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Monday, February 25, 2013

136

Interview With a Virgin: Eliot

Eliot is a 31-year-old graduate student working in media studies, and we talked just as she was finishing up an article on lesbian pornographic comics and the nature of female fantasy. 

Jia: Hey Eliot! I'm so intrigued by this article you’re writing. 

Eliot: Hi! Thanks. Yeah, it’s certainly sort of weird to spend all of your time studying people who perform and write acts that you, for the majority of your life, have had zero interest in. But I think that in academia, we always end up focusing on things that compel us in ways that we don’t fully understand. Part of the reason I so frequently use the lens of desire and sexuality in my work is simply that I grew up feeling like an alien when it came to sex.

Can you explain this feeling?

Well, just imagine you were born on a planet where everybody emerges from the womb knowing how to play baseball. Everyone loves baseball and all the movies are about baseball and everyone plays it all the time. And you're looking in at them from the fence wondering: why, why, why are these people doing this?

Do you still have that alien-like feeling? Even now that you write and think about sex so frequently in regard to your work?

Less often nowadays than I used to, but I still feel certain disconnects. For example, I was talking to one of my straight male colleagues and he said, “You know, sometimes I’m walking down the street and I see a girl and I physically can’t not watch her, can’t not think certain things. And I don’t understand how you don’t ever feel that way.”

I told him, “I don’t understand how you do!” I mean, how are you just attracted to people all the time?

Oh, that is interesting. But already I’ve jumped too far ahead. Can we talk about your life pre-adulthood?  

Yes, yes, let’s get to the formative journey of how I became a nearly 32-year-old virgin. (Laughs.) 

So, I’m an academic. I used to try to diagnose myself, to use various discourses to identify a problem and then a framework to solve that problem. After a lot of effort, I’ve stopped trying to do that. But, still, there are models I’ve sort of tried on in order to figure out why I am the way I am. First, I could use cultural discourse: in this story, I’m someone who grew up in a really small town in Utah, and although my family wasn’t Mormon, it was like being Jewish in Jerusalem. Religion is in the air, in the water. And that could be one reason I am the way I am.

Alternately, I could use psychological discourse: I could talk about my family, how I was an unplanned baby, how my parents were 18 when they had me and they got divorced early. I was raised mostly by my maternal grandmother, who was vocal about her intention that I was not going to make the same mistakes her daughter made.

Growing up, my grandfathers and my father were not really in my life. My mother and stepfather were active alcoholics, and he was abusive, although not to me. So the relationships I saw were either sexless, without romance — in the case of my grandparents — or violent and dysfunctional. I distinctly remember feeling, at a young age, that the only way to be a woman was to be my mom. And I couldn’t be like her, because I wasn’t beautiful; men weren’t falling in love with me at every turn. And I didn’t want to be like her, anyway. So in terms of psychology, maybe I just shut it down and turned it off. Whatever I identified as intimacy just didn’t seem safe.

What about when you saw intimacy, sex, and romance in pop culture? Did those models seem totally unreal? 

Those stories just didn’t apply to me. Everyone else was doing this thing, playing this game — having crushes, going on dates, watching movies — and I loved those experiences, but only vicariously. I bought trashy romance novels and consumed everything that I could about love, but it was all separate from me. I was smart, I liked school, I liked books, and that was all I was.

You could also throw in one more discourse, the medical one. Low desire, the problem of the female orgasm. For awhile in college, I was pretty afraid that there was something seriously wrong with me chemically, medically. People always talk about desire as something that is uncontrollable, but for me, I just had none.

Were you open about this? Did you identify as asexual in college? 

I played pretend in undergrad. I dated people, never seriously, but I really tried to convince myself that I was in that cute movie where it’s like, “I want you, I listen to this song and I think about you, I need to be with you all the time.” I liked the idea of being wanted, but pretty quickly, I realized that I didn’t actually like the experience of being wanted. I’d date people for two months and then break up with them because I’d wake up one morning and just not feel anything.

When I was 26, I was walking around with my best friend, and I just stopped and said, for the first time, “You know what? I’m asexual.” Then I proceeded to come out to everyone as asexual. My grandmother was like, “Okay, sure, yeah, I don’t know what that is, but okay.”

Was there anything specific that happened to make you want to identify as asexual? 

I was just sick of thinking that this was a problem I had to fix. People would tell me things like “You just have to experience sex for the first time, and then your body will wake up.” I thought, hmm, probably not! Probably having one penis in my vagina will not make me want to have lots of penises in my vagina. I didn’t even masturbate with any regularity until I was 25; I had tried many times before, and it just wasn’t doing anything for me.

But in terms of asexuality as an identity, it’s a hard thing for me to get a hold on personally. It’s hard to talk about an absence or a lack, when our culture defines sexuality in terms of positive desire. If you have desire for X, then we’ll call you a certain thing; if you have desire for X and Y and Z all together, we’ll call you another thing. But it’s harder to define yourself when there’s no there there.

Do you still identify as asexual? 

I’m not sure. The period between 26 and now encompasses a few years when I became a full-blown alcoholic and then got sober.

Wow. Can you talk about this more?

Well, I’d never had a drink before I was 26, just because I’d seen so much alcoholism growing up. I even did a book report in eleventh grade about the odds of a child of alcoholics becoming an alcoholic, and you know, the odds are not good. But I just also got tired of feeling like a monster of alcoholism was just waiting dormant inside of me, and I was sick of worrying about it, and a friend came to visit and I was just like, “Screw it, let’s get margaritas.”

Actually, the last time I was remotely physically intimate with anyone was in the deepest part of my alcoholism. It was traumatic for me, even though no one took advantage of me or anything. I’m one of those lucky, rare women who has never experienced assault or molestation or sexual aggression in any form. But still, it was terrible to see that I was using myself – pushing myself to participate in acts I didn’t want because I was tired of being inexperienced and just wanted to feel normal. I’d never made anybody come before, and because of all the Jack Daniels or whatever, I thought, “I’m just going to try it and see what happens. Maybe I won’t want it until afterwards.” And I did it, and it felt like shit. I felt like I’d been scrubbed inside my skin with something and it hurt. I never wanted to do something like that again. I was afraid, back then, all the time.

But when you get sober, you become willing to change everything, you open up to the possibility of letting old ideas go. And I had three years sober in November. Go me!

Seriously. Congratulations. 

Thanks! And so, over the last year and half, I’ve been sort of trying to re-approach the idea of connection. In my early twenties, I was very militant about normativity. I identified as queer before I identified as asexual. I didn’t want to pair-bond, I didn’t like the idea of obligating one person to always pick me up at the airport, I was anti-consumer, leftist, radical.

And I still believe in a lot of that. But now I can see that I believed it before mostly because I didn’t want to believe there was something wrong with me, something that made me not want that typical life.

What does it feel like to move away from asexuality, or from hard-line ideals? 

Well, for example — an over-share of an example! — I used to read a lot of fan fiction. Slash fiction. For me it was a way to desire as another woman (by this, I mean the writer) would imagine that a man does. So, it’s a woman’s idea via a man’s body. In my work I come across a lot of icky analyses about what's wrong with women who write slash fiction, what went wrong to make them write stuff like this. And in truth I do identify some internalized misogyny in slash fiction, but I always liked reading it because my body never entered into the issue. I could only imagine desire through others.

But in the past year, I’ve been able to fantasize about my own body and scenarios involving me. I don’t want to say that I’ve grown up and settled into the rightful, inevitable heterosexual norm. While asexual doesn’t fully work as an identity for me, straight doesn’t either. I guess I still identify as queer in a way, if just for its implications of flexibility and possibility.

Back to what your friend was saying about seeing people on the street and basically wanting to jump on them; do you ever have those experiences, and if you do, what are they like? 

I do, but they’re so infrequent. In the past year there have been two people, both men, that I saw and was just like, “WOW. PRETTYYYY.” I told myself: Okay, stop looking at his arms. stop looking at his hair. Calm down.

Why stop? 

Well, when you’re in a seminar you shouldn’t just stare at people! But I did realize that I don’t feel comfortable looking at someone as an object because I’m afraid I’ll get caught. You could write a whole thing on that, the way women are socialized.

And in both of these times I felt attraction, there was no real opportunity to act; the logistics were wrong. I guess I’m just waiting for an opportunity without any idea about what it will feel like or what it should be.

Outside of your experiences while you were drinking, what’s the closest you’ve come to having sex in your life so far? 

After college, I met this guy in New York City, and we had this amazing verbal courtship over the phone, playful and teasing. We had a first date that was mind-blowing; it accidentally lasted for 26 hours. If I hadn't locked myself out of my apartment, I probably would have slept with him, but we had to sleep in his car outside, and I wasn’t about to lose my virginity like that. But then, again, after two months of seeing this guy, I woke up and just did not want to see him again, which was terrifying.

Actually, I feel weirder about not having relationship experience than being a virgin. I really don’t know how people sleep in the same bed. How people have fights. How you decide to mingle certain aspects of yourself and keep others separate.

Do you find yourself wanting those things now, even though you didn’t before? You’ve clearly resisted a lot of cultural narratives, but have you gone through periods where they’ve swayed you? 

Well, I know I don’t want to have kids. I don't feel the need to buy the house and buy the car and all of that. But I’m still untangling things for myself. I spent most of my life not wanting to be a grown-up and not knowing how I’d go about that, anyway; for a long time I didn’t know how to be responsible or reliable. AA has helped a great deal with that. I don't want the great dramas and highs and lows and passions anymore.

Sometimes I think that what I want is to skip the initial two years of, "Does he like me, and is he going to call me, and what does this mean?” I just want to get to a place where my life feels balanced. But I don't know how to get there without going through the part where you’re overwhelmed with passion, and part of me is afraid that I'm just not capable of feeling that overwhelming passion for people. And why would anyone want to be with someone like that?

So, most of what I envision, relationship-wise, is non-permanent. To be with someone for a little while. To have a connection, and then to have it be okay when it ends.

Are you comfortable with this level of uncertainty? 

Yes. It’s important to me to understand that I don't have the answer. I don't feel like there's an absence in my life where a relationship should be, but I don't want to close myself off in my head or anywhere else from new possibilities. I’m not the same person I was before I got sober.

Have your changing views of your own sexuality affected the way you think about sex and pornography in your academic work? 

Well, I have found myself pushing against the Enlightenment-era idea that we are blank slates, this old idea that still enters into a lot of the public dialogue on violence and sex. There’s a feminist thesis that pornography is the theory and rape is the practice; a lot of our discussions are organized around the idea that if we take something in visually it will physiologically change us, warp our neurons a certain way.

But I think that the world of fantasy is expansive. Fantasy can be productive and generative and positive. Would I have started masturbating if I hadn't discovered the written-down slash-fiction fantasies of all these anonymous women on the Internet? I don’t think so. And slowly, through this mediation, I’ve come to be in my skin a little bit more. I’m understanding that I have a body, I live in this body, and it doesn’t have to be fixed.

Let me ask you one last question. What would you tell someone who is dealing with the same issues that you dealt with as a teenager and twentysomething? 

That’s a hard question. On the one hand, I really think I had to go through everything I went through in order to get to where I am.

But I can look back and see that I lived so much of my life growing up through other stories of living. I lived through books and movies, and I didn't want to be in real life. Maybe one of the things I would want to have conveyed to myself early on is this: the fantasies that get turned into books and movies — that heightened fantastical version of what it means to be a woman and be in love — that stuff is not wholly real for anyone. I wasn't an alien because I didn’t feel what I saw in the movies. Almost no one feels that way.

I also wish I’d known that it’s totally okay to feel passion and desire and pleasure in ways that don't appear sexual. To feed other parts of yourself. The first time I read Judith Butler I felt like I was having a purely mental orgasm. There are lots of ways to imagine yourself desiring; your mom isn’t the only model.

And with everything I believed, and even with what I’m saying to you here, I do wish I’d just put an asterisk next to all of it that clarified: "This is just for now." I wish I’d been able to tell myself, “All this shit is going to change, and you're not going to feel the same way tomorrow or a year from now. You don't need to figure out everything. Just go read a book. Do what makes you happy.”

 

Previously: Scarlet

Jia Tolentino is a writer in Michigan. 



136 Comments / Post A Comment

muddgirl

Wow, my favorite IWaV yet! I admire how Eliot has embraced both uncertainty and change when it comes to her self-identity.

Lu2
Lu2

This is my favorite one so far. It is so instructive on a number of fronts regarding what Eliot has gone through. By "instructive" I mean personally resonant, even though we have almost nothing in common regarding our lives and identifications. I guess I can recognize when someone has really done a lot of introspection, and found some deep truths for herself--and there's something universally recognizable about truth. Go, Eliot!

whizz_dumb

I really like, "...when you get sober, you become willing to change everything, you open up to the possibility of letting old ideas go."

whizz_dumb

Then again I've never been to AA. Is this boiler plate AA language?

MuffinMan

@whizz_dumb I wouldn't use the word boilerplate. The process of the AA program - which is the 12 Steps, which has been re-purposed for help in a thousand different things (Over-eating, living with an alcoholic, drug addiction, etc.) and actually come from the 4 Absolutes of the Oxford Group - asks you to take the approach that you MIGHT/MAY/COULD be wrong about any number of things you think. The way she put it, though, is in her own words, original, and beautiful.

stonefruit

An IWaV *and* Qooking with Qream on the same day? Hairpin! You are too kind.

Nicole Cliffe

As a companion to this (thanks, Eliot!!), I recommend watching (a)sexual, the documentary. It's streaming on Netflix.

shantasybaby

@Nicole Cliffe I watched that recently, it was very interesting! But it did make me have to join the chorus (a little bit) on how insensitive Dan Savage can be! I feel like he's softened his opinions on asexuality since then (I listen to his podcast religiously still, even thuogh he's a dick in the documentary!) My husband was around while I was watching it and he just could not wrap his head around it. But it was interesting to me that I didn't have a similar reaction- he and I are very sexual people with strong attractions- but I believe it had something to do with me having experience same sex attraction and struggled (mildly) with sexual identity myself. I'm just prepared to take whatever someone says about their sexuality at face value because I'd want someone to do the same to me but my husband has never had to think about it because no one ever bats an eyelash at a straight dude.

Danzig!

@shantasybaby I had to stop listening to / reading Dan Savage because it became clear over time that his filter could cover up the awful things he believed only some of the time. He's done a lot to promote the acceptance of kink but other sorts of sexual variance seem to really freak him out, he finds radical consent constrictive, and God forbid anybody asks him about body issues. And he does that Gawker essayist thing where he'll say something shitty and then immediately alert people to the impending response from the PC police, as though the very fact that he has a platform makes his words truth against power.

frigwiggin

I didn’t like the idea of obligating one person to always pick me up at the airport

Sorry, what?

H.E. Ladypants

@frigwiggin I get it. Making someone else responsible for you can be very weird.

adorable-eggplant

@H.E. Ladypants But you don't sign an I'll pick you up at the airport contract when you hop into a relationship.

rasko

@frigwiggin This is my main reason for considering internet dating. Because I want to meet someone so that that someone will be obligated to always pick me up at the airport.

adorable-eggplant

@rasko Put "Rides to the airport" in your list of things you couldn't live without. That would make me chuckle. I'm a wierdo who usually takes the bus from the airport.

whizz_dumb

@adorable-eggplant I want this. I'm going to draft up an airport contract for some lucky lady to sign. We'll have it notarized and everything.

frigwiggin

@all Mostly I thought it was a funny disconnect from the other things she was listing. But man, I've been with my boyfriend for five years and he's still not the only person to pick me up. Whoever picks me up is whoever's available (and who wants me to buy them lunch or something in return).

whizz_dumb

@adorable-eggplant I added that to my list of things, no joke. Also added "nice pens".

adorable-eggplant

@frigwiggin Yeah, a friend picked me up from my last flight in and I treated her to a breakfast taco. It's only fair.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to be a dork and read about collaborative consumption/ride-sharing: http://benkler.org/SharingNicely.html

As the article points out, resource sharing within relationships is just one of many types of sharing:

"The sharing practices that have evolved around them* are not limited to tightly knit communities of repeat players who know each other well and interact across many contexts. They represent instances where social sharing is either utterly impersonal or occurs among loosely affiliated individuals who engage in social practices that involve contributions of the capacity of their private goods in patterns that combine to form large-scale and effective systems for provisioning goods, services, and resources."

*cars and computers, in the article.

adorable-eggplant

@whizz_dumb I read that as "nice penis", but pens are OK too.

Judith Slutler

@frigwiggin To me this is one of the main signs that someone I'm talking to is just really not into monogamy; there are all these little signifiers of pair-bonding that are just woven into the social fabric and that I personally find to be near-meaningless, but some people are just really REALLY bothered by them.

...um, those kinds of discussions can also leave a monogamously inclined person like me going "Sorry, what?" a whole lot and doing that whole "but I'M not like that WHY ARE YOU MAKING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME" dance

wee_ramekin

@rasko I do not know if you are being sarcastic or not, but that is *literally* one of the reasons I want to be in a relationship. That and not having to feed the pets by myself all the time.

Lucienne

@wee_ramekin I have a hard time trying to balance my inability to open jars with my basic disinterest in a relationship.

whizz_dumb

@wee_ramekin I could really use some help on the pet-feeding front.

wee_ramekin

@whizz_dumb Let's date. I will pick you up at the airport.

whizz_dumb

@wee_ramekin Sounds good. What's your fax #? I have something for you to sign.

wee_ramekin

@whizz_dumb (512) 555-LMAO

(ETA: Uh, because you were funny, not because I think the idea of our thus-far Actually Perfect relationship is laughable.)

whizz_dumb

@wee_ramekin I've been meaning to visit Austin for a while now, it's finally happening. (I knew you laughed for the right reasons but I'm glad you clarified because it shows how well we communicate.)

plumb-bob

@wee_ramekin One of my reasons was to not have to try and drive and read the map at the same time.

RNL
RNL

@whizz_dumb Roommates make great pet-feeders. But wait why am I interfering in this budding romance?

packedsuitcase

@frigwiggin Man, I loved having my built-in airport person when I was with my ex. Now I have to scrounge around for people. But it means I'm much better at being the picker-upper. I need rides to/from the airport so often that I'm always willing to pick people up. Gotta build that airport karma.

Ellie

@Emmanuelle Cunt I totally feel that way about the airport. My parents don't usually pick each other up at the airport (they have a great marriage, it's just not that kind of relationship - although my dad did pick my mom up from the airport at 1 am last night). When I was in a serious relationship the idea of either of us not getting picked up at the airport was just 100% unthinkable. I'm not saying it's a *demand* I would make, but I don't think I could date anyone who didn't want to pick me up at the airport.

Barry Grant

@frigwiggin

Yes, I always thought that airport runs were implicit, like bailing out of jail and being the emergency contact if you get hurt on the job.

WaityKatie

@Barry Grant Yep, "emergency contact" is maybe my primary reason for wanting to be in a relationship. My emergency contact is currently my mom. :/ And she lives in another state. So I guess I'll just die quietly, with minimal fuss...

adorable-eggplant

@Emmanuelle Cunt I was thinking more about this part of your comment "...um, those kinds of discussions can also leave a monogamously inclined person like me going "Sorry, what?" a whole lot and doing that whole "but I'M not like that WHY ARE YOU MAKING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME" dance" and it struck me that one of the reasons I'm doing the that's not like me dance (in my head) is that it's really not like me. Because every relationship is different, even the relationships I've had are different from one another. So it's not like there's one way to argue or live together and you have to figure it out. Every relationship evolves out of individuals, being individual together.

So this part of the interview really struck me: "I really don’t know how people sleep in the same bed. How people have fights. How you decide to mingle certain aspects of yourself and keep others separate." Because, from what I understand, there isn't an answer. Instead there are lots of answers.

shantasybaby

@frigwiggin I think that's the key- if it's your spouse/partner, then you aren't expected to get them something in return, it's just part of being in a relaitonship with someone (for alot of people.) But like, yeah, sometimes one's partner can't someone else does it. I think she was talking more about what having someone like that represents- someone who does stuff for you with no "gain" beyond getting to be with you.

Bootsandcats

@rasko "Pick me up at the airport", "Give me a ride to the mechanic", and "Buy me Gatorade when I'm sick." All the rationale for a long term relationship I need.

evil melis

REALLY

REALLY

REALLY

AN ENTIRE THREAD ABOUT PICKING PEOPLE UP AT THE AIRPORT AND NOT ONE OF YOU GARBAGE MONSTERS REFERENCES WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

I AM LITERALLY SO ANGRY I AM SHAKING AT YOU PEOPLE RIGHT NOW i thought we understood each otherrrr

adorable-eggplant

@evil melis I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT MOVIE. HATE ME, WHATEVER. IT'S COOL.

frigwiggin

@evil melis Some of us were doing important things like watching Drag Race s4 and didn't have time to watch classic movies or clean the catbox

279th District Court

@Ellie
I think the 1 am airport pickup really gets to the heart of the difference between a friend giving you a ride and a significant other. The significant other is the person that, when you have a flight that HAS to get in in the wee hours of the morning at the airport that's 2 hours away rather than the one in town, the person who ultimately ends up responsible for you not standing out in the cold is going to be the person you're in a relationship with. Us single folks have to go around begging our closest, bestest friends who we just helped move apartments.

Although I remember I was directing a show one time with an actress who insisted she had to miss rehearsal to pick up her boyfriend at the airport two hours drive away, and I was totally pissed. Mostly because she had been making excuses all week and this was the final straw. Really, she HAS to pick him up? And I remember thinking (and cattily saying) that if her boyfriend hadn't alienated every other person in town, then perhaps one of them would have been willing to pick him up.

Danzig!

@wee_ramekin hahaha, as though your pets won't just trick the both of you into feeding them twice. Human LTRs are the leading cause of pet obesity! I have no facts to back that claim, but I'm blowing the whistle anyway.

Don't get cats, gang. They're adorable but they WILL outsmart you at every turn.

Apocalypstick

@Danzig! Yeah, they will snarfle down their food in 30 seconds if it might get them a second breakfast while the first feeder is in the shower.

squishycat

@Apocalypstick See, if I think the cat is trying to play me, I will absolutely stick my head in the bathroom and shout at my boyfriend "hey, did you feed the furry asshole yet?"

DoMark

@evil melis Totally agree, so here you go: You take someone to the airport, its clearly the beginning of the relationship. That's why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship...
Because eventually things move on and you don't take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, How come you never take me to the airport anymore?

Stacy H@twitter

@adorable-eggplant Yes, but even so you get the but-you-have-a-car-do-I-really-have-to-take-the-bus-but-it'd-mean-so-much-to-me. I even told my then-boyfriend specifically to NOT pick me up (he'd have to take the bus to "pick me up" anyway) because I didn't want to get into that nonsense, and HE DID IT ANYWAY. It's a thing.

fuck fuck fuck

thank you so much for sharing this! not to make this about me, but i am identifying with this SO HARD right now. especially this: "part of me is afraid that I'm just not capable of feeling that overwhelming passion for people. And why would anyone want to be with someone like that?" it is so scary to believe you may be totally unable to connect with people in the way they expect you to. i am glad to hear that you haven't forced yourself to be sexual on too many occasions--it's not a good feeling.

fuck fuck fuck

@fuck fuck fuck also the part about just not getting sexual attraction. I DON'T GET IT. i can look at someone and appreciate that they are attractive, but that doesn't translate to wanting to bang them. i just want to want to bang someone.

i am doing a bad job of not just talking about myself, but there are not a lot of forums for this kind of stuff in my daily life!

iceberg

@fuck fuck fuck please don't feel bad about it! I feel like it falls under "comparing notes" rather than threadjacking or whatever. but then I'm nosy and enjoy finding out how other people think/see the world sooooo.

Blackwatch Plaid

@fuck fuck fuck Oh boy, do I relate. I feel like I've spent most of my adult life trying to force myself to be more sexual than I am. Like, I've felt more pressure to be sexual than I ever felt to be straight. I wouldn't say I *never* have attraction, but it's just so damn rare that a lot of the time I find myself somewhat confounded.

RNL
RNL

@fuck fuck fuck No this is interesting!

I want to say: I am very sexual, but almost never look at someone and want to bang them. (As a pretty straight lady, I'm going to use "him" hereinafter.) I usually want to bang him for complex reasons, which include his desire for me. Usually that's what the first 5 dates are for: figuring out if I want to bang him, or more accurately, developing a desire to bang him. It's like "hm, I could kiss this guy, and I kind of like the idea. Let's try that" and so on til my pants are off and I'm like "Dude get it in I finally want to bang you."

I think I'm just not that visual, and my sexual desire is caught up in things like social ability and humour and power relationships (and desire for me. That is a big one.) The expectation that you would want, at tabula rasa, to bang someone, seems very onerous, and if that's what I was waiting for, I would never get it either.

Of course, I think what we are talking about it more subtle than a simple "I want to bang you." Attraction includes that feeling, but is more amorphous. To me, attraction is better described as an active desire to be around someone, like he is a magnet and I am a spoon. I feel this way about friends too, but in a subtly different way.

RNL
RNL

@RNL One exception: I was recently went to a barfy touristy luau in Hawaii, and I wanted to bang the the 19 year old male hula dancers. I had vivid thoughts about doing things like licking their abs. It was unprecedented and powerful. Maybe I'm entering my sexual prime? Crowding 30 holla! I'm gonna be a middle-aged CREEP.

tea sonata

@fuck fuck fuck
It has to be said, I entirely agree. My two closest girl friends are of that "normal" stance where it is ok to look at a person and automatically assume - "Will I fuck this person?" with a definite yes or no either way.
I just cannot do this.

Also, I very very very rarely have crushes on people. So as a result I find myself confused when everybody else is all "OMG I LOVE THIS DUDE/DUDETTE" and its the third one that week? Um, insincere much? What exactly is it that you want?

Personally, I don't see it as a problem. Thing is, other people do. I never get very far explaining this to other people, either. Their usual response is, "oh, you must be a virgin, cause you obviously dont get it". Nope. I lost that at 18. But I guess I'm less highly sexed in a social sense, which doesn't mean I want to bang the nearest person I see whose face I find "not unattractive". Which is belittling to begin with. Attraction is more than just faces. It's the whole combination of what makes a person A PERSON, and smell is really important to me, too. I don't know if I'm alone on this or not.

Verity

@fuck fuck fuck I'm not sure I get it either. And I have a boyfriend, and we have sex, and I enjoy it - but I don't see people and want to have sex with them, and sexual attraction isn't a huge part of my life.

Ellie

@fuck fuck fuck I love this because it's so interesting to read how different people are. I can't imagine what it's like NOT to fantasize about having sex with various people. I'm not saying that I very frequently see someone on the street and imagine fucking him, but it doesn't strike me as out of the ordinary. Sexual attraction is definitely a huge part of my life. (For reference, I'm 25 and don't have nearly as much sex as I would like; I'm not dating anyone and I don't have any legit regular hookups. When I go a long time without having sex - like, a month maybe - I get increasingly sex crazed and think about it more and more.) For the most part, I'll have a rotation of a couple guys I imagine having sex with - like I have this inconsequential age-inappropriate crush on the Ukrainian ROTC kid in my Russian class (sometimes he comes to class in uniform!!) and during class I will find my thoughts idly drifting to me on top of him. Just for fun. I agree that thinking that the other person is plausibly interested is a big part of making thinking about someone sexually fun, and that I'm way more likely to have sexual fantasies about someone I know & like than a stranger. But to me there's an extremely low barrier to wanting to bang someone that I find attractive.

thatgirl

Definitely my favorite IWaV so far.

Eliot, can you keep us posted on your article? Lesbian porn comics are a particular interest of mine, in an intellectual way as well as in a sexy way.

iceberg

@thatgirl C dot urvy dot org - :)

thatgirl

@iceberg WORD.

iceberg

"Okay, stop looking at his arms. stop looking at his hair. Calm down."

This has happened to me twice, once very recently. PROBLEMATIC! but also fun!

Onymous

>Actually, I feel weirder about not having relationship experience than being a virgin. I really don’t know how people sleep in the same bed. How people have fights. How you decide to mingle certain aspects of yourself and keep others separate.

yup.

questingbeast

"they're so infrequent. In the past year there have been two people, both men, that I saw and was just like, “WOW. PRETTYYYY.”

Fairly sure I haven't thought that about two strangers in the street in the last year, and I'm not asexual. Is that really as common as your friend suggested? Don't know that that's really a sign of anything.

Great piece! Your thesis sounds really interesting.

Emma Peel

@questingbeast Yeah, I've never actually wanted to jump a stranger, I don't think, but I am definitely not asexual. (I did tell a friend that once though and it blew her mind, so... hey, sexuality is weird and individual!)

fabel

@questingbeast yeah, this is what I was definitely thinking throughout this piece. "Wanting to jump a stranger" isn't the best test, I guess I'd say, for asexuality? Because that doesn't happen to me basically ever---I can far more relate to her "PRETTY PRETTY" thing & admiring a stranger's beauty without wanting to bang. And I'm not asexual; I just don't think in those terms? (Unless I'm already horny)

OhMarie

@questingbeast Yeah, I think this is common--I definitely don't have especially strong reactions to people's looks, to the point where the one really visceral reaction I had to someone's hotness is really memorable even though it happened like 13 years ago, when I was in 11th grade.

This was a really fascinating one!

Judith Slutler

@questingbeast The one time I've been somewhat piled-on in comments here it was because I was like "People actually expect their partners to NOT fantasize about sex with random strangers? How unrealistic!"

It turns out a lot of people in this world pretty much don't want to jump strangers. To me, that is amazing. I have zero struggles with monogamy and in fact I usually am attracted to guys who remind me of my current partner in some way, but I definitely develop an insta-crush on the subway or in a bar or something like... at least once a week.

Lucienne

@OhMarie I have had that "hello" experience a couple of times, but I don't think it was in reaction to hotness (I guess they were pretty good-looking guys, but they weren't young Montgomery Clifts or anything) so much as a general sense of . . . compatibility. I have mixed feeling about the word "chemistry" but it seems applicable.

Which is how I know I'm not asexual, just prone to self-sabotage (did they have serious girlfriends, yes they did).

Judith Slutler

@Lucienne My roommate always picks out the guys who turn out to have girlfriends! ... I know it must be discouraging, but as I told her this weekend, at least you have an eye for the ones who are into commitment. That seems like a good instinct.

Lucienne

@Emmanuelle Cunt Hah, well in hindsight . . . they maybe have been less sold on commitment than would be ideal. I mean, I stopped purring at them when I worked it out, but c'mon. You know you've got a girlfriend even if I don't, dudes.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@questingbeast Same here, I'm virtually incapable of being attracted to someone without having at least one conversation with them first. I'm attracted to a person purely on sight mayyyyyyybe once a year? Even once a year might be stretching it.

Judith Slutler

@Lucienne Ouch! But also, not your fault.

Pygmalion

@Emmanuelle Cunt I'm randomly attracted to strangers, guys and girls for that matter, all the time (especially the subway, what is it about insta-crushes on the subway?). I'll think they're sexy and sometimes I'll think up little meet-cutes, but I rarely fantasize about actually having sex with them. I guess my brain doesn't make the jump from being attracted to visualizing banging that often, even though I'm horny like, most of the time...

Lucienne

@Emmanuelle Cunt To be fair, I would . . . probably not ask any questions if any of them showed up at my door. "Come in and take off your clothes."

leonstj

@Emmanuelle Cunt - This fascinates me too! One of my favorite parts about spring/summer in NYC is that I am basically unable to walk more than 15 blocks without, for a flash of a second, being completely consumed with desire for someone.

Like, this morning there was a woman playing one of the Chopin Nocturnes on a violin on the platform as I was transferring trains, and in my mind when I smiled, she just kind of finished playing the violin and then we made out &c. right then & there.

I love this series because it points out that not everyone thinks the same as me, the diversity in it is really fascinating.

frigwiggin

@Emmanuelle Cunt @leon s

I'm definitely more like you two--it's not like I have any illusions about that feeling being anything more than it is, but I'm like, hey there about folks pretty frequently when I'm out and about. Like that cute girl at Chipotle with the short hair who was dressed all nattily. Sigh. :3 (I think these little feelings are so much fun, they perk me up and give me someone to remember and smile dreamily about when I'm out of sorts.)

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin Plus my boyfriend and I have pretty similar taste in the ladies so we're always nudging each other at the farmer's market &c

Ellie

@leon s @frigwiggin Me too. I have so many brief fascinations with strangers. They're fleeting, but fun. I just had a guy staring at me in Starbucks yesterday. And I really like staring at people. You don't have to do anything, it's just fun to think about them.

Apocalypstick

@werewolfbarmitzvah This is why demisexuality as an identity confuses me -it's completely fucking normal and very common, so I don't see the need to make it An Identity. Have you looked into it much?

Emma Peel

@Apocalypstick I just heard about demisexuality for the first time and yeah, I guess that sort of describes me because I'm rarely sexually attracted to people I have zero connection of any kind to, in the same way that I guess "semi-vegetarian" describes me because I never eat meat at home -- both are marginally descriptive and really not at all useful.

But I agree that it's not an identity; basically I think it's been seized on by teenagers who want to feel like special snowflakes/outside the norm (I'm glad Tumblr didn't exist when I was in high school because I probably would have decided I was a romantic asexual, when what I turned out to be was a late bloomer).

Springtime for Voldemort

So, how many dates does everyone (save @Emmanuelle Cunt @leon s and @frigwiggin) go on to decide if there's sexual attraction there? My fear is always that I'll basically get into a relationship because I'll just keep waiting for the hots to happen. And then I end up cutting things off after one or two dates, when maybe if I went on three or five, it would happen.

Ellie

@Springtime for Voldemort I was actually just thinking about this yesterday from some unrelated reason and my brief conclusion was that I don't think I would go on a date in the first place with someone I couldn't imagine myself having sex with. I usually have sex on the first date. Some recent events have led me to reconsider whether this is always a great approach (not that it's always bad, either) and it's something I want to not always do in the future. I am however totally aware that you can become attracted to someone after you know them better, so I'm not really sure what the "number" of dates to that would be, and I'm sure it varies according to both people (the dater and datees).

pterodactylish

"You don't need to figure out everything. Just go read a book. Do what makes you happy.”

This is, quite simply, fucking brilliant.

Bravo, Eliot. I'm making this my motto.

rangiferina

this is the first IWaV to really, really resonate with me. I have a lot to think about now - THANK YOU Eliot!

wee_ramekin

One thing I'd love to know that wasn't addressed in this interview is whether or not Eliot would consider herself aromantic (I understand why that wasn't covered, virginity being by definition a more "sexual" thing rather than a "romantic" thing).

Because a lot of what resonated with me when I was young (before my relatively late-blooming sex drive awoke with a vengance) about the cultural depictions of relationships was the romance aspect, the thought of being incredibly special to and beloved by someone. That was the part that would make me feel all blushy and warm in the chest. I wonder if Eliot has ever experienced - or has ever wanted to experience - those feelings.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin Just the word "beloved" gets me all blushy. Sigh. (I understand this sentiment.)

sophia_h

Fandom, fandom, you are so good with the interstitial stuff. Often fucking terrible about the gender roles and relations stuff, but such a good space for working out all kinds of things about sex and sexuality and identity. I consider myself basically straight, with a few minor exceptions, but writing m/m slash can put my brain into a place that feels, for lack of a better word, queer, just totally detached from a single gender identity or orientation. And despite being a married straight lady, I probably think about fictional sex way more than I actually want to have it in real life, because my brain is more sexual than my body is.

wee_ramekin

@sophia_h Oh man, I would love to get into a discussion about women writing m/m slashfic. I saw a really good blog post on the internet once (grrr...can't find it now) about how m/m slashfic is a way for women to write about a relationship where both characters are viewed as equals by society, and so cultural expectations don't influence the characers' romantic and sexual actions.

I think there's a lot to be said for that!

sophia_h

@wee_ramekin Oh, there have been absolute reams written on the subject in the last few decades, some of it scholarly as well. Like Eliot says, for a lot of women it's a way to think about sex that removes their own bodies from the equation, which can be non-threatening and empowering, but also can lead to a sort of erasure of female presence at all, which is troubling. (There's the obvious misogynistic stuff, where women are only writing or thinking about men and start hating the female characters, but also stuff in fans' own lives, where I have seen girls kind of check out of romance and sex and that whole bag for themselves in favor of occupying a fictional men-only world.)

And I certainly do like that slash can be a place to write about relationships without gender baggage, but of course many fans still force slash couples into heteronormative interactions, and I also wish people would do that more by writing femslash too.

wee_ramekin

@sophia_h I will tell you one thing: reading m/m slashfic makes me wish I had a prostate gland so much.

TheBelleWitch

@sophia_h @ww_ramekin This discussion fascinates me, but I find it so frustrating at the same time. I remember asking a guy in high school why men liked girl-girl pornography and got a blank look and "It's twice the chick."

I do very much get the need to look at and understand our desires and deal with internalized misogyny, etc., but damn if I'm not jealous of that sort of male privilege. Just that ability to be like, "It's hot, that's all" and not have to justify it. I think some (not all) criticism of m/m ends up falling into the category of policing female desire, and that's just not something I think guys (straight guys) have to deal with.

But then again, maybe the result of unexamined desire would be whatever the female equivalent of fake lipstick lesbian porn is, so I don't know.

sophia_h

@TheBelleWitch Yeah, I would not be interested in criticizing based on fans' desires being "wrong," but I do think it's important to examine whether fans enjoy some things and exclude others because of internalized misogyny or self-hate. And it really does break my heart to see girls in high school and college who've quit trying to seek out relationships or sex in their real lives because it's easier just to retreat into the theoretically genderless world of slash, especially because I had that tendency myself (though I didn't move from het into slash until my late 20s), and got very lucky to meet my husband early in college before I mostly retreated into online fandom for my social life.

TheBelleWitch

@sophia_h Fair enough, and I definitely didn't mean to imply that the issues you mentioned would fall into that category of policing! I am a pretty casual reader and have probably been overly biased by stumbling across self-righteous Tumblr fights versus good-faith conversations.

It is troubling that people would use the fantasy to retreat from having to deal with the gender issues of real relationships. I can see how that could easily happen. On another note, I think I just figured out who you are, at least if you used to write Office stuff? If so: You can really write. I'm a big fan.

par_parenthese

@wee_ramekin "m/m slashfic is a way for women to write about a relationship where both characters are viewed as equals by society, and so cultural expectations don't influence the characers' romantic and sexual actions."

MIND BLOWN. On my IRL blog, I'm doing a series on feminism and religion and cultural expectations of women and embodiment so this is very relevant to my interests.

wee_ramekin

@TheBelleWitch ISN'T SHE A GREAT WRITER?! She turned me on (heh) to the Sherlock fandom, and for that, I will be forever in her debt.

@par_parenthese Girl, what is your IRL blog? That sounds interesting! Also, if you find any of the scholarly articles that @sophia_h was talking about above, please share them.

par_parenthese

@wee_ramekin Oh man, par_ is my supa-dupa secret identity and my IRL blog is by my mild-mannered Clark-Kent persona -- it's a blog that, like, my students can read. And my mom. Alas! I must keep my worlds forever apart!

BUT WTF have I been thinking not asking y'all for input? Derrrp. *smacks forehead*

sophia_h

@TheBelleWitch Yes, that was probably me! I miss that show when it was good. And thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my stuff. :)

@wee_ramekin AWW! I am so glad I could bring you into the crazy fun! :) :)

279th District Court

@TheBelleWitch
This isn't quite what you were talking about above, but I have also asked straight male friends why they find girl-on-girl so hot. That was pretty much the answer I got - double the titillation.

I've thought about that a lot since then. I get absolutely nothing from m/m fanfic, porn, etc. I'm bi, and I DO enjoy femslash and straight versions of erotica, so why don't I enjoy the "double titillation" in this particular form? I have tentatively concluded it's because I need to have an avatar I can put myself into.

Which begs the question - are men better at being able to see themselves as a viewer only? Or seeing themselves as a participant even if their only technical role is that of viewer? Or more comfortable with the idea of being such?

zamboni

@sophia_h You articulated very well and succinctly some stuff I've been trying to fumble my way around recently, both due to reading more m/m slash and witnessing certain strains of fandom. Super helpful for my brain. Thanks!

cherrispryte

This is really really good. As a non-virgin who has zero interest in being in a serious relationship, a lot of it resounded with me.

RoxxieRae

I don't particularly relate sexually. I buy the darkest sunglasses i can so i can unapologetically stare at men in public. :) That being said, the quote below is just about the sweetest, most wonderful thing I've read in a while. It moved me to tears.... it's just so fucking CORRECT and such a beautiful example of how to be kind to one's self:

"And with everything I believed, and even with what I’m saying to you here, I do wish I’d just put an asterisk next to all of it that clarified: "This is just for now." I wish I’d been able to tell myself, “All this shit is going to change, and you're not going to feel the same way tomorrow or a year from now. You don't need to figure out everything. Just go read a book. Do what makes you happy.”"

Pygmalion

@RoxxieRae I know, the last line is so perfect. It applies to so much of what it means to develop and grow older. The only thing you can count on for the future is that things will change, and it's simultaneously comforting and exciting and scary.

Blushingflwr

I was interested to see the discussion turn to things like religion and familial involvement after Eliot said she basically just wasn't attracted to people. I think asexuality (like bisexuality or any other orientation) is mostly an innate tendency. Libido is one of those things that varies from person to person. I think people who are celibate for religious reasons still feel those sexual urges, they just don't act on them. But of course, the degree of control that requires is dependent on the level of urges you feel.
I also read a lot of m/m slash and my body does enter into it. I usually identify with the "bottom" if there is one, and if there's a sex act occurring that I personally don't enjoy (even if both characters do) I often can't get into it.

That last line is perfect.

par_parenthese

@Blushingflwr "I think people who are celibate for religious reasons still feel those sexual urges, they just don't act on them." Definitely. *raises hand*

Also, so you know those XY axis things that look like a plus sign, and you plot different qualities on them? (I'm sure they have a name, I just can't remember it because ENGLISH MAJOR WHAT WHAT. I feel like sexualities are a lot like that, or maybe like one of those with a third dimension where X=who you're attracted to, Y=how much you want to have sex, Z=cis/trans? So, like, I'm pretty far toward the "attracted to not-my-gender" end of X, pretty far toward the "cis" end of Z, but also pretty far toward the "LOTS" end of Y, if that makes sense. And I feel like most of that is innate -- I've always been a little attracted to women, always had an intense drive and vivid fantasy life, wore my college boyfriend OUT as much as two people who were committed to staying virgins can, etc.

That was just kind of me processing -- I think the topic of human sexualities and how they're felt and expressed is FASCINATING.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Eliot - I like your self-knowledge. I like your style. I also really appreciate your line of study, considering what you've shared with us today. I'm also curious about your upcoming article, and I hope there's a way we can see what you've found!

Also, congrats on your sobriety.

Briony Fields

I love this series. So many little things that just don't often get discussed in the typical view of dating and relationships.
I can totally relate to her not being able to envision herself in sexual scenarios. I've experienced the same thing which I always thought made me a freak or something. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

mackymoo

@Briony Fields You're not the only one. I'm in a four year relationship, but before I started going out with him, I remember thinking "this guy is great, I just can't picture myself having sex with him."

Though I also wonder how much has to do with deep, deep self-esteem/undesirability issues. Hmm. Like if I don't find myself sexy, I can't believe that anyone else would.

Lu2
Lu2

@Briony Fields Eliot's statement about having to picture other people having her desires rather than owning them herself (if I read her meaning correctly) really rings true. It's quite a feat of mental gymnastics with which I'm very familiar.

Briony Fields

@mackymoo Interesting. I've wondered that too, like do I just have such a deep rooted dislike of myself or fear of sex or god knows WHAT issue. I just can't insert myself into my fantasies at all, it's weird. Or if I do, it turns me off.

RNL
RNL

@mackymoo I was recently struck by how much desire for me relates to being desired. When I'm not feeling desirable, I don't desire. I very much associate the experience with my experience of being female.

mackymoo

@RNL Yeah it kind of blows.

RNL
RNL

@mackymoo That's why I'm working on my female gaze. I tell my boyfriend I'm objectifying him a lot. He's ok with it.

lasso tabasco

Wow, what a great interview! My, the thing about waking up one day and just not wanting to see that other person ever again... just, ugh. That is such a terrifying feeling! Having been on both sides of that, this is the Number One Reason why I am deathly afraid of anything more serious than casual sex-only relationships.

sophia_h

@lasso tabasco That can happen even in a good LTR relationship, though! The times have been brief and few, but I have definitely had occasions with my husband when I suddenly feel 100% MEH and can't imagine spending the rest of our lives together, like he's this stranger I have no feelings for whatsoever. And then it kind of clears up and he turns back into someone I care about. I think the success of a relationship with no foundational problems (alcoholism, adultery, etc.) depends on whether you can weather those moments, because they're going to happen even with a great person you love.

lasso tabasco

@sophia_h Exactly! I just think I can't weather it, or I can't choose the kind of person who could weather it.

I relate a lot to how Eliot says she envisions her future relationships being short-term connections. That is what I imagine for myself too, but I also don't want to close myself off to the possibility of an LTR, just in case. Gah, relationships. What are they.

hodgmina

I've loved reading this series, as a 26-year-old virgin myself. This is the one I've most related to, so so much, that if I tried to list all the parts I related to, I'd just end up quoting most of the article (especially being more worried about lack of relationship experience than sexual). I've had occasional instances of attraction, celebrity "crushes," but never anything I've felt particularly compelled to act on. Just...general disinterest in it all. The analysis of "why" at the beginning, though...I've definitely thought about why, but my parents are happily, love-ily married, and I didn't have a religious upbringing, so those are both out of the picture. But thanks again to Eliot and this series in general.

Lu2
Lu2

@hodgmina I love your name! I was just thinking of "Hodgmina" the other day and laughing to myself. Note to others who may not know: I am not making fun of Hodgmina's name (that's not your real name, is it? eek). It's John Hodgman's elegant pseudonym for his daughter. But if it is your real name, it's really pretty!!

hodgmina

@Lu2 Thanks! Glad someone else was as tickled by the name as I was (and no, it's not my name!). I loved John Hodgman's books (I was fascinated as a kid by the Book of Lists my grandmother had, and they reminded me a lot of that).

landers

This was fantastic. I identify heavily with this article and she talks about so many things I'm feeling in a way that I could never convey. I'm a 27-year-old virgin and I had a minor emotional breakdown in the middle of a bar this past Saturday while trying to explain to a friend just what the eff is going on in my life right now. I identify as gay-ish but I just don't get crushes/attraction very often. I have a pretty major crush right now on someone and it really is the first time in maybe four years that I felt anything more than friendship with someone. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH THIS SAID CRUSH. Even so, I like the idea of kissing them but sex itself is just not on the top of my mind. I feel so weird all the time because everyone seems to date all the time. That just doesn't sound fun to me at all. But, the idea of being alone forever just makes me sad and I don't like it. Anyway, so many feelings!
I don't come from a super similar background but now this has me thinking of the "whys" a lot more than I ever did before. My mom and dad were never together but my mom and step-dad have been living together for most of my life, just in a mostly sexless, attractionless relationship that I will never understand. :/

SlightlyOverboard

@landers Seconding the not having any idea of how to act on a crush. Seriously, what do people do?

aliceinwhateverland

@landers are you in my head right now?

SlightlyOverboard

I love this series! I'm 22 and a virgin myself. I went through pretty intense bullying as a kid so I guess I never really felt like I was allowed to like someone? But after therapy and generally working on myself I've become completely boy-crazy. Like, I'm taking out five years of never liking anyone in five or six months. But I have no freaking idea of how to act on it and it's sooo frustrating. Like is two weeks of knowing each other and working together too soon to start something? Cause I like you, cute boy in my new part-time job.

Ellie

@SlightlyOverboard My two cents (I'm no expert; I was 22 the first time I had sex too) is that it's easier to start something earlier on in knowing the person, even just inasmuch as you're less likely to psych yourself out the earlier it is.

Danzig!

@SlightlyOverboard don't hesitate to email Jia if that's yr bag!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

This article led me www.asexuality.org and I am learning a lot in the message boards. Just as a PS.

Minx Whatmore

So I don't identify with being an elder virgin... but I do identify with a couple of the things you said, Eliot. Like, I would love to skip the unstable time of a relationship and go straight to the balanced stuff. The honeymoon period has amazing ups but the downs are so unsettling for me.

Also, I guess I think of myself as averagely sexual, but I worried that I was losing much of my sexuality when I was single for a few years. I really wanted to be in a relationship, and I did a lot of online dating to meet guys, but I just found I wasn't attracted to many of them. Sleeping around isn't my thing either, but I wasn't even attracted to them even mildly. I wondered (this sounds snobby but I really wasn't!) at the time if this was something to do with having difficulty finding guys I clicked with in general - all the guys who seemed intelligent didn't seem very interested in an intelligent girl.

Danzig!

This was so good! I've always marveled at people who can get their houses in order, so to speak, and not be divided against themselves, and it seems like Eliot has reached that point. Were it that my own wheel were connected to its rudder in such a way.

sydwi

Oh, man, this bit especially got me - "part of me is afraid that I'm just not capable of feeling that overwhelming passion for people. And why would anyone want to be with someone like that?" - because, yes. I'm dealing with that right now, with a guy who is nice and funny and up my alley and for the first time, I am not running fast away. I kind of feel like, I could do this! Yay? I'm less excited than zen about it, really, as my friends celebrate that I am not negative. But I can see where my issues can and will cause problems (I've already ducked a smooch), and is it fair to drag him into all of this before/while I parse things out?

I've had long talks with friends about the possibility of being asexual, and it's something I should probably bring up with my therapist, because I'm uncertain and it's hard to define things by an absence? It's also hard to determine what is my level of inexperience (my lack of relationships practically at all is definitely a concern, like Eliot) and all of my surrounding issues that led me to therapy in the first place.

Things! Why so complicated?

cabincabinet

Thank you! This is the best, most informative interview yet. To follow @fuck fuck fuck's lead of revealing personal details: I was comfortably straight but utterly repressed until 22, and this passage knocked a few things loose for me Re: my first non-penetrative (ew) and fully consensual fooling around:

"It was traumatic for me, even though no one took advantage of me or anything. I’m one of those lucky, rare women who has never experienced assault or molestation or sexual aggression in any form. But still, it was terrible to see that I was using myself – pushing myself to participate in acts I didn’t want because I was tired of being inexperienced and just wanted to feel normal. I’d never made anybody come before, and because of all the Jack Daniels or whatever, I thought, “I’m just going to try it and see what happens. Maybe I won’t want it until afterwards.” And I did it, and it felt like shit. I felt like I’d been scrubbed inside my skin with something and it hurt. I never wanted to do something like that again. I was afraid, back then, all the time."

Before reading, I felt guilty for placing my feelings anywhere near the same plane as someone who had been sexually assaulted. Now I understand that it's possible to experience trauma regardless of the level of consent or forethought. That was the last piece in the working-it-out puzzle - after two years!

Only one of the reasons I love IWaV. Thanks again, Eliot and Jia!

kjh45

So the last time one of these ran, I wrote in to Jia. I'm 24.

Between then and now, I'm not. The universe is weird like that.

pesackamy

Okay, I need to do one of these interviews. What's Jia's email? (I'm an idiot who cannot find email addresses.)

surewhynot

I created an account just to post this comment. Eliot I know you said that you came out to your friend as asexual because you were tired of feeling like there was something wrong with you, so I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I do encourage you to discuss your sexuality with a trusted doctor if you haven't already. Lack of a sex drive can be normal for some people, but it can also be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition (lack of testosterone, for example, which both men and women need, though in different amounts). Some health issues can feel like 'normal' just because they've always been that way: for example, I was recently treated for a vitamin deficiency that was causing dizzyness. To my surprise, the morning depression I had to deal with every single day for as long as I can remember is totally gone now. I had assumed it was normal to wake up feeling blue in the morning, but it turns out I just needed more vitD / omega 3s. Anyway, thanks for your article and educating us on asexuality.

surewhynot

@surewhynot http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone Stories from people (men) who undergo transitions in their testosterone levels. Very interesting biology lesson if nothing else.

ruberry

I have been rethinking how I self-identify sexually lately, and this article (and more generally this entire series) resonated SO MUCH with me. I am also a virgin, and at 22 I have in the past few years passed the age were its normal and entered the realm of it being WEIRD.
Like Eliot, I sort of feel like an alien when it comes to sex --- I just don't get how sexual interaction works. I don't think I am asexual, I definitely experience desire and am physically attracted to people, but my actual experience is so limited... and I don't really understand how to flirt, or get a date, or get myself into a situation where sex is a possibility.
I could go on and on about how thrilled I am to have stumbled upon this article (and the others in the series). Virginity can be kind of a taboo topic, it's great to hear other peoples' stories and know that I am not as alone as I sometimes feel.

dockzy

great site, keep so!
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