”I would push myself so hard intimately to ‘keep the fires burning’ while knowing in my heart that the fire was never lit.”
When you’re young, people project their crushes on you as if you’re a blank screen.
Folks gush as infants in each others vicinity gurgle and giggle at nothing in particular: “Oh, look, these two kids love each other!” In middle school, friends will cackle if you stare a little too long at someone: “You must be in looooove.”
But when I looked at myself, I saw a different kind of blank screen. I had an empty void where desire was supposed to be.
Back then, I figured I must be queer because most of the photos I put up in my locker were of fierce femmes I admired and I never felt an erotic stirring for any of the usual suspects in the late ‘90s. Leonardo DiCaprio? Yep, he’s a person with a face and some cute hair. James Van Der Beek or Mario Lopez? When people would mention them to me, I would have to pretend that I knew who they were or that I cared deeply.
I, on the other hand, was more focused on reading science fiction than pondering which heartthrob had the most kissable lips.
As I grew older I tried to discover what my “thing” was. I figured I must have one, right? So I became curious about kink and other “deviant” expressions of sexuality. I found myself reading anything I could find. Erotica, how-to manuals, personal memoirs, I devoured them all. Everyone around me seemed to have a type, or a fetish, or something.
I figured it just meant I was open-minded.
So I attempted to discover myself through sex work.
Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria/GOOD.
Sex work came easily to me in many ways. I enjoyed talking about fantasies and meeting new people, especially if I could help them feel comfortable discussing things they didn’t feel safe enough to talk about anywhere else.
Starting as a nude model, moving to professional domination, and then to escorting, I figured that exposure to lots of different types of people and behaviors would help me narrow down what made me tick.
I went to orgies and BDSM events. I performed on stage, on camera, and even at home where the only audience was me and a partner. I figured that the performance of pleasure was normal and that everyone did it. That’s what magazines had taught me, after all, how to arch my back in a caricature of desire that ended up giving me chronic lower stiffness at the base of my spine.
How delicious ...
Going through the motions of a sexual encounter felt the same on the clock as it did off the clock, so getting paid was often the priority. Even then, I figured that my disinterest in sex outside of the context of work had more to do with the lack of money rather than my own inherent lack of desire.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I figured that the performance of pleasure was normal and that everyone did it.[/quote]
It was years before I realized that I was having so much sex not because I was innately slutty, but because I was sexually apathetic. I was having sex because it was easier to do than not to do, especially in relationships. I thought that my tendency to have lots of sex and then stop completely was because I grew bored, not because I felt safe enough to stop pretending.
I would push myself so hard intimately to “keep the fires burning” while knowing in my heart that the fire was never lit. Sex work was a fantastic way for me to capitalize on this, except that many partners — particularly male ones — felt dismissed by my disinterest in performative sex if money wasn’t involved. I didn’t realize how often I was having sex simply because I was afraid if I didn’t my partner would leave me.
Often, if I stopped sleeping with them, they did leave, citing my coldness as a primary reason.
Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria/GOOD.
Anxious about my seemingly picky clitoris, I began years of soul-searching to figure out why I was so distant from my own sexuality. My communities for my entire adult life all centered around sex, so if I dropped the facade, I thought they would alienate me. I kept telling myself that my alienation was just because I was bitter. (Being fat in the sex-positive community is a circle of hell, no matter how “body positive” they pretend to be.)
The queer community gave me words like asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and graysexual, but I continually pushed those terms aside, figuring they didn’t apply to me. After all, I liked to masturbate, so I couldn’t be asexual, right? I mean, I was a sex worker! I went to orgies!
When I started dating my current partner, however, I began to realize that I may, in fact, be asexual.
Or close to it.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I realized that we weren’t lacking in love — or intimacy. We just didn’t have sex to affirm it.[/quote]
Similarly unmotivated by sex, we spend most of our dates playing games together, watching Netflix, or hanging out with friends. We’re more likely to puppy pile than get it on. At first, I worried about this, panicked that I wasn’t performing properly, that my genitals were malfunctioning. I considered going so far as to ask for medical intervention to kickstart my libido.
But then I realized that we weren’t lacking in love — or intimacy.
We just didn’t have sex to affirm it.
I don’t think any amount of reading would have helped me come to terms with my asexuality. I’m glad that most of my sexual adventures were under the auspices of sex work, which gave me more comfort assessing my desires and physical reactions, as there weren’t emotional entanglements complicating matters.
I’m also glad to know, now, that my lack of desire isn’t because I’m deeply traumatized and don’t know it, or that I’m not with the “right person.”
I’m asexual, and that’s perfectly fine.