Jul 152011
 

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.

For more information about asexuality, go to AVEN’s website or check out David
Jay’s Love From the Asexual Underground.

  4 Responses to “Including Asexuality”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post. Another sexuality on the asexual spectrum that is not well understood is demisexuality – i.e. people who are capable of sexual attraction, but not without a strong emotional connection. Some demisexual people are aromantic, but for those who are not, dating is incredibly difficult, because it can take so long to develop a strong enough emotional connection that many sexual people won’t be willing to wait around.

  2. It is SO alienating to sit in sex ed and hear all about how normal it is and how we’re not supposed to be ashamed. I’ve always been pretty damn sex-positive, so the seeming assumption in some sex ed classes that my lack of interest equated to shame pissed me off to no end. I’ve never had abstinence-only sort of education, but I imagine having my lack of interest equated with deliberate celibacy would piss me off even more.

    I’d just like somebody to tell me that any level of sexual desire – including none at all – is natural and normal and okay, and any (entirely consensual) choice made on that desire is natural and normal and okay. And say it in a way that leaves room for trans and nonbinary people for once!

  3. Lisette, so happy you enjoyed the post! Asexuality is something I’m just beginning to learn more about, and I’d never heard of demisexuality before, so thanks for providing me with such great info! These are absolutely topics that sex educators and others working towards an inclusive understanding of human sexuality need to start discussing.

  4. CJ, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had such frustrating experiences with sex ed classes. I’m still just at the beginning stages of learning about asexuality, but I’m quickly discovering that universalizing sexual desire may be just as damaging as ignoring/denigrating it. As sex educators, we’re doing a terrible disservice to students if we fail to address the variety of human experience. I love how you phrased that: “any level of sexual desire–– including none at all–– is natural and normal and okay, and any (entirely consensual) choice made on that desire is natural and normal and okay”. Mind if I borrow that for the classroom?

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