As an ace person in my mid-twenties, telling someone I’m asexual for the first time has lost its sting. The cloud of anxiety has largely dissipated and I’m ready for any reaction, whether its stares of disbelief or statements of utter confusion. Since I have been socialized in a culture that mentally embeds the notion that everyone is sexual and that sexual desire and/or attraction is natural, I have come to expect that the vast majority of non-ace people will possess invalidating reactions when my existence as an asexual person is made aware to them for the first time. I’ve received them all, and they all have told me something about assumptions and perceptions of asexuality.
“Don’t give up. You just haven’t found the right person yet.”
It’s a short, yet loaded response. I’ve probably received similar variations to it about 4–5 times in my life. Each time I heard it vocalized to me, I only became more and more conscious of the deep and disturbing assumptions that are inherently carried right along with it. Most evidently, there is this assumption that my asexuality is a lie or is simply predicated on being unable to “find” a life partner, whether because my body is undesirable sexually or because I have simply been “unlucky.” Through placing the cause of my existence as an asexual person on being unable to locate a sexual partner, my asexuality is not only invalidated as simply existing as a condition of being alone, which itself is often perceived as unfortunate or lessor, but also as a lie or “cover-up” for my apparent inability to find a sexual partner, which, in many people’s minds, would or should be some cause of embarrassment. As such, to them, I am only claiming that I am asexual as a means of attempting to avoid embarrassment for being alone (and potentially being “undesirable”), not because I am actually asexual. In other words, in their minds, I just haven’t found the right person to be sexual with yet. If I had, I would not be asexual.
This is a part of a general trend in asexual invalidation, in which there is an attempt to locate a reason or condition for someone being asexual. For example, my autism and anti-social behavior, both of which are societally-viewed as undesirable abnormalities, quickly become explanations for my asexual existence. I only can exist as asexual because I am also autistic and/or anti-social. My asexuality becomes framed as a dependent condition, only existing because of something else, such as another aspect of my life or myself.
When my asexuality is perceived as conditional it also becomes something to be fixed and subsequently rectified. If I just worked on being social and/or fought against my autism, then I could theoretically become sexual or “normal.” There is therefore an assumption that being asexual is not only “unnatural,” but that it is a lessor or inferior way of living in comparison to being sexual. If only I had found the right person. If only I was not autistic. If only I was not anti-social. If only, if only, if only…
When asexuality is unconditional it becomes far more difficult to confront, understand, and accept as legitimate. When asexuality is conditional, I am still able to be molded into sexual normalcy. To them, not all hope was yet lost. I just had to keep searching for the right person. I just had to get some counseling and fight my autism. I just had to stop being so shy and anti-social. To them, these were the solutions that could very well save me from what they so surely perceived as an impossible and dismal life of living as an asexual. Ijust had to change my outlook, my position, my behavior, my state of being, my mental framework, and/or my existence. For, how could I ever be content in life as an asexual?
Last edited: October 19th, 2017 (Cross-posted on Medium)
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 Editor-in-Chief of The Asexual journal. Twitter: @Michael_Paramo