Two on stage, Max and Abbie. The former is around his mid-twenties, and the latter is in her late teens. It should be somewhat apparent that they are in separate rooms, in separate buildings, in separate cities. But, also, they should be free to interact with the whole space, and with each other at any point. Abbie is sat cross-legged on the floor, whilst Max stands on a box, seemingly ready to deliver a speech.
Max: Sex. There’s nothing that sums up this current society better than that one, all-encompassing word. It used to be, back in the good old Victorian times, that men and women would shudder at even the mildest thought. But, oh, how those dreary times have changed. It’s everywhere now! And in such an amazingly wide array! In TV, film, books, adverts, classrooms, everywhere you look it’s a tit here and a knob there! What an age to be fucking in! It can be raw, it can be primal, it can be beautiful, it can be artistic, it can be anything you want it to be! Without sex what would we be? Who would we be? Nothing, that’s what! Sex is and always will be the main purpose and past time for we simple beings. So, I ask, what the hell is wrong with us? I say ‘Us’ because, I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you too must be one of those illusive creatures known as ‘Asexual’. Perhaps you came to me and my humble little blog in search of answers – or, if you’re WizardPrik22, to post stupid Gifs in the comment section, I know who you are, believe me. If you are here for answers, then I’m afraid I must disappoint you. I barely have any answers myself, and the number I do have is too small to share. All I can do is type these short, cynical articles and send them hurtling off into the web. I may as well be shouting down the toilet for all the good it does me. Still, there’s at least one person reading these things – I know, I check. So, for you, sad and lonely reader – or WizardPrik22, I can at least share my own experiences of living life as an asexual man. Now, where was I – I apologise, by the way. There’s no one better for going off on an inevitably pointless tangent. Ah, yes, I remember. Sex! The be all and end all of the human experience. Without it we would not be; so, why are there some of us for whom the very act is – well, can I say abhorrent? I don’t know if that is the word, but something similar. Anyway; sex. Everyone loves it, can’t get enough of it. Whether man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, man and woman and man, or woman and woman and woman and man, people seem to think it’s absolutely great. Except me, and, presumably, you. For me it’s just . . . I don’t know, sometimes I find it hard to find the words. Which is surprising, I mean, did you just read the mammoth of text above? But, like my feeling towards physical touch, when I try and find the words . . . there’s just an empty void. Everything about it just confuses me! I mean, not the technical aspect. What’s there not to get? But in terms of . . . Look, let’s put it this way. You know how with some people, when they touch someone, they say it’s like an electric shock? Well, how many of you have ever actually had an electric shock? It’s –
Abbie: I have!
Abbie: I have. I’ve had an electric shock.
Max: What are you doing? This isn’t a Q&A!
Abbie: I was just leaving a comment.
Max: Halfway through the blog?
Abbie: Erm . . . yeah?
Max: But why?
Abbie: Well, you asked a question, and I thought I’d forget by the time I finished reading.
Max: It was a rhetorical question.
Abbie: And I answered it.
Max: That’s not how rhetorical questions work!
Abbie: I don’t think we’re the sort of people who should get concerned about how things ought to work. Besides, if you don’t want people commenting, why have a comment section in the first place?
Max: I don’t put them there. It’s all automatic.
Abbie: You can disable them.
Abbie: Yeah, all you need to do is go into settings, click on the toolbar and then – oh. (reading) ‘Comments are now disabled for this post.’ Guess I had that one coming. It’s just one of my flaws. My many, many flaws. My mum used to say that she could write a whole book about the shit I get wrong. I mean, she probably still says it, but I’m an adult now and that means I don’t have to listen to her. She gets annoyed when I tell her that. She says I shouldn’t be such a smartarse. That’s when I point out: ‘I’m not being a smartarse, I’m just telling the truth, which you always raised me to do.’ She says that’s what a smartarse would say. I’ve never thought of myself as a smartarse. I just try to be honest. That’s all I’ve ever tried to be. And that’s why I’m here: reading this overly sarcastic blog written by someone who, by the sounds of it, isn’t exactly the most cheerful of people. Not my kind of guy at all. But, well, we make do with what we’ve got. And he’s what I’ve got, for better or worse. (beat) Probably worse.
Max: Today I’ll be discussing the very first lesson any of us will learn: How to know you’re asexual.
Abbie: How do you know? That’s what I want to know. It’s not like being straight or gay. With them it’s easy! You see someone, you get a reaction (nods to her genitalia) and there you have it. You know! But asexuals? You see someone (looks to her genitalia) radio silence. You see another person (another look) Nothing. But can you decide what you are based on what you’re not?
Max: How do you know if you’ve never tried?
Abbie: And you have?
Abbie: Tried it. Have you . . . you know?
Max: Are you going to comment on every blog I post?
Abbie: It’s either me or WizardPrik22.
Max: Not if I disable comments again.
Abbie: What’s the point in this blog then?! Aren’t you writing it to start a conversation?!
Max: No! I’m writing it because I’m an opinionated arsehole that likes to know I’ve got someone’s attention!
Abbie: Is that what being an asexual is?
Abbie: Oh. Then what is it?
Max: (Sighs) You’re not going to give up, are you?
Abbie: As my mother would say: It’s my forty-fourth flaw.
Max: She sounds like a bundle of laughs.
Abbie: She’s all right once you get to know her. Or, at least, that’s what everybody tells me. I don’t think we’ve got to that stage in our relationship yet. We’re still very much at the: ‘If you don’t do what you’re told, you’ll be grounded for a month!’ Although, can you ground someone at Uni?
Max: Okay . . . before you blurt out your whole fractious backstory, maybe we ought to start with introductions?
Abbie: But I know who you are.
Max: Yes, but my name is plastered in Bahnschrift Light Condensed type at the top of each page. You, on the other hand, are ‘anonymous user’.
Abbie: Oh, haha, yes, sorry. Abbie.
Max: Hello, Abbie.
Abbie: Hello, Max.
Max: This is a thrilling conversation.
Abbie: Sorry! I’m – well, I guess I’m just used to reacting to what you write.
Max: In other words –
Abbie: Could you start?
Max: (sighs) Fine. My name is Max, and I am an asexual.
Abbie: Hi, Max. (Pause) Is that it?
Max: What more do you want? I can’t just churn out an essay at the snap of your fingers! I had enough of that at university.
Abbie: What did you study?
Max: Oh, God. We’re not ‘getting to know one another’, are we?
Abbie: You’re the only person I know that identifies as asexual.
Max: And? Why is that so important?
Abbie: Because . . . well, it’s because I think I might be one.
Max: You think you might be asexual?
Abbie: Yeah. But, in all honesty, I don’t really know what that means. I mean, sure, I know that it means you don’t like sex. But . . . is that it? So, I thought, why not try and find out! And if I can’t find it out from an expert, then where else would I get the information?
Max: I wouldn’t make that claim.
Abbie: What claim?
Max: That I’m an expert on asexuality. It’s . . . I hate to use the word, but it’s complicated.
Abbie: Is it? It sounds pretty simple to me.
Max: Do you feel like it’s simple?
Max: Before you even start trying to understand what it means to be an asexual, you have to look at it this way – it’s more of a blanket term, asexuality.
Abbie: A blanket term?
Max: Yes. It’s as you said, when you think of asexuals all you think of are people who don’t like sex. When, really, it’s more – more of a spectrum.
Abbie: I feel like I saw one your blogs had a title like that.
Max: That’s right; The Ace Spectrum. The Normals have their magnificent rainbow –ranging from those who’ll only plough the fields of the opposite gender, all the way to those who’ll happily hump away at anything with a pulse. But we Aces also have our own little variations. Now, how does the media portray us?
Abbie: They don’t!
Max: Well – I mean – they do, sometimes. But, when they do, it’s usually an exaggeration of what we shall call the ‘atypical asexual’. The one the media shows as soulless, heartless robots. Now, this is the kind that has absolutely no inclination towards sex whatsoever. There’s no physical attraction to other people, no need to satisfy the libido, and certainly nothing that might be mistaken for romantic inclinations. Further along the spectrum, you have the aromantics. These people feel no romantic desires, however still engage in the . . . physical activities.
Abbie: You sound as if you ought to have a diagram.
Max: Maybe, if that helps you. Perhaps you could imagine a Venn diagram?
Abbie: Ooh! Venn diagrams are definitely in my top five diagrams.
Max: Right. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The aromantics and their . . . sex. They may do this because they, dare I say, ‘enjoy’ the sensation; or it’s simply done to relieve their libido, like bleeding a radiator every now and then. And then, of course, you have the opposite of the aromantics. The ones who, whilst still being frankly horrified by the idea of sex, can be attracted to another person. Perhaps, one day down the line, they may do the dirty for the one they love, but don’t count on it. And there you have the main categories. But, as with any sexuality, you can find asexuals of any kind of blend.
Max: What’s wrong?
Abbie: I didn’t say anything!
Max: Exactly. I’ve never met someone with such deafening silences. So, what’s wrong?
Abbie: Nothing’s wrong!
Max: You wanted an explanation, didn’t you?
Abbie: I did!
Max: So, what was wrong with it?
Abbie: Nothing. It was very educational.
Abbie: Well, that’s it. It was educational. It was like one of those not very entertaining Ted Talks. I mean, all you did was paraphrase one of your old blog posts.
Max: That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?
Abbie: No! I mean – yes – no, I do mean no! I want to know you! I want to talk to you about your experiences!
Max: You want to hear about my experiences of not sleeping with people?
Abbie: I want to know how you cope with being asexual!
Max: I write a sarcastic blog.
Abbie: Should I do that?
Max: No! I don’t need the competition. Besides, you said yourself that you don’t even know if you are asexual yet!
Abbie: I need to do something!
Max: Does it have to include talking to me?
Abbie: Who else is there?
Max: Your family?
Abbie: Ha, not likely.
Max: Why not? Oh, shit, I just realised what I did.
Abbie: Let me tell you a bit about my family.
During the following, Max will take on the personalities of the brothers introduced.
Abbie: There’s me, the youngest, then there’s my four brothers: Gavin, who’s two years older than me; Finley and Marcus, the twins, who are both six years older, and then, finally: Darren, who, in spite of the full, navel-reaching beard, tapestry of tattoos running up both arms and neck, and the fact he’s on first-name terms with most policemen in our town, is still mummy’s little sweetheart. I don’t think those four have ever doubted what they are. Every car drive was spent listening to the same argument: breasts or arse? To this day we still don’t have a clear winner. But loser? Oh, yes. Who doesn’t feel empowered after having their entire gender related to a bucket of fried meat? The idea of not being interested had never even crossed their minds. And as for mum, well, after spending so long raising a tribe of boys, she was a bit ill-equipped to deal with a girl. I mean, her version of The Talk, was:
Max becomes the Mum.
Mum: Make sure they have a rubber, before they shove it up ya.
Abbie: As you can tell, I inherited my artistic use of language from her. So, I never imagined going to her with any problems, let alone telling her I was suffering from a lack of sexual desire. She wouldn’t understand that. I did try, once. Just once. That’s how I know it’s a brick wall. Not mum – obviously – but Gavin. Gavin’s always been the nicest to me. I think it’s probably because he’s so grateful that I came along. You know, it stopped him from being the youngest anymore. I’ve always been closer to him than I was the others; any time I try talking to the other three they just make me shout or cry – or both. Anyway, there was one day when it was bothering me. This – you know – lack of feeling. All day the only thing I’d been hearing from the other girls was what guys they hooked up with at the weekend, which one in the football team they fancied, and on, and on, and on. I was beginning to think I’d become trapped in a show for teenagers written by a middle-aged man. But, as they were yammering on, all I could think about was: ‘What’s the big deal’? Then, something inside me just snapped. I suddenly realised that it bothered me. It bothered me more than I liked to admit. I didn’t like that I didn’t understand the big deal, and I wanted to talk to someone about it. Someone I could trust. Well, who can you trust if not your brothers? After all, aren’t they supposed to be there to console and offer advice? I got home and there was Gavin, sat in the living room in his pants, picking his nose, and playing Xbox. He immediately – after I slammed some doors, threw myself onto the sofa, and sighed angrily for ten minutes – realised something was wrong.
Max takes on the role of Gavin.
Gavin: Alright, Abs?
Abbie: Why weren’t you in school?
Gavin: Couldn’t be arsed.
Abbie: Oh. Mr Clayne was looking for you.
Abbie: Says you’re behind with your essays.
Gavin: Haven’t done ‘em.
Abbie: Guessed that. You probably should do them. (Gavin shrugs. She addresses Max again.) I know you probably think this has nothing to do with the story I’m trying to tell, but – well, if I’m going to tell it, I might as well tell it properly, and that includes all the boring small talk. It didn’t last long anyway. It was obvious that Gavin, never one to pick up on subtle hints, needed some help realising the part he had to play in our conversation. (To Gavin) Gavin. Can – can I talk to you about something?
Gavin grunts, still focusing on his game.
Abbie: (Nervously) What – what would you say if I said . . . if I told you I was . . . Gavin – I’m – I think I’m asexual.
Abbie: I’m asexual.
Gavin: You what?
Abbie: That’s right.
Gavin: With who?
Gavin: Who are you havin’ sex with, Abbie?
Gavin: Tell me who they are, Abbie! Christ, I swear, I’ll rip his fuckin’ head off! Who is he, Abs? (Shouting) Finn! Marcus! Get your arses in here! Give us the name, Abs, we’ll show ‘em what happens when they lay a finger on our little sis!
Abbie: What? No! Gav, no! That’s not what I meant! I’m not having sex with anyone!
Gavin: But you just said –
Abbie: I’m asexual!
Gavin: Exactly! So, who is the little prick?
Abbie: I’m asexual! I’m not having sex with anyone, that’s what asexual means!
Gavin: I thought sexual meant the opposite.
Abbie: A, Gavin, Asexual. It means . . . well, it means I don’t want to have sex with anyone.
Gavin: Nah, you ain’t . . . whatever you said you was. You’re just not ready, that’s all. And you’d better not be ready for a while, either. I ain’t having my sis sleeping around with the sorts of twats at your school.
Abbie: But . . . I don’t feel like I will . . . ever want to have –
Gavin: Yeah, you will. If you’re anything like us, you will. Couldn’t make us a sandwich, could ya? Mum’s out and I’m starved.
Abbie: And that was that. I got what I wanted. Not any words of profound wisdom, oh no, nothing like that. In spite of being brighter than my other brothers, Gavin’s still only a flickering thirty watt. But he did what an older brother should do; he made me feel better. Usually, when you’re fourteen, you want to stand out! You want to be different. You need to be extraordinary! But me? Being told I was perfectly ordinary felt fantastic. You don’t get judged for being normal. You don’t get jeered at, or get funny looks, or given stupid nicknames. I wasn’t asexual, I was just a-delayed-sexual. It was a rarity, but Gavin made me feel better about myself for a while. ‘Course, then the years went by, and still . . . there was nothing. I couldn’t exactly go back and say: ‘Sorry, Gav, but you’re wrong. Guess I’m not like the rest of you after all’. Because time did not make him smarter, and if he couldn’t understand, then there was going to be no hope for the rest of them. (Pause) Sorry, this got a bit longer than I thought. In summary: No, I can’t talk to my family. Or, at the very least, not yet. That’s why I wanted to talk to someone who knows what they are. I want . . . I don’t know. I want to be made to feel normal. What about you? How did your family react? (Pause) Hello? (Pause) Max? (Pause) Are you still there?
Max: Sorry, I got bored and sleep seemed a more entertaining pastime. Trust me, I know what you mean. We all want to be considered normal, and unique, and happy, all at the same time. But, really, achieving even one of those can take a lifetime. Reading your very long story about your brother actually reminds of something that happened not too long ago. I was at work, doing what I normally do: Wishing I wasn’t there, when the new security guard shuffles up to me. I think his name was Marco. It was probably Marco. It probably wasn’t Marco. Let’s just say it was Marco.
Abbie takes on the role of Marco.
Marco: So . . . you have girlfriend?
Marco: You have girlfriend?
Max: Oh, erm, no, no I don’t.
Marco: (Nodding) Ah. (Nervously) Boyfriend?
Marco: Ah. You’re single?
Max: That’s right.
Marco: But you’re not a virgin, right?
Abbie breaks out of character.
Abbie: He actually asked that?
Abbie: No build up? No ‘Sorry if this is a personal question, but’ sort of thing?
Max: (Shaking his head) No. Well, I mean, there was a bit of idle and uncomfortable small-talk, but the comment certainly rocketed out of left-field. Anyway, may I?
Abbie: Sure, sorry.
Abbie returns to character.
Max: Actually, yes, yes, I am.
Marco: (Stunned) Really? (Beat) Never? Not even once?
Max: That’s right.
Marco: Is there something wrong with you?
Max: Sorry? No, I – I just don’t want to.
Marco: Amazing. You see, at home – in Brazil – we have sex very young. If you are not having it by sixteen, they will send you to a psychiatrist to see if there is something wrong with your head!
Max: (Uncomfortable) Right.
Marco: Really? Not . . . at all? How old are you?
Marco looks him up and down.
Marco: Don’t worry. It will happen. (Nods) This is London, and you are young. There are many beautiful girls who will throw themselves at you. You will see. I will show you.
Max: Thank you very much.
Abbie: Wow. That actually happened? Isn’t that . . . I don’t know . . . kind of inappropriate?
Max: Oh, probably very much so. But I grew up in Essex, so inappropriate comments are part and parcel of my everyday life.
Max: I once, at school, had someone ask me how many times I wanked off in a week.
Max: And what?
Abbie: What was the answer?
Max: I said it was part and parcel, not that I liked it.
Abbie: Sorry. (Pause) Thank you for telling me, though. That story, I mean. I imagine it can be quite embarrassing.
Max: For him, maybe. I don’t find virginity embarrassing. It’s other people who seem to have a problem with it.
Abbie: I don’t know; I think my brothers are quite okay with me staying as I am, at least until my fifties. Back when I first started Uni, they made it very clear that I was off-limits. In fact, they nearly throttled one of my professors just because he made the mistake of saying hello.
Max: Your brothers sound a right bundle of laughs.
Abbie: They’re not too bad. Growing up with them all was a bit . . . hellish. But I miss them, now they’re not here.
Max: I’ve never had that.
Abbie: You’ve never missed people?
Max: I meant I’ve never had brothers.
Abbie: Oh. (Pause) Do you ever get lonely? (Silence) Do you ever feel like reaching out for someone?
Max: Only to make sure they’re at arm’s length.
Abbie: You’re talking to me, aren’t you?
Max: It’s important to keep in touch with the fan base.
Abbie: And there’s me thinking I was special.
Max: You are my only fan.
Abbie: What about WizardPrick22?
Max: Judging by some of what he posts, I’m not sure he’s a fan.
Abbie: No one else has tried reaching out then? Other asexuals?
Max: You are the first. A very surprising one, in fact. Not sure if I could handle another like you.
Abbie: Do you ever worry . . . I don’t know . . . that we’re alone?
Max: I learned long ago that no one is ever truly alone. I’m still disappointed.
Abbie: But . . . where are they?!
Max: They’re around. You just have to know where to look.
Abbie: Well, they’re not anywhere to be seen! How many gay icons and celebrities are there?
Max: Oh, most of them. The interesting ones, anyway.
Abbie: They get Ian McKellen, Oscar Wilde, Jodie Foster, Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, but who do we have?
Max: Salvador Dali.
Abbie: What? Really?
Max: (Nods) Though he was a bit odd. (Beat) A bit very odd. Liked to watch, rather than take part. But you know . . . artists.
Abbie: Okay . . . Dali’s pretty cool. Anybody else?
Max: (Shrugs) Maybe, but to be honest, I don’t do that sort of research.
Abbie: But, isn’t it important to be seen?! To have the world see someone like us and know that we’re out there and we’re not some weird phenomenon!
Max: I told you, Dali was weird.
Abbie: Someone who’s not Dali then!
Max: I don’t bloody know! Why don’t you try looking?
Abbie: Why haven’t you?
Max: I told you, I’m not interested! That’s your thing.
Abbie: It should be your thing.
Max: Haven’t you found them? Haven’t you done your research?
Abbie: Yes, and I found you!
Max: Is that it? I’m the only one you found?
Abbie: So far.
Max: Wait. You found me . . . and then stopped looking? Why?
Abbie: Well . . . I wanted to talk to you.
Max: Why? Why curse me with such a cruel fate?
Abbie: I don’t know. You just seem . . . angry.
Max: There are other sites out there. Blogs like mine, chatrooms, even some fancy health sites try and explain our condition.
Max: In this vast and breath-taking ocean of electronic information? Oh, there must be at least a dozen.
Max: Yes, that old relic of the early noughties.
Abbie: Have you ever used them?
Max: I think, by now, you know my opinions on chatting.
Abbie: I know your opinions on a lot of things.
Max: Not on the asexual community, you don’t.
Abbie: We have a community?
Max: I told you; there are others out there. Just because you’re the only one in your little pond doesn’t mean you can write off the rest of the world. No one’s unique in this world. We’re all depressingly similar to one another.
Abbie: What are they like?
Abbie: You’ve found them? Online? You’ve spoken to them?
Max: I didn’t say I’d spoken to them, no. Frankly, I’m not too keen on the idea.
Abbie: Why? What’s wrong with them?
Max: They’re . . . how do I put this? They’re . . . kooky.
Abbie: Kooky? What’s wrong with that?
Max: What’s wrong with being kooky? You obviously didn’t read my September post!
Abbie: I was going to, but it seemed a bit long.
Max: Let me just boil it down for you –
Abbie: No more angry, cynical ranting! Not about this – not about our community! We should be standing up for one another! Sticking together!
Max: What’s suddenly brought this on?
Abbie: It’s not sudden.
Max: The anger is.
Abbie: I’m not angry, I’m just – I don’t know what I am!
Max: What a surprise. You don’t know if you’re asexual, you don’t know if you’re angry, what do you know?
Abbie: I just don’t understand how you can’t feel the same as me? Don’t you want to be a part of something? They’re like us! As much as you might not like it, they’re the same! And so was Dali! It doesn’t matter how weird or kooky they may be, they’re all we’ve got, and we ought to stick together!
Max: And why are you so desperate to find these other people? Hmm? From my experience, other people only bring one thing into your life.
Abbie: Because I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged before! That I could . . . that I could be myself around people! And that’s what I want! I want to be me!
Max: Oh? And who have you been up until now?
Max: Have you been sleeping around?
Abbie: No –
Max: Have you been going: “Ooh, look at the arse on that hunk!”?
Abbie: Well –
Max: You’ve been yourself since the day you were born! What you want to find is a group of people who act the way you imagine you want to act, so you can then start acting like them in order to live up to your idealised version of yourself. Well, guess what? That won’t be you!
Abbie: But . . . I don’t feel like me.
Max: That’s not a problem other people can fix.
Abbie: You don’t know that.
Abbie: I’ve read your blogs! You – you’re just as confused as I am! Oh, sure, you cover it up with sarcasm and cynicism, but I bet you’re just as scared as me! You say you found all these groups, all these asexual communities. Well – they can’t all be as kooky as you say! Surely some of them are full of people just as cold-hearted and robotic as you? Or is that what you’re afraid of? That you’ll join this group and realise that, actually, you’re not that special. You’re just ordinary. You’re one of the Normals!
Max: Quite a speech. Maybe you should start your own blog.
Abbie: I . . .
Max: Best of luck with finding yourself then. If Uni doesn’t help, maybe you could always buy a self-help book. I hear they work wonders for people like you.
Abbie: Max . . . I’m . . .
Max: Comments are disabled for this post.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .