Can we talk like adults for a minute?
You know…actual mature people who can discuss the grown-up things no one really likes to talk about because venturing into such stigmatized territory makes them feel all weird and wigged out?
I promise I won’t go so far off the reservation or outside the taboo status quo that you’ll need to cleanse your mind with whatever juvenile or non-adult escape route you go with in such circumstances, okay?
So I was sitting in a doctor’s office yesterday at Mass General Hospital’s clinic for Depression and Mental Illness Research, talking to someone about why I was interested in being in one of their many study programs for better understanding how Depression and Mental Illness can be identified and treated.
The Q&A part of it lasted about half an hour and inevitably, there was the point where I was asked to describe the state of any relationships I was in, and of course, my sex life.
Having no reason whatsoever to lie, my reply to both was simply, “non-existent.”
This brought the standard-issue follow up question of how long it had been since it had been even marginally existent and it was interesting to see the researcher, who was a female in her late-20’s by my guess, respond when I said it was close to six years now. Her eyes widened in momentary disbelief as she scribbled down notes, as if the idea that any guy could go that long without sleeping with someone or being intimate on any level for that matter, was about as likely as the Moon being actually made of green cheese or the Loch Ness Monster suddenly launching itself out of the Scottish water for a gratuitous selfie.
Then she asked the question which I knew was coming, but I was always reluctant to answer.
“Do you now identify as asexual?”
I didn’t respond right away. In fact, I had to really think about it for a few minutes because it was an awkward thing to be honest with myself about. Fortunately, the researcher didn’t press the issue at all, which made it easier to finally tell her that Yes, I do identify as an asexual person and have pretty much felt that way since 2011.
For the majority of that time, I’ve preferred to use the term Retired, with the proviso that at some point, my interest in intimacy and being intimate with a woman would come back. A lot of my friends who I’d talked to about it and explained my reasoning for why I’d chosen to live this way had a similar perspective.
Give it time, Dev, they’d say. Eventually, you’ll find someone or someone will find you and it’ll come back.
Except it hasn’t. Not even a little bit.
It’s worth explaining, I think, to point out that in the hyper-sexualized world we all live in, I was never one to really follow the same mindset to begin with. As a kid who was forced to discover his sexuality way before I was at an age where I could adequately process it, I started out on the polar opposite end of the spectrum from where I am now.
In that regard, I don’t suspect I’m any different than virtually any other American male unfortunately, but unlike most guys, who never really bothered to understand such behavior brings with it very real and very serious consequences if it’s used indiscriminately or in a malevolent fashion, I was made to understand it through my own experiences.
And so I did the only thing I could think of and altered my behavior and my way of thinking. It wasn’t easy and it took virtually all of my adolescence, but I reached a level where I was comfortable as a demisexual.
A demisexual is defined as, “a person who does not experience any degree of sexual attraction unless the form a strong emotional connection with someone.” To me, this was about as perfect a place to sit on the spectrum as I could hope for, but I found that it was much more of a double-edged sword than I could’ve anticipated.
On the one side, there was the ability to enter a potential relationship with the focus being on forming an emotional foundation first. It afforded me the chance to get to know whomever it was that I was interested and move forward at a pace where being intimate was pushed into the background until we were both at a point where we’d hopefully be comfortable enough with each other that it became a mutually-acceptable possibility.
The flipside, though, was the idea that a man is incapable of being a demisexual and all it was was another ploy used by yet another guy who lacked both self-discipline and self-control, which to some, made me another prime example of the #YesALLMen mentality that’s become prevalent in our ongoing social discourse.
Editorial Note: For the record, I totally get why most women are reluctant to believe that any man can be anything other than an overstimulated, underdeveloped asshole looking for the first opportunity to take advantage of them. I absolutely do. Men are egotistical, misogynistic, destructive creatures who have historically used sex as a weapon, a means of leverage, a bragging right and a measuring stick for their own machismo and Alpha standing among their male counterparts. I witnessed it firsthand growing up and have seen example after example of it since, so I am not blind to it and every time, it left me feeling both disgusted and abhorrently angry, because I know of no reason why anyone; male or female, deserves to be treated in such a bestial fashion.
The unfortunate byproduct of this, I’ve found, is that in trying so hard to establish a mutual degree of trust between myself and a potential partner, it almost invariably devolves into such a level of distrust that the foundation inevitably falls apart. Now that is as much my own fault as it is the person on the other side and I freely admit that.
The older I’ve gotten and the more bad experiences I had in feeling emotionally attracted to someone, the more afraid I got and the more hypercritical of myself I became. It also didn’t help that my one and only real relationship, which lasted sixteen years and ten of them being married, was built upon a wholly toxic foundation of insecurities and mistrust by my ex and codependency by the both of us. The lingering effects of that, no matter how much I tried it not to be, permeated into every successive attempt to forge new relationships and ultimately destroyed them, no matter how strong my emotional feelings were.
In the face of that, I guess it was the only logical reaction that my mind could go to and so it shut that whole part of me down entirely.
And to be honest, I don’t miss it all that much.
In some ways, it’s actually quite liberating to start accepting myself as an asexual person. It’s also very enlightening to be able to see how women interact and react to my presence in a given situation, like when I’m on the train going to or from work, or sitting in a coffee shop doing something like typing away on my laptop. It doesn’t take much to read the body language of apprehension and even to some degree, even fear when I sit down in close proximity to a woman.
After all, I’m a 200-lb. guy usually wearing a longcoat who doesn’t smile or project friendliness all that often. If I was looking at this from a female perspective of having been hit on or propositioned however many hundreds of times by so many knuckle-dragging guys who I wanted nothing to do with, I’d keep one weary eye on me too.
To be fair, being an asexual person doesn’t mean I don’t still have the Pavlovian reaction of observing someone who happens to catch my eye for whatever reason, and in a city of 650,000 people, I’m surrounded by women who the average guy would fall over themselves to connect with on some level.
Editorial Note: There was a joke I remember hearing from an older male co-worker who thought himself quite the Ladies’ Man, when I was younger and worked at a grocery store. At the time, I thought it was funny, but I eventually came around to realizing what an incredible douchebag he was because the joke seemed to encapsulate his entire view on relationships and women in general. The joke was, As Confucius once said; just because man is on a diet, does not mean he cannot still view the menu.
But I’m not an average guy. I don’t even want to be thought of as a Nice Guy, nor did I ever want to be. It’s not how I’m programmed.
It usually isn’t until I go into my bag and take out either a book to read or my laptop to go to work that the uncomfortable and subconscious tension drops because they pick up on the realization that I’m not interested in them, even if I acknowledge their existence for however long my eyes are distracted from what I’m trying to focus on.
I’ve wondered sometimes what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot though and a woman came up to me and tried to introduce themselves. That somehow, for reasons which defy my own albeit twisted logic, they managed to find me interesting or, dare-I-say, even attractive enough to strike up a conversation with.
What would I do?
Honestly…? I’d probably excuse myself as politely as I can and then run as fast as my feet could carry me in the opposite direction, no matter how nice or attractive they may have seemed.
Such is what happens when you come to accept that relationships or intimacy are not essential parts of your life anymore. That it’s okay to be an asexual person and not worry so much about when you’re going to find the next person you can connect to.
After all, there are seven billion people on this planet and not all of them are in relationships either. Someone has to be the odd man out. Suppose that might as well be me, because I just don’t want it anymore.
I still think women have the capacity to be thought-provoking, intelligent, interesting and exceptionally beautiful and I always will, but I’m sorry…they’re not worth the heartbreak anymore, either.