Half-A-Sexual

#sex

For a while now I have noticed that I don’t experience sexual attraction to people I don’t know fairly well. That moment when you see someone across the bar and feel a spark? Never happened to me. Meeting someone sexy at a party and going home with them? Ew. Going on a first date and wishing you could just kiss them right now? Never.

At some point I learned that there’s a word that people like me use to identify themselves: demisexual. It’s as if we’re “half” asexual–usually ace, but in some situations not.

For a long time I did not use that label because people shamed me out of it. People online love to hate on demisexuals because they think we’re sitting here claiming that being demi makes us as oppressed as Black people or trans people. I’m sure someone somewhere can be found claiming that, but as for me personally, I don’t give a fuck where I fall on someone’s Oppression Olympics ladder; I just care that this changes my life in a number of ways and having the language to talk about it with people is helpful.

But people make me feel like a pathetic broken idiot for using the word, so I stopped. There, I stopped Boxing Myself In With These Useless Labels and Inventing Silly New Words For Things That Don’t Need Words Anyway. Happy now? Well, I wasn’t. I felt like an anomaly, a fuck-up.

Using the word helps me remember that I’m not the only one who’s like this; it’s not an individual quirk but a way of experiencing sexuality that many other people share, including a few of my friends and partners.

That said, I hate being demi. Unlike other identities I have, like queer or atheist, it adds absolutely nothing positive to my life. It does not make my experience more colorful or interesting in any way. It only makes things harder.

I feel like all of these experiences and feelings that most people get to have are something I’m completely cut off from. Sexual negotation and communication becomes fraught as I try to articulate that I’m not sure if I want sex, or don’t know when I will, or might want to try it or might not depending on my mood or fatigue level or number of remaining spoons.

More often than not, I start to panic–not, thankfully, because I worry that people will disrespect my boundaries, but because often I don’t even know what they are.

(I’m aware, though–how could I not be?–of how lucky I am to be in the types of social circles that I’m in. If I were friends with normal people, this would all be a nightmare.)

Here’s what I do know: if I followed the “standards” of affirmative consent when it comes to my own boundaries, I would’ve never had sex with anyone at all, and I would’ve missed out on a lot of great times. Because the first time I have sex with someone is usually less “I NEED YOU NOW” and more “I’m kinda curious, let’s try it.” I’m grateful that my partners respect my agency enough to hear that as the “yes” that it is.

After I’ve slept with someone once or a few times, my brain seems to learn to associate the pleasant sensations of that with actual, sexual desire–in the sense that I think about them when I masturbate or have the urge to send them sexy texts or otherwise behave like someone who wants to have sex with them. And then it’s great. But until then, it’s quite awkward.

One thing that is basically impossible thanks to my demisexuality is dating. How does dating typically go? You meet an Intriguing Stranger, at a party or on OkCupid or whatever. Someone asks the other out. You go on the date to Find Out If You Have A Spark and want to keep seeing each other.

Well, I have never felt any spark with anyone I barely know. (Actually, not entirely true–the first time I fell in love at age 14 happened that way, and that experience was so uniquely horrible that my brain seems to have kept me from repeating it.) That hasn’t stopped me from loving many people and sleeping with even more people, but the fact is that if I’ve just met you, I probably don’t really care about you.

So dating becomes tricky. How do I decide if I want a second “date” or whatever? What do I tell them if they ask me where I think this is going? All I can say is, “I feel no sexual attraction towards you, but you’re the sort of person that I might get attracted to with time, but I also can’t guarantee that, so I understand if you don’t want to stick around and wait”? Hot.

Therefore, I don’t really date; I make friends online and sometimes those friendships develop into more. The distance means that there’s no pressure to decide whether or not I want to fuck them, at least not for a while. By the time I finally see them in person, we’re usually close enough that I’m interested in experimenting with sex, and usually I like it and keep doing it.

But that means that my partners are basically always long-distance, since I’m not willing to date in any sort of “traditional” way.  OkCupid (which I consider traditional at this point) is even more useless than other ways of meeting people to date, because there’s even more of a pressure to Decide What This Is. Is it Friendship? Is it Friends With Benefits? Is it Dating? God, who the fuck cares.

In general, it’s impossible for me to predict when sexual/romantic feelings will happen, and with whom. Once I became interested in my best friend after we’d known each other for four years. Another time I became interested in another best friend after we’d known each other for two and a half years. Once I had an online acquaintance that I honestly couldn’t stand at first but then they changed or I changed or something happened and we fell in love.

So when I’m sitting across the table at the coffee shop with some random person who’s basically a stranger to me and they want to know What This Is, who am I to say?

No True Lover

I was trying to explain polyamory to my mother a few nights ago (not for the first time) and we kept getting stuck on the same things.

She kept saying, “But wouldn’t he feel disgusted knowing that his girlfriend had just slept with someone else and now she’s sleeping with him?”

I said, well, anyone who feels that disgusted about it probably won’t be trying polyamory anytime soon. The people I know who practice it do not find that disgusting.

“But they should.”

Why?

“Because it’s just disgusting.”

To you. But not to them.

“Then there’s something wrong with them.”

Why is there something wrong with them?

“Because if there wasn’t, they would think it’s disgusting.”

And on and on it went.

This is something I notice otherwise rational people a lot, this circuitous post-facto justification of opinions that are actually based on one’s personal feelings about something. A lot of people think polyamory is Wrong because they personally find the thought of it unpleasant. I used to, too.

When I presented her with a few stories of people who had been happily living in polyamorous relationships/marriages for years, seemingly without feeling disgusted every time one of their partners came back from spending time with a metamour, she changed her argument.

“They don’t truly love anyone, then.”

Why not?

“Because if they loved someone, they wouldn’t even think of sleeping with someone else.”

What about people who cheat?

“Well, their partners aren’t okay with that.”

So if they are okay with it, then they’re not in love?

“Right.”

I asked her what it would mean if someone who feels themselves to be in love with their partner nevertheless wants to sleep with other people, too, and is completely okay with their partner doing the same. Not just a grudging acceptance, but an eager agreement, even a joyful encouragement.

“Then they must not really love them. Then you have never truly loved anyone.”

But what if I feel that I love them?

“Then you’re feeling something else and you’re calling it love.”

People who oppose polyamory with these sorts of justifications–not that it’s morally wrong in any sense (my mother is not religious), but that it’s a sign of something wrong with you–define their own feelings and their own sense of what is mentally normal in opposition to the behavior of others. A “normal” person feels disgusted at the thought of their partner having sex with someone else. Therefore, a person who does not feel disgusted at this thought is abnormal. A person who is in love does not want to have sex with anyone else. Therefore, a person who wants to have sex with someone besides their partner is not in love with that partner.

What I perceive love to be doesn’t matter.

In fact, I am quite certain that I have loved several people, and even though some of those relationships were monogamous (some never even reached the relationship stage at all), I don’t think I was ever able or willing to commit to a lifetime without so much as a kiss with someone else.

Some (including, most likely, my mother) would say that that’s mainly a consequence of my age, even though plenty of people have gotten married at my age or younger, and that at my age it is impossible to “truly” love someone.

(Again, defining things as is most convenient for you.)

I love, and I have loved. Maybe by my mother’s definition, it isn’t really love. Maybe I am incapable of feeling love like that. Maybe there is something horribly wrong with me. Maybe I am a broken person. Maybe my brain is wrong. Maybe I am missing out on a wondrous, unimaginable (to me) experience that humans have longed for throughout the millennia, written songs and novels and plays about, painted paintings of, suffered over, killed for, died for.

I have entertained all of these possibilities.

And to them, I say:

So what?

I like the way I feel when I love someone. What I call love, I experience in several varieties that all feel irreplaceably different. I don’t love all of my partners in the same ways. I don’t love all of my friends in the same ways. I don’t love all of the people I’m not sure whether to call “partner” or “friend” in the same ways.

I don’t really care if what I call love is what other people call love. If my partners love me back, I don’t care if their subjective experience of that love is the same as mine. Things like that used to concern me an awful lot–who loves the other “more,” who cares “more,” who loves the other “how,” all that other rubbish my depression filled my brain with–but nowadays I rarely think about it.

I hope that when my partners think about me they think about comfort, joy, lust, respect, admiration, gratitude, appreciation, beauty, fun. That’s what love basically is to me, with varying amounts of each of these depending on the person. With my boyfriend, the ones that jump out the most are comfort, lust, respect, and fun. With my best friend, it’s comfort, admiration, and gratitude. But they’re all there.

If this isn’t The Real Love Referenced In Famous Films And Novels, well, whatever. I’ll take what I’ve got, without the monogamy, the jealousy, the fights about what does and doesn’t count as cheating, the worries about trying to be everything the other has ever wanted sexually, the suspicion of ex-partners and relevantly gendered friends.

So I’ve never Really Loved anyone and never will. Fine by me.