Getting an A in sexuality

Sex is the most uninteresting activity in the world.

For me, sex is an annoyance. A mix of awkward moaning, gross bodily fluids and a lot of time I could be spending doing something more productive. In short, I’d just rather not.

Erin Petrow and Andrew Wolfe in their Toronto home. (Shannon / Baldwin)

Erin Petrow and Andrew Wolfe in their Toronto home. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

Asexuality was not something I even knew about in high school. For me the word “asexual” began and ended in the murky green biology classroom as we labelled diagrams of amoebas and their reproductive habits. I considered myself a regular heterosexual female — although I much preferred the solitude of a dusty old library to parties and penetration.

Because of this, high school was strange for me. I went to a large school; my graduating class alone had nearly 400 people and they were all hooking up everywhere — even in the dingy public stairwell that led to the school’s boiler room. All of this random sex was baffling to me and I wanted absolutely no part of it.

I had a grand total of two boyfriends throughout high school. A rather measly number when compared to some of the girls I knew. I remember being very uncomfortable during my first “relationship” once the initial excitement of finally having a boyfriend wore off. I was a freshman in high school, eager to catch up with the girls I knew who had been dating since Grade 7. Although my first boyfriend and I had a lot in common and were both as punk as 14-year-olds can be, which needless to say was not very — he wanted to have sex and I didn’t.

That’s where the tension began. We broke up a few months later. He ended up sexually frustrated and I got back to my books — the things I was actually interested in. Although, I did feel guilty for not being the type of girl who gives it away so freely. This guilt has followed me ever since. Usually stemming from being called “a tease”: the term boys used to make me feel like I was obligated to spread my legs for them.

Erin Petrow reading in her Toronto home. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

Erin Petrow reading in her Toronto home. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

I’ve always been ruled more by logic than impulsivity, and I figured 14 was too young to lose my virginity. I was still growing up and learning more about who I really was. Also, I was very keen on avoiding the awkward conversations and tension with my semi-strict parents.

Because of this lack of insight into my own sexuality, I set strict rules for myself when it came to guys. I had crushes but nothing more. I decided I wouldn’t have sex unless I had strong feelings for the person — hoping it would make me more interested.

In my senior year I partied more, making out with people when I got drunk enough. But I never went any further. I was called a liar when I told a group of classmates that I had never masturbated. And ironically, I earned the title of “slut” from a guy I refused to hook up with in the basement of a house party. This didn’t really bother me much because assholes will be assholes. Instead, I decided to keep my head down, graduate and finally celebrate my freedom from the institution that made me feel like an outsider just because I didn’t want to have drunk sex on top of a deep freeze in the basement of a house party.

Once I started at the University of Saskatchewan, my group of friends transformed into a pseudo Sex and the City clique, sipping London Fogs in a crowded dimly lit coffee shop while talking about our best lay. While “meh” was about the most enthusiasm I could muster on the topic, they were sharing stories about seemingly mind-blowing sexual experiences. It was like being at the world’s largest buffet without a sense of taste.

It became harder for me to pretend that I was having the same experiences, since mine were fairly limited. I felt segregated from the rest of our over-sexualized society. Compulsory sexuality was everywhere, in every movie I saw and every advertisement I read. The overload of sex made me uncomfortable and angry.

Erin Petrow and her cat Peebles. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

Erin Petrow and her cat Peebles. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

I was labelled a prude.

Although I was already feeling like somewhat of an outcast, my worst moment was after a psychology of human sexuality class. Not being one to usually ask questions, I meekly raised my hand to ask the professor if it was possible for someone to not have an interest in sex.

To this day I can remember his response word for word: “Sexuality exists in everyone. If someone doesn’t feel sexual attraction it is because they don’t yet understand their proper orientation.”

My jaw dropped. Surely I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way. But after hearing an expert in human sexuality tell me that something about my sexuality was broken, I was too scared to look any further. I was sitting in sexual purgatory, hoping someday my sexuality would wake up and take hold so I could finally experience my own sexual revolution.

Today, I live in Toronto and my entire outlook on sex has changed. I am also now living with Andrew, the carefree guy who had moved to Toronto to be with me. We have been together nearly four years now and he is still just as carefree, almost aggravatingly so. He is also one of the most understanding people I have ever met.

Andrew was the reason I began feeling more comfortable about myself and my sexuality, or lack thereof. It didn’t seem to matter to him that sex wasn’t high on my priority list. He was happy just spending time together.

But even with Andrew’s reassurances that nothing was wrong, I was sick of waiting to feel normal and not knowing who I really was.

Erin Petrow and Andrew Wolfe play fighting with their cats. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

Erin Petrow and Andrew Wolfe play fighting with their cats. (Shannon Baldwin / Ryersonian Staff)

I felt this way for seven years until I finally stumbled upon the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) website after a particularly rough patch. I was feeling guilty for not being more eager to satisfy Andrew’s needs and soon the paranoia kicked in. I was sure he would leave me because I wasn’t putting out on a regular basis — and when I did, my lack of interest was evident.

But Andrew was a constant reminder that there is more to a relationship than sex.

Today, I happily consider myself a heteroromantic asexual. Meaning, I have no desire for sex but I do enjoy the romantic aspects of being with someone. My perfect romantic night would involve a long back massage followed by a bath, some French toast and a movie. But on a regular basis I couldn’t be happier coming home after a long day and just talking with Andrew for hours or watching a movie together with the cats and cuddling.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have sex.

But our sex isn’t like most other couples’. Forget about split-second decisions, back scratching and heavy petting while I get pounded on the windowsill. My sex life is usually scheduled and more enjoyable if it doesn’t last long. There definitely won’t be any complaints from me if it’s over quickly. Actually, that is probably the biggest complaint I have about my sex life — it just takes too much time.

The underlying guilt still shakes me up every once in a while. Andrew asked if we could have sex today and because it has been over a month since the last time, it’s hard to say no. It’s not an issue of consent. It’s an issue of  “getting in the mood” so I can try to avoid my constant sexual awkwardness, which usually involves a lot of weird jokes, funny faces and comments about the chores I have yet to do. Sexiness doesn’t come easy for me.

Sex is everywhere I look, seeping into every aspect of life. I still struggle to feel normal, but now instead of silently seething in rage while I watch a movie with yet another completely unnecessary sex scene, I take the glass-half-full approach and use the time to make myself another cup of tea and cuddle my cats.

This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb 11, 2015.

For more information about asexuality watch Rated X, a documentary created by Ryerson students Erin Petrow, Jac Bradley, Sam Crisp, Charlotte Arnold and Billy Diep.


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