Sex talk mental block

There was a time a few years ago, when my workplace blocked AVEN. This was very inconvenient because I was trying to do activist-y things like responding to messages and e-mailing links to people, but it had to wait until I got home. I mean, I know that browsing sexually explicit websites is technically against our internet policy, but it’s not like I’m reading it for erotic pleasure!

Looking further back, I was in an entirely different place. I remember furtively looking at AVEN only when I was alone in the room. I was embarrassed, okay? Not just about being asexual, but being an asexual who was reading a lot of discussions about sex.

I was a bit sexually conservative, not in my political views towards sex, but because I didn’t really want to hear about it or talk about it. This wasn’t a matter of sexual repulsion, and in fact I had problems with non-explicit discussion of masturbation or even stuff like aesthetic attraction. Just the general topic of sexual orientation, to me was embarrassing and uncomfortable. It went against “who I was”.

“Who I was” was shaped by the fact that I grew up ace without really knowing it. People around me would talk about sexuality, and I didn’t really react.  Clearly because I was just the kind of person who would be the eye of the sexual storm. Either I had more self-control, or maybe I just didn’t cave to peer pressure. (Because that’s why people talk about sex, right? Peer pressure?)

In retrospect it seems obvious that I didn’t react because I just couldn’t relate.

So by the time I started identifying as ace, most of my friends didn’t talk much about sex or relationships. And those friends that did talk about it, I was not accustomed to interacting with them on the topic.

This was a serious problem.  I was dealing with a lot of issues at the time, and I needed to read those AVEN forums, and I needed to talk to people. I could maybe deal with the discomfort of browsing the forums, but I had a total block on talking to friends. In fact, most of the first people I came out to were not friends at all, but people I had recently met.

That’s why the queer student group was really important to me at the time. I needed people to talk to, people I didn’t know very well, and people who talked about sex a lot. Usually these are precisely the reasons aces hesitate to participate in queer groups–because they don’t know anyone and there’s too much sex talk. But for me, that was what I needed.

It’s a paradox, not wanting to talk about sexuality, but needing to talk about it. Has anyone here had similar experiences?

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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13 Responses to Sex talk mental block

  1. Yeah. I build up a completely non-sexual image with people around me. But it’s not entirely true. In my case though my image is deliberate due to sex-aversion…uncomfortable doesn’t quite cover how I feel if people associate sexual things with me. The ace community is nice to talk about sexual topics (mostly) without the kind of sex-normative assumptions I might get discussing things elsewhere.

  2. queenieofaces says:

    I’ve written about this before, but I got a lot more comfortable talking about sex once I realized asexuality and not having sex was an option. Part of that is that the way I talk about sex tends to be really clinical, which throws people for a loop if they don’t know that I’m ace. In general, I tend not to want to talk about sex around people who don’t know I’m ace because they expect me to talk about it in a certain way or have certain feelings about sex, and that’s not happening.

    • Sciatrix says:

      In general, I tend not to want to talk about sex around people who don’t know I’m ace because they expect me to talk about it in a certain way or have certain feelings about sex, and that’s not happening.

      Yes, this, a thousand times this forever. I have a lot of feelings about sex–it’s not actually a coincidence that I wound up working directly on sex and how it happens and how motivation to have sex works, and my work with respect to asexuality is a huge part of my life. But I really do not think of it with the same feelings or in the way that other people outside of ace spaces seem to think about it, and there’s this… enthusiastic study of the alien in the way that I relate to it which I think is relatively unusual. The closest I’ve seen to it is the tension that I sometimes see in queer people who are talking about the evolution of sex in academic research, but there is a tendency there to partially deal with that tension by universalizing sex if not reproduction, which is pretty much the last thing I want to deal with.

      • Libris says:

        Most times that I’ve been trying to figure out my sexuality or something related to it, I’ve known I needed to talk to someone about it but been very much averse to that. Part of this is – not sex-aversion, per se, but a strong dislike of other people seeing me as a sexual person/object/whatever, so like Sciatrix and Queenie I tend to be most comfortable talking to people who know I’m ace and are okay with that. (Part of it is also because I have problems claiming or talking to people about ways in which I differ from an expected norm, or about topics which highlight that I am my own person and have wants and needs and take up space and so forth; this is not asexuality-related, however, but merely intersects here.)

        Also, I very much like talking about sex in an investigative/curious way – again like Sciatrix upthread – but again that only works with people who know I’m ace and are okay with that, and are also okay with answering exponentially more confusing questions.

  3. “…most of my friends didn’t talk much about sex or relationships. And those friends that did talk about it, I was not accustomed to interacting with them on the topic.”

    So, this passage basically describes my entire experience of high school, LOL. College too, really. I still prefer to have friends that I can talk about other things with, so that I can sit out the sex/relationships/love talks without it killing the whole thing off.

  4. cinderace says:

    This is pretty much me if I tweak it a little: “This wasn’t [just] a matter of sexual repulsion, and in fact I had problems with non-explicit discussion of masturbation or even stuff like aesthetic attraction. Just the general topic of [sex], to me was embarrassing and uncomfortable. It went against ‘who I was’.”

    I am sex-repulsed, but sometimes I want/need to talk about sex-related things, but I have this block like you described that doesn’t have anything to do with my repulsion. It’s hard for me to even admit I find people aesthetically attractive–I just feel like it isn’t “me” to talk about that kind of thing, even if it’s true.

  5. abonnace says:

    Yes, this is so much like me! I still find it awkward talking about sex or related topics. And one time when a friend told me one thing they missed after breaking up with their boyfriend was the sex I was completely thrown, I guess I just didn’t think about them that way, and we didn’t talk about it sex usually. I’m not sex repulsed, more indifferent or you know its or something I generally don’t think about. So when it comes up i usually don’t expect it.

  6. Sciatrix says:

    I’ve had incredibly similar experiences, actually. In my case, I tend to freeze up when I’m talking about sex in any way beyond the completely abstract. I’m fine when I’m talking about completely impersonal things and I’m fine when I can relax around talking about sex with people who get exactly where I’m coming from and who are very comfortable with me being ace and what it means, who are…. almost entirely other ace people.

    Where I get hung up is people who aren’t super cued into ace culture or issues who are trying to talk about their own dating life/sex life or to find out more about me as a person. And it’s actually not just sex where I freeze up about this; I’m also pretty terrible about relaxing and talking about my relationships and answering casual, well-meant questions about how my partner and I met or talking to my coworkers about dating history or “my type” or aesthetic preferences about people. I freeze up a lot when I try to open up about my personal life to people who don’t initially have a ton of context, and that’s colored not just by me not being able to relate to other people but also by a long history of me trying to open up to other people and having them totally not be able to relate to me. It’s a huge problem for my social life.

    I got better at it when I started doing panels, because that was a situation where I got to interact with a lot of people I’d never see again and talk about these things in a context which was a really good practice for me. And like you, Siggy, I got a lot of good practice at this through my campus queer org. Offline ace meetups are also good practice, ’cause when your whole community is online you get really used to compartmentalizing online-stuff vs. offline stuff, and it’s good to sort of… forcibly relax and get used to the feeling of physically saying those words. I practice on a couple of general-interest online communities right now, being open around people who are definitely not necessarily going to be remotely familiar with what I’m talking about, and I’m practicing being more open about things with friends and contacts I met through work rather than through ace meetups. Having my partner move here is actually really good for me because it’s making me decompartmentalize a bit.

    But it’s very much about practicing for me. I think about it like a cramped hand that didn’t get flexed enough when I was growing up; it takes definite effort to stretch it out and open up, and sometimes it’s painful effort and sometimes it’s not. And sometimes when I try to open it up and stretch it out, it turns out that I encounter pressure keeping it closed; and sometimes, the only thing keeping me from opening up is the cramped, shortened tendons and it takes real effort on my part to stretch them out. It’s hard to tell which is which until I try to open up! But it’s important to keep trying when I feel like there’s nothing holding my hand closed, because that’s the only way I’m going to ever get the full use of my hand.

    • I just want to say that this comment really resonated with me, especially the last paragraph. That’s pretty much exactly where I feel I am in my life right now. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Coyote says:

    mmmmmmyes. I don’t even know where to start with this.

    My most recent similar experience would be the one I just posted about, although that’s in a somewhat different vein. The need to talk about it part is more based around wanting to be able to casually tell people I feel triggered (& wow you do not know how long I struggled over whether that’s an appropriate word to use) the same way you might mention to a friend that you’ve been having a bad day and want to be cheered up (or at least want someone to help you resolve the emotional queasiness), but I’m too uncomfortable to do even that because then I’d be expected to explain why, and I don’t know how to do that without being the Mean Close-Minded Prude Who Doesn’t Want Other People to Have Fun. Sarcasm aside, it could hurt people. And I value not hurting people.

    • queenieofaces says:

      *raises hand* My aversion gets worse when PTSD is acting up, and I’ve come up with a couple of ways to signal that that tend not to make people think that I’m a Mean Close-Minded Prude. (Granted, I’m also pretty open with these people about having PTSD and they tend to treat history of sexual violence as a legitimate reason to have averse-ish feelings, so not all of this may be applicable to you.) One is just saying, “I’m not in the right headspace to have this conversation right now,” “PTSD is acting up; can we talk about something else instead?” The other is…excusing myself from the conversation and avoiding until I am in a better place to deal with stuff, which isn’t really a good way of dealing with it, but does avoid A. talking about my feelings and B. hurting other people’s feelings. But I’ve found that in general people are pretty respectful of my mental health if I speak up, and those who aren’t respectful aren’t people I really want to be around anyway.

  8. Pingback: Living gay (and ace) | The Asexual Agenda

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