“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~ Maya Angelou
Alright. First off, can we all just agree that heteronormativity is the absolute worst? I mean the amount of overthought and confusion that it has caused in me, is almost inexplicable. With that out of the way, let’s proceed with the article.
For those of you who don’t know what heteronormativity is, it is the belief that opposite-sex relations are the ‘normal’ mode of sexual orientation. Heteronormativity assumes gender to be binary, and considers hetero, often marital relations to be ‘better.’ This is a highly problematic thing. To name a few reasons–people with gender and sexual identities that aren’t heteronormative are often forced to explain themselves to people, or justify their sexuality or gender identity. Assuming that everyone is straight leads to erasure of sexual identities. Heteronormativity leads to severe implications for those who aren’t heteronormative– discrimination, rejection from their families, mental health struggles, to name a few.
Asexuality and the myths around it
To many, asexuality seems to be a new concept around human sexuality. However, asexuality isn’t a new concept, it is just gaining much more traction now than it has ever before.
Nearly 1% of the global population today, that is around 70 million people worldwide, are open and out as asexual. And, quite a few more people are in the closet. This is a significant number. Despite this, the concept of asexuality is not very well known, and there are some myths and misconceptions around asexuality. This article aims to analyse and deconstruct a few of these myths. In addition, I have tried to study a few of the problems faced by people from the asexual community.
For starters, like all other sexual identities, being asexual isn’t a choice. Asexuality is not a mental disorder, it is not a ‘phase’ that people go through. It is not a fear of having sex. People who identify as asexual aren’t just people who haven’t sexually ‘matured’ yet. Asexuality isn’t caused by mental health issues or traumatic experiences. And, asexuality is not the same as celibacy or abstinence, both of which are things people CHOOSE to practice, for various reasons– personal, religious, health and hygiene, etc.
Asexuality and aromanticism aren’t the same thing. One can be asexual and aromantic, and they could be asexual but still want to be in romantic relationships. This misconception arises because people assume romantic and sexual attraction to mean the same. Sexual attraction stems from a sexual desire towards someone or something, whereas romantic attraction is wanting to have a romantic relationship outside of sex.
Another common myth around asexuality is that it can be ‘fixed,’ if asexual people just had sex. This often leads to a problem called ‘corrective rape.’ More on that later. Furthermore, asexuality doesn’t mean that asexuals cannot or do not have sex. Asexuals have sex for a few reasons, most often to please a non-asexual partner, or sometimes even for purposes of reproduction. Last, but not the least, asexuals can and do masturbate. Masturbation has more to do with libido than with sexual orientation. Masturbation is something that is personal and depends on person to person.
Unfair exclusion from the LGBTQ+ Community
There has been a debate for quite some time around the inclusion of asexuals under the queer umbrella, since the term was reclaimed by members of the community. Some people within the queer community believe that asexuals aren’t ‘queer’ enough, and are not considered a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Others believe that asexuals haven’t been oppressed, or discriminated against, in the way members of other communities have. This is a form of in-community acephobia known as gatekeeping– which is policing the ‘gates’ of spaces of certain demographics. Gatekeeping is a more general term, which can apply to other members of the queer community as well, it is prominent with ace and aro people. And, some asexuals choose not to associate themselves with the queer label– sometimes, people believe that there is unnecessary baggage that comes along when someone identifies as ‘queer’ or as a part of the lgbtq+ community. Others just don’t prefer the label, as they feel that asexuality is different from being queer. Asexuality is as valid an orientation as any other, and people from the community must be included in the queer community. However, with that said, identifying as queer is a matter of personal choice, and no one should be forced to adopt certain labels.
Oppression and Discrimination
There is a belief that people from the ace community haven’t been ‘oppressed’ or discriminated against as much as people from other communities have. This isn’t true. Asexuality has received its fair share of oppression and discrimination, and most of these problems are different from what others in the LGBTQ community experience.
Ace erasure is denying the legitimacy of asexuality as an orientation. In addition to systematic erasure, there is a constant insistence that even the problems faced by asexuals aren’t real, or that they face little to no difficulties. There is a severe lack of representation of the community in the media, and due to this, information and awareness are very less– not a lot of people outside the community even know what asexuality is. This sometimes leads to sexual harassment and assault, and something known as ‘corrective rape.’ Corrective rape is forcing someone to have sex in order to ‘fix’ their sexuality. This is experienced by other members of the LGBTQ+ community. A lack of proper representation, sometimes almost no representation, leads to a level of disbelief, hostility and even prejudice towards people from the community, both by heterosexuals and other members from the LGBTQ+ community. Most people consider the ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ to stand for ally, and not asexuality.
And, in general, our society believes that having sex and being in relationships is what defines us as human. People who don’t desire to partake in sex are considered unhealthy, or even abnormal. There is a notion that humans should aspire to achieve sex and relationships.
I couldn’t figure out how to conclude this piece, so I thought a lot and finally decided to do this:
Here are some useful resources that’ll help in learning more about asexuality.
1. AVEN – The Asexual Visibility and Education Network – https://www.asexuality.org
This has become somewhat the “official” website on asexuality, mostly because it’s been around for quite some time. The forum on this website is extremely vast, and has a lot of useful information.
2. The Asexuality subreddit on Reddit – https://www.reddit.com/r/asexuality/
Reddit is an extremely resourceful and helpful platform, and it also has a well established Asexuality sub, which has also been around for a while. The subreddit itself has a lot of resources that people can use.
3. The Asexuality Archive’s Glossary for asexuality related words- https://www.asexualityarchive.com/glossary/
Other than these, there are some useful pages on Instagram and channels on YouTube. I don’t have specific links, but you can just search for the keywords you’re looking for.