Sex Lives: A Guy Who Didn’t Understand the Showgirls in Car Magazines

Sex Lives chronicles the evolution of one person’s sexual history. This week: Rhys, 29, in Chicago.

Being demisexual where I grew up—well, I didn’t know what that was until I was in college. I was raised as a hetero guy. The first time sexuality kind of dawned on me, I was 9 or 10 on a guys’ trip with my dad, my grandpa, and my brother and the hotel we were staying at had a car show coming up. There was a magazine with the cars on it and the showgirls and my dad handed it to me and was like “put this in your bag and bring it home.” And I was like, “Why? Nobody in our family knows anything about cars.” He just kind of looked at me like, are you serious? That was really the first time it occurred to me that people look at other people as… not objects… but through a physical lens, like Oh, I’m just interested because this person looks good. I didn’t know anything about that.

The way I grew up, you were either straight or you’re gay. Those were really the only two options. I was always hearing from my dad or other guys that this is how you’re supposed to view women: you’re supposed to want to go and have flings and hook up and stuff. So when you grow up without ever experiencing attraction, you start to think am I gay? But then you think, well I’m not into guys either. So what gives? When I found out what asexuality was, I was like, ok I’m just ace. I’m not going to be attracted to people. And then I started dating this girl in college. We started hanging out and talking and I had kind of made peace with the fact that all of my dating was going to be just about liking to be around a person. Being demi, you can know objectively this person is gorgeous, but you just don’t have the physical desire. We were dating three or four months and just kind of out of the blue it hit me. Like ohh this is what that feels like. Once you get that connectivity, you get close and comfortable and you’re really emotionally connected with a person and you create that intimacy. It’s less, “They’re hot; I want to sleep with them” and more an extra level of intimacy you can give that person.

I really didn’t and still don’t masturbate for the most part. I have those physiological responses, but it’s like ok that’ll go away. There’s not really a sexual drive behind it. I don’t really need to do anything. As far as porn is concerned, really the only porn I’ve ever interacted with was with the girl in college. We were together almost four years and we still talk as friends. We took pictures and videos for our own use, especially because she was dating someone who was demi so she wanted to have that. It’s been a little over two years since we split and that was really the last time I ever had any interaction with anything pornographic. As a teenager, I was aware of what it was. And you think about it. You’re like, oh, okay, well I want to try it out. And then you sit down and you’re like, yeah, no I don’t really have a desire to go down this road.

I wouldn’t say that everyone I’ve dated is necessarily knowledgeable, since it’s such a niche portion of the population. Not a very large population and not a very vocal one because it’s very easy to be straight passing. So they might not understand demisexuality completely, but in my experience at least there’s been a sort of relief. You get to build to physical intimacy and there’s not a pressure of like we’re together we need to be physical. You can focus on the emotional and intellectual connection first and I think that takes a little bit of pressure off. But if you’re not good at communicating, the person who’s not demi might think oh, they must not be into me. I want to sleep with this person, but they don’t want to sleep with me. It’s hard to get that point across. I’m more than capable of objectively looking at a person, male or female and being like that’s a gorgeous person. It just doesn’t always translate to a physical desire to be intimate.

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