Veganism and feminism are inseparable concepts in my life.

This blog is a theoretical interpretation of the lived experiences of a vegan feminist,
and an exploration of what it even means to be one in the first place.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Asexuality is a Feminist Issue

I believe I've always been asexual, but I've only self identified as asexual for the past few years. To be clear, I do not believe I can reproduce on my own. Many people have made that mistake when I have told them that I am asexual. The education system teaches us the medical definition of asexuality and never the sexual definition of asexuality, so it's an easy mistake to make. Medical asexuality and sexuality asexuality are two completely different words with very different meanings.

To describe my asexuality I often go over the same statements; it has begun to feel like a routine. It typically goes generally like this: "An asexual is someone who experiences no sexual attraction. That's it. Asexual people can and sometimes do masturbate and have sex, but that differs widely based on the asexual individual. Some asexuals don't care about sex and treat it as if it's not their favourite activity, some find sex scary, and others find it disgusting. Similarly, some asexuals will kiss, others won't, some will hug, others won't. The boundaries of all asexuals are different and it's best to ask them about their boundaries in a respectful way. There is also a second word that often comes after asexual; romantic. An asexual aromantic would be not sexually or romantically attracted to anyone, whereas an asexual homoromantic would be not sexually but romantically attracted to humans of the same sex, and so forth. Some asexuals choose to not be in relationships, some choose to be in relationships only with asexuals, and some are in relationships with sexuals." I think that's a pretty fair explanation, but maybe I'm wrong because even after I explain this some people still look at me as if I told them I'm secretly a unicorn.

Some of the common responses to my asexuality are: maybe you've never been with a good enough man, are you a virgin, do you have a hymen, does everything work down there, have you ever orgasmed before, you'll change your mind in a few years, maybe you haven't found what you like yet, and I used to know someone like that too and then they got over it. All of these responses follow a similar pattern. They assume that the person telling me these things knows more about my sexuality based on what is normal than I do based on living in the same body for twenty years, which I find pretty ridiculous. I have decided to identify in this way because it means something to me. If I follow your advice, I will have to live through any consequences that come from your advice and your life will not be affected in any way. These kind of statements place an unfair burden on the asexual, undermine their life experience, and challenge their autonomy. They're insulting. I'm just saying no, I'm not interested. Perhaps the question should be - why does that bother you so much? These questions might be less hurtful if they didn't reflect real issues. For example, FSD (female sexual dysfunction) is a "medical disorder" where one of the symptoms is lack of desire to have sex. So whereas I think my asexuality is a perfectly acceptable, but not common, type of sexuality, if I were to go to the doctor I could be diagnosed as sick. Hrm, does this ring an oppressive bell to anyone? Haven't we been through this before with the DSM?

So perhaps the answer could seem like - well if you experience judgement and are deemed ill if you tell anyone you're asexual, why, just not tell people? There's a concept called "passing" which generally means you can pass or are close enough to the dominant group that you can be mistaken for, and pretend to be, one of them without anyone noticing. One of the problems is that asexuals can pass very well. In fact, I've been in a relationship with a man for four years so I automatically pass by accident. To not pass, and have people stop assuming I'm heterosexual, I actually have to tell them that I'm asexual. I, like probably many other people, don't like to pass. Not telling someone what you are, when you know they don't realize what you are, feels like lying, deceiving, and keeping your mouth shut because you'll get in trouble for the truth. It feels like I'm being dishonest about myself. It makes me feel ashamed, when I really have nothing to be ashamed about. I'm asexual - it's not a problem.

To make this crystal clear; I believe asexuality is obviously a feminist issue because asexuals can experience hardship for living their lives in a way that's true to themselves. Asexuals are treated in negative ways that make their lives more difficult than they would be if these people identified as, or were, heterosexual. I think this is the case because of a variety of different factors, many of which are theorized about in feminism. I think it's time to turn a feminist lens on asexuality.

Finding liberation is not as easy as accepting asexuals; we need to find places and spaces where we know we are supported and safe. There are few and far between feminist publications on asexuals, and I even had a professor once think I meant celibacy when I asked if she knew of any (celibacy is a choice, asexuality is not). There is division within the asexual community. Some live their asexuality in isolation and don't think asexuality is a political issue or something worth explaining to other people and some have restrictive and narrow definitions of who can be an asexual that exclude many currently self-identified asexuals (probably even me). Some asexuals want to find liberation in asexual communities alone because they are not like sexuals, whereas some asexuals turn to LGBT and identify as queer themselves. It can also go the other way, and some LGBT groups may think as non-sexual people that asexuals don't belong there, or they may accidentally privilege sexuals over asexuals within their groups (which seems a lot more likely).

Asexuality is a feminist issue; I just don't know what that would look like if more people took up the challenge at incorporating it into feminism. I'd be excited to find out.

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