Talia recently wrote about how their lack of sexual attraction led to a problem in their relationship with an ex-partner. Even though I am not sex-favorable, this strikes at one of the issues which makes me stay away from sex.
Even without any practical experience with sex, I have gathered that people ‘get off’ on being desired by their sexual partners. Conversely, when someone senses that their partners do not desire them sexually … it is uncomfortable, and it can lead to hurt on both sides.
I took Health Ed (a large part of which is Sex Ed) during my first semester of high school. However, most students at my high school did not take Health Ed until their senior year, which meant I was a 14-year-old among a group of mostly 17 or 18-year olds, and we were studying/discussing sex together. I remember one particular conversation about orgasms. One (male) student talked about how his sexual partners always orgasmed, a (female) student said that some of those orgasms were probably fake, the male student said he believed that it was always real, and the female student replied that she fakes orgasms pretty often and that, by extension, a lot of women fake a lot of orgasms.
Why fake orgasms? Well, it is not hard to figure out, at least with a wealth of hints spread throughout the culture – people expect their sexual partners to enjoy the sex, and if they do not, they consider it a personal failing, and if they think that their partner is making them feel like a personal failure, they may lash back out at their partner. Thus, for a lot of people, it is better to fake pleasure than to risk going down that rabbit hole.
At this point, two notes should be made.
First, most people, at least in American culture, conflate sexual attraction, sexual desire, and to some extent even sexual pleasure. Thus, even though these concepts are differentiated in asexual discourse, they are not differentiated by a lot of people.
Second, gender roles have a huge impact. In American heterosexual culture, males are supposed to have the power to use sex to control women’s pleasure and pain. In other words, using sex to make another person feel pleasure can be an act of dominance. When a male has sex with a female with the intention of making her feel pleasure, and she does not feel pleasure, it can make him feel impotent (pun intended!)
Likewise, if someone clearly is not experiencing sexual attraction/desire (remember, these ideas are often conflated) to their sexual partner, well, in our culture that implies that either the sexual partner is not good enough, or at least they are lacking in power.
Emily Nagoski writes a lot about spontaneous desire vs. responsive desire (i.e. only experiencing sexual desire when already in a certain kind of sexual situation), and the stigmatization of mainly feeling responsive desire, as well as how this ties with flibanserin. I strongly suspect that the idealization of spontaneous desire and stigmatization of responsive desire is connected to these cultural ideas that people want to evoke sexual desire in others. Speaking of flibanserin, this New York Times Magazine article pointed out “And men, if they are willing to confront the truth, might not be so happy about the reminder, as their partners reach for the pill bottle, that their women need chemical assistance to want them.”
Now where do I fit into this?
With preparation – say, a good director, a well-written script, and rehearsal time – I could probably fake sexual attraction and sexual desire well enough to pass in front of, say, the audience of a play. In a real-life situation? I probably would not be able to fake it. I would not even know what to fake. Ditto faking orgasms (note: I have never had an orgasm). I probably would fool very few sexually experienced people. And then I might go down the rabbit hole of emotional drama.
Second, I would not want to fake any of that. If I am not experiencing attraction/desire/orgasm, I want to be honest about it. If that’s a problem, well, I am totally fine with living without sex.
This whole possibility of getting dragged into emotional drama because a sexual partner perceives that I am not experiencing sexual attraction/desire/pleasure and takes it personally is one of the reasons why I am not going to have sex unless there is a super-compelling reason to try it.