Perhaps I should’ve noticed something was off when I was in high school. I remember the distinct discomfort that ran through my bones whenever I would try to flirt with a girl. It wasn’t that I was necessarily poor with words — I have the best words — nor was I awkward around women. I did, however, feel as if my speech was hollow; that kind of socialization was almost mechanical to me, something I did because that’s what boys my age were supposed to do.
I had zero sexual interest in men, so I assumed I was heterosexual by default. It wasn’t until 2014 that I even realized that there were options beyond the three orientations — heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality — of which I was aware. During my annual checkup that year, I mentioned to the doctor my general lack of sexual attraction. There are many medical explanations for such a thing, including hypoactive sexual desire disorder and hypothyroidism, so I wanted to know for sure what was wrong with me. The doctor agreed to test for any possible medical explanations, but also offered up an alternative theory: I was asexual. When my hormone levels came back normal, asexuality clicked for me as an answer to my confusion.
Asexuality is defined in Psychology Today as “a lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex.” Asexual people comprise an estimated one percent of the population, according to Williams College, with some academics suggesting the number to be even higher. Asexual people are not celibate, nor are we physiologically dysfunctional. We aren’t inherently averse to romantic relationships, either. We simply have zero desire to pursue sexual contact.
You might understandably assume that a life without sexual desire is uncomplicated. You’re wrong. You’re so wrong. Why are you so wrong? Despite the fact that my nonchalance towards the prospect of getting laid frees up my schedule, it can also be incredibly alienating. Imagine you and 99 people you know decide you all want to play a game. The consensus choice is a game you have zero interest in playing, so you sit on the bleachers instead. There’s nothing fun about watching all of your friends play without you, regardless of how little you actually wanted to play the game.
It’s especially difficult in college, where hook-up culture is protrusive. I usually leave bars before 9 p.m. because the sexual energy of nightlife makes me viscerally uncomfortable, and house parties are oftentimes overwhelming, too. Socialization becomes something of a chore for me when everyone is flocking to something I go out of my way to avoid. Even outside the realm of college life, human sexuality is expressed in the most glaringly obvious ways. Entertainment media, for example, frequently depicts sexual intercourse as a shorthand for romantic interest in lieu of actual character development. As someone who voraciously consumes pop culture and media, I constantly come across music, television, and cinema that reinforce the belief that sex is a necessary ingredient in romance. That may be the case for many, but it’s far from universal.
I’ve never met another asexual person. Given the relative rarity of the orientation and the fact that there’s no real way to “perform” asexuality, I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect to meet someone like me any time soon. It sometimes helps just to know that they’re out there, but I would much rather have someone who can help me better understand everything that I am and am not. For those who wish to learn more about asexuality, the book The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker is invaluable, as is the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network at asexuality.org. I may never shake the recurring instinct that the world in which I live belongs to everyone else except me, but it’s important for people to know that we exist. That I exist.