Problems Faced By Asexuals
Many people still don’t know that asexuality exists, so awareness is a problem. Kyran, 15, said that “I felt broken, like something was inherently wrong with me.” Discovering that asexuality is a real orientation and that there is a community surrounding it can help asexuals feel less alone and more confident in their identities. Sapna, 23, said that for her, asexuality is “a confirmation that I have a place in this world, that there are others like me, and that I may be different—but am still recognizable.”
Compulsory sexuality is the idea that sex is desirable and normal for everyone and an integral part of being human; if someone does not want sex in the normative way, then there is something wrong with them and a cause and a cure must be found. Compulsory sexuality in society is a big problem for asexual spectrum people, many of whom have little to no interest in sex. Shanthi says that “when I mention that I’m not interested in sex people just assume that I’m waiting or that I just haven’t met the right person when in reality I just don’t experience sexual attraction.”
Many people see asexual spectrum identities as a problem of low libido, or pathologize them in other ways, by attributing them to hormonal problems, a history of abuse, or some other factor. Meera, 15, said that “almost every person I’m out to immediately asked me if it’s curable.” This reaction often comes from doctors, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals. Asexuality was only recently recognized in the DSM-V—the guide psychologists use to help diagnose disorders—as a legitimate orientation.
Dating can be daunting for many asexual spectrum people. Sapna asked “how do you navigate a relationship when you don’t feel sexual attraction?” Many people expect there to be physical attraction initially while dating, and that sex will eventually follow. Asexual people generally don’t feel sexual attraction, and may not ever be interested in sex. Coming out about this to a potential partner repeatedly can be an exhausting and a frustrating experience.
When an asexual person does get into a relationship with a non-asexual person, sexual compatibility can be a problem. Many asexuals have felt obligated to have sex for their partners, even if they found it to be a negative experience. Arranged marriages can be a specific concern. Sarah, 17, says that “My family does expect an arranged marriage which will be a horrible bridge to cross/burn.” Parental and societal pressure in this regard can be difficult to overcome, and aces may face similar problems to gay and lesbian people forced into normative relationships.
Just like other LGBT people, asexuals may face invalidation when they come out or receive other negative reactions from their loved ones. Kyran, 15, said that “A lot of my friends cut off access with me when I told them, because they either didn’t understand or they only wanted to talk to me about sex stuff.”
Hopefully, as awareness of asexual umbrella orientation increases, more and more people will discover that they are not alone and not broken, and be more understanding of their friends and family who are ace.