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Author’s note: The ideas discussed below are subjective and refer to my personal experiences as an asexual individual. They in no way express the experience of every asexual individual but aim to raise awareness of being an asexual in a sexualised society.
The act of discussing asexuality is not a new thing, but it’s an uncommon thing to come across. Rarely do I witness the mention of asexual people or asexuality during a discussion or while browsing social media. Sometimes when I find a post about the LGBTQ+ community, it erases asexuality entirely: it’ll spout “A for Ally”, and I’ll slowly fade out of existence.
Because it is not just heteronormative people who declare “A for Ally”— even within the LGBTQ+ community there are those who discount the idea of asexuality, those who don’t believe in it, and those who will actively seek to erase it. For a community that strives to spread the idea of acceptance and the understanding of alienation, and be a safe haven for the discussion and exploration of sexuality, it doesn’t feel that way for those who identify as asexual.
It can be difficult to understand and appreciate the internal struggle most asexual people experience upon realising that they don’t feel sexual attraction, especially in today’s society. This is certainly not aided by the lack of representation within media and on social platforms, as it can be a difficult sexuality to discover. Personally, it took me around four years to discover and feel comfortable identifying as asexual, whereas it has taken others 40 years.
One of the most frustrating things for any asexual person is having to educate those around us. This mostly occurs when we are stood with a group friends or colleagues and the topic of sex pops up. They’ll all mention their preferred techniques, positions, foreplay, how often they do it with their significant others or acquaintances, and then they’ll turn to us and ask how we like it.
There are two ways that we can answer this question while telling the truth. There’s the simple “Oh I’m not that fussed”, to which they will reply with a mixture of shock and confusion. Or we could declare our asexuality, an approach which typically leads to being bombarded with disbelief, questions, some explicit terms, and a whole lot of regret. People rarely just say “Fair enough” or “That’s cool”.
In my experience, asexuality seems to be a difficult concept for some people to understand. Humans instinctively mock and berate what they don’t understand, which is the prime source of acephobia: the fear, hatred, and/or dislike of asexuality or asexual people. Today’s society is one which is highly sexualised. And people who don’t conform to that sexualised way of life are shunned and erased.
This is a damaging concept as it can lead to asexual youths viewing themselves as ‘broken’. Sadly, I’ve heard of cases where 40-year-old people have thought of themselves as ‘broken’ for their entire lives, and only now are discovering that they are asexual.
Advertising agencies manage to market everything in a sexualised manner — from Burger King posters with a model seductively licking a Whopper to a KitKat Chunky advert which features a massively obvious euphemism. As we grow up, this becomes normal to see in everyday life.
However, for an asexual, it can increase the already-present confusion we feel.
During my A-Levels, I studied media. One of our lessons included an activity where we looked at various product posters and took note of the techniques used by advertisers to entice their audience.
One of these posters was advertising Hitman: Blood Money, a third-person stealth strategy game that follows an assassin. The poster featured a model dressed in lingerie and a kimono, with a full face of makeup, and a bullet in her head. As soon as the poster was presented to my class, some people began suggesting advertising techniques, while others — mainly boys — began asking one another “Would you still tap that?” while muttering obscene comments. The teacher, to her merit, veered this into a discussion about the sexualisation of products in advertising, attempting to make everyone consider whether it is really necessary.
It’s a strange situation to be in as an asexual when you’re surrounded by those who feel sexual attraction. You spend your childhood being shunned away from sex, to then grow up and be shunned for not desiring it. When I first came out in college, one of the first things someone said to me was “How do you know if you haven’t had sex yet?” followed up by “We’ll buy you a dildo, then you’ll know what you are missing”. To which I would, at the time, reply with a false laugh while lowering my head in shame.
Now, after fully accepting and embracing my asexuality, I respond to such comments by asking “How do you know you don’t like having sex with a cactus if you have never tried it?”. It’s an immature response, sure, but it expresses my exasperated tone and the stupidity of their question.