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sexuality

Hi Captain,

Since my adolescence, I’ve not had sexual desire. I identified as grey-A for a while, and then switched to identifying as asexual when it seemed clear to me that I would not develop any sexual desire. I was happy with this assessment. I have been active in various ace forums since I was a teenager, and have many friends I’ve met that way, both online and in-person friends.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with disorder that affects hormones (not directly related to sex hormones–thyroid, etc.). I took medication for it, to relieve the chance of various serious health issues (increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, some other things). As I did so, I–for lack of a better word–developed a sex drive for the first time. I am no longer, by any reasonable definition of the word, asexual, or even grey-A or demisexual. I have a frequent and persistent attraction to people and desire for sex, and it’s not exclusive to people I know well. There’s no real chance of going back, without risking the health issues that I took the meds for to begin with.

Captain, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my friends. The whole “you’ll grow out of it” or “have you checked to see if something’s wrong with you?” tropes are both so common and so toxic to the asexual community, and so frequently off-base, that I’m hesitant to even acknowledge what happened to me. I feel like I’ve failed my community in a massive way. Part of me wants to just lie (that is, remain celibate and claim to still be asexual), but I know that’s wrong (and the ‘remain celibate’ part would be difficult). Part of me wants to just drift away so they never have to know that I was a fake asexual. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I have no idea how to say, “Guess what! I saw a doctor and went on meds and now I’m a sexual!” without badly hurting people.

Help?

No Longer Ace
(They/them pronouns)

Dear No Longer Ace,

Whatever happens with your friends and how they take the news (if and when and however you give them the news), please know this: Your sexual identity is there to describe you, in all your wonderful complexity. You are not here to “live up to” or perform it. Changes over the course of your life in how you feel about sex don’t mean that you were faking something before, and “I used to identify as ace, but that changed as I got older/dealt with some medical stuff that was affecting my sex drive” is a valid story to tell about your life if it is the true story.

Also, you treating your medical condition and having unexpected results isn’t a judgment on or a prescription for anyone else, so please resist any attempt to paint it that way. I can see why the implication that asexuality is a changeable condition that “just needs treatment!” is damaging to that community, but science also tells us that medication side effects and certain medical conditions can affect the human sex drive in multiple ways and directions over the course of a lifetime. You can’t be the only one who has ever been in this situation, so try to find the others and seek out their stories.

Here are some other suggestions for taking care of yourself right now:

  • Go very slow and give yourself time to get used to everything. Figure out your own desires and well-being. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything, especially not right this second.
  • If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.
  • When you’re ready, find one or two close trusted people in your ace friend group to talk things over with. These should be people you have lots of things in common with in addition to ace activism and bonding. Tell them what’s up and see what happens. Tell them how scared and worried you feel about breaking the news. Don’t try to approach it as a Whole Group-issue. One on one is best.
  • If they really are your friends, hopefully they’ll be kind to you and reassure you. They can be the ones who tell the rest of group for you, if that’s something you want to do. And hopefully the long history of affection and things you have in common will carry you.
  • If they express shock and discomfort, here’s a script: “I didn’t choose any of this – not how I felt before, not how I feel now. I’m still the same person who is your friend.
  • If they are mean to you and/or dismissive of you or accuse you of hurting them or the community, I’m so sorry: You’re gonna probably need to bail on that conversation and try again another time. You’re not hurting them, or anybody, by being who you are. 

 

 

 

Dear Captain Awkward:

A girl I’ve been seeing for 5 weeks broke up with me and it hit me really hard. It took me a night to realize that I had attributed a lot of emotional weight to staying over at her place on week 4, when she asked me to come over and stay the night . So when we had the break up talk the week after that, I felt completely blindsided.

In my mind, staying the night means we are Officially In A Relationship. I was already imagining meeting her friends and hopefully eventually her family, stuff like that. In the days following that night, she invited me to a gathering with her friends and also to a dinner her friend invited both of us to, so it seemed like my expectations of what that night meant were holding true; up to that point I hadn’t met any of her friends. And then a week later she wanted to break up.

I told her my feelings about that night during the breakup, and her response was the typical “you built up too much of this relationship too fast, maybe slow it down in the future.” But I really don’t think I can change how I feel about staying the night with someone. Based on talking to some friends, it seems like people my age don’t attach nearly as much weight to this as I do, as it’s just one of Those Things You Do in a new relationship. Is there anything I can do to resolve this disparity in the future when dating someone new?

Basic background: I’m 28 years old and I didn’t start dating until I was 25. The longest relationship I’ve been in was 6 weeks. I’ve read about attachment patterns in adults and I solidly fall into the anxious-preoccupied model.

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Dear Captain,

I’m not sure whether my partner is happy in our relationship, and I’m hoping for scripts to help us to talk about this. I only want what’s best for her, only I don’t think that’s me. I know it sounds like a silly thing to say, but I think she’s only going out with me to please her family/friends by going out with a man when she possibly prefers women. I knew she was bisexual before we started dating, but I’m starting to think that she has a strong preference for women (if she finds men attractive at all). I know I may have the wrong idea and she just doesn’t like me, but this is what my thinking is based on:

  • She only watches lesbian porn as she doesn’t like the men in it. (Understandable).
  • She’s scared of penetration so much that I can’t put a finger inside her (could be a number of medical reasons).
  • With our sex life, it’s usually me getting her off with her not reciprocating. She’ll ask me to go down on her but she doesn’t seem interested in my body. (She may just be a selfish lover).
  • She’s so scared of sperm: we’re not having sex, she’s on the pill, I wear a condom and she still insists on being fully clothed when she touches me (just in case).

I’m thinking with all her hangups with getting with a male, she may be better off in a relationship with a woman. Obviously, I may have this all wrong and this isn’t really my decision to make. What’s a good way to get her to assess our relationship, to be honest with herself and to see if it’s what she wants? If this is what she wants and she’s just having a hard time opening up sexually, what’s the best way I can support her?

Thanks,

Wanting to be supportive

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Dear Captain,

I think I’m bisexual. The problem is I’m not sure and I’m interested in finding out, but I’m in a committed yet rocky relationship with a man in the gay-unfriendly Midwest. I made an online dating account today to seek out other queer women in my area. There are like 5 of them. I feel simultaneously guilty about making the account, disappointed that my alternative prospects are so few, and frustrated about my relationship but not sure I should end it.

One problem is that I’m uncertain about my sexuality. When I was 12 I decided I was gay. I came out to my (male) best friend in middle school and later my mom. But later I had sexual feelings for boys. In college I have fucked men happily and continue to have satisfying but infrequent sex with my partner. I thought I was straight, though I’ve always had the occasional sexy dream about a woman. But I’ve had a lot in the last couple of years. It’s actually weird how often it happens. I never had this many dreams about men.

Now I think about women more. I fantasize about a romance of my own. However, I’m still afraid my attraction isn’t real. It really sucked to think I was gay for years only to have to admit I was attracted to men after all. I’m also afraid to break up with my boyfriend of four years, who shares an apartment with me, only to change my mind (although I’ve drafted a totally separate letter to you before about whether I should keep trying to save the relationship…). If I were in an urban area, I might be able to try out a chaste date or two to see if flirting with real women is something I’m into. But I’m not, and I don’t foresee being in a gay-friendlier city until I move away for a new job — probably with my boyfriend.

On problems with my boyfriend, a quick summary: lots of walking on eggshells on both sides. We both amplify the other’s anxiety. Just yesterday we fought about this and I told him if nothing changes, we need to break up when I get a job after grad school next year. For the record, he knows I’m bi but we are not in an open relationship. We tried counseling and the therapist was a bad match. I think Carolyn Hax would ask if I’m sacrificing too much to keep the peace and generally I would say yes. But things have also improved in the last few months. It seems clear that I should break up with him, but how do I kick him out when I’m not sure about any of this?

– Am I Even Fucking Gay???

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Hiya Captain,

I wrote in a while ago with a fairly incoherent question of the “I think I’m maybe asexual but I already got married with the usual implicit understanding that sex would be part of the relationship” variety with a hefty side of “what is wrong with me and how do I not be this way” and other identity issues… I’ve kind of come to grips with the reality that, my personal label issues aside, the kindest thing to do is accept that sex is something that will not be happening for the foreseeable future and figure out how to move forward with the practicalities of making this marriage with a man I love less of an extremely unsexy anxiety limbo.

My desired outcome: husband and I stay in our loving partnership, he gets his sexy needs met with a sexy friend (or a few sexy friends?), I stop feeling utterly horrible and like I’m holding him against his will in my frigid financial clutches (Ed. note: LW is the breadwinner right now), everyone wins. Now how do I start making that happen? I need a script to bring this up with my husband, that regardless of our history this is how things are now, and I love him dearly and want his sexy needs to be met however he feels comfortable… just, y’know, not with me.

I also feel like I should have at least a few initial strategies for how to find him a low-stakes sexy playmate (OKCupid? Craigslist? How does Tinder even work?), since pressure to make friends or otherwise put himself out there socially is a huge anxiety trigger for him. I don’t want to micromanage him through the entire thing (I’ve thought a LOT about what my boundaries would be for this), but it would be nice to be able to approach it with “look, this doesn’t need to be so fraught, people do this all the time, here are some options for finding someone.” He’s my first and only partner, and we met in college, so I’m a little inexperienced in the “arranging casual sexy things as an adult” arena.

How do I negotiate all this?

— Ace Wife

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