This post could be considered part 2 to my Carnival of Aces entry for this month. I’m writing it, because Luvtheheaven’s entry reminded me of something.
When I’ve written about the pressure for everyone in the asexual community to be the “perfect representative”, by making themselves, and the asexual community as a whole “presentable” to mainstream society, I was referencing the pressures brought about by “Unassailable Asexual” concept.
The Unassailable Asexual concept is a series of observations showing that asexuals so often get their asexuality invalidated because certain other parts of their identity are used against them to invalidate it. I’ve been subject to this myself.
By being “presentable”, it implicitly means hiding away the traits that can be assailed, lest someone be accused of reinforcing the stereotypes or misconceptions. In other words, it’s the “We’re just like everyone else (heteronormative society), minus this one thing” assimilationist rhetoric at play, and it permeates our community due to internal and external pressures.
Assimilationism only gives visibility to those who conform the most, and/or stay silent about their other differences. Some asexuals don’t mind having sex, and may have it to please a partner in a romantic relationship. Some who prefer to date other asexuals want a traditional romantic relationship, and some also want children, but it’s a problem when these subsets of the asexual population are the only ones getting visibility, because it presents a narrative that doesn’t challenge societal views about sexuality, gender or relationships in a significant way, reassuring heteronormative society that asexuals and our experiences are different in just one way.
They (heteronormative society) want a narrative that in their eyes, doesn’t “complicate” things. Aromanticism and nonamory aren’t mentioned in the Unassailable Asexual test, but aromantic and or nonamorous asexuals have reported feeling marginalized within the asexual community. Assimilationist rhetoric erases them.
I said that it’s a battle that we’ll always be fighting against, but the most effective option is to encourage diversity, to support those who are under-represented in our own community.
There’s another, contradicting idea of the what the “perfect representative” is, that can occur within the community. Luvtheheaven noted it in the asexual spaces she’s been in, noting that there was a culture of being expected to be childfree, to never have sex, and to never date. She also notes that negativity towards relationships, sex, and parenthood were also expected in this culture:
It feels like the most acceptable narrative for an ace, the culture we’ve come up with, is one that fully rejects all conventional and traditionally sanctioned ideals. Asexual-spectrum folks are expected to be tolerant and understanding and embracing differences, but the default has been moved to “none” – no sex, no romance, no desire to ever have kids, etc. To not want romance, sex, or kids is to break the norms of society at large, but in the new subculture asexuals have created, the new norm is to reject all of it, as far as what I feel.
I responded here, feeling a sense of culture clash. There are two points I want to make. First is that her response was spot-on: it’s true that I don’t fit in with the asexual community culture. That I identify with the rejection of sex first, and don’t think it has to do with my asexuality, is not a familiar narrative to the asexual community, nor originates from it. It’s because I didn’t find the asexual community first. I know I’ve clashed with others in the asexual community over terminology, but that issue just hides the fact that I’m using an unfamiliar narrative to them in the first place. I don’t know if they’ll understand, regardless of what term I use or don’t use.
I don’t think I’ve seen for myself what she described in the asexual community, or subset she’s been involved with, but I have a guess where that dynamic she observed came from.
Keep in mind this is just speculation, but it seems like the most acceptable asexual narrative to mainstream society, is being “just like everyone else, minus the sexual attraction”. Sometimes this is considered the most acceptable narrative even within the asexual community due to external pressures, which is very frustrating to those of us who don’t fit that narrative. I say this as someone who doesn’t fit it, but it doesn’t surprise me that the culture in some asexual spaces is one that moved the defaults to no sex, no marriage or romantic relationships, and no children.
I think trying to establish that as a narrative is a way of fighting against societal expectations, showing that by rejecting sex, marriage, romance, and childbearing, that they haven’t internalized society’s expectations to be in a sexual-romantic relationship and bear children are the most “valid” way to live. After all, if an asexual person says they’re open to sex, how do we know that they really are, or feel pressured to be? Keep in mind these questions are legitimate concerns, and talking about consent in regards to asexuality is often a challenging topic.
However, it isn’t liberating to impose another default. It implies that anyone who doesn’t fit it is the “other”, who have to justify their decision to be in asexual spaces.
Luvtheheaven’s observations raises some questions, which I’m looking for input on: is it implied that those who are open to any of the things deemed “normative”, is a sell-out who internalized societal expectations? Is it implied that they’re going against the ideology of the asexual community?
When there is this culture of adhering to the defaults, or feeling like a sell-out for not doing so, there can still be self-doubt among those who adhere to the new defaults. Someone may have to continuously “prove” to others how much they hate sex, how much they hate romance, and how glad they are to be childfree, to show that their viewpoints haven’t wavered, therefore no change of having internalized societal expectations. This pressure could lead to feeling like a sell-out if they express any ambivalence, or if their viewpoints waver in any way.
The culture of the asexual community shouldn’t be having any defaults. Asexuality itself doesn’t have an ideology or specific lifestyle tied to it. It’s a sexual orientation. Contrast this with the celibate communities, including the one I the most adhere to, which may have their own defaults for a reason (some are more open to variation than others though); some aren’t simply about not having sex, but also have specific ideologies tied to them, and in some cases, also certain lifestyles that are central to the identity of those communities.
I’ve been through the same pressure to want to be the “perfect representative”, though it was before I found the asexual community. It was actually a result the frequent invalidation I faced. I felt like I had to show how much I hated sex and romance to try and prove to my unsupportive friends, and myself that I’m asexual (under the assumption that not hating all forms of intimacy must mean experiencing sexual attraction), and prove to myself that I haven’t succumbed to societal expectations. I doubted myself, because I was in a relationship even though I didn’t want to be, and felt like a sell-out.