Faith and Asexuality

If you look up the definition of faith in the Merriam Webster dictionary, you’ll find the following:

  • strong belief or trust in someone or something
  • belief in the existence of God
  • strong religious feelings or beliefs
  • a system of religious beliefs

Religion can certainly have an important effect on our sexual orientation. Most religions hold the view that any sexuality other than heterosexuality somewhat evil. Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam are just three such religions. Fortunately, many churches are becoming progressive in their views on homosexuality, but that is a topic for another post.

These religions also tend to view premarital sex (fornication) as sinful. These teachings may cause someone who is not heterosexual, or who participates in fornication, to feel shamed. Worse yet, it may cause them not to understand their own sexual orientation, or act in ways to follow the norm of heterosexuality even though they may be distressed by that act.

If we go back in time 2000 years, the world was a very different place. Contraception was nearly non-existent and largely ineffective. There was also the threat of sexually transmitted diseases. By preaching against pre-marital sex, religions were in effect protecting their people from unwanted pregnancies and STDs alike. For those who practice religion, it’s fair to say that perhaps the words written in their books were crafted by God himself, or spoken to prophets to be recorded. I have no way to prove or disprove this. But, you can’t ignore the fact that fornication could be harmful to a group of followers, and that calling it sinful would help prevent such problems. I think it’s likely that those instituting these religions had an ulterior motive for pushing their followers to wait for sex until marriage.

Personally, I was raised as a Catholic. I participated in the faith throughout my childhood and into my adult years. It was beaten into my head that premarital sex was sinful and it should be avoided at all costs. For me, this never presented a problem. I never seemed all that tempted to have sex with anybody, but I attributed this to my desire to be a good Catholic. Or perhaps it was fear that sex would be a sin, but yet, it was never a temptation for me anyway. Nothing was out of place here until I got into high school.

I went to a public high school, so there was a mixture of various faiths there, including some who weren’t religious at all. Many of the boys and girls in my class started pairing off as boyfriend and girlfriend. I never felt the drive to do this personally, but of course I got pressure from friends and family to get a girlfriend. Somehow, I managed to hold out. Around my third year in high school, I began to hear about fellow students starting to have sex. And not long after that, it was even about people I knew and was friends with. I was baffled, but I figured that since most of the students in my school weren’t Catholic like me, that they must have no reservations about having sex.

This continued on through college. I was more interested in aceing my classes while most of my classmates were talking about sex. I guess I just figured that if I ever met the right woman and got married, that then suddenly I would have this insatiable desire to bang her, but not before the wedding day of course!

After college, I got a job and got into a romantic relationship. Sometimes she would talk about sex, but I wasn’t even tempted by it. I just kept telling her I wasn’t ready. The relationship just never felt right to me though (due more to how razor close to aromantic I am). After just a few months, I broke it off with her.

Then in 2007, I was nearly killed in an accident. This event really threw my life into a blender. I started to question everything I believed. About a year after the accident, I had this feeling that my Catholic faith wasn’t bringing me closer to God. It was actually a barrier in the way of my relationship with Him. I stopped going to Church, instead spending more time in meditation and contemplation. I’ve felt a lot freer in my ways of thinking, no longer bound by a packaged set of teachings. Shortly after, I started to break down my assumption that heterosexuality is required and fornication is sinful. My beliefs on sex are more inline with how Buddhists define one of their five precepts which is to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence. Meaning that if both parties consent, are of adult age, and use protection to avoid spreading disease or causing unwanted pregnancies, then it’s perfectly fine. (Animals can’t consent, in case you were wondering…)

After opening this gate, I realize that without the fear of being sinful through sex, I still really had no desire for it. I continued dating off and on for several years, though none of those relationships really blossomed. Finally, I did some research on the internet about lack of desire for sex and found AVEN. I also discovered that I am grey-romantic.

So, I think I’ve learned a few valuable lessons regarding faith and sexuality:

  • Religion may mask asexuality behind chastity, in other words you think you are being a good practitioner but it’s really a lack of desire in the first place
  • Religion does not cause somebody to be asexual
  • Chastity (the desire to avoid premarital sex) does not get rid of all temptation for sex, but asexuality does
  • Celibacy is the choice not to have sex, asexuality is the lack of desire and is not a choice

Since discovering my own asexuality almost a year ago, my religious faith hasn’t changed much. Most of my religious transformation occurred before this discovery. However, I could imagine that if I was still Catholic, then discovering asexuality would not have changed my faith. Catholicism does place a high value on getting married and procreating, but this is more of a societal pressure than a religious one. In the Bible, Paul writes that celibacy (technically not marrying) is a higher calling than marriage because then one can devote all of their energy to God. If anything, my beliefs have moved more towards Buddhism. I still wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist though, nor do I feel this is connected with being asexual.

My post so far has been focused on the religious aspect of faith. But another definition of faith is a strong trust in something. I want to write briefly about having faith for the future. Until recently, I didn’t understand my asexuality or my grey-romanticism. I let the people around me dictate that I wanted to get married some day, possibly have kids too. It took me a long time to deconstruct that external pressure and realize that none of those desires were actually there. Before all of this, my faith in the future was a bit clouded. I was anxious that I would end up alone. None of my dates were turning into something real and lasting.

In contrast, now that I understand myself more clearly, I am very optimistic for the future. I have realized that I am perfectly happy being single and I will only die lonely if I stop trying to make friends. I feel even more connected with my family and friends because I know I won’t go chasing after a romantic relationship that I don’t really want to be in. In short, things are lookin’ good.

Religion can really confuse an asexual. Their teachings often condemn actions that are supposed to be tempting. When our lack of desire lines up with those teachings, it can be hard to distinguish what was taught and what comes natural to us. I hope that my post can help you distinguish the two.