I mentioned in my post about Quicksilver that the protagonist was asexual and that I’d never seen that in a book before, but I know for a lot of people the concept of asexuality is still a little bit confusing with quite a lot of misconceptions and misinformation, so I decided to write this to clear things up.
Before we start, a few things to say. 1) I’m not a world expert on the subject. In fact, most of the information here is stuff from the internets, so you can find it too. 2) I still tend to stick with the label queer as I explained in my coming out post, but if you want to break it down I’m definitely leaning towards homoromantic asexual these days, which is why it’s important to me when asexuality is included in stuff. Ace of hearts all the way, baby. 3) The Wikipedia page is a good place to start if you want facts and figures.
Disclaimer: asexuality is a spectrum just as everything else is a spectrum, so the chances of everything in the post being exactly true for every ace are basically 0. Which is why you should read other things and not just this — other informative things would be this powerpoint which provides a great overview with pictures, or this post about writing asexual characters.
I’m going to adapt the ‘Pass Notes’ format used in The Guardian to provide a brief overview of a topic, except I’ll probably modify it because I’m more long-winded than that.
In a sentence: Asexuality is described as a lack of sexual attraction or interest in sexual activity. It’s not necessarily the same as aromanticism, which is a lack of romantic attraction. For example, I like girls to hold hands with (that’s the homoromantic part), but I wouldn’t want to sleep with them.
Age: Like all sexual orientations, probably as old as people. But it’s only really been identified and studied fairly recently.
Appearance: Well, it has a flag. It looks like this: Why does it need a flag? Though often forgotten about, asexuals are part of the LGBTQ community. Which is more obvious when using acronyms like LGBTQIA+ or QUILTBAG. And pride flags kinda go along with that sort of thing.
I thought the A stood for ‘ally’. No, it doesn’t, and this is one of the myths that contributes to asexual invisibility — most people don’t even know what it is, let alone remember to include it.
Shouldn’t allies be included in the acronym, though? Not really. The whole point of an ally is that they’re somebody outside of the community who supports it, so they don’t have any reason to be in the magical acronym of queerness.
I’m a straight ally and I feel excluded! Come back to us when you’re denied basic human rights because of your sexual orientation and we’ll discuss that. But honestly, we’re glad you’re here — just don’t try and push us out of our space in the name of being ‘supportive’, because it makes us sad.
If you’re not interested in sex why does romantic orientation even matter? For many asexuals, not being interested in sex doesn’t mean not having relationships, so I guess it matters from that point of view. And even those who don’t enter into romantic relationships can still admire those of the gender they’re interested in.
Okay, but the whole not having sex thing. Priests and stuff do that, and they don’t give it a name or join a community or whatever. Well, being a priest is kind of a community and they call it ‘celibacy’ … but I digress. Celibacy and asexuality aren’t the same thing because celibacy is choosing not to have sex even when interested in it, often requiring a great deal of willpower. Whereas folks who are ace just aren’t really interested.
Are people asexual because of abuse? Some people who identify as asexual may have suffered from abuse or assault and that might be a factor in their unwillingness to be physically intimate, but that’s certainly not the case for everyone, nor does it invalidate the experience of those who have been through that.
Why does asexuality need to be represented? Because one form of heteronormativity is assuming that everybody wants to get married and have kids — leaving aside those who aren’t interested in the opposite gender, it’s just as unfriendly to the asexuals who may be among you. A lot of people who are ace grow up thinking they’re ‘broken’ or there’s something wrong with them because they’re not interested in sex, which can also lead to them being manipulated or guilt-tripped into unhealthy relationships or at the very least being paranoid about any relationships they do enter.
But asexuals don’t suffer from oppression. The thing about being ace is that it makes you different. Leaving aside the romantic side of things and focusing solely on the sex side of things, being disinterested can often leave you open to being thought of as weird. And a lot of families or communities place a lot of expectations on people to get married or whatever, which is as harmful to ace folks as to gay ones.
Are all asexuals shy and introverted? No. They could be total flirts and go to every party — just as a pansexual might sit in their room reading books on their own. Don’t stereotype.
I don’t see how I’m meant to know if somebody’s asexual. Well, it probably doesn’t matter, unless you’re trying to ask them out. Some asexuals wear a black ring on the middle finger of their right hand (for aromantics it would be the left hand), but that’s not exactly widespread.
Do say: “Oh, cool, you’re ace. Want to hang out and watch TV platonically instead of doing the whole sex thing?”
Don’t say: “You just haven’t met the right person yet” / “That’s not a real thing” / “Oh come on, everyone wants to have sex” … or any variation thereupon.
Why are you telling us all this, Miriam? Because I am eighteen years and two months old and I have read one book with a canonically asexual character so I’m hoping that by writing this on a blog that other young and aspiring authors read, I’ll improve the chances of that total going up in the future.
Also because I didn’t even know what asexuality was until about eighteen months ago and I always thought I was broken. So maybe there’s someone reading this who needs to know about it, or maybe there’s somebody who will mention it to a friend after having read it and that friend will have needed the assurance that it’s okay not to want to have sex or whatever. The same reason I write anything, basically: because somebody probably needs to hear it.
And also because nobody actually seems to understand what it is and I’m bored of explaining it, and because at some point my blog basically turned into my own personal soapbox from which I rant about stuff. So. This post happened.
I hope it’s helped you understand asexuality and if you’ve anything to add that you think I’ve missed, leave it in the comments below!