My advice to a young person who has a question about kink and asexuality as a survivor of rape. We don’t talk about any details of rape or sexual assault but it is mentioned.
Hi, when I was still pretty young I was raped (13yo). Over the last year or so I’ve been wondering if I’m asexual because I’ve never looked at anyone and thought “I’d like to have sex with them…” It’s also something that worries me if maybe I’ve just sorta been frightened away from having sex because of what happened. But I still have fantasies and I guess kinks…? Can you have kinks if you’re asexual? The fantasy of doing certain things turn me on but the whole idea of actually doing anything sexual IRL just seems so repulsive and disgusting. I’ve heard so many times in movies and books that sex is ingrained in you and almost every teenager is obsessed with it. I barely give it a thought. I feel like I have to fake a large interest in sex because that’s what’s normal… (For context I’m 17yo now)
Thanks for your really excellent and brave question and for trusting me to give you an answer.
There are a few bits to your question but my overall advice to you is that you are okay where you are. It’s okay to be asexual, even if you think this may stem from the rape. You are allowed to have kinks and fantasies, even when you’re asexual. It’s okay to have unanswered questions and uncertainties after surviving a rape. I’ll be able to give you some advice and point you in the right direction of other useful resources. You can do some more reading and learn some more about yourself, but whatever you learn the most important thing is to remember that you are doing okay (even if it feels like you’re not).
I’m also going to recommend, if you haven’t already, that you consider seeing a therapist. You’re figuring out your sexuality and although sex educators can give you some useful pointers (hi) I think a therapist will be able to help you with your own personal story. You should be able to find free or low cost therapy near where you live, just google ‘rape crisis’ or ‘support after rape’. If you were in the UK I would refer you to Rape Crisis, or you could access some free therapy via your GP or local sexual health service or young people’s clinic.
It’s okay to have a look around for a therapist who might work for you. You won’t always like the first therapist you work with so it’s okay to try a few people out to test the vibe.
A therapist friend of mine suggests that you ‘Seek out someone who has experience working with survivors of sexual assault. Also check they are GSRD (gender, sex and relationship diversity)-aware. This should ensure they are familiar with and supportive of asexual folk, and understanding and not stigmatising of BDSM.’
Scroll down for some more links and resources about this at the end of the article
So yeah you’re totally right about what we are taught about sex. We are taught that we all want to have it, or that it’s essential in our relationships, and that our wellbeing is dependent on it. All of that is total and utter bullshit. As we know from research and the asexual community, a lot of people don’t experience sexual attraction, or sexual feelings, or sexual desires for other people. We also know that a lot of people experience the opposite of this known as ‘sexual’ or ‘allosexual’. Think of it as a scale:
It’s okay to be wherever you want to be on this scale. It’s also okay to not move on this scale, to move a little, or to move a lot.
I say it’s okay but of course, you will know, that it actually isn’t okay really. What society tells us is that there’s a small zone on this scale where it’s okay to be and there’s a zone where it isn’t. Like with Goldilocks and her effing porridge, there’s too little sexuality, too much sexuality, and just the right amount of sexuality. I hate it and along with many others I want it to change.
Sadly it’s not just the media that has says that sex is natural, and ingrained in you. Wider culture tells us this all the time and this is something we believe in so much that we tell each other these stories too. The truth is that many people don’t have sex, or do have some sex but it’s not that important in their relationship. It’s also true that many people struggle with sex generally.
Is it okay to have kinks and still be asexual
Even when people have a very basic understanding of asexuality they might go around telling asexual folk what does and doesn’t count as asexual. If you have a look on the brilliant Asexuality Visability Network (AVEN) forum, which has asexual folk talking to and supporting each other, you will see it’s not like that. Everyone on their has their own experience of being asexual, how they got to that place, and what it means for them. There isn’t one way to be or do asexuality, there are many ways and for many reasons.
So you will probably find people there who are similar to you. People who find the idea of in person sex really off-putting yet will also have fantasies and kinks. The thing I really like about that forum is that it seems to be a place where people can be who they want to be without so many rules. Everyone is the same in that everyone is different. The fancy word for this is heterogeneity if you want to throw it around.
Just to be clear, you can be asexual and have kinks. Some folk on the asexuality spectrum have sexual thoughts and desires, they just don’t want to do them with others. Sometimes ace folk do choose to do stuff with others (depending on the circumstances) even if it’s not totally doing it for them. In fact, for many people whether they are asexual or not, kinks aren’t a sex thing. Many kinks don’t involve orgasms, or genitals or other ‘sexual’ parts of the body (though I think all body parts are potentially sexual and also not sexual). I’ll chat more about kink in a bit.
Is your asexuality related to your rape
My simple and not very helpful answer to this is: might be, might not be, does it really matter? No-one is out here wondering whether traumatic events might have caused someone’s (allo)sexuality. Though there are definitely people who think that trauma has caused people to be very allosexual.
You’ve probably spotted a pattern here which is that the ‘normal’ sexuality always gets a free pass. Anything that doesn’t fit the ‘perfect temperature porridge’ idea of sexuality always gets the ‘oh that must be because of ________’ response or ‘I wonder what happened in your childhood.’ These basic people asking these basic questions reinforce the idea of what normal is. Remember, normal is literally just a made up story that society tells us we should believe in.
You may have been asexual had you been raped or not – you might never know for sure. The important thing is to try to think about where you are right now rather than thinking about where you should be. If you’ve ever watched a Star Wars film (it’s too late for me but save yourself) imagine Yoda telling you to sit with your feelings rather than getting distracted by what everyone else is telling you.
It’s hard to do that because there are a lot of stories about how survivors of rape ‘should’ respond and live their lives. I don’t want to repeat them all here but I think it might be useful for you to speak to other people who have been in your situation. Sadly there are a lot of them. For some people there might be a fear of doing anything sexual after a sexual assault, but other people might feel the opposite and want to take ownership of their sexuality. You being asexual could be both a fear of doing anything sexual and also a way of taking ownership of your sexuality.
But the important, and difficult, thing for you to get help to work this out for yourself. I think therapy might be useful but also support groups may also be great for you.
Rape and fantasies and kink
Having fantasies and kinks is extremely common and according to some research more common than not. Just because you have a fantasy about doing something does not mean that you will want to do it.
It could be a rich and detailed story you play in your mind, or it could be occasional glimpses of scenes. You could fantasise when watching or reading something and that could be sexual or not. A lot of people fantasise about films or TV shows they like: for example people fantasise a lot about James Bond and what they might want to do to him, or what they want him to do to them.
Fantasies can have a lot of meaning for some people. They can offer an exciting escape from their lives – offering a way to be a more exciting, bolder, alluring, or confident version of themself. They can also do the opposite and allow people to explore what it feels like to be vulnerable and helpless. For some they are a way to safely experience something thrilling and breathtaking – just like going on a theme park ride, or how I feel when I buy a new brand of socks. Others find that they are a way to go into an incredibly safe and nurturing zone where they feel hugged by Chewbacca (sorry I’ve just watched them all again, they’re really bad).
And yes, our fantasies can and do have a relationship to things that have actually happened to us in real life. They don’t have to be, but they can be. If you were interested in thinking more about your fantasies you could do that, I think maybe with the help of a therapist or someone you really trust and can talk to about this stuff. Fantasies can feel like quite a scary place to be and as a survivor or rape there’s a chance that you could get flashbacks that feel more like a nightmare than a fantasy. If you felt like you wanted to work on this I’ve got a resource for adults that I wrote with my colleague Meg-John Barker. ‘Understanding Ourselves Through Erotic Fantasies’.
All I’m saying here is that it’s okay to have fantasies and it’s okay for them to be kink fantasies. Your fantasies might relate to your experience of rape but also most people have fantasies of some kind. So just like with asexuality, we don’t know whether it is caused by trauma and that might not be the important question.
You doing you
What I send from your email is that you aren’t beating yourself up but you are just curious about what is going on for you. If that’s true then yay! As you know, it’s really hard for us to do us when there are so many stories about what is normal and what we should be doing. As I’ve talked about, these should stories exist for asexual rape surivors who have kinky fantasies. Everyone has their own should story too, so let that be of comfort to you. Even people who have not had the kinds of traumatic experiences you’ve had will struggle with their own sexuality ‘should story’ at some point. In fact, I think that’s probably the only thing that is normal here.
So keep being curious about yourself but also keep being really gentle and kind towards yourself. If you hear a ‘should story’ then gently say ‘oh hello should story, sod off.’ Keep on trying to be the expert of your own experience and a gentle and kind teller of your own story.
Hope that helps. Justin
Here’s a great video about seeking out therapy for survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
And here’s a great comic book by Nina Burrowes (from the video above) called The Courage to Be Me
My mate Meg-John wrote this article about Complex PTSD, some of which you might find useful.
This pdf booklet by The Havens about how to cope with a sexual assault is excellent
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© Justin Hancock, 2020.
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