Alfred-KubinI was trying to explain to someone the other day about my theory of sensual-vs-sexual, in the context of asexuality. An image came to mind that I wanted to expand on, and this seemed as good a place as any…

Looking back over my life at my sexual/loving encounters, it now seems to me like watching a film that was in the Language of Love, but where the sub-titles were in Sexualese, and the sound was turned off.

I’ve just learned how to turn the sound up, so now I can hear the original language, and therefore find out what was and is really going on, at last – even though the old habits (and old sub-titles) are still there.

It makes me feel very sad, looking back this way, to see how much love I lost by having love sexualised for me, and so being afraid of it. Other people got hurt along the way because of this – but it wasn’t me that turned the sound off, it was my abusers.

I just came across a poem I wrote when I was around 17, and was in love with two people – a boy, and a girl (I still dream about them). The poem is kind of about both of them, and it’s so obvious to me now that it’s about longing for love, connexion, touch, without sex.


 given half a chance
(and fifteen times the courage)
I’ll be lying there,
mind gently on the ripple and so,
     feel warm skin of one who trusts me drowsy smiling,
         eyes closed but
     us linked like unseen

My loveliest experiences have been being naked with some loved one, snoozing together, cuddling, talking, laughing, but not as foreplay or aftplay (I may have just invented this word, and I like it… nope, others have beaten me to it, but I don’t begrudge them, I’m a co-operative beast). This is what I want from a… well, a lover, but an asexual lover. Isn’t language bendy? Lover nowadays pretty fundamentally means “someone you have sex with.” But I want “someone I have love with.” (This is not an advertisement.)


I want to explain the painting above. It’s by the German artist Alfred Kubin (I don’t know the title of the painting… oh, it turns out it’s called Mythical Creature – or at least that’s the English translation of the title). I’ve spent years fruitlessly searching for an image of this, and only just rediscovered it (all things gravitate to the Internet eventually). My first ever girlfriend (who was German) gave me a poster with this on, because I loved it so much – loved the atmosphere, loved the animal, wolf-cat, cat-wolf. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Looking at this, I found myself remembering the first time she and I had sex (the first time I had sex as an adult), and how scared I was, and how I couldn’t let on (even to myself) how scared I was. And how I got glandular fever in order to escape from my “sexual obligation” – and how ever since then, I’ve kept getting ill to escape honourably from having to be sexual. It all seems so transparent now, now that it’s safe to know it. As Samuel Delany put it, Things that made the obscure obvious by overturning, overturned.

Free from sex now, free from the sub-titles (read them and laugh at the appalling translation, why don’t we). And this song of love is loud and sinuous and sonorous, lyrical, hilarious, profound, warm, hot, cool, abundant, healing, heartening, amuses all the muses… and is never just for one person.

the bright star shining

[This glorious painting is by Catherine Hyde… and is called The Bright Star Shining]


One comment on “Sub-untitled

  1. James R. Martin says:


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