It might seem odd to many people, but I’ve never actually felt an intrinsic compelling reason to enter into a romantic relationship. Sure, there were plenty of external reasons, like not wanting to be left out, and not wanting to look different, but there wasn’t much inside me that was pushing in that direction. I remember the first time I thought about getting into a relationship. I imagined it in stages. Each stage progressed along to the next in a staircase fashion. When I thought about it this way, entering a relationship didn’t make sense. If you didn’t know you were going to want to go through all the stages (I definitely didn’t), why would you bother to begin with?
Whereas everyone else seemed to have their compelling reasons, I didn’t. Instead of looking for reasons that made sense to me, I just pushed myself forward anyway. This was uncomfortable, and largely unsuccessful. It made me feel bad, inferior, unlovable, and any other negative adjectives you might imagine. I didn’t even really think about not having my own reasons and drives. When I came across and started identifying with asexuality, I finally felt the nudge to look at relationships from a more internal perspective.
This was a very freeing thought. Wow, I could define things I wanted in a relationship independently? I could identify things that got me excited and seek those things from relationships? Such a radical thought, right? I honestly don’t know how friends were defining relationships years ago, or even now. I don’t know what they were seeking. I never actually knew. Now I have the opportunity to think about what’s important to me, and what gets me excited. Could it be that identifying these things actually makes relationships more compelling to me? It absolutely does! I think one of the things is something I’ve always known, even if I kept it under pretty tight wraps for much of my life, and that’s emotional closeness. Feeling emotionally close to someone, and having them feel the same way about me is something that deep down, I’ve always wanted. I think this is probably a pretty common desire, though many might hesitate to admit it.
There are also things that I realize I don’t have to want. Things I can say ‘no’ to. Things I don’t have to be afraid of. One of these things is kissing. I really don’t want to kiss anyone. Not in any passionate mouth-mouth way anyway. In the few times I went out on “dates” with girls, it was always buried in the back of my mind that they were going to expect it. It was part of the cultural narrative, and they were going to expect it, and what was I going to do? I became kind of focused on it and I think the fear got in the way of me enjoying the moment. There are plenty of things like this. Things I don’t want, but are part of a cultural narrative. A narrative that I’m now feeling comfortable about dumping.
But this isn’t about the things I don’t want. What things do I want? I had so much fun running through this thought experiment. I felt like I was really getting to know me, and just imagining some of these things just left me with such a warm, happy feeling about myself and my future. So here they are (these are mostly physical things, and unless otherwise noted, I’m imagining these scenarios where we’re both fully clothed):
- Sitting next to her closely, kind of like cuddling (but I don’t really have a solid definition of what that is). Being physically close to someone is really intense for me. I don’t let many people inside my personal bubble space often, so this feels like something that’s really special to me.
- Lying next to her with my head on her chest so I can hear her breathing and her heart beating. I’m sorry, but I think this is one of the most intimate things I can imagine. I’ve always felt really alone in the world, and doing something like this seems like it would be absolutely amazing. That’s another person I’m listening to. They’re alive. I can hear them. I’m not alone in the world. How could anyone want anything more than this?
- I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t too crazy about holding hands, but when I thought about it in more detail, I realized that actually, there is a way I would feel more comfortable with it. If we were sitting or lying down somewhere, I think I’d find it very enjoyable. In that context, it’s an active thing you’re doing rather than just holding hands while walking around. The latter feels like something that’s secondary. You’re not really focusing on it. When I’m in motion, like while walking around, I just have this quirk that I need full motion of my body. If we were sitting down together, I don’t have that concern, and I can focus on the touch-touch connection.
- I don’t know exactly how to describe this next one, but I’ll say one of the things I most like the feel of is my hair when it’s been warmed by the sun. I think I would enjoy someone else’s hair being warmed by the sun as well. I guess you could call it head petting? That makes me think too much like a dog or something, but hopefully the idea is clear. This just seems like something nice to do, with a touch component that feels nice.
- I’ve said here and previously how I feel about kissing (specifically the normal idea of romantic mouth-mouth kissing), but that doesn’t take kissing of the table completely. On the whole, it’s still less important to me, though I can imagine for others it’s a bigger deal, so there are a number of compromises I think I can make here. One is me kissing her on the cheek. While that doesn’t mean much to me, I think I could find it enjoyable. I think it’s probably the only way I’d be comfortable kissing someone else. On the other hand, if she wanted to kiss me in other ways, I don’t think that would be a problem. On the cheek, a peck on the mouth, anywhere above the shoulders, I would be fine with that. And though it’s not a “kiss” per se, I’m going to toss eskimo kisses in here, because it’s cute as hell, and honestly would mean a lot more to me than more conventional kissing.
This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but these are all things that I’m really aware of now. Things that give me nice warm feelings when I think about them. Things that intrinsically compel me to engage in a relationship myself. This is such a change for me, and it’s so positive. I never could’ve honestly considered these things previously. There were just too many cultural pressures, especially associated with being male. Please pardon the phrasing, but that’s a fucking shame. To any guys out there: Find your own way. You don’t have to feel pressured to act a certain way. You don’t have to want things “everyone” wants. You don’t have to want things the cultural narrative says you have to want. You can want things you want. Nothing you want to do takes away from your male-ness. If you’re male, and you like doing something, then you’re defining male-ness to include that something. Period.
Speaking of cultural narratives, I don’t want to leave sex out of the dialog here. You’ll notice it’s not really included at all in my list above. That’s genuine. It’s not part of my list. I’m willing to do it. I think it might be fun, but it’s not a driving factor for me. Before I continue, let me be clear: no one, myself included, is obligated to include sex (or anything) in their list of things. That said, I do understand how important it is for people. Well, maybe I don’t fully understand, but I have a good hunch. So is there any way I can spin sex as an activity in such a way that I would include it in my list? I think there is. The way I can imagine it working (and please excuse my euphemisms) would be in a mutual “self-gifting” type of context. (Are you on board with the euphemism? Great!). The amount of trust I would have to feel for this to work is immense. I would have to know that she understood how far outside of my comfort zone this was. I’d be doing this for her. A mutual “self-gifting” type of context is something that allows for more freedom and flexibility I think, which makes it much more attainable. That said, more conventional sex is not totally off the table. It’s just not on my list. With a respectful partner, I’m willing to talk about this stuff so we can both feel satisfied, and respected. I think the “Want! Will… Won’t.” charts are brilliant, and a great way for someone like me (or anyone) to feel great about this kind of thing. Please check them out! Borrowed from http://smarthotfun.com/wantwillwontchart/ (reproduced here to save on her bandwidth).