The WIP The global source for women's perspectives

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!

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