Sometimes I think about my experiences in the context of what other aces have been through and have to wonder why I turned out the way I did.
Though the pressures were there, it seems like other environmental factors, modern Christianity being one, formed a kind of buffer against them — not enough to make things a cakewalk, but enough to change the course of things away from how they could have gone. I don’t want to cast it in too flattering a light, but at the same time, this post has to acknowledge its influence, for me at least, on why I don’t hate myself as much as I might have.
The Church and its materials sent the message that as long as you’re not married, abstinence is a good thing. So I wasn’t questioning my lack of sexual interest in people’s bodies because I didn’t think I should be trying to have sex anyway. It’s not that I didn’t feel the force of sexual expectations, but that my religion provided me with other avenues for rebuffing the idea that I should be trying to get in someone’s pants. And since I had these other reasons, it didn’t occur to me that anything was missing. When you don’t know what sexual attraction is or what it’s supposed to feel like, it can be hard to notice it’s not there.
There were other things, too. My middle school was small and I had only a handful of classmates, so it didn’t seem significant that I wasn’t attracted to them. My high school had a lot more kids, but I didn’t know anybody, and struggling to find friends was more of a priority than finding a personfriend. I didn’t have the social capacity to direct attention to my sexuality even if I’d wanted to.
I never asked anybody out or dated anybody, so it never came up then either. Occasionally, the fact that I’d never had a romantic relationship would seem troubling — most people my age had been in at least one, and so that felt weird — but religion shaped my perspective on that too. I’d already made up my mind that, for me, the only purpose of dating would be finding someone to marry, and you don’t want to get married as a teenager.
The absence of a personfriend probably made the pressure to be sexual a lot lighter than it would’ve been, and if sex isn’t a sanctioned objective anyway (and if a crush isn’t pulling you in that direction either), then there’s no reason to start dating before you think you’d have a reasonable shot at finding someone you’d want to marry, which meant I didn’t put effort into seeking a personfriend at the time, and so it all became one big feedback loop perpetuating itself.
I’d probably have encountered more peer pressure and junk if I’d actually interacted enough with my peers for it to happen more (it did happen, just not as much as it could have). I’d attribute some of that to my religion too — not like I was ostracized for being Christian or anything, but the effect is that I didn’t stick around the kind of people who would’ve treated sex as an imperative.
Anyway, the point is that religion shaped my mentality and my social environment to where I didn’t feel bad about not being sexually attracted to anyone, and I have to appreciate that. It provided reasons, external to myself, to believe the societal pressure to have sex was invalid. In a way, the abstinence creed has protected me, but at the cost that I’m afraid more liberal people will use it as rhetorical leverage for invalidation. I’ve written about that before, and it probably makes more sense in the context of other stuff.
This post isn’t meant to be a whole-hearted endorsement of the Church’s current approach to (hetero)sexuality. The emphasis on sexual purity can be toxic in its own right — as exemplified when a bunch of nasty Christian guys referred to my friend as “damaged goods” because of her previous dating experience — which makes no sense in the context of Christian theology because we’re all damaged goods and that’s not even how anything works — and so with that junk in mind, there are some criticisms of it that I’ll stand with. It’s just that when I think about what could have happened, what can happen, I’m wary of the pushback that swings too far in the other direction, without regard for people like us.
This post isn’t meant to be a criticism of the sex-positivity or anything, and I’d rather leave that discussion to people who know more about it than I do. I just know that if there were more liberal voices in my life making clueless generalizations on sexuality, I’d have been beating myself up over it a lot more.