The story of Malavika, a 45-year-old musician from Chennai, reveals why life isn’t a piece of cake for people who identify as asexual.
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The first thing that appears on the website of Asexuality India is a picture of a cake. The bright pink cake with gems and chocolate wafers sprinkled on it isn’t an indication to show that life is a piece of cake for the asexual community. It sort of summaries their sexuality-“Welcome to Asexuality India…Where anything is better than sex, but we prefer CAKE!”
The story of Malavika*, a 45-year-old musician from Chennai, reveals why life isn’t a piece of cake for people who identify as asexual. Worse still, people who are in a relationship with someone who isn’t asexual and cannot quite accept their partner’s identity.
Malavika only realized that she’s asexual in 2008. That was 12 years after her marriage. For years before that, she struggled to understand why she wouldn’t ever enjoy sex with her husband whom she dearly loves. “I was penetration repulsed,” she said.
Things weren’t easy. Her husband took her to many psychologists and several gynecologists to detect exactly what is ‘wrong’ with her. “He would often lose temper and became abusive,” Malavika recalls.
In 2006, when Malavika had wireless Internet at home, she started Googling “Sexless marriage”. And that is when, she discovered that there are people like her-across the world.
Only three months ago, Merriam-Webster Dictionary discovered the word ‘asexual’ and defined it as “[people] not having or showing a particular sexual identity.” Meanwhile, in India, the community is growing by hundreds through Facebook communities, secret meets and WhatsApp groups.
“I am probably one of the oldest people in India who discovered that asexuality is real,” she said. With not much support from her closed ones, and very few people even understanding what asexuality means, Malavika found herself on a lonely road.
Years later, the 45-year-old is trying to make the road no so lonely for the young people who are gradually discovering that they don’t experience sexual attraction to any gender, or has very little interest in sexual activity, if at all. “It is not a sexual disability and often people confuse asexuality with celibacy (where a person abstains from sex). Celibacy is a choice, this isn’t. When you are asexual, you just don’t want to have sex,” she said. The musician is now counselling young people who identify as asexual to make them realize it’s not a disease, and visit here they are not alone.
For the last two years, Raj Saxena has been encouraging people to come out and identify as asexual. When he organized the first meet in Delhi, only five people turned up. Two years later, a closed Facebook group ACE (asexual) Indians, where Raj is one of the moderators, has over 250 active members.
The 24 year old also had a hard time discovering that he is asexual. “I was a part of many LGBT groups. The one thing I knew was I get attracted to men. So I thought I am homosexual,” he said. But soon, he realized, there was something missing in the conversations that he would have in those groups. He left all the LGBT groups because he couldn’t seem to identify with the members there. Much later, Raj started identifying as Homoromantic Asexual– an asexual who has romantic attraction towards the same sex and gender.
It was Raj’s fight that led to the A being added to the acronym ‘LGBTQIA’. However, it’s still quite new and usually, misunderstood.
So, how do asexuals fall in love? Does not wanting to have sex they can’t feel emotions? Quite the contrary, Raj explains. « Asexuals do feel romantic, platonic, emotional, sensual emotions and can be attracted towards opposite, same and both gender,” he said.
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Omkar was 16 when he first « hooked up » with a guy. “I didn’t like it at all. While my friends would get very excited talking about sex. It didn’t excite me,” he said. The 20 year old, who identifies himself as ‘Demisexual’, has been quite lucky. Omakar’s parents explained what homosexuality is back when he was a teenager. “They have been very supportive and accepting,” he said. A year ago, the biotechnology student met his partner on one of the WhatsApp groups for asexuals that Raj had created a year ago. “We just got talking and felt a connection,” he said. Even though the conversation is over a phone, you can tell Omkar is very excited to talk about his fashion designer partner. For the last three months, Omkar and his 26-year-old partner have been living together in Surat, in Gujarat.
Explaining the term ‘demisexual’, Omakar says both him and his partner experience sexual attraction very rarely. For demisexuals, the sexual attraction only comes after forming a close emotional bond.
“Sex is just another way of expressing love for us. It is not the most important thing. So, it’s very very rare for us. But that doesn’t change our feelings for each other,” he said.
“How do you know if you’ve never tried it?” “Did you give up on sex just because of one bad experience?” “Do you masturbate?” “Do you watch porn?” “Are you a plant?”-These are just a sample of questions that asexuals often get asked. And too often, the people who identify as asexual can’t quite respond to these. “It takes a lot of time to discover that you don’t want to do something that the entire world is going crazy about. How do you explain it to yourself?” Raj said.
Last year, Raj along with Rishav Saxena and Purushottam Rawat launched an app for the asexual community to interact and meet people who identify with them. ACEapp became the first-of-its-kind smartphone application dedicated to people who experience little or no sexual attraction.
As Malavika explains, asexuality is a “wide spectrum”. You can be aromantic (someone who does not experience romantic attraction) or you can be romantic. However, she says, “Once you know you are asexual, you just know it.”
On the app, you can find people to talk to by clicking on the “Bake Cake” button. Raj said that there was a growing need for this platform. “We needed a safe place to discuss how we feel without being judged,” he said. The idea wasn’t to create a dating app similar to Tinder or Grindr as not all the asexual people are interested in dating.
Malavika also believes that more conversations are important around asexuality. “Sometimes, people just need to be heard. It’s so important to be heard,” she said, explaining why she’s trying to just be that listener for a large number young people who are confused about their sexuality. “I don’t want them to get trapped in a marriage or a relationship that they are seeking,” she added.
However, Malavika says that love is a real feeling for many asexual. “We just need to be accepted for what we are. We, too, love,” she said.