It has been a while since I had written about sex, love and celibacy. Politics has consumed me. There is a piece mostly complete, but the Arab Winter derailed it. After this election, I will return to the standard fare. Several weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to an online news article about asexuality, which is the absence of any and all sexual desire. Asexuality is presented as an identity deserving of pride and self-expression. The whole concept of sexual identity is wrong because sexual desire does not define the human soul. A very special "Thank you" to my friend because now I can take a break from politics to blog about celibacy.
Even so, we can learn a lot about cultural beliefs regarding love and sex from asexuality. Presicely because they have no sexual desire so abstaining comes easy to them, they can show us most clearly the difference between love and sex. Comments and statements from asexuals have illuminated the confusion within our culture. One woman described the promiscuous sex that turned her away:
the majority group were a completely different type of personality to me, with their obsession on looks, fashion and attitudes, how much I disapproved of their constant girl and boyfriend swapping (or so it seemed to me) and how much in a rush they were to have this mysterious thing called sex. It was talked about all the time. Occasionally I got asked if I’d had it or people made reference to my virginity, but everyone knew it was a big joke and of course I hadn’t. I ignored them and just continued disapproving. I know now that it wasn’t sexuality that I was being critical of but rather their behaviour and mind-set regarding it and they were my reference to the world of sex at that time.
I have often mentioned how contemporary culture has confused love and sex. This same woman had a similar confusion. Because she desired love and companionship from other women, she thought she was a lesbian. However, she realized that she had zero sexual desire whatsoever.
I wasn’t daunted by my chances of finding her even though I knew my orientation was by far in the minority, I just contentedly took the philosophy that I would carry on with my life and she would turn up when it was our time. When she did, it would be special. I have always imagined a long term commitment and would only be interested if I thought it had a chance of being that. Of course I knew that I wouldn’t automatically find The One and most likely I’d have a few failed relationships, but I wanted them to be serious affairs and it was nice to dream.
I was 20 when I was first introduced to asexuality. I still hadn’t had a relationship by this point and hadn’t been interested in anyone outside of the dream, but I maintained that I was a lesbian at that time. I think I fell into the classic trap of thinking that because I wanted a relationship, because I found women beautiful to look at and because I had a libido, that I wasn’t asexual, but some sense did draw me to look at the link and I realised then what had been so different about me. This was the reason why sex had been such a big deal to them and so little to me. In a moment, I realised with some shock that any future girlfriend of mine would want and expect sex with me. It wasn’t something I had considered or ever envisioned myself doing and I’m not sure why I never thought about it until that point. It was a kick in the teeth for my ideal relationship because the world obviously didn’t work the same way I wanted it to.
And yes, she did capitalize "The One," which goes to show how much society has come to idolize other people. What she wanted was love in a world that valued the sexual above the spiritual. Unfortunately, she seems to have resigned herself to a life without love, still believing that love and sex might be the same.
But love and sex are two completely different things. One particularly anonymous asexual discovered actual love in a relationship where sex was non-existent, and this proves that love is spiritual and that love can exist without marriage, even without sex. This anonymous person wrote about Valentine's day absent of sex.
Which brings us back to February and that special holiday that falls on the fourteenth of that month every year. What do asexuals do for their Valentines? What do their Valentines mean to them? Well, Chris and I did exchange gifts, this year. We did go out to dinner. And he means more to me than anyone else with whom I have ever been involved — and that does include the lovely woman to whom I was married for six rather turbulent years. Because, for the first time in my life, I am honestly myself with the person who loves me. I am asexual, and, as such, I can interact with him completely as myself. And that is, indeed, a very special feeling. But it wasn’t an easy road to get here.
As many of the attached members of AVEN did, Chris and I met before either of us had heard of asexuality. When I added the element of asexuality to our lives, when I declared that sex was something that I simply would not want to pursue with him, I imagine it took him by surprise. I am fortunate, unbelievably lucky, in fact, that, after a brief time of complete disbelief, Chris decided I was more important to him than whatever fleeting joy he might occasionally gain by sexual activity
Of course, society believes in sexual identity - that sexual desires must be acted upon for personal fulfillment. Society does not consider the sex act itself to be a personal decision. Particularly startling for me to discover through the asexual website that some parents automatically presume their children are having promiscuous sex and that if their kids refuse to have sex, then the parents worry about a problem. However, asexuals contradict the notion of sex as defining our souls or spiritual self. The anonymous person wrote, "I am asexual, and, as such, I can interact with him completely as myself." because then, the sex hormones cannot confuse or misguide the person. Thus, the person becomes more free.
Now, I have advocated celibacy as a personal choice for many reasons. One reason is that celibacy within society can help people to distinguish between spiritual love and sexual lust. A strong narrative of celibacy tells people that they can control their physical urges and liberates them spiritually from the body. Oddly, Christians and especially conservative Christians seem to be the only people who acknowledge and accept the soul's potential power over the flesh. Perhaps because Christians believe in the eternal soul while secularists as a whole do not have a definite set of beliefs.
I grew up in a conservative religious environment, and people might think that living in that context would be easy for asexuals. After all, don’t religious conservatives, constantly telling teens to save sex for marriage, simply assume that all adolescents are asexual?
No, they don’t. Not even remotely. They assume that all adolescents are sexual, have sexual desires, and that’s why the need to resist temptation must be stressed. If they thought teens weren’t interested in sex, they wouldn’t aggressively admonish them not to have it. In the messages I received about sexuality, my asexuality put me in a peculiar position: I followed the rules easily enough but was functionally told that people like me don’t exist. Not having sex before marriage was easy; I didn’t even want to have sex within marriage.
Readers, while a certain few do not have the problem of lust, we can control ourselves and our behavior through prayer, fellowship, and perhaps some cognitive-behavioral techniques. Secular society wants to convince you that only asexuals do not have sex. Secular society wants to convince you that if you have sexual desires, that you must act upon them. Secular society is false, hating the concept of self-control and of personal responsibility.
Although the name is recent, even Jesus has presented us with responsibility for ourselves. Even Jesus told us that we can control our thoughts and our actions, which is also the basis of the cognitive-behavioral approach to psychology.
"you have head that it was said to those of old, 'you shall not commit adultery,' but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Hell." (Mathew 5:27-29)
The example that Jesus gave is extreme, but the example conveys His point rather well in that thoughts determine actions, and actions determine thoughts. Readers, we can control what we think and how we act. If a certain situation or video produces lust, then we can choose to remove ourselves from that location and we can choose not to watch the video. In other instances, we can pray and choose to think about something else. This is a little bit of self-training. Secular society wants to convince us that sexual lust is overpowering and consuming, but both Jesus and modern cognitive-behavior psychology teaches us that we can take control and responsibility for ourselves. Readers, we can yearn toward the Spirit to ignore the lusts of the flesh.