Hi, I’m asexual, and I get a lot of flack for it.
It’s weird, because an asexual is defined as a person who does not experience sexual attraction or desires (for the most part, but there are subcategories of asexuality that differ). No matter my sexuality, though, I don’t get why it’s such a hang-up for people; we’ve become far too preoccupied with everyone else’s identity, and it’s not an obsession born of genuine curiosity and willingness to be educated about other possibilities, either.
Since asexuality has really only entered public discourse in the last decade or two there is a lot of educating to do. Despite our short time out in the open, asexuals are the most frequently targeted in cases of “corrective rape”, and a 2012 study showed that asexuals are subjected to more discrimination than the gay community, although the discrimination originates from ignorance rather than a perceived phobia. Some of this ignorance can be summed up in a few remarks that my own asexual self is already tired of hearing:
That’s not a real thing, though, is it?
Well, seeing as I just told you that’s what I am… I mean, asexuality is an identity, not a unicorn.
So you never have sex? That sucks.
I don’t want to have sex; I’m not whining because I can’t get laid. And anyway, plenty of asexuals engage in sexual activity for various reasons (they want to please or feel closer to their partner, for one). We just don’t necessarily care about it in the physical, satiating the libido sense.
But sex is such a great stress reliever!
So’s yoga. Next.
You just need to get laid?
Again people seem to miss the distinction between desire and ability.
If you’re asexual, how do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Romantic relationships aren’t dependent upon sex. They’re about respect, communication, compromise, mutual interests, listening to each other’s crappy iTunes playlists, making fun of gender norms, whatever. If you’re an ace who has a sexual boyfriend/girlfriend, your sex life just might take a little more of a conversation approach than usual.
And my personal favorite: Does that mean you reproduce with yourself?
I’m glad you retained something from tenth-grade biology, but I’m a person, not bacteria.
The humor I sometimes get out of such questions aside, I am increasingly disappointed in the lack of knowledge, acceptance, and inclusion of these gray areas of sexuality. We live in a hyper-sexual society, where it’s normal for people to desire, pursue, and have sex, and if you don’t fit that mold, then you’re considered weird or broken. Our media is saturated with so much sex and romance that we’re led to believe that there’s no other way to be. When I was struggling to figure out my sexuality, I figured I was either gay or straight, and since neither of those fit, I had no idea what was going on because I’d never been presented with other possibilities. If a friend of mine hadn’t been researching the subject, I’m not sure if or when I would have found the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), and consequently my sexual identity.
If you’re trying to figure yourself out or if you just want to learn more, AVEN is the place to be. It’s vital to remember that it’s not just gay or straight—it’s bi and pan and ace and gray and demi, it’s romantic and aromantic, it’s a whole mixed nuts bowl of sexualities. And as sex-positive as I am, we need to use vernacular other than “normal” to describe sexual urges and burgeoning curiosities, or we’ll continue to leave unidentified in-betweeners in the dark. No matter what your sexuality is, struggling with it means struggling to figure out and accept part of who you are, and you are not something you should have to fight against.
Katie Majka (preferably “Maj”) is a detoxing caffeine addict, lover of literary fiction, and the metaphorical lovechild of Gary Oldman and Boober Fraggle. If she were stuck in a war-torn Westeros, she’d rather be in Dorne, where the weather is rad and you’re less likely to end up headless. You can follow her on Twitter @majthevaj_.