Confessions of an Asexual Man

Love and Sex

Confessions of an Asexual Man

Illustration: Mudit Ganguly

I

remember the first time I thought of sex. I was a 12-year-old attending school in a Mumbai suburb. During the lunch break, a classmate whipped out a copy of Maxim magazine that he had flicked from his sister. There was Mariah Carey on the cover. A few boys gathered and flipped through the pages (in retrospect, they were suspiciously sticky), they ogled at the gorgeous, unattainable women attempting to stick plastic objects into their various orifices.

I remember staring at the Carey cover spread, thinking she was a beautiful woman, and that I would love to meet her one day. One of my classmates, who claimed to be Eminem’s number one Indian fan, said that he would “jack that shit”. I knew vaguely that it meant; he wanted to have sex with her. But I had no idea what that entailed.

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A couple of years later, I found myself attracted to a classmate – a quiet, pretty girl. We dated over the next six months in the way 14-year-olds do. We held hands during breaks, spoke over the phone after school, and were partners at every field trip. During one of the school outings (at a park horrifically called Tikuji-Ni-Wadi) we kissed. I remember that I got an enthusiastic fist bump from Eminem Boy that day, but nothing other than that. I don’t know whether I enjoyed the kiss or disliked it, or whether I was indifferent. A few days later, we broke up so we could “focus on our education”. (Yeah, we were hilarious. )

A couple of years went by without incident. But one day, in my last year of school, I realised something was amiss. The gang of gossip girls were discussing how a girl from my class had lost her virginity to a junior. Everyone knew about it, and had an opinion on it. Eminem Boy even dropped a little rap about it. But I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t comprehend how they could’ve had sex at the age of 15. I remember confessing to my closest friend that I was disgusted, but he thought it was because I “liked” the girl, which in school is code for “let’s get married”. But I didn’t like her.

I spoke to my parents about sex (they’re pretty cool), but they laughed and told me that I would understand when I was older. Now I’m 26, and I still don’t.

***

In all my teenage years, I never found myself sexually attracted to a person. Eminem Boy, whose taste had evolved over the years, would talk about how Rihanna was “super sexy”, but I found her excessive gesticulations awkward. I still do. Some of her “sexy” moves make me cringe. I tend to stare at Kim Kardashian’s booty but not in an “I’m attracted to her” way. I think Mila Kunis is gorgeous, but if she made a move on me, I’d probably call a cab and rush home. I’ve watched a few clips of pornography. They made me laugh out loud, rather uncomfortably.

The first and only time I’ve had sex was when I was 20. It was with a girl I thought the world of. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it, but I felt that after six months of being in a relationship, I owed it to her. It was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. Every move felt awkward and exaggerated, almost like I was putting on a show. I didn’t know what to do, but I winged it based on tips I picked up on TV. I faked my way through the entire experience (don’t be mistaken, men can fake an orgasm as easily as women can).

Whether this fake show worked in my favour or not is still a mystery. I remember lighting a cigarette that night once my girlfriend fell asleep, and getting bogged down by my thoughts. Why didn’t I enjoy this? Everyone else around me seemed to be enjoying sex. I wondered if I was gay, but the thought of being with another man freaked me out too. Maybe it was religious repression that had made me want to remain celibate. I was brought up as a Catholic boy, frequently went to church, and read scriptures about how sex before marriage was sin. But I didn’t really believe in the other aspects of my religion. So it couldn’t have been the guilt.

I repeated the words several times to my girlfriend in conversation, but she either laughed it off, or told me not to be an ass. After two more weeks of maneouvering her into a cuddle every time she made a move, I decided it was time to have a real conversation.

By the time I moved to NYC, I had begun to fear women and reject close relationships. I began to detest touching people, even harmless hugs bothered me.

So I told her everything. About how I never felt a sexual attraction. About how I had never ever had an orgasm. Understandably, she took this personally. She thought I was telling her she wasn’t attractive enough, and that I, using the most random of excuses, was trying to break up with her. I didn’t blame her. It sounded unbelievable to me too. Long story short… we broke up.

I read somewhere that men thought about sex every seven seconds. How was I so different? It was around that time that I heard of the term “asexual” for the first time. I read several testimonials about it (mostly from women), and found myself agreeing with pretty much every word that was written. But I still thought I could fight asexuality. I wanted to enjoy sex too. I refused to give up on something my peers found so fascinating and intrinsic. But my story was moving in the opposite direction. By the time I moved to NYC, I had begun to fear women and reject close relationships. I began to detest touching people, even harmless hugs bothered me.

Then one of my closest friends asked me to give Tinder a shot, especially since I was in “NYC baby”. So I downloaded the app, fought the urge to put “asexual” in my bio, and instead put up something about how I was in for a cuddle or two. Surprisingly, this made me very popular, and I ended up matching with a few women. I went out on a couple of dates and had really great conversations over dinner. But when the time came to leave, I would show no affection, not even offer a hug, hoping that this would somehow signify that sex is officially off the cards. I also ignored all the conversations when they hinted that maybe we should “Netflix and Chill”. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Netflix, but I wasn’t down for the “chill”.

After a few dates, I was absolutely sure about my orientation. I say orientation now because I’m sure it isn’t a choice anymore. I had tried my best to be attracted to these women, some of whom were objectively attractive (my male friends confirmed this), but nothing seemed to work for me. Soon after, my focus shifted. I started work at a kitchen, where I spent up to 14 hours of my day. I don’t think sex crossed my mind even once. By then, I had to accept that I was asexual and that no amount of persuasion would make me change my mind.

Then I met the most beautiful girl in the world. We met in the third year of culinary school. She was from a small town in South America, and I was a Bombay boy in the Big Apple. We hit it off instantly. We spent days walking on the sprawling campus, nights watching movies in my dorm room. We dated for a few weeks, before I told her about my orientation. I liked her too much to lie to her. I didn’t want to pretend and make things awkward, and I didn’t want to come across stand-offish either. But then something amazing happened. She told me she understood what I was saying, and that while she didn’t feel the same way, was happy to give it up, if it made me uncomfortable. It was a big gesture and I loved her for it.

Not wanting to have sex, and not wanting love are two very different things. And I definitely feel love. I don’t know how this relationship will work out, but I’m grateful to have met her, and maybe one day I will be comfortable enough to have sex with her. But the cuddling is good enough for now.

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