Fluctuating Repulsion, Indifference, and Appeal

The current, established, consensus-approved terminology in the ace community for a given individual’s personal disposition toward sex includes sex-repulsed, sex-averse, and sex-indifferent.

For myself, I am partial to all of them and none of them, despite not meeting the criteria for “normal” sexuality’s attitude of enthusiasm either.  In fact, if I had to summarize, that’s the one thing I know for sure: I cannot dig within myself to find some persistent underlying shade of the cultural norm.  The unconditional* sentiment of “sex can be great” doesn’t live here.

*ruling out conditions like “as long as it’s with a person I desire”, “as long as it doesn’t conflict with other plans”, “as long as I’m not too tired”, “as long as it fits my ethical parameters”, etc. — the “unconditional” here refers to more of a “the appeal of my involvement in partnered sex, as an abstract idea, hangs around pretty much constantly, more or less, even if I may not always be up for it at the time”.

So if I say that the appeal of sex isn’t constant for me, that doesn’t just mean that I wouldn’t consent to it in most cases, or that I have other priorities, or whatever else applies to most allo people too.  The variance under discussion is not same as just “not feeling it” some of the time.  I have a very visceral understanding of sex-repulsion even toward people I’m attracted to, and that frequently stays with me.  Uplifting and listening to the voices of repulsed, averse, and celibate people is not just politically important to me but personally relevant as well because I so regularly feel like I’m in the same boat.

However, I don’t identify as repulsed, averse, or even indifferent because there are also common enough periods where none of those apply, and feelings surface which I Do Not Know What To Do With.  It’s an aberration, but it’s an aberration frequent enough to be granted acknowledgement, from my point of view.

The point is, my experiences are consistently inconsistent.

So, despite how silly it sounds, if I’m going to refer to myself as anything, I might as well call myself sex-sinewave.  No one is expected to understand this at first glance, of course, so I’ll link to this post if I ever use the term later.  I just like having more labels for my own introspective convenience.

Notes:

  • If you want to use the term “sex-sinewave” or a similar variation for yourself, or if it’s in any way personally useful to you, go for it, but please link this post when you do.  I just don’t want this to become reduced to simply “has the capacity to like sex” or as some kind of synonym to “sex-enjoying/favorable” in some conventional/normative sense, because experiencing frequent periods of repulsion and indifference (or rather, experiencing impermanent divergences from the default state of repulsion/indifference) is an important part of the definition, and eclipsing that would defeat the point.
  • Do not apply this to other people who have not applied it to themselves.  Do not apply it to hypothetical groups in the abstract.  It is not a mass term, an umbrella term, a “leftovers” term, a term for whoever else doesn’t fit the other terms you’re using, etc.  I choose to use this label for myself to highlight a certain pattern of experiences, but someone else with the same/similar experiences might not (and probably won’t!) want the same label for themselves.  Please respect that, while these experiences not unique to me, this word is my own idiosyncratic thing that cannot be generalized to others.
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13 responses to “Fluctuating Repulsion, Indifference, and Appeal

  • Klaraa

    Hey Spade. I love that you have created a word for your experience, but could you give its definition again? Like, is the focus on the fluctuating/inconsistency?
    I, too, can’t fit How-I-Feel-About-Sex neatly into the repulsed-averse-indifferent-favorable spectrum, and while I don’t desperately need a word for that, I would use one if it already existed. But I am consistently indifferent to some sexual practices (and romantic gestures), while being afraid of/completely unwilling to participate in some others, and actively liking still others. So I should probably not call myself sinewave…

    • Spade

      Sex-sinewave: a label for the dimensions of being repulsed by sex, being indifferent to sex, and liking sex all being experienced like a sine wave, i. e. feelings that gradually fluctuate with time and then cycle back around again.

  • Klaraa

    Sine wave! You are so lovely.
    I didn’t recognise the word, because that wave is called differently in my language, and I naively assumed this was just a random merging of letters and syllables from averse and indifferent and maybe something else…

  • madcap86

    Interesting post.

    I recently had a discussion with my sister that fell along these lines. I told her I was sex-repulsed (the closest I’ve come to coming out to my family as ace) and she said something about how everyone is until they try it. Meaning, yes, sex /sounds/ disgusting as a concept, but then you fall in love and get married and experience it and it’s the best thing ever.

    Any advice on dealing with those sorts of arguments? I never quite know how to put my feelings into words–I’ve never been in a relationship. But there have been times, with a couple of guys, where after a few dates I wanted them to kiss me, or to move towards something physical. But kissing grossed me out, making out was boring and squicky, and I realized that anything other than hand-holding or cuddling just wasn’t my thing. But then I’ll get hit with the argument that I was trying to move too quickly–that my sister and her now-husband didn’t kiss until they’d been dating for several months, and that sort of thing.

    My thing with sex is that I cannot imagine letting another person get into my space in that intimate of a way. Maybe a super close bond would help–I don’t know, and that’s why I’m not ruling out that it could happen, some day. But like you, I’ve never felt that overwhelming sense of “sex can be great”–at best there have been those rare moments when I thought it could be, but as I approached that possibly, realized that the fantasy was better than the reality.

    Any thoughts?

    • Spade

      “I told her I was sex-repulsed (the closest I’ve come to coming out to my family as ace) and she said something about how everyone is until they try it.”

      Uh, pretty sure that’s not true. A friend of mine once told me a story that referenced the fact that she’d written “I love sex!” in her diary at a time when she was a virgin, so at the very least, that can’t be true of 100% of people.

      “Any advice on dealing with those sorts of arguments?”

      Honestly, she sounds pretty brainwashed and irrational saying something like that, so I can’t guarantee any advice to work, but in general my strategy when I’m dealing with people like that is to just make sure I have a really good idea of what I’m talking about. In your case, familiarizing yourself with other people’s experiences (especially non-repulsed and non-indifferent people’s experiences) could help provide you with counterexamples.

      “But then I’ll get hit with the argument that I was trying to move too quickly–that my sister and her now-husband didn’t kiss until they’d been dating for several months, and that sort of thing.”

      Ah. So now it’s moved from the “you have to try it in order to like it” argument to the old “your feelings will change some day”. Figures.

      “But like you, I’ve never felt that overwhelming sense of ‘sex can be great'”

      Actually, I’d say I have felt something like that, it just doesn’t stick with me as a permanent facet of my sexuality. You’re still like most asexuals in that regard, though.

      Anyway, that argument of hers puts you in a tough spot, since you can’t predict the future, but it’s also something where you can shrug and say “we’ll see” without having to act — unless she’s pressuring you to “try again” or something, in which case, that’s a more serious level of not okay.

      Since you’re unlikely to convince her that you’re not going to change, one thing you might do is focus on the present — this is how you feel now, this is how you’re happiest now, this is how things are for now. And if anything changes, maybe you can promise her she’ll be the first to get the memo or something, whatever will shut her up, but that doesn’t change the facts of the present.

      • madcap86

        Generally that’s been my go-to action–basically doing nothing, and letting my family assume that I’ll find someone “some day.” In a way, I feel like a bad ace, or a bad member of the LGBT+ community at large, by not saying something. I feel like I should come out, just to promote acceptance and exposure and all of that. Except that…I know my family. They are fundamentalist Christian Southerners, and they will not understand. They would still love me, but if I said I was gay or bi they’d be afraid I was going to hell, and if I try to explain asexual to them, they’ll likely refer to Paul’s statement of not everyone being meant to be married, or I’ll get one of the same arguments I cited above.

        I guess my biggest problem right now is the guilt of it. I feel like I’m hiding, because I /can/ hide. It’s easy to post things about being ace to my tumblr blog–it’s a lot harder to come out to my family simply for the sake of coming out to them.

        • Spade

          Hey, there’s nothing shameful about not disclosing information that could put you at risk. It’s not your personal obligation to be the asexual representative; it’s their obligation to make you feel accepted and safe — and if they’re not accomplishing that when it comes to this, then that’s on them. It’s completely understandable that you might not want to deal with their reactions (I have similar reasoning for why I haven’t come out to my grandparents). Coming out, if anyone does it, should be something people do for themselves, not for anyone else.

  • aja

    oh wow, this post actually really helped me work some stuff out re: my own personal relationship with sex. i read your post on different kinds of attraction almost a year ago and it completely blew me away, because it had never occurred to me that i might be anywhere near the asexual spectrum until you described the differences between sensual/aesthetic attraction and sexual attraction (i should probably comment on that post in thanks, but oh well), and it was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me. i’m really glad i dug that post back up in my archive, because it meant i found this one. so, yes, thank you, very much. this blog has been essential for my own personal exploration.

  • RM

    I relate to this a lot. I definitely hover near repulsion more often than anything else, but I never felt comfortable identifying as sex-repulsed no matter how strongly negative my reactions toward sexual situations were, and how much the experiences of sex-repulsed aces resonated with me. It didn’t feel honest, since I did have these sporadic periods where those feelings of repulsion disappeared, leaving me confused, indifferent or even occasionally able to actively, enthusiastically enjoy sex.

    I especially relate to this part: “Uplifting and listening to the voices of repulsed, averse, and celibate people is not just politically important to me but personally relevant as well because I so regularly feel like I’m in the same boat. However, I don’t identify as repulsed, averse, or even indifferent because there are also common enough periods where none of those apply, and feelings surface which I Do Not Know What To Do With.”

    I’m not likely to identify as sex-sinewave, it personally still feels right to me to just not place a label on my feelings toward sex, but I really appreciate this post. Thank you for writing it.

  • epochryphal

    I was reading back through some posts and, I realized, this one might benefit from a note about another new and related word/conceptualization: arcflux, where arc is an acronym from Averse, Repulsed, Conflicted. The arcresources tumblr has some good conversations about all this stuff (and it resonates for me as well; the hell are static feelings, anyway?).

    • Coyote

      Yes, I stumbled across those (both the term and the blog) a little while after writing this post. Thanks for bringing it up! I’m thinking about starting to use that in the future.

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