Asexuality and Me

For as long as I can remember I have felt different to others in many ways and that includes my sexuality. As a child of ten I was asked in the playground ‘are you a lesbian‘ to which I was uncertain what the meant and on asking my mum that night I was told ‘never mention that word in this house ever again’. It was only as I became a teenager I discovered its meaning and why her religious beliefs had led to the comment she had made, which all these years later have never changed.

In my teens amongst the many things the girls of my year chose to bully me over was my music choice as one they could not understand as I love all sorts of music and not just what was in the charts. I remember the day one asked me ‘which member of Take That do you fancy‘, like it was some great important thing to know, to which I answered ‘none of them‘. This was true I didn’t fancy any of them nor did I fancy any other male celebrity such as Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. They also asked if I was a virgin, which I was but the idea of sex was never something that I thought of and furthermore any signs of male genitalia had me running from biology classrooms to the thought of anything (even a tampon) made me frightened from memories my head did not want to remember. This led to me questioning my sexuality every time the subject was brought up.

By the time I reached university in Aberdeen and saw magazines aimed at teenagers with ‘position of the fortnight‘ in them I still had zero interest in it, if anything it made me want to retreat even more at what might be expected of me. I only ever had a fleeting interest in one guy as we spent so much time studying together and even then never thought of kissing him or more. By the time the year 2000 came round and just before my twenty second birthday arrived I finally kissed someone but he wanted more and tried to rape me twice and then stalked me for three months. The only other experience of note was a blind date a few months later, which when my friend text me just before it with ‘don’t kill me after you’ve met him‘ didn’t exactly fill me with confidence! The date itself was awful as he took me to a pub that he was uncertain even if had a woman’s toilet and had zero mutual interests to talk about!

Five years on and I was about to embark on my PhD in England when I invited a friend to visit for the day and he turned the visit into the start of a long distance relationship. On hindsight there were many warning signs: his visits being restricted to monthly (ironic given his initials were PMS), contact was on his terms through MSN (he destroyed his mobile phone sim card so I wouldn’t text him) to sexual things as forced me to have sex with him and perform oral sex, which I still had zero interest in but wanted to make him happy. This led to other issues of a physical kind in terms of pain due to vulvodynia and discovery of spasms from vaginismus as well as blacking out at times too. He was zero support when trying to explain this to a gynaecologist and when we finally split up nine months later I probably had only ever seen him five times. It was a welcome relief as spent every hour he visited in fear at what he wanted and even at night time I could not sleep for the two days he visited for. Although I was in therapy for other issues with my mental health he certainly added to the issues I had there too. The only other person to show any interest in me over the time I lived in England was a guy I knew online and lets just say I could spot his lies a mile off to the negative energy he gave off told me to run for the hills!

Since then I have returned to live where I grew up in Edinburgh, but it was only when going to Aberdeen to see a friend in concert and stay with a second friend that I had my first kiss with a woman, the friend I was staying with. She identified as bisexual and someone (her or a barman) spiked my drink so my memories of the time are hazy and cannot say that kiss was any better or worse than my previous experiences with men. It no more confirmed for me that I am straight, gay or bi as cannot tell from looking at someone if I find them attractive or not as genuinely is their personality that if I am ever to have any level of attraction it will be from. It was only after this experience I learnt of asexuality and realising that is probably what I identify as – a Grey-A.

Over the nine years since that kiss I have grown to accept, appreciate and love me for who I am. I am now 40 years old and beginning to wonder what the whole relationship thing is really about. I have zero interest in apps or online dating and would rather be introduced to someone through a friend. The kiss in Aberdeen showed me that I cannot classify the gender of a person I would be interested in. My experiences in England have shown me the kind of personality I do not want in a partner and those I do want if I did have one. I still have zero sexual attraction or interest in sex with the idea of looking for to having a partner scares the bejeezus out of me and beginning to wonder as I have often felt that it is something just not meant for me…and perhaps just need to accept that.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Hollywood Love

Movies, who does not want to see the latest blockbuster at the cinema or curl up on the sofa with a loved one to watch one? Well I don’t and I have not been to the cinema in over six years. I do not subscribe to Amazon Instant, Netflix or I love Film as there is nothing that grabs my imagination or interest to say “oh I must make sure to see that” after hearing publicity or friends talk about movies they’ve seen. Certainly when it comes to Hollywood movies it feels like I have seen it all before with the amount of remakes, sequels, prequels and even the new ones have old themes that have been done before, often better, to the point of saturation. So where is the originality and/or creativity?

Is it because the big studios do not want to take risks, rather have a guaranteed income with star names people will go see? Take the current movie about the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, I have nothing against Meryl Streep, but why does she have to play yet another iconic Britain (having previously played former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) when there are many British actresses who could have played the role. The same thing echoed when Renne Zellweger first played Bridget Jones, when I thought of many comedic actresses in the United Kingdom that fitted the roll better. Have a Hollywood name and then can sell the movie not just within the United Kingdom but to America and beyond seems to be the order of the day, as providing the money to pay for the movie to be made and stakeholders want to have a large return on the costs.

However, this post is not about the creativity and/or actors of Hollywood, it is about the way movies portray love. In Ancient Greece romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it, instead love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other. Where as today when someone says to us they love us BUT just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. So when did this switch begin and what role has Hollywood played in this?

The idea of unconditional love is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god. Today we would almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. Yet what has influenced this and caused such a shift?

From almost the moment a child is born we read to them fairy tales of a princess and prince meeting after he’s rescued her from horrible existence and they live happily ever after. I should note if you have ever read the original Brothers Grimm versions you will know how sanitised these versions are of the tales, you will never read or see Sleeping Beauty the same way again. Little girls dream of being princesses, sometimes beyond, conditioned to believe one day their prince charming will come to free them the life that traps them. Despite the fact few of us look like the so-called princesses and even fewer are a real life one.

Many Hollywood movies made in the 1980s and 1990s were aimed at the growing teenage market, particularly the so called Brat Pack, depicting how life was in an often exaggerated form to be that age. Girl meets boy, they secretly fancy each other but cannot be together until something happens. However, even when they get together there is a sting that he’s done something she won’t like so they split up until he finds a way to prove to her he loves her unconditionally. Like the fairy tales it is implied that they both lived together happily ever after. Conditioning us further to believe that this is how love is meant to be for teenagers.

The so-called romantic comedies play up the fairy tale notion of love conquering all to be with the one we’re meant to be with against the odds. They are like the teenage movie but aimed at all ages, in particular women. As a woman I am suppose to enjoy these kinda of movies as appeal to my feminine side, where as in reality most movies I enjoy are driven by a good plot and idea(s), particularly those set in the dystopian worlds as feel more realistic than the unrealistic utopian ones the romcoms portray. To me they are saccharine sweet and far from funny but add to a perpetuation of how a female and male are. They also almost exclusively heterosexual.

Another way love is shown in movies is how they show the so-called TRUE LOVE, which is filled with passion, romance, drama, desire, sacrifice, electricity, devotion! This is to typify the unconditional or fairy tale love. They long for the person that completes them or is their soul mate. We are led to believe that this love is everlasting as after all they did live happily ever after at the end of the story/movie, right? When a relationship ends we some times find people say that it was never true love they felt for him or her, which is often false, as what you felt for that person was love, it is the feelings that have changed with time. So yes (s)he really loved us and was true love, but it does not mean it lasts a lifetime for everyone.

Many movies now also have sex scenes, which show us its so called importance within a relationship. Wait stop, why is sex seen as so important these days unless due to us watching movies, TV programs, music videos and the media that have made it such an issue? For some sex is the ultimate expression of love, but in reality it is far from that, a person’s thoughts and actions is what matters not how often they have sex with us. For some it has such an important part of a relationship, a partner that does not want it is seen as weird or frigid, or force them to have it even though they have said no. The partner then looks for it elsewhere, thus affairs behind the back of this person we’re meant to love unconditionally. Many now think nothing of having alcohol and having sex with a complete stranger, which may or may not become a partner/lover in the future.

Some like myself are asexual, we have no sexual desire, but that does not mean we do not enjoy the other aspects of being in a relationship. Even within asexuality there are many differences, it is not an one size fits all definition. Equally for me sex is a trigger, I cannot watch scenes with it on as my head says please stop and I do not want to see that, so I avoid it where I can. Sex is not a dirty thing to me so do not get me wrong, it is more I feel it is something to do with someone we trust and comfortable in the company of, not a throw away line at the end of a night out with friends and the next morning it is like yesterdays newspapers best for wrapping fish and chips.

From observing the relationships of friends and family with those they love it can be seen how it is very much an umbrella term to cover many different ways we can feel about another human being. My closest friends I love unconditionally and will do anything for until my dying day as they have such a special place within me that when I think of them individually and/or collectively that I feel blessed to have them in my life. My sister in law said when she first saw my brother she knew that was the man she wanted to marry, compared with a friend that kept meeting a girl at the school gates, a fellow single mother, neither of which would have called themselves gay or lesbians then but fell in love with the person.

I often feel like the odd one out as see people in relationships and at almost 37 never experienced what it is to be in love. I never had a childhood sweetheart or did the drunken rumble as a student, as not something I looked for or did it call at my door. The one relationship I have had was nine years ago, long distance for nine months, that should have been nipped in the bud; it was a false start from the start as they did not respect me as a person nor would support me back as I was to their needs and wants.

I have had attraction once in my life, but have never told him how I feel, as like the Ancient Greeks friendship to me is just as special as romantic love if not more so. As for Hollywood love vs. real life love, I feel we need to stop being sheep or robots believing that is the way for us all, life is not an one size fits all t-shirt but human sized. Therefore, love is full of different quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies that are unique to the love we have for the other person and they bring out within us as play out the movie of our lives.

© Fi S. J. Brown

50 Shades of grey – An opinion

All this talk of “50 Shades of grey” has got me thinking; is it glorified porn, a harmless movie with sex for women, an exploitation of women with an abusive partner, and is it worth giving it the oxygen of publicity?

In 2011 when the book was released I was still in the throws of self hate, low self esteem and the idea of a book of any sort on sex would never be one I’d buy. However, reminded it me of the Twilight saga that inspired it and Dan Brown’s work before it, that is to say despite being a poor excuse for literature, masses were lapping it up as wanting to read it for themselves, and perhaps in many ways so they were able to fit in with what people were talking about around the water coolers and offices of the world but few wanted to be like the boy in the Emperor’s new clothes and point out how bad or what the book’s greater message was.

The book’s plot filled me with shivers as someone that has been almost raped and was stalked for three months I know that it is not fun, and if he had done these things I certainly would have thought of it far from the topic of a fun movie to see with female friends or something of enjoyment. One of the things I look for in a relationship is space and freedom, I become overwhelmed by intense situations and I certainly would not want one with Christian Grey. What happens behind closed doors, even with our closest friends, we really do not know for certain how many are abused (female AND male) to how many abuse others (not just their partners). A relationship for me is a partnership that is equal, not 50:50, but 100:100, not give and take as and when another wants it.

The main theme of sex in the book and now movie hits upon something far deeper and darker. The sexualisation of society is something I have seen increase in my lifetime, and this seems to be yet another example of this. The videos from my childhood by Duran Duran or Robert Palmer pale by the ones that anyone can watch at any time via the internet, which some dismiss as “only entertainment” but actually what is entertainment really? Therefore, a book like 50 shades does not surprise me and the movie being made did not either. The scriptwriter and director are women, their gender for me is important and not, for this is a Hollywood movie so would expect it to be done by women for the outcry if been made by men would be far more from certain areas.

I read only last week that they want to have sex education for five year olds, on the pretense of understanding issues such as abuse young. As someone who found that whole thing uncomfortable as the idea of anything going in my girl parts freaked me out then and still does due to unresolved childhood issues. Who are these kids going to go to if feel they’re experiencing these things especially when it is something that is regarded as normal in their family’s social circle? We’re led to believe if follow the media that abuse stories that come out and few between. Yet those that were in children’s homes tell a far darker story, I cried my eyes out at an Irish man telling his story on a live show of what happened to him, with a politician just sat there stoney face, where was that man’s humanity and compassion? It is no wonder that people are scared to speak out and up.

So will I ever read or watch “50 shades of grey”? No way, the book would have made better toilet paper! I’m all for others reading and watching what they like, but sometimes we need to take a step back and be the like the little boy and say no I am not okay with that, which should always be enough. If you really want to see a movie with S&M go watch James Spader’s movie “Secretary”. We should not feel pressured to do or be something we are not, I know this from my own experience. So do not feel you HAVE to see or read 50 shades, having our own opinion is valuable it is important to remember it and respect another’s, even if different to our own.

© Fi S. J. Brown