Note: rape culture is mentioned, but not described graphically or in detail
I find that, in some ways, the social pressure to have sex is much like the social pressure to drink alcohol.
I have talked a little bit about my experiments with alcohol, and the fact that I sometimes use people’s reactions to my lack of drinking to gauge how they might react to my sexual inactivity and my asexuality (people who are not aware of asexuality generally are not good at distinguishing the orientation and the behavior). I want to expand on that in this post.
Before I was 21, my alcohol consumption was
– chocolates with small quantities of vodka
– sipping a tiny amount of wine at a family event – and I did this with parental permission
And I never tried to drink more before I was of age.
People find it weird that I was essentially following the laws about underage drinking, and making no effort to break them. In many of my social circles, you are expected to say that you snuck in alcohol before you were of age, through measures such as a fake ID if necessary, and it is a major coming-of-age rite when you can finally drink legally.
This is not unlike how ‘losing one’s virginity’ is considering a defining coming-of-age rite. I expressed my thoughts on this in “Virgins Don’t Exist”.
Some of the comments I have heard about groups which commit to never drink alcohol (such as Muslims) include things like “people are not going to stay away from alcohol for their whole lives”, “they do so many drugs because they don’t drink alcohol” “it is so horrible/extreme that they never drink alcohol”. To me, this resembles the things that people say about those who commit to indefinite or permanent sexual abstinence.
Both alcohol consumption and sex are considered ‘sinful’ in our culture. We are supposed to drink, but drinking too much is stigmatized. Women are supposed to have sex (with men), but if they have too much they are ‘sluts’. Swankivy has talked about how some people want asexuality to be fake because of their insecurities about desiring sex, and I think there may be insecurities around wanting alcohol too. Even aside from cultural attitudes about ‘sinful’ behavior, alcohol makes us vulnerable. So does sex.
However, I think the pressure to drink alcohol is not nearly as strong as the pressure to have sex. This is why it is a useful gauge – people’s reactions to the (lack of) alcohol consumption will most likely be milder than their reactions to the lack of sexual attraction and activity.
And, of course, alcohol and compulsory sexuality / rape culture are even more closely linked that that, but that is a digression which is best saved for another post.
When I finally did try to drink alcohol for real, I did it in an environment when I did not feel any social pressure to drink. I did it in Taiwan, where abstaining from alcohol is not as big deal as it is in some other cultures, and I did it when nobody was suggesting I drink alcohol. I did it because I had gotten curious about what it is like to drink more than a sip. I think I would not have willingly tried it under any other circumstances. I have found that sometimes I like alcohol, and sometimes I don’t.
Compulsory sexuality is even more built into our culture than alcohol consumption. If I lived in a society where everybody felt that sex was always 100% optional, I might be more inclined to experiment with sex out of curiosity. However, with sex-positivity/compulsory sexuality/rape culture (the three are closely linked – read “Sex Positivity Is Rape Culture in Disguise“) I do not expect to be in an environment with sufficiently low social pressure.
Maybe, if I actually tried sex, I would like it. Or maybe I would hate it. Or maybe it would bore me. I don’t know. But, ironically, all of these ‘sex-positivity’ people are making me even less inclined to even try. I will only feel safe if I am confident that my wishes and my sexuality as it actually is will always be respected, and many ‘sex-positivity’ types fail to respect asexual-spectrum orientations.
Now, if abstaining from sex were no bigger a deal than abstaining from alcohol in Taiwan…