My friend Minerva @ Hypomnemata wrote a beautiful post yesterday about identity, language, and her experience of being (and talking about being) sensual in the world as an asexual person. Given the conversations we’ve been having this week on the thread about sexual orientation and desire, and on the thread about marriage and sleeping arrangements, I thought Harpy readers might be interested. She writes, in part:
I all too often feel in these moments that language leaves people in the position of two ships passing in the night with running lights off. I often want to say, “If you would give me a half hour of your time, I could explain it better, and then you wouldn’t be sad.” What I want to do is show them that sensuality and sexuality can be teased apart, and that, if they are honest, both form the underpinnings of how they enjoy their lives and bodies and those of their lovers. If I could just have that time, I could then grasp onto the concept of sensuality and inject it into their notion of asexuality. I could finally combat the notion that asexuality necessarily means not desiring romantic love, shared vulnerability, mutually unfolding mystery, and yes, physical pleasure. However, I very rarely have the half hour that I need, nor do I have an audience willing to chart those waters. Thus, my needs find themselves defined via the label “sensual,” but only internally.
I’d like to take these last two paragraphs to stake out some territory for my own internal label. I’m letting this little buddy out into the light of day. As I usually say right around this point, this is ONLY my interpretation, and not that of the entire asexual community. Caveat, caveat, caveat. Let’s move on. I am an asexual woman (just in case you hadn’t noticed by now). I am also a sensual woman. These two identifications are not contradictory for me. My experience of asexuality does not include detachment from my body. Asexuality for me does not inherently mean fear or distaste of things physical. In the same way, it does not mean a distancing of myself from the physicality of other people, especially those towards whom I am affectually attracted. My asexuality also does not mean that I cannot love, am unwilling to love, or am afraid of loving. Asexuality is not aversion.
The post as a whole is trying to do several complex things, so I can’t really do it justice here by excerpting a couple of paragraphs. Do click through to Hypomnemata to read the whole thing.