LGBTQA Hyper and De-sexualization Series: Asexuals
Asexuality has long been a point of contention in the queer community and in defining what it means to be queer. The position this article is written from is simple: asexual people are queer and belong in the community. Thus, queer is defined as not straight; not just the love of your own gender or a gender variance. I will discuss this at length in a coming article.
Let’s first establish a definition. Asexuality as a label means that the person does not experience sexual attraction. However, it is important to note that asexual individuals can still experience libido and derive satisfaction from sex, though many do not. As with all identities and most things, asexuality is a spectrum.
The de-sexualization that often troubles people of other identities is not an issue here, but de-romanticization is. Asexual people are often assumed to be aromantic, a separate and equally legitimate identity. Therefore, they are assumed to not want any romantic relationships. In reality, many asexuals are romantically attracted to people and want romantic relationships and connections.
In these assumptions about romance, the idea that romance needs to include sex is forced onto asexual people. While romance tied to sex may be prefered or necessary for some people, it is certainly not for all. In fact, in my experience, many queer people do not feel the need to have sex with their partner(s) to feel romantically close to them. Allosexual people, people who are not asexual, are usually open to having any sexual needs met outside of their romantic relationship.
Even this statement about asexuals in relationships with allosexuals makes assumptions about asexual people that aren’t consistently true. Asexuality is a spectrum, so not all asexual people are sex repulsed. Many asexuals are completely comfortable having sex for many different reasons. It usually just requires more communication than with allosexuals, but if communication about sex is an issue for someone, not sleeping with them is probably the best bet whether you’re ace or not. Ace people may have sexual needs on a physical basis or just want to have sex. Because the spectrum is so wide, it is always best to ask where on the spectrum someone would place themselves or get to know someone and (when appropriate) ask them what their asexuality means to them.
The classic assumption of queerness being a phase is particularly relevant for asexual people. Many asexuals know that they are ace from a young age, but because of the assumption that everyone is allosexual, their asexuality is brushed off as a phase. Because allo people associate a lack of sexual attraction with childhood, before they had learned about sex and attraction, asexual people are often infantilized.
As with all queer identities, the assumption that their identity is a phase leads to a lot of self-doubt. Asexuals often have a much more difficult experience with these ordeals because there is very little awareness or acceptance of asexuality even within the queer community. It is also often considered to be a symptom of a medical issue to be “cured. “ They treat hormonal imbalances, mental illness, and other diagnoses that present with low libido. Despite the history of conversion therapy for other identities within the queer community, the issue is not worrying to most medical professionals.
The hyper-sexualization of asexual people is most problematic. I mentioned corrective rape in my discussion of lesbian identity, and it is equally relevant when discussing asexual people. Asexuality as an idea and an identity often rubs allosexual people the wrong way, I believe this is because they frame much of their identity around their sexuality and consider sex to be deeply human. Thus, desexualizing someone is equivalent to dehumanizing them. Which can lead to sexual assault or rape.
One of the main points in conversations that “debate” asexuality’s legitimacy is that it is often a trauma response to sexual violence. This is true in part, people who have experienced sexual violence may become sex repulsed, which is a common experience for asexuals, or not feel sexual attraction, which is definitionally asexuality. However, asexuality as a response to trauma can sometimes legitimately be cured or counteracted, which is not true of asexuality that is not a trauma response. More importantly, not all asexuality that is a trauma response can be cured, and not everyone who experiences it as a result of trauma wants it to be cured. Sexual violence is still a legitimate reason to be asexual and to claim it as an identity, and the inclusion of those people does not invalidate people who identify as asexual without a sexual trauma in their past.
Despite the aspects of truth in the assumption that asexuals are uninterested in sex, the desexualization that plagues the whole LGBTQA community is present in the lives of asexual people. The hypersexualization maybe more so, because many asexuals are uncomfortable with sex in general. Overall, the hypersexualization and desexualization discussed throughout this series is ever-present in the queer community no matter what label or identity you are aligned with.