Of all the prompts for this month’s Carnival of Aces theme (The Next Generation), this was the one to catch my eye:
“– How might things be different for the next generation of people on the ace-spectrum? How *should* they be different?”
Mostly because as of late I have been having some rather glum ruminations on what the future holds for asexuals.
Let me start this out by noting that I know I have a tendency to see the negatives in life. You could call me a pessimist or cynist, but, based on how often my negative observations are true, I sadly call myself a realist.
That warning out of the way, let us continue to my expectations for the next generation of ace-spectrum people.
My expectations? Not good. Not good at all. I honestly think the next generation of aces (and the ensuing time period for us all) may be a worse one for aces than this one.
In our current time, that this generation of aces started out in, asexuality is a very obscure thing. Visibility is an issue, and so is legitimacy. One of our primary struggles is simply getting people to know that asexuality exists. Many of our antagonists attack the very legitimacy of our sexual orientation itself, they question the very right of asexuality to exist, and for asexuals to have a unique term(s) to identify themselves by.
Meanwhile, we are told by our loved ones, our doctors, our professors, that asexuality is not a thing. That asexuality is simply a phase. That asexuality can be “cured”. That asexuality is the result of sexual repression, or trauma from sexual abuse and rape.
That all sounds like some heavy crap to deal with, but… I question whether it has not made things sometimes, in a way, easier for some of us to deal with.
If, after all, a parent thinks asexuality is just a phase, and does not take it seriously, then are they not likely to dismiss the arguments from asexuals in the first place? …that is, if they do not consider asexuality to be a real thing, and instead think a young person will inevitably change their mind, then it is quite easy to just let the whole thing go, like this:
Barnacle: “Mother dear, I am an asexual you see.”
Mother: “Bullcrap. It’s just a phase. You’ll meet the right person.”
Barnacle: “It’s not a phase, it’s my sexual orientation.”
Mother: “Okay, fine, you’re an asexual.” thinking: ‘Yeah she’ll get over this weird crap eventually… especially when I introduce her to that stud Jimmy next week lol‘
That is, some of us may have escaped experiencing direct hostility and anger because we weren’t taken seriously.
Because asexuality isn’t taken seriously as an orientation, it is quite easy for people to simply ignore the whole thing when one of their family members, friends, or acquaintances is asexual. By agreeing with us or seeming accepting of our asexuality, they do not have to make any real acknowledgement that asexuality is a real thing, or a valid orientation, because there is no presence of it, no knowledge of it, than the rare person (likely the only one in their life) claiming to be asexual.
In other words, one asexual person can be dismissed mentally as a weirdo who will soon enough see the light and give up their weird ideas. There is no real impetus to change us or challenge us, in our claims, when asexuality is not a thing with any presence or growing legitimacy in the eyes of the world.
However, all that will (hopefully, if we activists are doing our job right) change for the next generation.
Asexuality will have more of a presence in the world, appearing in more media and being mentioned more in person and in various media. Even the simple presence of “asexual” on a poll as a possible orientation in non-asexual-related media will serve as markers of our legitimacy, of our realness, of our existence as something more than an ill-thought-out phase.
As such, when we say we are asexual, it will begin to mean something to your average person off the street. It will not be something to be explained, or dismissed.
And it will begin to carry concrete meanings with it, that instantly present themselves in the mind of the hearer.
They can mean such things as:
“This person will not date you or have sex with you. They are not interested in you the way you are in them.”
“This person is going against God’s wishes (and needs to be told all about that, to get it into their poor led-astray-by-Satan head!)”
“Oh, so she’s one of those slut-shamers. What a bitch. ”
“One of those prudes”
“One of those homophobes that try to convert us to straightness or celibacy”
Whereas now the only meaning we impart on many by saying we are asexual is:
“WTF does he mean by that?”
In addition, while we in this generation suffer from largely no asexual characters or mentions in the media, I predict the next generation of asexuals WILL have some asexual characters and mentions in the media.
And the characters and plotlines will largely be along the lines of the House. M.D episode on asexuality, and the media commentary will be much along the lines of the Fox News take on asexuality, with plenty of mockery and misunderstanding. (“ Like if it’s that small a portion of the population, do I have to recognize you? Like, woo recognize me because I wear sock monkey hats!” “ I don’t trustem, I don’t trust em a bit” “they have a lack of a sexual – a sort – a sexuality, so they’ll be kinda like, treated as lepers, asexual lepers, if you will”)
A lot of people, creators, will see asexuality and think “ooh, that’s neat. Gives me an idea for a storyline” and go off and make asexuality what they want, to fit into their funny or interesting (as they see it) storyline, without bothering to do research, or with cherry-picking certain things to fit their needs. Accuracy will not trump sensationalism or the needs of the story.
So asexuals will have to deal with that, as they grow up and form their identity. Asexuality as a joke, as something to be mocked, as something weird and strange and misrepresented. They will have to sort through more bullshit information, and face more hostility, more mockery, all the while having to deal with probably having internalized both the sexualnormative ideas put out by society, as well as actual anti-asexual ideas and stereotypes of what an asexual is.
The children that are being born today will also miss out on something we have all had to some extent today: the ability to set the tone, to define what asexuality is and isn’t, and to create the language.
No group or movement is ever completely a closed book, so it’s not like any innovation or influx of new ideas from someone in the future is just completely going to be rejected. But even so, we, the asexuals of today, are the ones who, for instance, decided that “an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction”. That is the definition that was presented, and that the majority of us think is the best description.
By that little thing, by all of us either accepting or rejecting, by promoting that idea, have set in motion what someone, 15 years from now, will look at to determine whether they are asexual or not.
The asexuals of the future will have to deal with our legacy, while we were free of any legacy.