8 Things You Should Never Say to an Asexual

I recently published a story about my own experiences as a person who is asexual.  Many people who are asexual wish the general population knew a little bit more, especially about what not to say, so I reached out to the AVEN community about the most annoying, frustrating, or offensive responses they get when they tell people they are asexual.  Their top responses are as follows:

Asexuals march in Stockholm Pride, 2012. Photo credit: Flickr user trollhare and used under a Creative Commons license.

Asexuals march in Stockholm Pride, 2012.
Photo credit: Flickr user trollhare and used under a Creative Commons license.

1. Challenge Accepted!

This is the worst by far, in my opinion.  At best, it’s a joke that delegitimizes our identity and makes us unsure of how to respond.  At worst, it’s laden with rape culture and threatening language.  “Corrective rape” is very real for members of the LGBT and asexual communities.  People actually believe that rape will “fix” the perceived “problem” by causing the victim to enjoy their assault.  It happens, and being threatened with it is terrifying.

2. How do you know if you’ve never tried it?

This one is almost always well meaning, but it’s hard to deal with because it puts people on the defensive.  We know in the same way that you knew you were interested in sex.  We just never developed that particular interest.  For people who are asexual, the experience of being uninterested in sex can range from only slightly interested to completely repulsed, but no matter what, it’s innate and something we just know.

3. No one is going to want to be with you if you don’t put out!

Seriously? That’s my worth as a potential romantic partner, whether or not I have sex?  I definitely don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who feels this way about my asexuality.  Also, people who are asexual experience a range of feelings about romantic relationships in general.  As I mentioned in my previous article, I am interested in having emotional romantic relationships, but others don’t want that closeness at all and are aromantic.

4. Don’t give up on sex just because of one bad experience!

Who said anything about a bad experience?  Some people who have had negative or abusive experiences are asexual, but some of them are also very sexual.  Those experiences are not related to each other whatsoever.  If someone you know is asexual, it’s not safe to assume they have been victimized sexually in some way, and it’s quite frankly not your business unless they choose to talk to you about it.

5. But what about marriage or kids?

My choices about family planning are not really relevant to my experiences as someone who is asexual.  For people who are aromantic, marriage and often children are not on the table at all (though everyone has a different experience), but for romantic asexuals, there are a lot of options.  First, if we choose to have sex, we can; some asexuals will choose to have children using traditional methods.  Others might opt for adoption or in-vitro fertilization.  Many asexuals also have wonderful and understanding spouses that may or may not be asexual themselves.

6. You can’t be asexual because you had sex with (blank).

First off, thank you for monitoring all of my life choices for me.  I’m not sure how I ever would have managed to keep track on my own.  Second, just because I chose to have sex in the past doesn’t mean I find sex remotely appealing now, or even that I found sex appealing then.  Many people who are asexual do have sex for a variety of reasons.  Some feel they need to explore sex to confirm for themselves that they are asexual, others care about their sexual partner and want to make them happy.  Some people become asexual at one or more points in their life.  No matter their experience, one’s actions do not necessarily determine one’s feelings.

7. Don’t you mean celibate?

This question is the least frustrating for me because it usually comes out of a genuine desire to understand my experience.  Many people confuse asexuality and celibacy because they often lead to the same results.  But there are some major differences.  Someone who is celibate is choosing to abstain for sex for any number of reasons, but does have a desire for sex.  Someone who is asexual might not abstain from sex, but does not have the same drive for sex as most other people.

8. It’s just a phase!

While it’s true that sexuality can change over time, that is not the case for everyone and it might not be true for the person you are talking to.  It’s complicated and for asexuals it’s a very real experience that at times presents an incredible challenge.  Instead of the patronizing tones, we could all benefit from understanding support – regardless of whether or not we eventually become interested in having sex.

For more information about asexuality, check out the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network!

14 comments on “8 Things You Should Never Say to an Asexual
  1. Inraolyn says:

    I would like to add, that, while I come at this as someone who is grey-ace rather than asexual, there are asexual people who do have a sex drive, it’s just that it’s not aimed at anyone. I am pretty close to the ace end of the spectrum, but I do enjoy sex for the physical sensations, even if I am not attracted to my partner the majority of the time.

    I just wanted to point out that the assumption all asexual/ace spectrum do not actively enjoy sex is itself a misnomer. Yes, the majority tend to, because attraction forms a large part of the whole thing, but it is not an invalid state to be asexual/grey-ace and actively enjoy sex. It does tend to be a rather more nuanced thing when you’re not attracted to your partner though, for certain.

    Additionally, I would say the other one is the “joke” which goes “Isn’t that a plant thing?” or “What, you split down the middle” etc.

  2. Emma Freeman says:

    You forgot “You just haven’t met the right person yet”.

  3. Caitlin says:

    You forgot “Were you molested?”

  4. haley says:

    Also if you are like me who is under 18, adults (in my case, my own parents) will often tell you that you are too young to determine your.sexuality. Which is fucking irritating considering you never hear an adult say that to a child who is heterosexual

  5. alan says:

    At the age of about 12 my daughter asked me if I thought she would be gay or straight when grown up. I just replied ‘I’m expecting you to tell me’! Turned pit to be asexual. So bloody what! Why do people think there is something wrong with asexuals?

  6. Debbie says:

    Remember most people’s comments are not meant to be cruel.It’s just a lack of understanding and the best thing for that is to just keep spreading the knowledge.

  7. Katie says:

    As someone with depression my family refuse to believe that I’m asexual as it is “a symptom of my illness”. It is all I can do to keep from shouting that I haven’t been depressed my whole life, but I have certainly been asexual all that time. People treating my sexuality as part of an illness that needs to be “cured” is something I’ve encountered a lot.

  8. Alfred says:

    All the people I’ve told about my being asexual have been cool with it, except my dad. My dad is weird. He told me once that even though he’s had bad experiences with them in the past, he won’t care if I’m a homosexual or bisexual. But when I told him I’m asexual and panromantic, he asked me to explain the terms, and then he basically said I’m too young to know, it’s just a phase, that I shouldn’t “label myself” and to “keep an open mind”. Has anyone else had this sort of reaction?

  9. Amara says:

    Alfred, I just wanted to say my mom said something similar. I didn’t actually say I was asexual- as I am still confused by my sexuality and trying to truly determine it- but I /did/ say that I was uninterested in relationships for the most part and did not find others sexually attractive. She just gave me a strange look, laughed a slightly strained laugh, and told me I hadn’t met “the one”- please note the sarcasm in the last bit. She also said that I was too young to tell, and kept insisting on what she said. That may be true in some ways, but it makes me frustrated and stressed nonetheless. She’s said comments like this about other topics as well. I love her, I really do, but she can be very pigheaded sometimes.

    I apologize for the rant, but this has been bothering me for weeks.

  10. st0dad says:

    I get told all too often that people “don’t get it”. Not sure what there is to get. I don’t have sex. Don’t really want to. But a lot of my friends tend to finish asexuality conversations with “I just don’t get it, but then again I’m very sexual/bisexual/pansexual so I love having sex!” I’m like “okay. I can get that, so I don’t know how you can’t get me…”

  11. Amie says:

    The article could be a bit more comprehensive, to be fair. (As has already been mentioned)

    And like the comments say! I’ve had similar experiences with people blaming my lack of sexual experience, upbringing, etc in order to “not know”. But sexuality is an innate and fluid concept, and even parents who care can be very damaging sometimes. My mum has said similar things, leading to my initial understanding that none would befriend me without there being potential/promised sexual favours. :/

  12. Jane says:

    Romantic Female Ace
    I’ve heard 1-8, as well as “people can’t be asexual, that’s for things like amoeba and moss”, which made me cringe quite a bit, both because rather than see the heterosexual/homosexual/asexual dynamic, they went straight for reproductive science, thereby placing me as far from my species as possible and forcing me to argue my way back from there, and also because moss is not asexual. Breathe deep in spring and fall, inhale all that airborne sperm.

    “You haven’t met the right person.” Also commonly used, and easily discarded. No one has a magical penis or vagina that is going to make me see people differently.

    What I’ve also heard, which I don’t see anyone else mentioning in the comments, is “Oh, so you’re gay.” The incorrect assumption that asexuals are closeted homosexuals. This offends me deeply: why would I waste time explaining a minority orientation to camouflage another minority orientation that requires no explanation? Sure, I like talking, and I’m creative, but don’t give me that kind of credit; it sounds like a migraine to me, not a clever ploy. I’ve had multiple family members say “I don’t think you are asexual. I think you are afraid of what you are and aren’t ready to admit it to anyone.” My aunts and mom have given me pitying gazes and assurances that they’ll listen when I’m ready. I was mostly confused the first time it happened, because I’d been “out” with my friends two years before I started telling family, and wasn’t sure how they deduced I was closeted when I was coming out as something so obscure that I had to explain it every single time. Surely ‘gay’ would be easier and wouldn’t require a definition. If I was ragingly nympho, I wouldn’t have needed to come out at all, with family examples readily at hand. I can’t fathom what kink I wouldn’t brashly admit to while at a family bonfire. So while I can understand these statements taken separately, I don’t understand how they were aimed at me specifically. They assume a child that dated and kissed boys in daycare would grow into a woman with a high libido. There is a family history of that. I can understand their confusion that I don’t fit the pattern they know, or that 20 years later, I still have no interest beyond light kissing. I can also guess a few orientations they might assume I wouldn’t feel wholly comfortable announcing, especially with several homophobic family members in the background. But it’s a bad assumption. I don’t make any effort to hide I am an LGBT ally, and I rarely use a filter on my opinions. Since they tell the embarrassing stories of my childhood that demonstrate I had (and still have) no issue sharing too much information, I don’t know how they’ve come to the opinion I’m closeted and using asexuality as cozy camouflage. I’ve come to the conclusion that because they don’t understand asexuality, they’d prefer it if I was something they have a better understanding of. Closeted is something they understand.

    Has anyone else been told “you are in denial”?

  13. Maddie says:

    I’ve heard all of this and more. When I was younger I literally had no clue where I belonged. I told my mum I might be a lesbian and I could see her pause before she snapped out “you’re too young to know”. That is so so damaging! I was confused about me and for most of my time in middle school I thought I was ‘broken’. That’s even more painful because when you’re hurt you can heal, but if you’re broken you need to be ‘fixed’.
    When I got into high school I finally got fed up and confessed to one of my friends. She sat back and said “well you’re probably asexual then.”
    I asked her what that meant and she explained. For the rest of the day I felt this overwhelming urge to cry.
    I wasn’t ‘broken’…I didn’t need to be ‘fixed’. I still thank her to this day for the door she practically threw open for me. I haven’t told my family yet but I hope they’ll understand.

  14. Angela says:

    I identify my orientation as asexual as well. I’ve heard “it’s just a phase” or people who simply do not understand as well. I usually don’t tell people unless they are interested and then I feel obligated to do so. What’s is a bit odd for me is I do have children. At this point in my life now looking back alot was done for my partner. I can also say before my children were born this is me, never changed. I definitely had issues defining myself as asexual because of not truly feeling romantic majority of the time was confusing even me! I slept in separate rooms from their father majority of the time as well. I can say now I can reciprocate romantically, but it is rare.

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