What It's Like Being Asexual in College

Universities can be some of the most accepting places in our country when it comes to unique identities.  Most everyone can find a pocket they can fit into, find others like them, or at least explore what it means to embody said identity.  

Part of my own identity is being an asexual.  To give a very brief definition, being asexual means I don’t experience sexual attraction as commonly as the majority of the population, if ever.  I didn’t realize this was a "thing," until a mentor suggested I may belong to that realm of sexuality in 2015. I remember going home, reading about it, and crying tears of joy because for the first time it meant that my lack of sexual desire wasn’t from something like a hormonal imbalance or deep-seated issue.  It was just simply who I was, and that was empowering.

Now that I have language for it, I want to share with you what going to college can be like as someone who is more asexual.  My experience is not going to be the same for everyone, and I’ll never claim it is. None of this is meant to put anyone down or bring anyone else up.  It’s nothing more than me sharing my observations with as much curious spirit as any reader may have. So without further ado, let’s dive into what college looks like in the eyes of an ace.

 

1. Sex is everywhere.

There is the trope of college students getting to university and focusing a lot on sex, be it sexual encounters or sexual identity. Virtually every movie about college makes a crack at it.  However, sex is already in the classrooms too.

Unless you’re taking a program that doesn’t require a gen ed, you’ll likely take something that has you reading or discussing gender politics or sexuality, especially if you’re in a field within humanities or social sciences.  As an English major, this was especially common. There were some days where the reading would inference sexual imagery and go right over my head. This didn’t mean they were wrong or obsessed with sex, per se. However, it did mean I had to find other ways to be engaged, because the subject matter just didn’t always connect.

It can also make family gatherings more interesting.  It’s a little harder to answer the question of when I’m getting married and having kids.  It makes the question of what we plan to do after college feel like a relief!

 

2. You’re not going to fit in with the general population, including the LGBTQ crowd.

There are some things we all share, and that includes being complex creatures.  Parts of our unique identities can help us meet others and connect where we otherwise may not.  

Most people experience sexual attraction, and it’s what they’re attracted to that makes them unique.  The LGBTQ population is based on creating a good and safe space for people with more stigmatized attractions, which is wonderful.  However, being asexual doesn’t help me fit in with that crowd. I’ve told people from all colors of the spectrum about being ace, and it often gets met with disinterest or being brushed off.  It makes sense though, because how can people who experience sexual attraction relate to someone whose attraction is absent? Plus...

 

3. Asexuality has its stigmas.

I don’t tend to bring up my asexuality very often for a few reasons.  One is it’s hard to relate to people, and the other is the more negative stigmas.

In my experience, I’ve been treated as if I were a stuck-up, higher-than-thou person and also like I had a disorder.  Especially in Utah where the religious community and its counter-culture reign, I wonder if it comes across that, when I say I’m asexual, I’m saying I don’t fall to the “lower depths” of being sexually attracted to people. Having attraction can make you vulnerable, and we’ve all grown up with the stories of how dangerous falling in love can be. It may seem like an asexual has found the cheat code to not worry about such things because they’re outside of the equation.

On the flip side, I’ve also gotten the stigma that I was traumatized into asexuality, or have a hormonal disorder.   In this way I feel I can relate to anyone else who has something unique about themselves that isn’t well understood by others.  Some of my best friends in my university years were openly gay, and it felt like we could relate to being looked at under the lens of “what happened to your childhood that made you this way.”  The answer is nothing did. We just are who we are. 

 

4. Dating can be weird.

At best, my partners found it to be a charming trait.  The men I dated who were accepting were also able to utilize it to be close to someone and open about their personal, emotional selves rather than their sexual prowess, something most men don’t get to experience.  At worst, I meet someone who thinks they have the power to change my mind, and turn me into a sexual fiend. The worst response I had after admitting to my asexuality was “I can fix that,” to which I simply replied, “You think it needs fixing?”

 

5. There’s some guilt in feeling sexual attraction.

Being asexual does not always mean you never feel sexual attraction.  In rather rare cases I do experience it, but when I do, I dread admitting it to anyone, even close friends.  It makes me feel like a fraud, and it also makes me feel vulnerable. Because I experience it less, it can feel overwhelming and a little scary.  I usually just try to suppress it because it feels easier than acknowledging it.

 

6. It can be difficult to express, but so entirely worth it.

I did creative writing in college (still do) and I find that sometimes it can be difficult to write about asexuality.  It’s trying to relate to an absence of feeling, a non-conformity without rebellion or accusation. I had a poem published relating the idea of the biblical character Eve as if she were asexual and what that means.  It ended up being very well received, and a classmate admitted they had a sibling who was asexual and struggling with their religion over it. Another classmate took offense to it, but it became a discussion that led him to open-mindedness and me to feeling heard on an issue I had otherwise keep quiet and close.

 

7. It’s not all we are.

Being asexual is only a fraction of my overall makeup.  It’s not my banner, it’s not my weapon, it’s not my entire identity.  It’s a perspective, it’s a way of experiencing the world around me. The traits you hold closest to you are not all of you, but they’re worth celebrating. Graduating from university is allowing me the opportunity to take my observations into a bigger world, and sharing this perspective hopefully opens up the discussion and makes the world a little closer.

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