I know, I know, I said I was going to post about Louis XVI. He can wait a week.
Last night we had dinner with Ben’s Hungarian relative (we call her that because “mother’s cousins’s ex-wife” is too much of a mouthful) and her Dutch partner. Both of them speak excellent English – they have to, since she doesn’t speak Dutch and he doesn’t speak Hungarian – and before and over dinner the conversation roamed through all sorts of interesting subjects, from personal to political.
And, at one point, we had what I’ve come to think of as The Talk.
It’s strangely like giving the sex talk in reverse. I’m usually talking to older people (which is, I think, only a comment on who is most likely to consider my having a tattoo a noteworthy subject). And I’m explaining how it works to, well, not have sex.
The Talk goes something like this:
They ask about my tattoo.
They have no idea what I’m talking about (or possibly make a joke about amoebas).
So I explain the basics of asexuality,* and answer their questions about it, and about how it works for me and for my relationship with Ben.
I’m happy to answer questions, and very open about it all (with Ben’s consent). I suppose in theory there might be a question about my asexuality that I wouldn’t feel comfortable answering, and I would say so, but in practice I have yet to encounter one.
I talk about what asexuality feels like to me, what I do and don’t experience and how I feel about that. I answer questions like “but don’t you think you’re missing out?” and “but how do you have a relationship” and “so you’ve really never…?”. I find ways to make asexuality comprehensible (if my audience identifies strongly as straight, I often ask if they feel like they’re missing something because they don’t feel sexually attracted to people of the same gender. No? Well, that’s how I feel about people of any gender).
I talk about how common asexuality is (at least one in every 100 people), and also how invisible – how easy it is for people, seeing me and Ben together, to assume we’re yet another heterosexual couple.
And at some point, inevitably, they ask: “But why get a tattoo? Why make it obvious?”
And my answer is: so that I can have conversations like this.
Because western society teaches us that sex is an essential human drive, so universal that it can be used to sell everything from shoes to hamburgers. Because there’s no part of school sex ed that says, actually, not being interested in sex is a valid orientation too (hell, how many schools even teach that being interested in the same gender, or multiple genders, is a valid orientation?). Because still, today, fourteen years after I found the name for my orientation by reading about it in NewScientist, there are so few avenues through which asexuality is discussed that it’s easy to miss learning of its existence at all.
Because of people who come up to me after attending one of the events where I spoke about asexuality in public – people in their twenties and thirties – and tell me, “I had no idea this was a thing. I always thought there was just something wrong with me.”
Because of mothers old enough to have adult children who didn’t realise they were asexual until their children explained the concept to them.
Because no one should go through their life believing they are broken, or alone in a world were sex comes naturally to everyone else.
That’s why I wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s why I don’t shy away from The Talk; on the contrary, that is why – recognising that I am lucky enough to be comfortable talking about my orientation when not everyone is – I will always, always speak about asexuality when the opportunity arises.
Because I never know if someone listening might be hearing about themself for the first time.
*I’m not going to get into that here, because that’s not what this post is about. If you don’t understand the basics – and that’s fine – the internet already contains a wealth of information.