Dear Beluga Best Friend:
My current partner and I are very happy, and have not, as of yet, chosen to have sex with each other (I identify as asexual and they just have a low amount of interest in sex). How can I get my friends to understand that them asking if we’ve “done it yet” and/or making comments that imply that our relationship is somehow less important than one where there’s sex really upsets me, even when it’s done in jest, without coming across as a total drama queen?
Man, what is UP with people?
Obviously, what’s happening here is that folks are imposing their own ideas about what makes a “real” relationship on top of your actual individual needs. As a culture we privilege sexual contact over pretty much every other expression of love and affectionate regard. It’s true that for lots of people, sex is a major driving influence in their lives. But the assumption that this is so for everyone —- or that it SHOULD be so, and if it’s not, there’s something wrong —- is limiting and damaging to folks like you who just don’t feel that way.
Belugas are extremely social, and we live in tight-knit pods of up to 25 individuals. Like many animals, we don’t mate for pleasure but for reproduction, and so we really only do it between March and May once we’ve reached maturity. The strongest relationships amongst belugas are not between mates, but are the asexual relationships between mothers and their calves; mom belugas whose baby belugas die or are killed (orcas and polar bears specifically prey on baby belugas) will sometimes grab a stray buoy or a bit of styrofoam to treat as a surrogate baby. This is painfully sad but also illustrative: humans and belugas both are capable of extremely deep, close, and meaningful relationships in which sex is simply not a factor.
While your friends may never fully understand your feelings, they can certainly be made to understand that their behavior is upsetting you. Be forthright with them as you have been with me; explain that you feel as though they are being dismissive of a relationship that is important and real to you, regardless of whether it would be so for them. Let them know that even joking about it makes you feel as though they are not taking your relationship seriously. True friends, even if they don’t fully grasp your identity, will restrict their intrusive behavior on the basis of not wanting to upset or hurt you. Friends who refuse, or who argue that your relationship can’t be real until you do the deed —- well, they’re got their own issues to work out, and you may not want to hang around for them to exorcise their sexual fixations on you.
Love, Your Beluga Best Friend
BBF art by the amazing Nicole Lorenz, who websites at http://www.nicolelorenz.com/! Send your BBF renditions to lesley at twowholecakes dot com.