The “Male Birth Control” Injection Trial Demonstrates Inequality

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the contraceptive injection for people with penises – or, as it is called in the headlines, “the male birth control,” “the male pill,” or “the male contraceptive injection.” I put all of these names in quotation marks because I wanted to make this distinction up front: this is being called “male birth control,” but I fully acknowledge that some men do not have penises and testicles, and not all people with penises or testicles are male.

In places where the reproductive organs are directly pertinent to the discussion and I am not quoting specific language that other people have used, I will try to make it entirely clear which reproductive organs are being discussed. I will use this language because genitals do not indicate gender, and because broadly generalizing all people with uteruses as women and all people with testicles as men is cissexist. Intersex, trans, and nonbinary people exist, and are also regularly harmed by sexist oppression and the medical community, but point of this post is to address the double standard inherent in the existing dichotomy that western culture has distilled gender down to based on sexual organs.

A 320-participant trial of a contraceptive injection for testicle-owners (all identified as men in the study) was halted when 20 of them dropped out because of the side effects. According to the Chicago Tribune, one participant did commit suicide, but the researchers ruled that the suicide was unrelated to the injection. So other than the dead person, these 20 people with penises decided that they didn’t want to endure depression, muscle pain, mood swings, acne and changes to their libido. Even though 75% of the participants said they would use this contraceptive in the future, the researchers stopped the entire trial because the injection DID reduce sperm count, but “the unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.”

Those reactions to the contraceptive injection for penis-owners are just a few extremely common side effects (among many others) that uterus-owners are encouraged to endure for the sake of preventing pregnancy. In addition to those potential side effects as well as cramps, sore breasts, headaches, migraines, weight gain, heavy and painful periods, no periods at all, and bleeding every single day, people with uteruses who choose to take the pill must also accept the well-documented risks of deep-vein thrombosis, stroke, and cervical and/or breast cancer.

No one is saying that the people who dropped out had to stay in the trial. Most of us who are criticizing the abrupt end of the trial are just saying that halting the entire trial because of those side effects is completely unjust when compared to how people who are perceived as women are treated by the medical community. All of these side effects of the birth control pill for people with uteruses are usually deemed “minor” by doctors who prescribe the pill, and were acceptable enough that the hormonal birth control pill was approved by the FDA in the 60s, and dozens of variations of it remain on the shelves today. Doctors say that “the benefits outweigh the risks.”

So in a world where the onus of preventing pregnancy is very often placed on the partner with the uterus, they have more hormonal contraceptive options than people with penises, but are also denied basic autonomy in regard to tubal ligation and hysterectomies. Many doctors in the US refuse to sterilize patients who could be impregnated until they’ve either already had at least one child or have reached a certain age (I’ve heard anywhere from 30 or beyond, depending on the whim of the doctor). The other contraception options aren’t all great either, which means the pill is sometimes the best choice for a lot of people. Doctors will hand hormonal birth control pills out like candy, and not all doctors tell patients about the side effects and mortality rate. Is the fact that a person taking the combined pill has a small chance of dying is just a pesky footnote to the medical community? To put it in short with gendered terms: the chance for a woman to die is an “acceptable risk” to medical professionals, but the trial for the men had to be stopped because of depression and mood swings – two known symptoms of existing hormonal birth control that patients with uteruses have been encouraged to tolerate for literally half a century.

Yaz and Yasmin, two hormonal birth control pills for people with uteruses, were advertised as more effective for reducing unwanted hormonal birth control symptoms, and their side effects were severely downplayed. That’s not opinion – that’s actually what the FDA ruled after a bunch of lawsuits were filed against Bayer, the company responsible for Yaz. The FDA made Bayer change their ads to be more transparent about the risks, and though Bayer eventually changed the commercials, they still weren’t disclosing enough information about the risks. Three years after the FDA’s warning about the commercials, an FDA document acknowledged that studies raised questions about the safety of Yaz and its related contraceptives. In 2008 the FDA put a more serious warning label about the risk on the packaging. Over 10,000 patients have filed lawsuits related to Yaz against Bayer.

The progestin in Yaz/Yasmin, drospirenone, is the ingredient that is specifically linked to the increased risk of harm. Birth control pills with drospirenone are no more effective at preventing pregnancy than the other options on the market. In 2012 the FDA announced that they acknowledged there was a higher risk of blood clots linked to drospirenone, but they said the benefits outweighed the risk and Yaz would not be removed from the market… even though there are loads of alternative birth control pills that do not contain drospirenone. In addition to Yaz, there are 7 other hormonal birth control pills on the market that contain drospirenone: Beyaz, Safyral, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Syeda, and Zarah. Gianvi and Beyaz are also manufactured by Bayer.

The reason I mention Yaz is that when people with uteruses are involved, the benefits always seem to outweigh the risks. There is no shortage of birth control pill brands on the market, almost all considered equally effective at preventing pregnancy, but doctors are still prescribing Yaz, and the FDA still permits it to be sold. Yet when researchers start testing a hormonal birth control option “for men” they STOP THE TRIAL because “unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.” In fact, a direct quote that the co-author of the research paper gave to The Independent stated:

“Although the injections were effective in reducing the rate of pregnancy, the combination of hormones needs to be studied more to consider a good balance between efficacy and safety.”

I’m sure that most of us agree that people with any configuration of reproductive organs deserve effective and safe contraception options, but the only symptoms of this injection that made themselves apparent during the study were symptoms that were considered acceptable risks for people with uteruses.

If this double standard doesn’t stand out enough on its own, consider the cultural context: studies have shown that men and women are treated differently in medical settings, particularly those involving diagnoses of severity and pain management. The research paper The Girl Who Cried Pain cites multiple studies that demonstrate this. One study coined the term “Yentyl Syndrome” – women are less likely to be treated as aggressively [as a male patient would be] until they “prove that they are as sick as male patients.” Men are more likely to be given narcotic painkillers, while women are often given sedatives, indicating that perhaps they are perceived as anxious instead of “in pain.” In a 1994 study of over 1,000 cancer patients, they found that women were significantly less likely to have their pain adequately managed than the men were; the ratio is 1:5.

In an online survey of over 2,400 women living with chronic pain, 75% (1,732 of them) said that their doctor has told them: “You’ll have to learn to live with your pain.” If you’re interested, you can read a collection of anecdotes along this line that were gathered from the write-in portion of the survey.

People with uteruses are not taken seriously in the medical community. We’re always told that we’re exaggerating, that we’re just anxious, that we can’t be sick because we don’t LOOK sick, or that our medical conditions can’t be solved. Got a uterus? Doctors and the FDA think that when it comes to oral hormonal birth control, “the benefit outweighs the risk.” Got a penis? The trial for your hormonal birth control option ended because “the unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.”

From where I’m standing, a desire to protect people with penises from unpleasantness coupled with the willingness to put people with uteruses through painful and potentially lethal side effects is not health justice. It is not equity to shield the privileged from the same side effects that the oppressed have been resigned to for decades, especially when doing so continues to place the burden of hormonal contraception on the oppressed.

We need to push for equality and an overall higher standard of care in the medical field, especially as it pertains to people who are already marginalized. The first step to doing this is acknowledging the imbalance of power and the violence inherent in the system. The next step is action.

 

Kinky Fuckery 101: What Does BDSM Stand For?

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I wrote several pieces about kink approximately two years ago when I was writing for GetLusty, but it occurred to me recently that I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed kink for beginners here on my blog. I realize that some of my readers are vanilla, some are seasoned BDSM practitioners, and some of you may consider yourself kink-curious.

If you’re kink-curious you might have thought about light bondage in the past, or may have a fantasy that revolves around servitude. Maybe you have sexy dreams where you boss people around and punish them for misbehavior. Maybe you’ve read 50 Shades of Grey (god help you) and your interest was piqued. To the kink-curious among you: The Kinky Fuckery series is dedicated to you.

Previous lessons:

  1. Models of Consent

Defining BDSM

Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, Sadism/Masochism

Leather Neck Wrist Restraint from Stockroom.comBondage

Bondage is the practice of tying or restraining a partner for the purpose of pleasure or aesthetic sensibilities. From the silk tie bondage that you’ll read about in Cosmo or 50 Shades of Grey to metal cuffs linked to steel spreader bars, playing with restraints can be a satisfying and arousing experience for all parties involved. Sometimes you will be tied up to show your submission to another, or will be chained to something so that you can be punished accordingly. Some people just like the feeling of being restrained. Others enjoy using things like rope and bondage tape for aesthetic purposes, as is the case in kinbaku (also known as shibari). Don’t worry, you’re going to learn a lot more about bondage as we go through this series… but you’re not going to learn it now.

Discipline

Discipline is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Typically this goes hand in hand with domination and submission – you’ll normally see a submissive being disciplined for “undesirable” behavior. I put undesirable quotes because some of us (particularly brats like me) may act up because we want the punishment, particularly if it’s corporal punishment.

Domination/Submission

Domination and submission are roles in a consensual power exchange. The dominant partner typically takes charge and directs the sexual encounter. The submissive partner obeys the dominant’s commands. The submissive partner may endure pain, discipline, or simply be bossed around. The submissive may worship or serve the dominant in some way. There is some wiggle room in the roles I’ve described – for example some submissives are resistant, and some dominants are loving and gentle. There are a wide variety of D/s dynamics that I will address in the future.

Sadomasochism

Sadomasochism refers to sexual pleasure that revolves around pain in a consensual setting. Sadism – enjoyment of inflicting physical or emotional pain – is named for the Marquis de Sade, a French aristocrat and noted libertine who spent a great deal of time writing particularly filthy erotic books in prison.

[Trigger warning: this paragraph briefly mentions sexual molestation, sexual violence, and some pretty fucked-up regular violence, a great deal of it directed toward children.]


De Sade’s most notable work is probably The 120 Days of Sodom, a book I read as a teenager (thanks, Internet!) and don’t recommend. You have to understand that I can be sex-positive and sex-critical, and I definitely have some harsh criticisms of 120 Days of Sodom. I’m not condemning the fart-in-the-mouth stuff, the urolagnia and scat… all of that is fine. Those things may be hard reds for me, but it’s whatever floated de Sade’s boat, and plenty of people still get off on that. No. My complaints are with the kidnapping of children and raping them, the incest and various forms of rape, the involuntary mutilation of people, and the snuff bits about people skinning children and torturing girls to death. I’m critical of the scary stuff that absolutely deserves to be condemned. That’s not what BDSM is about.


[Trigger over.]

Venus in Furs coverWhen we celebrate sadism in BDSM culture, we are NOT revering de Sade’s tendencies toward rape and murder. BDSM involves adults giving informed consent to participate in activities that are pleasurable for all parties involved. Sadism just happens to get its name from a man who liked inflicting particularly fucked-up levels of pain on people. Masochism’s etymological origins are considerably less offensive.

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, masochism’s namesake, most famously penned Venus in Furs, another book I checked off of my reading list years ago. While I wouldn’t call the book perfect it at least has a distinct lack of murderporn (as far as I can remember), and after reading de Sade’s work that is literally all it takes for historical erotica to earn two thumbs up from me. A quick spoiler-free synopsis: The main character of Venus in Furs is completely enamored of a woman and he begs to be her slave. She eventually complies and degrades him in the ways he asks. Other things happen, the book ends, a psychiatrist names the fetishization of enduring pain after the book’s author, and Bob’s your uncle.

 

I realize that these explanations are all very brief, but there are generally a lot of elements involved in the various roles and activities covered under the BDSM umbrella, and I will touch on those in future posts. I’m trying to be thorough, but it’s going to take a lot of time, and I’m bound to miss something along the way. In any event, the next Kinky Fuckery 101 post will be about aftercare!

If you have any questions, thoughts, or interesting factoids to share about BDSM’s roles and the etymological origins of the terms encompassed by BDSM, by all means feel free to share them in the comments below!

Kinky Fuckery 101: Models of Consent

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I wrote several pieces about kink approximately two years ago when I was writing for GetLusty, but it occurred to me recently that I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed kink for beginners here on my blog. I realize that some of my readers are vanilla, some are seasoned BDSM practitioners, and some of you may consider yourself kink-curious.

If you’re kink-curious you might have thought about light bondage in the past, or may have a fantasy that revolves around servitude. Maybe you have sexy dreams where you boss people around and punish them for misbehavior. Maybe you’ve read 50 Shades of Grey (god help you) and your interest was piqued. To the kink-curious among you: The Kinky Fuckery series is dedicated to you.

Models of Consent

Before I start talking about the glory of being tied down and tormented, I want to talk first about the importance of consent. Since you don’t live in a bubble I hope you are familiar with the idea of sexual consent by now, and while consent can be very complex the bottom line is as simple as this: “No” means no. “Ouch” probably means no. “Don’t” means no. “Stop” means no.

The reason I feel like it’s so important to recap basic rules of consent is that when you’re in an agreed-upon BDSM scene, “no,” “ouch,” and “don’t,” and sometimes “stop” may not always explicitly mean no. Maybe you said “no” because you’re playing the reluctant submissive who wants to be coerced. Maybe you happily bent over for a flogging because you like the pain but you said “ouch” because… duh, it hurts, but you like that.

Toggling Consent

Consent is ongoing. All participants in sexual activity have the right to revoke consent at any time, and once consent is revoked the activity stops. In BDSM your safeword is generally your consent toggle. If you’re gagged, always hold something in your hand, ideally something that will make noise (like keys), that you can drop if you hit the safeword point. The minute you say or drop your safeword you are revoking your consent. You are telling your partner to stop, that you are either done with that particular activity or that you need to talk to them to re-negotiate how you two are doing it. More on that later.

Informed Consent

Before you even get to the point where you’ll need a safeword, you and your partner need to establish informed consent. Informed consent means that you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. Talk about everything that everyone involved wants to do during this scene and what your limits are. Be sure that you bring up things that may trigger you so your partner can avoid them. Make sure that if you’re using acronyms when negotiating that all partners know what they stand for. You don’t want your partner to agree to a WAM scene online and then be shocked when you start pelting them with pudding. The idea of informed consent is that all parties understand what will be done and what those activities entail.

SSC and RACK

SSC stands for “Safe, Sane, and Consensual,” a commonly-known tenet among BDSM practitioners that is pretty straightforward: all partners must be of sound mind and consensually agree to participate safely in an activity. The concept of SSC is good, but the current popular interpretation is kind of iffy.

The first problem with SSC is that the word “sane” is pretty ableist. Plenty of us in the BDSM world have mental disorders that may not classify us as “sane,” but we are still capable of consent and that shouldn’t disqualify us from playing. The word makes some of us feel alienated. It’s also very subjective – the activities that one player might consider “sane” may differ wildly from another player, and I think that leaves a lot of room for people to get judge-y. One could argue that wanting to be beaten or degraded in the first place probably isn’t “sane”. What I find that most people interpret “sane” to mean is that participants shouldn’t be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and I agree with that.

It’s easy to get carried away or make regretful decisions when you’re under the influence, and drugs and alcohol may dampen your pain receptors, which might seem like a good idea if you’re looking to get beaten, but can easily work against you. If you can’t feel what’s being done to you, you risk severe injury. It’s the same reason that you shouldn’t use numbing lubricants.

The second problem is that many kinky people don’t like “safe” activities. While “safe” was initially coined to indicate ethical play, many people have begun to associate the word “safe” with “risk-free.” That’s not really feasible for BDSM anyway because most S/M activities are never 100% guaranteed to be safe, much like anything else in life. The popularity of the “risk-free” idea puts a good portion of kinky people out on their asses, because many of us enjoy edge play, which is play that generally straddles the line of SSC. Edge play is a term that is somewhat subjective, but encompasses activities that have the potential to be pretty dangerous: asphyxiation, knife play, gun play, fire play, cutting, branding, needle play, and blood play.

Many people greatly prefer the acronym RACK: “Risk-Aware Consensual Kink.” In addition to not containing any loaded, subjective, or ableist terminology, it acknowledges that all activities come with risk and nothing is completely safe. Within the RACK framework the spectrum of activity does not go from safe to unsafe – instead, it goes from safer activities to less safe activities.

Safewords and Stoplights

My safeword with my husband is “blueberry pancakes.” My safeword with my previous partners was “bananaphone.” Find a word that will probably never come up in the context of your play and designate it as your safeword. Safewords are a vital part of BDSM and are all too often overlooked by people who have no idea what they’re doing.

As I stated earlier, your safeword is a consent toggle. If you only designate one safeword that means no then that word means “stop this right now.” It doesn’t always mean that the scene has to end for good, but the activity occurring needs to stop. Maybe your ass is too tender to take more spankings. Maybe you can’t emotionally handle being called a cumdumpster any more tonight. Maybe something triggered you and EVERYTHING needs to stop. Whatever the reason for pausing or stopping, always have a safeword to ensure that you can do it. Do not ever fear using your safeword, because it’s there to protect you.

Some people say they don’t want safewords because they are afraid they’ll use them too soon, or because they prefer to take on the role of slave and desire the feeling of total powerlessness to fulfill their fantasies. All I can do is tell you that you need one, no matter who you are. If you’re afraid of using your safeword too soon, why? If you think it’s time to use your safeword then that’s when you need to use it. It’s not like saying your safeword has to kill the scene. It can always start back up. If you’re interested in serving as a slave, would you still be content doing everything your master said if they started disregarding your hard limits? What if they told you that you’d never be disciplined again? Would you still want to play? Safewords are intended to interrupt the fantasy, however briefly, because they’re telling your partner that reality needs attention.

If you prefer a method of safewording that is short and to the point, try the stoplight system. “Red” works the same way a regular safeword does; it’s a full stop. “Yellow” indicates that you might need to discuss some things, may need something to change, or may be reaching your limit. And obviously “green” is GO, GO, GO!

Checking In

As a bottom, you need to be proactive about voicing your limits, and as a top you need to be proactive about checking in with your bottom. If you’ve been whipping your masochist a little while it’s okay to check in with them, and you don’t even have to break character to do it. If your submissive is being very quiet, check in with them to make sure they haven’t fallen deep into subspace. You want to make sure that your partner continues to consent to what you’re doing throughout the scene, because you absolutely don’t want to hurt someone more than they want to be hurt. You can do this as simply as saying, “How are you doing?” It’s the decent thing to do, and while you may not want to be a nice top, surely you want to be a decent one.

Got something to say about consent? Insight into safewords? Share with us! Leave a comment below so we can learn more.

That Time We Didn’t Dye Her “Down-There”

I’m the queen of hair dye.  Fact: It was invented for me. (That’s not a fact.)  My hair has been every color, usually two at once, and one time (my high school graduation) it was even painstakingly dyed with every color of the rainbow (actually, we left out indigo, so it was more like ROYGBV, but indigo never really counted in the first place).

So naturally, I was the go-to for all things related to hair dye, just like I was the go-to for all things sexual in nature, such as “What’s a good lubricant for anal?” or “What’s a good trick to use during a blowjob?” or “What is ‘scurvy’?” (Hint: not an STD.)  It made a lot of sense to combine these two, so I often talked about how I would dye my pubic hair once I eventually let it grow out.  Just picture it: a perfect expression of my theoretical “uniqueness” hidden in my panties.  (Did I mention I was voted “most unique” in high school?  Yeah, that’s the user-friendly superlative for “green-haired crazypants with no friends.”)

Anyway, one of my friends was well-known for having girls’ nights at her place, and several of us were planning to head over there and hang out.  For some reason or another, my friend and I decided, on a whim, that this would be a great time to dye her pubic hair purple.  I brought the vegetable dye and gloves, and she brought her trimmed box.  It was at that point that our hostess returned and banged on the bathroom door until it opened to reveal four girls crowded around a toilet in a half-bath, two watching while I snapped on a pair of latex gloves and my friend hitched her leg up on the toilet cover.  It was quite a sight.  Our new arrival pointed out, “Do you really need her to dye your pubic hair?”

Well… now that she mentioned it.  No.  It’s a one-woman job, really.   I held the dye pot instead.  Imagine the balls that my friend had to smear the equivalent of Gooze all over her pubic bone with an audience of four.  The exhibitionists out there may scoff, but even I prefer to dye in private.

Here’s the end of the story, even though I’ve already spoiled it for you: It didn’t work.

She was a dirty blonde, and her pubes were slightly darker than her hair.  We were using a pretty dark violet that we thought would work.  After letting it process for 15 minutes, we got nothing.  Her pubes didn’t show the slightest hint of purple.  Given how long I process my hair (all day) I would have made her leave it on for an hour… but an hour of sitting in the bathroom not hanging out with your friends is pretty boring if they’re all in the next room.  I’ve also had little success dying my ex’s goatee, and since the hair texture is relatively similar, the only thing I can figure is that more coarse hair needs a longer amount of time, or we should have thrown caution to the wind and used some body hair bleach beforehand.

As someone who wants you to keep your body in good shape,

I don’t recommend:
  • Bleaching your genital region before you dye.  If you want that done, it’s a better idea to ask a professional about it… and let a professional do it.
  • Directly dying your genital region. Instead only dye the hair on your pubic bone.  The dye could irritate your vulva, penis, or scrotum.
If you dye, I do recommend:
  • Using a mild vegetable dye rather than a highly chemical dye.  (You may get better results from non-vegetable dye. Maybe that was my problem.)
  • Rubbing vaseline over your vulva or penis – it’ll keep you from suffering from Blue Waffle (sorry, sorry, too gross, I know, I’m done) or Gangrene (hah, get it?) Cock.
  • Using latex gloves to keep the dye from staining your hands.  Do you want to explain to your grandmother that your hands are pink because your box is?
  • Following the instructions on the dye box.  This is pretty straightforward.
  • Doing a patch test and a strand test beforehand.  Rub some dye in an inconspicuous place like the inside of your arm or back of your leg and wait about 24 hours.  If you don’t have an allergic reaction, you’re golden.  For a strand test, try snipping some of your hairs and dying them to see what the color looks like.  These are both standard procedure for your head, and since you want to be twenty times more careful with your junk, you probably don’t want to skip them.
  • Using something to apply the dye carefully.  I’m more of a throw-caution-to-the-wind person myself, but do as I say, not as I do.  This is less of a safety advisory (as long as you avoid your genitals and stick to the recommended areas) and more of an aesthetic advisory.  Many guides I’ve read recommend using dye brushes or cotton swabs or balls.
  • Going to a salon that offers bikini waxes if you’re unsure about your ability to do it yourself.  There’s no shame in having a professional do something that you might botch up.  Do you cut your own hair, do your own home repairs, and perform your own oral surgery?  Most people will answer no to these things, so there’s no shame in adding another to the list.
  • Trying one of the pubic hair dye kits that are out there.  Try Betty Beauty if they’ve got the color you’re looking for.
  • Dying when your hair is long, then trimming (if you so desire) once you’ve finished the coloring.  This is the exact opposite of what I recommend for the hair on your head.
  • Preparing yourself for comments such as “Oh, did you have sex with [Barney / a Smurf / Godzilla / the devil / a pig / other creature with a color that corresponds to your pube color]?” if you share the joy of your dyed hair with other people.  This can be expected with the hair on your head, and so I just know that the one friend you have who thinks they’re a comedy genius will make this remark if you tell them about your pubes.  (To all the comedy geniuses out there: we’ve all heard it before.  Really, asking me if a Smurf jizzed on my head?  You know the answer is “right before he fucked your mother.”)

Keep in mind, I’m by no means a professional hair stylist or salon technician.  Like I said above: when in doubt, go to the people who know what they’re doing.

Has your pubic hair ever (deliberately) been a funny color?  Are you considering dying it?  I know you’re out there, people.

Asexual Awareness Week: A Brief Overview & Resources

317881_208193362586591_137192986353296_511743_2115253234_nRight on the heels of International Fisting Day comes Asexual Awareness Week!  This entire week (October 23rd through the 29th) is devoted to celebrating asexuality, raising awareness, and educating the community!

I find, in the Gender and Sexual Minority (GSM) community, that asexuality is one of the least-acknowledged and celebrated minority orientations, next to intersexuality.  In fact, the I and A in LGBTQIA+ get left off of the acronym on a fairly regular basis, which irks me to no end.  (#BloggersWhoBitchAboutSeeminglyUnimportantThingsThatAreReallyImportant)

You’ve probably got a vague understanding of the word “asexual” from lessons about asexual reproduction in biology… and then you probably also have some ridiculous assumptions, imagining all asexual people as antisexual, anti-breeder prudes who choose to die alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

An asexual person simply doesn’t experience sexual attraction toward other people.  Asexual people may still have sex drives, may choose to masturbate, are not inherently sex-negative at all, and may choose to engage in sex with another person, although their reasons for it may not be the same as your own.  They aren’t “broken,” and they don’t need to “find the right person.”  Telling an asexual person they haven’t found the right person is about the equivalent of telling your “gold star” lesbian friend (the “gold star” rant is reserved for another day) that she “just hasn’t found the right man.”   Asexual individuals are capable of leading perfectly happy lives and engaging in enjoyable and functional romantic relationships, though it can be difficult to navigate the issue of sexual relationships with a partner.

318673_2295631905084_1077677816_32571436_740924411_nThis is the point where I differentiate between sexuality and romanticism.  While many people just assume that your sexual orientation means that you only fall in love with the corresponding gender (or lack thereof), technically, sexual orientation is only meant to categorize sexual attraction to people.  Asexuals still may experience sexual arousal, but simply generally are not inclined to have sex with someone.  Romanticism, on the other hand, indicates your romantic attraction to certain individuals.  Aromanticism, homoromanticism, heteroromanticism, biromanticism, and panromanticism are all very real things.  One of my closest friends often uses the umbrella term of “queer” to identify himself in the community, but is, technically, a homoromantic asexual.

It is also worth noting that there are varying shades of grey among the spectrum of sexuality, with asexuality on one side, and sexuality on the other.  Some people are generally asexual, but that many not always be the rule.  Demisexuality, a term that I identify with, indicates that an individual does not experience a sexual attraction to other people until they have formed a strong emotional connection with them.  The term “grey-A” is used to indicate a variety of lifestyles between sexuality and asexuality.

I encourage you to go out and learn more about it!

Have some resources:

AVEN (The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network)

AVEN Wiki

The Asexual Awareness Week Website has a fantastic FAQ about asexuality listed under the “What Is Asexuality?” link.

Asexual Awareness Week on Facebook

Once you’ve read all these links, you should go hug your asexual friends.  They deserve the show of support, affection, and respect.