Tag Archives: sex-repulsion

Identifying asexuality in hindsight

This entry is for the November 2015 Carnival of Aces: “Reasons I should’ve known I was asexual”

(I was in a rush to get this published, so there may be proofreading errors)

Looking back, there can be many ways for an individual could’ve realized their asexuality, but didn’t. It may not have been obvious at the time, and only becomes obvious in hindsight. I’ve had my share of those experiences.

In middle school and my earlier years of high school, I was largely oblivious towards sexuality and romance, and was lucky that I didn’t have either pushed on me seriously during that time (though I did deal with teasing from immediate family who kept insisting I must be “in love” with one of my male friends). It was in the later years of high school that I started to feel negatively towards sex and romance as I became more aware of the suffering caused by both, which for me coincided with me becoming aware of my asexuality and that it likely wasn’t going to change. In my earlier years, I thought I’d grow out of it, but by my junior year of high school, I didn’t, and I didn’t want to.

It’s weird; in my earlier years I thought asexuality was the norm in a sense, but also thought I’d probably outgrow it to accept my future roles in life. I understood that many others wanted sex, but not that they had an intrinsic desire for it, so when I did overhear sex-obsessed peers or see them on TV, I thought they were exaggerating at first!

Maybe it was the aversion to sex and romance that I thought I’d outgrow specifically. With my awareness of asexuality, I became aware that the suffering related to sex and dating is much more common than I thought, if nearly everyone desires them.

Probably the biggest thing that should’ve made me realize I was asexual was my attitude towards sex and relationships, specifically that I couldn’t understand why others hyped up sex so much, and claimed to desire it so much that a relationship without it wasn’t seen as real. I also couldn’t understand why others were frustrated over not having sex, or not having it for weeks or months.

Those things on their own don’t instantly point to being asexual, but it is a common experience among other asexuals that could’ve warranted me looking into the community to see if the label fit, but I didn’t originally think to seek out the asexual community, or why I felt the way I did about sex. To me, it felt like commonsense. Isn’t it commonsense to outgrow an obsession with sex after realizing it’s not the life-changing magical experience that it’s hyped up to be, or hear from others that it’s not? At other times, I dismissed my feelings as me being cynical and overly analytical, and just didn’t think about it further until I was out of high school.

I thought logically, how is sex love when people have it all the time without meaning? No one says that one-night stands are an act of love, after all. I also didn’t understand how sex, or the lack of, can get in the way of, or ruin relationships that are otherwise perfect.

Being averse to sex doesn’t always mean being asexual either, but can be linked, and someone can become aware of their asexuality because of it. That I found the idea of sex to be repulsive, and the way that affected me, could’ve clued me in to the possibility of being asexual. Because I don’t have any desire for sex, I can’t imagine it ever having any appeal; it just seems like something that would take a lot of effort on my part for little or no gain for me, with all of the risks to sex. What some people say feels like the greatest form of closeness just feels invasive. All the risks and none of the benefits. The only way to go through with it would be to repress those feelings, but I’d have to force myself to do it, to override those feelings of repulsion, but with no guarantee it’d actually work.

One of the earliest things that could’ve clued me in was that in middle school, and my earlier years of high school, I frequently read teen magazines, and the sections that interested me the most were the fashion tips, and the articles about unusual life experiences, though I still did read the sections about relationships. There were often articles about guys, and written by them, often with pictures prominently on the pages, I thought they looked good, but didn’t think that I was supposed to swoon over them, and didn’t realize some readers would be more interested in the pictures than the text!

Another thing that should’ve clued me is that while there wasn’t much of an emphasis on abstinence until marriage where I grew up, I was aware that many others were told that they needed to abstain until marriage. I thought “Ha! I could abstain for life, because I want to!”, and couldn’t comprehend that sexual abstinence can be a struggle for others. That is a way some asexuals realized their asexuality.

I don’t know if this counts, but when I read Nineteen Eighty-Four in my sophomore year of high school, I didn’t understand at first why the Junior Anti-Sex League was seen as a problem, since I couldn’t relate to the concept of sexual desire, nor what it’s like to have nearly all outlets for that desire denied. I understood the part about only procreation being permissible as a duty to The Party, because sex didn’t appeal to me, that it being work, a sacrifice or duty to another person made sense to me. I didn’t agree with it, but it made sense.

Perhaps one of the most clear giveaways to me being asexual is implicitly being told that everyone is either straight or gay (or maybe straight, gay or bi), and I felt like none of those applied to me. In this situation, some asexuals thought they were straight just because they knew they weren’t sexually attracted to the same gender, others thought they were gay or bi for not conforming to heteronormative expectations. Some thought they were gay because they knew they weren’t attracted to the other binary gender. I didn’t really think about it much, and for some time, I didn’t use a label for my orientation. I didn’t think there was one until later in high school when I thought if there are people attracted to the “opposite gender” (I didn’t know of non-binary genders until years later), the same gender or both, that there should also be people who aren’t attracted to anyone.

How can signs like these be missed? The topic of sex and sexuality didn’t come up much in middle school or high school, aside from sex ed. I didn’t think about it that much in middle school nor my earlier years of high school, but I sort of thought I would outgrow my aversion and lack of interest for sex or romance. I thought I’d go through the dating-obsessed phase that was expected, which would also make me open to sex and tolerate it (for the other person and their pleasure at least, if not for my own), if not actively want and enjoy it, but I didn’t, and I didn’t notice since most of the friends I had didn’t talk about sex nor romance that much. They didn’t seem to care, and I didn’t either, so my lack of interest didn’t stand out to them, so I didn’t think I was the odd one out, and I even thought those who were wanting sex were the odd ones out for a while! Years later, I found out one of those friends was asexual and aromantic!

I didn’t like the idea of having sex just to please another person, but that being the only way I could envision sex also could’ve been a clear sign of asexuality, but one I still overlooked, perhaps because the idea of sex as a duty they have to endure if they can’t enjoy it, is so normalized! Of course, I found that idea repulsive, which contributed to my later ideological reasons for rejecting sex, because I believed no one should have to suffer through that.

If my lack of interest did stand out among my friends, I likely would’ve it noticed sooner because it would’ve had a more significant impact on my life back then, but I also likely would’ve gone through a phase of feeling broken too, a phase I’ve been lucky I didn’t go through.

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It wasn’t just me thinking this? Rant about sex-positivity in asexual spaces

(warning: talk of sexual coercion and repulsion-shaming)

I read the newest issue of F-ace-ing Silence, which brings up the topic of sex-positivity in asexual spaces, which to me personally, has been one of the thorniest topics for a multitude of reasons.

On AVEN, back when a call for submissions was announced, and I was tempted to write a submission.

Reading through the third volume, it brought up the issues that I’ve been concerned about. For so long, I didn’t know if I weren’t the only one who actually felt that way, or if I had just taken a lot of things the wrong way when I first found the asexual community, particularly AVEN. Thinking I was still taking things the wrong way was what held me back from making a submission.

When I first found the asexual community, I was sure I wouldn’t be welcome. The issue here was two-fold, and both sides are directly related. Issues with terminology, since I’m not originally from the asexual community was one reason. The other is that my first impressions of what I recognized as “sex-positivity” were very bad.

When I was lurking AVEN, one of the first things there I remember reading was about how “sex-positivity” is enforced, and I took it to mean that one is supposed to only say positive things about sex, and be open to, or at least indifferent towards it personally, implying that it’s bad to be repulsed by sex or have ideological reasons against it, even in asexual spaces!

I saw others on AVEN respond that someone can be sex-repulsed but still be sex-positive, a statement that I found highly objectionable. I interpreted that statement as: It’s okay to hate sex, as long as you’re still open to it, or at least be apologetic about never having it, and cheerlead everyone else’s sex lives.

“You Know, But Let Me Tell You”, on page 8 of the zine sums up how exhausting the approach taken with a lot of asexual visibility efforts is. Having to put in so many caveats makes what one intended to say a lot longer, and a lot less clear, making what’s said less about explaining asexuality itself, and more of it is reassuring others that we aren’t shaming them, whether they want sex or not.

If we’re talking about asexuality in a matter-of-fact way, shouldn’t it be implied that there’s no intent to alienate or shame anyone?

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Talking about sex-repulsed and favorable sub-spaces

Earlier this year, there were a lot of blog posts about sex-repulsion/aversion, and the treatment of sex-repulsed/averse people within the asexual community.

There’ve been more posts speaking in favor of creating sub-spaces, and I strongly agree. The asexual community as it stands, is burdened with a difficult balancing act that still hasn’t been solved. AVEN is by far the largest, and most centralized asexual space, and needs to support all the asexual sub-groups. The tumblr community is decentralized, but still has this same issue. However, it seems like the needs of asexuals who like sex, and sex-repulsed/averse asexuals, are at odds with each other, and that focusing on one group must come at the expense of the other.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and creating sub-spaces for different groups would help ease that burden. I think it’d be great to have these sub-spaces created, and refer them to newbies who might need them, to show that their needs aren’t being forgotten.

If referring newbies to sub-spaces happens, it shouldn’t be done in a way to try and relegate them to the sub-spaces, and away from the larger community. That ends up being exclusionary, and gives off the message of “You’re too _______ for the main community, and risk making asexuality look confusing (if sex-favorable), or look bad (if sex-repulsed or averse), so go over here where you’ll be welcome instead”.

Sex-favorable asexuals may benefit from having their own sub-spaces, as an affirmation that they, and other people like them, exist. Sure, there are a lot of topics on AVEN and in the tumblr community about having sex, but numerically, there are few sex-favorable asexuals, and they may still be under-represented. I’ve asked about this before on AVEN:

I pointed someone to that thread [about asexuals who enjoy sex], who enjoyed sex but wasn’t sure if they were asexual because of that. On the second page, I told them that I didn’t know if there are simply few sex-favorable(?) asexuals or if there are more, but [they’re] under-represented.

Some doubt that they are asexual, because a lot of definitions of asexuality that unintentionally exclude them, or the possibility of being asexual never crossed their mind. A sub-space may help sex-favorable asexuals realize that they’re asexual sooner, and find each other, so they don’t feel isolated over feeling like they’re the only person who is both asexual and favorable towards the idea of having sex.

Sex-repulsed/averse asexuals make up at least half of the asexual community, yet many don’t feel welcome to talk about their experiences in most asexual spaces. Even when it’s explained that it’s okay to talk about how someone personally feels about sex, as long as it doesn’t mean attacking others, there’s still all of this doubt.

Does the fear of being labeled an asexual elitist still linger on? I’ve seen some say they feel like “bad” asexuals for not wanting sex, in fact, I’ve said that too! I’ve been involved in the asexual community for 2 years, and I still experience these doubts!

Spaces for repulsed asexuals (or repulsed people in general) would be useful so they can more easily talk about their experiences, without that fear looming over them.

These spaces may also be useful for repulsed newbies who have a lot of pent-up frustration about the sexual world, and could help newbies “detox” by being allowed to vent these frustrations. Sex-repulsed people don’t have a lot of spaces to go to to talk about this. This has been mentioned before on AVEN, but a lot of people seem uneasy towards the idea, fearing that a space for the sex-repulsed will easily turn elitist. Does this show some distrust towards the repulsed, by the non-repulsed?

If it’s not that, is it simply the fear of newbies thinking such a space means they can get away with disparaging other people? Or are they talking about the fear of any sub-space turning elitist, but it’s just that no one there mentioned sub-spaces for sex-favorable asexuals yet? A sub-space should obviously cater to the needs of which group they’re for, and affirm peoples’ experiences and feelings as valid, but they can’t adequately be supportive if they’re shut out to differing opinions that could give constructive advice.

Do you have any experience with sub-spaces for sex-repulsed or sex-favorable asexuals, or run one yourself?

Why is there still all of this doubt?

Why do many sex-repulsed/averse asexuals still doubt whether they’re welcome to talk about their experiences in many asexual spaces?

This is still a problem, even when it’s been clearly explained before that there’s no problem with someone discussing how they personally feel about sex, whether they find it delightful or disgusting, and that it’s only a problem if it involves attacking or shaming others in the process.

The line is drawn at expressing viewpoints in a way that attack other people, or being elitist.

To me, that sounds clear, but I wonder if some repulsed asexuals still don’t feel like they can express their viewpoints, because although they know what the line is, they’re still unsure if what they say isn’t on the wrong side of that line.

A recent thread on AVEN showed that some repulsed people don’t feel comfortable talking about their experiences, because of all of the threads that are about having sex. They fear that what they say will still be taken as an attack on those who have sex, even after making it clear that that’s not what they intend at all. Some said that they feared not being welcome, because they don’t believe that sex is good and beautiful for everyone, and feel that they can’t talk about the negatives about sex without getting attacked.

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Asexuality (and related concepts) 101 part 4

This is part 4 of my Asexuality (and related concepts) 101 page, and I’m looking for input. This section is probably big enough to be its own page though!
EDIT: This is an edited version, based off of suggestions made in the comments. Thanks to luvtheheaven and sablin27 for the suggestions. This section is still open to more suggestions.
Because of how large this section is, it’d be better to split it into a separate page, that the “Asexuality (and related concepts) 101” page will link to.

Attitudes towards sex

How someone feels about having sex is separate from whether they’re asexual or not. Asexual and gray-asexual people’s attitudes towards the idea of themselves having sex, and towards sex/sexuality in general, are as diverse as allosexual people’s viewpoints.

Personal attitudes towards sex

The three terms usually used in the asexual community to describe how someone personally feels about sex, or the idea of sex involving them, are repulsed, indifferent, and favorable.

Statistics from the two relevant censuses of the asexual community will be used. The questions to measure personal attitudes towards sex were phrased differently, with radically different results, because of it*. For each group, breakdown by asexuality, gray-asexuality, and demisexuality will be given, for both surveys.

Repulsed

Repulsed (or “sex-repulsed”) individuals strongly dislike the idea of themselves having sex, under most, or all circumstances. They may feel physically or mentally grossed out by it. There are different degrees of sex-repulsion, ranging from someone who is completely repulsed by anything sexual, and doesn’t want to talk about it, to those who like the idea of sex in theory, but are repulsed by the thought of actual sex involving themselves.

Sex-repulsion isn’t itself a sign of being asexual, but the sex-repulsed do make up the majority of the asexual community, and the asexual group has the highest percentage of sex-repulsed individuals.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 65%
  • Gray-asexuals: 51%
  • Demisexuals: 37%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 55%
  • Gray-asexuals: 27.4%
  • Demisexuals: 15.9%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Another term that’s sometimes used is sex-averse, which sometimes is synonymous with sex-repulsed, but other times, it’s something similar, but not interchangeable.

Indifferent

Indifferent (or “sex-indifferent”) individuals are indifferent towards the idea of themselves having sex. They often describe their attitude towards sex as “take it or leave it”, or “wouldn’t mind having sex under some circumstances, but would be perfectly content to never have it”. Some are willing to have sex, even if they might get little, or nothing out of the act itself, such as if they have an allosexual partner who wants sex, and the want to make their partner happy. Not all these relationships are sexual, for different reasons, described later in the “Mixed Relationships” section.

For indifferent individuals who don’t want sex, it’s not that they find it repulsive, but rather, they feel like it may not be worth it for them from a cost-benefits perspective.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 24%
  • Gray-asexuals: 32%
  • Demisexuals: 34%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 42.3%
  • Gray-asexuals: 61.2%
  • Demisexuals: 54.3%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Favorable

“Sex-favorable” individuals are those who are favorable towards the idea of themselves having sex under some circumstances.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 1%
  • Gray-asexuals: 4%
  • Demisexuals: 11%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 2.7%
  • Gray-asexuals: 11.4%
  • Demisexuals: 29.8%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Not everyone neatly fit these labels

Not everyone can neatly fit their experiences into just one of these labels. Some individuals may be unsure, or ambivalent towards the idea of themselves having sex. Others may feel like their experiences are a mix of them, and can’t neatly be categorized. Some individuals may also identify with multiple of these labels under different contexts.

Desiring sex is separate from wanting it. Sex-favorable asexuals may want sex for the sake of it under some circumstances, despite not having any intrinsic desire for it, and there are sex-repulsed and averse allosexuals who never want sex despite having an intrinsic desire for it.

Rhetoric to avoid

  • Certain usage of “Asexuals can enjoy sex too!” (particularly right after talking about sex-repulsion): It’s true that some asexuals can enjoy sex, but how this phrase is often used, has been used to silence repulsed asexuals, by sweeping them under the rug. When talking about both sex-repulsed and sex-favorable asexuals, take care to mention both sides respectfully. Acknowledging one group doesn’t have to come at the other’s expense.
  • The assumption that all indifferent and favorable asexuals are open to sex: This one may be unintentional, but it does seem to be implied a lot. Liking, or at least not being repulsed by the idea of sex, doesn’t automatically mean being open to sex, and there are other reasons someone might not want it.
  • Assuming that a repulsion or aversion to sex is something that must be treated: Many sex-repulsed individuals aren’t distressed by being sex-repulsed; their distress comes from isolation, and lack of acceptance, and there have been many repulsed individuals who don’t feel welcome talking about their experiences, even in the asexual spaces.
  • Assuming that if someone’s sex-repulsion isn’t “supposed” to have a cause: Some sex-repulsed individuals feel that their repulsion does have a cause, including trauma, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. Their repulsion isn’t any less valid.

Attitudes towards sex in general

How someone feels about personally having sex (repulsed, indifferent, favorable), is also separate from how they feel about others having sex, or how they feel towards sex in general. There are terms used for describing attitudes towards sex in general, but the definitions for each of them are widely disputed.***

The AVEN 2014 Census showed that most respondents don’t have any problem with consenting adults engaging in sex, but many of those same respondents also at least somewhat agreed with the statement “Our society has too much sex in it, and it would be better if it were diminished.”. Agreeing to both of those statements may not be contradictory, considering how sex is treated as compulsory by society as a whole, and there’s a lot of pressure to have it.


Footnotes:

*On the full page, I’ll have a footnote addressing the discrepancies between the percentages of sex-repulsed, indifferent, and favorable individuals in the 2011 and 2014 surveys. These discrepancies are likely due to methodological differences between each survey, and how they measured personal attitudes towards sex.

**The percentages of sex-repulsed, indifferent and favorable allosexuals will be added when those statistics from the 2014 AVEN Census become publicly available.

***I’m also planning on writing a terminology page, with a section for terms whose meanings are highly ambiguous or disputed. The “sex-positive” and “sex-negative” labels are two of them.

Being repulsed and “compromising”? (part 2)

I hate when this happens. I was working on a part 2 to this post, shortly after I published it. The first part was about the ways that considerably high statistic of repulsed asexuals being willing to compromise on sex should be taken with a grain of salt, because of the methodological issues surrounding the survey question it was from.

The second part was intended to be based off of observation and personal experience, my concerns about those who actually say they’re willing to compromise. This is a major rewrite, and pardon me if the writing style for this post is so disjointed. There were a bunch of different things I wrote about in my original draft before scrapping it, because I couldn’t figure out how to tie them together. If there’s anything that’s unclear, feel free to say so in the comments.

(TW: sexual coercion, talk of repulsion-shaming, blaming the coerced)

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Being repulsed and “compromising”? (part 1)

A new analysis of the 2011 AAW Community Census data yielded various findings. One of them which sparked further questions, is the considerable percentage of repulsed asexuals who said that they’re willing to “compromise” (that was the wording used), and have sex with their relationship partner.

On the flip-side, some asexuals who enjoy sex, and some who are indifferent to it, aren’t willing to compromise.Of the 659 respondents who said they’re indifferent towards having sex, 6%, or 40 people, said they aren’t willing to compromise.* I don’t know how much I can say about this, because of the 54 respondents who said that they enjoy sex, 4% said that that they’re not willing to compromise. Rounded down, that’s 2 respondents. It can however, show that just because someone may find sex enjoyable, there are reasons they may still find sex to not be worth it for them, that outweigh what enjoyment they could get from it.

However, I find it troubling that there are sex-repulsed people who say they’re willing to compromise on having sex in a relationship, particularly that it’s not 100% of completely repulsed people saying that they’re not willing to!**

The Asexual Agenda asked some questions about this part of the survey results. As noted in some of the responses, the “somewhat repulsed” category is ambiguous; it’s not clear if it means:

  • A moderate degree of repulsion, that someone who is willing to have sex with their partner, can push aside temporarily, or there are times when they aren’t feeling that repulsion.
  • Being repulsed by some acts, but not others, and be willing to do the acts that the individual doesn’t find repulsive.
  • Some who know that they’re repulsed by sex, yet have their doubts, because they never had it, and are thinking in the hypothetical about that question. These respondents could’ve responded that they’re somewhat repulsed, because they didn’t want to rule out the idea of being okay with something, under some circumstance, or to some extent. Luvtheheaven gives an example of this doubt from her own experiences, despite knowing of not having sex to be an option.

It’s possible that that the “somewhat repulsed” group included respondents for all of these reasons (plus others!), and that there are different degrees of repulsion, that couldn’t have been captured simply under an indifferent/somewhat repulsed/completely repulsed framework.

The results could in part be due to the ambiguity of that question, but I wonder how many of them said that they’re willing to have sex, despite how repulsed they are, just because they don’t want to feel like they’re disappointing their real or hypothetical partner, and feel upset at the thought of not being open to any sex with them?

It’d be better to drop the term “compromise”, and ask multiple related questions. would be something like “Under what circumstances are you willing to have sex, if any?”, to try and capture the various nuances that weren’t accounted for in the original question.


Footnotes:

*I suspect that percentage of indifferent asexuals who are unwilling to compromise on sex, is low. It could be because of the indifferent-repulsed dichotomy. As Sara K. notes, it assumes that indifferent asexuals are open to sex, and it’s an assumption even made in asexual spaces. Being repulsed by sex is just one of the possible reasons why someone wouldn’t want to have it.

**Some people who are repulsed by sex, are distressed by their feelings of repulsion; they want sex, and are distressed that they’re too repulsed to go through with it. However, such people are very unlikely to seek out asexual sites for support. What’s much more likely in asexual spaces, are sex-repulsed respondents, who may feel distress over the social pressures to have, or enjoy sex, not from the repulsion itself. They don’t want to change the fact that they’re repulsed, the problem is with the social pressures.

They nearly pushed me over the edge…

**tw: sexual coercion, asexual invalidation, repulsion-shaming, talk of suicide**

…In the name of sexual liberation. This is a continuation of my Unassailable Asexual post, in which I explained a lot about why some friends I had, were so determined to invalidate my asexuality and sex-repulsion at every turn. Not only did they convince me I had no right to identify as asexual, they tried to make me get over my repulsion, and be open to sex, by shaming and bullying me. These two were both sex-positive extremists; they didn’t see anything wrong with their coercive tactics, because they believed it was “for my own good”, and would “sexually liberate” me.

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Other ways of being an assailable asexual

I finally got to reading the asexual zine F-ace-ing Silence, an ongoing zine about asexuals who feel silenced in asexual spaces. I was excited to see the publication of the first issue announced, would’ve read it right away, if not for the issues I was experiencing with my computer.

This zine is very relevant to the topic of the “Unassailable Asexual”, that is currently being discussed in a lot of asexual blogs, for this month’s Carnival of Aces. As soon as I saw this zine announced on AVEN, and calling for submissions, I wanted to write one, but just didn’t have the time or energy to try and write about my experiences. I still wonder if I should try again with that, if I’m already in the process of writing on this blog about the things that made me struggle in asexual spaces.

When the Unassailable Asexual concept is talked about, the traits for alleged unassailability are the following: Neurotypical/allistic, no mental health issues, no physical health issues, is cisgender, indifferent towards having sex, is sex-positive, between the ages of 20 and 40, is nonlibidoist, doesn’t have sexual problems, and has no history of abuse. However, there are other traits an asexual could get their asexuality assailed for that aren’t mentioned.

Some of the submissions talked about these other traits. One of them, by an anonymous submitter on pages 14-17 detailed invalidation and silencing for being religious, conservative, and having a fear of sex. When I think about it, I don’t recall anything that addresses how those traits don’t invalidate someone’s asexuality, maybe except that some asexuals who grew up in very conservative households, still realized they were asexual, because they didn’t have the struggle to abstain from sex that most of their peers did. But what about those who didn’t realize their asexuality so easily in comparison?

From accounts I’ve read of people who defected from Christian fundamentalism, and the Purity Culture teachings heavily associated with it*, there are some people who for all intents and purposes shut down their own sexuality in order to cope, becoming functionally asexual. They were raised to believe that even sexual fantasies before marriage are a sin (specifically, they’re considered adultery), and that all sex, and sexual thoughts before marriage are morally disgusting (and can ruin girls and women forever!), and sinful, yet that sex becomes the best thing ever upon marriage, and is the wife’s greatest duty to her husband**, which she’s supposed to always be available for. The various harms of these teachings should be obvious.

What does it mean when someone who defected from this culture thought they were asexual as a result of this coping method, only to realize over time that they’re not? This has happened to some people. What can we do and say to be considerate of these people and all the struggles they’ve been through, while also trying to prevent “You only think you’re asexual because of your upbringing” from becoming another tactic to invalidate those who’ve been through a Purity Culture upbringing, but are asexual? How can we support people who’ve been through those experiences, whether they’re asexual, or not, or are questioning? Same goes for sex-repulsion or aversion; what if someone’s repulsion or aversion towards sex was conditioned as a result of their upbringing? I’ve hardly seen this talked about, so I’d really like some input.

What about asexuals who didn’t defect from a conservative upbringing, and stayed? The anonymous person who submitted that entry for F-ace-ing Silence said she feels silenced in both conservative and asexual spaces; conservative spaces for being a sexual minority of any kind, and asexual spaces for being conservative and religious.

I don’t recall seeing anything, maybe except for a tumblr post or two some time ago, about supporting asexuals and/or repulsed people who are afraid of sex, and their fear isn’t something that they need to get rid of. In many 101-level materials, it’s noted that asexuality isn’t sex-repulsion, a fear of sex, a phase, etc. While that’s true, these materials usually don’t make it clear enough that those things aren’t inherently bad (okay, maybe except for when asexuality gets conflated with sex-shaming), and not something an asexual person should be ashamed of.

I understand very well why someone would want to explain that they’re “actually asexual (and/or sex-repulsed or voluntarily celibate), and not afraid of sex”. I’ve had to do that, to defend myself from friends who thought that I rejected sex only because I’m afraid of it. I’m not, but so what if I were? So what if someone who is repulsed by sex, has a sense of repulsion rooted in fear? There are a lot of other activities that people can be afraid of doing, and have no desire to change that. Their fear of that activity isn’t causing them distress. Why does sex have to be treated differently in this regard?

*Purity Culture beliefs are mainly associated with Christian fundamentalism, but aren’t exclusive to it, and it’s possible to internalize all of its viewpoints on purity, defilement, and the concept of being “damaged goods” without having a religion, nor mentioning sinfulness.

**The Christian fundamentalist movements in the US aren’t actually that cohesive, so I shouldn’t be asserting these claims about the Christian fundamentalist brand of Purity Culture as being absolutes. Some do see sex as a gift to be enjoyed within marriage (and see premarital sex as ruining the sacredness inherent to sex and sexuality), while others believe it’s seen as a necessary evil that should be contained within marriage.

The balancing act hasn’t been solved

(alternate title: current challenges with asexuality 101)

Wow! I didn’t know that my latest post would inspire this one! That means a lot to me!

Not only am I involved in the asexual community, I’m also involved in a particular subset of the celibate community (if it counts as ‘celibate’, and if there is a cohesive celibacy community in the first place, that is), and am the admin of a forum related to it. I’ve felt overwhelmed figuring out what to do with so little input, but so many issues to balance, and I’m also leading work on static content, and am looking for help refining it. In the first thread, I said that I’m envious of the fact that the asexual community is largely cohesive, and has had years of trial-and-error figuring out a balance. I assumed that the balancing act that’d have to be done for this would be similar to what the asexual community has done.

However, I wrote the first two posts of that thread under the mistaken assumption that the balancing act that the asexual community is currently struggling with, has been resolved! As can be seen from recent and ongoing discussions about the treatment of sex-repulsed/averse and ‘sex-favorable’* asexuals, which Sciatrix summarizes here, this is clearly not the case. When I was writing that, I was thinking of the most blatant examples of the asexual community being unbalanced in the past. (*’sex-favorable’ in quotes, because that group as being a separate category from indifferent/other not-repulsed asexuals, and that specific term, are disputed.)

This ‘balancing act’ issue is still there. It’s not as blatant as it used to be, but it’s still leaving the asexual community in a bind where asexuals who can enjoy sex are frequently erased, and asexuals who are repulsed by or averse to sex feel silenced, despite making up such a large portion of the asexual community. Those who enjoy sex, because of their erasure, might feel like they have no right to be part of the community, and those who are repulsed or averse question if they feel welcome. In most cases, I don’t think the exclusion is intentional or malicious, but it nonetheless has major consequences.

Beranyth makes an excellent point that we should reconsider how we are doing our visibility efforts, which overwhelmingly seem to be geared towards allosexuals, with a pressure to make asexuality as ‘presentable’ as possible to them. Yes, we do need some resources introducing asexuality to allosexual people, but it needs to be done in a way that’s respectful to all asexual sub-groups.

While the existence of ‘sex-favorable’ asexuals is important in showing that it’s possible for someone to want sex itself, and still be asexual (also showing that sexual attraction and personal attitude towards sex are indeed separate things), we need to consider that they’re only a small part of the asexual community. They are just as important as any other sub-group, but from the looks of a lot of discussions about asexuality and sex, it’s easy to overestimate the percentage of asexuals who aren’t repulsed (whether indifferent or ‘favorable’), and to underestimate the percentage who are repulsed or averse.

We also need resources that are geared towards asexuals, and those who are questioning. Ace Theist’s post here shows that our current visibility efforts still have other major shortcomings, such as how it handles the topic of asexuality and abuse.

On another note, I apologize for my reply in their related post, which “This Week, in Discussion Disasters” was a follow-up to. I assumed that the person involved in this conflict, the tumblr user who made that inappropriate response was out to invalidate nonsexual relationships. That’s what it looked like, I didn’t know that they were a survivor of abuse who doesn’t think they have the right to identify as asexual until the follow-up post. If what I said was out of line, in light of the follow-up post, I’m sorry for that, and I feel terrible about it.

I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, taking note of posts related to asexual visibility efforts and how to avoid pitfalls, and try to reblog them when I see them. One of the first I’ve seen is anagnori’s list of the common pitfalls in 101-level presentations. Taking note of all this has also made me rethink what’s the best way to reach out to sex-averse, repulsed, or other people who are, or want to be celibate, but I’ll also have to think of what pitfalls would be unique to that community.