This morning, I sat down with the intention of finishing my background summary; after about an hour and a half or so of typing, I decided I would swing–briefly–by the blog in order to see how things were going. I immediately noticed that I had somehow experienced an enormous and unprescedented uptick in traffic within the last hour or so. Upon investigation (by which I mean, looking at my dashboard), I found that that was because one of my readers had been good enough to link to my blog in the comments on this Bitch article on the erasure of autistic asexuals. This made me suddenly feel rather embarassed, since, while it is true that I am both autistic and asexual, I have actually written vanishingly little on the subject of my sexual orientation (or lack thereof, as I tend to think of it).
So allow me, hastily as I may, to rectify this in the manner of someone scrambling to prepare a dinner for unexpected houseguests.
I first found out that I was asexual about five seconds after my girlfriend did, and believe you me, yes it was every bit as socially awkward as it sounds. You see, before that I had never really experienced sexual desire as such, but I have always been romantically attracted to women, and, living as I do in this culture, I had naturally assumed that I was simply heterosexual*.
In retrospect, it was fairly obvious. Puberty had been a very awkward time for me, because I suddenly found that I could no longer relate to my peers; I remember going to a party, when I was thirteen or fourteen or so. We stayed-up until the wee hours of the morning playing videogames, at which point my friends decided (as pubescent boys have a tendency to do) that they would search the television for some late-night porn. It was my first exposure to pornography, and, as you might imagine, it did absolutely nothing for me–indeed, it all struck me as hopelessly boring, but I just assumed that perhaps I was a late developer, or perhaps the soft-core porn that gets broadcast on television just wasn’t enough to arouse me. Over time, though, I gradually noticed that no sort of sex was especially appealing to me. However, I figured that sex was a natural and inextricable part of romantic love**, and I was capable of romantic love, so I assumed that, onceI was with an appropriate partner, the desire for sex would occur naturally.
But, of course, it never did. This is not, I need to stress, some cold and clinical notion of “erectile dysfunction” or anything of that nature–it was not that I wanted sex but ‘couldn’t get it up’, but that I simply ‘wasn’t in the mood.’ Ever. Once I hit upon the definition of asexuality, I identified with it at once, as it was such a perfect summation of my own experience so far, and, though it took us a while to iron-out the details, I was able to salvage my relationship with my girlfriend.
Concerning the erasure of asexuals, and especially autistic asexuals in culture, I will say that there is certainly some truth to that. While it is true that it is difficult to depict the absense of something, I cannot think of any proudly, self-avvowed aces in any media whatsoever (and I would even hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of screenwriters are not actually aware of our existence). There are, however, a few of what you would call ‘conjectural’ asexuals (i.e, those who behave in an asexual manner even though they are not explicitly asexual): the Doctor (from Doctor Who), Jughead*** (from Archie comics), Data**** (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), and even a very famous conjecturally-autistic conjectural-asexual in the person of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You may notice a few commonalities among these characters: most of them are brilliant but not ‘down to Earth,’ and all of them are white and male. I cannot think of a single asexual woman or person of colour in any work of fiction I have ever encountered. This fact should certainly be fodder for analysis by social theorists, but at the moment I have neither the time nor the qualification.
*I still identified as male at the time.
**I wasn’t even aware of the existence of asexuality as an orientation until my 20s, so I could hardly identify as it.
***Although, perhaps significantly, a lot of readers tend to assume that ‘he must be gay!’ because he’s not attracted to women.
**** Is sexual desire possible without emotions? I’m not really qualified to say, but most sexual people I discuss the subject with make it sound like the feeling is more akin to hunger.