Never been kissed

Happy just the way she is: Zoe Feigen.
Happy just the way she is: Zoe Feigen.

Zoe Feigen was around 15 when she first realised she was a bit different. While her classmates were lusting after TV and movie stars, she couldn't really relate to their burgeoning interest in sex. It made fitting in at school difficult at times.

"Trying to make connections when people were talking about how hot Orlando Bloom was, or The O.C. and how hot everyone on it was, and the fact that I didn't understand that was kind of like going to a school where you only understood half the language," says the 24-year-old veterinary science student.

Around the same time, she came across a "stamp" on the internet that said "I support asexuality". The stamp linked to AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Suddenly, the way Zoe was feeling started to make more sense.

While hetereosexuals are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex, homosexuals to members of their own sex and bisexuals to both sexes, asexuals are not sexually attracted to men or women. Their interest in sexual activity is usually (but not always) low or absent, though some may have sex to please their partner, or to have children.

Though Zoe has never had sex, or kissed anyone, she wouldn't rule out having sex with a partner if it was important to them.

"The idea of it doesn't repulse me but I really don't have any sort of drive," she says.

She's masturbated a few times, just to see what it was like, and thinks that she can orgasm. "As far as I know, there's nothing wrong with the mechanisms, I just don't feel any drive or sexual attraction."

Looks are immaterial to Zoe, who has poor eyesight and refers to herself as "face blind". "I recognise people by things other than their faces, so maybe I just don't pay enough attention to care about people's aesthetics," she says.

Romantically, she has had four "crushes". Two have been on women, the other two have been on genderqueer people, referring to those who don't identify as either male or female. It's how Zoe describes herself too.

She "came out" as an asexual person in an unlikely environment, while on a Contiki tour in Europe when she was 19. She was asked to rank the guys and girls in order of "hotness", and attempted to explain asexuality instead. "It didn't go too badly considering it was Contiki, which is known for being this sort of booze fest."

Having the same talk with her mother when she got home wasn't as successful. Zoe's mother was angry, scared, and tried to tell her she was too young to know what she was talking about.

"But it really annoyed me because people are always telling me, 'Oh, you're so self-aware, you really have a grasp on yourself and on other people, you're such an adult.'

"But suddenly I was not old enough to know my own mind, just in this sense."

The following year Zoe blogged about being asexual and sent it to her Mum. She says things are much better between them now, even if her mother's fears haven't completely subsided.

"Mum's big problem is that she doesn't want me to be alone. People think that being asexual means I won't have relationships which is definitely not the case, you can still have platonic relationships which I think society really undervalues."

The only person who Zoe keeps her asexuality from these days is her grandmother.

"She's kind of really involved in the Jewish community.  Me drifting away from Judaism and becoming an atheist, that hurt her enough so I didn't really want to hurt her anymore."

Zoe says she's never wanted children. "Babies are delicate and you could drop them and they're very odd looking." She doesn't think that her aversion to babies necessarily has anything to do with her asexuality. "I think they're just compounding things that fit quite well together for me."

While "coming out" was difficult in that it put a strain on her normally good relationship with her parents, Zoe says she is "generally OK". She is supported by her friends and two sisters (both heterosexual) and spends a lot of time blogging, and hanging out on a small internet forum for asexual people.

"I'm very stereotypical of a lot of asexual people, they drink a lot of tea and like cats and watch Doctor Who a lot."

Zoe currently has a crush on a genderqueer person who she met on the forum a few years ago. They've met in person, and will be reunited when Zoe heads to Cambridge, where her crush lives, later this year for a university placement.

"I'd like to take her out to musicals and go for coffee and stuff," says Zoe, who describes herself as "a really big dork".

"People have sexual relationships without romance, there's nothing to say people can have romantic relationships without sex."

This story Never been kissed first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.