The thought of someone else finding me sexy? That made me more uncomfortable, and in retrospect I think it was because now I was being asked, in an abstract sense, to picture myself actually in a sexual situation. If I’m sexually attractive, that means people want me to be having sex. (luvtheheaven, Am I sex-averse? Maybe. I have made a decision to identify as such.)
In a recent Tumblr post, Social anxiety, sex aversion, and asexuality, I talked about how for a long time I found it difficult to distinguish between my introversion and instances of social anxiety, and my sex aversion. Over time, I came to realize that I experienced two separate anxiety responses when someone made a sexual/romantic approach to me, and that the person’s sexual/romantic interest in me was a distinct and much stronger trigger for anxiety than the simple social anxiety. The anxiety response specific to being approached sexually or romantically I recognize as my sex aversion.
The quote from luvtheheaven above expresses really well what I think is at the core of my sex aversion. I don’t want people to think they can or should approach me sexually or romantically. If they did, they would want me to engage with them in a way that I am not able to do, they would expect something from me that I can’t give. It’s better to not even let them get started on thinking in that direction. Ideally, I would like people to realize this before they approach me and to only do so if they accept those as my terms.
A few months ago, I wrote On being visibly Muslim and invisibly asexual about some of the ways people tend to perceive me because of my hijab. Many times, people simply regard and treat me with hostility (TW: Islamophobia) because of their prejudice against Islam and Muslims. Sometimes they assume that I’m oppressed; typically they imagine I have a husband who forces me to dress modestly. Even when they have a more positive view of me, they seem to see me as a heterosexual who is celibate for religious reasons (hence “invisibly asexual”).
The interesting thing is that none of these three views seems to involve them seeing me as someone they themselves should approach sexually. Either they despise my very presence, they don’t want to mess with the husband they imagine me to have, or they correctly realize I’m not interested. Because of this, I feel that hijab tends to desexualize me.
And I like it that way. I don’t like Islamophobic harassment, obviously, and being asked why my husband makes me dress that way is annoying and frustrating. But if they don’t vocalize these views, and they just leave me alone, I’ll take it.
For this sex-averse asexual, hijab is a tool that helps me to define how others see and approach me and that makes it more likely they will do so on my terms. It makes my life more livable. This is empowering for me. Even with the difficulties hijab sometimes causes with others, I wouldn’t give up my shield for the world.