Content Warning: this article talks about social discrimination & hardships faced by Asexual persons, including the mention of sexual assault. This may be difficult subject matter for some.
To re-iterate what asexuality is, let’s look at the definition: “Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person experiences little to no sexual attraction to anyone and/or does not experience desire for sexual contact. Like any other sexual orientation, asexuality isn’t a choice. Unlike abstinence and celibacy, which are both choices to avoid sex, asexuality is an innate part of who someone is.”
As a proud Ace woman, it’s important to me to discuss with you that Asexual persons face a lot of challenges, even in this day and age. Asexuality has been around since almost time immemorial I’m sure, but it’s only been openly addressed as a sexual orientation since the 20th century, and even then, it was viewed as taboo. That hasn’t exactly changed for the positive, let me tell you.
Almost every Ace person has faced some sort of discrimination or been/felt excluded because they disclosed that they are Ace. Including me.
Discrimination against asexual people is known as “acephobia” or “aphobia”. Acephobia is a range of negative attitudes, behaviours, and feelings towards those who identify as Asexual or under the Ace umbrella. Acephobics or those unfamiliar with the term asexuality often believe that aces have a mental disorder, are “freaks”, not capable of love, are practicing celibacy or abstinence, or have a physical condition known as hyposexuality. There are also many within and outside the LGBTQIA community who do not recognize or accept asexuality as a genuine sexual orientation, which leads to isolation and dehumanisation.
In a culture that has a heavier emphasis on sexuality and that human beings are inherently sexual, this has caused harm/trauma to some Asexuals. Some of us have experienced what is known as “corrective rape”, be pressured into sexual activity, or being pressured/forced to go to a medical professional to get “fixed”. Some Asexual people have also had their asexuality called into question if they are sex-favourable, sex-positive, sex-neutral or sex-indifferent. They have even been told that it’s not possible they’ve been sexually assaulted because “asexual people are never involved in sexual situations so how is that possible?”.
Pardon the language, but OH MY GOD, there are some acephobic and ignorant people, and I know some of them. The HuffPost has published an article on what it’s like to be an Asexual woman who wants to date. The comments section makes my blood freaking BOIL. With a few exceptions from those that understand what it means to be Ace, it is a cesspit of ignorance, with a lot of comments being about “who cares” or “Nah fam, there’s something mentally/chemically wrong with you” or “no one wants to hear about incels or freaks.” I’m sorry, but WTF? The articles are raising awareness and educating people on their fellow human beings.
Especially the phrasing to another common comment I see every time Asexuality is talked about in mainstream media or at least publicly outside of the realms of the LGBTQIA+ community; “why is there a damn label for everything these days?”.
To this, I say – I hope that you are never in a position where you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you as a human being. I hope you never feel like a freak of nature and never question if you deserve to be still capable of giving and receiving love. I also hope that, if you ever feel like that, you take the time to look up what you’re feeling, and I hope that when you find the word or feeling that completes the puzzle of who you are that you feel that “click” followed by a massive wave of relief that you are not broken. Finally, to you who are still feeling combative, I also hope that you read Overview by the Asexual Visibility & Education Network to understand the difference between attraction and arousal.
These terms help to describe a part of who you are, like being a glasses-wearer. Being a glasses-wearer is accepted as part of who someone is and is something they didn’t choose (seriously, I would never choose to have such terrible eyesight as I do).
The Asexual umbrella has a lot of terms, and almost everyone who identifies as Ace can find a name for how they feel, giving them a sense of a BIG part of who they are. I think that’s wonderful. To everyone who has ever felt or been discriminated against because of who they are as a person, I may not know exactly all that you have been through or experienced, but please know that you are not alone.
To those who are having those feelings of being alone, or are struggling with your sexuality, please reach out for help. As hard as it is sometimes to do. Saying “I need help, please help me” is one of the bravest and most courageous things you can do, and I know that you have it in you.
If you need a hand (we all do sometimes):
- Kids Help Phone (for those 18 and under): www.kidshelphone.ca or 1-800-668-6868.
- Good2Talk (for those in post-secondary school): www.good2talk.ca or 1-866-925-5454.
- Mental Health Helpline: http://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/ or 1-866-531-2600.
- Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-health-services/mental-health-resources.page or 1-800-268-7708.
- Open Line Open Mind (a.k.a. 310-OPEN, a part of Quinte Health Care): www.openlineopenmind.ca or 613-310-6736.
- Canadian Mental Health-Related Organizations and Resources in your community.
- If you can’t access these or live in an area without a mental health crisis centre, and you need help, talk to your doctor. If it’s an emergency, go to the nearest hospital. Please!