Written by Isabel Corp.
Art by Alex Mckelly
I remember having lunch with my friends one day during my sophomore year of high school. They were talking about a rumor they heard about a girl in one of their classes being asexual. Everyone else in the group laughed, and one of them even said that if she was asexual then she “might as well become a nun.” That was the first time I ever heard the word ‘asexual,’ and I spent the next five years of my life in fear that people would treat me the same way that these people who were supposed to be my friends were talking about this girl.
I am on the asexual spectrum, panromantic, and sex positive. I am attracted to all people regardless of gender and I am also dedicated to challenging harmful norms about dating and sex, even though I don’t always experience sexual attraction myself. For most of my life I believed that it was impossible for these two parts of my identity to coexist.
Sex is not something I am afraid of or have an aversion to, and my asexuality is not at odds with my sex-positive nature. I am always willing to engage in meaningful conversations about sexuality, safe sex, consent, BDSM, and sex work. But with everything that surrounds me from the media being overly-saturated with sexual content to people telling me I’m “immature,” for not wanting sex, I am constantly reminded that if I want to unabashedly live my truth as a sex-positive, asexual, panromantic virgin, then people are always going to give me a hard time.
Virgins are always treated as the butt of the joke.
Society considers sex to be an innate part of human nature. For the majority of my teenage years, I succumbed to the idea that not having sex made me undesirable, a late bloomer, or at worst, a “virgin for life.” Because when it comes to the way society views womxn, a lifelong virgin is viewed as one of the most tragic fates a woman can have.
Virgins are always treated as the butt of the joke. If someone chooses not to have sex, then they are viewed as a mentally-deranged freak who need to be “fixed.” Hollywood has even wasted money on terrible movies about it. Nearly every sitcom I watched growing up treated single female characters as these poor misguided individuals who needed to be caged and tamed by “the right man.”
At this point in my life I was already deep in the closet and my compulsory heterosexuality was on full-blast. The biggest lesson that I internalized from the media I consumed growing up was that if I didn’t lead a heterosexual life or have sex by the time I turned 18, then I was cursed. I spent most of my life seeing little to no queer or asexual representation, and it wasn’t until I met other asexual people that I slowly started to come to terms with it.
It never occurs to them that people can not only be sex-positive without participating in sex themseleves, but also live a happy and fulfilling life alone.
I’ve always hated the language that our culture uses to talk about sex. I especially hate the term “losing your virginity,” as if it is something that can be taken from people. Sex is a personal choice, and the idea that somebody’s virginity just needs to be snatched from them without their consent is one of the most harmful myths society perpetuates.
This negative trope spread like a cancer and deteriorated my mental health to a debilitating level. I couldn’t escape it, it wasn’t just in straight media, but in queer spaces as well. Everyone is so obsessed with sex and dating. We see it on TV, magazines, and even ad campaigns. And whenever I explain to people that I actually prefer being alone, or that being asexual doesn’t make me a prude with an aversion to sex, their brains just short circuit. It never occurs to them that people can not only be sex-positive without participating in sex themseleves, but also live a happy and fulfilling life alone.
Yes, sex positivity is about embracing sex as a natural part of life. But it’s also about challenging normative social and cultural norms about sexuality, therefore sex positivity and asexuality are not mutually exclusive. But even the sex-positive movement has failed to recognize or acknowledge asexuality as an important part of the conversation.
You’re just a late bloomer. You’ll grow out of this phase. You just haven’t met the right person yet. You can’t be sex positive if you’ve never had sex.
Everybody thinks they are supposed to pity me for not wanting sex or a relationship, even though it’s a choice that I actively made for myself. You’re just a late bloomer. You’ll grow out of this phase. You just haven’t met the right person yet. You can’t be sex positive if you’ve never had sex. Yes, you can. I hear these microaggressions daily, and I’m tired of people trying to strip away my autonomy and think they can manipulate me into leading a “normal” sex life. Well, fuck that.
I am tired of having to explain to people that I am “not just a late bloomer,” and that I “don’t need to be fixed.” I am no longer willing to take on the labor of educating people who are not willing to do the work to understand me. Taking pride in my asexuality and sex-positivity is my way of loving myself.
If I decide to enter a relationship just because I feel obligated to and not because I genuinely want to, not only would it be incredibly selfish, but I would be doing a disservice to myself and my hypothetical partner. I refuse to take the bait. And if that’s too complicated for people to wrap their brains around, then that says a whole lot more about them than it does about me.
About The Author
Isabel Corp is a writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Digitizing Politics, The Borgen Project, Pop Sugar and more. You can visit her blog, Izzy’s Two Cents, at izzyshutup.com.