So incredibly thankful for people like Laura King in my life. This is the first of (hopefully) many cheeky contributions by this fierce stigma fighter. Be sure to check out more of her work (link at the bottom of this piece). If you're interested in contributing your voice, reach out here.
I remember the first time I admitted to someone that I masturbated. I was in high school, when everyone still believed sex and sexual thoughts were grossly impure. People started rumors about girls who masturbated, called them dirty. I was so ashamed of myself every time I got off. And so fearful that somehow, someone would find out about it. So it was quite the surprise that when I finally confessed my “secret” to two of my friends, I was not met with persecution. Instead, I was flooded with relief—because as it turned out, they masturbated too.
As the years went on, my close-knit group of girl friends got more and more open about our desires about those previously forbidden pleasures. We talked about porn, bought each other our first sex toys, and even got a little experimental with one another. I came out to them as bisexual sometime before graduation and got nothing but support. But even as I went away for college, I could tell something was different. My friends started dating more seriously than before and having sex, but I found myself straying from opportunities to do the same.
Though I would participate in a rare party hook up or first date, I never really enjoyed it—and I didn’t understand why. For instance, at a party last year, I was in the corner of a room kissing someone. I’d lost my friends in the crowd a while ago, and this boy had been dancing closer to me for some time. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten handsy at a party, so I let it happen. But when we broke off for air at one point, I could see the stain of my lipstick on his face and for some reason this sickened me. I untangled my fingers from his hair and excused myself to search for my friends. I couldn’t quite understand what I was feeling. I wondered if I could possibly be asexual, but that seemed impossible when I was so aware of my own libido.
As a bi woman, labels have always been an important part of my identity. When the world is so quick to presume heterosexuality, I cling to the words that define to whom I’m attracted. But now I needed a label that could help me understand how I experience attraction. I’ve always been aware of and confident in my own sexual desires. When I was younger, sex seemed like something inevitable. But now that I had these opportunities, I wasn’t taking them. I still craved that pleasure, but never from others.
The depths of Google have only provided me with a heightened vocabulary. Blogs and forums taught me that some people don’t feel sexual desire (asexual), and others don’t feel romantic (aromantic). Some only feel either when they’re feeling both (demisexual). Some don’t feel any of this at all, and others feel these things at varying degrees. While interesting, these available labels couldn’t quite sum up how I viewed my own sexual desire.
This disconnect continues to confuse me. At its core, my sexuality is simple—I want to feel good, and I embrace that. I hate the idea of ruling sex out completely. I’m curious and adventurous, and it seems a shame not to try it. But having that experience with others just doesn’t seem urgent to me, and I’d never want to associate sex with discomfort. I’m living in the undefinable gray-scale of asexuality, without a concise term to describe how I feel. But I’ve come to realize that’s okay. Maybe one day I’ll better understand my limits, or perhaps they’ll even change. Maybe I’ll fall in love and it’ll open a door, allowing myself to claim the label of demisexual. Or maybe I’ll just keep my intimacy to myself. For now, I’m just going by how I feel, and only doing things that make me feel safe. Because the point of sex is to feel good—and only you can define what is “good.”
About the Author: Laura King is a junior journalism student at Emerson College. She is double minoring in publishing and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. As managing editor of Emerson’s student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon, she oversees the news and opinion sections and participates on the Editorial Board. Laura is passionate about sex education and mental health—especially its intersection with the LGBTQ community.
Follow her on Twitter @lauraelyseking. Visit her website at lauraelyseking.com.