Before we begin: this is not intended to be an overview of asexuality. It will be covered briefly so everyone is on the same page, but beyond that you should refer yourself to the Resources section for more information. This post is meant to be about incorporating asexual issues into social justice discussions and providing resources for asexuals, demisexuals, gray-as, and their allies.
Asexuality in General
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to people of any gender. It occupies the opposite end of the sexuality spectrum to pansexuality (being sexually attracted to people of all genders). Asexuality is also sometimes called nonsexuality so as not to confuse the identity with the asexual reproduction. Asexuality/nonsexuality’s largest problem is its complete lack of recognition. Unlike homosexuality and bisexuality, which have at least been recognized in human history if generally reviled, asexuality has long been dismissed and asexuals, due to our statistically small numbers- the few scientific studies that cover it have traditionally put the figure at 1% of the human population- isolated and alienated.
Important things to remember about asexuality:
- It is a sexual orientation; not a behavioral choice like celibacy
- Since asexuality is a sexual orientation, asexual people are NOT ‘going through a phase’, or ‘haven’t met the right person yet’, or ‘need to be medicated for a hormone imbalance’, ‘abused as a child’, ‘raped’, ‘being stand-offish’, etc.
- Sexual attraction does not equal sex drive/libido, and neither of those things equal the actual practice of having sex. Someone who does not have a sex drive is a non-libidoist. A person who does not have sex is celibate. A person who does not experience sexual attraction is asexual. A person in any of these categories can be in any other, or just in one.
- If someone tells you they are asexual, you do NOT, under any circumstances, have the right, privilege, or ability to tell them they aren’t.
- Rule of thumb to see if your response to asexuality is offensive: replace ‘asexual’ with ‘gay’. Does it sound offensive now?
How to Tell If You Are Asexual
Do you experience sexual attraction to people, i.e. looking at someone and thinking ‘I would like to have sex with that person because they are hot’.
If yes, then you are not asexual.
If no, then you are very likely asexual.
That’s all you need.
It is absolutely and perfectly possible to be asexual and:
- Want sex
- Think about sex
- Have kinks
- Have sex of any sort
- Watch porn
- Get turned on/become aroused
- Read/write/draw smut
- Be involved in fandom shipping
This is where you get this wonderful quote from asexualeducation:
For asexuals, sex is like… a donut. When we see a donut, we do not have the urge to eat the donut. This does not necessarily mean we hate the donut, or think the donut is disgusting— many of us even like donuts. But we never have any urge to walk over there and eat it.
Asexuality in Social Justice
Doubtless many asexuals are involved in social justice for feminism, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and all the other varied places where activism is needed. There are asexuals who suffer under all these things, and are a part of all these communities.
As far as being inclusive of asexual people in talks about social justice, the following list should be of help.
- Acknowledge the fact that we exist. This is the first step.
- If anyone says something to the effect of ‘I wish I were asexual’ or ‘I’m done with sex and relationships I’m becoming asexual’; call them out on it. This is not okay and reinforces the misconception that asexuals are ‘making it all up’ to seem more special or mask feelings of inadequacy about past failed relationships.
- It is never, EVER okay to say asexuality is caused by sexual abuse. This is a disgustingly common response to asexuality from everyone from strangers to family members. This is needs to stop immediately.
- Don’t treat asexuals like they are innocent in the ways of hormones and the body. There are certainly asexuals who, because they simply don’t think about sex often, will miss sexual innuendo and jokes. There are asexuals who have never and will never have sex because they wish not to. But asexuals are, on average, just as informed as anyone else on how sex works, why people do, and what to do in the event of having sex- even if we may not necessarily have a good idea of everyone else’s motivations behind any of these things.
- Spend more time talking about how the pervasiveness of sex and sexuality as a social construct pressures people into having sex because it’s what’s ‘expected’ of people. This topic usually pops up in feminist and sexism discussions; and the same social scripts that imply when and how men are supposed to be sexually forward and women are/aren’t tend to hit asexuals especially hard. There are a good number of asexuals who spent time in relationships where they had sex for no reason beyond they thought they had to, hated it, and are still trying to deal with the revulsion the experience instilled in them.
- Asexuals also struggle for marriage and relationship ‘rights’- not in a legal sense, but in the social. The vast majority of people will look at a relationship with no sex involved and immediately and forever categorize it as ‘just friendship’. This is very hurtful to asexuals both in and out of relationships. Asexuals who are not in a relationship may never bother trying to fulfill their need for a close, romantic relationship because they think no one will believe them when they ask for a relationship without sex. Asexuals in a non-marriage relationship are constantly told their partner isn’t really their partner, just perhaps a close friend; and asexuals in a marriage face people assuming and even voicing the ‘fact’ that their marriage is ‘falling apart’ because they don’t have sex, or have it infrequently. Not only is this erasure damaging to the visibility and acceptance of asexuality as a whole; it is often incredibly difficult for the asexuals involved in the relationships. Many asexuals are not in relationships with other asexuals and will always carry doubts about whether or not they are adequately pleasing to their sexual partner, and if said sexual partner is pretending for their sake or will leave soon. These sorts of comments reinforce the doubt and can contribute to problems like depression and low self-esteem.
- Furthermore- love is all well and good. However, there are people, a fair many of whom are also asexuals, that identify as aromantic- not experiencing romantic attraction. Even when people accept that people do not experience asexual attraction, they are often unwilling to consider that people have no intrinsic desire for romance. The inclination to treat love as the ultimate argument for the equal rights in marriage debate is perfectly legitimate; just please don’t act like everyone will want to get married, fall in love, or that there is something wrong with them if they don’t.
- Trying to medicate or force sex therapy sessions onto an asexual is just as vile, cruel, and inhumane as such a thing would be for a homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual person. This situation, especially therapy, is often seen in younger asexuals who are still in their teenage years and live with their parents. Many therapists will ‘diagnose’ an asexual person as having Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and/or Sexual Aversion Disorder, as classified by the American Psychological Association since the DSM-III-R in 1987 (the DSM-V has mentioned asexuality as an alternative to Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and made provisions that anyone identifying as such is appropriate; but it has yet to be seen how fast or widely the psychiatric community will pick up on this). This is detrimental to the mental well-being of asexuals because it reinforces the ‘broken’ stigma society places on people who do not conform to the standards of heteronormativity. In addition, taking hormonal supplements in an attempt to ‘even out’ or ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken can be dangerous to physical health.
- In the event of a discussion about or with sexual liberation, especially in anti-sexist and feminism circles, make sure that sexual liberation not only encompasses the freedom of everyone to have sex with whomever they like whenever they like, but to also not do so; and that support for these people is given. Asexual women are often accused of being ‘frigid’, ‘cold’, ‘prudish’, and ‘heartless’. This is triply-hurtful as sexism, asexual erasure, and again instilling doubts about the validity of their personal experiences.
- Just as there are homosexuals and bisexuals who have been raped by people to ‘make them straight’; so too have there been asexual people who have been raped to ‘make them want sex’.
- Asexuals suffering from medical disorders (mental, emotional, and physical) tend to have especial difficulties with being accepted by sexual people. They are often told that their asexuality is a symptom of whatever they have been diagnosed with. This is a problem for both the asexual community with erasure and alienation; and the respective communities for mental and emotional disorders and physical disabilities for being misrepresented and further marginalized.
- The zealously religious can sometimes be a bit odd, as I’m sure everyone knows. A very few Christians have taken up the stance that asexuality is immoral and unnatural, presumably because of the edict to “go forth and multiply” and the various warnings in the Bible against lust implying that sexual attraction is something every human has; as well as the Catholic proscription for sex and children as an essential part of marriage. There has been at least one documented case of family members of an asexual believing the asexual was possessed by a demon.
- A good proportion of asexuals active on the Internet, and Tumblr especially, are teenagers and adults in their younger twenties. These asexuals face people telling them they don’t know themselves well enough to make decisions about their personal identities. Just about the most ignorant and disrespectful thing you can tell an asexual is that they have to have sex before they can make a decision on how they feel about it.
- It is incredibly intrusive to enquire after an asexual’s sexual behaviors and thoughts- just as it would be for anyone. Do not do this, and call out anyone who does.
- Asexuality in the media has a rocky and uninspiring track record. The three ‘asexual icons’ in the media- Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Sherlock Holmes, and The Doctor from Doctor Who- all have their own problems. The Doctor was recently stated to be asexual, but The Doctor is also an alien- not a human. This unfortunately creates more associations with the desire for sex as a human function, and for people who do not want sex to be somehow inhuman or broken. Sherlock Holmes has never, in any of his incarnations, been stated to be asexual. Steven Moffat, the writer for the stunningly-popular BBC Sherlock series has even gone so far as to explicitly saw that Sherlock Holmes is not asexual, because ‘it would be boring’ if he were. In addition, the BBC series, or at least the fandom, has also attributed Sherlock Holmes with sociopathy and/or related conditions; once again implying in the minds of many that asexuals are ‘broken’ or that asexuality is a symptom of a disorder. Sheldon Cooper has also never been stated to be asexual; and if he is/was, he would play into the stereotype of asexuals as socially-incompetent, again implying ‘broken’ or ‘faking it’ because of failed relationships or sexual frustration. Beyond the problems of the characters themselves, the fact that asexuality is most prominent in popular fandoms where the vast majority of people involved in talking and writing about asexuality are in fact sexuals leads to more misunderstandings and the idea that asexuality is a ‘fandom’ or ‘fangirl’ phenomenon, picked up as a fad by people- especially teenagers- to seem ‘cool’, more like their favorite character, or to get attention. The first exposure people to have to asexuality should not be through the view of a sexual person who can never, by definition, live with what asexuals do.
- The most egregious, disappointing, and infuriating example of asexual misrepresentation in the media was on the medical drama House, MD. An episode was advertised to contain an asexual married couple, but ended with the man ‘being asexual’ because of a brain tumor that had affected his libido, and the woman lying about ‘being asexual’ to support her husband’s self-esteem. Besides the subtle sexism in this situation, the episode willfully mislabeled and misrepresented asexuality for plot reasons. This portrayal of asexuality as either lies or a problem to be fixed was subsequently passed on to their viewership, consistently in the mid twenty-millions; and is very likely the only exposure the people in that audience will, at this point, ever have to asexuality. This sort of treatment would never be let to pass without an uproar from the public if the couple involved were homosexual, and should absolutely not have gone uncommented on by anyone outside asexual circles. Part of asexual visibility and including asexuals in social issue movement is keeping anything like this from happening again.
- This misrepresentation in the media and the general lack of knowledge in the first place leads to visibility efforts such as this article about an asexual-sexual marriage to be met with comments such as “Good Lord. This guy got friend-zoned so hard he made it into the news”. This is again a problem of erasure and sexism, but it also plays into a larger misconception among people that asexuals are slutshamers- that is, actively criticize people who have sex, especially women. Unfortunately, there are a few asexuals who do espouse things along the lines of ‘I can love without wanting sex so therefore I am better and more pure than you!’; but these people are a definite minority. Unfortunately, this definite minority who says things that can be easily mocked and ridiculed are the ones who tend to get spread around more by sexuals who don’t know any better or feel that asexuals are somehow a problem.
- Asexuals unfortunately encounter bigotry from the LGBT*Q community, most notably lesbians and gays (if only because the visibility of bisexual, trans*, and queer people is usually small in these areas; I have never heard of people from those groups having a specific issue with asexuality) who feel that asexuals are trying to move in on their space by ‘appropriating’ the ‘coming out’ experience or saying that asexuals have lives and experience bigotry more than they do.
- There are issues about the sexualization of Women of Color and asexuality being related to preventing them from “defining their own sexuality and agency”. I don’t know much about this at all, not being one, so I suggest that further questions on this topic be made to the Tumblr in the linked quote.
AVEN- The largest and best-known online asexual community. Controversial in some areas because of identity-policing and political games amongst the admins; as well as other things I may potentially not have heard of.
Why Asexual Awareness and Education is a MUST
AceBook- dating and friend-making site for aces, demis, and gray-as. Must be 18 to sign up.
For Vocabulary Help on Sex, Gender, and Orientation
To Find an Asexual-Friendly Therapist, go here
Tips For Teenage Asexuals Forced To Go To Sex Therapy
Swankivy’s Advice Videos on dealing with family and others who have issues with asexuality- Polite and Not So
Swankivy’s Videos and Tumblr in general
Aphobia: It Exists help graphic
Shades of Gray wordpress for everything; but especially the ‘Asexual Masturbation’ and ‘How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person’ posts. The ‘Sex with an Asexual’ post is really everything they never taught you about consent and controlling situations with sex in them.
Carnival of Aces- an ongoing project/compendium of blog posts from multiple authors on different topics in asexuality
A very long and reasonably comprehensive list of asexual community groups, blogs, and sites across the Internet
AceTumblr- a list of asexual users and blogs on Tumblr specifically, always in progress
Asexual Stereotypes (video)
Asexual Bingo for commonly-heard things you really shouldn’t ever say to asexuals, ever
The Asexuality, Asexual, and Asexy Tumblr tags
Note: Anthony Bogaert’s Understanding Asexuality and the documentary (A)sexual by Angela Tucker are usually also included as asexual resources. Anthony Bogaert, while his scientific work was an important marker in asexuality, is a sexual man. There are much better people to find information from, who are actually asexual and know the experiences and the community. (A)sexual missed the mark for a number of asexuals, though it greatly expanded visibility. Its problems with not properly portraying sexual abuse and pressures as such are discussed here; and dissatisfaction/anger with the presence of Dan Savage and Tucker Carlson in the video occurs here.
The only one I could find was Asexual People of Color
I did my best to find the proper titles for the groups and provide a description in the language it’s written in, but I know how bad Google Translate can be. All language failures can be attributed to my own bad judgment. If you spot any mistakes, tell me and I’ll correct them.
AVENde- German Asexuality Information and Forum/AVENde- Deutsch Asexualität Informationen und Forum
AVENfr- French Asexuality Information and Forum/AVEnfr- Réseau d’entraide des asexuels francophones et information sur l’asexualité
AVENit- Italian Asexuality Information and Forum/AVENit- la comunità degli asessuali italiani
AVENnd- Dutch Asexuality Information and Forum/AVENnd- Aseksueel Voorlichtings- en Educatie Netwerk
AVENes- Spanish Asexuality Information and Forum/AVENes- Red para la Educación y la Visibilidad de la Asexualidad
a6- Swedish Asexuality Information and Forum/a6- Svensk asexualitet information och forum
Nätverket Asexsuell Twitter and Blogspot
AVEN Czech Republic- Czech Asexuality Information and Forum/AVEN Czech Republic- Česká Asexualita Informace a fórum
Aseksuaalit.net- Finnish Asexuality Information and Forum/Aseksuaalit.net- Suomen Seksuaalisuus Tiedotus ja Forum
פורום א-מיניים- Hebrew Asexuality Information and Forum
asexual.jp- Japanese Asexuality Information and Forum/asexual.jp- 無性情報コミュニケーションサイト
A different Japanese Asexuality Forum- registration required
aseksuell- Norwegian Asexuality Information and Forum/aseksuell- Norske Aseksualitet Informasjon og Forum
SEA- Polish Asexuality Information and Forum/SEA- Sleć Educaji Aseksualnej (Polska)
AVENru- Russian Asexuality Information and Forum/AVEN- Российское Сообщество Асексуалов
Comunidade Assexual- Portugese Asexuality Information and Forum/Comunidade Assexual- Um FÓRUM sobre assexualidade
Aseksüal Online- Turkish Asexuality Information and Forum/Aseksüal Online- Türk Aseksüal Bilgi ve Forum (Now Defunct)
Two seperate asexuality groups in Simplified Chinese
If anyone else has any resources or asexual issues to add; or has any comments, concerns, or suggestions, please reblog with them or leave me an ask/submission at sophiaphilemon.tumblr.com