Here at MMXLII we suspect that by 2042 you will be just as aware of the asexual community as you are of the LGBT community today. However, we also suspect that at the moment you may or may not be aware that such a community even exists. So we start this post by attempting to answer the question we had when we first started researching this piece. What does it mean to self-identify as asexual?
According to The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, the largest organization devoted to the advancement of the asexual community:
An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.
Unfortunately but perhaps unsurprisingly, asexuals are often compared by sexual people to organisms such as amoeba. That comparison is inaccurate. Sexuality of any kind is complex, and just because a person identifies as asexual doesn’t mean that they are incapable of romantic or even sexual relationships, though, it does mean that their experience of those relationships will be different from that of a sexual person. And, increasingly, asexuals are rejecting the notion that their lack of sexual desire constitutes or is indicative of a psychological disorder. Instead, they argue that asexuality is simply another facet of human sexuality, comparable to heterosexuality or homosexuality.
Such changing notions of the nature of asexuality have been made possible largely by the growth of an organized community, which is itself a relatively recent development. Here at MMXLII we were struck by the role the Internet has played in the formation of the asexual community, one of many examples of the use of new media to advance the interests of historically marginalized groups. According to David Jay, founder of AVEN and perhaps the leading asexual activist in the United States:
The internet has been instrumental in our emergence as a community. In the 80s and 90s most asexual people felt isolated, everything changed for our community when we could type “asexual” into Google and find one another for the first time. That led to the first conversations that created our community, and it still how most people find us today.
The most important question now is not what asexuals are or whether the general public will become more aware of this group in the coming years. The question is how they are going to be received. There are already troubling warning signs, as The Huffington Post reports.
Asexuals and ace activists say the conversation about sexual assault in the asexual community is part of the wider societal discussion about rape culture generally and about corrective rape in the queer community specifically. They also say it speaks to a bias and an invisibility that asexuals face in everyday life
Indeed, aces have in the past been characterized by members of the mainstream and religious media as abnormal, unhappy and repressed.
Is it possible, in 2013, that this fast emerging community might be met with an understanding and sympathy that it has taken other minority groups decades and even centuries to attain? It’s not clear yet, and many of the reactions asexuality elicits now do not bode well for the future. Here at MMXLII we believe that education and awareness are the best ways to ensure a positive reception for this group. So we encourage you, our readers, to help make that happen. We recommend the AVEN website and the Huffington Post’s excellent six-part series on asexuality if you want to learn more.
And, in the meantime, let us know your thoughts. What do you know about asexuality? How do you believe all of us, not only those who self-identify as asexual, can work for a more positive future for this marginalized but fast-growing group?
Photo from GaiaShirley on Deviant Art.