Peter loved his girlfriend. He really did. He would do anything to make her happy. He did anything to make her happy. So when they were alone and she started pulling his shirt off his body, he didn’t stop her.
They were only teenagers, but all teenagers fooled around. He saw it on TV and he heard it in every song on the radio. Sex was normal. Everyone had it. He heard the guys in the locker room at the gym talk about dates with their girlfriends. They described sex as the best thing in the world.
He didn’t see the appeal to sex. Even during it. Especially during it.
His girlfriend did though. She loved it. So Peter would do it because compromising was a part of relationships. He could go through the motions to have her smiling. Except, sometimes it was harder than just going through the motions.
Most times, it left him feeling sick. But when he wasn’t feeling sick, he felt numb and that was worse than even the first time when Peter was throwing up for an hour afterward. Because at least he felt something.
This time, he had walked home from his girlfriend’s house because he was too scared to swing like this. He felt like he was barely in control. He never was during it. He liked to just...pretend he wasn’t there, but when it was over, sometimes it was harder to come back.
It was so bad today that he didn’t even realize he got back to the tower until he was standing in the living room and FRIDAY was calling his name. Peter blinked and turned up to the ceiling. “What?”
“Are you okay, Peter? Your vitals are not at a normal range. I can call your fathers.”
Peter’s mouth felt dry. He felt dirty. He felt used. He didn’t know what to do. He knew he just wanted his dads. He was scared that this feeling would never go away. Why did he even have this feeling? He should be like a normal teenager and enjoy sex.
Why can't you just be normal, Peter?
It took a few tries for Peter to speak and when he did, his voice was just barely audible. “Please.”
Peter wasn’t sure how he was standing there before he heard the elevator doors open. Time worked differently when he was in this state. But he recognized those footsteps. He recognized the pair of beating hearts. He recognized that voice. “Hey, Pete, FRIDAY said you needed us.”
Peter looked up at them and nodded his head. He must have looked bad because Peter saw the concern grow on Dad and Pops’ faces when they saw him. Their pace hurried as well.
Pops tried to keep calm when he spoke. “Hey, bud. What’s up? Didn’t you have a date?”
The date had memories flooding back and his stomach churned. At least he was starting to feel. He nodded his head.
Dad and Pops exchanged a nervous glance. “Did something go wrong?”
Peter hesitated. Nothing went wrong really. They were teenagers and parents weren’t home. They were in love so why shouldn’t they make love? She seemed to enjoy it the entire time. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he felt wrong. Something was wrong with him. He settled on saying, “I think I’m sick.”
“Sick?” Dad asked, reaching a hand over to press against his forehead. “You don’t feel warm. Did you get sick?”
Peter paused, trying to remember if he did. He shook his head. “Not this time.”
“Not this time…” Pops repeated slowly. “Peter, what’s going on?”
Tony chuckled, but it wasn’t a happy chuckle. It was empty. It was scared. “Bambino, you’re scaring us. What happened?”
Peter swallowed thickly and said, “Please don’t be mad.”
“We won’t be mad at you,” Pops said. "If you come to us upset, we're not going to use it against you."
“She wanted--...we had sex,” Peter answered, looking down at his feet do he didn’t have to see their reactions.
They were quiet and Peter waited for them to be angry. But there was no yelling. After a long moment, Dad cleared his throat and said, “Okay...well, were you safe?”
Peter jerked his head in a nod.
Dad continued on in a soft voice. “That’s good. Well...we should have had this talk a little sooner, I guess. Sit you down and explain things to you.”
Pops made a choked off noise at that and Peter couldn’t help but look up at them. Dad didn’t look angry or disappointed. Pops’ face was a deep red as he said, “You’ve only been dating a few months...did you both sit and talk about this? Think it through. I mean, you’re both still kids--.”
“Steve,” Tony said, stopping him. “They are kids. He’s our baby. But they did it...and now...we just have to handle this.” He took a deep breath and asked Peter, “Well, I didn’t expect you to have your first--.”
“It wasn’t my first,” Peter said, his heart pounding in his ears.
“What?” Pops asked.
“It wasn’t-- I can’t remember how many. Our first was a few months ago on her birthday,” he answered. He couldn’t remember because they had done it so many times. He didn’t think they had done it too often. Probably enough to count on one hand. But he couldn’t remember because he usually tried to block each time out.
“You can’t remember-- okay, that’s okay. You’re a teenager and things are...changing. It’s okay to have these feelings. It’s okay to act on them, as long as you’re doing so in a safe environment and using protection,” Dad told him.
Peter started to take short and rapid breaths. He felt his eyes burning up. “That’s why I think something’s wrong. I think I’m sick.”
“Becuase you want to have sex with your girlfriend? There’s nothing wrong with that,” Dad said, his voice firm. “There is nothing wrong with having...feelings.”
Peter wiped his eyes, looking back down. “But what if I don’t?”
“What do you mean you don’t?” Pops asked, his voice low. Peter didn’t answer except for a shrug of his shoulders and Pops continued, his voice sounding almost scared. “Peter, you’ve got to help us here. You don’t have feelings for her? You didn’t want to have sex with her?”
“I wanted to,” Peter answered, despite his mind screaming otherwise.
“You wanted to...but you don’t have feelings for her?” Pops asked, struggling to understand. Peter didn’t blame him for being confused. So was Peter.
“I don’t have feelings for...anyone...like that. I-I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I don’t feel attracted to her like that. She’s gorgeous and I really like to spend time with her, but I don’t feel those feelings.” Peter wasn’t even sure if that made sense. What human didn't want sex?
“Why do you want it, if you don’t have those feelings?” Dad asked, his voice calmer than Peter’s or Pops’.
“Because she wants to and it makes her happy. I just want to make her happy because I love her,” Peter answered honestly. That was the only good thing that ever came out of this: knowing she was happy.
“Peter, if you don’t like her then you shouldn’t force it. She will find someone that likes her back like that and you’ll find someone too. You’re still young.” Dad reached forward and squeezed his arm.
Peter let out a frustrated whine. They weren’t getting it. “But I love her! I love her and I just don’t want to have sex!” He shouted. “I don’t have these feelings. Ever. You said it’s okay to have these feelings, but that’s why I’m broken. Because I don't have feelings like that. I don’t like sex at all! In fact, it just makes me sick! I either feel sick or I feel nothing at all. I hate sex and that’s why I’m sick!” After his outburst, he stared at them as he breathed heavily, scared of how they'd react to know their son didn't function like a normal human being.
“Sit down,” Pops said, taking his hand. “Please, Peter. This--This is important.”
Peter let Pops pull him down to the couch and both of them sat down, sandwiching him. “I’m sorry for yelling.”
“Please don’t apologize, Petey,” Dad said. “We just want to understand so we can help.”
“I don’t know what is going on either,” Peter cried, wiping at his eyes. “I just know that I’m not like everyone else and I hate sex, but my girlfriend is normal and she wants it. I just want to be able to have sex with her without freaking out.”
Dad spoke up after he was done. “You’re not bisexual.”
Peter sniffed, looking up at him. “Yes, I am. I like both boys and girls. I think they’re both equally beautiful. I’d be in a relationship with either.”
“Yes. Because you’re biromantic,” Dad explained. “But you’re not bisexual.”
“What do you mean?” Peter asked, never hearing the term before.
“You’re not broken, Peter. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not sick.”
“But I don’t--.”
“Because you’re asexual,” Dad repeated with a small smile. “Asexual biromantic.”
“Asexual?” Peter repeated, the word foreign on his tongue. “What does that mean?”
“Asexual is a spectrum. But I think you’re falling on that spectrum because you don’t feel that sexual attraction. And you’re repulsed by sex, right?”
Peter nodded his head, holding his breath. Was there actually a name for him?
“Well...like Pops and I are sexually attracted to boys and girls, we’re bisexual. You’re attracted to neither so you’re asexual. You’re biromantic because you are romantically attracted to boys and girls still. Your relationships aren’t ruined just because you don’t want sex.”
“I’m not...it’s okay to not have any sexual attraction? To not want sex? To feel disgusted by sex?”
“Of course, it’s okay, baby,” Dad whispered. “Any feels you have or don’t have are completely valid.”
Peter wasn’t broken. He was asexual.
Finally having a name for this had him leaning over, sobbing into his hands.
There were hands on him immediately, rubbing his back and hugging him. Both of his fathers were whispering soft words to calm him down. They were worried something was wrong, but when Peter could finally sit up and control his voice, he said, “I’m okay...I just didn’t think there was a name. I thought there was something wrong with me.”
Pops leaned down to get in his level of vision and said, “I promise you, Peter, that there is nothing wrong with you. I’m proud of you for coming to us. I know that must have been really scary.”
Peter nodded his head, sniffling. “Yeah. It was. But not as scary as…”
Peter covered his mouth, trying to hold back the gag he felt rise up from his stomach. “As...before. Before...with her...every time. It’s really...really scary.” Peter felt his hands start to shake. “After. It gets scary after. When sometimes I don’t come back. I always get scared I won’t. And I’ll be stuck.”
Pops grabbed his hands, but they continued to shake. “Stuck where, bud?”
“I disappear. Or...try to,” Peter said, struggling to put words to the feeling. “After the first time, I panicked. I freaked out. I couldn’t-- I didn’t know. So the next time I just...separated myself from what was going on. I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want to know it was going on. I just wanted to keep her happy.”
“Peter…” Pops said, sounding devastated. “You...you shouldn’t have to dissociate to keep your girlfriend happy.”
“Yeah, bambino. You’re dissociating when you do that. That’s not healthy. Does she know how you feel?”
“I-I never told her. She knew I was nervous, but she thought maybe I was just nervous to do it for the first time I guess. She said it would make her happy and she’d teach me.”
“Well, you’re done with that,” Pops said, making a sound of. “You’re through with forcing yourself to have sex with her. You realize that’s...that’s not consent.”
“But I tell her I’m fine. I didn’t say no--.”
“Don’t. Do not sit here and excuse her for her actions. You’re going to tell her that this is done. No more sex.” Pops was using his no-nonsense voice.
“But...she said it makes her happy…”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed this yet, Peter, but I don’t give a damn if she’s happy. I just want you to be happy. I think Dad can agree.”
“Pops is right. You’re going to lay down and the next time you see her, you’re going to tell her. You don’t have to come out to her right away. You do that on your own time. But when she asks, tell her no.”
“It’s not that easy,” Peter said. “I just want her happy.”
“Again, I don’t give a shit about her. Not when my son is making himself sick. So if she can’t accept your choice, then she doesn’t deserve you and you are going to find someone else. Someone who will respect you.”
“What if she doesn’t understand. Or what if we come to some sort of compromise I can’t really expect her to just--.”
“There aren’t any what if’s here, kid,” Dad said. “Either she respects your decision to not have sex or you break up with her. Because if you tell her that you don’t want sex and she pushes you anyway, that’s rape.”
“Yes, it is,” Pops said. “Now it’s pretty dubious in terms of consent, but if you tell her that you don’t want it and she still pushes it, there is definitely no consent there.”
“I’m scared to tell her,” he whispered. “What if I can’t do it? I know she’ll convince me not to end things.”
“Take her somewhere pubic. Sit down at a coffee shop with her where people can see and then you tell her what’s going on in your mind.”
Peter nodded his head. “Okay...I can try.”
“I’m proud of you, sweetie,” Pops said, squeezing his hand. “We’re so proud of you.”
“Thank you,” Peter said, trying to ignore the fear of eventually having this conversation with his girlfriend. For now, he just wanted to savor the relief of knowing there wasn’t something wrong with him. He was okay. He wasn’t normal, but he never really was. Dad and Pops knew what was going on and they were helping him. They had his back. It was all going to be okay. “Thank you so much.”
“Don’t thank us...we should have known sooner something was going on,” Pops said. “I always had a bad feeling about her, but I never thought that that was going on.”
“I’m sorry." Peter wasn't even sure what he was apologizing for. He just knew that he needed to apologize for something.
“No apologies either. Thank you for coming to us. For trusting us. And if you ever feel like you need to get away from your mind or your body again, please find one of us first, yeah?” Dad said softly. “We can help you avoid that or maybe just keep an eye on you in that state. Try to get you back.”
Peter nodded his head, feeling even more relief, knowing that not only were they accepting of his asexuality, but they also didn't think he was crazy for...dissociating. They just wanted to help him.
“Actually, before we wrap this up, kiddo...I just want to ask you something,” Pops said, sounding unsure.
“Of course, Pops.”
Pops hesitated before asking, “How repulsive do you find sex? I mean...is it only when you’re involved or does just the thought of anyone partaking in intercourse make you uncomfortable?”
Peter looked down at Pops’ hand still holding his. He felt so childish. “Yeah...um...any sex makes me really uncomfortable. Anything that gets too...physical. Like making out too much and touching.”
“Dad and I kissing...is that okay?”
Peter looked up surprised that he was making sure something as little as kissing and hugging were okay for him. “Yeah…I mean, you guys never get too gross. I know I gag and complain, but I’m just teasing you guys. I think I also like kissing and hugging and cuddling...as long as nothing else is expected of me.”
“In a healthy relationship, nothing will ever be expected of you. I promise.”
“I don’t think she’ll give up sex for me,” he admitted. “I don’t think I could even ask her to.”
“Then she’s not the girl for you.”
“But what if no one is. What if I never find someone willing to give up sex for me?” Peter asked, feeling terrified.
“You will. I know you will. There are other asexuals out in this world and even if you end up with someone that isn’t asexual, I know someone will love you enough to give up sex,” Pops said.
“How do you know?”
“I’d give it up in a heartbeat for Dad.” Pops shrugged his shoulders. “And I know someone will love you enough to think the same thing. Cap’s intuition tells me so.”
“Thank you,” Peter said again.
Thank you for helping me feel whole.