Withdrawal From the Orgy: Rise of the Asexual and the Demisexual

no-sex-celibacy

American society has become so sexualized, young people are seeking refuge in labels that make them feel OK to pull out of the orgy. Withdrawal by a new name, they call themselves asexual and demisexual.  Think of the asexual or “ace” as the atheist of the religion of sex. These rebels are pushing back on the oppression they feel from the lusty, the lascivious, and the lewd.

It’s mind boggling to think that kids today have to find labels to defend themselves against the onslaught of a promiscuous culture, when fifty years ago their attitudes were not only normal but moral.

To consider this, at least anecdotally, let’s examine life here in “Pleasantville,” a quaint New England town. My child’s school held a meeting for parents about teenage risk-taking and shared some handouts.  Here’s an excerpt from the Mayo Clinic.

Responding to behavior

If your child becomes sexually active — whether you think he or she is ready or not — it may be more important than ever to keep the conversation going. State your feelings and calmly explain your objections. You might say, “I’m disappointed in your decision to have sex. I don’t think it’s appropriate or healthy for you to have sex right now. But the decision is yours. I expect you to take the associated responsibilities seriously.”  

Stress the importance of contraception and keeping a sexual relationship exclusive — not only as a matter of trust and respect but also to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Also set and enforce reasonable boundaries, such as curfews and rules about visits from friends of the opposite sex.

Your child’s doctor can help, too. A routine checkup can give your child the opportunity to address sexual activity and other behaviors in a supportive, confidential atmosphere.   (“Sex education: Talking to your teen about sex, Mayo Clinic)

The Mayo Clinic’s guidance on teen sex is disturbing, but consistent with my experience and observations about our culture: that the decision to have sex is ultimately the child’s decision, the teen knows better than the parent, and clearly society does as well.  So, sit back, “calmly state your objections,” and talk about contraception. Better yet, leave the room, so the doctor can counsel your child directly on her sexual activity. Imagine instead that your child made the decision to drop out of high school or buy a shotgun.  I doubt they would calmly want us to tell our children “the decision is yours.”

The last few years, since my children turned twelve, the pediatrician had asked me to leave the room during the medical exam.  Last fall a doctor directed me to leave the room so she could talk privately with my 15 year old daughter.  She explained, “It’s the law.” I told her that there is no such law.  They might have office policies and guidance based on a view of best medical practices, but my daughter was not an emancipated minor and as her parent and guardian paying for services, I chose to remain in the room.

She was flustered.

Senior doctors asked me to leave the room in exams before this, and one said that I was the only parent who did not leave.  During a routine physical, the doctor gave my daughter  a sheet with vaccine information on HPV, or genital warts, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Pediatricians today are recommending a three dose vaccine for children ages 11 to 12 years of age to inoculate against this STD, so they will develop an immunity by the time they are sexually active.

What surprised me about this experience was that I was the only parent who chose to stay with my teen.  I ask peers about this and find an attitude similar to that in the Mayo letter, they trust their child to be honest and they respect her privacy. Kids will be kids after all.  What can we do?  A woman said her teen called to ask about contraception because he and his girlfriend planned to “do it.” Responsible mother that she is, she ran off to meet him at home, condoms in hand.

Sex Ed or health classes provide helpful information, but there’s no doubt our culture is permissive and promiscuous. At school, kids don’t date anymore, they hook up.  And then there are “friends with benefits,” a sexual relationship without emotional involvement. How’s that for convenience in the age of free sex?

Our school and doctor’s office reflect society’s propensity for early sexual gratification and indeed, there is no escaping it. I’ve had a lot to think about since my daughter’s physical exam last fall.  Here’s where it came together for me, but get ready, because it’s not what you expect.

My technology subscription. That’s right.

sex-emoji

My copy of Wired Magazine arrived, its cover a neon yellow with two small icons, pointed finger next to the OK sign, a circle of the thumb and forefinger.  Techie alert!  This issue features Sex in the Digital Age, with small, very small, print at the bottom, “Mature content, reader discretion advised.”  There’s titillating tech coverage on virtual reality sex, revolutionary toys, and the sex trade online, not to mention lots of pictures and stories from the field.

So amid the “pornocopia” of pages, I found this article timely and enlightening, “Let’s NOT do it.” The feature discusses an emerging sexual identity: the demisexual or asexual.

Meet the Attractive, Smart, Self-Aware Young People Who Just Aren’t That Interested in Sex
[ excerpt, second Paragraph] It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex. They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual. ( for more link to Wired article)

The asexual has little or no interest in sex.  The demisexual says, “desire arises rarely and only from a deep emotional connection.” Claudia says, “Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity — I might be gray or asexual or demisexual. Us aces [asexuals] are like: whatevs.”

It’s a trend, defining ourselves by our sexual appetites, and the field is growing more crowded and diverse than ever.  Genevieve turns out, SURPRISE, to be married, but read the article to understand her situation in detail ( link to Wired article). You may not need to if you are a keen observer of life and history.

Sadly, young people today feel they need labels.  Rich, poor, black, white, nymphomaniac, asexual, demisexual. This new “taxonomy [was] created almost wholly online . . . While the rest of the world was using the web to invent and gratify new pervy thrills, these people used it as a wormhole out of a relentlessly sexual culture.”

And this may be a key reason why those who don’t follow the crowd and subscribe to “popular” sexual mores, are happy to be labeled, to find others like themselves. Genevieve says, “When I realized I could just be myself, and there was actually a word for it and there were others like me and it was OK, it was a huge weight lifted off of me.”

Love is one of the three pleasures of life.  (To love, to eat, to sleep)

Sexual love is the consummate physical experience, but one of an infinite and complicated realm to express love. Since the 1960s, society has embraced free love and free sex. Yet I would suggest that we are more than a collection of urges and responses to such urges.  Today in many corners of our society and the world, sex remains the ultimate expression of a sacred and lasting mature (adult) love.  The demisexual definition fits well here:  sexual desire and urges arise only from deep emotional connection.

Why does contemporary society find that strange?

Asexuals surely exist, but the demisexuals and the others in this article appear to be recoiling from a world imposing a sexual convention on them they are uncomfortable with. (Site link to Asexual Visibility and Education Network, AVEN, with over 80,000 registered users)

There’s nothing wrong with these aces or demis or panromantics. The schools, the doctors, and society reinforce a “relentlessly sexual culture” and our youth, like those in the article, are trying to cope and feel the need to seek comfort in labels.

About mylinhshattan

I’m a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. I hold a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.