Asexuality

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Asexuality

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1LolaWalser
Jul 6, 2016, 3:03pm

I'm interested in what everyone thinks about linking asexuality to the cause of rights for diverse sexual orientations.

Can asexuality be said to be an "orientation"? From what I've learned (read, heard, was told...) it's an absence of libido--asexuals, by definition, don't feel sexual desire at all. So it would seem to stand in relation to sexual orientations as atheism does to religions. Not the "same" or of the same "type" at all, and conceptually in fact completely opposed.

But whatever the conceptual relation and status of asexuality vis-à-vis (other?) sexual orientations, what are the practical, political reasons to include it?

2lorax
Jul 6, 2016, 3:41pm

Asexuality and (other) minority sexual orientations all exist in a world where heterosexuality is assumed and, until fairly recently, was all-but-compulsory. From that standpoint, it's a natural fit; the larger queer community is where people who don't fit the mold of people who are identified as boys at birth growing up to be men who are attracted to people who were identified as girls at birth and who grew up to be women find themselves, so those who deviate from that mold because they aren't attracted to anyone, rather than just because they aren't attracted to the expected "opposite" sex, seem naturally to fall in the penumbra of queerness.

There's also the "Because it's where asexual people want to be included" argument, which is a difficult one to question, lest you find yourself going down a road analogous to TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminists) who want to narrowly define who can call themselves "women".

Practically and politically, I must say I'm not familiar enough with the political concerns of asexual people to say for certain; the few I know are mostly concerned with visibility. I can see an argument to be made for the struggle to more broadly define who can receive the benefits we consider "spousal"; why should that necessarily be restricted to a romantic and/or sexual relationship? (Asexual and aromantic are not necessarily synonymous.) If "love is love", should we be concerned with whether that love has a sexual component? Or should we suggest that a pair of siblings, or friends, who so choose can designate each other as beneficiaries for the sorts of things that now count as spousal benefits (health insurance at work, tax benefits, and so on)?

3LolaWalser
Jul 6, 2016, 4:23pm

>2 lorax:

so those who deviate from that mold because they aren't attracted to anyone, rather than just because they aren't attracted to the expected "opposite" sex, seem naturally to fall in the penumbra of queerness.

That's very nicely put. But it would seem asexuals may be, in a way, doubly queer--vis-a-vis the heterosexual majority and within the non-heterosexual minority? Perhaps it's just a temporary matter of optics, something that will change with time... I guess what I'm exploring is exactly a way to "integrate" asexuality with sexual orientations. Queerness broadly socially bestowed on "misfits" seems to be common ground, yes.

But within the community, what happens? I can't speak from experience as I've had very little direct contact with anyone asexual, mostly there are anecdotes, chit-chat from friends...

There's also the "Because it's where asexual people want to be included" argument, which is a difficult one to question,

Yeah, I'd rather err, if erring there be, on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion--but I wonder, if I were asexual, whether I wouldn't find it rather hard-going to connect to people who, yes, may be seen by the society at large as "misfit" as myself, but on the other hand, whose problems are (not of our own will, of course) basically the problems of who we want to sleep with and love. If anyone can point to an asexual's point of view on this, I'd be very interested.

the few I know are mostly concerned with visibility.

I can see that (pun not intended!) Along with the assumption of heteronormativity, we suffer from an assumption of sexual desire and romantic interest.

The best that one can currently say is that their demands appear to be getting less steely than in the past. That people, especially young people, are growing up with broader horizons and more flexibility in how they regard strangers.

4krolik
Jul 6, 2016, 6:55pm

It's anecdotal, but my conversations with some people suggest that it would make sense to perceive asexual (or generally asexual) individuals as part of a queer continuum, since the heteronormative formulas don't work for them. They just want a living space, where it's OK to be.

5southernbooklady
Jul 6, 2016, 7:33pm

>2 lorax: Or should we suggest that a pair of siblings, or friends, who so choose can designate each other as beneficiaries for the sorts of things that now count as spousal benefits (health insurance at work, tax benefits, and so on)?

This would be awesome. (although, if we're dreaming big, let's get rid of health insurance via employer altogether and make health care universal)

6librorumamans
Jul 7, 2016, 5:13pm

Interesting topic. I may know one or two asexuals, in fact, but it's not easy to be sure. I do know someone who's doing a PhD in queer theology, and I'll try to have a chat with him.

I imagine that social space would be a problem — bars, clubs, concerts, etc. — since hooking up is largely what that scene's all about.

I also don't know to what extent asexuality does or doesn't overlap with committed, loving LTRs, and therefore to what extent spousal benefits are unavailable. I'm with lorax and southernbooklady about spousal benefits.

The legal human rights issue seems to me subsumed within the broader right not to be forced into marriage, but perhaps there are areas I'm overlooking.

7southernbooklady
Jul 8, 2016, 9:21am

I do know one person who identifies as asexual, I used to work with her. I don't know much about how she came into her understanding of herself, but I do know that she eventually married a young man who was also asexual (in a handfast ceremony), and that they are still married, happily so.

When it comes right down to it, I suppose I think what's important is the quality of the relationships we form with each other, not what kind of sex we are or aren't having. I think I'd spend more time in those social spaces, the bars, clubs, concerts, if it wasn't about hooking up so much as simply connecting. But alas, we don't have a good way in our culture to recognize or honor such bonds -- If it is not familial or marriage (which is really just a way to designate someone as part of your family) then these bonds are culturally invisible. I'm not sure how to address that.

8lorax
Jul 8, 2016, 9:38am

>6 librorumamans:

From what I understand, which is mostly from online conversations and reading, there's a distinction between "asexual" and "aromantic"; asexual people do not feel sexual attraction but can be romantically attracted to others (as appears to be the case of southernbooklady's former co-worker), while "aromantic" people do not feel romantic attraction but can still want to have sex.

Many long-term relationships that start out highly sexual end up involving less and less sex as the years go on - "lesbian bed death" is a cliche but it happens in all sorts of relationships - and many people, stereotypically men but including others, are happy with no-strings sex outside of a romantic relationship. It's really not hard for me to understand people whose internal settings on one of these knobs is set all the way to zero without the other one being similarly affected.

9Nicole_VanK
Jul 9, 2016, 12:47am

Let's not forget that asexual is also often used as an umbrella term, and then includes greysexual and demisexual - people who do experience sexual attraction occasionally.

10lilithcat
Jul 9, 2016, 9:07am

>8 lorax:

Along those lines, I have seen the terms "homoromantic" and "heteroromantic" used as descriptors for people who have romantic attractions, but are not interested in sex. So if someone is "heteroromantic", is she also "queer"?

I know of at least one well-known person (Tim Gunn) who identifies as both asexual and gay.

>2 lorax:There's also the "Because it's where asexual people want to be included" argument . . .

The "X group wants Y" argument is always a difficult one, because it assumes that all asexual people agree about where they should be included.

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