“But you don’t *look* asexual!”
I like the asexual pride flag. (That’s the background of the graphic in the header, for anyone who hasn’t twigged.) I was absolutely delighted when I discovered that was what it was, because it is a set of colours which fits very naturally into my existing wardrobe. So, just for fun, I made an Ace Pride Skirt. It’s full-length (as all my skirts are); it’s a medium grey; and it has a wide border near the hem made from ribbons of the appropriate colours. A very smart skirt it is too, though I do say so myself, and I wear it quite regularly, not just when I’m trying to make a point. It’s comfortable and it goes with a lot of different things.
I also wear a black haematite ring on the middle finger of my right hand. Not all asexuals bother with this (in fact I surreptitiously counted black rings at the last asexual meet-up I went to, and got a figure of about 20%), but I like to do so as it is quite a useful thing to refer to when you need to explain your asexuality to someone in a hurry… as you will see in a moment.
So, a few weeks ago I went to the opera. Not just any old opera, either; it’s my friend’s new and very exciting opera company, and she was singing the lead role. I got myself duly poshed up for the occasion. The ace pride skirt is not only smart but good for travelling in (I had to take the train, so I didn’t want something that was going to crumple easily), so I wore that, and I teamed it with a nice white blouse, a jacket that was similar to the purple in the ribbons but heading a little more towards fuchsia, a smart hat heading slightly further in the fuchsiaward direction, my “Winterfell” necklace (snowflake obsidian, white howlite and silver grey glass beads), and full make-up. I don’t often do the full make-up thing, but what the heck. Oh yes, and my summer shoes, which are white, totally flat, and refreshingly classless. They go with anything, from ultra-casual to ultra-formal. For anyone even vaguely familiar with asexual symbolism, the general effect would have been Flaming Ace Goes Posh, which was fine with me. Unfortunately, not everyone is. 🙂
The opera duly happened, and was an absolute triumph; considering I had had my friend wibbling at me about it for several weeks and almost everything that could have gone wrong in that time had done, I was astonished at how good it was. I’d expected something good, but not necessarily something outstanding, and this was. Afterwards, we all gathered in the venue’s bar lounge on a massive operatic high for cake and wine (yes, in fact I was the one who brought the cake!), and there was this chap…
Well, he insisted he wasn’t trying to chat me up, and it’s certainly possible that he wasn’t consciously trying to do so. Nonetheless, he was getting into my personal space so badly and ignoring all the hints I was trying to give him to back off that in the end I had to indicate that shiny black ring I was wearing and ask him if he knew what it meant. He didn’t, so I gave him a quick run-down, which was the point where he a) insisted he hadn’t been trying to chat me up and b) finally got out of my space, after which we managed to have a perfectly pleasant conversation. It’s fair to say he was surprised, though. He blinked at me and uttered the immortal words, “But you don’t look asexual!”
If I’d thought I could do so with a straight face, I would definitely have interrogated him further on that one. As it was, I was already having a terrible job not to laugh, and I didn’t want to hurt the poor chap’s feelings. As far as I was concerned, I’d gone out looking so asexual that I wouldn’t have been out of place on a pride march, but I was perfectly well aware that most people don’t know about either the colour code or the black-ring thing, so the only sort of person who would have been likely to recognise me as asexual would have been another asexual. Not even just another asexual, but another asexual who was at least to some degree involved with the awareness movement. It’s not like going out in a rainbow shawl and then having someone surprised when you tell them you’re a lesbian.
I still want to know, though: what do people who are not asexual think asexuals look like? He must have had at least a vague idea in his head, or he wouldn’t have been surprised by my failure to match it. The truth, of course, is that asexual people look just like any other people. There are formal asexuals, casual asexuals, asexuals who just like to be comfortable and don’t spend a huge amount of time on their appearance (normally me, though I do like to be decently co-ordinated), downright scruffy asexuals, asexuals of all types of fashion subcultures, and for that matter very sexy asexuals. That last one is not a contradiction. As a society, we really need to lose the idea that dressing to emphasise the figure is automatically a signal that you want sex. It isn’t. I don’t personally want to go out in a miniskirt, fishnets and high heels, because that is not me (apart from anything else I would find it annoyingly uncomfortable), but if that’s what someone else likes to wear, then it really isn’t anyone else’s business to read it as meaning they’re looking for some sex, and it certainly isn’t anyone else’s business to decide that means that the miniskirt-wearer must therefore naturally, automatically want sex with them.
Anyway. For me it’s simple enough. I’m asexual, therefore ipso facto I must look asexual. I am one example of what an asexual looks like. There are lots of other examples, and they all look very different from me. Isn’t that grand? 🙂