I became a prokaryote
November 9, 2011 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to "become" asexual?

I'm 34 and female. I used to like guys and sex. I dated in my 20s and have had a few long-term relationships- all rather negative experiences. After my last boyfriend and I broke up (two years ago), it felt like I had shut a switch off in my brain.

It's not like my libido has disappeared, I do masturbate.. I just have no desire to have sex or be in a relationship with anyone. Occasionally I tell people that I am just waiting for the right man to come along and that I'm open to possibilities, but deep down I know I'm lying. Luckily I am never approached by men but I know that if I was, I wouldn't pursue anything.

I have struggled with a terrible self-image for a long time and have improved with therapy, exercise, etc. One thing that hasn't changed is my conviction that I am just not "girlfriend material" and that I need to work on just being happy with being single forever.

Looking for advice/feedback. Throwaway email: toujoursseule1@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
People who don't want relationships and people who don't want sex with others are two different flavors of asexual. So, it is entirely possible that you are asexual despite that you masturbate.

A good resource is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. I would encourage you to look there and try it on. But I would also encourage you to continue your work on your self-image.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:39 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have struggled with a terrible self-image for a long time and have improved with therapy, exercise, etc. One thing that hasn't changed is my conviction that I am just not "girlfriend material" and that I need to work on just being happy with being single forever.

I'm no expert on asexuality, but that doesn't sound like anything close to it. You're not "girlfriend material," nobody is. Working on just being happy being single forever is not asexuality, it's forced isolation. Note the "working on" rather than just being.

You admittedly have a terrible self image, you don't see yourself as someone men would want to date, rather than not seeing yourself as someone who wants to date men. There's a big difference. Honestly, you sound afraid of being hurt again. It's trite, but I'd recommend more therapy and more hobbies and a huge helping of love for yourself as you are.
posted by lydhre at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? It might not be asexuality.

Here's the thing, though: as far as I am aware, asexuality -- as opposed to (involuntary) celibacy -- is partially defined with being totally okay with it. By accepting it as a concrete part of your existence. In the "I have arms and legs and no desire to have sex with anyone, ever." This is opposed to feeling "eh, I give up" okay with it or the "no one will ever like me so might as well give up wanting it" okay with it. You might be having issues with accepting it due to it being, well, not compatible with a lot of things society says you Need To Be, but it's also not a surrender, and I get a little bit of surrender-feeling from what you've written

Also: not wanting to have sex for whatever reason does not make you not girlfriend material ever. It does not necessarily have to cast its shadow on a desire for other sorts of intimacy, or a relationship or whatever. It just makes things more difficult. There are guys out there who also don't want to have sex, and that doesn't remove their desire to be with a person. If both people are okay with a certain aspect of their relationship, then it's not a landmine waiting to be stepped on.
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read up on involuntary celibacy, as well, and note the differences between it and the asexuality stuff linked above.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2011

I just have no desire to have sex or be in a relationship with anyone.

I feel this way whenever I'm not in a relationship with people. I think it's normal. I'm pretty low-libido anyhow and usually even thinking about relationships sends me into a "ugh no!" spiral of DO NOT WANT. That said, I'm in a relationship now that weirdly fits all my strange little strangenesses [I too am terrible girlfriend material for 99.99% of humanity] and makes me happy. And so this is not me saying "Oh just wait til you find the right person!" because I find that chirpy and unhelpful, but more to say that you're welcome to have whatever feelings that you want, be they temporary or permanent and you don't have to decide. Especially I think there's something inherently rational about saying "Well I am not having sex with someone right now and don't have immediate prospects, so I'm not going to let my desire for sex drive me towards a relationship that I don't really otherwise want" That seems practical, to me. It's hard to both gear yourself up for thinking about dating someone and also being okay without dating someone currently. It's like being a tony way along a path to weight loss or fitness or something. You have to love who you are and yet strive for a change and sometimes that's just nt thework you want to be doing.

So, I'd say, just because you're asking, that your concern that you are not girlfriend material may be a little short-sighted and sound like maybe you're still negatively self-talking yourself a little. No big deal, honestly. And, as I suspect you may be, I got totally tired as fuck of people trying to set me up with people while at the same time giving me weird pesky comments like well if I wasn't going to shave my legs I wasn't really trying to date or whatever. And I thanked them for their concern--for people who are really happier coupled up I think it's hard to see someone being okay being on their own--but just kept on doing what I was doing. And eventualy I ran into someone purely by accident who changed my mind.

And maybe you will and maybe you won't and maybe you don't want to and all of that is totally okay. You've got a therapist it sounds like, bounce this idea off of them. Ans make sure you separate whatever needs for human companionship you have from needs for sexual attention [from others] because I think desire for [pet, human, something] companionship is sort of indivisible from most human experience, but lots of people have fulfilling lives without sex being a big part of them.
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [18 favorites]

Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. Give it some time and introspection, and land where you feel comfortable.
posted by wayland at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2011

I'm a bit confused by your question. Is it because you don't feel sexual desire for others that you think you're not girlfriend material? Or are these two separate things?

Having little to no sex drive, or being extremely rarely attracted to people, will likely reduce the pool of potential boyfriends. But everyone has things about them, or things about what they want in a partner or a relationship, that winnows down the pool. It

I think it's not a bad idea for anyone to work on being comfortable with the idea of being single forever, but it sounds like you're trying to figure out to what extent it is, for you, a choice versus a consequence of things that don't feel like choices (your self-esteem, your sex drive, etc).

I'm not sure why that matters so much. It's not like even the 'perfect' person can *choose* to have a relationship and the next day meet the/a right person. And even the most flawed person (um, all of us) can only make the choices one a time, even if they have a certain plan or vision. Date this one? yes/no Marry that one? yes/no Flirt with him? yes/no And you never know what the choices add up to until you're dead.

My impression is that it's possible (and not uncommon) for people's sexual wants to change depending on what else is going on in their life. So a couple of negative sexual relationships plus low self esteem plus not having recently met someone whose smell just makes you go zing could absolutely leave you in a low/no libido space. Is it permanent? Probably not - the fact that it's changed once seems like an indicator that you have a libido that's liable to vary. But it almost doesn't matter. All you can do is make those one by one decisions: sign up for the dating site? yes/no Sleep with this one? yes/no Commit to that one? yes/no

I'm not sure what "girlfriend material" means. I think that if you look at all the women now who are 'girlfriends' and all the women who have ever been 'girlfriends', you will find an extremely, if not infinitely, broad range of personalities represented. If you think you don't have it in you to be a good girlfriend, because of your own insecurities, or communication skills, or integrity, or whatever else, those are things you can work on that will probably be useful for *all* your relationships - if not all your life. But just to be 'a girlfriend' is not exactly a narrow profile.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:23 AM on November 9, 2011

This is a perfect thing to bring up with a therapist.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2011

I feel the same way. I haven't likey-liked a guy in so long that I strongly suspect I am no longer capable of actually doing so. I don't remember any longer what it was like to be in love either. That stuff seems to have died off in me, though my shrink yelled at me to say "frozen, not dead" yesterday about it. It feels dead though. So like you, I seriously wonder if I have become asexual. I think technically the asexuals would say "no" to this, but I guess the closest terminology to what we are is "apathetic." Why get all worked up when there's no prospects on the horizon and there haven't been in years, and you're tired of being told how inadequate you are as a girlfriend when you have someone? (Which, guess what, is where my thinking I am inadequate as a girlfriend comes from too.)

What it always seems to boil down to in life is that either you get lucky or you don't, and while you're not getting lucky, which may be a long time to never (let's just say that "it happens when you no longer want it" has not occurred for me), you might as well get used to the idea of "nothing's gonna change my world, I need to get used to being single." If it's meant to happen, someone will show up...eventually. In the meantime, it doesn't matter too much if you are constantly speed-dating or avoiding humanity, I suspect, because right now it's not happening for you. And why feel sexually worked up if it's not happening, anyway? What good would that do you? It wouldn't help at all.

You're sitting in stasis and there's nothing you can do about it. What's the point of working to change your heart NOW when there's nobody around to change it for?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've asked myself that round the age of 26-28. I was VERY sexually repressed and in a marriage where I LIKED and loved (but was not in love or found attractive) with my (amazing on paper) husband. How I got into that situation is multiplicitous- my up-bringing, my own issues blah blah... but I've spent the odd year since thinking I'm aesexual... there was no memory of anyone decent on the scene, but i didn't want to sleep with women... It was ever so confusing. Fast forward- I'm in a fantastic relationship now and love sex. Strange. No matter WHAT you'll be alright.
posted by misspony at 12:00 PM on November 9, 2011

If thinking of yourself as asexual makes you feel better about yourself, then by all means do so. It has certainly helped me and opened the door to a lot of self-discovery. No one but you can decide if it's an appropriate label to apply to yourself. Calling yourself asexual is not the same thing as "giving up" on sex or relationships. It's just a statement of what you want, no more and no less. There is no reason you have to want to same things now that you have in the past, and being honest with yourself about what you want now doesn't mean you can't want something different in the future.
posted by shponglespore at 3:57 PM on November 9, 2011

You're me but with boobs. Wanna date?! I was going to just talk to you via the throwaway email address and maybe I'll do that for further conversation, but I'm tired of taking hidey steps like that. I'm encouraged by other people talking about it here to some degree, so I just want to add my voice to this page so that you and anyone who finds it later can know that there are others out there struggling with this same thing.

This is nuts, but this was in fact the exact topic I was hammering my therapist on this morning. I've been trying to get an answer on this one for a long time. Basically all I've got is that is is likely a result of depression. Now, I can't even tell if I'm depressed anymore because it's been so long that I can't remember what life felt like before. But I know that even if I'm not, I was depressed for so long that it warped and changed me and that I've still got all the caverns that that long-sustained raging torrent carved out. So that could be the culprit rather than depression. My self confidence, self esteem, and self image were decimated a long time ago and I have only coaxed them back a bit as yet. I've read enough about depression and have been in enough therapy to know what classic irrational thoughts sound like (hint - you're about to hear them!) but it's one thing to hear them in yourself and understand that they're irrational and an another thing to be able to see through any other lens than that. So I just say all that to let you know that I'm in a similar place. I think we're not seeing right.

And as for the asexuality, I just read a bit about it and I don't think I'm that. As someone else mentioned, I think I'm just totally apathetic about it. I just don't care. I could never have sex again and in a way that would just be easier. Yet I want to care. I care that I don't care. I want to have a good sexual relationship. I look at the life I've got and I don't want it. I'm not happy in it. The life I want is in a loving relationship with a woman and with kids and my time to do that is slipping away. But when somebody says, as just happened last week, "Oh I've got someone for you. She's great," I just don't care. Part of me says "It'll never work until I fix whatever's wrong with me. None of the others have 'taken' and I feel the same now as then. And I don't want to waste my time on this and make myself look like a drip and ruin my future chances if word of that gets around." And another part simply doesn't care and knows that I couldn't maintain interest and couldn't hold up my end of the bargain and simply don't have the emotional resources and availability to be half of an us. And I have to put people off with all the excuses that by this point nobody buys anymore. I don't even think people harbor theories that I'm gay anymore because it's 2011 and I am who I am and I'd have been out a long time ago if that were it. I think they've just written me off as a sad case and have given up on the mystery of why I remain single and go years between short-lived attempts at dating (which I force myself to do). It's been so long that it's not just some kind of phase, not just some interim state, it's my life.

And I actually do get approached now and then. I sort of charm my way out of those situations with some pretty deft deflection. I've come to recognize that look in their eyes when they realize I've gently cut off all the avenues. It's a deflated look of loss in their eyes but such a deflating feeling in my tired spirit.

I'm still attracted to women to the degree that checking them out is almost a sport. I look at them and still want to have sex with them. I do have sex with them later on in my mind during private time. But when it comes to actually making it happen like I used to, like a boss at that, the interest just somehow isn't there. Just recently my buddy and I were watching the game at the bar and people start trickling in and there were a few small clusters of cute women by themselves, some of which I even pointed out to my buddy, and he's egging me on to go talk to them, and I don't give a shit. Some are too young and I can kind of shoot myself down by imagining that they don't want Older Guy cheezing on them. But two were my age or a couple years older, so no longer the stars of the bar, but dressed to impress and nobody was talking to them. One even looked like she was really sweet. Perfect targets. I know they'd have been happy to have a decent looking friendly guy with good social skills come say hi and chat and have a drink. What more do I need? But I couldn't muster the interest, not for any of them. I just want to drink my beer and go home and get comfortable. They catch my eye, I check them out, I scope and appreciate, and I have no interest. That's the part I don't understand - how can I be attracted, be aroused, imagine them naked and fucking me, or walking sweetly hand in hand, but not be actually interested in doing anything about it? It's not like I don't know how to pick them up or start a relationship - I did this plenty in years past. That's where it starts to seem like it can only be biochemical - something not firing somewhere in the brain. Yet I'm on a pretty regular solo schedule, so the urges are there and the equipment is working. So that makes it sound more like some kind of warped mental hang-up born of distorted thinking. Maybe it's both.

And that brings us back to the self image / self esteem thing. I think that may be it for both of us, kind of like how abused people come to feel they deserve it. Just like you, I feel like I'm not "boyfriend material". I just don't feel like I'm cut out for it. I feel bad for anyone I might date because they deserve better, deserve someone who will be available to them, not aloof and apathetic and just stone dead emotionally often enough to be a dealbreaker. In a way that makes sense because who would want that in a partner? But you can also hear that classic "I'm broken" syndrome at work in those words. So I seriously, really, totally don't care and am not interested... or that's how it feels. Maybe I do care, as evidenced by my caring about not caring, but am simply throwing up some deep-rooted self defense mechanisms via everybody's favorite technique: preemptive self sabotage. You know how it is when you don't want to fail at something - sometimes you'll sort of fool yourself that you don't really want whatever it is you might fail at and come up with excuses why you can't do it. After all, if you don't try, you can't fail. If you're never tested, you can't be found lacking. I know that's definitely been a feature in my life in other ways as I Walter Mitty it away. But I feel like I'm fairly conscious of that these days. I may still do it, but at least I can see what's happening and sometimes use that awareness to beat it, to make myself take that first step and go for it. But with the lack of interest in relationships or casual sex, I can't see that same thing. I don't feel like I'm fooling myself so I won't fail at it. But wouldn't we all nod knowingly if some genie magically diagnosed it as that? It seems to fit the mold even if I can't see it or feel it, and I can't come up with any other answers.

This is a very long way of saying that I don't know what's wrong with me. If there are happy asexuals out there, I offer them congratulations. But I'm not happy with this and don't want to be. I don't want to be alone. I've done it for long enough to realize I don't want to live this way, tucked away in a cave with nobody to share life with, to love, to join with, to have the full human experience with. So I want to overcome this.

The only medicine the therapist could offer was the stimulus/response angle. He said that if what I want is to feel and to care but that I only sometimes felt or cared, what I needed to do was reward myself whenever I did feel or care. If I'm laying on the couch and wish I had someone sweet there to spoon with, acknowledge that and say to my inner self "that's good, you're feeling, you care, you want." Over time, this apparently encourages the behavior to happen more. And I'm to follow up on those brief periods by using them as inspiration to take steps towards what I say I want. And if it passes, I'm to "fake it till I make it" so to speak, to act as if I care. To go down to the end of the bar, to call that girl my friend wants to set me up with, to accept that blind date. Again, I don't care, but I'm supposed to act like it and coax any sparks I may have into small flames. And I'm supposed to keep doing that. I don't know if any of that will help me or you, but it's all I've got.

I'll send you an email from a hidey address so that you can respond if you want to. If this was off base or you otherwise don't want to, I wish you the best. I say keep working on that self esteem, keep cultivating that inner locus of worth, and be ready to take a chance if the feeling strikes, but to be gentle with yourself if it doesn't. I'm starting to feel like if I've failed this much already, it's not like a little more will make a difference. So maybe the key is to hope that the Douglas Adams method of flying might work - throwing oneself at the ground and missing.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:58 PM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

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