Monday, November 8, 2010

You Have A Sexuality

Besides being confused about what the definition of asexual means, many people are also confused about it being a sexuality. I've read on AVEN and heard people describe to me in person that they feel that they "don't have a sexuality," and are therefore asexual. Moreover, this is often followed with "I'm nothing."

This is both inherently contradictory and a reflection of the way that sexuality is linked with personhood.

This should be straightforward. Asexuality = sexual orientation = sexuality. If you are asexual, your sexuality is defined by not being sexually attracted to anyone. It is a state of being. Your asexuality also shapes your interactions with other people as much as any sexuality does for anyone. You create relationships with people the way that you do because of your sexuality. You may do this differently than people with other kinds of sexualities, but your difference doesn't mean you don't have a sexuality.

Next, I should add that if you are asexual and describe yourself as "nothing," you're doing an injustice to yourself and are basically stating that you're not a person (whether this was your intention or not). A person is so much more than who they want to have sex with and how much sex they're having. Are people who aren't asexual "something," just because they feel sexual attraction? Perhaps you've been conditioned to believe that sexual attraction and being sexual are the most important parts of being human. Well, people who are not asexual are something, and you're something, too. You're an asexual, and you're many other things as well. You have hobbies, you have people in your life, you're talented at some things and not at others, you have likes and dislikes. I'm not trying to go on a "you're a special starfish" rant here, but basically everyone is "something" regardless of the kinds of relationships they want to form.

There may indeed be something inherently sexist about the assumption that all people are sexual, and therefore if you're not sexual you're not a person. Until a few decades a go it was accepted by Western medical practitioners (and in Western culture generally) that women could not have sex with each other, and that sex was something that only a man could have. It was also believed (again until recently, due to scientific inquiry) that women were not actually human, or if they were, they were subhuman men who didn't have enough heat in their bodies to create an external penis (the vagina was believed to be a penis that the body was too weak to push out, so to speak). Although in many cultures it is now accepted that women are human and can have sex without a penis, the notion that sex = male, only males = human and sex = human still has a lingering affect on how people are treated for being queer, not just asexual.


  1. Just chiming in briefly to say that this annoys the heck out of me, too. Asexuality is not not a sexuality, and it gets really annoying when people (even asexuals) use it as their weak basis for not allowing asexuality to be queer.

  2. And can I second this? I find the whole insistence on not having a sexuality, or not having a sexual orientation, extremely confusing. Of course asexuals have a sexual orientation. We might not actually be orienting ON anything, but that doesn't erase the fact that the orientation itself exists.

    (By the way, did you get the email I sent you for December's Asexual Feminism zine?)

  3. I was thinking that creating this post might be useful for me so I could point people to it when they say they don't have a sexuality/orientation. Glad I'm not the only one bothered by it!

    I did get your submission! I am trying to think of a good response, but yes I got it and am going to use it! Thanks!

  4. Hey, I like your blog but wish to disagree on a few things. Sexual orientation =/= sexuality. It is a pet peeve when people say that. Sexual orientation is, well, an orientation or direction of your attraction to people(based on sex and/or gender). Sexuality includes other attractions one has besides gender(like body type or hair color, facial features, etc). As for saying I am not any orientation, I think asexual/graysexual can be listed as an orientation or lack of one. I understand why someone says "I am nothing" in relation to a certain question. If someone is unaffiliated with a political party and asked "Are you a democrat, republican or what?" answering "I am nothing" is fine. Or if a bald person is asked if they are blonde, brunette or redhead, saying "none." I agree it is bullshit to equate sexuality to personality/being or the ubiquitus "Sex is a necessary component of being human or become a 'full person'". I have never heard aces make the former argument. That is a platitude from general society.

  5. Wow, people are still doing that?

    Personally, I see the idea of "I'm nothing," as being a... really weird, common, restricted view of human sexuality. Human intimacy has very little to do with sex, even if it sexual pleasure can be incorporated. It has more to do with being friends than anything else.

    Hell, any animal's social intimacy is all about friends. Most natural social intimacy exists as friendships, parenting/take-care-of relationships, and random "Hi I like you" moments. For all animals. It's not a mistake that the most sensitive places on a cat to touch is the face/cheeks, and it's not just a random adaptation; the face is where cats greet each other.

    :\ Boo on the idea of, "I don't fit into any of these categories, therefore I'm nothing at all."

  6. I just noticed extra comments!
    samaelcramer, I appreciate your comment. I think we will have to agree to disagree, at least about sexuality. According to your definition, sexuality is the specific features of a person that cause a person to pursue sexual activity. If you read the wikipedia page on sexual attraction, you might agree that these specifics are actually a feature of sexual attraction. I agree that sexuality is more complicated than orientation, since for example some of us can become aroused and enjoy sexual activity and even have preferences for certain sexual activities, yet do not experience sexual attraction. Whether or not an asexual experiences attraction or anything sexual, I think it is still incorrect to say that an asexual person's sexuality is "nothing." For one thing, if you do identify as asexual then by telling people that you are nothing you are confusing the definition of asexuality and suggesting that all asexuals are one-dimensional, that there is a lack of variety. Basically, the "nothing" statement is lazy because it doesn't describe what one's relationship is to sexuality. It's legitimate to say that you're asexual AND that you do not experience any sexual inclinations; moreover, this is a more useful and accurate description than "nothing," which is entirely open to the interpretation of the listener.
    It is also degrading considering that many people who aren't asexual think that sexuality is what makes a person human. So if you say "I'm nothing," to someone who holds that view, they might also take this as a sign that it's OK to dehumanize you, or to disbelieve that your experiences are genuine and that asexuality is real.

    Cerien, yes people are still doing this. I think that for the most part people who say this haven't thought about the implications of what they're saying. I think your idea about friendship as the primary form of intimacy in the animal kindgom is insightful, and potentially a useful rebuttal to the argument that sexual relationships are the most important relationships.