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Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Falling in love is a complicated, messy, mad endeavor…and staying in love is even worse. But don’t despair, psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose, author of Why Do Fools Fall in Love: A Realist’s Guide to Romance is here to help with all your love questions.
I recently came across the term “asexual” for people who are disinterested in sex or have no sexual orientation. I’m struggling with whether or not this is a valid label, or if it’s just another way to pressure people who don’t want to have meaningless sex, but who aren’t religious, into hooking up. Do you consider “asexual” a sexual orientation in its own right? And do people with no religious or moral qualms about having sex that refrain from any sexual activity between relationships (as in have no physical desire for sex before there’s an emotional connection) fall into this category?
I wondered how the term was being used when you came across it. It seems to me that there’s nothing wrong with having a word to describe people who aren’t into having sex. Asexuality is a perfectly valid sexual choice. Why should people have to like sex any more than they should like ballet or chess? I suppose any of those terms for different orientations can be used pejoratively – like calling someone a ‘fudge-packer’ or a ‘vanilla sex-loving hettie’, for example. If people have the idea that there’s a ‘correct’ way to manage sexuality – whether that’s by being in a monogamous marriage or by being a bisexual polyamorist – then that’s bound to cause trouble. Everyone has to manage their sexuality in the way they see fit. Of course sometimes that can lead to trouble; if your idea of sexual bliss is inflicting pain on a non-consenting partner then you may very well end up in prison. But anything other than that is surely fair play – including not having sex at all.
I certainly wouldn’t say that someone was asexual because there wasn’t currently anyone around they fancied. But different strands of your sexuality are bound to come to the fore at different times; you might be in a heterosexual relationship, but find yourself occasionally attracted to members of the same sex. Or you might not feel like having sex for a month or so, even though you feel very attached to your partner. Or you may have a temporary mania for being spanked. Problems seem to come when a person has a too-fixed sexual identity and can’t bear to have it thrown into question. Unfortunately, each of us is subject to our unconscious, which will take any opportunity it can to disrupt our peaceful existences. So a person may decide that they are asexual, or heterosexual, or gay, and then find that they have impulses that go against their ideas of who they are. If they can tolerate that sort of thing in themselves, then they are more likely to tolerate difference in others. It’s common knowledge that the biggest homophobes are the people struggling most to suppress their homosexual leanings – which makes me wonder what would compel someone to be prejudiced against asexuals. Maybe a good starting point would be to wonder how much they actually enjoy sex themselves…
I hope that begins to answer it!