Asexuality and Atheism

Disclaimer – this is probably going to be a sort of rambling personal post but it’s one that I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a long time, so here goes…

Ok, so let me set the scene. I’m about 14 years old. It’s Sunday morning and I’m standing in our local evangelical Church, which I attend more out of peer pressure than genuine religious belief, surrounded by fellow teenagers. This is, after all, the youth section of the church – trendily nicknamed A2J (Addicted2Jesus!). During some worship song or other I look around me and see my peers all have their eyes closed and their hands in the air, apparently completely immersed in an intense religious experience. I feel nothing. Later, I was ask my best friend  (devout Christian and waver of hands in air) what it feels like to have that connection with the holy spirit. She replies that she doesn’t know, she’s never felt it. I begin to wonder if there was an element of the Emperor’s New Clothes about the whole thing. The whole church community feels so cultish and immovable, however, that there seems to be no point in expressing doubt, it is much easier just to close my eyes, raise my hands in the air and pretend. This is not a particularly unusual experience, I’m sure, but it does resonate with my experience of adolescent sexuality.

I am asexual[1], but until I was 17 the only context I had ever heard that word in was plant reproduction in GCSE biology. The effect of this was to make me believe I was straight throughout my teen years (I’d had a couple of crushes on boys which helped me to feel like I didn’t diverge from heterosexual norms). I always just sort of assumed everyone was making up, or at least, exaggerating sexual attraction. Without wanting to meme unnecessarily, whenever people talked about finding other people sexually attractive I was like “….okay …..that sounds fake but okay”.  When my friends in sixth form would sit around and talk about hot people and “the things [they] would do to Chris Hemsworth” (and, disturbingly, in one case, “the things [she] would do to George Osborne”)[2], I would sit quietly and hope that no-one noticed my lack of participation on the discussion.

Although I don’t experience aggressive prejudice or discrimination as an asexual person in the same way that a gay/bi/pan/trans* people often do (no one’s yelling at me for walking down the street not holding hands with a sexual partner) not being a part of these so-called universal experiences can feel very isolating in a similar way that not feeling like a genuine participant in a dominant religious community can. Being told that ‘sex is what makes us human’ or that ‘faith in Jesus is the only way to live a spiritually sound life’ both had the same effect on me before I became more secure in my identity – they made me feel like an outsider.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this but I guess what I’m trying to say is that an experience which seems plain as day to you might be completely incomprehensible to somebody else and vice versa. Despite the widely held belief that sexual attraction is the one of the most base human desires, something that we all have in common, it is completely possible to lead a rich and fulfilling life in which not one twinge of sexual desire is felt.[3] Similarly, it is possible to lead a rich and fulfilling life without even contemplating religion. So, you know, that.

 

[1] I don’t experience sexual attraction

[2] This still makes me shudder

[3] This is not the same as celibacy, which is based on conscious suppression of sexual attraction

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3 thoughts on “Asexuality and Atheism

  1. Oh man, the emotional performance thing in churchy settings… That’s alienating to me too. Even as someone who Does Christianity, that was never my style, and it’s weird how it’s universally expected as part of the bundle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Growing up in the Catholic church but never fully believing and feeling like the only person who didn’t “know” God was real and stuff… I relate very hard to this. That experience of being an atheist but not really knowing that was an option at the time is much like my experience of asexuality was prior to my twenties. Thanks for writing this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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