(Inspired by discussion of delayed recognition of asexuality in this post: http://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/allonormativity-self-vs-other-and-the-delayed-realization/ , which made me think of some of the other reasons I personally have for taking so long to develop an asexual identity)
I think that for me personally, a large part of the delay in realizing that I was probably asexual wasn’t that I was afraid of being othered, but that I literally believed that everyone else just felt the same way I did. And I think a part of this may have been the way sex ed was discussed – or rather, the way that such courses focused heavily on sexual behavior, peer pressure, and romantic relationships while carefully tip-toeing around any hint of sexual desire or attraction.
The way sex-ed was taught at my school was similar to the way a lot of anti-drug programs worked: you learned about the possible risks, about ways people might pressure you into it even when you didn’t want to, and how to say no on those cases. The closest it got to acknowledging sexual desire was saying “if you do decide to do it use contraception.” or maybe “some people have relationships with the same gender.” On the one hand, the framing of the class kind of assumed everyone experienced heterosexual attractions – but at the same time there was no discussion of sexual attraction and the way it affects people.
For example, when discussing reason a teen might have sex, the list might look like this:
-because their friends are all doing it
-because their romantic partner says they should do it or they’ll break up
-because they’re afraid of being “prudish”
-because movies make it look glamorous
-because they think “loving someone” means you have to have sex
Basically, all arguments cam down to “peer pressure from friends or romantic partners” and there’s one big reason missing: the fact that people might have sex because they experiences sexual attraction, or experience sexual desire or like orgasm or desire the act purely for itself. I think this may be partly because heterosexual attraction is assumed, and partly because educators are afraid that admitting that people like sex and do it for reasons that are not bad like “peer pressure” might suddenly make all these teens go out and have sex. (This is a common attitude that shows up even more strongly in abstinence-only education and in a lot of anti-drug campaigns).
And I think that that was part of the reason I took longer to figure out that I was ace – because I literally thought that the only reason people would be sexually interested in [boys/anyone] was because of peer pressure, and that when other girls mooned over celebrities they were just “faking it to be popular”. I didn’t realize that my lack of sexual attraction was unusual because I just assumed that everyone else felt the same – and that the real difference was that I had better self-control or was less susceptible to peer pressure.