Whenever I talk about coming out at 14, there’s always a common theme in responses, and I’ve seen others have this too – surely 14 is too young to know you’re asexual?
When people say this, what they’re referring to is the idea that you shouldn’t “be sexual” at 14, you shouldn’t be having those sorts of ideas or relationships at that age. This stems from multiple misunderstandings.
The first of these misunderstandings is something that comes through a lot in our society when we talk about changing how we teach sex ed, and I believe it stems from the general taboo of sex in our society – the idea that young people aren’t already learning about sex at that age or that they aren’t already on their way to forming such relationships. We know that this simply isn’t true.
Our school halls are filled with innuendos, elbow nudges and rating others out of ten. Our society is fundamentally built on relationships, on finding our “other half” (newsflash, you are already whole), on one-night stands and pulling in clubs. We call babies ‘ladies’ men’ or say they’ll ‘get all the boys’. Sex and attraction, at the very least aesthetic, is normalised from day one – and not only that, but we grow up without high quality sex education to actually comprehend it.
I never had crushes as a kid. I didn’t pine after the boy in the playground that everyone else did, the classic football lad with blue eyes. I didn’t understand why so many of the girls spent time looking at pictures of Zac Efron and taking quizzes about which random celebrity boy they’d end up with. Eventually I forced myself to believe I was gay, and then when I realised I didn’t like girls either, I thought I was broken. There is more to sexual attraction than simple lust – although that plays a part too.
And another misunderstanding here is that you have to have sex, or even have had a romantic relationship, before you can decide you’re asexual. This is fundamentally untrue – firstly, this feeds the idea that all asexuals don’t have sex, and more than that, we don’t ever expect straight people to have had sex to “confirm” their sexuality, to identify as straight before they hit the age of consent.
And so, I think I was perfectly within my rights to know at 14. I had people say it wouldn’t stick – whether that be due to my age, or just because of the age-old “you haven’t met the right person yet” that comes with saying you’re asexual at almost any age – but it has.
But I think something I want to stress is that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had ended up being wrong. There is nothing wrong with using a label that you believe fits you, and then finding that it doesn’t.
Saying all of this, though, it’s important that I recognise my simple privilege in realising who I was so young, even if I get a lot of judgement around it. I talked in my recent “reintroduction to my coming out story” about discovering the term on Tumblr – and I know many examples of people who also experienced this, and I don’t doubt that this continues – and although it may be shifting to Twitter and Instagram now too in this age of infographics and carrds, it shouldn’t be the job of social media to educate.
Young people should be aware of the wide spectrum of sexuality younger. That’s not pushing an ideology on them, it’s simply informing them. When we teach sex ed, we can’t talk about LGBTQIA+ identities as if no-one in that class could be part of the community any longer, we can’t imply that it’s something out of reach.
And although it’s still not pushed enough, we do teach young people it’s okay for them not to have sex until they’re ready – but we don’t teach that it’s something they may never want.