Kissing and How it’s Complicated

So. Another post about asexuality. Except this one is a lot less happy than the first two have been. But hey, it had to happen sometime.

This past weekend, my college celebrated Renn Fayre, which is our big end-of-the-year party held in part to celebrate the seniors who have finished their theses. It’s pretty much a cross between big, outdoor fair and Woodstock (this year it was even more like Woodstock because it kept raining on and off over the entire three days, leaving campus extremely wet and muddy). The first major event of Renn Fayre on Friday afternoon was Thesis Parade, where the entire campus gathers in front of the library to celebrate while the seniors burn copies of their theses in a big bonfire and everyone else pours champagne on the seniors.

A widespread Thesis Parade tradition is for everyone to make out with various people. Most people do (and should) ask the other person if they would like to kiss, in which case the person will either respond yes and kissing will ensue, or no, in which case the two people will probably hug. Also, not everyone will ask to kiss everyone, and hugging is a completely acceptable alternative. This year at Thesis Parade I hugged many people, kissed no one, and generally had a good time. I am not the only one who doesn’t kiss other people during Thesis Parade, and it is not the case that anyone has called me out or made fun of me for it. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little odd about the whole thing.

No matter how acceptable hugging is, within the larger context of Thesis Parade, it still seems to me like it is an “alternative” in the manner of something being “second-best”. Kissing is what you’re supposed to do, hugging is fine too, but it’s not what the celebration largely entails. Many people kiss their friends during Thesis Parade, and I would give hugs to people who I knew would be kissing other friends whom they knew about as well as they knew me. This does lead me to feel like I’m not fully participating in Thesis Parade, and that I am somehow obligated to do so in that manner. It makes me feel like I’m not close to people, because obviously if I were, I’d kiss them, because it’s our big, happy, celebration time, right? And if friends normally kiss their friends and you don’t kiss your friend, are you less of a friend? (I know, this concern is ridiculously situation-specific).

There were two occasions where people tried to kiss me without asking and I turned my head away, and I felt bad about it afterward. Not because they tried to kiss me without asking – I had not problem with that, as I happened to know these people reasonably well and they weren’t being aggressive about it. I felt bad because I felt like I shouldn’t have turned my head away. Even though I knew my reaction was a natural response, I felt bad. Even though I probably would have felt embarrassed if I had kissed them because I would have been worrying the entire time whether I was actually Doing It Right and kissing them correctly, I felt bad.

I don’t instinctively want to kiss people, even when I’m romantically attracted to them. I’ve known this for some time now, but I still haven’t entirely come to grips with it. Even more so than sex, kissing is one of those activities that children are constantly exposed to as something that everyone will want to do one day. In most TV shows and movies with a romantic story deemed acceptable for young minds, the relationship culminates with the boy and the girl kissing, usually for the first time. Once you get your hormones and go through puberty, you will want to kiss people (preferably of the opposite gender). Fact. Non-negotiable. End of discussion. If you don’t want to kiss people, you are still a child who’s waiting to grow up. God help the person who’s 17 and still hasn’t kissed anyone yet, and don’t even talk about someone who’s in their twenties or thirties and has never kissed another person.

This isn’t something I’ve really seen discussed concerning asexuality, but there seems to me a huge link between asexuality and children in the public perspective. In an anthropology book I was reading about the gendering of elementary school children, the author labeled the kids who hadn’t undergone puberty or shown any interest in the opposite gender (the book was written in the eighties) as “asexual”. I understand her logic. Kids don’t feel sexual attraction until they reach a certain age, so they are, in effect, “asexual” until they experience it. However, if a child is “asexual” until they experience sexual attraction, does that mean teenager and adult asexuals are still seen, in some sense, as children? Because other people believe that they don’t have the physical/emotional/whatever capacity to be sexually attracted to another person? There have been a number of discussions about the intersection of asexuality and having a mental disability, and a further connection to that discussion is that other people see asexual and mentally disabled people as not being fully “adult” i.e. they aren’t properly functioning members of larger society because they can’t participate fully in the ways they are expected to. People who are asexual/mentally disabled/both are seen in some respects as being closer to children than they are adults.

In the end, I’m not too bothered about my feelings concerning Thesis Parade and what I did and didn’t do because in the grand scheme of things, the making out during Thesis Parade isn’t particularly important. I do have some concerns for the future if I ever were in a romantic relationship, because I would feel some obligation to kiss them (and I can do it, it takes effort and I have to work around my mental block to do it, but I can do it). I’m comfortable knowing that I don’t want to have sex and telling a potential significant other that fact. However, I culturally categorize kissing as a romantic activity as well as sexual activity, and I would like to express romantic attraction in that manner, but I also don’t want to because it feels like there’s no way to kiss someone and have it not be sexual. Also, for the most part, I don’t physically want to. Conundrum…

Anyway, I don’t really have any answers, nor will I likely have some anytime soon. My thoughts are sort of all over the place right now. Just another one of those things to think about on a night when you’re vainly trying to ignore the fact you have a gazillion final papers you’re not writing so that you can write this blog post instead.

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Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 12:41 AM  Leave a Comment  

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