In less than a month I move to the West End of Glasgow to start university. No doubt I will gradually lose contact with my school friends over the course of the year as I meet new people and have new experiences. This huge change in my life will give me stress and anxiety. For me, however, these emotions won’t be directly caused by the usual suspects, like money trouble, poor cooking skills or homesickness.
Instead, it is sex which worries me most about starting university.
From the chat I heard in my sixth year common room at school, what many people are looking forward to most about going to university is the copious amounts of sex they seem to think they will have. Ever since the UCAS applications were sent off, the common room has been alive with banter about who’s going to have the most sex during freshers’, who’s only going to have one partner, who’s going to get flung out of the club for being too pushy and who’s going to fail to get laid.
I definitely fit that last category, as I’m asexual. Asexuality is a sexual orientation which involves zero sexual attraction. I do not want to have sex with anyone of any gender and I do not feel sexual attraction at all. For the majority of you, this notion will seem very alien. Unsurprisingly, asexual people are a minority: the latest statistics estimates that asexuals account for just 1% of the population of the entire world. As a comparison, 0.3% of Americans are transsexual and in 2015 there were an estimated 9 million gay Americans.
As you can imagine, all the talk of having sex during freshers’ week made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I don’t want to have sex and I doubt that will ever change. I’m sure that other people feel stress regarding sex during freshers’ week, but for sexual people I imagine these worries are more along the lines of “I’m scared to lose my virginity”, “What if I’m bad at it?” and “Oh God I need to remember to take the pill”. For myself and other asexuals beginning university, our minds are occupied with thoughts of “Should I come out?” and “Will the LGBT+ society be able to offer me support?”. These thoughts will also hammer away at the brains of other LGBT+ people beginning university this year. Our country has come a long way with LGBT+ acceptance, awareness and education, but sadly asexual people are usually forgotten about. I myself only discovered the term and its definition online after a long night of frantic googling.
I’m not trying to paint a sorry picture of the asexual community, or ask for pity. However, I’m not going to lie either. Living in a world which you don’t understand is difficult. For example, I have never grasped the meaning of the adjective “hot”, and perfume adverts will never cease to confuse me. I just want to know what the perfume smells like and how expensive it is! I have zero interest in that “hot” guy and the pretty blonde who is caressing him.
To navigate a society which seems to speak a different language takes strength. To refuse to take the free condoms at freshers’ week will require confidence. To attend my first LGBT+ society meeting will depend upon me having an insane amount of bravery. I, like my fellow asexuals, will find that inner strength, because we refuse to be brushed under the rug and forgotten about. We demand to have a voice and we ask to be heard. We do not want sympathy or disgust, we just request patient ears and open hearts.
At least, that’s what I’d like to think is true.
The sad reality is that being asexual is incredibly difficult to accept. I’m not trying to undermine any other sexual orientations, but it’s the simple truth that everyone else on the planet, a vast 99%, have something in common. It’s very isolating to be excluded from that experience, especially when it’s so ingrained in daily life, from media to clothing. A recent trawl through Aven – a website which asexuals use to connect and communicate – showed that the number one emotion displayed by asexuals when they discovered their orientation was loneliness, followed closely by fear.
I can testify personally to that. A rough relationship in sixth year and a rocky ending to it preceded my discovery of my asexuality. In summary, I took my asexual identity badly and I thought I’d be forever alone, both romantically and from platonic relationships. Honestly, I’m only just beginning to challenge those thoughts, but I know I’ll get there one day.
So, when your new friend refuses the free condoms, don’t grill them about it. Instead, please offer an open heart.