Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's Up with Asexuals?

I completely understand the GLBT movement and the need to end discrimination for these sexual minority groups. But some people seem to be adding asexuals to the list of groups. What on earth is that about? Are asexuals really a persecuted minority? What's up with that? Anon.

When it comes to asexual men, there probably isn't much that's up, if you know what I mean. Or at least they don't get up to much that most of us would consider fun. All kidding aside, there are three kinds of asexuals. The first kind [type A] includes people who, for whatever reason, decide to live a life devoid of sexual activity. It's similar to being celibate but asexuals are not priests or people who give up sex for religious or other reasons. Most people are not asexual by choice, of course, and frankly I believe many who call themselves asexual make that decision at a point in their lives when it's difficult if not impossible for them to find sex partners. Declaring themselves "asexual" is their way of dealing with the problem. That begs the question: Does a true type A asexual eschew masturbation as well as sex with other people?

The second kind [type B] of asexual would be better described as gender-free, someone who does not identity as male or female or who rejects all gender classification. This is quite different from someone who swears off sex. We often use the term asexual to describe those androgynous individuals who lack distinctive masculine or feminine qualities, people who -- like "Pat" on Saturday Night Live -- seem neither male nor female. Not only are we unable tell what sex they are, but sometimes they can't tell as well (sometimes they are simply confused transsexuals). These people can identify as either gay, straight, bi or transgender.

The third type of asexual [type C] is someone who simply has no sexual attraction for anyone, male or female. Some asexual activists -- yes, we even have those -- claim that asexuality is an orientation, but I completely reject this notion. It is not normal or healthy to have no sexual feelings and it does these unfortunate individuals a disservice to claim that it is. Many people are asexual because of conflicted sexual feelings or depression or both. Asexuality is a medical condition that should be treated.

NOTE: Yes, I'm perfectly aware that homosexuality was once thought of as an abnormal medical and psychiatric condition, but lacking all sexual feelings is something entirely different. Gay is Good. What's good about being asexual? In these "progressive" days everyone wants to jump on the GLBT bus but some passengers are headed in the wrong direction.

I'll leave the whole gender-free business for another post. As for people in the first group who lead an asexual lifestyle, as far as I'm concerned, it is ludicrous to think of them as a minority group like homosexuals or lesbians. These are people who make a choice to strip their lives of sexuality -- or to deal with their sexless lives by declaring themselves asexual -- and that's their own business. As for people in the third group, I do not see their struggle as being similar to that of gays and lesbians, sorry. I for one will never get on the band wagon for asexuality, as it is a "lifestyle" that eliminates one of life's greatest pleasures and consolations. Goodness knows, today's overly politically correct activists, in a well-intentioned but often misguided attempt to include everyone who may be oppressed, often add or want to add all sorts of groups to GLBT, but somehow I can't see A for Asexual being added to the list by the more sensible among them.

UPDATE: I've been told in no uncertain terms that many people -- especially those who identify as Type C asexual -- vehemently disagree with me on the issue of asexuality as an orientation vs. disability. Additionally some GLBTers disagree with me that asexuals are not a sexual minority -- also vehemently. At a future date this issue may be revisited -- but for now I'm worn out.


Stephen Chapman... said...

Cheers for the comment on my blog - I have had a good look around your blog and it makes mine look lightweight in comparison!

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for the kind words Stephen.

I think your blog is a lot of fun, and I loved what you had to say about "man-crushes!"

Keep up the good work! Best, Bill

Anonymous said...

I didn't find out I was asexual until two years into a relationship, and it was very hard to realize that no, I did not choose my orientation, and even worse, I never had information about it. I've always had a romantic attraction to be in relationships, but I never found sex appealing. I've had tests and I'm completely healthy, my thyroid acts normal. I am a normal human being, I just happen to not find sex pleasurable. It's definitely always been an option, but I hated having sex, not because of some kind of repressed nonsense or abuse, but general lack of interest. I feel like this anti-asexuality tirade makes about as much sense as making a website about "people who don't like chocolate". You don't necessarily choose what foods you do and do not like, you put it in your mouth and you respond to the taste! Perhaps that may be a bad example, but I had to come to the realization that I was not heterosexual. I actually listened to everyone's advice "maybe he's just bad at pleasing you" and I researched sex and different ways people get pleasure and frankly none of it so much as entertained me. I gain more pleasure from cuddling with someone than sex. It doesn't mean I'm disabled, it means that I'm different from you. The point of a relationship does not revolve around reproduction, and I'm pretty damn sure you should be aware of this, especially seeing as you identify yourself as being gay.

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for your comments; you make some interesting points.

I think it's difficult for asexual people to understand why sexual people would find it "disabling" to lose all sexual feelings, like losing one's hearing or sight. I don't think of people in those categories as being inferior, and I don't think of you or other asexuals as being inferior either.

I have been told by other asexuals that they resent the notion that asexuality can be seen by sexual people as a disability, but -- not to be disingenuous -- why is it automatically seen as insulting to say someone is disabled? To have a disability doesn't make someone a lower form of life.

Black people, Jewish peple and Gay people have a long history of oppression which is not shared by asexuals. That being said, let me also say that when and if the day comes that someone gets fired or beaten up etc. for being openly asexual, you will have my support.


Breanna said...

Dear Mr. Samuels,

I haven't been fired or beaten up for being openly asexual. That doesn't mean aces aren't cruelly judged. We're told that we don't exist. We're told that we're broken. We're told that we must have been abused. We're told that asexuality is something we choose. (Asexuality is how you are. Celibacy is choosing to not have sex.) We're told "you just haven't had sex with someone like me." We get insulted and verbally attacked by people we don't want to have sex with. Look, it's not "disabling" to not want to have sex any more than it's "disabling" to not want to have sex with people of the opposite sex. You don't understand. I get it. I don't understand the appeal of sex. I felt attacked by what you said. I'm sure you would feel the same way if the same words were directed at gays.

As for the wanting to be part of the GLBT movement, that's not really the whole picture. Some do, but a lot of it is a big-brother type admiration for the movement. It's like "We're ignored, told we don't exist, or told we're damaged because of our sexuality. You guys have done so much to change perceptions about yourselves, and we want that for ourselves."

I know what I've said will probably not change how you think. I am just one person, after all. I hope that someday you can acknowledge that we exist, that we are not damaged or repressed, and that we do face some hardships.

I apologize for any difficulty in reading this. I have written my reply while still emotionally affected by your words, and as such I may be somewhat unclear in my wording. I hope I haven't been too incoherent.

Go gently,

Bill Samuels said...

Actually, Breanna, I thought your comments were very thoughtful and helpful in understanding your viewpoint. A genuinely asexual person -- someone simply born without sexual feelings -- should certainly not be treated with the contempt that you seem to have experienced. I guess it's that SEX is such a big bugaboo for people that many of us can't quite wrap our minds around the lack of it. But reasoned comments like yours I think go a long way in helping people understand what asexuals are all about. I'll certainly give this issue more thought in the future. Thank you.

Breanna said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and consider my comment. I suppose trying to imagine not being interested in sex is like trying to imagine being born without one of your senses. This is probably where the disabling comment came from. We're all different and this should be celebrated. I'm glad the internet has given us all a chance to discuss and learn about them!

Clear skies,

Bill Samuels said...

I agree! Best, Bill

Anonymous said...

I realise this is old, but I needed to comment.

I know people who have been bullied after coming out as asexual. I know of people who have been threatened with 'corrective rape' after coming out as asexual.

I am not saying this is in any way comparable to the discrimination which lesbian and gay people suffer and have suffered for decades, but the 'amount' of persecution is not the issue here. The asexual community is not blissfully free from oppression as much as you may like to believe that it is.

I am on the asexual spectrum, and am in a committed relationship with some sexual activity which I participate in because I do not mind it, I love my partner and I enjoy feeling romantically close to him (I have no physical or mental health conditions, for what it's worth). Some asexuals are repulsed by sexual activity, some aren't. Some asexuals have a libido and masturbate, some do not. Many, many asexual people experience romantic attraction, but not sexual, and that doesn't make them disabled. It makes their priorities different.

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for your comments. I confess I'm a little confused as to how someone who is asexual can have a libido and masturbate (!) or want to, but I do appreciate another point of view on this subject. I have no doubt that some people who identify as asexual may be given a hard time about it. Best, Bill

Dirk said...

You mentioned depression as a possible reason for being asexual. Ironically, medication to treat depression can also lead to a loss of sex drive, too! I recently discontinued an antidepressant after being on it a few years.

Let me tell you - I actually have a crush now and don't know how to deal with my feelings about him! It might even make a great Ask Gay "Dr. Bill" question...

Sure, I used to masturbate when on the antidepressant, but it took longer to get off and felt less passionate than it does now.

Bill Samuels said...

Dirk, I'd be happy to answer your question about the crush you have,

Thanks for your comment.