Most of what I know about asexuality has come from reading blogs on WordPress, Blogspot, and to a lesser extent, Tumblr. Most of what I’ve read about touch reinforced the messages I had learned in school: that touching is good, that we all need it, and that we all want it, though online ace blogging imprinted this message on me less than my schooling.
I have been more shielded from compulsory sexuality than many other aces. I’ve never felt broken because I was asexual, and not having sex and not wanting sex has always seemed natural to me. In particular, I never felt obligated to have sex.
I now realize that I have, on some level, felt obligated to engage in touch.
Several of the contributors to this month’s carnival of aces about nonsexual touch have discussed how kissing/cuddling/hugging/etc. are often framed as a substitute for sex in close ace relationships. It’s something we might do instead of The Sex. On a deeper level, emphasizing how much aces like affectionate touch in their close relationships is … well, I’m going to quote Ace in Lace “Likewise the touch-averse aces do not have the enjoyment of platonic touching to humanize them, and may be alienated by such humanizing-attempts.” Many people associate being sexual with being human, therefore asexual = less human, so some aces subconsciously redefine ‘being human’ and being touchy-feely, and then presents aces as being touchy-feely to ‘rehumanize’ us (some day, I am going to have to write about the problems with ‘humanizing’ and using ‘being human’ as the gold standard of whether an entity is worthy of dignity and respect, but that will have to wait).
In a way, it is the assimilationist impulse vs. the liberationist impulse – “Aces are just like everyone else” vs. “Aces are not just like everyone else”.
I am not touchy-feely; on the other hand, I am not touch-averse either. If I got into a close relationship, and my partner wanted to touch me a lot AND had respect for my boundaries AND communicated well with me, I don’t think it would be hard to find a mutually-satisfying arrangement. What I’m averse to is people touching me without permission or insisting that I must touch because touching is good for me.
During the many months I have been pondering about touch (I have been doing it for at least a year) and now as I am writing these posts, I am unlearning the ‘need’ to touch which I hadn’t before realized was learned in the first place.
I end with this: we should not replace compulsory sexuality with compulsory touchfulness. I am happy for the people who love physically touching other people and who get the touch their desire. But affectionate touch should never be presented as a ‘replacement’ for sex, and it should not be used to justify the legitimacy of our relationships, or to demonstrate that we are ‘human’.
The next post will wrap up this series.