Yes, asexuality is real, and yes, asexuals can still have sex. Or not. There’s an entire book about what asexuality reveals about the desires individuals have and what they mean for society as a whole, and our author heartily recommends everyone read it.
“The label ‘asexual’ should be value neutral. It should indicate little more than sexual orientation. Instead, ‘asexual’ implies a slew of other, negative associations: passionless, uptight, boring, robotic, cold, prude, frigid, lacking, broken. These, especially ‘broken’, are the words aces use again and again to describe how we are perceived and made to feel.”
– Angela Chen, “ACE”
“Oh, you just haven’t met the right person yet!”
That was one of the things my mother said when I came out to her as asexual. She also said that the “last word hasn’t been spoken yet” when I told her I didn’t want children. My father even said he felt “offended”. As if I owed them a relationship and grandchildren, just because they are my parents. As if my opinion mattered nothing.
While there are many other (more) important reasons why I don’t want children, the fact sex is needed to achieve pregnancy (or often assumed to be necessary, at the very least), combined with the fact that I am asexual and sex-repulsed, is one of those reasons. Conversations like the one described above are not unusual for anyone who feels the same. The asexual spectrum is a spectrum for a reason, though: Not every asexual is sex-repulsed, there certainly are asexuals who do want children, and there are a lot of reasons why a person might have sex even though they don’t feel sexual attraction. But that’s somehow something that doesn’t want to fit into the heads of allosexual (i.e. non-asexual) people, which is why it seems asexuals are always in conflict with them and their compulsively sexual worldview in which everyone must, obviously, physically desire someone.
Reading “ACE” by Angela Chen was a revelation in this regard. It seeks to examine, as the book’s subtitle says, “what asexuality reveals about desire, society and the meaning of sex”. Chen delves deeply and with wonderfully accessible thoughts and language into a variety of themes concerning and surrounding asexuality. Combining her personal experiences with those of other aces and scientific research, she builds a comprehensive reflection on what being ace means for individuals and for society as a whole.
Themes included in this book are, among others: definitions of (a)sexuality, the negative effects of framing (a)sexuality as a sickness and something that needs to be cured, compulsory sexuality, feminism and “liberated” sexuality, racism and hyper- as well as hyposexualisation, disability and (a)sexuality, romance, allo-ace relationships and transness and (a)sexuality. In addition, I learned a lot about how the kink community operates and how consent is more than just “yes means yes, no means no”.
What I also love is that Chen openly points to the flaws within the asexual community itself. There’s still a lot of work to do, for example concerning racism and the inclusion of disabled people. The asexual community is still widely dominated by white people and by imagery invented by white people (this is how cake and garlic bread became symbols for the asexual community, for example – white people chose them). And disabled people have been fighting the stigma of not being able to have or enjoy sex because of their disability for years and years. Asexual disabled people fear feeding into that idea when they reveal their sexuality and thus “confirm” the cliché.
This book should be mandatory reading, whether you identify as asexual or not. No matter your gender, or your romantic and sexual orientation, this book offers up a critical perspective on sex, desire, intimacy and relationships.
Oh, and, by the way – if you are asexual, let me tell you this: you are valid in the way you live and express your asexuality. Whether that means pulling a face at steamy scenes on TV or enjoying pleasuring yourself and/or your partner, or doing BDSM, or anything else you like.
And if you are not asexual, and if you still think asexuality is a myth at best and a trend invented by the internet at worst: You don’t need to understand or agree with someone’s lifestyle to be able to meet them with respect.
If you’re interested in more asexual content, take a look at activist Yasmin Benoit‘s Instagram page – she frequently writes about what it means being an asexual and aromantic Black woman. Then there’s Cody Daigle-Orians, otherwise known as the community’s gay and polyamorous Ace Dad, who publishes affirming content for aces and clears up possible confusion around this sexual identity and its terminology. And for some prime meme content as well as reminders that being ace is a-okay, take a look at i.put.the.ace.in.disgrace.
text & photo by Svenja Plannerer