This week is Asexual Awareness Week, I keep seeing posts on the internet, mostly Tumblr, about how a lot of Asexuals felt like they were "broken" before they learned of the more clinical term, and of the supportive online community. The Asexual Visibility campaign has been gaining a lot of traction. Seems like every few weeks there's another article somewhere about it. Which is cool. More people knowing about it means fewer people think that they're "broken". Trust me, I've been there and it sucks.
But the fact remains that the Asexual Visibility movement doesn't have a goal to attain other than visibility and general acceptance. Both of those are admiral, lofty and ambiguous as they may be. It could be argued that Aces don't need to worry about visibility, that they don't need to campaign not to have sex. And many Asexuals would agree. They don't bother to come out, since it only affects themselves.
While that is a gross misunderstanding of the point of fighting for visibility, it does raise some poignant questions. The documentary (A)sexual does a nice job of portraying people's varying opinions on the movement, including some devaluing remarks from other members of the LGBTQ community. In fact, often times Asexuality isn't even included in the LGBTQ community. Which is rather depressing.
Even worse is the fact that often times, people outside of the small Ace community don't know how to react when they find out that someone identifies as Asexual. They either have erroneous ideas of what it means - sentiments like 'you just haven't met the right guy yet' and 'you're just a late bloomer' are common responses that Asexuals receive when they come out - or they have no idea what it means at all and just get confused when explanations are given.
The real problem is that sexual people can't identify with the idea that anyone could not feel what they consider to be such an intrinsically human thing. At the base of it all, Asexuals simply don't feel sexual attraction. And in a society that is so obsessed and centered around sex, its jarring to contemplate that someone could live without ever feeling that spark. Bella DePaulo does a pretty decent job of summarizing that problem in her article "ASEXUALS: Who Are They and Why Are They Important" over at PsychologyToday.
That sex-centric view of life easily leads to Aces feeling broken and wrong until, by some miracle, they manage to find other Asexuals on the internet. It has only been recently that Asexuals have marched in the New York Pride Parade. Asexuality isn't even considered in most psychological studies of sex, sexuality, and sexual relationships. To be fair, Psychology is incredibly heteronormative at best, but it is slowly changing. Most models of sexuality don't include asexuality or even romantic orientations - because so many view those to be directly linked and for most they are. We like to think that sex is part of romance, that you can't love someone if you don't want to have sex with them, but Asexuals challenge that with their very existence. Aces can feel romantic attraction - sure some of them do not, but a lot do - and that throws a huge wrench into the common understanding of sex and relationships.
The problem isn't that Asexuality needs more visibility. It does. That is a given. As long as there are people who feel broken and wrong and are attacked for their sexuality, there is need for visibility. It isn't a campaign to not have sex. It is a campaign to change our concepts of what makes someone human. It is a cry to stop marginalizing people who are happily celibate, for those who are disgusted by the thought of sex.
How will we get there? Same as always: time and perseverance and becoming a visible part of the human sexuality spectrum.
If you're interested in what life is like without sexual attraction, without even the desire for a romantic partner, you can head over to TheBlot, where I posted the answers to some rather personal questions. For more information on Asexuality and Asexual Visibility, check out AVEN.