Understanding Asexual People: “Invisible Orientation”

Asexual people are often told they will one day find “the one” and develop sexual feelings and the values society attaches to them. Many asexual folks have to hear this over and over and over again, which thrusts a perpetual image of immaturity upon them. Asexuality is not a signal that a person is necessarily stunted emotionally or physically, and feeling sexual attraction or inclination is not the line everyone must cross to be treated like an adult. Maturity should not be measured by willingness or inclination to seek out or accept sexual experiences. Julie Sondra Decker, The Invisible Orientation

Julie Sondra Decker‘s The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality (2014) is, according to Library Journal, “an important resource for readers of any age who are struggling to understand their sexual orientation, or those who would like to better understand asexuality.”

Below are some salient quotes:

By and large LGBT issues are now acknowledged far and wide and asexual issues are still usually swept under the rug.

Some people misinterpret aesthetic appreciation, romantic attraction, or sexual arousal as being sexual attraction, only to realize later that they are asexual.

It’s not terribly uncommon for an asexual person to try sex and think it’s pretty good or not bad. Some who aren’t too put off by sex with a person they’re not attracted to may enjoy the physical sensations and maybe the emotional intimacy, but the experience of sex does not change how they experience attraction.

In a very distantly possible, scientific sense, yes, of course it’s possible that an asexual person who has never been sexually attracted to anyone could encounter someone in the world who inspires sexual attraction for them. If an experience is possible for most people, it makes sense to suggest that maybe a person who hasn’t experienced it still might. But responding to a non-straight orientation with “well, you never know, you might change” isn’t a practical or useful response; it suggests the responding person is processing asexuality as if it must be a passing phase. Sexual orientations are nothing but descriptions of patterns that have, so far in a person’s life, been predictable. Sexuality can be fluid, but there’s no reason to point this out as a way to suggest someone can, will, or should change.

If a straight guy had sex with a man and told people he’d hated it because he didn’t think he was gay, most people wouldn’t say “no, you must’ve just had bad gay sex, keep trying” or “no, you must’ve just had gay sex with the wrong partner, try someone else.” They’d usually believe him. Asexual people should be treated no differently.

If a person who has trouble believing sex could be unenjoyable can imagine a person they are not attracted to at all, and then try to imagine whether they could enjoy sex with that person, they might have some understanding of how an asexual person might be feeling about sex. Many asexual people feel that way about all potential partners. Just like most straight guys can’t imagine liking sex with another man, many asexual people would not enjoy the act—not because they’re doing it wrong, but because people just aren’t sexually attractive to them.

Aversion to sex as a trauma reaction manifests as fear and disgust, not lack of attraction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *