Photo by Miss Steel
Hold up, wrong image.
Photo by trollhare
I grew up under the assumption that, at some point in my teen years, the heterosexuality fairy would gift me with the desire for candlelit dinners and ravenous sex. Days after a terribly awkward prom night, I discovered AVEN, and the existence of asexuality and aromanticism. The internet continues to be the only place I have met anyone else (openly) asexual.
When I first came out to my mother, she said I hadn’t found the right person yet, and promptly forgot the entire conversation. The second time I came out, she asked me what asexuality is. One stranger, whose advances I rejected by declaring my general lack of sexual attraction, purred, “You never know.” Among the people who immediately accepted the legitimacy of my sexual orientation, only a few members of the campus Queer Student Union didn’t need me to define it. Even in the QSU, one person asked, “Those actually exist?” He then mentioned the other possible asexual he knew—with the disclaimer that “maybe there’s just something wrong with her .” Assumptions that asexuality is an illness, or the result of some childhood trauma, are not uncommon. The DSM—apparently having not learned from its mistakes with homosexuality—continues to list asexuality as a psychological illness. Why is asexuality so invisible that even asexual people go decades unaware they aren’t alone?
Our society demands heterosexuality. Men must be openly, even aggressively, heterosexual, or homophobic men—a large and politically powerful group in the US—grow uncomfortable sharing bathrooms and locker facilities with them. On the other hand, women must be receptive to men’s sexual advances, or risk being branded “frigid,” “teases,” and/or “man-haters.” “Man-hater” in particular is associated with cis-men declaring women and passing-women lesbians, regardless of how the women identify themselves. I am unsure how society views non-passing transfolk’s sexualities.
If a cis-person is not overtly heterosexual, they are labeled homosexual. If they are sexually active across genders, or declare their orientations, they may be acknowledged as bi- or pan-sexual. However, the celibate are not assumed to be asexual. Even when asexual people declare themselves as such, they are met with skepticism, or diagnosed. Sexuality is so prevalent in our culture, from our music to our television to our sense of humor that some people have difficulty comprehending not relating to that culture. In a culture as sex-obsessed as ours, asexuality is too alien to understand, so it is flippantly brushed aside as a mere lie or childish confusion.
Asexuality is gaining recognition, thanks largely to AVEN and asexuals’ ability to spread information and connect with each other over the internet. Only eighteen months ago, the front page of the AVEN forums were filled with members who lived for decades, thinking of themselves as monstrous and broken, before learning about asexuality. Now, the front page is filled with teenagers and young adults who, finding themselves out of place among their hormone-riddled peers, confidently adopt the title “asexual.”