Saturday, November 8, 2008

Asexuals are sexual people too

If we take asexual experience as legitimate, there are three ways to answer the question whether all people sexual beings. No, Yes, and Huh? Having examined No, I want to spend some time looking at the second possible answer: Yes. There are some asexual people who are comfortable thinking about themselves this way, and the topic is sometimes discussed in the asexosphere. I’m only aware of one attempt to argue for this position, which was written by me at a much early stage in my thinking through this issue. (It was the start of a thread on Apositive called sexual asexuals? Looking at the responses, you can see that at least one person strongly feels that she is not a sexual person; some of the others are comfortable thinking of themselves as sexual people while identifying as asexual.)

I’m not going to repeat that argument because I think it relies too heavily on an oversimplification of “sexuality,” and I’m not sure how salvageable it is. I’m aware of one other prolonged discussion of this issue, given by the blogger Venus of Willendork in the post At least let me call it by name. She looks at some of the pros and cons of using an expanded definition of sexuality to include asexuals.

In order for Yes to be a serious option, it has to overcome two major obstacles. The first is how sexuality is defined—“sexual” must be defined broadly enough to include the full range of experiences of people, including asexuals. Simply calling asexuality "rare" and then ignoring it doesn't count. Secondly, a serious defense of the motivation for insisting that all people are sexual beings would have to be given. What's the point of making the claim?

In materials on sexuality (especially where education or advocacy of education is concerned), certain groups are often claimed to be seen/to have been seen as asexual. This is said either with the implicit assumption that these groups aren't really asexual or with an explicit claim that they aren't asexual. I will examine a few of these in the coming posts. My suspicion is that part of the motivation for the claim that all people are sexual beings is at attempt at ultimate inclusivity. Rather than merely insisting that certain groups—children, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc.—aren’t asexual, the claim is further expanded to stating that no one is asexual. What is ironic about this is that in an attempt inclusivity, the experiences of people who feel that they are asexual are necessarily excluded. Sometimes they are ignored entirely. Sometimes they are acknowledged to exist but then said to be rare (and subsequently ignored.) Sometimes they are dismissed by pointing that if they do X-thing related to sexuality (especially masturbation) they can’t possibly be asexual. Instead they just need to learn to “accept their sexuality.” It is easier for some people to tell asexuals to “accept their sexuality” than to accept asexuals’ asexuality.

Next time, I will examine the claim that in 19th America, women were believed to be asexual.


Ily said...

I have a feeling that "huh" is going to be my favorite response :-)
I'm curious about the 19th century women, I wrote about them briefly ( so I'd like to see what you have to say...

ACH said...

Given the author's bias for Huh?, I think you can expect that to be the most interesting section--not to mention the longest one :-)

At least, it's the part with my personal favorites...