Addressing Asexuality, Friends Who Talk Too Much, And Why What You Did Sucked
by Lindsay King-Miller
Quite a few years into my life, and I’m finally starting to address my sexuality. Which is to say that I’m figuring out that my lack of physical attraction, even to people that I really like and crush on, isn’t just the result of a very successful internalizing of childhood religious principles of purity and so on, or an unhelpful response left over from desperate, deliberate de-sexualizing as a teenager, i.e. body issues, creepy middle-aged men issue — childhood innocence was something to cling to with my teeth, if necessary. Basically, I think I might be asexual. (Yay?) To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about it (being asexual but heteroromantic doesn’t seem like a recipe for happiness), but at least it explains a lot, and understanding and acceptance can only be good when moving forward, wherever that takes me.
My question is…where do I fit in? I only know one other asexual person, who is the friend of a friend, and I haven’t seen her in several years. I’ve looked at some asexual forums and queer internet noticeboards and they suggest that there are some doubts about whether asexuals can be included in the queer community. There just don’t seem to be enough of us to sustain our own community, unless we live in a really big city (which I don’t) or are comfortable befriending random strangers over the internet (which, for the most part, I am not).
I understand that to some extent being a member of the queer community is self-selecting — if you feel queer, you are queer. I’ve felt different all my life, and alienated from ‘normal’ society, partly for reasons that turn out to be explicable through my asexuality — is feeling different the same as feeling queer? I’d love to be able to talk about this sort of thing with someone; my LGB friends are probably the most open in discussions of sexuality, but I’m not sure they’d understand, and I worry that they’d just blame my ‘brokenness’ on my religious upbringing. And in a very real sense, asexuality is just as divorced from queer allosexuality as it is from heterosexuality. Where do you go when you are the Other of the Other?
I don’t think I can define what it means to “feel queer.” I know what queer feels like to me — mostly awesome, occasionally a little scary, sometimes really hot — but there isn’t just one way to feel queer, any more than there’s just one way to be queer. Basically, a queer identity is available to anyone who isn’t straight and cisgender (which is different than saying “everyone who isn’t straight and cisgender is queer” — lots of people don’t identify with that label and that’s fine). You’re not straight, so if you want to call yourself queer, you can. I can’t tell you whether or not you want to — you’ll have to follow your heart on that one.
Some queer people don’t believe that asexual folks belong in “their” community, because some queer people are assholes. Don’t listen to them. You belong in queer spaces to the extent that you want to be there. My guess is your LGB friends will indeed be open and understanding of your asexual identity, if they’re cool enough to have become your friends in the first place. While you may not share all their experiences, you’ll be able to find common ground in being “othered” by a society that sees heterosexuality as not just common, but mandatory. You are not broken, any more than gay or bisexual or trans or genderqueer people are broken. Anyone who says you are, or that childhood trauma is to blame for your identity, or that therapy will “fix” you, or any other invalidating bullshit, doesn’t need to be part of your life.
Remember that there isn’t just one queer community — there are lots of facets and sub-communities created by queer people to suit their own needs. If the spaces you engage with don’t feel welcoming, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed at queerness; it means you’ll need to create your own events, social circles, etc. that reflect the kind of community you want and deserve.
And even if long-term online friendships don’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t discount the internet entirely. Those forums and message boards can connect you with other people who have dealt with the same things you’re going through, and who may be able to offer you more useful advice on finding or building an ace-inclusive queer community in a small town. They may also be able to put you in touch with other asexual/aromantic people in your geographic vicinity. And whether or not you ever feel comfortable sharing personal details about yourself with someone you met online, just knowing that you’re not the only one going through this might help you feel less alone.
Finally, you didn’t ask about this specifically, but I want to point out that your dating prospects are not shot! There are asexual heteroromantic men out there, and there are also straight men for whom sex and sexual attraction aren’t dealbreakers. Don’t despair of finding a partner if that’s something you want. Asexual people can and do find lasting, joyful love. You’re going to be fine.
A little background information: I just moved to a new city with my girlfriend. I have had no luck with making friends, so I’m trying to make friends with the people my girlfriend works with. I’ve only met her coworkers a few times, but made a connection with one lady in particular, Manny. Apparently she constantly brings me up to my girlfriend by complimenting me and saying how much she wishes we were friends. This past weekend, my girlfriend and I went to a bar/dance night and saw her coworkers there. Manny immediately came over, pulled me away from my girlfriend, grabbed me and kissed me on the lips. My girlfriend and I have an open makeout policy, and I really like Manny, so I went ahead with it. My girlfriend and I started dancing, and pretty soon Manny came over, started aggressively dancing with me and stuck her hand down my shirt, under my bra, and felt me up. She also tried to stick her hand down my skirt, and was biting my neck. I tried pulling her hand out of my shirt (she was very strong! so I couldn’t do it). A little later, my girlfriend and I checked in with each other and I told my girlfriend that I wasn’t okay with what was happening. I told Manny that I wanted her to ask my consent, and so she asked my girlfriend (not me) if she was okay. Girlfriend told her to ask me if I was okay, which she did, but she didn’t ask me if I was comfortable with how she was touching me. We kept dancing and she kept trying to feel me up, so I left to dance in another area with my girlfriend.
The next morning, she called my girlfriend and apologized to her (not to me!). My girlfriend asked her if we could meet in person to talk about it, so the three of us met to have a discussion. We explained to Manny that we weren’t upset with her, but consent is really important to both of us and we wanted much more explicit consent then and in the future. She explained that she totally agreed and used to teach classes on consent, but that she drank a bottle of wine before coming to the bar and was really hazy on what happened. I explained to her what she did, and all she said was “I remember you coming in the bar, and I saw something I wanted and I took it, like a man.” She apologized and we agreed to start over with our friendship.
I still felt weird later that day, so I got her phone number from my girlfriend and called her. She said that she was only “straight when sober” and that if she had known I was going to be at the bar, she wouldn’t have drunk so much so she could control herself.
I just feel so conflicted. I am attracted to her, both in a friendly way and a little romantically, but I don’t know how I feel about what happened. I keep telling myself that if she was a man, my reaction would be totally different. I would be 100 times more upset and I would have reacted differently initially at the bar by being more forceful in saying no. Am I too quick to forgive because I’m attracted to her? I still don’t feel good about what happened.
How should I proceed? Should I feel angrier at her for using alcohol as an excuse? Should I talk to her again, or should I just let it go? Is it worth beginning a friendship under these circumstances when ending it means continuing to not have friends in my new city?
You should be exactly as angry as you are, because your emotions are valid. It’s okay to be less angry with Manny than you would be with a man who did the same thing. It’s okay to be less angry with her because you’re attracted to her. It’s also okay if, despite not being that angry now, you get really angry about this down the line. Sometimes that happens.
But it’s important to remember that the way you feel about what Manny did — which I hesitate to describe as harassment or assault, because you didn’t use those words, and you’re the one who gets to decide how to define the narrative of your life, but if you did use those words I would agree with you in a heartbeat — does not necessarily reflect whether or not it was, objectively, an okay thing for her to do. Even if you’re not furious with her, it’s crucial to recognize that her behavior was absolutely predatory and fucked up — and it doesn’t sound like she’s taking responsibility for that. She’s blaming the alcohol and claiming not to remember what happened, but note that she remembered clearly enough to call and apologize to your girlfriend — not to you.
This particular detail worries me immensely, because it seems to suggest that Manny sees women she’s attracted to as objects more than people. She’s not contrite that she violated your boundaries and ignored your consent; she’s contrite that she violated your girlfriend’s right to determine what you do and with whom. She described kissing you as “taking something she wanted,” which is suuuuuuper creepy. If she’s apologized without actually understanding why what she did was wrong, I don’t know that I would trust her not to do it again.
Which does not mean that you can’t decide to give her another chance. It’s your life, and you get to associate with whomever you choose. If you want to spend time with Manny and get to know her better, or cut her out of your life completely, or be around her only when she’s sober, these are all valid choices. But don’t keep her around just because she’s the only friend you’ve made so far. It’s better to take more time building your social circle than to hang with someone who makes you feel unsafe for lack of a better option. If you don’t feel comfortable revisiting the question of Why What You Did Sucked And You Need To Not Do It Again until you’re satisfied Manny understands where you’re coming from, you might be better off without her.
So, I’m dating my best friend. Before we were dating, we were spending all of our time together anyway, so ALL of our friends are the same. I know, I know, bad idea. Here is the issue: she is fine with talking to only her journal (and me) about her life. I am not. I have a close friend and confidante, but my girlfriend has always disliked her and resents the fact that I tell my friend about gripes I have with my girlfriend, our sex life, etc, as part of my processing-of-information-and-emotions. It’s not as if I don’t communicate with my girlfriend about these issues, she just hates that this friend knows about our relationship in such an intimate way.
Despite my friend’s occasional issue with telling jokes predicated on personal info or her drunken slips-of-the-tongue, I feel like I need to and should be allowed to confide in someone outside my relationship about my life/relationship — and our entire group of gossipy queer best friends are just as forthcoming as this friend, so my options are limited. My girlfriend wants to cut our friends off completely — tell none of them about the details of our relationship that aren’t “we made lasagna and watched Chopped.” I’ve already told my friend she can’t disclose this stuff to the rest of the group, and even though she sometimes does, she’s still one of my closest friends.
Am I in the wrong for having friends who can’t keep their mouths shut? Do I need to clam up entirely about a huge part of my life around all of my friends to make my girlfriend feel like her privacy is being respected? On one hand, I think this behavior is a little bit controlling and I worry about us isolating ourselves from our friends. On the other, I love my girlfriend and respect that the people I’m telling about her vagina or emotions or temper tantrums are people she interacts with just as often as I do, and she’d rather them not know this information. Help!
Oh man, this is a tough one. You’re right that it’s not cool of your girlfriend to demand that you never talk about your relationship to anyone — you feel more of a need to express yourself and seek input than she does, and that need is valid. But your girlfriend is right that she shouldn’t have listen to your bestie, who she doesn’t like, make jokes about her very personal business. By continuing to share her secrets with someone you know she doesn’t feel comfortable with, you’re disrespecting her boundaries — and giving your friend opportunity to do the same.
Who is this chick who can’t take “seriously, this stays between us” for an answer, and why is she your bestie? Is it really impossible for you to make some friends outside your current social circle, or to find a pen pal or a therapist or someone your girlfriend doesn’t have to hang out with regularly, that you can vent to? You and your lady need at least a few separate friends. This thing where your social circle and your love life are entirely overlapping is not working for either of you. Go to some Meetups or something. Or get a Black and Pink pen pal and be a voice of support for an incarcerated queer person! Good for your relationship and your karma.
As for your blabbermouth BFF, try to curtail the amount you disclose about your girlfriend — I’m not saying you should stop talking to her, but keep the conversation focused on you and what you’re working through, not criticizing or gossiping about your sweetie. Less “Oh my god, she did the most annoying thing the other night” and more “I got really annoyed last night, but I’m working on controlling my frustration better and being more communicative.” Talk about you in the relationship, not about your girlfriend’s personal shit. If you’re not sure, err on the side of not saying anything your girlfriend won’t like hearing repeated after a few gin and tonics.
You’re right that there’s a point at which “don’t tell anyone about this” becomes an isolation tactic, but only you can decide if this is really a sign of her being dangerously controlling — is she trying to keep you from sharing details about your relationship that someone else might see as a red flag? — or a reasonable request to keep her personal life safe. However, in the absence of any further details, I’m leaning toward the latter.
If your BFF isn’t willing to stop making jokes about other people’s private concerns, and you’re not willing to stop confiding in her, then it may simply be that you and your girlfriend aren’t long-term compatible. No matter how much you care about each other, if you have fundamentally irreconcilable needs, you might need to go back to just being friends.
Please rank these potential spinoff series from Orange is the New Black, in order of how much you’d want to watch them.
A) The Makenzie and Amanda Don’t Talk Politics Because It’s Not Polite Hour
B) “Mad Max” starring Nicky, Stella, and Miss Claudette.
C) Pensatucky and Big Boo Explain It All
D) Dream Prison Weddings Present: Ms. And Ms. Gloria and Galina Mendoza
E) The Bachelorette with Poussey Washington
OH MY GOD, you guys. I usually don’t include identifying information in the letters people send me because I care about your privacy, but I have to mention that this question was sent by my best friend, because I want it on the record that MY BEST FRIEND IS THE FREAKING GREATEST.
Okay, from “I would watch this all the time” to “I would still watch this all the time, but I would catch up on the other ones first”:
1. The View with Makenzie and Amanda: Taystee and Poussey’s friendship is SO important to me, as is watching them hilariously skewer white privilege and upper-class obliviousness. Not only would I tune into this every week, I’d spam everyone’s Facebook with .gifs of my favorite moments.
2. The Bachelorette with Poussey: Not first only because I would cry a little bit every week because I’m not on it. And because I would suspect every contestant of being There For The Wrong Reasons, because I am intensely protective of Poussey’s huge, vulnerable heart.
3. Stella And Nicky Have Sex In Max While Miss Claudette Makes Scornful Remarks: I mourn for Miss Claudette every day. I want a spinoff show for her SO BADLY. At the very least, can we get a season 4 episode where we catch up with these characters?
4. Gloria And Red Realize No Man Deserves Them And Get Married: Oh my Lord, the Bridezilla power struggles and frantic makeup sex these two would have. But what on Earth makes you think Red would concede to take Gloria’s last name?
5. Pennsatucky and Big Boo Explain It All: Remember when we all hated Pennsatucky? That seems so long ago now.
What other Orange spinoffs do our hearts yearn for? Tell me in the comments!