Saturday, April 11, 2009

Searching in closets

I've joked with some of my friends that I get withdrawal symptoms from physics. After I’ve finished all my physics homework, that’s when the doubts begin. What am I doing in my life? Is there something I’m missing out on? Why can’t more of life’s problems be solved by elementary considerations of differential equations?

And so my thoughts turned to something that I usually completely ignore: romance. I’m afraid that I’m going to sound like some utterly confused teenager when I talk about this. I just don’t get any of it really. But then, what is the point of accumulating readers if I can't occasionally inflict my life upon them?

To be direct, I was entertaining the possibility that I’m gay. The answer, I believe, is no, I’m not. How do you even know if you’re gay? People just seem to know. They feel it inside. They feel an attraction to people of the same sex. I don’t really feel any of that. So I guess it was silly of me to ever worry about it in the first place.

But that was not immediately obvious to me. See, I deeply fear the possibility that I might be anything other than straight. I am very supportive of the LGBT movement, and I would never hate anyone for being queer. But if it were me, I might hate myself for it. It's not what I would want to be. I'm special and unique in quite a number of ways already, and I don't need more than that. I have a lot of respect for homosexuals who come to be comfortable with themselves, because I'm not sure I could accomplish that myself.

I strongly believe in critical thinking as a guiding principle in all of life's decisions. Therefore, when fear comes into play, rather than ignoring it, I keep a very close eye on it. You never know when a fear might lead to denial. If I fear a conclusion, I might dismiss it far too quickly, and then conjure up a rationalization after the fact. So when fear comes into play, I become more cautious, and do not immediately trust my own judgments. On the other hand, fear can also have the opposite effect. I could end up focusing disproportionately on a remote possibility, just because I fear it. I suppose that's exactly what happened this particular time.

But that’s not the end of it. There was a reason why I considered that I might be gay in the first place. I may not ever have felt attracted to males, but I’ve hardly felt any attraction to females either. So by the same logic which says I’m not gay, I could also argue that I’m not straight.

Story time! Remember back in middle school when everyone started getting crushes? I remember it happening to the other kids. I had a large group of good friends, about half girls, half boys. At first I was oblivious, but soon I realized there was all sorts of activity going on between various of my friends. Mostly, I just heard snippets of gossip while listening in on friends’ conversations. It was all about who made a cute couple, who got unexpectedly dumped, and so forth. I couldn’t really keep track of the drama myself, because I was rarely part of that particular conversation. I mostly concerned myself with other things.

Incidentally, I did have my own girlfriend one time. We didn't do a whole lot. I was too young. I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to react to anything. Nevertheless, I make a point of never regretting actions that are more than a few years old. Lots of young teens are plenty awkward, and nothing needs to be made of it.

But nothing has happened since, not that I’m aware of. I’ve always believed that romance is something that happens to you, and then you start worrying about it. Nothing has ever happened, so I’ve never worried about it. I've never had a crush, never thought anyone was "hot", or felt the urge to get to know any particular person intimately. It was not a matter of being too nervous to act upon my desires, it was a matter of not having them to begin with. In this respect, I have not changed much since middle school.

I suppose there are many factors I could blame. I am an introvert after all. I probably spend more time doing physics homework than partying (because I enjoy the former more than the latter). But being introverted does not mean being socially unsuccessful. Introverts are simply less concerned about seeking social activities. I may be introverted, but I am not shy, and I have plenty of friends. So I don’t think it’s for want of meeting new people.

With all that in mind, I’ve been considering a new possibility: am I asexual? The answer, I believe, is no, I’m not. But again, fear is in play, and I do not immediately trust my own judgment.

Asexuality is defined on AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. The definition is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. However, many asexuals experience romantic attraction of a nonsexual nature, or experience sexual arousal which is not connected to other people. Asexuality first showed up in Kinsey’s famous studies of sexuality. In Kinsey’s study, he placed everyone on a scale from 0 to 6, where 0 is heterosexual, and 6 is homosexual. But he also placed about 1% of the population into a category “X” because they had "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions" (from Wikipedia). Since then, they’ve been ignored by all but a few studies, and by the public. I know I had never heard of it.

AVEN contends that asexuality is an intrinsic quality of a person. Just like homosexuality, it is not a choice, and it is unlikely (though possible) for it to change. But without much scientific study done on the subject, I am skeptical of these conclusions. I suppose it is plausible, and I believe it. On the other hand, in the case of a specific individual, how does one distinguish between asexuality and clueless romantic incompetence?

I honestly do not believe that I am asexual. The trouble is, I can't seem to express exactly why I feel this way. It sure makes me suspicious when I can't make my reasons explicit, not even to myself.

And if that weren't enough, there's also Grey-A, which is the blurry boundary between sexuality and asexuality. Ugh, now I'm thinking I'm demisexual, meaning I never get attracted to people based on looks or other instantly available information. Life kinda sucks for demisexuals because they usually only become attracted to people who are already friends. No matter how friendly I am, that's a relatively small set of people. And then it's like you're crossing some sort of awkward friends boundary.


At least writing all that made me feel a little better (even if my parents may be reading this :-/ ).


intrinsicallyknotted said...

These are very interesting questions, and some that I have asked myself over the years as well. In my own case I've started wondering recently how much of my disinterest in sex (sometimes outright revulsion) is caused by an enormous amount of cultural conditioning that I've never really gotten over, causing me to instinctively look away when I see a picture or video of anyone naked, for example. I guess it comes down to the old question of nature versus nurture.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I think you're over-thinking things. You are who you are; there's no particular way you should be. If you're not particularly interested in romantic or sexual relationships, and you're not feeling any distress at an emotional level (other than worrying intellectually about how you "should" be), then you're in pretty good shape. a lot of people are a mass of emotional contradictions, seriously neurotic.

Don't worry about labels, either. Labels are mostly for political purposes, to make a social stand on a particular issue. Again, if you're not interested in a political-social issue, there's no reason to be particularly interested about what label to apply to yourself.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I've been reading your blog for a while. I'm persuaded you're a good person, smart, interesting, good sense of humor, and I think you'd be fun to hang out with. You don't seem unduly distressed or unhappy. What more could you want?

miller said...

was sort of distressed when I first wrote this. I was much less distressed through the editting process, and all I really lost in the end was a bit of sleep.

It's not about how I should be, but how I would prefer to be. I would prefer not to be alone all my life. Therefore, I prefer not to be asexual (or shades thereof) insofar as it affects my chances.

I agree, though, that it is mostly pointless to use the asexual label. Because no one discriminates against asexuals, there is no real cause to fight. Because few people have ever heard of it, it makes for a poor communication tool. It's more the general concept which is important, not the precise definition of the word itself.

DeralterChemiker said...

I'll give you a bit of ethnic wisdom:
"Es is ken heffli so shepp aas ken deckel druf fit."
Figure that one out.

miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.