This week, my fabulous intern Katie Davis talks about the identity of asexuality, which is often left out of conversations regarding sexuality. She brings up some great points, as well as resources for those interested in learning more!
The oft-repeated mantra amongst sex educators is that sexuality is a spectrum.
People can identify as gay, straight, and everything in between, including bisexual, queer,
and questioning.” In the classes I’ve taught, this has been my mantra, my way of
explaining the rich diversity of human experience.
But recently, after stumbling across Asexuality.org, the homepage of the Asexual
Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), I came to realize that this framework is not
nearly as inclusive as it needs to be. AVEN, which was founded in 2001, focuses on
fostering a sense of community amongst asexual people and creating acceptance and
discussion of asexuality in the public sphere. In addition to acting as the central hub for
asexuality-related research, news coverage, and personal accounts, AVEN also offers
discussion forums, a newsletter, and an online store stocked with t-shirts
reading “Asexy” and “Asexuality: It’s not just for amoebas anymore!”
Although, as with anything else, AVEN members possess a variety of different
opinions and experiences, the feeling of being socially silenced appears to be widely
shared across the asexual community. The site’s FAQ section, for example, addresses
some of the difficulties of “living in a society where everyone is assumed to be sexual
and where the media, especially soaps and advertising, portray everyone as sexual and
constantly tempted by sex.” In his personal blog, Love From the Asexual Underground,
AVEN founder David Jay writes eloquently about the daily challenges of translating
sexual language into something true to his identity and experiences. For Jay and other
asexual-identified people, my sexuality spectrum is hardly a liberating identificatory
framework, as it leaves off an entire negative region.
It’s an important criticism, one that’s forced me to radically reconsider how I
should understand and teach sexuality. For sex educators/activists who are forced to
confront the myriad ways in which sexuality is stifled and policed, it may be tempting
to portray things like desire, attraction, and libido as universal experiences. In a country
that still frequently treats sex education as a non-necessity, many of us find ourselves
almost shouting about the importance of sexuality in all aspects of society. I certainly
know that in my own teaching efforts, I’ve attempted to combat societal shaming by
characterizing sexuality as a normal, even key component of the human condition. And,
of course, for many people it is. However, as long as there are people who identify
as asexual–– and, according to AVEN, the numbers of people taking on said title are
steadily growing–– we have to be vigilante about assuming sexuality in our students.
How can we teach about sexuality in a way that is also inclusive of asexuality?
How can we better educate ourselves about asexuality and the diversity of asexual
experiences? And how can we assist the asexual community in its continued struggle for
visibility and acceptance? These are not easy questions, but they’re absolutely topics that
sex educators and all other folks dedicated to sexual (or asexual, for that matter) equality
need to begin to address.