What’s it like, being asexual?

Have you ever felt that there’s something wrong with you? Most human beings, except psychopaths and maybe some politicians, have experienced that thought at some point in their lives. I especially felt it when I was a teenager, as I was very conscious that I didn’t seem to be developing at the same rate as my peers.

You see, I didn’t experience the desires that everyone else seemed to be experiencing. Hormones made me grumpy, rude to my parents, and allergic to leaving my room, but the hormones that were meant to trigger sexual desire didn’t. I would look at my friends and peers and think, “What the hell am I missing here?”

As it turns out, not very much. Asexuality was never a term I heard growing up; I didn’t realise it was a “thing.” I didn’t know that I could be asexual; there had to be something wrong with me to not want sex. I thought I was gay – I wasn’t sexually attracted to women, so that was right, surely? Then it finally dawned on me that I saw both women and men as attractive, just not in a sexual way. Perhaps I was bisexual with some hidden, repressed issues around sex that I needed to get over. That had to be it, surely?

Nope, not that either.

A few years ago, in the winter of 2011 when I was in my early 30s, I was reading a newspaper, and came across the story of a young woman in her twenties. She was talking about something called asexuality; a light dawned over the persistent fog in my brain and burnt it away. Finally, I knew what I was.

I felt liberated and winded in the same breath; I had spent so much of my life chasing after things that didn’t exist. I was attracted to people, sure, but never acted on my attractions, because I knew where it could well lead; the one thing I didn’t want. I went on a few dates, but backed off pretty quickly when I realised that expectations were being formed and devised. I would rather be single than forced into a sexual relationship, but could never work out why I felt so against it. Until that moment.

I felt angry with myself that I had never been able to work out who I was, but also utterly relieved that I wasn’t alone. One percent of the world’s population is believed to be asexual, so there’s a lot of us around.

When I came to this crashing realisation, there was another thought coming through very clearly; “Oh shit. I’ve hidden behind excuses, prevarications, and half-truths for so long. How am I going to now clear the air and admit to what I actually am?” Well, I didn’t – not for a long while, anyway. For a couple of years, I kept it hidden, embarrassed by my own ignorance and decisions. I mentioned it to a couple of people, but felt unable to discuss it publicly.

I was convinced to change it after going to a sci-fi / fantasy convention in August of 2014 with my publishers, Inspired Quill. I noticed some attendees who, I suspected, were like me, and they were fine and well-adjusted. I immediately liked them. After a conversation with one of my fellow IQ authors, in which he mentioned it as well, and I semi-confessed without him even batting an eyelid, I outed myself in the only way I could; by blogging about it. I inserted it into a longer blog post and half-hoped that nobody would notice. Some didn’t, but some did – and many people said that they’d already worked it out for themselves.

Even my parents weren’t overly worried; but, to be fair, I’d given them so much to worry about in my life up to that point that my asexuality was probably the most normal thing about me. They were just glad that I was being honest.

Aexuality is a spectrum, and I sit at the point where I can feel romantic love towards someone, as well as a platonic kind; there are others who never experience romantic love and they’re fine with that. I’d happily live with someone – many wouldn’t – but what would that look like? A friendship? A relationship? Housemates? Who knows.

Let me be clear; being asexual is not a choice. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be this way. I was born like it. That’s what it feels like to be asexual. Like everyone else, I’m unique. I’m also not ashamed – no-one should be – and I’m keen to explore what and who I am.

10 comments

  • Finn  

    Thanks for sharing this, Matthew. I’m always interesting in hearing about different experiences. It’s utterly fascinating to me that there is so much diversity in our lives. I really hope that the asexual crowd can get more public recognition so that people like you can find their place.

  • Samantha  

    Enjoyed reading your article I too am asexual but aromantic as well. I thought how I felt would change once I left school and started working but now I’m nearly 50 so I guess it won’t now. I found out about asexuality and AVEN only a couple of years ago via a Wikipedia definition and as you said it was like a lightbulb coming on. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cassie  

    So brilliant, and so beautifully written. The first half of this post is something that I relate to on a very personal level. I grew up and felt especially different in my teenage years, and then into my twenties. So many of my friends, men and women alike, were (and still are) so fixated on sex. I grapple every day with feelings of being perfectly satisfied in my understanding of who I am, but still so curious about what makes sex so wonderful that so many people just can’t seem to live without it.

    And then the bit about the decisions you made, and the half-truths: I understand that, also. Fortunately, the one person I had to really answer to other than myself, is my ex husband (and the father of my child, ha). The very person who helped me through the firestorm that felt so reckless in my mind when I finally came to the realization that I’m asexual. There are still many in my life who don’t know, mostly sex-loving friends that have gone off on their raves about how wonderful it is, and I’ve gone along with it because I felt like I was just -supposed- to. They’ll know, eventually. The most important part is that I’m okay.

    And I am.

    Of course, it’s always wonderful to realize that you’re not alone. Thank you, for this beautifully written, highly relatable post.

    I wish you nothing but the best. 🙂

  • Beth Arvin  

    I’m happy that you have discovered and accepted this about yourself. We all fall differently in the sexual spectrum and none of it is wrong or bad. It just is. But we all deserve to be accepted and loved unconditionally. Maybe there will be a day when the majority of society understands this, but the most important thing is to accept yourself. Hope you are surrounded by loving people.

  • Georgina  

    It makes no difference whether you’re homosexual, bi-sexual, heterosexual or a-sexual, you’re a lovely, funny and warm man who I had the pleasure of working with. You made me smile every day. You have my utmost respect for all that you have achieved and for being the honest man that you are. If only there were more of you around!

    • MM  

      What a kind and generous thing to say, Georgie – thank you. I still want to have that lunch with you 🙂

  • Cat Hayward  

    I have a lot of respect for you speaking publicly about this, as with all the other things that you are so open about. I’ve found you via the Dyspraxia group and T2D videos and immediately found you likeable (that feels like a weird compliment to pay, but there you go) and knowing this doesn’t change that aside from respecting you even more for being someone who’s really figured out who they are and come to peace with it.

    In my view, sexuality is a bit like icecream. Some people like vanilla, some people like raspberry, some like neapolitan and some, well some don’t like icecream at all. It’s not really anyone else’s business what your preference is, unless they’re planning on offering you some. 😉

    • MM  

      Cat – you’re very generous to say these things, and I love the concept of ice cream as an analogy!

  • Sam Hiller  

    Mr M, you are not anything to me other than ‘Matthew’ ! We all make our choices and have our natural directions, I like mushrooms-you don’t, doesn’t make me right and you wrong. Never apologise or be ashamed of who you are or how you are made, true friends will never be bothered, they accept you and it has no bearing. Those who are struggling with their own nature/nurture who state that straight, gay, bi, asexual, Martian etc is wrong or disapprove are the real ones with the issues!

    To be truthful, I’ve always had a tiny suspicion that you may be asexual, I remember you posting an article about it a while ago-it was interesting and intriguing to me when I read it, it gave me a greater understanding of others and what I thought were choices, not natural tendencies-you’ve educated me-which I thank you for!

    In return, I will out myself…..I am a terrible arachnophobe, not just live spiders but dead ones too-judge me if you will but I run screaming from money spiders-guess what, I don’t care, they frighten me!! 🙂 xx

    • MM  

      I’d love to be a Martian, Sam 😉

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