The Lives of Otters: I, Ex-Asexual (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bottom)
There was a time in my life when I took part in an immature, selfish, and destructive lifestyle. It cost me in friends, it cost me in youth, and it cost me dearly in prostate health. The memories are as vivid as they are desperate: brightly-lit Friday evenings spent alone with German homework and hot chocolate. Marathon coffeehouse reading sessions passed with eyes that never strayed off book pages. Hard drives full of illegally downloaded 30 Rock episodes instead of illegally downloaded porn. The half-frustrated, half-pitying expressions of dozens of beautiful young men who, after hours of gin-drenched dance-floor loin-grinding, never got their hands around anything firmer than a tangible sense of inadequacy. Only now can I say that it was a dark time.
I was an asexual. I was entirely comfortable with it, so far had I strayed. And by the redeeming grace that is the infinite erotic generosity of the DC gay scene, I was made whole.
You might be inclined to meet these kinds of claims with skepticism and even resentment, especially if you or someone close to you have ever been similarly afflicted (if you’re really on point, you’ll suspect that this article is just an underhanded attempt to drive blog traffic and solicit sex from a far larger readership than craigslist personals could shake a stick at.) If this is the case I would ask for another few minutes of your patience. Growing up Protestant taught me from a young age the value of inappropriately public confessions of intimately private details (the kind that this blog pretty much runs on); listen to mine before you indulge any amateur psychoanalysis (this is, after all, what the comment box is for.)
About a year ago my first and only long-term relationship came to a sudden and unexpected end. Wracked by feelings of loss, betrayal, and the terror of realizing I would have to learn to cook for myself, things got rough fast, and stayed rough for a long time. I went out often enough, drank enough, and stayed close enough to good gay friends to ward off anything more catastrophic, trying my darndest to have fun, be young, and fill as many gaping holes (most of them emotional) as I could before they sealed up forever with scars (most of them emotional) that no one would ever be able to penetrate (mostly in an emotional way) again. But slowly, creepingly, with all the subtlety and awful inexorability of a drag queen’s wig coming unglued under can lights, something went wrong. Skintight denim stopped catching my eyes from across a room. Making out started to seem silly, then burdensome, then disgusting. My long-time interest in the male form withdrew from bars to dudetube (NSFW), from dudetube to the occasional Butt magazine (NSFW) blog post, and from there to sparse and unremarkable wet dreams. I even started wearing boxers.
One tranquil summer day I realized it had been an entire month since I last masturbated, and it didn’t concern me in the least. More than anything else I felt relieved, happy to be rid of the inconstant passions that suddenly seemed so troublesome and distracting to my lustier friends. With the simple joy of a eunuch I threw myself into school work, venturing out just often enough on weekends to be reminded of the yawning libidinal chasm that separated me from my gay peers. An atheist and political leftist, I even seriously considered the priesthood, desperate to find a community of men who would help me to embrace and cultivate the total extinction of my sex drive.
Through all of it, I was more or less happy. Sex never seemed so much threatening or sickening as it did bothersome and inconvenient. I discovered the word “asexuality,” read stories from people who identified with it, and became convinced that I had finally found a home.
Radically and recently, something changed. A few chance encounters and astonishingly good luck conspired to introduce me to just the right kinds of people in the right kinds of places to flip a switch buried deep in my limbic system. A conversion experience that would make Saint Paul soil his underpants swept me away to somewhere wonderfully strange and new, and as the dust and sweat and lube settle I only now begin to understand the error of my ways.
Here you might expect me to copy and paste from the TNG sexual pluralism manifesto to say something that, I don’t know, respected the irreducible libidinal and physiological particularity of human bodies and subjectivities, or that praised the kinds of hard work being done by groups like AVEN to raise awareness of the special kinds of oppression that still-invisible sexual minorities face. I will do no such thing. Rather than being one more difference to be celebrated in the queer patchwork, asexuality as I’ve lived it strikes me as an immature and incomplete way to get on in the world, hardly worthy of recognition and encouragement. The deep and monkish sense of contentment I felt during my sexless year came at the cost of ignoring a whole range of feelings and body parts, both mine and (more importantly) other people’s . Asexuality meant for me a cowardly denial of the sometimes terrifying, always electrifying flux that is sexuality, an unconscious retreat to the suffocating but comfortable predictability of childhood and a turning away from the kinds of pleasure and pain, affection and heartbreak, spiritual topping and bottoming that make lives like ours worth living. I’m aware that there are people who identify this way and have done so for much longer than I – I sympathize with them and at the same time condemn their lack of courage, the same fear of the unknown and uneasiness with sensuality that stole from me what could have been one of the best years of my life (start thinking now of how many times you can squeeze the word “homonormativity” into the comment box.)
The residue of Snowmageddon may still clot the District of Columbia like so much cold semen on the bathroom floor of an Apex college night, but somewhere just above my perineum spring is in full bloom. And I will suck its nectar greedily until my stomach has to be pumped by horrified ER technicians. I will cruise coffeehouses and bookstores, not now in the hope of getting free drinks or merchandise discounts, but because I want to see boys naked. I will take names and phone numbers of other young men at bars and clubs, not because they work for influential K street offices I’m desperate to send my résumé to, but because I want to grab dinner and, with luck, toned calves. I will annoy the hell out of my roommate by stumbling in after sunrise on weekdays, reeking of alcohol and something faintly bleach-like, because I am young and gay and I can. And I will spend months failing to live down today’s column, which will invariably make it much harder to convince some guys that I’m really just not into them, thank you very much.
I am an ex-asexual, and by gays that surpasseth all understanding I will continue to be healed. The road is long but it is wide, and along its course there are many ready to lend a helping hand (you know who you are). I have seen a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has come all over it.
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