Monday, August 31, 2009

The Hot Ones

Earlier this month, Pretzelboy wrote a really intriguing blog post called "The only criticism of asexuality that actually bothers me". This "criticism from below" (ie, from people with a prior knowledge of asexuality) states that it's very difficult to know for sure that you're at the lowest levels of sexual desire when we have so little idea what the median is like. He writes:

Most of us have absolutely no idea what other people are actually like sexually. We have no idea what 50 is like and no idea what 10-20 is like. Rather, we are bombarded with images and messages about sexuality in movies, on TV, in magazines, and on the radio that give us wildely over-inflated ideas of what "sexually normal" is. People get ideas about "normal sexuality" from their peers. But not just from any peers--they get these ideas from their peers who talk the most about sex. And it's probably the people most interested in sex who talk the most about sex.

I can definitely relate to this. People tell me "love isn't like the movies", but how am I supposed to know what romantic love towards other people is like besides the information I get in movies? The curious people on the low end of the sex or romance spectrums have little to no way of discerning what real-life experiences of those things might be like. I long to ask people-- what attracted you to your partner? Why is that relationship so important to you? How do you think romantic love is different from other kinds of love? Why do you stay with someone who is so obviously wrong for you?, etc. However, these questions, if actually asked, would range from bizarre to rude to possibly TMI. And these are the tame questions. I don't think I want to know the minute details of my friends' sex lives. And most people aren't comfortable sharing those things, especially with an asexual who might not be able to relate to what they're saying. However, this leads me with nowhere to get the information about what the average experience of sexuality is. So of course all I know about sex is from a few highly sexual friends and the media. Maybe asexuals should start a research project to get this information from people, where they can answer anonymously. It would definitely be a needed service.

In the post I referenced earlier, Pretzel gives an example from his own life about not being able to know what other people are thinking about sexuality. He writes:

I was long confused about not understanding what it's like to think someone is "hot." I didn't even have much of a sense for "pretty" until I was in my 20's, so I was really confused about conversations about the matter, and I was even more confused about how there was no recognition that people like me even exist [...] Since identifying as asexual, I've found that a number of other people (who aren't asexual) don't get hotness either, and they often expericne a good bit of confusion over the matter. Had I known about this when I was younger, I might not have felt nearly as much of the sense of wierdness that led me to identify as asexual.

It's funny because I think I do know what "hot" is...just more asexual diversity, I guess, although I wonder how many asexuals fall into either camp. I thought it might be a nice piece of edutainment for me to try to define different levels of attractiveness in people. I'll give it a shot:

Beautiful/Handsome: If you were scouting for a modeling agency, these would be the people you'd pick up. They might inspire a head-turn because they're just that aesthetically pleasing. You may or may not be attracted to them.

Cute: You sort of can't decide whether to be attracted to them, or to go "aww" and pinch their cheek. They probably have above-average looks, a boyish/girlish charm and an appealing personality.

Sexy: This person is exciting, cool, and maybe a little unconventional (see the discussion of "sexy-ugly" in the movie Kissing Jessica Stein). I think people who ride mopeds are kind of sexy. While these people have a certain mystique, you don't necessarily want to have sex with them.

Asexy: I'm not sure if we will ever pass someone on the street and be knocked out by their asexiness. To me, "asexy" signifies an intellectual attraction or the hotness that comes from being asexual (which you wouldn't know just by looking at someone).

Hot: "Hot" is where everything comes together, at least in my mind. You find the person aesthetically pleasing. They're cute, they're sexy, and if you had to actually be stuck in a secret elevator with any of these people, this is who you would choose.

I remember writing in my journal years ago that if I ever met another asexual person, I would probably find them unbearably attractive. In a word, hot. Obviously, now I've met other asexuals, and I haven't ripped the clothes off any of them. However, if I needed any evidence that asexuality is actually an orientation, it could be this: That we might be most attracted to other asexuals. Sure, plenty of us are in relationships with people who aren't asexual, but isn't it true that most of us would rather be single than date someone who's totally incompatible sexually? Maybe "hot" is elusive for me because it's something that I'm most likely to apply to the rare fellow asexual. I remember a friend whispering to me about a guy I thought was pretty hot: "No one knows this, but he's still a virgin!" Coincidence? I don't know. Come to think of it, I've never been attracted to anyone whose sexuality was completely known to me. If Alan Rickman was a raging nymphomaniac, would we still like him so darn much? We all have our ideas of what we find more attractive than anything else; to me, it's the idea that someone "understands me". And who more, perhaps, than fellow aces? Not to freak you out or anything.


Diane J Standiford said...

Facinating post. Makes me stop and think. (Now I musy go away and think some more.) VERY refreshing to read this point of view of sexuality.

heidi said...

Ily, that's some treacherous water you're treading. Being irresistibly attracted to someone who respects you in spite of yourself... yep. I had always tried to make it clear in the friendship stages of a relationship that I'd never be having sex... with anyone. The few guys that I dated all seemed confused after a few months, thinking that the "no-sex" policy was for being single and that sex would suddenly be on the menu once in a relationship. Then there would be breaking up because they didn't get it (in more ways than one!) So, yeah, eventually I managed to find a fellow who was ultimately convinced I'd never have sex and we became the best of friends and is still one of the most attractive people I know. Coincidence? Hm. I should note that eventually there was some less-than-asexual behavior with him, but I instigated it. So your theory holds.

Lanafactrix said...

Well, speaking from the sexual side of the fence, the definitions you list seem reasonably good to me, but with one caveat--sexual attraction is completely, utterly, and totally subjective. There are often characteristics that are individually a turn-on (nice eyes, muscles, whatever), but those can be present on someone who leaves you cold.

So I'm sure part of your confusion is actually something common to everyone--the popular media idea that sex is for young, thin, "pretty" people just isn't true, but it's sure presented as the ultimate truth.

Ily said...

Lanafactrix, that is very true. For example, no matter how physically attractive someone is, I will be repelled by that person if I don't like their personality. Do I think that everyone is going to find mopeds sexy? Absolutely not :-)

Before I realized I was asexual, I thought that the reason I never had a boyfriend was because I had certain physical flaws that meant no one could be attracted to me. But when I actually looked around, I found women with THE SAME "flaws" beating men away with sticks--something that would probably make me uncomfortable if it were to actually happen. The important thing is getting to the "I actually looked around" part, but many people don't.

Diane- Thank you! I'm very happy when I'm able to facilitate some stopping and thinking :-D

Heidi, I'm not quite sure what's so treacherous about my waters, but I'm glad that my theory is playing out for someone else who's actually dated people. I didn't really make it clear that even though I've been attracted to a few people in the past, this is something that hardly ever happens to me.

heidi said...

Ily, I figured I'd never be in a relationship for longer than 3 months - I've now been married for 5 months ;-) He's irresistibly brainy and otherwise not the type to date (or be dated), so it's a great fit. Of course, my mom was just happy that he's male (she was convinced I was a lesbian).

Lanafactrix said...

Oh I hear you there. I thought for a long time I was completely unattractive. Turns out I was just kind of dumb.

Tomatl said...

I'm fascinated too, and dying to ask those TMI questions. I did get some insight and clarification by asking my sexual friends a few questions such as:
Never have sex again or never watch your favourite TV show?

Never have sex again or never eat your favourite food?

Never have sex again or never get to wash the dishes again?

While the time spent mulling the proposition over differed from person to person- some people looking at me as though I was the stupidest person on earth, others asking for clarification (do you mean never eat any chocolate again, or just dark chocolate?) the bottom line was sex trumped most pleasures and no one was ready to give up sex for the bubbly delight of sparkly clean asexy dishes. And I let out a sigh or relief- asexual indeed!

Claude said...

The only person I find aesthetically attractive is Matthew Lewis, but I'm not sure on that one since it also could be because he's lefthanded, creates stories/worlds in his mind (I think :S) and plays Neville Longbottom. xD