Today, I’ll be talking about the section of the book “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker, continuing with Part 2.
After discussing the LGBT communities and discrimination, Decker talks about the asexual community and the diversity of ages in the group. Unfortunately, most data and forums that are available about asexuality are skewed to young people, probably mostly under 30. Some of these reasons might be obvious, like most of the discussion surrounding asexuality tends to happen online, something that many older people may not be involved in.
As Decker pointed out, young people have become somewhat more open about their sexuality than in the past, which in turn, has had younger people admitting or at the very least, realising that they may not experience any sexual attraction at all.
There is data to suggest that people are “coming out”, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, a lot younger than in the past. In the past, gay people didn’t come out until they left home and gained independence, around the age of 16. Today, teens and even preteens are identifying as LGBT and coming out much earlier. (I want to talk more about younger people coming out as asexual later).
The fact that asexual people who are more likely to be open about asexuality has its drawbacks; that people mistaken asexuality as a phase, something that people will “grow out of”, or will “change their mind on” once they have had sex. This is contrary to much research that indicates that many people experience and start to work out their orientation in early to mid teens,either with or without sexual experience. http://www.case.edu/lgbt/resources/safe-zone-resources/truth/
Asexual teens and young adults can experience alienation from most of mainstream media and their peers, where sex and sexuality are often main talking points. I can relate to this personally, especially before I identified as asexual. I actually tried to avoid all conversations about sexuality at this time. That got frustrating and lonely. To be perfectly honest, Personal Development (or as it’s called in Australia, Personal Development/ Health and Physical Education or PDHPE) classes didn’t really help in Year 10 because of a no real talk about sexuality outside the gay/ straight binary, the assumption that everyone knew whether they were gay or straight by the age of fifteen (I didn’t) and no distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction. I didn’t get any real dismissive comments about my age, although some did say that I was still young. On the other hand, a lot of it was the opposite. Because I was sixteen at the time, I was expected to have worked out who I was and the fact that I hadn’t identified as gay by then (or before), some people just assumed I was straight. So, I was straight… and felt no attraction to men… yeah, it made perfect sense… not. Just to be clear, I don’t begrudge anyone about this. I come from a small town and went to high school in a small town (not the same one) and, as I’ve written before, the discussion about LGBT and the complexities of sexuality can be limited.
Just another point about teens. It can be particularly for adolescent boys to acknowledge their own lack of sexual attraction. Society bombards young men with the idea that men are supposed to be “full of testosterone” and “getting laid”. The stigma surrounding lack of sexual attraction can be stigmatised by both people who are straight and the gay community. So much of how masculinity is viewed is largely based on sexual performance or the desire to make sexual conquests. I can’t help but think that this can only lead to low self – esteem in young asexual men, and other problems.
There is a tragic paradox when it comes to older asexual people. On one hand, society likes to desexualise older people, yet older people who are asexual are often ignored. Children get “grossed out” if an older couple visibly displays affection or talk about sex. Conversely, older asexual people, especially women, are often looked down upon if they are not partnered by a certain age. Now, this is according to Decker. I know a few older people (who aren’t asexual to my knowledge), but they are single. I haven’t heard any negative comments about them. What does plague women though, especially over thirty, is the “ticking” of the biological clock. Women are told to hurry up and seek a partner/ spouse before it’s too late to have children. I find that annoying, to be honest. I get that it can be harder for older women (especially over 35) to fall pregnant, but just telling women to “hurry up” isn’t necessary going to help. And, what about men? Just saying. It takes two to tango, right? Then again, there are IVF, fostering, etc that is open to single women and same – sex couples in some States (I think NSW is one of them). Just putting it out there. I get that it’s often controversial. I’ve talked about both sides of the gay parenting/ adoption debate before.
Funnily enough, according to Decker, women in their 30’s who identify as asexual are often referred as “late bloomers”. No kidding? That’s late… except of course that as I pointed out before that sexual orientation is often (not always) discovered in the teenage years, including asexuality.
I just want ot talk about the desexualisation of older people. In aged care, it’s now expected that workers acknowledge the sexuality of their clients, including those who are LGBT. All community service workers are expected to acknowledge and respect the fact that elderly people are (often) sexual beings. It’s actually unlawful under anti – discrimination legislation to prevent couples to express affection to each other in aged care facilities. This includes same – sex couples. I hope that this doesn’t put undue pressure on people who don’t want to seek or engage in sexual activity or be partnered, regardless of whether they identify as asexual or not. I’m hoping that it’ll be discussed more in the future and, ultimately, respected.
There are asexual people who don’t, or didn’t realise they were asexual until after they married or entered long – term relationships. For these people, their lack of sexual attraction is pushed aside and there is a lot of compromise in the relationship; more than what would’ve happened if the asexual partner would’ve known or acknoweledged their asexuality. This has lead many people in long – term relationships to be frustraed and the asexual partner internalising harmful beliefs about them and the relationship. There does seem to be a very damaging perception that people “owe” sex to their partners (or anyone).
I get sex can be seen as an important part of a relationship to most people, but I think it’s gotten to the point where dangerous attitudes have been accepted by society, such as if a partner/ spouse doesn’t get sex, then the other partner deserves to be cheated on. I get that deliberately withholding sex in a relationship, especially out of spite is not the best idea, but the load shouldn’t all be on the asexual person either. Both parties should take part in voicing their needs and desires and work out individually what compromises can be made (if any). If a compromise can’t be met, then they may make the decision to break up. But it’s not up to everyone else to decide who should do what.
Asexual visibility is relatively new. It’s clear that the lack of visibilty and acceptance of asexual people has affected people across all age groups. Overtime, I hope this will improve (I’m quietly optimistic).