Asexuality: Between the Colors of the Rainbow

By Ipsita Srinivas

Our generation, especially the naive college freshman, bursting with pre-imposed images of what the “perfect college experience” should look like, does not shy away from sex. In fact, sexual awareness is almost associated with our age group today, with teens either labeled as hormonal, pubescent and scandalous, or experimental, casual, and liberated individuals. Whether you paint the predominance of hook-up culture black or white, it exists, with the fundamental assumption being we are all sexual beings. Suddenly, the lack of sexual desire juxtaposed against this norm seems abnormal. Isn’t it? This might come as a surprise to a significant number of people, but this phenomenon has a label: asexuality. Unfortunately, for many, it resembles a disease, an issue, something that needs to be fixed. As Gregory House in the American television show House puts it, “the only people who don’t want [sex] are either sick, dead, or lying.” Clearly, something is wrong if an estimated 1% of 7.7 billion people are dying or in severe denial.

Asexuals are often stereotyped as people with a medical condition hindering their ability to have sex, victims of sexual abuse, or just confused. Most identifying with the label will narrate at least one incident where a ‘supportive’ friend or family member will question hesitantly, “Are you sure? Maybe you just haven’t met the right person.” Why is it so hard to accept the fact that some people simply don’t have sexual desires? Freudians and fellow thinkers show disbelief regarding asexuality and a lot many more have twisted misconceptions about asexuals. No, it is not equivalent to celibacy. You don’t choose to abstain — you can’t, if you didn’t have the choice. Asexuality is a sexuality. It’s natural, inherent, and instinctive, not a decided rule you apply to yourself. It is also, like other sexualities, fluid. Some asexuals engage in sexual behavior sometimes, while others do not. Some need to form an emotional attachment with their partners before engaging in said behavior. It is not a community of heartless, unfeeling individuals who are unable to engage in romantic relationships. It is also not one full of sexually-repressed fanatics that need to ‘express themselves.’ It is a misunderstood and sometimes dehumanized community, whose existence is often denied by a lack of awareness that needs to be rectified.

However, social rejection doesn’t end here. Recent years have seen heavy anti-asexual backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, with a significant number claiming asexuality to be a non-discriminated community. Several LGBTQ+ activists such as Dan Savage have been known to mock asexual integration into Pride marches and even their inclusion under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, which is ironic considering homosexuals, bisexuals, non-binary individuals, etc. too once faced, and still do face, parallel social marginalization. A recurring argument made by anti-aces is that asexuals face little to no legal and social discrimination as other sexualities do, and so need not belong to an overarching community that is made for the purpose of overcoming such struggles. However, asexuals do face some legal repercussions as well as major social stigmatization. Some institutions require marriages to be consummated to be legitimized. Sex education in high schools tends to normalize the idea of humans as sexual beings, even treating it as fundamental, causing asexual teens to feel excluded and ‘broken.’ Current Russian driving laws ban asexual people from driving. Asexuals have also been known to be subjected to ‘corrective rape,’ which entails raping an individual who identifies with a marginalized sexuality with the belief that it would make them heteronormative. This is not a one-off incident. It is a genuine fear the asexual community struggles with, as is revealed in Dominique Mosbergen’s “Battling Asexual Discrimination, Sexual Violence And ‘Corrective’ Rape” at the Huffington Post. Multiple victims have been forced to undergo the trauma of close friends and strangers online attempting to ‘reform’ them by either performing or suggesting sexual assault—“to help them” by giving them “a good raping.” There is also a misconception that those identifying with the label cannot be sexually assaulted, leading to openly asexual victims of sexual assault not being taken seriously. 

All these instances of isolation and exclusion by society, especially by some members of the LGBTQ+, only further the point that this community needs acceptance. Isn’t it hypocritical for an oppressed group to reject others who may be going through similar things as they once did? Asexuals tend to fear such negative backlash, and often feel a lack of pride and community due to their exclusion. The LGBTQ+ is meant to be a safe space — a place where one feels accepted and included despite being socially marginalized. However, further boxing up people into labels and drawing lines between them does not create one. The acceptance and understanding of asexuality is merely a step towards creating such an environment for everyone and anyone, despite their labels or lack of them.

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