So while working at a company owned by the very corporation that funded and marketed the True Love Waits movement that popularized the purity ring madness of the 2000s, living in the “buckle of the Bible belt,” I decided my purity ring was a lie.
I wasn’t waiting for anything. Not because I’d changed my beliefs on abstinence or met a person I wanted to sleep with, but because I had no use for it. There was nothing to wait for.
It was in this time that I discovered a useful term.
As the nation exploded with discussions of the legality of same-sex marriage, I searched for something that fit my lack of anything to wait for. I was no more attracted to women than I was to men. I gave it serious consideration for the sake of logical elimination, but the word gay didn’t fit either. Bisexuality sounded somewhat relatable, but in practice, the exact opposite of my experience.
Then I read about asexuality. But what about those high school relationships? I had dated, so I couldn’t be asexual, right? I pondered demisexual; perhaps I was only into those boys because I had known them long enough to develop an emotional bond with them that grew into rare attraction? Perhaps I was just gray-asexual and only rarely experienced attraction. Maybe I got all mine over within a few years? There was also a romantic component. This one was much harder. It’s one thing to not experience sexual attraction, but it’s something else altogether to not experience romantic attraction. And to add to it, to not want romantic or sexual relationships.
As one does in one’s 20s, I explored more of my motives and personality. The more I learned about my personality type, the more I realized how other factors can play into our relationships besides pure desire. And how enjoying fictional depictions of romance in movies, books, and TV doesn’t prohibit someone from being too happy as a single person to want anything else for themselves. We can enjoy someone else’s wedding or baby without wanting our own, just as it’s possible to visit a foreign country without moving there or play with a dog without running out to buy a puppy. So isn’t it possible for me to ship my favorite characters and be the first to laugh at a Shakespearean innuendo without dating or needing a commitment to “purity”? It turns out I wasn’t alone in this. Many aromantic asexual people feel this way. We don’t experience romantic or sexual attraction ourselves, but we are happy for others who do.
So for now, aromantic asexual (aro ace) is where I fit best, though I always reserve the right to fluidity and self-discovery. There are a whole host of microlabels on the aromantic and asexuality spectrums, so not everyone under the umbrella term is as far to the extreme of no romantic or sexual attraction whatsoever like I am. In fact, many aces do experience romantic attraction. Some are in romantic relationships, and some have sex just because they like it or their partner likes it or they want biological kids. They don’t experience sexual attraction, but they can still have sex for other reasons.
So the waters are muddy when it comes to this stuff. Many people hear “asexual” and assume it means celibacy. But asexuality (like its romantic counterpart, aromanticism) is about attraction, not action.
Being celibate is a choice. Being aromantic and/or asexual is not.
I am all of the above.
It’s an orientation I can’t change any more than a straight person chooses to be straight or a gay person chooses to be gay or a bisexual person can “just pick a side already.” But I also have no desire to experience romance or sex with a partner I’m not attracted to in that way.
I am attracted to people in an aesthetic way, so I know when someone is “hot” and even have preferences as one might for their favorite painting or flavor of cake (a long-running ace joke) or landscape. I have called more aesthetically attractive cars “sexy” than people. There’s also platonic attraction, which I have certainly felt for my lovely friends. Some people you just know you’re going to hit it off from the start. Maybe you wish to become closer; you understand each other in a unique way. If this were a rom-com, it would end in a kiss or a wedding, but with platonic attraction, it is simply “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Some aromantic asexual people engage in queerplatonic partnerships: relationships that are as committed as romantic relationships but without requiring romance or sex.
But it was my experience being happy as a single adult that drove me to the aro and ace labels in the first place. I’m not jealous of weddings and babies the way other women my age might be. I have no longing or sadness for those life changes other than the loneliness of being increasingly different from the friends I know and love and the common experience of my peers.
So I present a novel concept as an aromantic asexual: a path of celibacy based entirely upon the desires of the individual choosing it. I’m comfortable with my Side A affirmation of queer relationships of all kinds. But my purpose is more to fill the void in the conversation. Once someone has landed in Side A theology, there is no current discussion of what it looks like to be single and/or celibate in that space. Where Side B enforces mandatory celibacy or sex between a married man and a woman as the only holy ways to live, Side A welcomes those acting on their attraction regardless of gender. But it is entirely possible to be affirming of same-sex relationships and yet not want to have sex (or even romance) ourselves.
I’m not a prude or a robot or a plant. It’s not caused by anything medically wrong with me. It’s not just unprocessed sexual abuse or sexual trauma in my past or anything of that nature. (Though those who do have these experiences are no less valid.) I’m very comfortable being a woman, though I might define it differently than others who emphasize motherhood and marriage. My point is, there’s nothing else that can explain it away other than accepting that this is how God made me. All of the “no, that’s not real, you’re just ____” excuses fall short when it comes to me because they don’t apply. I don’t need your “healing” prayers.
You can’t fix me. I’m not broken.
I took off the purity ring because there was nothing to wait for. But then I learned of another ring. A subtle way for asexual people to recognize each other in public, not unlike the youth group legend of the early church’s icthus fish, now that I think about it.
A simple black ring on our right middle fingers.
Let me tell you, those are not easy to find. So it does sometimes get modified and it’s hard to find the perfect fit. But for the sake of the parallel, it works.
I took off my purity ring and replaced it, years later, with an ace ring.
This is who I am.
I am not waiting for anything. And I am not straight.
I guess that makes me different, peculiar, one might even say…