Being Asexual In Singapore

As an asexual in Singapore, 22-year-old Lorraine Tan sometimes feels out of place in a society that is obsessed with sex. Growing up, coming across sexualised scenes in the media made her wonder what those scenes were for, as they failed to evoke any feelings in her.  

“It’s seeing hunky shower scenes in K-dramas and going, ‘uh ok’ and wait[ing] for a more useful scene to happen,” she explains. “It’s reading [about] a female character noticing [a male character’s] sharp jawline and husky voice.” 

She also finds the celebration of virginity and sex in our allosexual* society to be ironic. “[It’s] funny how some dudes wanna smash like no tomorrow but expect girls to all be virgins; how does that work?” 

*A termed coined by asexuals to describe people who experience sexual attraction

Growing up different and accepting herself

As a teenager, Lorraine was often asked questions like, “What do you look for in a man?” or “What’s your ideal boyfriend type?”

“When you ask me, ‘What do you look for in a man?’ I get stunned for a moment. Was I looking for something? Specifically in a man? In anyone?” Lorraine explains how she would reply perfunctorily, “simply to answer the damn question”.

“I would give standard answers that I knew couldn’t fail, like ‘kind’ and ‘financially stable’.” 

Noticing the disconnect between herself and society at large, Lorraine first entertained the notion of being asexual when she was turning 17.

“I knew something was off if I used the term ‘heterosexual’ to label myself, hence I sought another label,” she shares, realising that she did not feel the draw towards boys the way her friends did. 

She thought to herself, “What if I say I’m asexual now and then suddenly I’m lusting for another dude or lady later on? I’ll be a clown.”

She finally accepted the ‘asexual’ label when she was 20 years old, “after a few years of reading up on stories of other asexuals’ lives and seeing small encouragements here and there that [said], ‘Hey, it’s okay to be you.’”

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Having romantic feelings as an asexual individual

Lorraine asserts that being asexual does not mean she cannot have romantic feelings. She gives an example of a crush she had in primary school. “Apparently, it was obvious to all my friends. I didn’t let go of this crush even after graduating and not seeing him for a long time.”

She continues, “Was what I experienced at age 10 really love? I find it very difficult to define romantic love, even now.”

What is more puzzling to her is how romance is often equated to sex. 

“Why can’t a romantic relationship exist without sexual attraction?” she asks. “This is why some asexuals in a relationship think that it’s a given to have sex with their partners even if they don’t really want it, because of how normalised sex with your partner may seem to them.”

She elaborates further, “Asexuals can choose to have sex to make their partner happy, or they want to share an intimate experience with their partner or because they want kids or because they just want to try. These are all possible for asexuals who aren’t sex-repulsed.”

“It’s possible to be horny! [You’re] just not sexually attracted towards another person. There’s always this [sense of] detachment,” she explains. 

Discrimination and straight-passing privilege

For Lorraine, being asexual does not really set her apart in daily life. Discrimination shows up only when she says she is asexual. Some comments she gets on social media are that asexuals are “attention-seeking [and] just haven’t experienced a good dick yet.”

Occasionally, Lorraine’s sexuality, or lack thereof, has led others to attack her for ‘pretending to be innocent’. However, she acknowledges that she is generally not discriminated against in society. 

Lorraine goes on to explain what ‘straight-passing privilege’ is: “Asexuals that do not present themselves as anything other than a straight person with a low sex drive will never have as much blood staining our history as other queer folk do.” 

“You’re blessed because you [don’t have] entire hate groups, religious bodies and your own government after your ass,” she explains. “You’re cursed [because] you’re in the position that made it so difficult for you to discover who you really are in the first place—invisible and unrecognised.”

Asexual In Singapore: What It’s Like To Live Without Sexual Attraction

Lorraine uses an analogy to explain her position as an overlooked minority in society. 

“Some people like the colour red, some like the colour blue. Some like both. Some don’t have a favourite colour. All I’m saying is that it’s okay to not have a favourite colour, even though that’s not a common thing.”

For her, she only feels discriminated against when people deny her feelings as an asexual in Singapore.

“I don’t expect allosexuals to understand how it’s possible to not experience sexual attraction. I just expect respect for my orientation; not dismissal, not doubts,” she states. “Asexuality is not a choice. Sexuality is a preference we were born with.”

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All photos courtesy of Lorraine Tan