The other day, a friend of mine shared a sex ed video with me, pleased with its recognition of numerous orientations (even demisexuality, which is unusual for… well, anything, really), and to oblige her, I took the time to watch it. No more than a few seconds in, as a way of introducing the subject at hand, the guy announced, “Sex is awesome! You’re going to have it, if you haven’t already–” and I paused the video there because he had already alienated me.
I will not be bashful about being annoyed when this happens. I hate — and will be vocal about hating — when you can tell that something meant for “everyone” isn’t meant for you. I hate when something is designed to so blatantly not consider the potential for you to be part of its audience. I hate when well-meaning sex education is presented with the assumption that I’m not there or that I don’t count, or that people who are undecided about ever having sex wouldn’t be exposed to education on the topic [“Yeah, but aces aren’t expected to watch sex ed videos,” you say, in which case, you can read my post on Asexuality & Sex Ed for why your attitude is harmful].
Doesn’t matter that he went on to give a mention to ace spectrum orientations or that he later affirmed the importance of consent and being “ready”. There’s still that unwavering confidence in the idea that everyone will have consensual sex someday.
“You’re going to have it,” he said, with such certainty that, for me, it comes off with an implicit “whether you like it or not.”
I don’t know how to explain or justify how threatening that feels.
Hey, maybe I will have it, that’s cool, but maybe I won’t, and if I do, I want it to be because I want to, not because it’s some social obligation to adhere to the unwavering expectations of an imperative someday. Thinking about this video, I was reminded of a time I was talking to one of my mother’s friends at some sort of party, maybe a couple years ago (around age eighteen). She was at least a little drunk, and I remember almost as soon as I’d said “Hi” to her, she leaned in and blurted, “So, have you had sex yet?”
I didn’t get a chance to respond because she threw her head back laughing and then rushed to add, giggling to herself, “Don’t tell your mother I said that! She’ll be so mad!”
I don’t know what I’d have said if she’d actually waited for an answer, because I was in shock. I didn’t even know why I was in shock, either, because it’s not like it’s news to me that there’s this expectation that people my age will be having sex. I just remember feeling this immediate, visceral, gut-level reaction of “No.” Not just “no, I have not had sex” but just “No”, and I remember it came with a nervous buzz of adrenaline.
I knew there was no immediate danger or anything. She was just asking a question.
When I thought about it afterward, I rationalized to myself that I was just annoyed at the teens-have-sex expectation (which is still true, I’m still annoyed about that) and that the reason I felt that strong, physical feeling of “No” is because I don’t want sex, “yet”. I’m doing the whole abstinence-until-marriage thing, and I remember thinking to myself, as I was exploring my reaction a few minutes later, that any sex that happened with me right now, by default, would be rape, because there is none that I would have consented to. Even though the woman asking could hardly be expected to know that at the time, that seemed like the best explanation of the source of the feeling.
But I was still going to have sex eventually, right? I didn’t hate sex. I wasn’t anti-sex. I still intended to have it, someday. It’s not like I intended to never ever, because then I would be a real prude, one of the silly ones who must be stuck-up or unreasonable or think they’re “above” sex or something, and if I was one of those, then I’d lose every shred of ethics-related credibility I had, right? — but I didn’t think all that through at the time. Through most of my reflections, I just remember fixating on that one word, at the end of her question:
Because it will happen. Sooner or later.
Even though I’m not sure what my exact feelings are among the constellation of sex-indifferent and sex-averse possibilities, this mindset gives me chills. And while I am open to maybe investigating with a spouse one day, I recoil whenever people speak as if that “someday” will happen, with no “if”s “and”s or “but”s in sight. I’m repelled by the absolute certainty of it, as though it’s… as though it’s unavoidable.
Whenever I’m reminded, it feels like I’m looking up to see a grand piano hanging over my head and being told that the rope it hangs from is slowly fraying. And no amount of telling me how nice sex is for the people who want it is going to make me relax about the demands for an eventual “someday”.