soundings

Invisible Orientation

It wasn’t that you couldn’t get the girl; it was that you couldn’t even get her in your own head. You never even wanted to “get her,” but since you are a guy and you don’t like guys you think that is what you need to do to be happy. Your reproductive system works fine, but for some reason you cannot successfully imagine a sexual situation; sex is naturally uninteresting to you. When you are young you think you will grow out of it. When you are a young man, you think you are defective. Sex is an enormous part of normative masculinity; male virginity is mocked, sex is considered to be part of what it means to be a “successful man.” So you bury your secret, you bury it so deep that your whole identity is crafted to protect your shame. You bury it in hopes that one day it will change, or maybe one day you can maintain a relationship in spite of it. Eventually you find yourself wearing a mask, where even your loved ones can’t know you. You feel a clock ticking in your head, feeling that the longer the “problem” persists the less likely you are to find a “solution.” You feel like your life will all but certainly end in your suicide. You think that this “problem” is uniquely yours, no one shares it, and no one has ever experienced it. You feel like you are broken, you feel like you are alone. You might even question your validity as a human being.

…the responsibility of making sure that the asexual movement succeeds is ultimately up to asexual people.”

It has been two and a half year since I found out I am asexual. An asexual person is simply someone who does not desire partnered sex. Much like straight people desire partnered sex with the opposite gender, and gay people desire partnered sex with the same gender. It is an orientation, or the lack of one; either way it fulfills the same aspects of our identities as it does with other orientations. Since I have found out about my asexuality, I have tried mightily to bring awareness to this invisible orientation. In that time I have learned a lot about the world. The challenge that the asexual community faces is pretty simple. People have to know that asexuality exists. This is the only way that we can come to know ourselves. Even if people don’t believe us, they have to be aware that we exist at the very least.

Despite the simplicity of the solution, the problem still exists. Why? Well, that has been one of the lessons I have learned. Society is destined to change, but designed not to. With that said, there are several reasons as to why this is still an issue. First of all, the responsibility of making sure that the asexual movement succeeds is ultimately up to asexual people. Privacy is our enemy, yet many choose to stay closeted even after finding out, or only telling potential partners and those close to us. No one should be coerced or pressured into coming out, but our community has to be literally visible and our voices audible. Second of all, the media has to cover the story. What story? Well, the story that was described in the opening paragraph; that is only one individual perspective, but research suggests that about 1% of people are asexual. This is a social issue, and it is one which the media collectively has the power to solve. In this case the story literally solves the issue which is the story; kudos to athensuncharted, by the way. Asexual character representation will also go a long way toward normalizing asexuality. Third, sex education must become comprehensive. Now that we know that asexuality is valid – there have yet to be studies that suggests otherwise – kids should not be walking out of Sex Ed with no knowledge of asexuality, and sexual and gender identities for that matter. Queer people need Sex Ed during our confusing adolescences, too. These three things are musts if the asexual movement is to succeed.

“Privacy is our enemy.”

So what is the asexual movement exactly? Well, on the surface it is the effort to ensure that people know that not everyone desires partnered sex, and that is perfectly ok. But what if I was to tell you that this is also the unfinished business of the sexual revolution? Only a few decades ago, it was unheard of to even refer to sex in media. Speaking openly about sexuality was taboo, especially for women. Queer people were marginalized in every sense of the word. It is a different world today. Usually the conversation surrounding sexuality has revolved around an increasing saturation of sex into society, and differences in gender preference. The asexuality movement is bringing long-ignored issues into the conversation. Asexuality deals with the rarely discussed other axis of sexual diversity, the axis that deals with experiencing a lot of sexual attraction vs. experiencing none, as opposed to the axis that deals with gender preference. Not only is this beneficial to asexual people, but could also help address the stigma surrounding “hyper sexuality.” Sex is an important part of the human experience, and, as long as it is consensual and everyone is of age it should not be shameful, it should not be regarded as something that is always a great experience like the media often portrays – sometimes it sucks and sometimes it is fantastically mediocre, it should not be used to exert power over others, it should not bring shame to a woman while bringing praise to a man, it should not bring you scorn due to the gender of your partner, and it should not be seen as a requirement for a happy and healthy life. Asexual people are fine without it, and this particular asexual person wants to see the day when all asexual people don’t have to feel broken and alone until they learn the truth, and everyone can feel comfortable with their given sexuality.

Tim Buford

Resources:

http://www.asexuality.org/home/

http://asexualoutreach.org/