Question of the Week: August 26, 2014

With Swankivy’s new book The Invisible Orientation coming out in the US soon, I’ve been thinking about how people learn about asexuality in the first place.

How did you come across the term? Were you specifically looking for the concept, or did you trip over it by accident?

For me, the answer would have to be a mix of both! I’d been reading fairly intensely about LGBTQ topics on the old Gaia Online forums, but I wasn’t going out looking for any identity words–I just stumbled upon the Asexuality Q&A thread the members there used to run.

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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21 Responses to Question of the Week: August 26, 2014

  1. In 2004, I came across a news article about asexuality, completely by random.

    I didn’t really have a “lightbulb moment” but I seem to have gradually come to know that asexuality was a term for people like me. From time to time after that, I would come across articles about asexuality and at one point I spent a fair amount of time reading the AVEN wiki but I never joined the AVEN forums or even seem to have paid much attention to them, so it wasn’t until 2011 that I really discovered asexual blogs.

    Asexuality was a label for something I already knew about myself, but I came to realize that it meant there were others who were like me and that it was an actual sexual orientation. Previously, I had thought it was just something weird about me.

  2. notunprepared says:

    I was reading a BBC Sherlock fanfic. I can’t remember who wrote it or anything, just that Sherlock discovered he was asexual, and then I had an epiphany and went on a massive Googling spree. I think I ended up on AVEN and the asexual wiki. I also went a bit nuts reading every single academic article on the subject, and saved them to my hard drive. I still have them.

    Before that, I thought that everyone had sexual attraction, including me. I now know I was forcing it and just pretending really hard.

  3. luvtheheaven says:

    I’d say I “tripped over it by accident”.

    Someone I followed on twitter (and who I didn’t know in real life) tweeted something along the lines of “I have asexual friends”.

    I replied to her tweet with curiosity: “What does ‘asexual’ mean?” and she linked me to the AVEN homepage. I read the FAQ and the definition there and I thought hmm… interesting. This was in 2010 or so, when I was 20 years old, and still was 100% inexperienced with kissing/sex/dating/romantic relationships. I was still under the impression that I was just an inexperienced heterosexual, not that I could possibly be ace, and I hadn’t fully realized yet that I was different. As I read about this weird thing that was asexuality for the first time, I was still of the type of person as acetheist mentioned in her Allonormativity, Self vs. Other, and the Delayed Realization post: to think “I’m normal, I’m not broken in any way, therefore I *can’t* be asexual”. But I took it in. I remembered what I read.

    It took me 3 more years (until a time when I was 23 years old) before I officially adopted the label as something that fit me, but I think having read that AVEN page at age 20 in 2010 really helped me a lot. I think the term became permanently cemented in my mind from just that one encounter, and I knew, immediately, where to look 2 years later when I had finally experienced my first kiss and had begun to realize “wait, maybe I don’t experience sexual attraction”. I found myself back at AVEN even though it had been a couple of years since hearing the term lol.

  4. Aqua says:

    I can’t recall exactly. I realized I was asexual some time in high school, probably circa 2008, but didn’t think anything of it, nor look further into it, because I didn’t feel a need to. I think I first stumbled upon the term through the Asexuality entry on TV Tropes a year or two afterwards, though I didn’t find the asexual community until much later than that.

  5. Talia says:

    Tripped over it by accident. I was reading a magazine and the word asexual came up with maybe a sentence or two explanation. I swear it was Bitch Magazine, but I’ve seen gone through their archives and haven’t found any articles that mention asexuality and are from the right time frame. I remember reading the explanation and having a small little, “oh, wow, that’s me,” moment. I looked asexuality up on google to be sure, found AVEN in the top hit results, and thought I fit the definition of asexuality on their homepage.

    What I find interesting about tripping over asexuality by accident is that while I almost immediately began to identify as asexual, I had no impulse to join AVEN or seek out other asexual people. It was like learning a new word for something I’d always known and it didn’t change much. Things only started to change when I realized I had questions and couldn’t relate to allosexual people very well. Luckily I had a head start on where to start looking for more info.

    • acespresso says:

      Apart from your encounter with a magazine I have never heard of…I followed the same thread you describe, almost to the letter, and got tripped-up along the way.

      It took me decades to recognise an alternative route existed to identify a sexual orientation that exorcized me from forty years of self-condemnation based on my ‘inadequacies’. AVEN did provide the 101 course and less clearly, it seems, introduced me to 201 sources. I look forward to venturing further along these threads, and will not regret losing my footing again.

  6. I was talking with a friend about a sex scene I’d seen on TV that didn’t make sense to me. Something about that conversation flipped a switch in my brain and made me realize that I didn’t look at things like sex scenes or even sex in general in the same way as everyone else. I mean, I knew I wasn’t sex-crazed, but I hadn’t really realized that I was “different” until that moment.
    I spent the better part of a week basically writing myself a sort of sexual experience inventory, in the hopes that I might be able to figure out what my deal was. At the end of that, I had a pretty good sense that I wasn’t into sex and never had been.
    I decided to explore around the Internet to find out if there was a word that described me. I started the search with “asexual”, because I’d heard that word before (I’d even been called that word before), and I thought that I couldn’t possibly be THAT, but that maybe I was something close to it, instead.
    As it turned out, asexual is exactly what I was.

  7. Seth says:

    I wasn’t specifically looking for it, but I was surfing Wikipedia’s articles on sexuality.

  8. Jules says:

    The person who later became my partner posted an infographic on Facebook. When I came across the word heteroromantic I thought, ‘Hey, that sounds like me!’ It wasn’t the first time I realised I was different, but it was definitely the first time I started to realise that there actually people in the world like me. I guess that because I feel a sense of connection with women, I was straight. It was a while before I started using the label though.

  9. Lewis says:

    I tend to forget memories of important events of self discovery. However, I was super young when I first learned of asexuality (about 11 or 12 actually) so I don’t feel as bad about not remembering how I found it. It bothers me a tiny bit, but I am nevertheless glad to have found a good label that still applies to me today.
    I’d be guessing if I say I first read about asexuality on Wikipedia. However, without Wiki possibly mentioning it, I can’t conceive of how else I would have searched up AVEN. When I was that age I really wanted to learn as much as I could about sexuality, but only in a research way. However, with the study skills of a middle schooler and a tendency to self censor most of what I saw and read, I thought that left me with Wikipedia. (off topic, but I would later discover some areas of Wikipedia could be considered really raunchy!)
    As a person who only really got their beginning knowledge of sex and sexuality from that website and educational puberty books, resources that I thought were “safe,” it makes sense that I would have found out about asexuality there. The article’s edit history suggest it was there at least since 2002. I read the article some years later, but its creation does fits my time frame.

  10. I must have heard of asexuality before I connected with it as a concept, because I’ve been reading up on sexuality all over the place since I realized, at around 18 or 19, that I probably wasn’t heterosexual. I wound up exposing myself to a lot of sexual content just to see what “worked” for me, back before I realized that arousal didn’t necessarily correlate with attraction. (Come to think of it, the fact that I had to seek that kind of thing out should have been a clue that I wasn’t experiencing sexual attraction in everyday life…) I gradually came out as bisexual between the ages of 20 and 22, but I continued to have a sense that there was something off about my sexuality. I didn’t understand how my friends could meet someone and know they wanted to make out with them or date them or whatever else. This was kind of at the back of my mind for a while (along with a lot of insecurity about my sexual inexperience.) After college, I moved back home. I felt very isolated from any sort of queer community, and very unsure of myself and what I wanted. I distinctly remember coming across asexuality once last fall, but ultimately dismissing it as a possibility because I thought I was just weird and broken, not asexual. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a web comic on demisexuality on a bi tumblr that I was spurred onto a research kick and a feeling of epiphany. That was right around the beginning of January 2014. Since then, I’ve learned so much, and I’m so grateful to all the aces who have shared their experiences and helped me to understand who I am and what I want.

  11. maralaurey says:

    I found out about asexuality on Tumblr. I didn’t equate it to myself at first, but I think something about it must have caught my eye, or maybe I just remembered it later on — I remember looking through the AVEN wiki with a curious mind after a conversation with a boy where it had sort of occurred to me that I only find people ‘attractive’ after I’ve known them for a while or seen them acting on TV a lot, but that wasn’t the norm for this guy I was talking to. I read the demisexuality entry on the wiki and thought ‘maybe that’s me’, but somehow it just didn’t quite fit. I kind of shrugged and moved on with my life, not really thinking about it until I found myself being aroused by an actual person (rather than a situation in a novel) and wondering ‘is this what sexual attraction actually is? Have I been missing out on this all my life without even noticing?’ I went on a fact-finding mission and decided that yes, that’s what people usually feel. And then, at some point between then and now, I found out that I’d just been clumping all my feelings together and putting them under the heading of ‘sex stuff’ — no, feeling arousal isn’t sexual attraction but can be caused by it, and no, that attraction you felt to Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t sexual either, it was just recognising that he’s actually rather pretty in some ways.

    All of that sort of thinking was only a few months ago for me, and thinking about it now is actually quite odd. The way I used to think about everything to do with different types of attraction now just seems one-dimensional and naive. It’s also made me aware of how flawed all my thinking towards sex was, really — I’d been swept up on a wave of sex-positivity and LGBTQIA+ activism without stopping to think about what anything actually means and what my own feelings were, and I’d picked up a lot of bad habits along the way that I now think really could have done me harm in a relationship. So I’m really glad I found the community when I did, and I’m ridiculously thankful to this blog and others for helping me to continue to learn more about myself.

  12. I had read about people calling themselves asexual on both Twitter and Tumblr but never really gave much thought to it because I didn’t think that could possibly be me. The term stuck with me though and one day I clicked a link on Tumblr that led to the AVEN wiki. I can’t remember why I clicked the link, but I think it had to do with me realizing that for other people having a crush meant wanting to have sex and for me it most definitely didn’t, so I wanted to know what asexual actually meant. I didn’t understand what I read though so I shrugged it off and forgot about it, and it wasn’t until early this year that I started thinking about the possibility of me being asexual again and actively started searching for it and reading all information I could find, finally coming to the conclusion that I was asexual.

  13. queenieofaces says:

    I found the asexuality page on Wikipedia, through the bisexuality page (I seem to remember).

  14. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Much like most people here, I stumbled across the term on accident, 2005, I think, in a German magazine article. It resonated – it’s not the only way in which I differ slightly from the norm, but so much about me made more sense when considering that angle. I had a peek at the website, then tentatively applied the term to myself, but only in my head.
    Skip to late 2010, when a falling out with a friend over his romantic and sexual interest in me made me take a closer look at my life and asexuality. I devoured every text-based online resource I could find, then joined the German forum in early 2011.

  15. aceinlace says:

    I think I tripped over it 3 times before it sunk in.

    I don’t even remember the first, but back-reading my old blog, I had saved a link to a call for papers on AVEN back in 2008. I have no personal recollection of it whatsoever.

    The first I can remember it I saw the term while reading my friendslist on Livejournal. They talked about identifying as asexual and whether it was a real thing or not (they had their doubts or were angry about something on AVEN, iirc). So I tripped over it once then, checked what AVEN defined as asexual, decided it fit me, and apparently rolled on without giving it any further thought.

    Then I stumbled on it for the third time in my psychology class (where the professor said some rather nasty things about people identifying as asexual) and after discussing it with my sister who was also in the class (and brought it up to me afterwards by asking me if I thought I was asexual) it as a thing that existed and was a possibility for me really clicked in.

    There’s an interesting inference to take from that, that simply becoming aware of asexuality as a term and identity was not enough for me, it had to be widespread and existent to enough people around me before I could consider identifying as it.

  16. Cookie says:

    I tripped over it on accident. Towards the end of freshman year of college, I overheard an older friend saying “he identifies as asexual”, referring to someone else I knew. My first thought was “Huh, that’s a thing? That’s interesting” and I wandered off and googled it. That led me immediately to AVEN, where I saw something about the difference between sexual and romantic orientation, and I started thinking that maybe this explained some things about me that I’d been confused about. It still took a year and a half of waffling after that before I started consistently identifying as asexual.

  17. abonnace says:

    Funnily enough like notunprepared, I too was reading a BBC Sherlock fanifc when I came across the term asexual for the first time. I Had to stop and look up what it meant so I could understand the story better. I ended up on the Wikipedia page but didn’t think much more about it at the time. My personal realisation didn’t come for about about a month after that first discovery. I found another fanfic describing the feelings and experiences of an asexual Sherlock and I really began to feel like what they were describing really felt like my own experiences. After that I too went crazy researching every bit of information I could find on asexuality. Definitely tripped over it by accident!

  18. Pingback: The Invisible Orientation: A Review | The Asexual Agenda

  19. PurplesShade says:

    Initially my brother mentioned that an acquaintance of his identified as asexual, I had only heard it as a biology term prior to that. My brother explained a bit, I found myself more confused about the choice of term than the concept. I never asked her about it, and certainly didn’t connect it with myself.
    Then it came up again from some of the atheists I follow, at a time when there were lots of talks about the definition of the term atheism. I saw quite a few atheists talk about how the ‘a’ in atheism is similar to the ‘a’ in asexual. Now I already learned how the ‘a’ in atheism worked at that point, but it gave me the missing clue about the term asexuality, and sparked my curiosity in it. So I decided to start researching asexuality.

    Discovering I am ace however was a slow process, I researched it causally for 3 years before I identified as a grey-ace.
    I didn’t hear about greys existing until 2 years into looking up things on asexuality. (I guess it’s because for the first two years I wasn’t really looking for blogs so much as articles and FAQ’s, so basically 101’s, very public aces, and things from outside the ace community, and then in the third year I started looking at more blogs.)
    So I spent 2 years feeling close to, but not apart of the ace spectrum before I found out I am a part of it, and another year doubting myself to be ‘ace enough’ while researching grey-a’s.

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