Dear Venus Envy,
I’m someone who’s not exactly sure where they stand on sex just yet. I currently identify as asexual, but my boundaries seem to be a bit more pliable than everyone else who’s adopted that label.
I like kissing and making out, and I really enjoy the other things that come along with romantic relationships, but I’ve never been super comfortable with too much else, which I think I’m attributing to the lack of sexual attraction I feel towards my partners. That’s not to say that I don’t think they’re attractive, because that couldn’t be further from the truth — but I have never once fantasized about having sex with any of them. The fantasies end at making out.
I’ve also never had too much luck masturbating. It’s either that I’m having a really hard time getting myself into the mood or I just have no idea where to touch myself. Maybe a combination of the two.
It’s frustrating, because I want to feel more. I would really like to feel the pleasure that everyone associates with this kind of intimacy. I know I feel something when making out with someone, but that seems to be my cap.
Lately, one of the most common questions I’m helping people grapple with is the one at the center of your letter: is it asexuality, or is it something else?
I think this question is so complex because it lands in the middle of a lot of truths about (a)sexuality: Some people are asexual and never feel an interest in sex. Some people are allosexual (AKA not asexual), but there’s something in the way of them expressing it. Some people start out identifying as asexual but later come to understand themselves as allosexual, and other people experience that journey in reverse.
We want to believe that there’s a clear and easy distinction between these experiences, but that’s not always the way (a)sexuality works. Sometimes you think one thing is true and then realize it’s not, sometimes one thing is true for a while, and at some point you realize it doesn’t fit anymore.
All of this is to say that there can be a lot of pressure to “figure out” who you are, but it’s okay not to know. You can honour your needs and desires as they are right now and still stay open to possibilities that might eventually take you in a different direction. For the moment, think of this as a time of playful experimentation, and to try to take any pressure off what you think you should enjoy. Instead, make it your goal to just follow your curiosity.
For the moment, think of this as a time of playful experimentation, and try to take any pressure off what you think you should enjoy.
It seems like you want to want to have sex, so start there: what’s behind your desire for desire? Do you notice an interest in finding pleasure for yourself? Or is it a voice that tells you that you should want to have sex because there’s something wrong with asexuality? Maybe it’s a little of both, or something different altogether? You probably won’t find a clear answer right away, but let the question take up some space as you continue on your journey.
When masturbation doesn’t feel pleasurable, it can be a sign of asexuality. It can also be a sign that it’s the wrong kind of sensation, or that there’s not enough intensity. So with masturbation, your experiment will be to find out if there’s a type and level of sensation that brings you some satisfaction. Research some sex-positive resources featuring bodies like yours so that you can learn about how other people touch themselves. If you think you’ve got the right kind of sensation, then you might just try to increase it by using a vibrator or another type of sex toy.
If you’re interested in exploring fantasy some more, I’d suggest looking for some well-written erotica. Try out different styles and scenarios, and see if anything comes up as you read. Maybe you’ll find that it sparks new fantasies about your partners, or that it gets you in the mood for a date with yourself. Or maybe you’ll find that it does nothing at all. No reaction is wrong or right; it’s all just information. And if you find you have no interest in doing these experiments, well that’s more information too.
Finally, Ace, it might be worth exploring the full asexual spectrum if you haven’t already. Ultimately, an identity is useful when it fits our life, but can become limiting when we’re trying to fit our life into it. If an asexual identity is no longer offering the kind of recognition you hope for, you’re allowed to throw it back and try on something new. In your case, it’s possible that terms like grey-ace or ace-flux would be a better fit. Or maybe your asexuality is one that comes with an asterix: Asexual* — *and I really like to make out with people.
Sex Educator and Owner of Venus Envy
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