“But if you haven’t had sex, how do you know you’re asexual?”
As an asexual, this is a common response I have received after revealing my status openly. It is a loaded statement that possesses implicit assumptions about asexuality and a multitude of flaws, so let’s deconstruct why you should never ask an asexual person this for a moment, shall we?
Firstly, there is an inherent assumption that being asexual is the opposite of being sexual or engaging in sexual activity. The reality is that self-identified asexual people may or may not engage in sex. While I happen to be an asexual person who has never engaged in sex (hi, I’m also sex-repulsed), this information is not conveyed when I simply express that I am asexual to someone. As such, this is an inherent assumption being made that indicates a larger domineering perception of understanding asexuality as a lack of sexual activity. And not just a lack, but a complete absence of engaging in sex.
Within this question, there is also a certain condescension involved, in which I (as the asexual person in this scenario) should have to verify my asexuality through attempting to engage in sex, in order to “make sure” that I am reallyasexual. In other words, it’s a “how do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?” sort of approach, except applied to sexuality rather than, you know, a flavor of ice cream or something of that nature. “I don’t know Billy, how are you so certain of your heterosexual identity if you haven’t had sex with men?” This would be an equally ridiculous approach, would it not? Why should there be a verification process for asexuality, yet not for heterosexuality?
Which brings me to my next point. Implicit here is this idea that one can be coaxed or easily swayed away from asexuality through engaging in sex. It is in this scenario that sex is being positioned as possessing a toxic allure. Try it once, and you’ll surely get hooked, just like the rest of us. This is because asexuality rests on unstable ground within much of the public’s consciousness as even being a legitimate manner of existence in the first place. It stems to the disbelief that asexuality could even be a possibility. It’s a “how could someone not want to have sex?” sort of situation. If only I tried sex, then I would see how great it is and give up this whole “fake” asexuality thing, right?
It is navigating these harmful assumptions that remains an arduous challenge as an asexual person who has never engaged in sex, especially since there is no way of avoiding them besides remaining silent. Whenever this question is directed towards me, I am being pressured to prove that my asexuality is valid because of a sexual expectation placed upon all of us. A desire to have sex is still perceived as an inherent quality of humanity. Well, let me assert that I don’t need to have sex to know that I’m asexual. I don’t need to prove myself as an asexual person who has never had sex. I am perfectly content to never engage in any sexual activity, and that doesn’t invalidate my asexuality.
Michael Paramo is an asexual Latinx demiguy located in southern California. They are currently a graduate student who has been selected to present their research at national conferences, such as by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music's U.S. branch, the Popular Culture Association, as well as the National Women's Studies Association. They are the founder of The Asexual and the Lead Editor of The Asexual journal. Twitter: @Michael_Paramo