is not disability

There should be just one goal

Love must come from the soul

Those who love someone’s soul

Don’t talk about body & troll

I would suggest to fellow aces to just follow one’s heart

Because conforming to Society’s ideal body image won’t make you smart

 

Mehreen Qaisar is a young Pakistani Feminist & Researcher in the government organization; her area of interest is Gender & Human Rights. She is a Body Positive Ace born with Asperger’s Syndrome; she has disdain for any feminist & human rights movement which is not inclusive. Can be reached at Twitter @Mehreen_Qaisar


Asexual Insight on the Male Homoerotic Body

Joe Jukes

 

When articulating thoughts regarding asexuality, discussion often centers on those processes, structures, and politics which “other” us, as does this essay. This isn’t to locate myself and fellow ace-identified people definitively as a singular “Other”, but rather to interrogate far-reaching politicisations that cause us all to individually, as well as collectively, become marginal. Indeed, asexual writing can and does centre asexual experience(s), and learns “from” them. In this instance however, I place the starting point of this argument as the asexual experience, insinuating that such writing is contingent on an asexual involvement with the subject matter. An exploration of the asexual body requires appropriate understandings of the makings of sexual bodies. Attuning writing to marginalisation, ahead of experience (though the two are simultaneously linked) lays bare potential pathways for asexual reimaginations and liberation. This essay therefore attempts to unpack gay male sociality through critical markings of ‘desire’ and description of ‘markets’, amongst other observations, in order to highlight the profound entanglement of sex within gay male communities.

Bodies, it seems, are not as individual as one might assume. Moving through space, they sit within and disturb various threads that form a spun web of meaning pertaining to - for the purposes of this essay - the body, and whose effects play out there. One may refer to this web as “culture”. The body lies across it, and therefore is delineated by narrative threads of class, race, gender, ethnicity, normative ideas of ability, and the list goes on. It is informed by and transforms their influential threads in its very materiality. That is to say we internalise, consume, and embody a culture saturated with meaning and sex. Sex mediates in part through desire, which is both a product and a driver of the cultural capital afforded to/through race, class, gender, ability (...). Desire nests itself within bodies, and is also enthusiastically taken up and reproduced by them, such that it structures sexual inequities psychologically and socially through an interpersonal, intercorporeal ‘gaze’. The body is at once a canvas of desire - sexual, aesthetic, classed, raced (...)- that is detailed and coloured by an erotic gaze, as well as the locus from which desire might, and does, emanate and (pro-)create, and where desire is readily received. To elaborate, the individual acquires desire(s) out of sexed-culture, which connect the individual’s body to other bodies psychically through erotic gaze. Desire, administered by socio-sexual gaze not only subjects the body of an(-)other but is also readily taken up by a subjected body in acts of conformity which too, are desired.

The web of culture that bodies hold themselves within and traverse is, then, spun from (sexual) desire itself and along the lines of social inequity that hold together a perilous, yet resilient, norm. However, placement and performances of bodies in relation to this context vary, as does a corresponding, corporeal value. A pursuant political economy operates, then, according to certain sexual-cultural laws. The asexual body - nonetheless sexed, classed, gendered, racialised (...) through extrogenous gazes and one’s own performances - is denied the socio-sexual capital that desire dictates. By way of repetition: despite an erotically-driven plurality of sexualisations within (Western) culture, which is acted out of and upon bodies, those bodies which do not engage normatively with sexual conventions and attractions, if at all, are marginalised and valueless.

Culture is of course not singular. The contours of significance within economies of social capital fluctuate with context. Inequities are still reproduced or altered, like smaller or separate webs in reference to the aforementioned entanglement. Within the gay community, the context from which I write, such a thought proves useful. (Neo-)Liberalism and individual freedoms do little to liberate bodies from the meaningful strands that they operate along and across, rather, they engage in internalising and reproducing these strands. Masculinity remains cooly dominant, whiteness retains its assuredness, disability continues to be largely overlooked, and class, to name some examples, is exoticised or fetishised. Shifted, yet similar, powers within gay culture operate, by and for ‘desire’ - a desire still heady from recent decades of newly permitted sexual autonomy, freedom, and visibility. Desire thus, crucially centres on the appearance and practiced behaviour of a ‘body’, and from a point of cultural specificity pertaining to the desirability of certain class(es), race(s), gender(s) (..), gazes. In doing so, desire is able to ascribe value onto gay bodies in a way that is specific to the community. The narratives that are concluded upon by and enacted out through a homoerotic gaze are taken up, learnt, repeated, practiced, and reified by those scrutinized bodies: perhaps in cathartic conformity.

Further, gay male bodily dynamics desire categorisation for consumption. Categorisation of bodies, allowing for variety in a strict production of typified figures: “bear,” “twink,” “otter,” “geek,” “jock,” et cetera., originates both from a strict adherence to sexual and social capital within the community, but also for the utilisation of that capital within Western gay male political economy, through consumption. It follows that gay male bodily politics physicalises sexual literacy. This is to say that communication becomes contingent on mutual adherence to and understanding of (homo-)erotic bodily codes. To provide an example: a body endowed with little hair, fair skin, a slim physique, and youth will be categorized as “twink” within a homoerotic desirability framework, whether the occupant of said body consents or not. Within the name “twink” lies the aforementioned bodily traits as a kind of shorthand, but also expectations of behaviour, temperament, preferences, all imbued with sexual meaning. It is also worth noting the great variety of categorisation afforded to white bodies in contrast to a remarkable homogenisation of black and brown bodies. Thus, a culture of socio-sexual consumption emerges within gay male communities. Moreover, it emerges out of a “desire to desire”, in which homoerotic desire is fundamental to gay sociability, and that operates through socio-sexual categorisation and capitalisation.

Yet, the self is an active agent in these processes too. One’s own body is not just a site of construction (gazed and desired into certain sexual types), but becomes also a site of autoconstruction. Just as one consumes and desires within the realm of the gay male sexual economy, they also consume oneself. Conforming in gay male sexual markets is survival in as much as it is control, because of the way such politics have emerged unchecked by privilege within the community. (White) gay male ‘aesthetic’ is a widespread, well-known, and importantly marketable phenomenon and practice, in which the body is the subject of homoerotic desire, as well as its host and form. The paradox of sexual politics is that one steps into being both a consumer and the consumed, the acknowledgement of which also leads the self to consume and appraise the body of the self against and in likeness to the subject/other. This is perhaps accentuated in the gay male circle, as physical likeness prompts bodily categorisation. The desire to be categorised, and thus affirmed, desired, and validated, embodies complicity in a process of bodily caricaturisation that the body, with its agency, tends to strive towards.

Consumption and autoconsumption become key themes when put against contemporary incidences of gay male eating disorder, self-harm, and over exercise (which needless to say, also overlap). The body, in being a site of homoerotic desire, is subjected (by the self) to commodification in a brutal process. These issues are too often not attended to in compassionate ways due to community-wide silence and taboo, owing to the complex structuring of gay male desire and sexual economy as a self-congratulating, self-regulating, and self-policing system that enforces and applauds conformity.

To centre the above in the asexual experience requires the acknowledgement that sexual proficiency, literacy and conformity demand to be learnt by all in the gay community, regardless to what extent they experience sexual attraction, if at all. An asexual criticism brings the powerful markets of homoerotic desire into question, and in doing so, highlights the way bodies are subjected and categorised in harmful ways. Gay and queer asexual masculinities could challenge erotic bodily regimes but at the same time exist precariously within them. What is certain is that critical asexual rigour can help to further explode and explain the wide, deep webs of sexual culture that we find ourselves tangled within.

 

Joe Jukes is reading for an MA in Sexual Dissidence from the University of Sussex, UK. Their research interests include gender and sexuality studies, cultural geography, and critical theory. They also direct theatre, and create video content to do with asexuality, academia, mental health, and more at the Youtube channel JoeeJayy (https://www.youtube.com/user/joeeJayy). 


When You Say “Body,” I Say

Maribel C. Pagan

 

Water laps, nipping in the distance

amidst the desert sands,

an unborn vessel shriveling—

a mirage in the desert.

 

My legs spring, pounding against sand,

slipping it away beneath my bare feet.

Before the mirage escapes my clutches,

I try it on:

 

one                  size                  fits                   all,

adapting flesh and skin          sweater

adopting blood                       dry bones

    brittle         withered         rampikes

dotting            horizon           grey sky.

 

Painkillers                  body                pain

leaves behind             mind

 

—a Picasso painting

studded

blemishes unsuitable

for a god.

 

Maribel C. Pagan is a Latino homeschool graduate. She has appeared in 7x20, Cuento, Blue Marble Review, Zaum, Planted Word, Persephone’s Daughters, and others. She has received the Junior Reading Giants Award, has made the President's List in Mohawk Valley Community College, and has received 5th Place in the Word Weaver Writing Contest, among many other awards and scholarships. Additionally, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Seshat Literary Magazine, a Prose Reader for Apprehension Magazine, a Poetry Reader for Frontier Poetry, and a singer and musician for The Angelic Family Choir. Visit Maribel at http://therollinghills.wordpress.com/.


Considering Intersectionality and (De)Sexualizing Asexual Bodies

Michael Paramo

 

Disbelief is the immediate reaction I have most often received upon revealing my asexuality to others in my life. There is a sense of shock that envelopes them as the root of their belief in the innateness of a sexual drive or desire for sex is unconsciously unearthed. How can people with no interest in sex possibly exist? Of course, some asexuals actually do have sex and possess sexual desire, but they are absent from societal perceptions of what asexuality is or should mean. On a societal level, the “naturalness” of sex is pervasive, and therefore asexuality is largely deemed an impossibility. At the same time, invalidation applies differently to asexuals based on how their asexuality correlates with perceptions of their physical body. Under oppressive systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, anti-fatness, able-bodiedness, and other hegemonic systems of oppression, certain bodies are inherently sexualized or desexualized. This applies to asexual bodies as well. Asexual people must navigate identifying and expressing their asexuality differently due to how their body is understood in this manner. The nuances of how this may actually function for every asexual person in the societal equation of sexualization versus desexualization is a complex consideration that requires far more in-depth analysis than this short essay will provide. As such, this discussion merely serves as an introductory framework discussing how asexual people must navigate expressing their identity in relationship to how their body is perceived differently based on their embodiment of overlapping social identities.

For the asexual whose body is inherently sexualized, they may be deemed to be too inherently sexual to be asexual, directly conflicting with their ability to claim and have access to the identity of asexuality on a societal level. Thus, the asexual that is sexualized under hegemonic gazes not only counters understandings of asexuality as an impossibility, but also must navigate a heightened level of disbelief, invalidation, interrogation, and subsequent violence that may be initiated by the non-asexual who objectifies their body as a sexual object. This is especially true for asexual women whose bodies are innately perceived as sexualized objects under the male gaze and are thus not only forced to navigate expressing their self-identification as asexual because of its existence as a force that counters the sexual objectification placed upon their bodies, but also must consider how openly expressing their asexuality may be perceived as a threat to the fragile masculinity of men who invest their identity as a man in the sexual domination of women’s bodies. Women of color are subjected to heightened levels of sexualized objectification in comparison to white women, just as women’s bodies that are perceived as thin or attractive are sexualized over women’s bodies that are seen as fat or unattractive, and just as younger adult women are sexualized to a greater degree than older adult women. All of these variables are of absolute necessity to consider for the asexual who exists in a society where sex is seen as a prize that provides sexual value to bodies that are perceived as desirable under hegemonic gazes.

For the asexual whose body is desexualized, they may already be understood as existing in a state of being that does not include sex, and may therefore be societally understood as “asexual” already, even though this would be flawed understanding. Still, in a society that glorifies sex, the desexualized asexual is already understood as undesirable or a “failure” due to their perceived nonsexual state of existence attached to how their body is perceived. Because a desexualized body under systems of oppression may already be understood as sexually "worthless," for the desexualized asexual, expressing their asexuality openly does not necessarily conflict with hegemonic gazes, as it does with the bodies of sexualized asexuals. For example, the bodies of fat asexuals are already subjected to being understood as worthless sexually by hegemonic gazes, and thus, claiming or asserting one's asexuality in the presence of those who reinforce societal narratives will only result in a further state of worthlessness being placed upon them. This is because, under hegemonic gazes, fatness is generally already desexualized and perceived as “disgusting.” Thus, for the fat asexual, because their body is already desexualized, expressing their asexuality may already be assumed in a manner that is meant to be demeaning or insulting, and thus, self-identifying as asexual may be met with less outright resistance in comparison to the sexualized asexual. Similarly, this can be applied to other groups, such as older asexual people and disabled asexual people, whose bodies are generally desexualized under hegemonic gazes. However, it is critical to emphasize that while self-identifying as asexual may be met with less overt disbelief or resistance in comparison to the sexualized asexual, the desexualized asexual also remains invalidated, trapped in a compounded state of perceived worthlessness due to their identity and perception of their body. The desexualized asexual who engages in sexual activity and/or possesses sexual desire, as some asexuals do, will have to navigate greater levels of invalidation, both in relation to their sexual activity as an asexual and as someone who possesses a desexualized body, both within and outside of the ace community.

While this essay has reduced the sheer complexity of this issue to a few general examples for the purposes of brevity, the central point remains: in either state of existence, whether sexualized or desexualized, the asexual person is not validated or empowered. When considering intersectionality, while the sexualized asexual must counter opposing forces of sexualized objectification forced upon them due to their embodiment of overlapping social identities that has given them "sexual worth" under hegemonic gazes, the desexualized asexual may have to navigate being understood as "sexually worthless," left to deconstruct the notion that they should even be validated or invalidated based on societal measurements of sexual attractiveness. In conclusion, I plan to expand this discussion regarding how the asexual whose body is inherently sexualized or desexualized must navigate interpretations of their identity in relationship to perceptions of their body differently based on their embodiment of social identities further in the future through incorporating scholarly research, interviews, as well as my personal experience as an asexual person.

 

Michael Paramo is an asexual Latinx demiguy located in southern California. They are currently a graduate student who has been selected to present their research at national conferences, such as by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music's U.S. branch, the Popular Culture Association, as well as the National Women's Studies Association. They are the founder of The Asexual and the Editor-in-Chief of The Asexual journal. Twitter: @Michael_Paramo


Inside Out

Ms. Ace

 

My Body

Is a mess of muscles and joints

A calamity of bullet points for a doctor to look at and tell me what's wrong

To sing me a song of diagnostics and treatments to make me seem typical

When we both know that typical is something I'll never be

 

My Brain

Is a catastrophe

A wasted scene of hopes and dreams that'll never be achieved

Leading to a series of highs and lows that go on like a rollercoaster

Leaving me a shattered and shaking mess in a matter of minutes

Wanting to imagine the dreary days away

 

My Body

Is a calamity

Wracked by the grief of being disabled

And the numbness of being too small for my own good

Stomach churning, never yearning for something everyone seems to want

Body blooming, everyone zooming ahead

Except for me

Left to crawl along

 

My Brain

Is a catastrophe

Waiting for one more anxiety, fear, or urge for pain

To push it over the edge

For one more prick to turn to shove me over

Into the sea of “you're just confused”

Or “you'll never know until you try”

Run and hide, can't let it slide

No matter how much I want to

 

So, I trip

I fall

I stop

 

Until determination gets me back on my feet.

Love helps me to keep going.

And my Heart helps me to fly.

 

Ms. Ace is an asexual biromantic high schooler and writer who has three goals in life: to become a journalist for a magazine, to destroy ableism and acephobia, and to live in an apartment with her partner and three sphynx cats. She lives in St. Paul, MN and one day hopes to go to college to major in Creative Writing.


ColorsDragon.jpg

Colors of the Dragon

Diane Ramic

 

Photoshop
1175x1674 px

I've always loved dragons ever since I was introduced to them when I was a child. I've noticed that recently, people in the ace community have also been compared to dragons. I'm not sure exactly where this idea came from, but I'm not complaining. I think it might have started as a joke on the idea that a lot of people don't believe in asexual people existing the same way they don't believe in dragons existing, equating ace people with these mythical creatures? Maybe it's a joke on asexual reproduction, because Komodo dragons can reproduce that way? Who knows, but what I do know is that I love dragons regardless, haha. I drew this little guy with the ace flag colors, some of which are my favorite colors (black, white, and grey).

Diane Ramic is a freelance illustrator and designer. When she was 7, she wanted to be a Velociraptor when she grew up, but eventually decided that being an illustrator was an even more fulfilling career choice! A lot of her works are inspired by paleontology, astronomy, sci-fi, and fantasy, and she also loves working on children's books, especially if they have an educational element. She likes using a variety of media, both traditional and digital, in her work, but usually you'll find plenty of watercolors and inks in her art. As for where exactly she fits on the spectrum, she is just about as aro/ace as you can get, and was actually hoping she’d end up that way since she was little. Even today, she thinks even something like kissing and holding hands is kinda gross, but hey, you do you (or don't, haha). If you like dinosaurs, aliens, and dragons, you can find more of her work on her blog at dianeramic.tumblr.com.


The Acceptance of Questioning

Emma Hutson

 

Growing up, you thought you might be a sociopath. You’d learnt the word in a novel and it sounded like something that might apply. You didn’t feel things the way that you thought other people did. They seemed to feel things so deeply and immediately. For a while you thought you might have Asperger’s, but that was quickly ruled out. You thought that maybe you were just a little more reserved than the others at school. For a long time, you thought you were broken.

You thought about sex a lot. You and your friends would whisper in the back of classrooms; giggle at naughty books in the library. You’d stay up late and watch risqué programmes with the volume on low.  You’d all talk about who’d do it first, what it would be like. The braver girls would sneak condoms around, passing them palm-to-palm like illicit substances. You thought about kissing like they did in films, hands cupping cheeks, the slide of lips, the tumbling into bed, the panning away and a soundtrack of gasps into the next scene. That never really changed: the panning away.

At fifteen you had a strictly over-the-clothes boyfriend who you eventually dumped by text. On nights out, when you were too young to drink but did it anyway, you and your friends would all kiss, grope, move to the next person. Sometimes you wish that you could go back to that. You were at the forefront of exploration then. Slowly you fell behind while making token gestures of keeping up, have another boyfriend, have a girlfriend, profess your TV crushes and bemoan your looks as holding you back.

Escaping the town you grew up in meant escaping your lack. It meant being able to start new lies, more easily excuse the absence of fresher’s lays. After all, who would even want you? Your body was a cushion between you and the world. Your knees hurt, though. And getting to class on the second floor meant leaving early enough to have time to catch your breath at the top. You lost weight over summer. When you returned, the pressure was back. There were more expectations. You got set up. You got drunk. You slept with them. You ignored them when they tried to contact you. You complained that the big-city gay scene was too intimidating, which it was. You missed the tiny, grimy bars at the back of neighbouring towns where you could have a quick flirt and kiss and leave early for the last bus home.

After another two years of laughing about how long it’d been, you went on a night out. Two people asked for your number. You felt obliged. The boy left early; he had work the next day. The girl, you spent the evening kissing, before escaping between the bodies and bodies and bodies of the club. The boy texted you, you texted back. You dated. He lived in the town over and had to drive back and forth. One night you offered him a drink, he couldn’t drive if he did, so you asked him to stay. You slept together. A lot. You stayed together for longer than you’d ever stayed with anyone, which wasn’t really that long at all. You kept having sex. You would have preferred not to. Not that you told him. You stopped kissing, all couples do. You found your patience for him waning. You told him it was over, but he tried to stay, you reiterated. He cried. You didn’t. You didn’t really miss him. You’d rather spend your time with friends, with laughter on sofas and no pressure. You moved again. The system started over. 

Moving meant not knowing a soul. It meant joining a walking club, getting flirted with by men old enough to be your father and never going back. It meant not having touched anyone in months. Your skin was starving and you couldn’t pretend that the hand stroking your head was anyone’s but your own. It meant more expectations. At work you slowly made a friend, and then another. You joined a gym, a yoga class. You got asked about your love life. Over and over like it was the only thing you were good for. You were married to your work, you laughed, like Queen Elizabeth married to England. Maybe she was like you.

You don’t seem to feel things the way that other people do. It’s been ten years; fifteen, and that hasn’t changed. Friends talk about passion overcoming reason. You’ve never had that, you don’t want it. You can’t imagine intrinsically linking a person and sex in that way. You find love in your friendships. You can only imagine really spending your life with them, rather than a lover. An online quiz says you’re asexual. You read about it, research it. You feel like you’re doing it wrong. You research some more, meet some people online. You hope that one day someone else’s story will tell you how things work out in the end, what life looks like when your identity bucks the trend. But until then, you’ll live as honestly as you can.

 

Emma Hutson is an aromantic asexual who is currently completing a PhD on trans literature at Sheffield Hallam University. She has work published in C Word: An anthology of writing from Cardiff, Severine Literary and Art Journal, CrabFat Magazine, and the Harpoon Review. Her short story ‘Footsteps’ came second place in Sheffield Authors’ Off The Shelf short story competition. She is available on Twitter @Emma_S_Hutson 


On Motherhood, Nuclear Politics, and Other Related Topics

Amanda Amos

 

To say that my relationship with motherhood is a complicated one is to say that nuclear politics are a bit dicey.

On the one hand, I have a phenomenal mother who has a phenomenal mother and I would love nothing more than to carry on that unnamed tradition of women who raise the next generation of girls to be loud, unapologetic, intelligent, and funny. On the other hand, the idea that a man would accept me in all my faults, quirks, and sexuality, is one that seems farfetched at times.

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t be a mother without a man, or without sex, or anything like that. At the tender age of thirteen, I started parenting friends without parents before I knew anything about boys or sex or my tendency to avoid both of those things. But now that I am older and have explored myself more, now that I know what I want from life, even if I don’t know how to go about it, those dreams, and the reality I see on a day-to-day basis, seem to be at odds.

My body can nourish life. I’m reasonably certain of that. My mom was so good at carrying kids that she did it accidentally - three times. Two of those times (including with me, hello) were when she was on birth control. Her mom, my grandma, had similar conundrums. I want to experience pregnancy. I haven’t always, but I want my own children made of a mutual and deep love and respect.

The issue comes with that the female body is a sexual object and nothing more. To be sure, this is changing. Inch by loving inch, public perceptions of women are shifting. It started on the college campuses and liberal media, has moved to the high schools, and hopefully will continue to spread to every facet of communication until finally I can be seen without having my hips or waistline appraised for desirability.

But like with all things, the struggle is twice as hard for queer women. So much of the queer and feminist movement has focused on reclaiming female sexuality to allow women to be as openly sexual as men are. And the ground being claimed by this movement has been long overdue, but as an asexual woman, this focus excludes me from the fight. The community says that we fight for the right of women to have sex or not have sex as they want to, but too often it focuses just on that first part. It’s hard enough to be recognized by my own community. And if this cutting-edge movement, that only just now came to the obvious conclusion that trans women belong with us, how much longer will it take for them to acknowledge that my body is valid? Much of asexuality becomes dismissed - either as not real, or not important. Until the LGBT community that surrounds me stops telling me that I am an ally, that I do not belong to their struggle, that I am a part of a straight couple despite my constant crying of “But I’m not straight!” I can’t blame those not in the community for not understanding what it is I am.

The difficulty is that asexuality is a spectrum that tends to be much more diverse than other sexualities are. It is a wholly individual experience - you will almost never meet two people who experience their asexuality the same. For me, I have no feelings, positive or negative, towards sex. It simply doesn’t cross my mind. Romance based on friendship and born of mutual respect and understanding and having a family, however, is my fondest fantasy. Being accepted by the men I might marry becomes a game of Russian roulette where my easily influenced heart is the one constantly on the targeting board. Being accepted by other queer people becomes the luck of the draw or the cast of the dice on if they will recognize me as someone who has been at their party this whole time, even if they don’t think I belong there.

My hips are made for pushing out to one side to express impatience. My hands are made for wild gesturing, and my mouth is for yelling, yelling louder than anyone who tries to drown me and those like me out of the conversation. One day, I will choose to allow the sharp jutting of my hip bones to soften with skin stretching to accommodate new life. I will carry children and toys and all the hopes of a childhood that my mother once carried for me. My ink-stained fingers will become Play-Doh stained, and the stories I tell will give hope, not only to nameless children across the world, but also to my own at bedtime before they even think to fear the monsters in the closets they will never have to hide in.

My body will be empty, and I will be asexual. My body will create a whole new person, and I will be asexual. It has been this way since longer than I can remember, and it will remain this way until I can’t help but forget.

 

Amanda Amos is a college freshman in the Midwestern US. She is a short story and novella writer, a fierce storyteller, and the designated "Dad Friend." Her work has appeared in The Asexual.


Bargain

Elyssa Tappero

 

take my voice, sea witch
grant me fine legs in return
a worthwhile bargain
even if each step pains me
at least I’ll be like the rest

take my voice, sea witch
after all, what use are words?
brief, untouchable
yet flesh is warm and solid
bone and blood make us human

take my voice, sea witch
I just want to be normal
feel the things I should
I long to walk on the shore
but now longing’s not enough

take my voice, sea witch
change the self I never chose
give me sensation
for I’ve given up on words
and now I’d give anything


 

Elyssa Tappero is a queer asexual living in Gig Harbor, Washington with her wife, elderly dog, and two extremely spoiled cats. She is an avid writer of poetry and prose whose work can be found on www.onlyfragments.com. She is far too obsessed with Hannibal and Steven Universe, hates tomatoes, and somehow always rolls low during encounters in DnD. She runs the ace blog www.still-a-valid-ace.tumblr.com, where she fends off angry exclusionists and tries to provide good advice to those who ask.


Your Asexuality is Not a Problem

Aurora Lee Thornton

 

My boyfriend broke up with me today, and the worst part is that I’m not even surprised. 

I got back from visiting him (several states and two two hours flights) for the past week at 2am this morning. Around six this evening, he called to say this:

“Time to be upfront about it - I’m in a relationship with someone else. So whatever we had is over.”

He was at the someone else’s house (also in another state and plane trip away) for their child’s tenth birthday. I’d picked up the wrapping paper and bows for him over the week, and helped him pick out a card yesterday. We watched Netflix while he wrapped the present. 

I wished him well over the phone, but told him I was going to hang up. I didn’t know - I couldn’t think of anything else to say. My stomach felt like a pit, and there was something thick but permeable in the back of my throat. I want to say I was blind-sided, but I didn’t feel blind at all. 

I spent the next few hours angry. The other person had visited him earlier that month. They were his ex. I didn’t think anything of it - he was close with a lot of people, and was close with their kid, too. I wasn’t angry at him. I wasn’t angry at me, although I maybe should have been. I thought about the long hair I’d found in his bed. I have short hair. I thought he just lent them the spare comforter I was using when they visited. 

I don’t feel stupid, but I had thought maybe something was amiss in our relationship. I have anxiety, so after talking to him about it, wrote it off as my mind’s insidious whispers. He’d been working late for a while, and I assumed he was just tired. But he never really reassured me.

I am asexual. He is not. We talked about it. When I first brought it up, it was the first time I had realized it myself. He claimed to accept it, but I don’t think he really did. Because I am sex positive, I don’t think he really understood. When I explained I didn’t find anyone physically attractive, including him, I knew it hurt him - but I was just being honest. After a while, he came to realize that I really was asexual, and actually understand that. I know, because we talked about it.

He told me that he wasn’t sure how I could differentiate my love for him from my love for my friends, and that he felt like our relationship was more like a friendship. Without sex as a backdrop, I didn’t know how to explain that it felt different. That even if it seemed the same to him, I could tell the way I loved him was different. It was romantic, and not platonic. 

We were together for about four years. I had never dated anyone before him. 

We had been dating a few months when I realized I was asexual. I came across someone talking about their experience, and it led me to research more. And I had that moment - the there’s a name for that moment. If you’re also queer, you know what moment I’m talking about. My ex-boyfriend is straight. He’d never had that moment. He didn’t understand why I felt like I needed a label. I tried to explain, but it never stuck. He didn’t mean it in malice, and I understood his point of view - I wish we lived in a world where acceptance was so high that labels for orientation were superfluous. But we don’t, and it’s really fucking hard to explain the way it feels to know you aren’t alone in something treated as an outlier or variance from the norm to someone who has never felt that way. We talked about me being asexual then. He asked if I was sure. I was mostly sure, and only grew more sure after. I am asexual.

We had sex pretty regularly. Like I said, I’m sex positive - I greatly enjoy sex. It just has its own box for me - a box separate from romantic love. He told me that for him sex and romance were tied together, and I understood. I worried that our incompatible orientations would lead us to breaking up - this was still in year one. I never once wavered from considering myself asexual from that point on. 

I would ask him if he thought I looked pretty - after telling him I didn’t find him physically attractive, I thought I was being unfair, so I stopped asking when he wondered why someone that was asexual would wonder why they were pretty. Because I didn’t want to drive in the knife that I wasn’t attracted to him that way. I still thought he looked handsome in a suit. I didn’t understand the difference between aesthetic and physical attraction then, even though I could identify other people as pretty and handsome. Just nothing beyond that - I couldn’t tell if someone was sexy, and had a hard time telling the difference between levels of beauty without a dramatic difference. I can find people ugly, but never repulsive, because to be physically put off by someone, I have to have the ability to be physically put on. 

He said he was working through things. By things, I mean my asexuality. He was figuring out if it could work. I was trying to make it work. He was pulling away. He was always introspective, so I let him. I told him the week before my visit I was excited to see him soon. He didn’t say the same. I figured he just forgot because he was tired and busy. 

I stayed at his house for a week. I ran errands while he was at work to help out. We started to have sex the day I got in, but I was so tired I was passing out in the act. I apologized, he said I had nothing to apologize for. I was comfortable, and didn’t feel the urge to start anything the rest of the week. Neither did he. I thought he was tired. He played Starcraft while I watched TV. I asked him to join me at some point each night, because I didn’t want to force him away from his stress relief after working ten plus hours. We watched Ever After, one of my favorites, because he hadn’t seen it, and The Seven Deadly Sins anime, because he hadn’t seen that either and didn’t have anything else he wanted to watch. 

His ex that he’s with now reached out to him after breaking up with an abusive spouse. He’d showed me the conversations they’d had. They were benign. His partner now was on track for a much better life. He had always liked to help people in bad situations, so I didn’t think anything of it. I knew about this ex before we started dating. They deserved someone supportive like him. When we first started dating, I thought I wouldn’t measure up to this ex if they wanted him back. I guess I was right. 

I have anxiety. I had finally gotten to the point in our relationship where I’d quieted that voice telling me I wasn’t good enough, that he deserved better. I had finally stopped worrying that every serious conversation would end in a break up. I knew there was a possibility that things would end, but I was no longer afraid of it. And I trusted him. 

I am asexual, and my partner of four years told me that our relationship felt like a friendship because it lacked a sexual component on my end. And when he broke up, he didn’t call it a relationship - he called it whatever we had. I love him. Romantically. I told him so, but he doesn’t seem to have believed me. And you know what? I forgive him. 

Don’t get me wrong - what he did was shitty. He cheated on me before I arrived to visit (over $400 on the plane tickets) and didn’t tell me we were breaking up until we were states away (I lost my luggage on the way back, and since it wasn’t checked in, I probably will never get it back). I want to punch him in the face - and I have no doubt he deserves it. But I don’t wish him any ill will beyond that. 

I called my mom. She suggested whiskey. I hadn’t felt like crying until I talked to her. I did my make-up, put on a short dress with a plunging neckline and went out to the movies with friends. I had two drinks, but enough food and water that I didn’t even get buzzed. I felt tired. I feel tired now. Drained. I doubt I’m done with feelings about this. But I don’t have regrets.

I was honest about who I was and what I felt. I tried to make him understand, and it’s not my fault that he never did. I still love him right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my Friday night RPG games over Skype - all the other participants are his friends from college. I’ve come to call them my friends as well over the past five years (we were friends a year before we started dating), but they were his friends first and his friends longer. And he’s in those games too. I don’t want to give them up, but I also don’t know when I’ll be able to face him. 

I’m not mad we broke up - I’m sad, and I’ll miss our relationship. But I’m not mad about that - I’m mad that he wasn’t adult enough to break up with me sooner. If he had broke up with me because he wanted to pursue another relationship, I wouldn’t have been mad - that’s life, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that. But that isn’t what he said - he said he was already in a relationship. That means he waited until after his new relationship started before breaking up with me. And that’s shit.

We broke up once before, for a couple of months. I don’t remember why - probably the same reason we broke up now. But he didn’t cheat then, he was just honest. Said he’d needed time to get his own head straight. That’s fair - I wasn’t mad. I was upset, but I wasn’t mad. It was mature. It hurt, but it was the right thing to do. This was not. 

I remember why we broke up now the first time, but won’t put it here, because it was personal for him. It was still the right thing to do at the time. 

I don’t regret a thing - my relationship with him helped me to grow as a person in leaps and bounds. I’m a more secure, confident person now than I was then. His friend told him that, being several years younger than him, I was holding him back as a person. He’d told me about it. I thought it was a shitty thing to say, and asked if he agreed. He’d said it was more like he was helping me catch up. He’d said it with a smile in his voice. 

We were long distance for half our relationship, so most of our conversations were by phone and text. Staying in touch with him was easier for me than staying in touch with anyone else, family included. I have ADHD in addition to depression and anxiety - I have a hard time keeping in touch. For me, it was a marvel that it felt so natural to maintain our communication. But it got harder in the past few months, as I realized I was initiating every conversation - leading to gaps in communication. Sometimes a day, sometimes up to a week. Never longer than that, as I always reached out. I thought he was tired, but asked if he was pulling away. I already talked about that, though.

I’m writing this to share with other asexuals who might find themselves in a relationship with an allosexual that doesn’t get it. To let you know to be honest about your asexuality, and how you feel. Repeat it if you need to. Don’t run if they say they need time - they really might just need time. But make yourself heard, so that even if your relationship ends in a shitshow like mine did, your self-worth is intact. That you will never feel angry at yourself, or assume that you’re not good enough because of your asexuality. 

I know my story isn’t as extreme as what other asexuals have faced - I wasn’t abused, and he did try to listen. He tried to understand - he did. But his inability to reconcile my asexuality and his allosexuality isn’t my fault, and I don’t feel bad about that. I don’t feel like I didn’t love him enough, because I put in the effort. I tried to make him see the stars in my eyes, but when I compared him to the cosmos, he thought I was being co-dependent. I don’t hate him. I know him too well. But I am disappointed. 

I am proud to be asexual, and proud I stood by it even when I could tell it wore on my partner. Because you can lose a partner - but you’ll always have yourself when it’s over. Don’t hide yourself for the person you’re with, because if they can’t handle who you really are, they’ll leave no matter what. And you’ll wonder if it was because there was something wrong with you, and that’s hardly ever the problem. 

My ex-boyfriend probably broke up with me because of my asexuality, but I don’t see my asexuality as a problem. And I think others should know about that, too. 

 

Aurora Lee Thornton is an asexual author of fantasy that lives in the United States. She’s not overly fond of giving out much more personal information than that. Aurora also quite naturally likes books – she’s been reading and writing since kindergarten (yes, writing too) and has yet to stop. Everything from cyberpunk to high fantasy is fair game – Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women sits next to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series on her shelf of favorite books (not physically, she sorts her books by genre first, but you understand the meaning). The one thing that has always captured her interest and stayed close to her heart, however, is dragons. If you’ve had any dragon sightings you’d like to share, she’d love to hear about it.


Ace Pride & Queer Enough

Deramin

 

White is for every time I knew my heart,
But smugly told myself
I just adhered to a code of old morality
I never did believe in.

For the peace of being single,
Cuddling with the cat,
Thinking, "This is so much better,
For she wants nothing more from me."

Purple is for my friends
Brave enough to live their truth.
Givers of the language
To declare my own.

For your patience, dear.
Our struggle to understand
The hard path to meet half-way
When fireworks meet fairy lights.
 

Black is for every time I heard,
"When you meet the right lover
There will be fireworks
Bursting from your heart."

For the brokenness,
Of every failed relationship
Whose intimate demise was obvious
To everyone but me.

Grey is for every lustful movie scene
I cringed away from.
Wanting no place there
Among the intercourse of others.

For all the tears
When I felt I was broken.
Longing for the romance left,
Long after lust had died.

                                                                                                      This flag is for pride,
That I wave proudly now
Over the battlefield of identity
And live free to claim.

Because I'm queer enough.

Queer enough to note
When you erase me.

Queer enough to hear
You silently append normative to every hetero.

Queer enough to hide
Who I am from those that love me.

Queer enough to bear
A good friend say my love is just weird.

Queer enough to need
Better words to explain.

Queer enough to have
A letter and a flag.

Queer enough to tell
You to fuck off.

Queer enough to matter.

 

For Rachel and Cayden

Deramin aspired to be an Information Security Architect until a chronic pain disorder aspired to make her miserable. They've compromised on poetry, writing, and art as a means of remaining joyously miserable, semi-productive, and spawning work that may outlive her. She discovered she was demisexual from D&D friends. Now in her 30s, she lives off a steady diet of tabletop roleplaying games, warm kindness, spite, gallows humor, kombucha, and farmers market fava beans in Eugene, Oregon. Twitter: @OTDDeramin // Website: https://chasetheeeling.tumblr.com/


SleepingWithSpace.jpg

Sleeping with Space

Elyse Jones

 

Chalk pastel, acrylic paint
6 feet by 3 feet

I made this after experiencing a significant breakup. At least partially due to my asexuality, I have a very hard time opening up to people romantically/intimately. For this person, I felt entirely exposed, and so breaking up with them felt like the shattering of my world. This portrait is life size, physically exposing my body for its true proportions, mirroring the way I had felt emotionally and physically exposed to this person. The space represents the simultaneous emptiness I felt beside me as well as the infinite possibilities I now had, independent of this person. I wanted to empower myself while also acknowledging I had experienced a loss.

Elyse Jones is currently a college student studying English, Women's and Gender Studies, and Fine Art. She has loved reading, writing, and making artwork her entire life. She identifies as asexual, though she is not sure about her exact location on the ace spectrum. She loves Star Wars, her dog Jack, and educating people about asexuality.


A Routine Procedure

Saralyn Smith

 

“It’ll get better when you start having sex.”

I had been doing deep, calming breathing, feeling the blood and color return to my face. The words were tossed out so casually but the reassuring tone sent my heart racing again.

I’d never used the word “asexual” with my doctor before, but she knew I was a virgin without plans to change. I had only started thinking about asexuality when I began seeing her and it never seemed relevant. I’d come in, answer the pointless questions about my sexual activity and the (im)possibility of being pregnant, and move on to why I was actually there. 

When it came to my first pap smear, though, it turned out that being an asexual virgin mattered. I avoided it until my late 20s, figuring that not being sexually active was a good excuse. I finally scheduled one with my primary care physician in a fit of responsibility-mindedness. I was more comfortable with her than most doctors I’d had and she was very competent. I would be fine.

...I wasn’t fine. It hurt like hell and I felt something akin to shame that I was finding it so difficult. Why wouldn’t my body just cooperate?  A pap smear is supposed to be relatively routine. We’re trying to normalize the procedure so that people with cervixes won’t avoid it, but here I was on the verge of passing out.

Less than halfway through, my doctor paused and asked if I wanted to just try again another time. I was doing all I could to relax, to breathe, to work my way through the intense physical pain and the emotions that came with it. When she asked, that all went out the window and I caught myself starting to panic. Try it again? Soon? Hell no. We powered through.

There was a big moment of relief when she said we were finished. I had done it. I closed my eyes and restarted my calming breathing as my doctor - soon to be pregnant for the second time since I started seeing her - prattled about being able to wait three years between pap smears once I hit thirty. Then,

“It’ll get better when you start having sex.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as she continued to fill me in on next steps and left the room, so casually. I got my clothes on, hopped back on my motorcycle, and headed back to work. Which turned out to be a terrible idea, because discomfort and nausea washed over me all afternoon. Discomfort and nausea, and frustration, and anxiety about the next time and the time after that...

Every couple of months, my insurance sends me a notice that I am due for my “important women’s health screening.” Every couple of months, I put it straight in the trash.

 

Saralyn Smith (she/her) is an asexual demiromantic ciswoman currently living in Washington state with her absurd pup, Grayson. Everyone is always surprised to hear she rides a small motorcycle.


MAJOR SUPPORTERS
(Currently pledging $5 or more every month via Patreon)

Courtney Dobson, P4 Creations, 
Sam Pachico, Seaweed/Nox, 
Geoffrey Payne, Alex Stabler, 
Unnecessary Cheese, David Allen
 


All works in The Asexual are created by writers, artists, and creators who identify under the ace umbrella. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights and print rights as well as electronic and print archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information visit TheAsexual.com. Cover photography by Michael Paramo.

AsexualCover2.jpg

Vol. 1, Issue 2


Vol. 1, Issue 2


The Asexual, Vol. 1, Issue 2

Editor-in-Chief: Michael Paramo

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo


To whom it may concern,

Since the release of Vol. 1, Issue 1, The Asexual has blossomed into a unique space for ace creators. With Issue 2, the journal has continued to expand, receiving more than double the total submissions. I want to thank everyone who submitted their precious creations as well as anyone who has supported this space for ace creators either online or offline. Your support means so much more than you know and has continued to inspire me to take this project to even higher places in the future.

With love and appreciation,

Michael Paramo


Table of Contents

The Ignition Point

Dianne

 

Colors

Sean Dunne

 

Human Mirror

Serenity Chase

 

QnA  

Ms. Ace

 

A: Notebook; B: Object

Shunya Ta

 

Touch

Shunya Ta

 

Normal 

Alex Stabler

 

Sex 

Tori Roozekrans

 

A Bloody Mess

Tori Roozekrans

 

Valid Orientation

Mehreen Qaisar

 

The eyes are NOT a window to the soul: I’m not broken, I am asexual   

Tara Wills

 

I Am Queer…

Moira Armstrong

 

A Journey

Kylie Wood

 

The Thoughts That Cross My Mind When I Incorrectly Call Myself ‘Bisexual’

Maribel C. Pagan

 

Sexual Fixation for the Sexually Repulsed

Joanny Leyva

 

We Are But Broken Machines

Michael Paramo


The Ignition Point

Dianne

 

You were born into this world

Not to be a person, but a mother

At least, that is what you were told

But never once thought to believe

 

As a child, you went to school

Learned biology, anatomy

And found that was all you saw:

Cells and nerves

As opposed to flesh and sweat

 

You watched your friends partner off

But craved the stars more

Getting lost in strings of lights

While they were stuck moaning on the ground

 

One day, you found a single spark

Out of place

For it was not caught in the map of your skies

But amidst the throng of human hearts

 

She warmed you

And at once, you found your fingers charred

Flesh frozen

Yearning for a foreign heat

That she obligingly burned into your chest

Like liquid fire in your veins

And dripping candle wax on your skin

 

You'd never once wanted what they had

Never understood the need

But she, and only she,

Set your soul alight

And your body ablaze

 

And this, you could accept

 

Dianne is a pseudonym for a 20-year-old demisexual girl who's not quite ready to tell her family she's been in love with a girl for 7 years now. She is an engineering student, and thus is constantly surrounded by hormonal boys, so you should definitely feel bad for her.


Colors

Sean Dunne

 

So here I am again,
lying on my back staring up at an LED light that changes between fluorescent colors every few minutes.
Blue.
I feel like I did just a short while ago,
trapped underneath murky water
playing telephone with the world,
trying too desperately to fathom
the muffled sounds,
the obscured sights.
Yellow.
Where do the stars go when I enter the sky,
I heard the sun ask.
And to him the moon replied,
they are afraid of your light.
This is how I have learned to live,
afraid of my own light.
I don’t know whether I am to blame or them, but sooner or later that blame is going to have to be placed somewhere.
I look at you, and I pray it doesn’t fall on me.
You,
white,
you are a fleeting image,
something like piece of art that hangs never to be touched,
only to be seen.
only once.
only once.
Purple.
I hate how slippery your hands are, like you can’t hold on to a single thing.
I tried so hard
I shrunk myself so that you wouldn’t have to hold on
so that I would just be there.
But my body has never fit right with anyone.
Maybe you are too afraid of the way I want to love you.
Black.
You lose interest.
In books,
in movies in
TV shows in me.
You lose all sense of direction you wander off you sweet fickle creature,
you.
I can’t find you I get scared I have no maps I’m afraid of the way you keep
changing colors and I don’t know where to go from here.
I thought I could travel through time, watch your leaves change like a time lapse, I wanted to so badly.
But leaves only change in the fall and I think I was the only one falling.
So, then I thought I could travel backwards,
watch your flowers bloom in slow motion, I took a step back and tried so hard.
But the winter lasted too long, spring came too late time ran out you’re going to blossom and I won’t be there to see it.
Often times I find myself wanting to tell you everything,
explain the things that made me this way so that you understand me,
And how time has never been kind to me.
How I’m always too little too late.
I think maybe,
if you knew this somehow it would help.
But explanations only help if you explain them,
and I don’t know if this is something you want to put back together again.
You,
enigmatic in nature,
you girl,
hold a universe inside of you and it is ever-changing,
ever-fluorescent.
I can’t keep you in place.

 

Sean Dunne is a 17-year-old asexual senior in high school. She doesn’t know when she’ll get there, but she plans to study psychology in college someday. Her two main hobbies are writing and photography, and when she’s not doing either of those things she’s probably watching Netflix and/or avoiding schoolwork.


Human Mirror

Serenity Chase

Serenity Chase is new to the Asexual scene and identifies as heteromantic. She is a 25-year-old college graduate with many different interests, including writing. She wrote this poem on one of her bad days and this will be her first time ever sharing her work with the public (so she is a little nervous).


QnA

Ms. Ace

 

“So… do you just see a person you like and suddenly have the urge to have sex with them?”

The entire lunch table around me went quiet, people pausing in their conversations or their homework to look up at me. Lauren, my friend sitting next to me, even looked up from her sketchbook, something she rarely did when she was focused.

Considering the attention it'd garnered, I almost wanted to take my question back.

Almost.

Instead, I stared at Eric, the boy across from me, whose eyes were wide with surprise. He coughed, then furrowed one brow. “Y-yeah, I mean, not with other guys, but with girls, yeah, I get it all the time.”

“Even if you don't know her?”

“Mm-hmm, makes it even better sometimes, ‘cause then their personalities don't get in the way of fantasy.”

He laughed as his girlfriend sitting next to him elbowed him in the gut. “Hey!” She snapped, “Girls with personality are amazing. Trust me, I know from experience.”

She gave me a smug glare at this, which I blatantly ignored. Instead, I interrupted whatever Eric was going to say next with another question. “And you've always been like this?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, I guess, though it ramped up quite a bit when I went through middle school.”

He then gave me a curious look. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason.” I said, feigning nonchalance as I looked down at my notebook and wrote out another sentence in my story.

Mentally, I was trying to figure things out, put together a puzzle that I didn't really have the pieces for yet. Why hadn't I had the same experiences as him? Was it because I wasn't a male? Was I just a late bloomer?

My downward spiral of thoughts was interrupted by a loud laugh from Eric’s girlfriend. “Wait, so you mean to tell me that you've never thought of or wanted to have sex… ever?”

I kept my eyes glued to my notebook, and she took my silence as a yes. She started cracking up, and Eric joined in.

I felt the familiar twist in my stomach, the sick feeling in my chest. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not again.

Turning to Lauren, I met her gaze before discreetly tapping my temple. She gave me a small nod before beginning to gather up her school things.

That was our signal, to tap the side of our head if we ever wanted out on a situation or to change the topic if we weren't okay talking about something in person. It was kinda stupid, I'll admit, but it was better than our verbal or text signal, which was the word “eggs” hidden in a random sentence.

As we both started to move away, I heard one final comment from the laughing couple. “Oh geez,” Eric coughed again, “that’s why no one want’s to date her! She’s too much of a prude!”

I felt my face burn bright red from shame and unwanted attention as I quickened my walking speed, eventually leaving Lauren behind until I reached the stairs leading up to the high school hallway. “Eliza, are you… okay?” Lauren asked as we started to climb.

I sighed. “To be honest? No, but I guess it’s my fault for askin’ stupid questions…”

“Don’t listen to them, they’re inconsiderate assholes.” She growled, before her tone lightened. “Besides… you’re not alone in how you feel.”

I looked back at her in surprise as we reached the top. “What… do you mean by that?”

“I’m demisexual heteroromantic.” she quickly explained. “I just don’t like using labels, so that’s why I don’t normally tell anyone, but seeing as we’re both on the spectrum, I assume that you’re asexual…?”

“Biromantic, yeah.” I felt the sick feeling in my stomach and chest start to disappear, replaced with something I couldn’t quite place. Words couldn’t define it, at least for now.

Lauren smiled. “You remember Mo, the girl I introduced you to at the beginning of the school year?”

I nodded. Mo went to the local public high school, and had been friends with Lauren in middle school, before Lauren transferred to the charter school. Very cute, as I’d seen from our multiple video chats and the one time I’d gotten to meet her in person.

“Well, she’s pansexual, so I guess you could call the three of us… the queer musketeers.”

We both laughed at this, our mirthful voices carrying down the hallway. As I continued to chat with her, I finally realized what I could define the feeling in my chest as.

Acceptance.

For the first time ever, not only had I been able to accept who I really was, but so did my closest friend.

And it was a wonderful feeling.

 

Ms. Ace is an aspiring asexual biromantic high school writer who has three goals in life: to become a journalist for a literary magazine, to destroy ableism and acephobia, and to live in an apartment with her (future) partner and three sphynx cats… not necessarily in that order. She lives in St. Paul, MN and one day hopes to go to the University of Minnesota and major in Journalism and English.


A: Notebook; B: Object

Shunya Ta

 

Titular motifs repeated across the notebook
of love, rebellion and truth
but no word on my desire

When she suckled the breasts
six years old
she could taste the sweetness she said
at the age of eighteen

I passed semen in my underpants
on a chilling October morning
with a dream of her merging into Audrey Hepburn
androgynous, mongoloid, feminine

Celibate meditation on body
dissolved that morning
and I returned the book on Sylvia Plath to the library

-x-

She got wet looking at a handsome man
took a man from behind and in the mouth
but couldn't let him enter

She got wet looking at a handsome man
but couldn't let the ugly one enter

When asked,
she talked of Mills & Boons
and erotic literature
but claimed to be asexual

She got wet looking at a handsome man
kissed and groped a woman
but couldn’t let an object enter


Touch

Shunya Ta

 

The body moved
Through thin air
And grasped for me

The sensation of touch
Is much like
Noise

Replete with memories
Static hairpins
And slow burning pain

    Deep within

Of overexposure
Of a photo flooding with white
Of invisible lens flares
Of unrecognizable objects disappearing from view

-x-

"Take me with you"
He had uttered
Amidst the crowded street
To himself
Drunken nights of languish

The street lights dissolved
Any sense of belonging in the city
He clamped himself like a
Woman covering her breasts
In shame

-x-

"Your dreams don’t mean anything."
"Forget them."

"Let the light flood in."
"Overexpose."
 

Shunya Ta is a non-binary demi-sexual being who resides in the city of Calcutta on the east coast of India. They spend their time reading, writing, and contemplating about a future world. Recent work has appeared in The Asexual.


Normal

Alex Stabler

 

I am asexual. Why is that difficult to say? Especially in front of people. Why is it something I almost feel shame in admitting? Why does it feel like I’m telling everyone I’m a freak?

What kind of world do we live in where we are encouraged to feel ashamed for how we feel, ashamed for what we look like, ashamed for who we are? What kind of world leaves us to our own devices to work out what makes us different, instead of reminding us how we’re all the same?

I am asexual. It took me years to get to this point, years to understand what it means and feel comfortable using this word to describe myself – but it describes me. It’s who I am. And that’s what everyone deserves; a word, a phrase, a term that means them. That reminds us that we are all just people, human beings. That we are all normal.

Normal: a word which lost its meaning long ago, a word devoured by those society favours, used to describe only themselves, a word the majority cannot use because we simply do not conform with these narrow expectations.

Get a boyfriend, get a husband: some people don’t want that. Get a girlfriend, get a wife: some people don’t want that. Have sex, start a family: some people don’t want that. I don’t want that.

Because I am asexual. Yet we cling to these old-fashioned definitions – that humans are made to a standard; males one way and females another, and that’s just how it is. And anything that deviates from that is labelled a freak.

But nobody chooses who they are. Nobody creates their character at the start of the game; nobody chooses to be bi or gay or ace or aro or trans. Nobody joins LGBT groups for attention because they’re a “special snowflake”. We’re not secretly straight or repressed or victims of trauma. It’s not because of depression or mental health issues. It’s just who we are. Why should we feel ashamed for telling people who we are? How are we not normal?

The sad truth is some people see words like ‘asexual’ and read ‘freak’. But that’s not what it really means. It means there are other people like us. Other people that are okay, and surviving. And happy. It’s a way for other people to understand us, a way for us to understand ourselves. Which is what we all crave, each and every one of us: to be respected, to be understood, to be normal.

You’re Bisexual? Normal Person. Gay? Normal Person. Pansexual? Normal Person. Transgender? Normal Person. Aromantic? Normal Person. Demisexual? Normal Person. Asexual. Normal Person. You have anxiety? It doesn’t matter. Normal Person. Depression. Normal Person. PTSD… I could go on.

We are all just another dot on the human spectrum, a unique composition of desires and feelings and thoughts. Just because I don’t want to procreate, just because someone’s assigned gender doesn’t sit well with their skin, just because a man likes both Jack and Jill, it doesn’t matter. Just because some of us can’t do something another can, or some of us don’t want to, it doesn’t matter. We’re all different; we’re all unique; and because of that… we’re all the same.

And we are all normal. And it might take some time, but once we can understand what that means and feel comfortable using this word to describe ourselves, then that is what we are. A word everyone deserves; a word, a phrase, a term that means them. That reminds us that we are all just people, human beings, that we are not alone, that we are not broken, we are not freaks, we are not weird. We are just like everyone else.

It’s about time we show the world that we’re not afraid of telling everyone who we are. The day we can all claim our right of feeling normal. And nobody – not even the President or the Prime Minister – can take that away from us, no matter how hard they try.

Because, deep down, we know, and I know. And I won’t stop screaming it until everyone else knows as well: I. AM. ASEXUAL. And that means I’m normal.

 

Alex Stabler is a 19-year old human being who also happens to be asexual. He is currently studying Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in Bath, England (obviously). His hobbies include conjuring up terrific puns, sleeping, and dreaming of a future world in which he gets paid to scribble words onto a page.


Sex

Tori Roozekrans

 

a red plastic bowl
of oatmeal

counting minutes in the
post office line.

a loose thread
on my sweatshirt
I should stop pulling at.

the beige waiting
room, sniffling children,
magazines.

scrubbing dishes
cemented in the kitchen
sink.

my car
trapped in the que
dragging along
the painted tarmac.

folding the fresh
load of laundry.

memorizing
geography
for next week’s test. 

the itch of an
old wool blanket. 

an empty
crystal vase
on the coffee table.

sweeping pine needles off
the driveway. 

watching rain water
evaporate
off the grass.

room temperature water
in a blue glass.


A Bloody Mess

Tori Roozekrans

 

Rip out
this fertile womb
that shreds itself apart
month after month with no children
pending. 

Little
ones are not on
the docket of my life.
No woman or man will change this
disgust. 

Why should
I suffer through
this mess of womanhood
year after year with no trial
nearing?

Pressure
is flooded on
to me with title wave
expectations, but I’m filled with
dust. 

Desert
and blood are all
that’s going to pour out
of me and that’s fine, I am
content.

It was
evolution
that formed me against my
consent, so now I’m making my
own choice.

Is it
a murdered crop
if the weeds were never
seeded and the earth was never
watered?

Do not
try to shame me.
You have no say in the
use of my garden’s potential
harvest.

Even
if I still have
to settle for dealing
with sand and debris, I am
complete. 
 

Tori Roozekrans is an aromantic asexual poet who is trying to focus on writing poems about asexuality whenever she can escape the combined clutches of college, work, and her cat. More than anything she wants to share her work with her fellow aces in an attempt to inspire others to catch the creative bug and bring the community closer together.


Valid Orientation

Mehreen Qaisar

 

My body, my right

Does it sound right???

No, I don’t need approval no longer

Because I have started believing in myself

This journey started a long ago

How can I let it forgo

Now destiny has unfolded

Made me boldest

In hyper-sexualized society where everyone wants more…

I tell you I am neither spinster nor whore

I am just, me & myself

Not an elf

I might not fit in your narrative

That doesn’t make me less creative & inactive

Don’t tell me my Asexuality needs to be ‘overcome’

Because I have embraced it wholesome

I am not going to shun

It’s not a pun

I will fight to bring a revolution

Till acceptance of it as a valid orientation.

 

Mehreen Qaisar is a young Pakistani Feminist & Researcher in the government organization; her area of interest is Gender & Human Rights. She is a Body Positive Ace born with Asperger’s Syndrome; she has disdain for any feminist & human rights movement which is not inclusive. Can be reached at Twitter @Mehreen_Qaisar


The eyes are NOT a window to the soul: I’m not broken, I am asexual

Tara Wills

 

I came out as asexual in a very unofficial way, which was the best thing to do. No letter, no long Facebook update confession, no exclusive "we need to talk" with relatives or friends. I simply started throwing it into dating conversations whenever it was appropriate to do so. I am today a very out and proud asexual, still questioning my romantic orientation at the moment as I think I'm heteroromantic, yet it seems like I don't get to that level with anyone I have met so far, am I aromantic as well? Life will tell if I'm really hetero, demi, or grey romantic, but sex-repulsed asexual has been there since way before I knew a whole community of asexuals existed out there somewhere.

I feel this story needs to be told because the feeling of relief and liberation the community has given to me is something I did not expect in life, I had already given up on this hypersexualised ableist humanity and I had a lifelong history of suicidal thoughts and 2 attempts before I reached this state of unapologetic pride I lost as a kid. I'm free from the "borrowed confusion" the straight and fully able humans gave to me. How did that happen?

I was born with a congenital visual impairment, my mom got ill while pregnant and it affected my eyes. It’s not genetic, it’s not progressive, it simply messed up with me before I got out of a womb. Since I learned to read, which was quite early for kids in that country, thanks to the stubbornness of my biological mom to make me learn beforehand in order to survive a regular children school as the only school for children with special needs. In that place was all mixed disabilities and it wasn’t really helping those kids to develop their knowledge. This was the first struggle I handled. I was fascinated by books and I was much more into those astronomy and dinosaur books for kids when I started to notice the coupling thing at school yards. Over there it starts early, kids as young as 6-7 are already into crushes and kisses. This memory was my first proof of asexuality. I remember running away from a kid chasing me for kisses and I shouted loud and clear at him how disgusting it was "How old do you think we are, 30?! We're in primary, we don't even have hormones and you are kissing around? How gross!"

Teachers freaked out, kids freaked out, and my back then unapologetic self thought "they are playing soap opera, it's so silly, and disgusting". Mind you that a 6-7-year-old GIRL who knows about hormones before puberty in that country is an equivalent to an extra-terrestrial contacting Earth for the first time. This quirky behaviour of "I rather read books, or try to read struggling with a magnifier than kissing" has given me a whole school history of daily abuse. I will not go into detail, as I have already talked enough about this abusive hypersexualised ableist country which is the most sexualised society I'm aware of til today.

Fast forward to when I moved to Hungary. Still a virgin, not wanting anything with anyone and dismissing my biological mother's silly jokes about not bringing her a "lil Hungarian" before I finished my university studies (again, gross).

A year went by, nothing. The new country felt more like home than any other place I lived in before. I was found attractive by some guys, for all the wrong reasons (exotic girl!) yet to me they looked like any other guy. The price of being biracial, you look like a souvenir to everyone yet to you people are just people. I thought for a while this might be the cause of my repulsion. No. I still did not find anyone attractive. Aesthetically pleasing yes, a few, but never wanting more.

Time went by and I made a few close friends in town, mostly older than me and straight. They try to help, thinking "she has not met the right one yet,” overlapping the fact that I can't play the Romeo and Juliet flirt game from the opposite side of the road with any "attractive guy" that walks nearby. For years I thought this was my case and I kept the straight label while crying along Dido's "White flag" music video, thinking "the right one could have already passed me by a thousand times and I didn't see him.” I read this and I laugh of my days of borrowed confusion. A friend in our random conversations once suggested to try online dating. I understood it as a well-intended attempt to help me connect with someone. And so, I did. Opened up a few dating profiles, avoiding Tinder of course, how can I use an exclusively visual app after all? I went for those where people can write their info, and I put effort into mine, as honest as I always was about everything, except still keeping the straight orientation for my lack of knowledge that my jokes about being asexual were actually very likely to be true. I met some guys online. The usual "hi" messages, the meaningless touristy hook-uppers, the "how can you read if you're blind?" conversation starters, the "yo sexy lady" starters... patience, I told myself.

Until one day, an engineer student messaged me with a longer starter. I thought well, he seems honest, let's reply. We messaged back and forth before we went on a first date. My friend who suggested me to do this online dating thing came along with her husband so I had the safety of eye witnesses in case of whatever. It went alright I guess, but the "love" went more on his side. He was so touchy, all the time, everywhere, in public. I still felt it gross, and my gut feeling was causing me a headache for keep trying that nonsense. Needless to say, he was already showing slight obsessive/possessive signs, which after a short trip to Helsinki, I noticed clearly and decided to break up that mess.

I still kept the dating profile for a few weeks, but I only got more of the same "hi" "sexy lady" "how can you read this?" I stopped.

After almost a year of that dating safari I found AVEN thanks to some asexual activists on YouTube and a lesbian friend of mine who shared a post about asexuality.

It’s not my crappy vision, it is not being biracial, it is not that I haven't found the one yet, I have a very clear and detailed idea of the partner I am looking for, and he's not the usual straight girl standard. It feels like I already know him, his skills and his imperfections, I am a writer in the closet... it’s somewhat like I built up a character that I would love to meet in the real world, with all his good and his crap and I still don't want sex with him. Talking about fan crushes, I've never understood, and I tested myself with my crappy vision to see if I could find a famous actor/athlete/musician/etc., attractive. In fact, all that amount of muscle and Photoshop scares the hell out of me. My "fictional book character" is nothing like that and probably not human, I said to myself.

Once I met the online asexual communities, I saw the light (how cheesy), I noticed the humongous difference between messaging style and I even met a few who are into similar hobbies or interests. The ice has started to melt. I am not broken, my eyes might be, not the rest of me. I'm not ugly, neither a souvenir. I am not picky, I take care of myself as I'm very aware of the vulnerable position I am in, it is the wisest thing to do and it is quite healthy to know what you want. I carry all my "unwanted" labels and I'm a professional weirdo.

I'm unapologetic once again, I recovered what I once lost and I am a proud biracial, legally blind, sex-repulsed asexual, child free by choice, non-religious citizen of the world woman. If I could survive, I know we all can. We exist and we are human.

This is my attempt of retribution for the community which has saved me from my own ice shield, which I got courtesy of an over-normative, square-minded society.

I hope this helps whoever reads this, if anyone at all.

Thank you for existing.

 

Tara Wills is a 26-year-old psychology student at ELTE University in Budapest, Hungary. She has produced her own EP album in 2012 and is currently taking a break from music while studying, working part time as a pet sitter / dog walker, and running a photography project called “The Blind Photographer – Budapest.” She is a proud Sex-repulsed asexual, biracial, legally blind, non-religious, citizen of the world woman currently searching for ways to take part in asexuality activism.


I Am Queer…

Moira Armstrong

 

And not just queer as in a sexual orientation or gender identity that falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or gender binary,

Not even simply queer as in strange or odd from a conventional standpoint-

I mean queer as in of a questionable nature or character.

Queer as in

                    Out of the Big Three of sexuality,

                    I never felt that any one fit me, but like

                    an uncomfortable label there was this feeling

                    scratching at me: I didn’t have a label.

                    I could never figure out

                    who I was attracted to (or if there was a

                    who to figure out at all) and while

                    everyone else had done it for themselves,

                    they couldn’t help me.

                    Knowing everybody had found, understood, and

                    prized this piece of themselves that interlocked

                    perfectly with their lives, and as many terms I’d

                    experimented with like paint samples, there was

                    always a shade of doubt so that no color matched me

                    perfectly.

I mean queer as in bad, worthless, or counterfeit.

Queer as in

                    I found myself in an obscure,

                    whispered term that was perfect

                    in resources and in my life, but not

                    in the sex-saturated world or the sex-saturated community.

                    I found myself hoping more than anything that I

                    would not only meet a girl but

                    meet one who didn’t just want a hookup,

                    finding nothing but disappointment in the world

                    I’d anticipated joining for so long, and eventually

                    making up excuses for skipping pride events.

                    I found myself shimmying into place

                    to belong, and feeling somewhat jammed in

                    but slowly adjusting to the pressure.

                    No matter how familiar, though,

                    pressure always remains uncomfortable. 

I mean queer as in not physically feeling right or well.

Queer as in

                    Have you seen the commercials with scantily clad women

                    And shirtless men used to move product because everybody

                    Will buy spontaneously based on elevated levels of hormones?

                    Or the one where the man treats his salad like he can have sex with it?

                    Have you seen the groups of teenage boys and girls

                    discussing their significant others and sexual exploits

                    (with their significant others or not) and giggling

                    as though it means absolutely nothing?

                    Have you ever seen someone looking determinedly away

                    While those commercials play? Seen anyone blush

                    When everyone chatters? Me.

                    I’ll never quite understand why the jokes are funny,

                    Why the acts are appealing, and I’ve heard people

                    Whisper behind my back that I’m awkward or abnormal.

                    No, I want to say,

                    Asexual.

 

Moira Armstrong is a junior at Howland High School, where she enjoys stressing over honors classes and extracurriculars. Her favorite is the speech and debate team, where she competes in original oratory and serves as president. In her very limited free time, she likes to color, volunteer, and, of course, write. Her work has also been published in two Creative Communications Poetry Collections, Blue Marble Review, and The Asexual Journal, and is forthcoming in After the Pause.


A Journey

Kylie Wood

 

“I haven’t seen you in ages!” an aunt exclaims, even though I saw her not even a month prior at a barbecue.

Another praises me: “You’ve grown into such a beautiful young woman… you look just like your mother.”

“How long until you bring a boy over?”

My grandmother asks the same question every time I visit her house.

This is what any gathering of my family is to me, even if visits are close together, the fact that I have never brought a boyfriend to these types of functions sends unease through those related to me. They may not be as out in the open about their suspicions like my mother, who makes homophobic comments at the dinner table and places bets on my sexuality, but I know they whisper about me. I know they talk about me over the phone, muttering things about sin and going to Hell. I pretend not to hear, for their sake and mine, because being silent is easier than trying to explain my lack of interest in anything, romantic or sexual, to people who believe things that I’m not willing to put into words.

There’s no easy way to explain the frustration I felt in elementary school when my parents would tease me about my best friend, a boy, who I did everything with. We saved seats on the bus, pushed each other on the swing set, and even wrote letters because we didn’t have cell phones. Every time I spoke of him at home, a mention of his name brought verse after verse of the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song upon me. I’d get angry at their accusations because they never believed my assertions of us just being friends. They never listened, waving me off with a laugh and an offhand comment about how my defensiveness equaled embarrassment at being attracted to someone. I didn’t understand dating back then because to me everyone was just a possible friend. I thought people who dated were weird because all they did was break up after a day or two and then hate each other. I never had a crush in elementary school.

Middle school was strange. Sixth grade was me trying to be friends with people who didn’t care about me. It was me wearing clothes I didn’t like, making snack runs during basketball games, and traveling to the bathroom in packs. I never dated then either and came to resent the vicious cycle that came with it. The cooing of preteens, the sloppy kisses and fumbling hands, the constant texting, nonstop chatter about how so-and-so is just perfect, the questions that came with me never having a boyfriend, the crying and the yelling when relationships crumbled to hate. It always ended with me listening to how other girls wished they were like me, a complete 360 from when they were in a relationship. I got so tired of it that by the seventh grade I just stopped hanging out with them. I was reunited with my childhood friend that year after being separated from him for a long time after switching schools and suddenly everyone talked about us. They, much like my parents before, whispered about how we shared earbuds, always partnered up, and sat next to each other. It was another year of deflecting rumors and questions and other people asking me out. I always felt bad about declining them because I never really gave clear answers when they asked me why. I couldn’t just tell them that I didn’t know, that I just didn’t feel that way towards anyone.

Eight and ninth grades were a blur. More me rejecting various boys in my class, more rumors about me except now everyone thought that I was a lesbian. More pressure from family to bring home a boyfriend.

Sophomore year I caved in. I just wanted people to leave me alone so when a boy who I’d turned down in middle school tried again, this time I said yes. He was kind and enjoyed the same movies and music I did so if I were to be romantically involved with anyone I thought it would be with someone like him. It was alright for the most part, he was sweet, holding doors and calling me cutie. We held hands while we walked to class and leaned our heads on each other’s shoulders on the bus. Everything was okay until a month passed and he told me he loved me. It was abrupt and in my surprise and confusion I stuttered out the same. I went home that day puzzled and a bit alarmed. I didn’t know what that kind of love was. I valued him as a person and appreciated his feelings but did I want to spend the rest of my life with him? I pondered over that thought for four whole months. I hated saying that I loved him back and kissing him on the cheek after. I hated the way he looked at me with adoration. I hated me. So, one day at the door to my pre-calculus class during my first semester of junior year, I broke up with him. I asked if we could just be friends but I never got an answer… or a chance to explain anything. He sort of froze up and didn’t say anything for a moment before walking off. He never talked to me again and avoided me by having a friend drive him home so he didn’t have to ride the bus. I never got to tell him that he deserved someone who could love him back. Someone who could look at him the way he looked at me. Instead, I got told rumors passed around after we separated that I was heartless. I didn’t deny it because I kind of was. I used that poor boy to quell the accusations of both my family and my peers but only made them worse in the end.

How could I possibly let someone so good-looking and intelligent go?

Everyone had their opinions solidified, and I don’t even need to explain what those were.

The second semester of my junior year I finally figured it out, or at least part of it, because who really knows every single thing about themselves? I learned about the aromantic and asexual spectrums and things started to make sense. I talked to people like me on forums and on Twitter, people who shared stories and insight, and helped me realize who I am. I found the courage to tell my friends and add it to my profiles on social media. Everyone who knows supports me, but not everyone knows. My family is still uninformed, still grasping onto their false ideas and whispered conversations, but I know who I am.

I am Kylie, senior in high school who worships pizza, ramen noodles, and slushies. I am Kylie, a girl who loves writing and coding. I am Kylie, a future computer animation major. I am Kylie, a proud AroAce.

 

Kylie Wood is a senior at Grant County High School who enjoys reading comics, fangirling over Gotham, and writing the occasional fanfiction. She consumes more pizza than she should, spends a copious amount of time playing The Sims 3, and has a bad habit of procrastinating. What free time she has is dedicated to her school’s marching band, where she performs in its color guard and gets wicked-bad tan lines. She hopes to be accepted into Full Sail University, major in Computer Animation, and thinks it would be super rad to work on a Marvel film.


The Thoughts That Cross My Mind When I Incorrectly Call Myself ‘Bisexual’

Maribel C. Pagan

 

I embrace a view
That does not belong.

I belong to a group, forever
considered to be unreal, forever
considered to be misidentifying
individuals, who are too
confused to know themselves.

I chose a name
that was not my own,
that determined who I was,
that said I couldn’t be other-than.

I am other-than. I am not
the name I have chosen, because
who I am is more complicated
than a name claiming to be me,
claiming to represent me.

I am not who you think I am, perhaps
because I have been calling myself
something different, something far
different from who I am.

Surely you understand.
I think everyone understands how it
feels to be considered something
you’re truly not, even when
some of us accept this false name.

Well, no more conforming
to society’s rules, established by
an eagle god who asks for less diversity.
I struggle in a nation that is
demanding less from me yet
wants more than I can offer.

Fuck that.

I am who I am.
I will do what I can.

Nothing can change that.
Not even the name
I falsely call myself.

 

Maribel C. Pagan has appeared or is forthcoming in the first issue of Zaum, the first issue of The Asexual, Persephone’s Daughters, Every Day Fiction, and others. She has received the Junior Reading Giants Award, has made the President's List in Mohawk Valley Community College, and has received a number of other awards and scholarships. Additionally, she is the host of The Maddie Show on WLMU Radio, a Prose Reader for Apprehension Magazine, and a singer and musician for The Angelic Family Choir. Visit Maribel at http://therollinghills.wordpress.com/.


Sexual Fixation for the Sexually Repulsed

Joanny Leyva

 

I can’t remember exactly when I found out what sex is.

I can remember being in third grade and already knowing the shame of speaking of ‘eso’ around any adult and the embarrassment from mentioning it around my peers. Even looking up the word in the dictionary made me feel guilty, as if text itself would leave a visible mark that allowed everyone to know I was too curious for my own good.

What I can remember is the quick developing obsession with anything that involved two beings doing ‘eso’. I’d casually browse through anatomy books and linger on the reproductive system. I’d stay up late and pretend to be asleep so I could watch soft-core porn on cable TV. When sex scenes came on in novelas, I’d feign innocence and disinterest in what my mother would tell me to look away from. Even animal documentaries could pique my interest.

With gained access to the internet (and delete history), my need for knowledge finally began to be quenched. By the time I was eleven I knew more about sex, outside of practice, than what the typical American does by graduation.

Throughout this journey of discovery, I never really stopped to consider my own position in the greater scheme of sex. My imagination was limited to picturing myself as an observer—never a participant. There was no one around that I could talk to about anything regarding sex without receiving a textbook regurgitation or regaño, so I simply made up my mind that I’d eventually grow into wanting to have it myself and develop the capacity to participate.

Years later, I’m still trying to figure out my relationship with sex. I’m fortunate enough to have a handful of people that I know understand and support me boundlessly, but I know it’s not the same for everyone. I’m aware of how difficult it can be to find validation as being “just asexual.” As someone who is also panromantic it’s been less difficult for me to participate in the queer community, but I still find myself having to leave out asexual from my identity in order to feel more welcomed. I don’t mind talking about sex or my few sexual experiences, but I hate it being the center of so many conversations. It’s always been a fascinating phenomenon for me, and I’ll always want to learn more, but I refuse to let it continue restraining my development.

 

Joanny Leyva is a grey ace Xicana from Southern California. She currently is an Ethnic Studies scholar in the Bay Area and hopes to pursue work in public policy. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, gardening, and going on existential rants.


We Are But Broken Machines

Michael Paramo

 

there is power in my asexuality
and yet, power transforms so often into pity

within your vicious eyes looking upon me
some broken anomaly

flickering switches, oscillating off and on
there must be some faulty wiring concealed within

and so, you connived and prodded me
opening my insides with your tools of the mind and body

and yet, to your astonishment you discovered
my levers, pulleys, and belts operated to your flawed standard

and yet, still, I did not function as you or he intended
send my damaged body back, a new motherboard was needed

but they could not fix an incorrectly assembled machine
my mind came under recall, HSDD was the director

but there was no powering down this body defective
for my perception changed, and no repair was needed

and still they could attempt, twisting the screw deep within
pushing until a spring is sprung, ejection

you can spin the head and pull it back
like empty vessels, filled and put on a track

and yet, I am still mine
under these polystyrene sheets

no pulsations in deplete
not bound to the broken

or hung in my sleep
your controllers are obsolete
 

Michael Paramo is a 24-year-old queer asexual Latinx in California. Their academic work has been accepted for presentation by the National Women's Studies Association, the American Culture Association / Popular Culture Association, as well as the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Their research interests concern queerness and asexuality as well as their many intersections.


 

All works published are original work by the authors. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights, and electronic archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information on submissions visit: TheAsexual.com

Photography by Michael Paramo.

AsexualBackground.png

Vol. 1, Issue 1


Vol. 1, Issue 1


The Asexual, Vol. 1, Issue 1

Editor-in-Chief: Michael Paramo

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo


To whom it may concern,

I began The Asexual in October 2016 with some concerns, regarding both my limited experience as well as whether anyone would submit to this journal, yet remained hopeful. I have since been overwhelmed with the response, having now received a varied collection of poems, prose, personal essays, and more from writers who identify under the ace umbrella. Some of these writings are included in the subsequent pages of this first issue in addition to a short piece by myself. I would like to thank everyone who has submitted their beautiful words for this debut issue as well as anyone who has supported the journal on social media and elsewhere. I aspire to continue this project and develop it further in the future.

With love and appreciation,

Michael Paramo


Table of Contents

Disbelieving

Michael Paramo

 

The Silent Pond

Shunya Ta

 

Sheath

Shunya Ta

 

In the Forest

Amanda Amos

 

Consuming A

Shannon O. Sawyer

 

Philophobic 

Moira Armstrong

 

Pink Lipstick

Moira Armstrong

 

The Couple 

Maribel C. Pagan

 

It Was

Kenyatta JP Garcia

 

Consuming  

Kenyatta JP Garcia

 

Ace in the Hole

Gregory Morrison


Disbelieving

Michael Paramo

 

We all have flaws and weak knees.

For me, it is in the man’s arms,

his face, his chest, his hair,

but never his penis, if he were to even have one.

 

It may as well be a snake.

Are snakes that small?

No,

and they are much more beautiful.

 

Dick pics are such a turn-off.

Let my man be clothed,

at least,

down there.

 

Disbelieving.

 

For I could love only as best as I could,

to be classified as incomplete,

either from hatred or pity,

some sorry form of recognition.

 

Most often though it is just nothing.

“You’re just gay.”

“You’re just a faggot.”

I’ll show you a faggot.

 

Michael Paramo is a queer non-binary asexual Latinx master's student in California. Their academic work has been accepted for presentation at national conferences, such as by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association as well as the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Their research interests include queer studies, intersectional approaches, media representation, romantic attraction, gender identity, and asexuality. They also deeply enjoy the pleasure that music brings into their life.


The Silent Pond

Shunya Ta

 

I have no desire

for wo/men

for a thing or being.

 

I have contemplated in solitude

and meditated on my body

to direct desire

towards

words, objects, and bodies

 

yet my body seeks only death

like silent water in the night

gazing at the stars

wary of the day’s pollution

the washer man's obscene

touch and the nakedness

of animals

invading the sphere

 

into me

all over me.


Sheath

Shunya Ta

 

There is no thing

my being

 

that you can grasp

to grasp

your own ground.

 

You may move around

your senses like

a hand grasping

the other body through

the cloth.

 

Yet,

beyond cloth

beyond the body

lies what you may

never grasp

whether

living or dead.

 

I, a (wo)man, splurge

my inner blood

and mucus onto the

sheath of reality

to show you that

Man bleeds without

being attacked

 

the body burns

without any fire.

 

Shunya Ta is a non-binary demi-sexual being who resides in the city of Calcutta on the east coast of India. They spend their time reading, writing, and contemplating about a future world.


In The Forest

Amanda Amos

 

Listen for the rustle; was it a bear in the forest?

Or it could have simply been the air in the forest

 

Lay down your burdens.

Let everything lay bare in the forest.

 

Whisper to me, love, and to no one else

Let no one hear your prayer in the forest.

 

“Sometimes, the King is a woman”

A woman with shining gold hair in the forest.

 

See the nymphs play! Watch them run!

Running without a care in the forest.

 

Go no further - listen, you fool!

Do you not hear that blare in the forest?

 

And the blood ran red through the trees

Worse than those four mares in the forest.

 

There, in the dark, lay a ring

Where Queen Mab makes her chair in the forest.

 

Tread with soft and velvet steps

His Grace alone keeps you, heir, in the forest.

 

Amanda Amos is a young writer who desperately wishes to not starve upon graduation. An adamant short story writer, she's been peer pressured into giving poetry one last chance to make it work before she retires into the seclusion of character arcs forever. As a writer of short stories, however, she has always been quite prolific within modern fantasy and magical realism, having sold out from the idealistic high fantasy of her youth. Life comes at you fast.


Consuming A

Shannon O. Sawyer

 

  I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Pride parade. I wasn’t afraid of protestors or getting lost in Portsmouth where brick was worn down by my sneakers and the salt of New Hampshire water. On that day rust brick was painted rainbow. People dressed in vibrant colors, hugging new friends that became family within a few words.

          I sat on the sidelines. Desaturated in black, white, gray, and purple. The colors of the asexual flag.

          I had heard other asexual people were attending, but this was an event of hundreds within the LGBTQIA+ community that flooded the streets. They overflowed palms, spilling onto land while the few asexuals clung to the breakers.

          There were videos of acephobia at Pride parades, the cold shoulder, language lit by low heat burners, always saying “you don’t belong” with silence. Don’t acknowledge their presence. Don’t acknowledge their identity. Don’t acknowledge their correctional rape. Don’t acknowledge their denial of healthcare, or adoption, or everything the LGBTQIA+ community hungers for too. Don’t say asexual out loud, because that would mean validation.

          The program shook in my hand as I stared at the acronym, LGBTQA; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and ally. Already so many identities lost in translation, but ally had become a slap to my face. My cheeks were purple with the bruise of “ally.” Allies. Allies. Allies. Even during the speeches, they never said it. Asexual.

When one speaker listed, more hope stung my chest, nonbinary, genderfluid, and I waited. But there it was again. Ally. How many of the people here said, “I belong, I’m an ally! I know lots of gay people!” Some of them don’t take the colors. They sit and listen, know when to be silent and when to use their privilege to advocate. But the ones at Pride wear rainbows in symbols of support and rip them from their bodies the next day. They don’t bleed the colors.

          The only booth that mentioned my orientation by name was a church with a small graph that listed “know your flag.” And there they were, my flag listed the word Asexual bold for those who looked the other way. I took a rainbow flag from them, visited twice, lingered there like a seagull waiting for a flock, for others with the same hunger.

          But I carried a smile that strained ink. If I just drank the weight of that word in its frequency I would fall into the sea just a few blocks away. My friends placed hands on my shoulders, both wearing the rainbows of the gay community they belonged to with empathetic, “I know.” Neither of them were asexual, but they knew how it hurt. No excuses, no apologies, only exhaustion.

          It’s exhaustion from lifting and scraping the bottom of the barrel from the outside; it is where barnacles and clams nest, invisible. I am not silent with the metal tools in my hand. I eat them raw and consume what little I can scrounge. I want to devour the word Ally like I consume mussels and clams. I want to heat water with rage, rip open who they are and sink my teeth into what they take from asexual people.

          I picked at mussels with my fork in a restaurant when it ended, silent because I wondered how many allies slipped inside. They wear rainbows in symbols of support and rip them from their bodies the next day, wash the brine away. They don’t bleed the colors.

          I’ve learned that anger is much stronger than placid silence. People believe the ocean to be safe until the tide swallows them whole and smashes their bodies against the breakers. When they say ally, I scream asexual, yell my lungs raw until the alveoli pop inside my body. I wonder when those allies open me with a scalpel if they will unleash a tidal wave, or a hurricane.

 

Shannon O. Sawyer is a graduate from the New Hampshire Institute of Art with her BFA in Creative Writing. She has edited the 2015 and 2016 edition of Ayris Magazine, has works published in Cartoons UndergroundThe Fem, and Quail Bell Magazine. She is currently a scriptwriter for the audio drama podcast, Jim Robbie and the Wanderers and works as an intern for the Cambridge Writing Workshop. In her spare time she enjoys drawing, watching cartoons, being an angry asexual, and screaming at heteronormative books in her local book stores.


Philophobic

Moira Armstrong

 

bright eyes work like rock salt

it snakes in past the glassy layer

it’s an expensive kind of fear

it hinges on somebody else’s hurt

your pollination is convincing

honey still won’t dissolve the slick

the others slipped

the others bruised

I don’t think I can catch you


Pink Lipstick

Moira Armstrong

 

yes my stomach was churning not a crush it was

confusion

you loved me I couldn’t see like you (I still can’t see why)

I’m not an angel not a saint so why am I your girl?

stay here with my cups of ambition and

try not to fall

I remember the first time you kissed me, leaving a

pink lipstick mark I rubbed off with a cupped hand

full of water.

I didn’t want your print didn’t want it didn’t want you

at least not the way you wanted me

to chase away your hallucinogenic baby ghosts

did you leave because I couldn’t see like you did?

I could’ve failed you and never known and

that’s what haunts me the most like you’re

haunted by whatever (I truly don’t remember)

 

Moira Armstrong is a junior at Howland High School, where she enjoys stressing over honors classes & extracurriculars. Her favorite is the speech and debate team, where she competes in original oratory and serves as president. In her very limited free time, she likes to volunteer, color, and, of course, write. Her work has also been published in the Power of the Pen Book of Winners, two Creative Communications Poetry Collections, and Blue Marble Review.


The Couple

Maribel C. Pagan

 

First Year

They eloped.

It wasn't because they loved each other. On the contrary, they seemed to be indifferent to one another. No one could quite understand what had brought them together as a couple, not even the two persons themselves.

This convinced both sides of the family to object to the marriage. That, and such a couple as them, who barely knew each other, could not possibly be paired up. And so the couple solved the problem: they eloped.

Very shortly afterwards, the husband left for the war. The wife didn't mind. She often preferred to be left alone. It only gave her more freedom to pursue her dreams of entering the workforce.

No fancy wedding. No honeymoon.

No first night together.

 

Third Year

The husband returned to the country. He had received an injury in the battlefield, said the letter.

And so she cared for him. Provided him with the necessities: bandaging, food, and so on. She also made certain he was assisted in his healing, and she helped him learn to walk again.

It was the first time she had truly held him in her arms. It was the first time she truly realized that they were a married couple living under the same roof. Surely he felt the same way.

The year passed quickly. When he was able to walk again, she then decided to leave by herself, and she told him so. She would be traveling to Africa as a missionary. He had had his chance to get away. Now it was her turn.

He consented.

It was when she was departing that she realized they had still not shared their first night together.

 

Seventh Year

She returned home by boat. She was greeted by a man carrying a bouquet.

Her husband.

Because that was what married couples did. The husband would greet the wife with a bouquet. Especially after such a long trip.

She approached him, took the bouquet, and gave him a hug. They hadn't kissed since the day they had eloped.

But he spoke to her, told her how his new publishing house was going. She, in turn, shared how her life as a missionary was: an exploration of a new place, a new life of its own, and an adventure to cherish. Maybe she didn't promote her religion as much as she was informed to, but the new place was enough to excite her.

Once she arrived at home, she noticed that they now had a king-sized bed. Not two separate beds. She took one side, he took another.

They shared the bed, but not the night.

**

After a few weeks of sharing the same bed, her husband finally asked her, "Are you sure you don't want to?"

She shook her head. "I'm sure."

He complied.

Opposite sides of the same bed. A married couple bound by day.

But not by night.

**

One night, months later, she finally crawled to his side. "Can we do it?"

A pause. Then he nodded. "Sure."

The first night they shared together ended in their falling asleep in each other's arms.

 

Eleventh Year

Their first night felt like their last. Afterwards, they shared the same bed, but not each other.

The husband's business grew, reaching thousands of customers daily. The wife began studying for a new degree. Their days were often so occupied that they rarely saw one another. One of the only times they truly saw each other was at the dinner table, when they sat across from each other slowly munching on their food. And then the bed came shortly afterward, when they shared the same bed but not the night.

It was then he announced he would have to make a lengthy business trip to another country. He would return soon, he assured her. She nodded in consent.

He left again.

 

Fifteenth Year

She found out he had been arrested on the accusation that he was a spy.

She did not know what to make of it. She only inquired to see if it was true. Most said, "no."

It took months to recover him, but soon he was finally freed. It was then she took up the courage to ask, "Is it true?"

It took him a moment. Then he nodded.

She placed her hands on either cheek. He smiled at her, tears in his eyes. She smiled a sad one in return, indicating understanding.

 

Twentieth Year

She was invited to her father's funeral. She and her husband came. The priest blessed the empty carcass her father had left behind. She and her husband bowed their heads in response.

It was after the funeral that her mother asked them, "Why did you defy our wishes?"

"It was our choice," the wife protested.

"It was your act of defiance that killed him."

"How could that be? We married twenty years ago. If he had died then, I would believe that," the husband retorted.

Her mother huffed and waltzed away, leaving the wife to her own thoughts.

Twenty years. How could so much time have passed? Was this how all married couples were like? Did it feel as strange to them as it did to her? Twenty years had come and gone, yet she still did not know whether or not she even loved her husband. Or if he loved her at all.

They returned home, holding hands.

As if their love was true.

But was it?

 

Twenty-Fifth Year

He prepared her a special dinner. He shifted uneasily between his feet, saying, "Thank you for being with me all of these years."

She smiled in return. "Thank you too."

They ate together. They shared the bed together.

They shared the night together.

 

Twenty-Ninth Year

It was cancer.

He didn't have much longer to live, the doctor said, so live it well.

Their fingers curled in each other's, hands intertwined as the wife responded, "He will be well cared for. He will live a joyous life till the end."

She prepared one last vacation for them, this time to South America.

 

Thirtieth Year

He grew far more ill shortly after their return home over a year later. She continued to care for him in his illness.

Things got worse one day. The couple found themselves at the hospital.

The doctor said he didn't have much longer.

 

Thirty-First Year

While lying in his bed one day, he finally asked her the question the two of them had pondered their whole lives, "Do you love me?"

She smiled and clasped his hands in her own. She replied, "I love you.” Pause. Then, “But not in the way you may think."

A small smile grew on his lips.

"Do you love me too?"

But he didn't answer.

His eyes had closed for the last time.

 

Maribel C. Pagan has appeared or is forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, The Stray Branch, Moledro, and others. She has received the Junior Reading Giants Award, has made the President's List in Mohawk Valley Community College, and others. Additionally, she is the host of The Maddie Show on WLMU Radio, and a singer and musician for The Angelic Family Choir, a family singing group that has appeared on EWTN Global Radio Network. You can find out more about Maribel at http://therollinghills.wordpress.com/


It Was

Kenyatta JP Garcia

 

In a week, the squirrel was dead or maybe it was another squirrel but dying is what it did. At least this one did.

It’s what happens. Dying. It’s going to die. This one and that one. Be dead. Being dead. But, first, the dying happens. It happened to it. Maybe it happened within a week. Maybe it was another it. But, it died. It was dead.


Consuming

Kenyatta JP Garcia

 

Day in. Day out. Day in. Day out.

Same cigarette to the lips. Same time. Same place.

A human clock for the work week.

*

All converge here for some reason, one would venture to guess.

Reasonably, paths cross. Path can run parallel but these haven’t.

*

Strength has been stolen from what’s been decided.

Collisions happen.

Separation.

Rubble divides.

*

On paper, other worries were left out of this fight.

*

Devotion and hunger ravage gifts. Loyalty stalls.

Blessings waste away as stimulation disappears.

Desire delays.

*

In the swamp. In the sand. Sinking. Lost.

Wet. Dry.

No answers.

 

A wall will never be a sanctuary.

But smoke may be a refuge.

Some sense to be made in consuming.

 

Kenyatta JP Garcia is the author of Slow Living (West Vine Press) as well Yawning on the Sands and This Sentimental Education. They are a poet and humorist originally from Brooklyn, NY but currently live in Albany, NY. When they're not writing, they're consumed by comic books and contemplating the many possibilities of speculative literature. One day, they hope they'll make enough money to become a cyborg, but until then, they'll just dream.


Ace in the Hole

Gregory Morrison

 

Oh, sorry! You didn’t see me here.

But that’s okay, because nobody notices normal.

Nobody thinks to ask “Hey, are you…” No. You’d rather assume.

And whilst you’re making an ass out of you, I remain unnoticed. Unknown.

Invisible in my own home because what could be worse than being unknown?

Being disowned.

So there you all are, homogenised in your heteronormativity, and you see me - except you don’t.

Not really. You see what you want to see. A young man. Set free. Exploring romantic activity.

And with women as well! Oh, how swell! Let’s not dwell on the fact that not once did he desire a sexual act.

No, not once did he cast that there line out to sea nor step foot in the waters of sexuality.

But of course, how could he? He’s been raised in a man-praising, slut-shaming, sex-crazy society!

Where the highest form of art is bare-naked nudity and the highest form of pleasure is triple X-rated pornography.

 

During puberty, young boys are taught that if they cannot think with their heads, then they should think with their heads.

And that piss is not the only thing with which they’ll wet the bed. Whether it be TV and movies, or their hordes of male friends,

or the billboards that are plastered with ladies’ rear ends, young boys are taught that their penis comes first.

If those are the base standards for manhood, then you can go ahead and crown me the worst.

 

You might tell me it’s a matter of pride. That if I’m feeling erased then I should carve my face into stone.

That I’m not alone.

That there is a whole community out there waiting for me, arms open wide. L.G.B.T.Q.A PRIDE!!

But don’t forget! The A stands for Ally.

And why are you looking at girls when you’re a guy? You don’t belong here. You’re not really queer. You’re just after the attention.

These people complain about having to fight for their right to party when I have to fight for my right to be a part of the party in which the celebration of a win is a kiss which I would not miss if I missed.

No, I insist.

Tell me again how I should enlist in an army which denies I exist.

After all, if I’m heard and not seen, then my problems don’t matter, and I should be grateful for how lucky that makes me.

Is it really so bad when the invisible man asks to be seen?

Is it so absurd that there could be people out there who don’t find themselves concerned with that most primal urge when with every other word, they are the boy who is begging to be heard?

 

Oh, sorry! You didn’t see me here. But that’s okay, because nobody ever sees the invisible.

 

Gregory Morrison is a Literature student at the University of Salford. He first realised he was asexual at sixteen years old, and has spent the four years since that point wondering just what the big deal is anyway. His family describe him as “the weird one”. His friends describe him as “a real life vampire”. He describes himself as “a pretentious nerd who tries way too hard”. When he isn’t reading superhero comics or writing poetry, he can be found making videos for his YouTube channel ThatGingerBrit


 

All works published are original work by the authors. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights, and electronic archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information on submissions visit: TheAsexual.com

Photography by Michael Paramo.