Asexuality Is Complicated (And for me, particularly)

asexuality is complicated (and for me particularl) a messy smudge on an asexual flag

Most people tend to conceive of labels as tidy little jars, even if much work has gone in the other direction to point out that there’s spectrums. Enbies, bi people, even switches are no exception, with more people than not approaching this self description with an asterisk. Very few people who don’t slot into a binary actually exist in a balanced average or a half and half. 

More mercilessly, these middle spaces are more often than not messy. By this I mean disclosure to others of nuance makes it difficult to refute your hermetically sealed jar without sharing things people have deemed rude, or worse some ninnyhammer will mistake the information for an invitation and shriek you are “involving them in your sexuality”. 

Enbies get assigned to be a third gender that must perform androgyny and release hewing to either pole of the existing binary. Switches are talked about like watered down dominants in a three step social hierarchy. And bi people, bless, are not only all tangled up in the assumption of being a swinging door, but also an uber slut who could never be content with monogamy.

And asexuality, well…

The paradox of asexuality is a community stereotyped as something either prude or pure (sex repulsed, traumatized through to bored by the sexuality of others) and the reality is more complicated, but falls particularly strongly into somewhere you face a social penalty if you give more detail. It is also a community that in actuality is often deeply horny.

These days, as dangerous as being gay is in most of the planet, in progressive spaces if you say you are a lesbian/gay/bi people will at least get the gist, shrug and move on. They may muddle trans-ness with sexuality more than they should, but but they also may just go a little trans medical and just nidnod and congratulate you that you got your binary sorted out. (Pour one out for the gay trans people tho). But there’s this tension between the constant human spew of sexuality and the human discomfort with that. 

And the asexual spectrum kind of requires you to understand how varied sexuality outside of the surface detail. It holds your head under the surface and forces people to confront that arousal and attraction aren’t universally coupled. That there’s nothing, even fucking, that’s inherently sexual or inherently not sexual.

Every bit of queerness blows up some sacred cow like that beached whale some small town explosively detonated onto themselves. Asexuality removes the tidy little veil that lets us ignore whether a given human is horny or not by sincerely believing it isn’t possible. Like early 2000s highschoolers in hysterics that a lesbian in a change room might be into them, take things off the rails and for many folks all certainty is abolished. Men aren’t men, women aren’t women and bare breasts aren’t more platonically sexual than a shapeless wool sweater. The logic of asexuality being properly understood allows that if people are able to be out of a category they are also allowed to be in.

And you still have a person screaming into the void because the norms they used to feel cozy are gone

You can take the scathing approach and tell them they are awash in sexuality – the art, the assumptions, the background radiation of existing in community. But then, all they seem to do is get more stressed. The argument helps for the already convinced to articulate why other people’s disgust isn’t automatically their problem. But the paradox of a collective bent to erotophobia in a species that averages so horny this actually interferes with our ability to reproduce is more than a cosmic joke.

Julia Serrano observed in her book Sexed Up that occupying a marginalized identity meant a higher risk of being sexualized. What she also provided was a more nuanced definition of what that means, not just the presence of potential sexuality, but imposed assumptions on how that sexuality works.

If gender critical numpkins read predation into trans women, they are paradoxically acting from the same place by imply trans men are essentially losing the traits they associate with sexuality. In both cases top surgery to add or remove breasts are an objection to losing a power relationship where they can define what breasts mean for the person who has them. The security of that power is lost to them. 

In the same way, to be on the asexual spectrum and be accepted is to remove the ability of others to assume or define your sexuality. The casting of asexuals as exclusively tragic trauma woobies or blushing loveshy naïfs is a projection as strong as the assumption bisexual people, (particularly women) are here to fuck anything with a pulse. 

And, when confronted with the practice of the asexual spectrum in action, which in addition to the sex repulsed or disinterested contains the biggest bunch of perverts in the world, the reaction is to leap to assuming any awareness of the habits and practices of others is to experience violence. And you can’t do anything about it because the sexualization is coming from them, not you. 

What asexuals deal with is part of queerphobia

I am old enough to recall how 2008 was about people pushing for marriage equality against folks fixated on wildly over stating the risk of rectal prolapse. The same stands for things like BDSM, that in collectively acknowledging that stuff that humans have fixated on forever could be sexual, suddenly it becomes that it must be sexual. From thence comes the fantasy of harm, and the assumption that awareness must be a performance of not for their benefit, at their expense. 

This is how bisexual cis women end up being the second highest group to experience violence amongst queer identities. (Trans women are the highest, and we can assume bisexual trans women must have it even worse) To have sexuality becomes to be sexualized, and from there to be assumed to be up to trickery and malice. Bisexual women are cast as temptresses, objectified by men and treated as traitors by those exclusively lesbian. Everyone invalidates their choices as performed for someone else’s entertainment, and a higher rate of assault follows. 

Make no mistake, compulsory sexuality can be violence, but compulsory repression as much so. Part of the harm I experienced was that there was absolutely no space to be my sexuality to the point that I had to figure it out by assuming I was doing regular sex poorly. For many, many years of feeling alienated from what I was told. At the expense of real pain and heartache.  Like a lesbian raised in a culture that doesn’t realize it’s even possible, allowing space for my desires to be normal rather than vanilla or celibacy is important for my comfortable and safe existence.

But to this day, education about BDSM is suppressed. Although I was sexually active from the age of 14, a perfectly normal statistic for a Canadian, access to the idea of an asexual spectrum just wasn’t available to anyone really, yet at the time. And today, it’s a footnote in the rare places that permit queer education without much detail.

Going into any detail is back to that comment I made earlier about escaping your hermetically sealed jar causing people to act like you propositioned them personally. 

This blog post, for example, would be treated like something that needed to be as mature content flagged. It is expected to be handled the same way as a picture of me having some sort of complex penetration with some other person or object. Nothing about it is particularly interested in arousing anyone, least of all myself. 

But the fact that I fuck is a taboo, that my sexuality is different doubly so. Talking about how it is different as circumspectly as a person expressing the gender they are attracted to is still treated as twice as lewd.

Thus, talking about kink or BDSM isn’t tolerated to openly do in the mainstream. Not only do a bunch of folks still believe you can catch paraphilia memetically the way they think rapid onset gender dysphoria is a thing so they want to lock down any mention of BDSM, but pretty much even the kinky folk twist the concept of consent into knots that the least whisper of it is the same as pegging on a park bench. 

While I like porn and want it to exist, the only real places I am permitted to be seen is incredibly marginalized barely able to escape censorship porn that definitely is trying to communicate sexuality OR fictional depictions that have all those flaws (unhealthy, trivial and covered with three layers of context obfuscation). This means that even grown ups like myself are out here causing chaos. We don’t even know what we can potentially be, so we waste years feeling shamefully broken, having dysfunctional vanilla marriage, and/or having painful and soul destroying sex that was simply unnecessary. If we are lucky we eventually figure that out. Many of us don’t.

Censorship as a byproduct of our nonconsensual sexualization causes real harm.

Thus, while the repulsed and disinterested, demi and the rarely/sporadically attracted get a grudging pass (demi with a bunch of bewildered other people going “but I thought attraction worked for everyone like that?!”… Nobody is ready for the entirety of asexuality the way that historically getting recognized as trans came at the expense of permitting being married to the gender people now acknowledged as being. Much as it turns out there are a lot of bi, gay and lesbian trans people who previously had to choose between their source of attraction and/or love and living as their gender, there’s a lot of asexual folks like myself who can’t live with authenticity because the larger society we live in doesn’t respect us as possible or moral. It’s not ok.

Note bene: someone, if I am lucky enough to get read at all, is getting real stroppy about queer to queer inter identity comparison. Yes, it’s not precisely the same, but it’s same enough we all have the common label.  And part of this label is that we compliment each other in our overlap.

Asexuality permitted to be the whole of what it might be, and celebrated for it requires people to back the fuck off. Everyone would benefit. We would have a whole new toolkit facilitating coexistence and live and let live. There would be no downsides. 

1 thought on “Asexuality Is Complicated (And for me, particularly)”

  1. Hello from reddit.

    I occasionally browse your blog for a few nuggets of wisdom and wanted to express gratitude for this. In particular;

    “there was absolutely no space to be my sexuality to the point that I had to figure it out by assuming I was doing regular sex poorly”

    I’m on the ace spectrum and didn’t even know such a thing was possible until my thirties. I had spent over ten years trying to make sex click with my spouse, to no avail. Despite being eager and willing, it just did not excite me. This was made worse by my desire for BDSM which I also did not understand at the time. I assumed I was bad at sex, and that I could get better through mental effort.

    I learned to disassociate during sex. I was jumping through a dozen mental and physical hoops to meet my partner(s) at their sexuality instead of trying to understand my own. It was that introspection that made me realize we weren’t compatible, as all of my advances were performative masking.

    I still don’t quite feel right identifying as queer, straight-passing as I am. Some perceived othering of myself which I know has no reason. I hadn’t thought of my experiences as sexual violence, and I’m not sure how to process the thought. Something for the next therapy session.

    At the very least, I understand and hear the difficulties and have lived at some of them myself. It’s complicated indeed. Thank you for writing this.


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