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self love

  • Sexual Health

    A Teen’s Guide to Asexuality

    By G and C

    The word “asexual” is used in many different ways and can mean many things.

    If you’re looking for a general definition when it comes to orientation, an asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction (according to www.asexuality.org). The intensity of a person’s asexuality can vary heavily. This can cause each asexual person to have different experiences. For example, just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean they do not seek romance or a partner. Someone who is asexual can have a romantic orientation (ex. heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, etc.) or be aromantic. Asexuality in itself is a spectrum. There are a variety of ways asexuals may choose to label themselves. They also might not choose a label at all. Asexuality is about attraction, not action. One may still desire sex or engage in other sexual activities and be asexual.

    As the authors of this article, we want to share our personal experiences with asexuality. We also share where we feel we are on the spectrum. Asexuality can be a confusing sexuality for people to understand because it is so broad. We hope our experiences will give insight to other people who are curious about the orientation.

    Author G –

    I was fourteen when I first started to wonder if I might be asexual.

    Before then, I thought to be asexual meant you didn’t want to be in a relationship at all. Not, that you didn’t feel any kind of attraction besides platonic. I realized I was wrong when I started telling my friend about how sexual stuff and the thought of sex itself grossed me out. She asked if I had considered that I might be asexual and I thought that couldn’t be true. Then, she gave me the real definition: being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want a relationship. It also doesn’t mean you can’t feel romantic attraction. It just means you don’t feel attracted to anyone in a sexual way, which actually fit the way I felt.

    Sexual stuff had always weirded me out. I thought everyone else felt the same way- until I realized less and less of my friends thought it was gross. I began to think that I might not just be a “late bloomer.” Some of my friends were already trying out things like masturbation and watching porn. Every time they mentioned it, I thought it sounded disgusting. I had no interest in any of it and this became another sign I might be asexual when I really started to consider that I was.

    For a while, I avoided giving myself the label because I still thought there might be the possibility I was late to the party.

    Technically, there still is a chance I could wake up one day and begin to feel sexual attraction. And that’s not a bad thing. But time went on, and I kept being uninterested in sexual stuff. Eventually, I decided to own the label and let people know I felt this way. I’m still not out to everyone. In a way, I admit I’m embarrassed that I don’t feel sexual attraction. Luckily I’m surrounded by accepting friends and I’ve learned to accept it myself. Not feeling attraction sexually doesn’t mean you’re late. It doesn’t mean you’re innocent. And it doesn’t mean you’re weird. It’s just the way you are and there are other people like you. Don’t be afraid to accept yourself!

    Author C –

    I have always known how I felt, but I never found a label for myself until the beginning of ninth grade.

    I began to notice the sexual experiences and feelings of my friends and peers in middle school. Constantly, I wondered when I would be able to relate to them. My friends enjoyed movies with sex scenes in them and they made out with their partners, things which I just did not feel the same way about. I would google questions like “What age are you supposed to want sex?” and “Is it ok to not like anyone in a sexual way?” It took me a few years to finally discover the word “asexual”, and it sounded like a perfect fit for me. I was worried at first that I might have hypoactive sexual desire disorder, another word I stumbled across on the internet.

    However, people with this disorder tended to experience distress, but I was personally content with my lack of sexual attraction or desire.

    The only confusion I felt was why I was so different from everyone else and the sexual culture around me. Although I had finally found a label I was happy with, I felt cut off from the world. The website AVEN (The Asexual Visibility and Education Network) provided an online community which validated my experiences and helped answer any questions I had.

    I had not realized that I knew another person who also identified as asexual until this year.

    I have been friends with G for a long time but did not realize she was asexual until recently. It was incredibly validating to find a friend who I could relate to and we decided to write this article for Girlspring readers. “Asexual” is still a widely unknown term, which is part of why the community seems so small right now. My hope is that our article will help other asexuals figure out who they are in a society that may struggle to understand them.

    There is a culture surrounding teenagers that demands that they must constantly want sex and that no teenage relationship goes without it.

    This is specifically harmful to teenagers that identify as asexual or feel like they might be asexual. Society portrays all teenage relationships as filled with sex. Media says in order to have a healthy relationship, you must have sex regularly. This is scary to asexual people. It makes us feel separated from everyone else. It makes other teenagers think that we are innocent or “lame” for not wanting sex. There is also pressure to feel like we must be willing to have sex to keep our partner happy.

    Some asexual people are sex-positive (okay with having sex out of curiosity or for the sake of their partner’s pleasure), so this may not be as much of a problem for them.

    For asexual people who are uncomfortable with having sex at all, the culture surrounding sex can make it scary for us to tell a partner that we don’t want to do sexual things for the fear that they might break up with us because of that. It is not right that sex and sexual activities are forced down the throats of teenagers in general. It gives asexual teenagers a much harder experience coming out and trying to seek romance if they fall under a romantic orientation in particular. Asexuals already only making up a small minority of the population. The sex culture in the media can make it worse for us to accept ourselves and get others to accept us. This is part of the reason we wrote this article: to bring more awareness to those on the asexual spectrum and make asexuals feel less out of place.

     

    Do you think you might be asexual? The one similarity between all asexuals is that they do not feel sexual attraction (sexual attraction is the desire for sexual contact with someone). Here are some other possible signs you could be an “ace”:

    • Not understanding when other people describe someone as “hot” or “sexy”.
    • Feeling uncomfortable when people ask questions about sexual behaviors and preferences.
    • Feeling out of place at sleepovers, school, or anywhere that sex may become a topic of conversation or interest of those around you.
    • Having trouble defining or differentiating between different types of attraction (romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, platonic, etc.)
    • No desire to engage in any kind of sexual activities.
    • Not understanding the difficulty some people have with celibacy or abstinence because you would be generally content without engaging in sexual activities.

     

    Do you know someone who identifies as asexual? Here are some good rules of thumb on what is or is not appropriate to do or say to an asexual person:

    APPROPRIATE

    • Not revealing or pressuring them to reveal their orientation to anyone without their permission.
    • Doing research to better understand their identity and to be more respectful
    • Being a supportive friend regarding their asexuality

     

    INAPPROPRIATE

    • Asking questions like “Are you a plant?”, “Are you sure you just haven’t found the right person yet?”, or “Isn’t asexuality fake?”
    • Labeling them as “innocent”, “odd”, or “prude”
    • Making jokes about their orientation, especially in public, that might cause them to feel uncomfortable

     

    Click here for more information.

  • Articles

    What is Depression?

    What is Depression?

    Depression is categorized as a mood disorder. In some cases, it can cause teenagers to have suicidal thoughts. What’s even sadder is that it is the third leading cause, in terms of deaths, amongst teenagers as well. And to make things even worse, there is a lot of stigmas surrounding the idea that young kids simply do not experience these types of emotions or feelings (which is far from the truth). According to psychcentral.com, the average onset of depression is 14 years old and 80 percent of teens do not receive help regarding this issue either. This is mainly due to the various ways in which depressive symptoms tend to show up.

    If depressive symptoms last for at least two weeks or more, then the signs you are seeing could be parallel to something that is not just regular teenage moodiness. Loss of energy, changes in appetite, fluctuating weight, frequent complaints about headaches or any physical pain, or a sudden change in grades are a few things to pay attention to when things do not feel right inside of you. According to heysigmund.com, mood and pain share the same pathways in the brain and they are regulated by the same brain chemicals (serotonin and norepinephrine). It can also make people oversleep, hypersomnia, and often times it causes them to have trouble falling back asleep. It is important to find healthy outlets to channel the transitions that you may be experiencing in life or the complex emotions that you may feel as you are growing up. Grounding yourself is important especially since depression is a worldwide issue and is even more common in families since it is a biological condition.

    Medication can be used to treat this mental disorder and often times, cognitive therapy can aid in making healthy choices and decisions. Exercise coupled with sunshine can help you recharge your energy and ground you. Practice healthy communication and always remind yourself that this something that you are not alone on and that everyone, at some point in time, experiences thoughts and emotions that causes them to be sad. Psychotherapy is a good practice of mindfulness to take up since it could have more long lasting positive effects rather than medication that could cause some negative side effects. Focus on creating positive affirmations and thoughts on yourself because sometimes depression makes us feel less than what we are. If you have any friends that are experiencing these types of feelings or you are concerned about, make yourself available and know that you cannot change them and that this is something that they also have to work on inside of themselves. Again, depression is often a complex and misunderstood mental illness so it operates from numerous planes.

    Embrace that being young brings about a lot of changes both physically and mentally. This is a time of pure growth. Explore all of your emotions and do not let anyone hold you back from that. Work on healing and strengthening these quarks and remember that if something does not feel right inside of you, reach out to people that care about you. You do not have to suffer in silence.

  • Articles

    What are the Different Types of Depression?

    What are the Different Types of Depression?

    Depression can come in a variety of ways. It is not a binary mental disorder. The condition has many faces and many avenues that it can cross that plays into its complexities. In the same respect that symptoms can vary among different people, there are different types of diagnoses as well. Sadness is something that we all feel and know, but depression is a completely different ballpark. However, no matter the severity of the condition, there is a treatment for it. Below are a few common versions of it, along with a few traits that are carried along with it: According to majorhealth.com, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the most common variant of depression. You often feel and see symptoms of extreme sadness, feeling guilt for no reason, changes in eating habits, and tends to recur throughout the entirety of a person’s life. Dysthymia, which is another type of depression that causes a low mood that lasts for over a year. On the bright side of the spectrum, around 80 to 90 percent of patients respond well to the antidepressants offered to them by their doctor. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is coupled with anxiety, an increase in irritability, fatigue during the sunlight hours, and weight gain. This most often occurs when the weather changes from warm to cold. This is mostly due to the lack of sunlight. Symptoms for this type of disorder can be mild but have been severe in some cases. SAD usually lifts during the springtime and can be cured with artificial light therapy. Psychotic depression, which is a mental state coupled with disorganized thoughts, behaviors, irregular thought patterns, false sights or sounds, hallucinations, etc. Sometimes it is hard for people in these positions to even leave their beds. Treatment for this includes: antidepressants and anti psychotic medication. Taking both of these together has more of a useful effect than taking them individually. Because there are so many variations of depression, it is important to be diagnosed by a mental health professional. In the meantime, focus on grounding yourself and try to identify the negativity that is overtaking you and reflect on it, in order to move forward in your life. With this idea of reframing the way one may look at their depression, and educating themselves on the different types of depression, someone could recover from the warped perception of themselves that they may have and work on gaping the bridge between their successes and failures. Focus on activities that you may enjoy and base your outlook on taking care of yourself because self care is an important and imperative part of being a human being. Reward yourself for the efforts that you take to make sure you are okay and if something seems too difficult to break down, then break it down in order to make it easier for you. Remember that this life is what you make it, essentially, and that everything will work out for the greater benefit of you.

  • Body Image, Health

    Society and Unrealistic Beauty Standards

    Society and Unrealistic Beauty Standards

    Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see how a young woman’s body standards can be so easily influenced by outside factors. Ever see a girl scrolling through celebrities’ Instagram pictures and hear them say, “They’re so flawless, I want to look just like her”? This scenario happens every day with teens and young women. Although some might express this as a light-hearted and innocent comment, some truly want to change their appearances to please society and their peers to be more desired and fit in better.

    This isn’t to confuse with wanting to improve someone’s appearance for a positive reason, such as a healthy weight goal or changing the way one does makeup to enhance their beauty more. The problem arises when a girl wants to change how she looks due to seeing unrealistic perfection or because of the constant pressure from society’s standards of beauty.

    It is no secret that, for years, the beauty industry has given this idea of looking flawless 24/7 to impressionable young women. We grow up looking at beautiful magazine covers, gorgeous makeup ads, and perfect looking hair, nails, body, etc. Although it’s understandable for a company to want beautiful models to sell their products, it gives off unrealistic beauty standards. Why? Because regular people on the street don’t usually look how companies and social media portrays women to be! If you don’t have an hourglass shape, that’s okay! If you don’t have white, straight teeth, that’s okay! Everyone is unique in their own way and should not change who they are because of what society says is “the best.”

    Since social media is so prevalent among celebrities and young people, it worsens the problem even more. Different types of apps allow filters, editing, and photoshop. If a girl wanted to improve her appearance online, she has the tools to do so. This applies to physically altering one’s appearance as well, whether it be through plastic surgery, injections, fillers, etc. Of course, most celebrities do not like to admit that they have used certain measures to make their appearance seem better, but the girls viewing their content can easily think that “this is what perfection looks like, society likes this type of look, and I want to obtain it too.” These types of thoughts usually make girls compare themselves to others, and that is not a healthy thing to do, self-esteem wise.

    Thankfully, companies are starting to realize the self-deprecation girls and can feel while looking at beauty ads or models selling clothes. More and more companies are allowing diversity into their ads, and this gives off a very positive message to young women who do not always fit the “perfect body type” or other types of standards that society has deemed to be “perfect.” Many people, including myself, are applauding these companies for their realistic models that look like the majority of people and not the small niche of beauty and fashion models that have a very specific and hard to obtain look.

    This is a great step in the right direction for the beauty and clothing industry, and more companies should follow their example. The good thing for girls is that if you are aware that today’s beauty standards are unrealistic, then you won’t be as influenced. You can recognize that there are so many different looks of being beautiful. One person’s ideal may not be someone else’s. Don’t be focused on pleasing everyone else. It’s okay to focus on yourself! Self-love is very important for self-esteem and one’s mental health. Sometimes we’re so focused on little details, like always covering up your body or always covering up blemishes that they can take over our lives. Just be yourself, be happy with who you are, and everything else will fall into place.