13 Myths and Misconceptions About Asexual People: Part Two
This post is the second part of two – the first part was posted on Tuesday.
6. You hate people having sex – you must be scared or think you're above them.
The vast majority of asexual people do not hate sex. In fact, a lot of us are very sex-positive – just as long as sex-positivity doesn't mean negativity directed at us. Frankly, some asexual people do personally find sex a bit disgusting. This is understandable, when you think about it, but even these people don't believe no one should have any (unless they're especially misanthropic, in which case they don't represent the rest of us!). Perhaps asexual people get a bit bored of how sex saturates our culture so completely (and how certain famous TV writers equate asexuality with being boring), but this is not the same as hating sex. On a similar note, only the most arrogant or misguided asexual people believe that sex is an indicator of a person being any lesser. Most of us acknowledge it can be a wonderful experience – it's just not for us.
7. You're not queer. You're just trying to pretend you're oppressed.
Ah, the purists. I've heard people say that asexual people identifying as queer will distract attention and resources from "real" causes, or that there are too many letters in the acronym already. Some even claim we're trying to co-opt the past suffering of other queer people or are minimising the problems others face. These are all offensive and inaccurate statements – I will be examining these sorts of attitude in an upcoming post.
I understand whole degrees exist to debate definitions of "queer", and I'm only a science student, but here is my definition: queer people are all the people who aren't simultaneously cisgendered and heterosexual, and who want to identify as queer. I do not believe that anyone is obligated to identify as queer, but I also do not believe that anyone should be excluded because they make others feel uncomfortable or they're not "queer" enough. I will not deny that asexual people's experiences are quite different in many ways to those of other queer people, but that is not a disqualifier. The subset of asexuality where queerness is most an issue is heteroromantic and aromantic asexuality – people of these orientations are afforded a bit more straight privilege, but so are other members of the queer community. That doesn't change the fact that they can identify as queer if they wish – a hierarchy is the last thing the queer community needs.
Besides, you don't think it's oppressive to grow up in a culture that constantly tells you that you need to get fixed? That tells you you're repressed, or heartless, or must have been abused? Or denotes you as gay against your wishes? (And, while hopefully avoiding veering into Oppression Olympics, I ought to point out that corrective rape of asexual people is a thing that exists, and reactions so far indicate that maybe there would be more active asexual discrimination if a few more people were aware of it as an orientation.)
8. You’ve just not met the right person yet.
While this may be true of a small minority of asexual people, I'm given to believe that sexual people are aware of being attracted to people even if they aren't in a relationship with them. This attraction simply does not arise in asexual people – or, if it does, only does so after a sufficient emotional connection has formed. I suppose asexuality and bisexuality are similar in this regard – they are both disproportionately seen as transitory phases, which erases and devalues them.
9. You’re just socially inept and incapable of love.
The vast majority of asexual people are perfectly capable of love, but remember that love comes in all sorts of forms. Just because we don't experience sexual attraction, doesn't mean we're cold unfeeling monsters – nor do we just need a bit of a confidence boost. Perhaps I'm not the best person to address this, because I am socially inept, but I can assure you that my orientation and personality are not linked in that way. There are plenty of socially inept sexual people and plenty of socially fluent asexual people. Though perhaps you'd be socially inept too if you'd grown up experiencing homophobic bullying while also knowing you weren't gay, and felt like an incomplete person for not experiencing an allegedly vital part of life…
Some people go so far as to insist that all asexual people are autistic, which wins them bonus points for also being offensive to neuro-atypical people by erasing their sexualities. Some asexual people are autistic, some autistic people are asexual. Sexual orientation and social behaviour are separate things. [Thanks to commenter sidneyia for pointing out ambiguities in an earlier version of this section.]
10. I admire you. You must not have any problems.
Our "decision" to abstain is not a decision to be admired – it is just what comes naturally. While we're at it, can we please stop seeing a person's sexuality as having any intrinsic link to their morality? To an extent, asexual people do have fewer problems – when I hear about the relationship woes of some of my friends I feel lucky in some ways to not be caught up in that world. However, this discounts the fact that many asexual people do engage in relationships, not to mention being asexual can itself cause problems (see the rest of this article).
11. You’re missing out.
Just as I'm sure straight men are missing out on a lot of awesome gay sex, and so on. You can't "miss out" on something if you intrinsically don't desire it, no matter how much anyone else insists.
Here's the thing: asexual people are no more defined by their lack of attraction than sexual people are defined by their attraction. Just because you see us talking about a lot on the internet, doesn't mean that is all there is to us. At the moment we're in the awareness-raising stage of the asexual movement, so naturally we're going to be vocal about that aspect of ourselves. There is more to a person that who they let into their bed and this is no less true of asexual people. To some people though, "I don't experience sexual attraction" means the same as "I don't ever do anything except stare at walls and think about all the sex I'm not having".
12. You're just trying to be different.
Lots of people feel that asexuality is a trend that people only engage in to go against the grain – I wonder if they’re the same people who think that of bisexuality too. There are easier (and better!) ways to be different, believe me. Our differences are natural – dismissing them as childish phases only serves to make things more difficult for us.
13. I don’t care about you not having sex, therefore there is no point in you blabbing about it. There are bigger problems in the world.
Um, well… tough? I wish asexual people didn't have to be so vocal about our private lives, just as I wish we lived in a society where no one needed to come out, but that's not the way things work, particularly in a society that is all about doing it. There are plenty of things that I don't care about, but they don't encroach on me so I either ignore them or give them a chance. If you're still not convinced, look at it this way – the more we "blab" now, the less we have to "blab" in the future!
Finally, while there certainly are bigger problems in the world than lack of asexual awareness, the same could be said of virtually everything. Asexual awareness aims to make life easier for the estimated one percent of people who are asexual and change some attitudes regarding the importance of sex in living a fulfilling life. We do not claim it is the biggest problem in the world, but it affects us and we are the ones most qualified to talk about it and hopefully change things. As someone who has experienced the pain of feeling less than a person because I didn't have adequate information, I can't see how that isn't a worthy cause.
If you have any questions or myths that you feel I haven't covered, or any points you require clarifying, feel free to leave them in the comments. I will also be adding some good resources to our resource page shortly – in the meantime, a great starting point is AVEN, the hub for all things asexual.
Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.