A bit on the “Everyone wants me to be an asexual!

In the debate about whether the term “sexual” is offensive as a term for people who are not asexual, one problem I have heard brought up is the over-sexualization of gay people. I have heard some gay people make the claim that “everyone wants them to be asexual” instead of gay, and that gay people are treated as extremely sexual beings.
I think this is definitely a problem, but I think it’s less from the idea that “everyone wants gay people to be asexual” and instead perhaps stems from the fact that to be gay is to have to talk about experiencing sexual attraction in a way that when being straight one simply does not.

Because heterosexuality is the default, when one heads down that path, there are less questions asked, less assumptions made. Being a heterosexual is what society wants a person to be, for the most part. Thus what need is there to badger a heterosexual, ask intrusive questions, make ridiculous assumptions, and stereotype?

Being heterosexual is the thing to do. It’s encouraged before most people could ever experience sexual attraction. No one needs to talk about sexual attraction in this case. Why bring it up it and what does it even have to do with anything? It doesn’t. You are interested in the opposite sex because everyone is interested in the opposite sex and that is the way it is done. Starting a family is de rigueur for many people because of culture or religion. Maybe you’re pursuing members of the opposite sex out of dreams of a bitchin’ wedding, or all the cute babies you’ll have, or of dreams of pure and blissful romance, or, out of sexual attraction and desire, but no one ever knows unless they ask, do they? And have you ever seen a person being questioned for the motives behind their heterosexual behavior? I haven’t.

So how about those non-heterosexuals? Well, that’s a different story. Because the question changes, but it’s not actually: “What your motives for having asexual or homosexual behavior?” the question is instead “why aren’t you having heterosexual behavior?.

Because a person who is homosexual or asexual could want to have an awesome wedding, cute kids, and pure and blissful romance, that’s true. But why be homosexual? Why be asexual? Why not just be ‘normal’ and heterosexual and get those things?

Because of sexual attraction. A lesbian may say “I want a wedding, awesome kids, and romance, but I want them with a woman, because of sexual attraction. Because I experience sexual attraction to females.”

And an asexual may say “I want to pick out a bridal gown, get Valentine’s Day chocolates, have a child, but I want them with the explicit knowledge that I am an asexual, because of the issue of sexual attraction. Because I don’t experience sexual attraction for anyone, and I don’t want to mislead people into thinking I will experience sexual attraction to them.”

That said, we know that almost everyone does experience sexual attraction. The big difference between heterosexuals and the rest of the bunch, is that heterosexuals don’t have to bring the sexual attraction issue to the table, they don’t have to address it and deal with the issue. A heterosexual does not have to say they experience or don’t experience sexual attraction for anyone with their behavior.

So, heterosexism essentially. And as for the claim that “everyone wants homosexuals to become asexual” I have found very little to support that idea. I have of course, found a lot to support the idea that large portions of society want homosexuals to become heterosexual. From what I’ve read, as far as society is concerned, heterosexuality is the best orientation for one to have. After that, among the religious crowd, celibacy and or chastity is a better option than anything else.

I’m going to clarify just in case there’s new readers: asexuality is NOT celibacy. Asexuality is NOT chastity. Some asexuals may be celibate and/or chaste. Some homosexuals may be celibate and/or chaste. Some heterosexuls, etc. It’s a behavior/state that people of any orientation can be in. Celibacy is refraining from marriage or sex. Asexuals, like people of any orientation*, can get married and/or have sex, and thus not be celibate.

Since some asexuals date members of the same-sex (and even, gosh, have sex with them) I’m somehow doubtful that religious heterosexists truly want a person to just become an asexual, and that would satisfy them. Because being an asexual does not dictate your behavior, and that is what religious heterosexists actually want: to change a person’s behavior, not just their orientation. To them there is only one orientation: normal, and everything else is a disease or a demon or a sin.

(*People of any orientation can be married to the opposite sex; the supposedly ideal state to be in, whether homosexual, bisexual, pan or asexual.)

About Lasciel

Out, out, brief candle!
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3 Responses to A bit on the “Everyone wants me to be an asexual!

  1. Lindsay says:

    To them there is only one orientation: normal, and everything else is a disease or a demon or a sin.

    This is a good point, as is the one about how asexuality =/= celibacy. I had known they weren’t precisely the same thing, but hadn’t known they were as uncoupled as you describe them being.

    However, I do think I know of a group on whom mainstream society enforces asexuality: people with disabilities, especially people with developmental disabilities! Group homes for such people often have blanket no-sex policies for the people who live in them, and young people with disabilities often aren’t taught about sex, because people don’t think they need to know.

    Perhaps this is compulsory celibacy, rather than compulsory asexuality, but it is definitely NOT compulsory heterosexuality! They may come down harder on gay relationships among DD people (see here), but they also try to quash straight coupling, and there are DEFINITELY strong pressures against reproduction by DD people (up to and including forced sterilization).

    And I know people generally think that DD people are “like children,” and thus don’t desire or have sex. We autistic people are frequently bumping up against that stereotype, and I doubt we’re the only ones. So the behavioral norms imposed on us may amount to compulsory celibacy, but I do think that asexuality, with its connotations of lacking desire, is ascribed to us too.

    (I actually believe I escaped much of the compulsory heterosexuality most queer people grow up experiencing because I have a developmental disability, and my parents didn’t know if I would ever have sex, or be in a romantic relationship, at all, so I never got any “give us grandchildren” or “boys won’t like you if you do that” talk. I am immensely grateful for this.)

    • Yeah, really behavior and orientation are completely separate things for all sexual orientations (I have known gay men, for instance, married to women, which would typically be a behavior ascribed to a heterosexual man, but as we know, it doesn’t work that way… well, *we* know, some people don’t. I have seen the “he’s married to/dated a woman!” as an explanation for male’s sexual orientation too many times to count).

      I agree with you about the way people with disabilities are treated. There is definitely compulsory celibacy. One reason I don’t address the interesection of disability and asexuality is… I really don’t feel qualified. Like for instance, I was once put in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents myself, but the teens there were largely bipolar, depressed, had eating disorders, addictions, schizophrenia, etc. I don’t think there was anyone there diagnosed with a developmental disability, or cognitive disabilities, or anyone with a personality disorder.

      There is a tendancy for people to group DDs in with other mental disabilities, but the way we were treated seems to be in many ways different than the way DD teens in a group facility would be treated. While sex and any kind of couple-relationship were extremely discouraged, we seemed to have more sexuality ascribed to us than other types of disabled people. The females among us were, for instance, all pregnancy tested the minute we were admitted. No hugging or touching was allowed; so much as the innocent kinsmanship and puppy-dog crush one boy had for me (he was a ten year old for god’s sake!) was met with extreme disapproval and the staff did all they could to keep us from interacting. I was interrogated and faced with some nasty accusations because my mother had told the staff I had mentioned a desire to get on birth control.

      So I think there is this difference in the way sexuality is perceived even among different kinds of people with mental disabilities. Developmental, cognitive, and some personality disordered (schizoid, for instance) people are perceived as sexless creatures, while people with other mental disabilities and certain other personality disorders are over-sexualized (and I’m of course not basing that just off my own experiences; certain disorders, like borderline personality disorder, have impulsive sexual behavior as a descriptive trait/diagnostic symptom).

      And there’s exceptions, like the disgusting stereotype of men with cognitive disorders being rapists, and overly sexual.

      Either way, the denying of sexual agency to disabled people is wrong . That sounds pat and overly simplistic, but I hope you (and other readers) will forgive me for not addressing it often. I honestly find the way people are treated in group homes and psychiatric facilities to be so disturbing, dehumanizing, and disgusting that I can’t even linger on it. I honestly think a great deal of them are places of downright evil. Having been in one, and hearing of other people’s experiences in them, it’s not a topic I can stay rational, logical, on.

      Much regarding psychiatry and mental disabilities as they intersect with asexuality is thus skirted around in this blog due to my personal reasons, unfortunately ):

      There is a very good post though, here that talks about asexuality and disability though, and I believe it’s by someone with a develoipmental disorder, iirc. She talks about some of the things you mentioned; a specific point being that the disabled people are considered so asexual or sexless, that “you’re just disabled!” is an actual rebuttal to people claiming to be asexual. There are people that equate them that much -_-

      (link again, in case it doesn’t go through again this time: http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/11/06/guest-post-disability-and-asexuality/)

      • Lindsay says:

        One reason I don’t address the intersection of disability and asexuality is … I don’t feel qualified.

        Oh, okay. Fair enough! Your comment indicates you do have a good understanding of what I was trying to get at, so now I feel redundant.

        Kaz’s essay is really good, and there is more to this intersection that just the compulsory-celibacy angle, too! Like, it really is true that lots of autistic people are asexual (a greater proportion of us are asexual than non-autistic people, IIRC), and Kaz makes a good point that being an asexual adult is not the same as lacking sexual agency, which is what the stereotype is and how we are often treated in institutional settings.

        And I’m sorry you had those experiences in the hospital! That’s awful, and those people ought to have known better than to shame a teenager for wanting to get on birth control.

        …I hope you (and other readers) will forgive me for not addressing it often. I honestly find the way people are treated in group homes and psychiatric facilities to be so disturbing, dehumanizing and disgusting that I can’t even linger on it.


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