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OPINIONS

Asexual and kinky – what?

“Does that make sense?” I ask, and my friend nods at me. I’ve just finished answering the classic question, “What the hell is kink?” but the person I’m talking to seems to have something else on their mind.

“What’s up?”

He hesitates a good five seconds. “Is the…sex any better?”

So many people I talk to talk or ask about kinky sex as a single idea that I’ve almost stopped responding to it. It’s not that the idea of kink and sex being married is wrong – many people can attest to that experience, and some people can’t even have sex without kink – but for me, I’ve always listened to those experiences and discussions in a state of confusion. Kink has never been even remotely linked to sex for me, and for a long time I thought that was something I should be feeling guilty about. I identify as asexual. Was I even allowed to be kinky?

Asexuality isn’t very well understood, neither as a sexual identity nor as a queer identity. Asexual people are commonly perceived as just “being abstinent” or just “not having good sex,” but just like everything else worth writing about, asexuality is infinitely more complicated. Some asexual people describe sex as analogous to someone sticking a finger in their nose repeatedly (somewhat bizarre, kinkiness aside); some asexual people describe sex as being pleasurable but not a fun pleasure; some asexual people are some of the most sensual, physical people I know but feel completely ambivalent towards the idea of sex.

That last group describes me pretty well. I like the feel of bodies together, faces close together, hands tracing patterns on each other’s backs. Most people would call that “foreplay”; I just call it a good time. I absolutely love intimacy – but if you take off your pants and look at me expectantly, I’ll just be confused. What, you want me to put a party hat on it?

Asexuality for me doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions. It doesn’t mean I can’t fall in love or that I can’t like the way it feels falling asleep together under the sheets. But while all that’s well and good, asexuality and kink seem to be incompatible – or at least seemed incompatible at first. For me to understand what I was feeling, I had to try to understand the taboo topics of sex, pleasure, orgasm and kink.

Sex, especially on a college campus, is linked almost unbreakably to the idea of orgasm. Talk about blowjobs to any of your friends – if they open up, most likely you’ll hear about how long it took for a specific person to orgasm, how good it felt, if orgasm happened at all (in which case an element of shame often gets involved). Sex today here at Stanford is primarily about orgasm, especially as an indicator of competence among the communities of people who have sex.

But plenty of people I know attach next to no significance to orgasm. Granted, an orgasm is pleasurable, but there are so many other ways to experience the same amount of pleasure that orgasm loses its sacred status. Instead of orgasm being the goal, pleasure itself becomes the goal. With kink, I have slowly realized that I describe my experiences as good or bad depending on how good I was able to feel and how good my partner was able to feel. Interestingly enough, that description does not necessarily include sex.

Thinking of kink and sex as separate things was incredibly validating. It was one of those 4 a.m. revelations that makes you sit bolt upright in bed and stare at the wall as you try to comprehend things. If the goal changes from orgasm to pleasure, kink is made legitimate without attacking those who enjoy sex. By moving away from such a fixation on sex (evidenced by words like sexy, sexuality or erotic) towards pleasure itself, we can expand our ideas of what “acceptable” means and at the same time introduce new words into our vocabulary.

Kink is not sex – and that’s never more obvious than when I talk about bondage or roleplay or pain. Physical pleasure and enjoyment without arousal or sex is such a foreign concept that we as a society label it as deviance or pathologize it as some sort of disorder. What this shows, though, is simply that we need better ways to talk about pleasure than the word “sex.” Lights-off-missionary-style is definitely not the only way people today can be intimate! The existence of kinky asexual people doesn’t mean that we are outliers or deviants – rather, if we exist, then common assumptions and preconceptions of sex, pleasure and kink could use some looking over.

That’s why I always respond to the “you’re asexual and kinky?” question with an “am I not allowed to be?”

So what if I don’t like sex? I bet I can have just as much fun with a blindfold, some clothespins and a sadist. Or seven.

 

Contact Lily Zheng at lilyz8@stanford.edu.

  • randyalbin

    what is this doing in this kind of publication? come on, you can do better than this. is this meant to be stimulating, or what? clean this up quickly and report on something else

  • Jonathan Poto

    Nice piece. There’s a great episode of the web mini-series High Maintenance that features an asexual male. I’d check it out http://vimeo.com/59859181

  • agreeingwithrandyalbin

    Totally agree! This kind of piece does not belong to publications like The Daily. I hope that The Daily’s leadership realizes this soon.

  • Eileen

    This is an op-ed, which isn’t reporting but a space to publish student’s opinions. Newspapers were never just for news stuff, they’re a mix of a bunch of published content that includes ads, listings, and whatnot. I never knew kinky sex wasn’t the only thing kink meant before, so I think it’s actually stimulating.

    But yeah, her writing style is kinda sloppy and way too informal for something getting printed. Sounds like it belongs in an online rant…

  • Helen Kahn

    Where else but on a college campus should talk of Sex, Politics and Religion be talked about, discussed, exposed. When will we get Sex off the Taboo list and into education, information, and understanding the continuum of what it is… like Gender. Shame on Religious (mostly) people who want to continue Fear and Ignorance.

  • yo mr white

    When did the Stanford Daily turn into 4chan?

  • Guest

    my girlfriend said she was asexual AFTER seeing my penis