It’s Valentine’s Day yet again and the traditional NYU narrative still stands alone in the corner. The single NYU gal, who sugar-coats herself “independent” and “career-driven,” will enjoy her dimly lit dinner in the company of like-minded ladies tonight, who’ll split the check in shared sympathy and single-girl-solidarity. But only after indulging in their denial, as they realize the only type of cock they’ll have in hand this evening are their pink cocktails. Meanwhile, the luckier ones, the pretty NYU lads, pair up with each other and shamelessly PDA. In all our sexual deprivation this Valentine’s, maybe we should look to those who have excelled at being single, who claim to be perfectly happy, healthy, and also shamelessly sexless — The Asexual.
With sexual imagery fixed on every other street corner, we practically live, breathe and walk on contemporary culture’s bed. Likewise, as sex has gradually made its way out of the private arena and into the public sphere, it has become less a taboo and more of a social norm. Then walk in the Asexuals, who supposedly make up a mere 1% of our population, and claim that sex just isn’t all that necessary, for them at least. And joining them is a whole new set of debate and controversy, as Asexuality inevitably connotes something different for each and every individual — even within the Asexual community.
Simply put, an Asexual is defined as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” However, most Asexuals are explicit about the fact that there is a difference between not wanting love, relationships, and a companion (which most of them say they still want) … and just not wanting sex. Apparently, you can have the formers (love, relationship, a companion) without the latter (sex).
It’s also worth noting that a survey conducted in 2008 within the Asexual Community, known as AVEN, reported that about 29% identified as male and 71% as female. No surprise there. Likewise, the average sexual guy is probably reading this and scratching his balls, going “wtf… so… no sex?” That’s right, no sex. And when these Asexuals say “no,” they actually mean “no thanks.” Evidently, they’re just not interested.
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, was founded in 2001 by an outspoken and unabashed Asexual, David Jay. AVEN was set up for the purpose of creating visibility and starting an open discussion about Asexuality. Since then, it has grown and globalized, making it not only the first but also the largest Asexual Community. AVEN has essentially created a virtual closet space in which people can simultaneously hang out and hide in; away from the sex-saturated society of today. It has helped establish, acknowledge, and more or less, define Asexuality. On AVEN, Asexuality seems to be an open-ended playground where anyone — confused, curious or just lonely — can come and feel welcomed. AVEN also allows members to form relationships with one another, and serves as the go-to platform for researchers, the press, or students with nothing better to do — like myself.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and for the sake of research, I created an Asexual identity for myself on AVEN, as “Venus,” and directly engaged with Asexuals in the AVEN Chatroom. My question was: so if they’re not talking about sex, what are they talking about? Not to ruin the surprise, but it’s cake. (No sexual innuendo intended.)
What you are witnessing here is the climax of our hour long chat. This is obviously a small piece of the whole hour, but I can assure you that the rest of this conversation did not get any more exciting than what you’ve got here. Personally, the majority of conversations were way too cut and dry for my liking. Let’s face it, innocent cake-talk just ain’t enough for some of us — some of us want cake and sex.
THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID
It’s only official once you call in a doctor, so I thought it would be worthwhile to get a specialist’s perspective. Virginia Sadock, M.D., NYU Langone Medical Center’s Human Sexuality Program Director, was generous enough to lend me her personal time and knowledge on the subject matter. In Q&A format:
- Do you ﬁnd Asexuality to be a problem that needs to be treated? Well, that really depends. It is only a problem if the person in question identiﬁes it as one, or if they see that itʼs becoming a problem in other aspects of their lives.
- What is the difference between someone being Asexual and someone who is celibate? Celibacy and Asexuality are different because in the case for Asexuals, itʼs more of an “I donʼt have ” whereas for Celibacy it is the “giving up of sexual feelings or impulses.” Asexuals arenʼt giving up something, they donʼt have it to begin with.
- Can Asexuality be considered a Sexual Orientation? No, it cannot be a “sexual orientation,” because itʼs a lack of being attracted to anybody.
- Can one self-stimulate and still identify as an Asexual? No, self-stimulation is a sexual drive, so they can not be deﬁned as Asexual. If it can be used as a way of releasing their anxieties and attributed to stimulating a good feeling, they are capable of being sexual. I would not accept someone who masturbates as an asexual. An Asexual is someone who has neither conscious nor unconscious sexual desire.
That’s right — role play, upbeat background music, aggressive push and shove, in the dark — Laser Tag.
Thanks to AVEN, I got in touch with a couple Asexuals in the NYC area, who were kind enough to invite me, Venus, to their local AVEN Event this past weekend.
After meeting up with two AVEN members at Penn Station, the three of us joined the rest of the group at Macy’s Cellar Bar and Grill. To my surprise, there was a grand total of 18 people (myself included) from various places, backgrounds, and sexual orientations (or lack thereof). After exchanging our AVEN identities and introductions (“Hi, I’m Venus…” “Oh hello! I’m WolfFeathers*”), we all split chocolate cake (cake!) and hit it off.
Feeling Asexual already, my new Asexual friends and I headed to NYC Paintball & Laser Tag in Queens to release a bit of asexual tension and let loose. I jokingly suggested that it should be “the Sexuals versus the Asexuals” only to realize we would be outnumbered 2-16. So I settled with my team of four, named ourselves the “Flying Aces” and tore the place up.
To give you a basic run-down of what “types” of Asexuals I met and also to show off my new Asexual vocabulary, allow me to re-introduce myself. According to my Asexual friends, I could potentially identify as the following:
- Cis (short for Cisgender)
In other words, I’m boring. However, I also met a panromantic, aromantic, homoromantic, heteroromantic, demisexual, and an straight-up A.
- TIM* (Ace) and WINFRED* (Heteroromantic): Tim, the oldest AVEN member present at 32 years old, said he decided to come out to this particular AVEN Event because all of his friends were married and with children by now, “it sucks.” Though I could have sworn another guy named Winfred* was much older than Tim … I couldn’t get much out of him. Winfred confesses “I don’t believe in age,” while refusing to give me his, that is, until I ask him to approximate, in which he replies “twenty three.” At this point I believe in age more than I do Winfred. Anyways, moving on…
- LADY* (Demisexual): To be honest, I am more Asexual than Lady, because Lady has a boyfriend. This concept confused me, ‘an asexual with a boyfriend? How is that possible?’ But then I half-got it when she told me she was a demisexual. She explained that a demisexual is “someone who is Asexual until a connection is formed with a partner.” So I blurted “basically, you’re telling me that you’re just extra cautious and conservative.” She didn’t argue with me like I wanted her to, but agreed, “yes, all that. Which would make me a demisexual.” Then I asked her if she had formed this special connection with her boyfriend yet, she said she has. Get it girl. (Her heterosexual boyfriend and three of his buddies also showed up for Laser Tag later that night.)
- TWO VIOLETS* (Heterosexual and “Exploring”): I was pleasantly surprised when I actually met two other NYU students at the event, both of whom only recently joined AVEN. One Violet* admitted that she was actually a heterosexual. She had seriously considered Asexuality this past December, only to reclaim her heterosexuality again and decided to stick around, “they’re nice people.” While the second Violet* learned about AVEN through a member of NYU’s LGBTQ, and decided to check it out, “I’m just exploring.”
SEX & GOLF
By the end of the night, I had more questions than answers. However, I did come up with a lame analogy. In the context of Asexuality, sex is like playing golf. Technically, anyone can play golf. Some people love golf, some people hate golf, some people don’t get golf, some people are naturally good at golf so they enjoy it, some people just suck so they justify it by saying they hate it, some people have to play golf in certain social situations, some people practice and get better, some have never tried it, never want to and never will. For some, golf isn’t even a legitimate sport, while for others, it’s their life.
OH, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
I want to put this out there one last time — Asexuals can get it, they just don’t want it; not now, and possibly never. But they say they’re happy and healthy, so hey, let it be a reminder that while you might not be getting laid this Valentine’s Day, they aren’t either. You are not alone.
Here’s a toast to all the single, sexless, or just straight-up Asexual. Let’s indulge in chocolate cake, drown ourselves in cocktails, and have a shmancy Valentine’s Day.
Synergee* I know a great asexual story. It’s about two people who fell in love and didn’t have sex. The end.
* Names changed for anonymity.