[Image: Facebook comments. First person: “Every time an ace has sex somewhere there’s a fairy who falls down dead.” Second person: “Well then, I’ve probably caused some kind of horrible fairy genocide.”]
[Image: Facebook comments. First person: “Every time an ace has sex somewhere there’s a fairy who falls down dead.” Second person: “Well then, I’ve probably caused some kind of horrible fairy genocide.”]
It has come to that point where there’s a massive number of unanswered questions that I cannot handle alone and since many of us on the team are busy or no longer answering questions, I feel it’s time to offer applications for one or two new people!
If you have some spare time to dedicate to this blog (you don’t even have to be free every day, since I’m clearly not) and you’ve always wanted to help out with people’s questions and concerns regarding asexuality, then please send in the following:
1. The name you’d like to be called.
2. A little “about you” blurb (ex: could include your romantic and sexual orientation, which pronouns you use, where you’re from, etc).
3. Why you want to join us.
4. Provide a sample of your answering style! I’m interesting in hearing your voice, how you would answer questions in your own way. How would you do this? Why, answer our sample asks:
-Help! I’m 14 and a girl and I don’t know if I’m asexual- my mom says there’s no such thing and I like some boys at school but I don’t want to have sex. My friends say I’ll change when I get older but I don’t know what to do. A boy asked me out to prom yesterday and I like him but I’m worried he’ll want sex?
-I tried coming out to my best friend and she was like “that’s some hipster, internet thing, there aren’t any people like that in the real world” and I don’t know what to do now? I don’t think she’ll ever accept me and I’m starting to wonder if maybe she’s right.
-Hi, I’m a college freshman and I finally feel comfortable letting people know about my asexuality. I’m a male asexual (heteroromantic) and I’m a little shy telling people about it because I worry they might think I’m gay or not enough of a man. Also I’ve been dating this girl for a few weeks and I really like her but I haven’t told her about my asexuality. Do you have any advice?
If everything doesn’t fit in the ask box (and it probably won’t), you can submit your responses as well.
Oh- and you have from now until Monday the 23rd around noon in the eastern time zone to send in your applications! May the odds be ever in your favour! <3
You know you want to join meeeee~ <3
I’m Aasha! And I’m a current doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University. I am recruiting individuals who identify as asexual persons of color for a voluntary qualitative study looking to understand how asexual-identified individuals of color construct their identities. You will be asked to answer a few demographic questions in an online survey before providing contact information for the phone interviews. Your input is much needed to better understand the experiences of asexuals of color. Thank you in advance for your time and effort. Also, please pass this message along to anyone else that you think may be eligible and willing to participate. (IRB Protocol 13-325)
* Must identify as asexual (whatever this means for you)
* Must identify as a Person of Color (ie. Asian, Black, Latino/a, or multiracial)
* Must be at least 18 years old
* Must reside in North America (United States or Canada)
If you meet the above eligibility criteria and are interested in participating, please click the link below or copy and paste the link below into your Internet browser:
Thank you very much!!!
Or: Reasons not to be so hard on yourself.
You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
It is nobody else’s business what you are, or why you feel the way you do, or why you identify as “asexual.” You don’t owe anybody an explanation. You don’t have to tell them why or how. You can if you want to, but it’s never required. You don’t have to come up with evidence so that other asexual people will accept you as one of their own – if they demand you to prove that you’re asexual, they are assholes who don’t deserve your company. And you don’t have to prove that you’re asexual to non-asexual people, either: if they want you to prove it, then it means they’re just looking for excuses to argue with you and invalidate your feelings. Don’t waste your time trying to earn other people’s acceptance.
You don’t have to identify what your romantic orientation is.
The idea of “romantic orientation” is kind of a big thing in asexual communities, but it doesn’t work for everyone. It’s only a theoretical model; there’s no evidence that all people’s feelings work like that. If trying to figure out your romantic orientation is just making you stressed out, anxious, confused, or upset, then put those thoughts away and go do something else that makes you happy. Labels exist to serve you and help you feel happy with who you are, not to make you feel lost or worried.
You are welcome in the asexual community if you are gray-asexual or demisexual.
…And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, then they are full of shit. You don’t have to be 100% asexual in order to have experiences and feelings that are very similar to how asexual people feel. Gray-asexual and demisexual people have a lot in common with asexual people, and you can still find support, and support others, by being part of the asexual community. Most asexual people are pleased to hang out with gray-asexual and demisexual people, and the few who aren’t, are just jerks who don’t deserve your time.
There is no right or wrong way to be asexual.
You can be celibate. Or you could be monogamous, or even have lots of casual sex with lots of people. You might hate sex, or maybe you can take it or leave it, or maybe you enjoy it. Maybe you like telling dirty jokes, maybe you don’t. Maybe you masturbate or watch porn, and maybe those things just seem boring or gross. Asexual people are diverse, and there is no such thing as a “typical asexual” lifestyle. The ONLY requirement for being asexual-spectrum, and thus part of the asexual community, is that you rarely or never experience sexual attraction. That’s it. If that describes you, then there is literally no way you can screw up being asexual.
You are not disqualified from being asexual just because of something that happened in your past.
Asexual people often say that we are not asexual because of being abused or hurt by someone in the past. We insist that asexuality is different from psychological trauma. But what if you were abused or hurt by someone? What if you really are afraid of intimacy, sex or relationships? What if your asexuality really was caused by something bad that happened to you? Then that is okay. It does not make your asexuality any less valid. It does not change the fact that you are experiencing life like an asexual person now. It does not mean that your current feelings mean less, or should not be trusted. Asexuality is about who you are today, and doing what feels right to you today, not about who you might have been if your life had been different.
You are not disqualified from being asexual just because of other issues that you are dealing with now.
Maybe you’re autistic. Maybe you have social anxiety. Maybe you have vaginismus, or a hormonal disorder, or have a disability that affects your sex life. Maybe you are depressed, or have no friends, or are too focused on your grades or career to think about relationships, or maybe there’s something else going on. You might be wondering whether a mental disorder or unusual personality trait made you asexual. (Probably not: Most people in those circumstances still feel sexual attraction, and are not asexual.) But it doesn’t really matter, because whether it did or didn’t, you can still feel like an asexual person now. It doesn’t matter whether you were “born this way,” or became this way. Your feelings are legitimate, and having a disorder or emotional issues does not mean that your experiences as an asexual person are less valid, less real, or less important. You can be asexual and autistic at the same time, or asexual and depressed, or asexual and a loner, or whatever combination of traits applies to you.
You are not disqualified from being asexual just because of certain sexual things that you enjoy.
All it takes to be asexual is to not feel sexual attraction. It does not mean that you hate sex, or that you dislike watching porn, or that you can’t understand sex jokes, or that you never masturbate, or that you can’t ever have a sexual relationship…Some asexual people masturbate, some watch or read porn, some of us tell dirty jokes, and some of us even enjoy sex.
It’s okay to be mistaken. It’s okay to change your mind.
Maybe you’re concerned that one day, you will feel sexual attraction, and your asexual identity will be proven wrong. Maybe you think you’re too young or too sexually inexperienced to know for sure. Maybe you’re hesitant to label yourself as asexual because you think you’ll look shallow or stupid if it later turns out that you were wrong.
Don’t worry. You can change your mind about your sexual identity as many times as you want. It won’t hurt anyone. It won’t make it harder for “real” asexual people to be taken seriously – it’s acephobic people who cause problems for us, not people who are confused and just trying to figure themselves out. Changing the label you identify with does not mean that you are shallow, stupid or fake; it means that you have grown as a person and understand yourself better than you did before. It means that you’re being honest with yourself, and that you have learned something important. That’s a really good thing! So don’t be afraid to jump into the asexual community and call yourself asexual. Your label is like a coat you can put on or take off, not a tattoo you’ll be stuck with forever.
You don’t have to come out of the closet if you don’t want to.
The purpose of identifying as “asexual” is to make you happy and help serve your needs, not to put you on public display for everyone else to see. If coming out as asexual makes you nervous, or you think people might react badly, or if you just prefer to keep your sex life private, then staying quiet about your asexuality is totally fine. You do not need to sacrifice your personal safety, emotional health, or social relationships for the sake of the asexual movement. Your asexuality is not any less real or important just because you don’t tell anyone else about it.
You are not appropriating from LGBT+ struggles by calling yourself asexual.
Asexuality is its own identity, and it exists independently of LGBT+ identities. There is some overlap between the asexual community and the LGBT+ community (and many asexual people are part of both). But the asexual community has never claimed to be oppressed in the same way that LGBT+ people are. Hetero-romantic asexuals may not be targeted by homophobia, and cisgender asexuals may not be targeted by transphobia, but they never pretended to be, and they have their own issues as asexual people to face. Asexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation with unique concerns and experiences, and it does not impose upon or threaten LGBT+ spaces.
Just because someone else has it worse doesn’t mean that your problems don’t matter, or that you’re not allowed to ask for support.
Everybody has problems that they struggle with. What seems small and simple to one person might be overwhelming and painful to another. No one else can rightfully say that you shouldn’t feel bad or want validation and help, because nobody else knows exactly what you’re going through. The asexual community is, in fact, a community, and that means we are here to help each other. Even if you only suspect that you might be asexual-spectrum, even if you’re a hetero-romantic cisgender person, you can still share your problems, ask for support, find others who have been through the same thing, contribute meaningfully to discussions about asexuality, and support others in their struggles. You do not need to be oppressed or miserable in order to deserve friendship and respect.
You don’t have to be an educator or an activist.
If someone is ignorant or rude about asexuality, you’re allowed to walk away. You’re allowed to be silent or change the subject. Educating people is great, but it can also be exhausting or frustrating, and your mental health is more important than that. Knowing your limitations does not make you weak, or lazy, or mean that you’re letting other asexual people down – it is absolutely necessary to know your limits, so that you can take care of yourself.
All of the anxiety, self-doubt and sadness about asexuality will pass in time, and you will be stronger for it.
In the end, either you will accept your identity on the asexual spectrum, or else you will come to identify as something different. Both outcomes are great; both of them mean that you have learned something about yourself and overcome a difficult internal struggle. You will become more confident in your identity and learn how to make the most of it. And you will become happy with it. It might take weeks, or months, or even years, but that’s okay, because there’s no rush. You can push the question of “What am I?” or “Am I on the right track?” aside, and come back to it later. You’ve got your whole life available to figure it out. Things will get easier a little bit at a time, and eventually it will be alright.
So I work on a crisis hotline for teens and I was doing text the other day and I ended up talking to someone who recently realized they were ace and You’re not supposed to tell them your sexuality but the caller asked and I asked the person in charge if I could and then I told them I was ace too and we texted for almost 90 minutes and they told me I changed their life and I gave them the ace master list I made and it was so awesome and she seemed super rad and it was really awesome to help someone who had the same problems I did. Also what are the odds of that am I right?
Let me tell you a thing.
There is such a thing as aggressive cuddling. It is a thing I very much like. It involves holding people tightly and not letting them leave, light hair pulling, biting, and kisses all over. It could involve ropes or handcuffs, or many other things like gentle kisses, soft petting, ear nibbling, or anything else you want. But it does not lead to sex.
And that, my friends, is something that makes me happy.
This has been an informational thing about asexuality and kink and I guess about me too.
Okay yes you got me.
I did indeed start identifying as asexual because I’m on Tumblr.
And you know what.
If I wasn’t on Tumblr, if this website hadn’t taught me that wonderful little word, I would still be identifying as what I did before Tumblr.
Would you like me to tell you what that word was?
This post is for the October Carnival of Aces, which is on the topic of disability.
Author’s note: This post is about a chronic condition I have that is treated with medication. I am able-bodied as long as I maintain ongoing medical treatment. I am writing about it for this carnival because people sometimes try to invalidate asexuality by saying things like, “You should get your hormone levels checked.”
I have a condition called Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a gland located in the throat that produces two related hormones (T3 and T4) which regulate how the body uses energy. Hypothyroidism is a condition that results from an underactive thyroid, that is, the thyroid does not produce sufficient T3 and/or T4 for the body’s needs. Hashimoto’s disease is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and damages the thyroid, causing hypothyroidism. The auto-immune response may become quiescent after this time, but the hypothyroidism it causes remains as a chronic, lifelong condition. Like many other autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s disease is significantly more common in cis women than in cis men and commonly occurs during times when cis women experience significant overall hormonal changes, including puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Untreated hypothyroidism can have a wide range of effects, including chronic fatigue, weight gain, problems regulating body temperature (always feeling cold), and depression. Severe hypothyroidism can cause heart problems and in rare cases a type of coma called myxedema.This range of symptoms is because the thyroid mediates the body’s metabolism and use of energy on an ongoing basis. Thyroid hormones also affect the body’s response to other hormones including the sex hormones. In cis women, hypothyroidism can cause menstrual irregularity and complications during pregnancy. If Hashimoto’s disease occurs during gestation or puberty, there can be significant effects on growth and development. Hypothyroidism can be treated by a form of hormone replacement therapy, typically the use of synthetic thyroxine (T4).
I developed Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism around age 12. I had just started getting my period, then it stopped again. Over the following months, I experienced other symptoms including weight gain, lethargy, dry skin, and puffiness of the face. At first when I talked to my doctor, they didn’t think there was an underlying issue. This is unfortunately common with auto-immune diseases and I personally believe that the fact that these diseases more commonly affect cis women is part of why our male-dominated medical system tends to disregard and even invalidate them. My mom was extremely concerned about me and kept pushing the doctor to check for underlying causes until finally, after doing a number of hormone tests, they discovered that my thyroid was all but inactive. Thankfully, once I began taking synthetic thyroxine, my symptoms gradually disappeared and after several months I began getting my period again. Compared to the height I had been projected to achieve, it appears that my hypothyroidism caused me to lose out on one to two inches of growth. I was never going to be very tall, but this is part of why I’m very short (5’1”).
I have been taking synthetic thyroxine for some 27 years now, and will need to take it all my life. I see my doctor at least once a year just for the purpose of checking on my status and have to blood work done to make sure that my thyroid levels are within the normal range. It’s not unusual for them to adjust my dosage slightly if I go out of range. I am incredibly fortunate that none of this is very expensive because it is absolutely necessary to the functioning of my body and to my well-being.
So what does all of this have to do with asexuality? Nothing, actually. Although decreased sex drive may be a complication of hypothyroidism in some cases, asexuality is not about low sex drive! Sex drive and sexual attraction are two separate things. Some asexuals have low arousability (1, 2) as well as lack of sexual attraction, and I appear to be one of them, but if this was caused by atypical hormone levels, it would have been fixed once I started taking synthetic thyroxine, because all the other effects of atypical hormone levels were fixed then. If someone said to me, “You should get your hormones checked,” in regard to my asexuality, I could truthfully say to them, “I get them checked every year and I know they’re normal.”
Because my hypothyroidism started when I had just begun puberty, my sexuality never came into it. However, some people may discover their hypothyroidism later during adolescence and be asked about their sex drive during the process of diagnosis. This could potentially lead to medical or psychiatric invalidation of their asexuality, misdiagnosis as hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or putting them into treatment they don’t need.
Don’t think this is a real concern? It is. Last year, I talked on Tumblr with an ace who has recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and who was experiencing several of the above issues in dealing with her gynecologist. It is critically important for medical professionals to be aware of asexuality, to understand how it works, and to know what it is and is not. When asexuals are afraid to talk to their doctor about other serious health issues they may have, such as hypothyroidism, because they fear medical invalidation of their asexuality, this is a real problem.
As a final comment, hypothyroidism isn’t what we typically think of as a disability, even though it can have significant effects on mental and physical functioning if untreated. And unlike with many other kinds of disability, there isn’t a stereotype about people with hypothyroidism being non-sexual. Instead, it’s an unusual situation where the condition itself could be mistakenly taken as a “cause” for asexuality. I hope that this post adds something to the larger discussion about intersections of asexuality with disability, and that by sharing my story I might be able to help anybody who is concerned about medical invalidation of their asexuality while seeking treatment for hypothyroidism.
Note before I begin: asexuality is a fluid spectrum that includes grey-ace and demisexual folks. This is also not a post about aromanticism – honestly, that deserves its own post, and possibly from someone more qualified to comment. Asexual people have a lot of different experiences with and feelings about sex. What follows is how I feel about how asexuality has been represented in the fics I have read based on my own experience of my asexuality. Your thoughts and experiences will, probably, vary a great deal.
Also, other issues of representation - including the dearth of ace fics including female aces, aces of colour, trans* aces… basically aces who aren’t white cis men - are extremely important and I couldn’t even attempt to do them justice here. I will attempt to address them at a later date, but as a white, cis woman I’m not sure I could talk about them properly. If anyone would like to try - or to talk to me about these issues so I can make a more educated attempt, that would be amazing.
This has been a PSA.
Open up a fanfiction, one of those rare breeds that has an asexual character.
Meet Character A. Let’s call them Sam.
Meet Character B. Let’s call them Jo.
Sam is asexual. Sam doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Sam doesn’t want to have sex. However, Sam is a romantic person who enjoys physical closeness.
Jo is a sexual person. Jo experiences sexual attraction towards some people, and Jo enjoys sex. Jo wants to have a close, romantic relationship, and to Jo that involves sex.
Sam and Jo meet. Sam experiences romantic feelings for Jo. Sam wants to be close to Jo, emotionally and in a physical, non-sexual way.
Jo experiences romantic and sexual feelings for Sam. Jo wants to be close to Sam, emotionally, and in a physical, non-sexual way. Jo also really wants to have sex with Sam.
What happens now, in 90% (not a scientific statistic) of fics I have read, is that sooner or later Sam and Jo will end up in bed together. Sam will realise that sex is important to Joe. So Sam, because they love Jo just that much, will go about bringing Jo sexual pleasure, and Sam will enjoy doing this because Jo is enjoying it.
Then they will cuddle and everything will be fine.
Cut to me, clicking out of the fic, feeling utterly dispirited. I thought that maybe this time the fic wouldn’t fall into the narrative that romantic relationships must, in some way, include sex in order to be legitimate. That the asexual character wasn’t required, in some way, to compromise on their identity.
Often in the fic they aren’t doing this, by the way. In fics as written, the asexual character is totally happy with this arrangement. In real life, many asexuals are in sexual relationships and they are happy and fulfilled - some asexuals, whilst they don’t experience sexual attraction, do have libidos and can experience sexual desire. The problem isn’t with this narrative by itself. The problem is when this is the dominant representation of asexual relationships in fandom.
I’m an asexual person who has been in sexual relationships. I felt that sex was a required part of a romantic relationship, so I compromised with myself. Sometimes it was fine, and I could navigate it without a particular problem, in the same way that I watched “Band of Brothers” because my boyfriend enjoyed it, even though I didn’t like it much (apart from playing “spot the actor”). Other times it left me feeling vulnerable, upset, anxious, violated, panicky, miserable, guilty and a whole swathe of other emotions. It was consensual, but unwanted. Since the end of my last long-term relationship at the end of 2010, I have been so much more comfortable with myself. I know now that I will never, ever be able to compromise myself in that way again.
I have very, very rarely seen a depiction of an experience that comes even close to my own, but I know I’m not a rare person in the asexual community. I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never see a decent portrayal of an asexual character in mainstream media. My hope, then, rests in fandom, and fandom - the ones I follow, anyway - still subscribes to a rather narrow version of asexual representation.
In writing about romantic relationships in fandom, authors are often building up to the moment when characters first sleep together. That is The Thing that people want to read about, The Thing that says, “Yes, these characters have reached the point of being in a Real Relationship.” They’ve navigated their way to admitting their feelings to one another, and now they must do The Sex. There are a few problems with this (particularly in m/m ships, where the “One True Sex” is penetrative sex, because it is very difficult to break out of a heteronormative relationship model), and there are especially problems with it when writing an asexual romance.
I want fic writers, when they want to write an asexual character, to look for other ways to demonstrate the emotional and physical attraction between their characters. Consider this quote, from the essay “Asexual Scripts” by Carol Haefner (link at the end):
"The heteronormative paradigm, with its prescriptive model of what a romantic relationship is and how individuals should engage in romantic relationships, affects asexuals at many levels including experiencing themselves as different from the norm, engaging in or choosing not to engage in romantic relationships, and perceiving themselves as asexual beings.”
In the same way that fanfiction often queers heteronormative relationships (and yes, I am aware that there are a lot of problematic areas there – there’s scope for a whole PhD on it, I’m sure), it should also break out of the prescriptive model of romantic relationships when it comes to depicting asexuals.
I’m not saying I want people to stop writing asexual characters into sexual relationships entirely. I don’t. It’s still amazing to me that people write ace characters at all. What I want is for there to be more diverse representations. For every fic that follows the above model, I want one where Sam refuses to have sex with Jo. I want one where Jo and Sam explore bringing one another physical pleasure outside of sex. I want one where Jo is the one compromising their sexuality because they love Sam just that much. I want one where it starts off with Sam being able to have a sexual relationship, but eventually just can’t do it anymore, and they have to re-examine their relationship and make it work again. And that’s for the fics where asexuality is a focus – there should also be more fics with “incidental” asexuality, where the characters are in an asexual relationship that has no bearing on the plot of the story, where it just is.
By writing asexual characters that must engage in sexual acts in order to validate their romantic relationships, writers are – unintentionally, I am sure – prioritising the needs of sexual people, and insisting on a very narrow definition of what constitutes a romantic relationship. It contributes to asexual erasure by making sex a fundamentally, immovably important part of a romantic relationship. It places sexual desire and sexual components in relationships as normative, and the asexual character must ‘fit in’ with this in order to drive the relationship to its apex. Fanfiction, whilst it can radicalise notions of gender and sexuality, still often buys into the internalised cultural scripts about sexuality and relationships.
A couple of things to note, and here seems like a good place to do so, before I bring this ramble to a close:
Not all fics that follow the “Sam and Jo” formula above leave me dispirited. Some of them manage it admirably. If you’ve read fics that follow this model and enjoyed them, that’s fantastic. If you’ve written fics that follow this model, I am not saying you shouldn’t have done it. These fics absolutely have their place and, when it rings true for the characters and their situations, can be absolutely amazing. I can think of a couple of examples of that right off the top of my head.
It’s also important to point out that the situation of Sam and Jo in most fics could very easily fit into a fic about demisexuality. If Sam were demi rather than ace, for example, then a development of sexual attraction towards Jo would make perfect sense. From what I understand from demisexual folk I’ve spoken to, it would be a gradual shift, with Sam’s feelings altering as they grow closer to Jo. That would be a really interesting fic, if Sam has never experienced that before! Someone learning something new about themselves, re-evaluating their identity… that could be fantastic. Demi-sexual and grey-aces need more visibility and representation in fandom too.
As asexuality is becoming more visible in fandom spaces, as more and more people are learning about asexuality, as more and more people are beginning to identify as asexual, now is the time to develop our portrayal of asexual characters and asexual relationships, and to begin to redefine the boundaries of what constitutes a romantic relationship.
Links! Everyone loves links!
Asexual Scripts: A Grounded Theory Inquiry into the Intrapsychic Scripts Asexuals Use to Negotiate Romantic Relationships (Carol Haefner) – a really, really interesting PhD paper on how asexual people navigate romance.
But what about “The Sex”? – on asexual relationships and the metaphorical cake.
The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator – on normative models of the relationship narrative.
Physical Boundaries Checklist – a really great idea, and one that could spark some ideas for ace fic.