Misconceptions About Asexuality

“Repeat after me: Everyone: Asexuality is not homogenous!”

Beatrix Elizabeth Livesey-Stephens is the secretary for the LGBTQ+ Forum and Disability Liaison Officer for the Consent and Sexual Education group (CASE). She also identifies as demisexual and is very involved with the ace-community. Having only read about asexuality online, I talked to her before writing this. To celebrate asexual awareness week, let’s debunk a bunch of misconceptions about asexuality!

“If you have a libido, you can’t be asexual.”

Many people think that being asexual means that you don’t want to have sex. That’s not the case. Being asexual means that you’re not sexually attracted to someone. It has nothing to do with your desire to have sex. As with people of all other sexualities, some aces have a sex drive, some don’t. 

“All asexuals are the same.”

Repeat after me, everyone: Asexuality is not homogenous! Sadly, some people will only accept that you’re asexual if you’re white, conventionally pretty, don’t have a libido or don’t have any traits that can be the “reason” for your asexuality (such as autism, Asperger’s and disabilities). The thing is, asexual people don’t all look like that.

Image: “This Is What Asexual Looks Like” by Yasmin Benoit

Yasmin Benoit, a model and aromantic asexual activist, wanted to showcase the diversity of asexual people. She started the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike and has written numerous articles about it. Check her out!

“Asexuals don’t like sex.”

Asexual people all have different feelings about sex. As with people of other sexualities, some enjoy it, some don’t. Therefore, the asexual community has found different ways to describe their feelings towards sex:

Sex-favourable: You like sex.

Sex-neutral: You don’t really care about sex and wouldn’t mind having sex.

Sex-negative: You don’t like sex and don’t want to have sex.

“Coming out as asexual is loss of sexual agency.”

Having sexual agency means to make and enforce decisions about your own sex life. Beatrix told me about her worry of losing this when coming out as asexual. This is because some see coming out as asexual as the opposite of claiming sexual agency. This has a lot to do with the misconception that “asexuals don’t like sex.” Since we’ve already debunked that, we know that coming out as asexual is not the same as losing sexual agency. In fact, sexual agency also includes choosing how to define your own sexuality. Therefore, when coming out as asexual, someone is actually claiming sexual agency!

“Coming out as asexual is feeding into a stereotype.”

Some asexual people are worried about coming out because they think they’ll feed into a stereotype. Beatrix is demisexual and disabled and told me about this issue. Sex and disability are already stigmatized subjects, so she sees coming out as a somewhat political act. People with diagnosis such as autism and Asperger’s might feel the same way. Once again, we have to remember that coming out as asexual is not the same as losing sexual agency but claiming sexual agency. No matter what, your asexuality is of value.

“Asexuals are never in relationships/asexuals can only be in relationships with other asexuals.”

According to Beatrix’s own experience, that’s just not true. She’s met many asexual people whose partner is not asexual. These relationships are definitely sustainable.

Image: Part of poem by @clarthropod on Twitter.

“You’re not demisexual, you’re just a normal human.”

Entire articles have been written about statements like these. Once again, this isn’t true. If you’re demisexual, you only experience sexual attraction towards someone after having formed a strong emotional bond with them. If everyone experienced this, things like celebrity crushes or fancying that cute stranger from your lectures wouldn’t exist.

“Asexuality is a mental disorder.”

Nope. Big NOPE. While asexuality used to be considered a sexual dysfunction, it’s not anymore. Scientific studies have been done on this. Science is on our side, everyone!

“No one will accept me if I come out as asexual.”

People on the asexual spectrum may feel lonely and worry about whether people will accept them if/when they come out. I’m therefore glad to say that our university is a very ace-positive place! Beatrix told me that the LGBTQ+ Forum has in the past had entire events focused on asexuality, and multiple members identify somewhere on the asexual spectrum as well.

The CASE group, which Beatrix is also a member of, is also very ace-positive. In fact, she’s been working on a consent workshop that specifically focusses on asexual people. As she said: “I’m such a slut for consent.” The workshop will take place the evening of the 22nd October. You can find more information about this on their Facebook page!

Having debunked these misconceptions, it’s safe to say that people who identify as asexual, grey-asexual, demisexual or somewhere else on the asexual spectrum are definitely not making up. It’s a sexuality, just like being gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual or anything else is.

Happy asexual awareness week!

Sources:

https://www.asexuality.org

https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/nus-asexual-consent-workshop-presentation?fbclid=IwAR0poJc_-OieNNs79quGMjwXLN3u8giqRsFu74_GjWzAJC10iLpnimoKuu0

https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/nus-asexual-consent-workshop-briefing?fbclid=IwAR3OU5WRLh-mIzXIsSyVT8nbBIW-6YJUJeZqFEJi09jTlSi4PgU9PBHKtk4

https://www.qwearfashion.com/home/this-is-what-asexual-looks-like

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-016-0802-7?view=classic

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-single/201609/asexuality-is-sexual-orientation-not-sexual-dysfunction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/shameless-woman/201406/being-female-and-sexual-agency