Trigger Warning: This post speaks about sexual violence. If this is triggering for you, feel free to move on from this post. Get any professional help you may need.
I’m up to the part in the book “The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality”. I’m going to change tactic though and say what I think about the whole issue from what I’ve read in the book (the chapter’s too long to do a brief post, I think).
We hear about homophobia all the time. It’s come to a point, where in society, it’s generally frowned upon. Someone can even be sacked or prosecuted for making an overtly homophobic comment, or at the very least, be under public pressure to apologise (especially if it’s caught by the media). However, I can’t help but think the same standards are being held against asexual people. It’s like, in some cases they’re fair game. Now, before anyone jumps on me, I’m very aware of the oppression that LGBT people face. I’ve talked before about it on this blog. But asexual discrimination I feel is just as important, but little known. Some areas of discrimination faced by asexuals include:
- Not having marriage legally recognised
- Alienation and disfavour within religious communities
- Refusal to be able to adopt
- “Corrective” rape
- Discrimination from the mental health professionals
- Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination
Having a marriage annulled because of a lack of sex
By what I’ve read, it sounds like marriages, at least in the US can be deemed iligitimate if it’s known that the couple aren’t having satisfactory sex and a partner complains about it. And this is a problem for the government because? Why not get them to seek professional help (no, not just to ‘fix’ the asexual) to get the couple to work out their relationship and work on a compromise that they’re both happy with? If such an arrangement doesn’t work out, then maybe, the relationship wans’t meant ot be. But once a marriage is in place, the government should be play no role policing how such a marriage should opperate (unless, of course crime is going on). Maybe I’m mistaken. But it just seems a bit off to me.
Alienation and disfavour within religious communities
Some religious communities are very heteronormative, especially if they have a very strict traditional view of gender. She talks about how many asexuals feel demonised for their orintation, or like in mainstream society, made to feel like there’s something wrong with them. I just want to interject a view from what I’ve personally viewed.
In some Christian circles, even Evangelical circles, there is a move away from enforcing marriage and demonising people, simply for being single. They even quote Paul from the bible to accomodate their approval. However, I’ve often wondered whether this comes out of a form of political correctness; like people feel like they HAVE TO accommodate singles in a bid to not be demonised from the outside. Then again, they could just be making the decision to be more accommodating. But this doesn’t cover people in non – sexual, but romantic relationships.
Sex is expected to be a given in marriage in a Christian context, especially if they hone on the fact that they strongly believe that sex should be reserved for marriage. I actually think they go too far sometimes. I’ve even read in a book wher the Evangelical Christian author practically blamed infidelity on the partner that withold sex. Now, to do it out of spite, I can understand that’s not good. But to make a blanket vilification against a partner that can’t have sex or are not comfortable with it isn’t right. I’m inclined to agree with Decker when she condemned such an attitude as being abusive.
Refusal to be able to adopt
Apparently, in the US, there have been incidences where a couple have been refused adoption due to couples (or at least one person) being asexual. I think the idea behind it is that they should be able to reproduce naturally? Anyway, I think it’s ridiculous. Again, invasion of privacy. And it needs to be said, why? Why does a couple’s sexual practices (so long as they are legal and consensual), have any bearing on whether they should be able to adopt or look after a child? I don’t get it. Mind your own business, for heaven’s sake! If a couple is having troubles, let THEM sort it out and determine what action should be taken NOT government agencies!
Decker says in the book, as well as her video on discrimination, that asexual women, in particular, can be vulnerable to sexual assault. The perpetrator can be either a stranger or even a partner/ spouse. It goes on the stupid theory that an egotistical maniac can “turn” a woman because of his own grandiosity (at least for the stranger part), which is ridiculous! In intimate partnerships, an asexual partner can feel bullied into having sex with their partner. When this happens, and the partner who’s been (let’s be honest here), raped opens up, according to Decker, people are likely to be sympathetic to the perpetrator rather than the victim.
NEWSFLASH: spousal rape is now illegal in most Western countries, including Australia in the mid 1970’s. So there should be NO EXCUSE. I’ll say it again, if a couple feels like they need help in regarding sexual issues, they should feel free to look for it, but NOT for the sole purpose of humiliating one of the partners!
Discrimination from mental health professionals
The latest edition of the DIagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), changed the definitions of Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and Sexual Arousal Disorder (SAD), deliberately differentiating them (particularly HSDD) between the disorder as opposed to asexuality, which is the orientation. In 2010, asexual advocates, including founder of AVEN David Jay demanded that these modifications be made. Unfortunately, apparently, not all health professionals have caught on. Asexuailty can be fixated on as a “problem” in a person’s lives, regardless on whether the client focuses on it or not. To me, this is unethical, frankly. Mental health professionals are not there to plant ideas into client’s heads! They’re there to HELP the client work through their issues (without intruding), so they can live life that they want (I studied Community Services for two years, which included modules on couselling and client/ professional communication). From what I’ve read, if a licensed professional did the same thing to someone who was gay, they’d be deregistered, or at the very least, disciplined by their medical/ psychological board. Why aren’t asexuals given the same respect? Fortunately, there are therapists/ counsellors out there who recognise asexuality as an orientation and are likely to treat the asexual client respectfully. Decker hinted that it might be best to seek a counsellor who has experience in LGBT counselling.
Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination
This part made me cry, because I get it. It is something that people can go through, and it can be quite psychologically harmful. It’s very easy to do, hard to get over. Fortunately, I can honestly say that I’m coming to a place where I’m accepting who I am. I’m not completely there yet, but better than what I have been in the past.
The pain can be exacerbated if the person feels like they should isolate themselves in a bid not be rejected from others. By “isolation”, I’m not just talking about it in a physical sense. I’m talking aboutbeing in a group, but feeling like you can’t (or shouldn’t) open up about your own experiences in fear of being rejected if the topic of relationships, marriage pop up. Somtimes, the second one is more painful. Sometimes, when an asexual opens up, I won’t lie, it can backfire. However, somtimes, coming out can be liberating as well.
The chapter as a whole was quite disheartening. It really opened my eyes to how a lot of work needs to be done to eradicate sexual orientation – based discrimination. I’m quietly hopeful. With more visibiility, more advocacy, hopefully we’ll come to a point where discrimination against asexuals will become more frowned upon.