Savage Love

Savage Love: Ace & the Hole

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I'm a 26-year-old cis queer woman. My best friend has identified publicly as asexual for the past two years. She constantly talks about how since she doesn't "need" sex, this means she is asexual. She does have sex, however, and she enjoys it, which I know isn't disqualifying. But she also actively seeks out sex partners and sex. But, again, she insists that because she doesn't "need" sex the way she presumes the rest of us do, she is asexual. I have an issue with this. I've never had partnered sex and never really felt the need or desire for it. I'm plenty happy with emotional intimacy from others and masturbation for my sexual needs, and I do not particularly desire a romantic or sexual partner. My friend gets offended if anyone questions her label. I usually defend her to others since she's my friend, but as a person who is starting to identify more and more as asexual, I've grown annoyed at her use of "asexual" as her identifier, to the point that this may be starting to affect our friendship. I've kept silent because I don't want to make her feel attacked — but in the privacy of my own head, I'm calling bullshit on her asexuality. I don't particularly want to come out as asexual to her, given the circumstances. Am I just being a shitty gatekeeping asexual?

— Actually Coitus Evading

Asexuality — it's a point on a spectrum and it's a spectrum unto itself.

"There is a spectrum of sexuality, with sexual and asexual as the endpoints and a gray area in between," says whoever wrote the General FAQ at the Asexual Visibility and Education Network website (asexuality.org). "Many people identify in this gray area under the identity of 'gray-asexual' or 'gray-a.' Examples of gray-asexuality include an individual who does not normally experience sexual attraction but does experience it sometimes; experiences sexual attraction but has a low sex drive; experiences sexual attraction and drive but not strongly enough to want to act on them; and/or can enjoy and desire sex but only under very limited and specific circumstances. ... Furthermore, [some] asexual people in relationships might choose or even want to have sex with their partner as a way of showing affection, and they might even enjoy it. Others may want to have sex in order to have children, or to satisfy a curiosity, or for other reasons."

As for your friend, ACE, well, according to the Protocols of the Elders of Tumblr, we're no longer allowed to express doubt about someone's professed sexual orientation or gender identity. So if Republican U.S. senator Larry Craig of Idaho gets caught trawling for dick in an airport bathroom — which he did in 2007 — and insists it was all a misunderstanding because, you know, he's 200 percent straight, well, then he's straight. Maybe in the same way Larry Craig is straight, your friend is asexual — or, hey, maybe she's asexual in the "gray-a" sense, i.e., under certain circumstances (awake, aware, conscious, alert, sentient), she experiences sexual attraction. Or maybe she's not a gray-a who identifies as ace but an actual asexual who is having sex for "other reasons." A person doesn't have to be celibate to be asexual or to identify as asexual, ACE, and until there's an asexual accreditation agency — which there never will be and never should be — we'll just have to take your friend's word for it.

But just as asexuality is a thing, ACE, so too is bullshit. Denial is a thing, and sex shame is an incredibly destructive thing. Like the guy who has a lot of gay sex but refuses to identify as gay or bi, it's possible your friend is just a messy closet case — a closeted sexual, someone who wants sex but doesn't want to be seen as the kind of person who wants sex since only bad people want sex. Some people twist themselves into the oddest knots so they can have what they want without having to admit they want it. But even if it sounds to you (and me) like your friend's label is suspect, you should nevertheless hold your tongue and allow her to identify however she likes.

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