Truth time: I am thirty-six years old, and I have never had sex—no matter how one chooses to define sex.
Heck, I’ve never even kissed anyone.
It sounds more than a little bit shocking, since most people don’t make it through junior high school without swapping spit with somebody, but here I am, rapidly hurtling toward middle age, and yet… I have never mingled any of my bodily fluids with those of another person.
Until recently, this was my deepest, most embarrassing, most painful secret. I always employed a “neither-confirm-nor deny” policy regarding my sexual status; I was ashamed, and I just let people assume what they would.
But no more.
First things first: I positively detest the word ‘virgin.’ I detest everything that it connotes, everything that it implies—modest, pure, unsullied, chaste, undefiled, childlike, uninitiated, etc.
So I’ve never engaged in any type of sexual activity with another person. Big deal. It doesn’t make me less of an adult, and I’m not particularly innocent. Besides, in pre-Christian times, virgin had an entirely different definition, one that I have recently reclaimed. “The word didn’t always mean ‘untouched.’ In fact, once upon a time, it was specifically used to describe a free woman—independent, autonomous, untied. Her own sovereign. Her own lover.”
Yes, that’s better. Much.
There was a time, not so long ago, that I thought I wanted to have sex. I thought I was missing out on one of the most important aspects of what it means to be a human, to be alive. I mean, if you have access to any kind of media outlet whatsoever, you know that we are inundated with sex, sex, sex almost around the clock because, duh, sex gets people’s attention.
Everybody likes sex, right? At least, every normal person does, right?
I spent most of my life striving to achieve some semblance of that normality. ‘Normal’ folks grow up, have sex (it’s considered a major milestone, a hugely significant right of passage), get married, and have kids—not necessarily in that order, mind you—and I convinced myself that that’s what I wanted, too.
But… I’ve known since I was fourteen years old that I did not, in fact, want to.
I vividly remember the exact moment it dawned on me. I sat at the desk in my bedroom, writing some pathetic attempt at an Emily Dickinson-esque poem titled “Solitaire,” a poem in which I mourned the things I knew intrinsically that I would never have.
We are all conditioned pretty much from birth to believe that the pursuit of what they call ‘true love’ is our most important mission in life, and I was no exception at all.
Despite my deep-down knowledge of myself, I yearned to experience romantic love, probably because I was told at every turn to want it—besides, who doesn’t want it? I clung to a tiny shred of hope that I might someday turn normal, but, I knew, and as the years flew, by I still hadn’t had my first kiss.
What kind of freak was I? Anyone who has ever seen The 40 Year Old Virgin knows for a certifiable fact that Andy Stitzer is portrayed as a pathetic loser who lives alone with his collection of action figures and video games. Long story short, though, Andy eventually gets some action and at long last becomes a real man instead of some unfulfilled, juvenile nebbish who still plays with toys intended for children.
This very cringe-worthy film, while intended to be hilarious, struck a major nerve with me: it was me they were mocking.
But today, I am flipping the bird with confidence to anyone who wants to turn me into the butt of some big societal joke of a stereotype. Finally—finally—I have found two missing, major pieces: I am Autistic, and I am an aromantic asexual.
Like a lot of autistic folks, I dislike physical contact (even friendly hugs). I have an honest-to-goodness aversion to any kind of sexual contact; the mere idea of somebody else’s saliva in my mouth seriously makes me want to vomit. Also, the human body, at least from navel to knees, really, really grosses me out. It’s important to note that not every asexual person is repulsed by sex, but I most definitely am.
Recently, I gave a long-distance romantic relationship a try. I thought maybe I could get over it. The other person is also on the spectrum, the two of us have a great deal in common, and I genuinely enjoy conversing with them, but… they are physically attracted to me, and that makes my skin crawl.
It goes even further, though: I have zero desire to make myself accountable to any kind of romantic partner. I’m set in my ways, sure of who I am, and very disinclined to turn my life upside down for anyone.
There is very little existing research to verify any kind of correlation between autism and asexuality, but it’s safe to say that not every autistic person is asexual, nor is every asexual person autistic. But I am both, and to my mind, there is a connection there.
If I am being true to myself, I have no interest in sex, or in romantic love—for me, love is the stuff of the old Jane Austen novels. I have never experienced that kind of love, and frankly, I’m convinced that I am just not hardwired to experience it.
I love my family, I love my pets, and I love the written word. My work is my passion—I recently wrote a novel, which I am hoping to publish someday soon, and I have never felt more myself, more alive, than when I was knee-deep in the creative process and construction of that 325 page manuscript—and I cannot imagine feeling that kind of passion for another human being.
At the end of the day, no matter who might beg to differ, there is nothing wrong with me. My neurotype and my sexuality (or lack thereof) are real and valid. Sexual identity, like autism, is a spectrum—some people are gay, some are straight, some are bi- or pansexual, some are something else entirely—and I am asexual.
I’m not broken or defective, I’m not a ‘freak,’ and I’m not missing out on anything important to me. I don’t need romance or sex to be satisfied, complete, content, or even happy. As a matter of fact, I am all of the above.
I will never get over it, because there is nothing to get over.
- When Autism and Grief Collide - March 21, 2021
- Autism, Asexuality, and the (Almost) 40 Year Old Virgin - January 14, 2021
- On Autism and Adolescence: An Open Letter to My High School Classmates - November 24, 2020