Empathy Should Go Both Ways

Fact: Most people take sexual feelings/ identity for granted. And they can’t help it, just as we, members of the asexual community can’t help not being able to experience sexual attraction no matter how hard we try or wish it wasn’t so.

Many of us try to gain empathy from non – aces, sometimes with success, sometimes not. But do we understand their viewpoint? if you grow up, for example in an environment where you’re family (brothers/ sisters, parents, family friends, etc), are all straight, then you grow up yourself, starting from purberty, feeling sexual attraction to the opposite sex, you didn’t have to question it, you just were, by nature, you probably lack a level of genuine understanding of what someone who isn’t cisgender and straight go through.

The asexual community has been trying to gain acceptance and understanding from allosexuals, sometimes for a long time. It can be frustrating, I get it. It can be scary, I definitely get that. But like they can’t expect us to know what it’s like to experience sexual attraction (or lack it, at least now), we can’t expect others to immediately empathise with us about our asexuality. Society takes sexuality for granted, largely because people naturally, through no fault of their own, take their sexuality for granted. I’m not saying that we should expect and accept teasing or abuse of any sort, but we should be open – minded and maybe view it from their viewpoint as well.

Think of it this way to; asexual advocacy and visibility has only been very recent. Most of society, education included, hasn’t grappled with it for very long (if it’s started to at all). Yes, some of the ignorance and at times misinformation that the media, for example spouts can be annoying, and even hurtful, frankly. But I want to believe that most people really do have good intentions. Hope that’s not being too naive.

So, I think we should be open to questions, maybe willing to offer sources of information, (e.g. AVEN and other websites), for us bloggers, to keep writing about our experiences and our thoughts, feelings and discoveries, and hopefully, one day, we’ll get to a point where it won’t be necessary any more and we can all just be happy and accept each other and have a huge cuddle party!

5 comments on “Empathy Should Go Both Ways

  1. nobody says:

    I think I must be a slightly atypical ace in that I never expect people to even realize asexuality exists, let alone have any nuanced understand of it. I think that’s probably because even as I was realizing I was asexual, I didn’t know it was something anyone else experienced. I literally thought I invented it.

    I grew up in the Deep South where sex was taboo and homophobia was rampant. We got no sex ed in school–literally, the only sex ed I got was from the Girl Scouts. My family also never discussed sexuality. In some senses that was helpful–I never got asked the heteronormative questions about what boys I liked, and even now, as a single adult, I don’t get asked when I’m going to get married. So sexuality was hardly on my radar until high school, where I found out other asexual people existed by googling something like, “Is something wrong with me if I don’t care about sex?”

    I think my lack of awareness that human asexuality existed made me a lot more tolerant of other people’s lack of awareness. If people are genuinely interested, I’m happy to explain it to them. I don’t have much tolerance for people who are jerks about it (“Oh, you just think you’re asexual because you haven’t slept with me yet”) or try to fix me like I’m something broken (“Have you had your hormones checked? Or maybe it’s because you take antidepressants”). But genuine lack of knowledge doesn’t bother me.

    • saraharnetty says:

      Thanks for the reply. If need be, I’d be happy to explain what asexuality is. BUt it’s just that some stuff I read online somtimes makes me think that many people (asexuals I”m talking about) are just over it. But like I said, we just can’t automatically assume that most people would fully empathise. Respect, yes (like not suggesting that you should be “fixed” or “haven’t just found the right person”, etc (maybe the last one doesn’t always have to be offensive…. just a thought). And the whole “you think you’re asexual becuase you haven’t slept with me yet” *shudders* (although I haven’t been asked that personally, thank goodness.

      In terms of sex ed, mine was very hetero – normative for the most part. Homosexuality was mentioned. I firmly believe though, we should’ve had more of a talk about discovering sexuality and not just “by the time you’re 15 it should all make sense. Although only you know your sexual orientation”. Frankly, that’s not helpful. It would’ve been great if it was acknowledged that some people, even just in their teens, may not be attracted to anyone and that’s OK. If they talked about asexuality, as in, into adulthood too, that would’ve been better! (Note: when I was in Year 10, we had a sexual health nurse saying that yes, asexuality does exist, but it’s only a phase. Everyone will eventually identify as gay, straight or bi (had no idea about pan or polysexuality until years later). Fortunately, to this nurse’s credit, she did say that it was normals for someone, even at sixteen to not know exactly what they were in terms of sexual orientation.

  2. I am not Ace (I had not heard the term before) but rarely experience sexual attraction. It seems there is a spectrum on this, as everything: some people have sex constantly on their minds and lust such that they should never be alone with a member of the opposite sex, and there are people on all levels of lust between that and asexuality. And- empathy for this is something I am only managing in middle age- one tends to think everyone is “normal”, or “like me”.

    Thank you for the follow. Do pop by and comment: it is the commenting, and the friendships, which give me most pleasure from this hobby.

    • saraharnetty says:

      Thank you for your reply. And your welcome for my follow. Very good blog from what I’ve seen of it. Well written. Yes, there is a spectrum between sexual and asexual. Within the asexual community, “grey Asexual” means someone who , well one way to put it, between sexual and asexual. They may be attracted to some people in some circumstances, but it’s not constant. Some people say that grey sexuality refers to the “degree” of sexual attraction if you like, maybe whether or not you have the urge to act on it…. it’s complicated.

      Let me clarify something. When I mean “empathy” I don’t mean necessarily that people would automatically know what the other person if feeling through personal experience. I think that’ll rarely happen. What I was trying to say is that, basically, if we (the asexual community) want to be understood and be respected, if you like and not have things said like “you should try harder”, etc, we can’t expect people who are not asexual to ignore their innate sexuality. It goes both ways. That’s what I meant.

      P.S. On the asexual/ sexual spectrum, there’s also demi – sexual. That’s someone who feels sexual attraction to someone only after an emotional attachment has occurred.

  3. […] lovely Sarah Harnetty followed me. She says while asexuals want the others to empathise, we have to empathise with the […]

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