In my last post, (which, if you haven't read, you should read before continuing), I noted that there are, in the asexual community, generally three beliefs people can have regarding this criticism.
(A) It's wrong. Asexuals are asexual, not people who are afraid of their sexuality.
(B) It's wrong in a number of cases (some people really are asexual), but it is right in many cases; this is a real problem.
(C) It's wrong in a number of cases, and even when it's true, so what?
While some might deny that the criticism has any substance, as in A, I think that most people who have been around the asexual community a while will acknowledge that there certainly are some people identifying as asexual (or asking "Am I asexual?") who are clearly "not asexual." Rather, they're afraid of sex, or are immature, or have anti-sexual views, or are otherwise not willing to accept their own sexuality. Yet, as common as I suspect views B and C to be, I don't see them expressed very often, and when they are, it's usually not on AVEN. (Both views are represented, for example, on Apositive in the thread Legitimacy and Blurry Lines.)
There are two primary reasons that I support C. First, I imagine that most of the people identifying as asexual because they're not prepared to accept their own sexuality are fairly young--teenagers and some people in their early 20's. Especially for teenagers, here's what I imagine to be the result of them mislabeling themselves as asexual: delaying onset of sexual activity by a few years until they're more mature, better understand their own feelings, and are more accepting of their own sexuality.
Oh the horror! The only think I can't figure out is why, exactly, we're supposed to think this is a bad thing.
The second reason that I'm not convinced that temporary "mis"-identification as asexual isn't necessarily a bad thing is that such identification can help to provide people a safe-space to think about their own feelings. The assumption underlying the belief that "mis"-identification as asexual is bad seems to be either that a) this will cause the person to be smug in their sexless life rather than actually dealing with the issues that need to be dealt with, or b) OMG, sex is like, totally, the best thing EVER, and like, (mis?)labeling your self as asexual is going to make you, like, miss out or something. The second of these strikes me as pretty absurd: sex is not like-OMG-totally-the-best-thing-ever for everyone, including many sexual people who may like it but can also be perfectly content without it for long periods of time or who may only like it in a very restricted set of circumstances. This assumption seems to stem from the fact that there are people who have difficulty understanding that just because they really, really like something and make it a really important part of their lives doesn't mean that everyone does. Or should.
And then there is the other possible assumption: that "mis"-identifying as asexual helps people feel smug so that they decide not to deal with some issues that they have. I suppose this may well be true in some cases, but the exact opposite is true in others: for some people temporarily identifying as asexual can help provide them with a safe space in which to deal with those issues, a place where are are neither pressured to be sexual nor to be asexual, a place to read about others' experiences and feelings and to think about their own feelings and experienced. As the Venus of Willendork writes:
For many, asexuality is not a safe space. It’s an identity, – and one that sometimes brings misunderstanding, pain, and rejection, even ridicule or betrayal. For others, it’s the exact security necessary to begin the difficult process of unpacking one’s past...I know that exploring difficult issues and working to heal them requires the secure environment where one can do so “safely” and with support. Being badgered into sexuality has done nothing for me. Being allowed to identify as asexual has allowed me to address the possibility that I am not.And sometimes, even when people have issue to deal with, they're not always ready to deal with them.
I think it is precisely because of this point that many who believe either B or C tend to keep these opinions to themselves. Even when it is obvious that some person isn't "really asexual" but is just identifying as asexual to hide from their own insecurities or to justify their anti-sexual views, telling them as much isn't helpful. Everyone who identifies as asexual has a reason for doing so, regardless of whether you or I or anyone else thinks that it's a good reason or not. Telling them that they aren't asexual, or even strongly suggesting the possibility, will likely be perceived as an attack on a part of their identity. (If someone thinks that the asexual claimant is really asexual, they're probably not going to ask, "Have you considered the possibility that you're not really asexual but that you're just [fill in the blank]?" And the recipient of the question, simply by being asked it, becomes aware that their interlocutor doesn't really believe that they're asexual.) When people feel that part of their identity is being attacked, they often get defensive. And being defensive is not when we are the most inclined to do the introspection and self-reflection necessary to deal with the issue that needs dealing with.
My own view is that if people identify as asexual because of very negative views of sexuality, trying to help them see how sex can be a positive thing in some contexts (at least for other people) is probably more useful (and more likely to have some measure of success) than trying to convince them that they're not asexual. Of course, it's fully possible that some asexuals (especially younger ones) may end up having rather negative views of sexuality. There is a lot of really awful shit that goes on where sex is concerned, and there are a lot of profoundly negative personal of social consequences of how sex can be--and often is--used. Of course, in some contexts, sex can also be a very positive experience as well. For people who have no positive personal experience with sex and no sexual desire, it seems likely enough they some of them may tend to see more of the negative aspects and use this to reinforce anti-sexual views, while ignoring the positive aspects of sex and sexuality.
So my point is this: even if some people who aren't "really asexual" identify as asexual, so what? Why is that such a bad thing? And even if it sometimes is a problem, is telling them that they're not really asexual going to be helpful? Who is telling non-asexuals that people identifying as asexual aren't really asexual going to help? Probably not the people currently identifying or thinking about identifying as asexual.