I’m back to continue my review on ‘The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” Part 2’ by Julie Sondra Decker. Sorry for the delay in writing this. So, the next topic that Decker was relationships, particularly intimate partnerships.
Asexual people, for the most part, want to experience intimacy on some level and desire some sort of committed relationship, romantic or otherwise (in this section of the book, her main focus seems to be romantic relationships).
There is a common misconception that romantic asexual people will automatically go for people who are asexual. However, it’s usually not so clear – cut for a number of reasons, as Decker strongly argues. Firstly, the lack of visibility of asexuality in society could mean that an asexual person could enter a sexual relationship or even marriage before realising that they are, in fact, asexual. I’ve read about this many times on Facebook. Even people who may be in their 50’s and have been married for more than ten years may have just realised with certainty that they are asexual.
Another reason why asexual people may fall for a non – asexual is because of their social group may not have any self – identified asexuals, hence, if they fall for someone in that group, they’re highly unlikely to be asexual. Talking about asexuality and attraction- just because two people are asexual, doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be emotionally attracted to each other. Attraction, regardless of orientation, rarely works out that simply. A romantic asexual could fall for someone who isn’t asexual. It’s that old adage, I guess: you can’t choose who you fall in love with. That would go for asexual people as well.
Meet ups of asexual people do happen around the world, but they are rare and have to be deliberately planned in order for them to happen. I’ve never personally been part of one, but I have seen them talked about on Facebook sometimes. They mainly seem to happen in the US. I don’t know how many happen in Australia, or where (anyone from Australia who has been to a meetup, feel free to comment). Plus, there are no “meetup” clubs or such specifically for asexuals like, for example the gay community.
Another problem with the assumption that romantic asexual people would automatically fall for other romantic asexuals, is the fact that asexual visibility is still at it’s infancy. There are people who may not know that they are asexual or know it’s even a thing. There is growing awareness, yes (I’ve wrote about media coverage on asexuality in the past on this blog), but it’s still limited. Also, there is a lack of awareness and acceptance in education and medical fields as a valid orientation (I’ll talk about this at a later date).
Like my above argument about attraction, it’s pretty obvious that not all romantic asexual people are going to automatically be attracted to each other. And not all asexual/ asexual relationships ideal. They can face (at least some) of the same problems that any other relationship has.
Next, she talked about the issue of compromise. She argued that all relationships require a level of compromise, and, in the context of sexual/ asexual relationships, that includes a certain compromise (on both sides), when it comes to sex. Contrary to poular belief, the “compromise” isn’t always on the asexual person to participate in sexual activity (I would argue that sometimes that may be deemed close to impossible in some cases, particularly if they’re sex – repulsed or sex – averse – however, for many sexual/ asexual relationships, it’s a possible compromise). Other possible compromises that can be made in an asexual/ sexual relationship that Decker listed are:
- The sexual partner agreeing to remain celibate and take their own needs in their own hands (that was a pun)
- Both partners agree to have sex either regularly or irregularly
- Open relationship/ marriage
- Other forms of physical intimacy (kissing, cuddling, etc)
In an imperfect world, sometimes, such compromises don’t work out and the relationship/ marriage ends up deteriorating and eventually ending. In these circumstances, asexual partners/ spouses are sometimes automatically viewed to be at fault for the relationship breaking down. But, as she argued, some relationships just aren’t meant to work out, and she emphasised that it was important to admit and be OK with that, however, painful it is. Everyone should be able to be honest with themselves (and I’d say regardless of the status of the relationship or gender and orientation of the partners), about whether the needs are being met in that relationship and whether conflict is reconcilable.
She talked briefly about relationship counselling. This is where prejudice and discrimination against asexual people can be come evident. According to Decker, there are therapists who don’t acknowledge asexuality as an orientation, and as such, may solely focus on the asexual as the “problem”. However, Decker didn’t discourage relationship/ marriage therapy. And there are asexual – friendly therapists as well (I mentioned one: http://https://asexualityinasexualworld.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/mama-mia-another-article-on-asexuality/
Sometimes, in an asexual/ sexual relationship, self – esteem issues and fears need to be addressed. I’ve talked before about how hard it can be to admit that you’re asexual and be OK with it (I’ll talk about it more in the future, too). This can be detrimental on the asexual person psychologically and as a result, the asexual person may stay in unhealthy relationships. This is why asexual visibility and acceptance is so important! It’s why I continue this blog, despite my doubts in the past. Nobody should have to feel like they don’t deserve to be accepted and loved! I feel so strongly about this! Self – hatred/ low self – esteem, especially when seemingly enforced by general society is so damaging it’s not funny! I’ve been there. Fortunately for me, it hadn’t got to a stage where it was both physcially or psychologically destructive, but even what I’ve experienced with myself, I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. And, I’ve got to say, hating yourself, for fearing judgement from others about your sexuality is I think one of the most destructive things that can affect one’s well – being. (Please note: I get that there are other factors that often contribute the damage of someone’s personal state. It’s just from MY OWN personal experiences, it’s been a major thing for me).
In the context of married relationships, many asexuals feel obligated to be sexual with their spouse, regardless of their personal feelings about it. Now I agree with negotiation and compromise, but just simply saying that the asexual person should ignore their own feelings isn’t right. In fact, Decker condemns such attitudes as downright abusive. I tend to agree. Each couple needs to and should be able to work out how to carry out their relationship, without one partner (e.g. the asexual partner in this case I’m talking about), feeling like their own feelings and opinions don’t matter.
Just a note: As I’ve been reading through this book, I’m surprised and, frankly, quite horrified about how asexual people are often mistreated, discriminated against and/ or dehumanised. I don’t know if this occured to anybody, but yes we asexuals are HUMAN! We have feelings, desires. We feel the way we feel and for the most part, we can’t help it. Telling us to change our orientatoin is just as futile (and probably just as damaging), as telling a gay person to go through “conversion” therapy (which has largely collapsed in the West, particularly the US).
Many asexual people are married and want children. For this reason, some women may at least tolerate sex in order to conceive a child. Also, like I said above, some people are already married before knowing what asexuality is, or the fact that it’s an orientation.
As pointed above, some asexuals are involved in non – monogamy with a sexual partner. Some people, including asexuals, actually prefer non – monogamy relationship styles, such as open relationships or polyamory. I think it’s fair to say that it wouldn’t be everyone’s taste, but it may be an option for some.
So, here that concludes Part 2 about relationships (there’s much more to come, so bear with me). Next time, I’ll be writing about the asexual links (or lack of) to the LGBT community and more on discrimination and how it affects the asexual community. Stay tuned.