Am I a freak?
September 8, 2012 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to understand my sexuality. Please help....

I’ve tried for a long time to write this post. Rationally, I know it’s something I shouldn’t be embarrassed about, but I am. I feel so different than everyone else. Again, rationally I know there are other people who feel (or don’t feel as the case may be) the same way I do. I just don’t know how to go about connecting with them. I suspect for many it’s a big secret. I sometimes think it would be easier if I felt attraction for women. Or men. Or both. But I don’t. I don’t feel anything. I have no interest in the whole dating, marriage, relationship scene. If you would ask, I’d say I’d identify as asexual.

I joke around that I watch football (the American kind) just for the huddle and the tight ends. I find nothing about male butts in tight pants appealing. I feel as guilty about that as I would about trying to fit into Lesbian culture.

I used to think this was a consequence of the abuse. That it was a PTSD thing. But maybe I’m wired this way. I firmly believe sexuality is more hard wired than environmental. My brothers are of the same no relationship mindset, but they have a normal sex drive and find women attractive. I don’t judge their choices and I understand the not wanting relationships. I think those similarities are enough to point at the toxic environment we grew up in. But I’m definitely different from then. Then again, I took the brunt of the abuse, especially from male relatives.

I can hear people out there saying it’s totally understandable to feel the way I do about sex, other people and relationships. But I can’t help feeling like a freak. I can’t even work up the sexual energy to try to see where I might fit in on the spectrum.

I’ve looked at men of all kinds. I’ve looked at women too. But I feel nothing. It’s like there’s a huge part of me missing. Well, missing according to societal norms. Maybe I just need to learn to be a little kinder to myself and live with what God gave me. I know it’s possible to thrive in society without be married.
posted by kathrynm to Human Relations (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine is asexual, and it's not really a big deal. You have to do what makes you happy, and if forcing a relationship to be miserable would make you unhappy, then why force it? Sometimes sexual desire wanes in everyone, even people in relationships. Some people have relationships with no sex at all.

Have you been to therapy at all? I know it's thrown out here all the time, and I know it's not cheap, but if you were abused that's something you need to work through regardless of how you're wired sexually. You can also work out how to feel wrt societal norms and growing into you asexual identity.

There's also AVEN, it's an asexual visibility community. Maybe you could look around there and talk to people like you? Sometimes it helps not to feel like you're the only person who feels this way, and they can help you figure things out.
posted by jnaps at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

It could be the abuse that has made you so closed off to the idea of a sexual relationship. Or it could be that it's how you are wired. The important thing is that this seems to be causing you distress, and perhaps talking about this with a therapist can help you to sort this out. I'd suggest seeing someone who specializes in sexual identity. It was brave to post this question; that's a great first step. Good luck!
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:19 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry for your torment - you sound sad and stressed about this issue.

Are you close to anyone? Have you ever felt intimate in any (non sexual) way with another person? Sometimes sexual attraction follows from liking a person and wanting to be intimate with them, and then wanting to be sexual with them. I am a100% hetero female and I don't find anonymous men's asses hot in the least. But if I get to know someone and like them (a dude) then I want to be intimate with them and then the sexual attraction follows...

But maybe you have trouble getting close to people because of your abuse (so sorry to hear) so then you never get to the stage of feeling hot for someone. So you don't know who you are hot for.

You probably would benefit from exploring these issues in therapy...though it might be scary.

Or of course you could be asexual. But it sounds like you are really troubled by this, so yeah... See a therapist if you can, or if you have friends you can confide in keep talking about it and see what comes up for you... And maybe think about who you want to "get to know" rather than who's ass looks good in what gear, cos having a connection with someone is the sexiest thing of all.

Sorry if that was rambly, hope it helps. All the best to you x
posted by saturn~jupiter at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I had a friend years ago that identified as asexual. So that is definitely a possibility. However, since you mention a background of abuse, I think it might not be a bad idea to talk this out with a qualified counselor. No matter what conclusion you come to you deserve to feel comfortable with yourself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:39 PM on September 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

You only feel you're missing something because of the messages that are sent out to people about what they're supposed to want. People who have more typical sexual urges absorb these messages more readily. But if that's not you, then all it means is that you're harder to advertise toward :)

Obviously, obviously, you need to talk about this with people. Out loud. In the meantime, don't feel like you have to justify your life and interests to others. You have a rare gift - the ability to make decisions that aren't based on sexual desires. I know people who're pretty much ONLY able to make decisions based on sexual desires, and it runs them in circles.

Anyhow, just a few jots from a different perspective. Good luck!
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 PM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Perhaps you just haven't met your match in some sense or another. Years ago on a gifted list, someone said that when they were an adolescent, they thought there was something wrong with them because they weren't attracted to anyone. They wondered for a time if they were gay, but that was not it. They just didn't know anyone of similar intelligence at the time. I have heard something similar from a few other people.
posted by Michele in California at 6:46 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It’s like there’s a huge part of me missing. Well, missing according to societal norms. Maybe I just need to learn to be a little kinder to myself and live with what God gave me. I know it’s possible to thrive in society without be married.

If you could snap your fingers and wipe away societal expectations from your mind, would you be happy? Unfortunately, you can't, but one thing you learn in therapy is to separate what you truly want from what you're expected to want, and to learn to live up to the latter only when it gets you closer to the former. Chasing the status quo because it's the status quo is a waste of your time and effort. Chasing your real desires -- even if those desires are to be okay with not having certain sorts of desires -- is the way to go.

Especially when you're different than the cultural norm, it's hard to ignore its expectations of you. The mindset you want to work toward -- "live and let live," basically -- is a mindset that very, very rarely comes standard with the human brain. But if you find the right therapist, you'll learn to stop thinking of other people as inherently "normal," stop thinking of yourself as inherently "abnormal" and learn to accept and love who you are. It sounds hokey, sure, but it's pretty awesome.
posted by griphus at 6:48 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi, another asexual person here. You're not the only one, I promise! And I would just like to reiterate that asexuality is not connected to anything that has been done to you. Some asexual people have had traumatic experiences, some haven't, just like *sexual people. But these things are completely independent of each other.

AVEN's has some good info, but there are also other communities (livejournal, dreamwidth, and various blogs) if you find it's not a good fit for you. If it does work for you, then that's fantastic. I just found the forums tend to have a particular personality and didn't quite feel home to me, which might not be helpful if you're already feeling like you're the only person on the planet who feels this way.

For me, talking was very helpful in figuring out my identity. No one really tells you how these things are supposed to feel, because for *sexual people, it's all perfectly obvious (yes, vast generalization). You know it when you feel it, type stuff. Which can make it really hard to figure out an identity when it's based on not feeling something. I just talked with close friends, but a therapist might also be useful. Just make sure your therapist is someone who understands asexuality as an orientation, not a symptom.

One of the benefits to being ace is that it forces you to figure out exactly what you want in a relationship. There's no off the rack thing that fits well enough. This means you get to create your very own bespoke relationship. This can be hard, I spent a good chunk of time sitting down with myself and thinking very carefully about what it was that I actually wanted in the world, what I actually felt, what I didn't want to do, and what made me happy. But now I have a somewhat complicated blend of relationships that are very fulfilling and make me very happy.

Feel free to PM me that would be useful to you.
posted by platypus of the universe at 7:01 PM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's hard to separate what's innate from what's a consequence of past abuse. People can have very different behaviors as a result of stress or trauma, even if it was long ago.

So I'd say be kind to yourself now. It's OK to want what you want, and not want what you don't. No one should be bothered by that, but some will. If they are, that's their problem.

If you aren't already doing so, I'd consider a safe place like therapy where you can talk about the abuse you suffered as a further kindness to yourself. In the process, you might find that you're holding some parts of your self back as a way to protect yourself, or you may find that this is who you are. Either way, you might come out with more understanding of yourself and more confidence in what you need and don't need.
posted by zippy at 7:10 PM on September 8, 2012

Your post title makes me sad. I can tell you that absolutely, no question, 100%, you are not a freak. This applies if you are capable of sexual attraction to other people or if you're not, if you only get turned on it very specific situations or if you never do at all, if you crave only friendly and sensual touch and never want to have sex ever. You're not a freak, and there are definitely people out there who feel the same way you do. Therapy will help you figure this out as well as how to live with your past in a healthy way.

Something that really helped me to figure out my own sexuality and being able to talk about it with other people was breaking up different kinds of physical touch and activity. There's sexual touch, which normally has an end goal of orgasm, and friendly touch like hugs and sharing space (feet on laps while watching tv, leaning on each other, etc) and there's sensual touch, which includes kissing and cuddling and massages and things, and which often demands a component of sexual attraction, but here's the thing: it doesn't have to. This is what really tripped me up back in the day. Once I figured out that I desired vastly more sensual touch than sexual touch in any given relationship, I found I could go about things in a healthier way for me. And it helped me vocalize my own particular flavor of sexuality with respect to which gender expression I was attracted to for what purpose.

Anyway, take heart. If you do conclude that you're asexual and are happy with that regardless of your history of abuse, you have basically the best sexuality nickname out there. Ace! Super sweet. Asexual people have relationships, and even get married, but most often it's been something that isn't a priority after they've worked it through and so their perpetual singleness doesn't even come up.

I hope that you're considering or are already taking part in therapy. If your therapist balks at the idea of asexuality as a valid choice, find someone else who doesn't. Spend your resources not on finding someone to be with sexually but on surrounding yourself with supportive people who care about you.
posted by Mizu at 7:14 PM on September 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Asexuality is a real orientation, and not a lacuna, for many and perhaps most of the people who experience it.

I mean, yeah, having sexual and romantic relationships is great and really important to me, but I know people who just aren't interested. On the other hand, most of my friends are really engaged in parenting, and I'm just not interested. It's not a lack for me any more than not having a spouse or romantic/sexual partner is to my asexual friends, even though there's lots of energy out there about how "everyone" "needs" to have a sexual/romantic partner to be completely fulfilled, just as there is about how "everyone" "needs" to have children to be completely fulfilled.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:59 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looking doesn't do it for me (sexually) and never has. (I'm not sure this is anywhere near your issue, and if I have the wrong end of the stick, do ignore me). A touch, a taste - that can drive me wild - but just to look? I don't know what the fuck people are talking about with that stuff.

Next, apart from sexuality - I think we're all freaks in some way, especially the people right in the middle of the bell curve. For me, I seem to attract friendly connections from people quite easily, and I may enjoy their company, but I can drop them from my life without regret or upset when I move. I recognise this, and actively work at maintaining relationships now - but I still don't feel I do it like regular people.

Please, yes, be kind to yourself - and yep being single can be incredibly awesome - particularly if it's what you want.
posted by b33j at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2012

I reread my comment and realized there was some hinky language going on there. By "the idea of asexuality as a valid choice" I didn't mean to imply that sexuality is a choice at all, but that among the vast array of labels from which to choose, asexuality is one that is real. Just like I can choose to call myself bisexual or pansexual or queer or whatever other more nuanced option is good for the audience I may have at any given time. I just wanted to clear that up in case anybody might have read it as me saying "well, you can always choose to have sex with people!" which is, emphatically, not at all the case.
posted by Mizu at 9:56 PM on September 8, 2012

Another person checking in to say I too have friends who identify as asexual. I know at least one of them is in a long-term partnership, and though we've never discussed it, I assume they do not have sex. Perhaps they simply value the companionship and don't need sexual intimacy.

I think you should definitely seek out other people like yourself if only for support and to reassure yourself that you are not a freak. You are okay being who you are.

If you haven't yet, think about therapy to deal with the abuse, but you don't need to necessarily go in thinking "this will fix me and awaken my sexuality"--unless you want that to be a goal of your therapy.

Good luck and take care of yourself.
posted by asciident at 10:01 PM on September 8, 2012

Chiming in as a person with an asexual friend. My friend is aromantic as well, and puts energy into close friends and varied interests instead of relationships or sex. Sometimes I see how well that's going, and think it's the rest of the world who are freaks!
posted by vasi at 11:10 PM on September 8, 2012

It’s like there’s a huge part of me missing. Well, missing according to societal norms.

The sooner you can make a habit out of telling societal norms that don't work for you* to go fuck themselves, the happier your life will be.

(*at least, those that are are not injurious to others)
posted by ead at 11:39 PM on September 8, 2012

Hi, I'm asexual and happy. I went through the "am I a freak" phase (tho I was never as distraught as you seem to be) and came out the other end. What helped me was reading up on the Asexuality movement (AVEN linked above is a good start) and realising that this was a completely valid lifestyle regardless of what society tells you (I admit it can get tiring having to rehash this with new people again and again, but I'm a lot more "I'll explain it once & if you harp on about it I'll move on" about it now).

I do agree with everyone above that you should definitely consider therapy to help you untangle your experience of abuse from your (a)sexuality. I'll say this tho: even IF your asexuality is shaped by your abuse, it is still a completely valid coping mechanism, as long as you are comfortable. You're obviously not now because you asked this question, but if you get to the point where you can accept your lack of sexual urges and be happy with them, don't let anyone tell you that just because they are (potentially) rooted in abuse you need to overcome that cuz "everyone needs sex" and all that crap. There are enough happy asexuals out there who are proof to the contrary!

(feel free to memail me if you have any questions or just wanna chat)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:32 AM on September 9, 2012

Would it help to know that some asexuality researchers argue that it is society itself that has changed:

"Fifty or 60 years ago would anyone have actually felt the need to define themselves as asexual or would society have just accepted them not engaging in sexual behaviour? I think there has been quite a profound change."

We live in a society where the idea that one is not sexual is shocking, yet there is nothing that means that it should shock, and it is clear that it has not always done so.
posted by knapah at 4:22 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am asexual, aromantic and a non-libidoist and perfectly happy that way. There are more meaningful relationships than romantic/sexual ones in life, so there is nothing wrong with it.

The only place where I ever truly felt like a freak was on AVEN's forums. If you have a history of abuse and potential triggers... seriously, stay away from the AVEN forums. It's the seventh circle of kink hell and people will make you think "if you are asexual, you need at least one hardcore fetish". The AVEN wiki is likely helpful to find terms and definitions, but if you are older than 17 and have no desire in BDSM with My Little Pony characters, it's not quite the place to connect with people.
I'm sorta upfront about being asexual and due to that, I have met several other asexuals and people in the demi/grey spectrum on other places online. I frankly have no advice how to find them; every single one of them took a look at the AVEN community and thought "Freaks!"

For that reason, I'm inclinded to say "therapy" at this point, if only to figure out for yourself if your asexuality is a result of abuse or not. That said, I personally don't see a connection by default; there are also abuse victims who still have the desire to be in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. I, on the other hand, have never been abused in any way, but also never had a desire for these things.
Seek out a therapist who is aware of and possibly involved in LGTBQ matters. It is sadly still common for therapists to see sex and romance as "basic human needs like air and food". (Yeah, according to that, I'm dead.) Having someone to talk to who is open to the idea of other relationship models will help.
posted by MinusCelsius at 5:15 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're not a freak at all! There are people out there just like you. The tricky part is finding and connecting with such ones. Asexuality is something that a lot of people just don't...get.

Unfortunately the only really active asexual forum is AVEN, and MinusCelsius describes it quite well. If you're on you may find some ace groups in your area.

MeMail me if you want to talk. It's hard out here for an ace or demi/grey-A, but you're not alone. :)
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:01 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I tend to avoid the convention of categorizing relationships. I might describe a person as a friend, but I wouldn't describe my relation to them as "a friendship," because I don't recognize a generic type of friendship that a relationship could be a member of. What characteristics must friendship have in order to be friendship? You need to communicate with the person... you need to get along with them, although that really only means you can cooperate in social settings, lots of people have friends they don't actually like... um, perhaps it implies some degree of loyalty? Some of the time? My point is that the category "friendship" is too vaguely defined to be of much use.

For the same reason, I tend to avoid classifying others' relationships as "sexual" or non. It saves me the headaches involved in deciding how much of a sexual component a given relationship has. Is a friends-with-benefits arrangement more or less sexual than a marriage? Does it depend on the frequency of intercourse? What if the sex isn't actually arranged, and just done out of convenience? Why the hell should I worry about this shit when I can just say "those two have sex a lot"?

I also identify as asexual, but only when I'm either seeking out others of that orientation, or when someone insists on talking about the sex I don't have and needs a box to put me in. I'm not really offended by others' need to categorize me; the background knowledge required to understand the workings of a person's motives, sexual or otherwise, is much too much to handle. But insofar as I care that I am asexual, it's only because it's a useful word to apply to myself. That might be a bigger deal to you; it's possible you have a desire for sexual self-expression, even without a desire for sex per se, in which case advertising your asexuality makes sense.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2012

Just another piece of anecdata. Though I am now in a sexual relationship, when you're not, you understand that a HUGE chunk of the adult population is just not having sex, maybe for years at a stretch. Now, many people don't want to be celibate...but sometimes I feel like the relationship-having and sex-having rhetoric drowns out the reality that a lot of people just aren't Doing It. My friends and I talk about the divide between Relationship People and Non-Relationship People...years of being in a relationship hasn't changed my fundamental membership in the latter category, I don't think.

Point being, there's no rush to figure this all out. Don't let the louder I-am-so-sexual voices in your social group, to say nothing of the media, distract you from the considerably less sexy reality.
posted by skbw at 8:00 AM on September 9, 2012

As for "freak," I take the view that everyone's a freak to someone, and the question is whether you stand to benefit from outing yourself to the people who see you that way.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:13 AM on September 9, 2012

First, thank you everyone. Yes, I was sexually abused. I did do counseling for a long time, some at an agency here that served that specific population. I do know I need to get back into because I'm dealing with a lot of anger issues trying to deal with long term fibromyalgia flares. The complication kicks in in that I'm moving back to Korea to teach. I'll be back in the same city so I can hook up with my old pdoc. I just don't know how bringing the whole sexual identity issue will go with him, and I'm hesitant to do so. I'm going to ask if he knows of any English speaking therapists in the city. But again, even though I've lived in Korea for quite a few years, I don't know how a conversation about something like this would turn out. In fact, I'm super hesitant to even talk about the abuse to someone there. Maybe just fear and denial and supression getting in my way. Wouldn't be the first time.

Maybe I'll trying doing some private writing on it. I guess it did come across how badly this has been bothering me.

Again, thanks.
posted by kathrynm at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2012

My heart goes out to you. I know how painful it can be to reach into the tangled mass of your own feelings to try to pull out a proper sexuality/preference, and to deal with the guilt/shame/associations associated with whatever it may be. I used to be jealous of people who just knew what they wanted in that department; for me it always felt like there was nothing there. Or, conversely, that there was way too much there, such that I couldn't sort it all out.

I'll spare you my personal history, though, and just offer you what I learned from working through it.

Before committing yourself to being asexual (which is a legitimate option worth considering), I would encourage you to try to give the whole issue a good think. As I understand it, there are two possibilities based on what you've described, and both have great potential. The first is that you're asexual: that you really aren't attracted to either gender, and that you have no desire for a relationship or all that entails.The second is that you actually do have a real desire for all that, but it's buried under a lot of other issues. Of course there's a lot of gray between those two poles, but for simplicity's sake let's deal with those.

The good news is that either of those options is equally OK! Both paths are legitimate and not worthy of any shame, especially based on what you've been through. Also, both have equal potential for love and happiness.

On the one hand, the great thing about asexuality is that holy shit does it give you a lot of free time. That sounds facetious, but I assure you it's not. The potential you have is amazing: potential for creative projects, self-improvement, volunteer work, skills-building and other activities that the coupled members of society could only DREAM of having time and energy for. You also have a lot of time to make and maintain great friendships that would not be possible if you were devoting your energy to a relationship. Finally, the whole "dying alone" trope is not really a valid concern: I know plenty of people in less-than-ideal relationships with very few friends who are WAY more in danger of that fate than some of the single people I know who have becomes essential members of their community. Love is still available to you – it's just more generalized than the sappy ballad variety.

On the other hand, if you actually aren't asexual, then you have all traditional relationship love and happiness within reach, the benefits of which I don't need to describe for you.

That's the good news. The other side of the coin is that either of those ideal scenarios described above require a lot of energy and effort to accomplish – whether it's the effort to make a fulfilling asexual life, or the effort to start up a healthy relationship.

By extension, it will require working through any issues that might be sapping those energy/effort reserves. From your recent post, it seems like that might be the case for you. Of course I can't presume to tell you how to address those underlying issues. For me, I know I had to deal with a grab bag of other life problems (self-esteem, career goals, family, etc.) before I had the confidence to finally sit down with my sexual identity and figure out what the hell it was. There are obviously a lot of ways of sorting those kinds of things out: introspection, therapy, etc.. But in my experience, once I dealt with those, the sexual identity issues – and, more importantly, the shame issues that were tangled up in them – resolved themselves pretty quickly.

Whether you end up being truly asexual or not, you're going to need the energy and fortitude to make a happy life for yourself. Work through your underlying issues, and you'll have a better chance of getting there, wherever "there" is.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 7:16 PM on September 9, 2012

My friend is in Seoul, and says that attitudes about asexuality there aren't significantly different from those in Canada, and are perhaps slightly better than in the US. Good luck!
posted by vasi at 5:08 AM on September 11, 2012

In my opinion, you don't have to think of yourself as a freak. I thought I was a freak when I was a 20 year old virgin. My cousin thought he was a freak when he discovered he liked other boys. My best friend thinks he's a freak because he gets bored of relationships before they can flourish, and my girlfriend's best friend thinks she's a freak because she can't hold down a boyfriend, even though she's awesome.

I wanted to comment here to say that if you truly ARE a-sexual, you're really kind of lucky. Read through the "Human Relations" past posts for hundreds of drama-filled stories of terrible relationships... you wouldn't ever have to worry about that!

And you would have a chance to really accomplish something in your life instead of just spitting out more kids and raising them (how clique!)
posted by el_yucateco at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2012

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