Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The asexual revolution

So in this blog-post, I’m going to share some ideas about the importance of the asexual lifestyle. If you want to be picky about lexicon (which I do), it should probably be called the ‘non-sexual’ or possibly ‘de-sexual’ lifestyle. After all, the celibate lifestyle is one that I, as an asexual, have no particular desire to keep in the long-term, and lots of sexual people clearly do. The basic premise is not of what would happen if everyone stopped having sex, but what would happen if everyone wasn’t assumed automatically to want sex. If sex wasn’t actually a big deal.

Let’s start with the obvious- relationships would change. Too often around me (mostly on TV but worryingly in real life as well) I see opposite-sex relationships that are based on stereotypes of what each gender is. Both people just slip, unconsciously, into gender roles which don’t really fit them. Key to this is sex- the boyfriend/husband, the sexually motivated one, makes overtures of intercourse constantly, in the hope that a few will get through. This system is similar to the way an airline sells more seats than it actually has- it is impossible to gauge how much sex the man actually wants, because he pressures for so much more than he needs. This turns the man into the ‘one who wants sex’, which, in turn, provides the man with all these handy excuses to deny what he feels in a relationship. It’s far too easy, at the moment, for men to escape into the realm of sexual objectification, far more easy, in some cases, than it is for them to show genuine affection.
The woman’s role is harder to define, what with the Madonna/Whore traditionalism and the various waves of feminism all with subtly different expectations. Still, the woman is seen as a prize to be won for the man. This is so easy to convert into terms of sex- if you pork her, you claim her.
Take away the idea that all women are going to want sex, or that all men are going to want sex, and it becomes so much more difficult to be that objectifying in a typical relationship. “Yeah, we sat up and talked all night. I’m such a stud. That bitch was so into me, she really opened up in a way she never has with anyone else.” More trust=less ownership.
It would be too Dworkin to suggest that sex is the essence of objectification. It’s generally something both people want to do. But the fact that a man can enter into a relationship and be reasonably sure of getting sex, the fact that he can dump a girl if she isn’t responsive enough to his propositions and still make her out to be the unreasonable one, all of this helps to maintain the heteronormative standard where men can hide behind sex while using it to ‘take’ women. I’d suggest it would be better for relationships in general if women couldn’t be ‘taken’, just communicated with.

Perhaps it’s too much to hope, but the second great effect of society’s realisation that sex isn’t something everyone wants may be that sexual minorities get greater equality. I’m not too sure about this one, because a lot of people are just randomly bigoted, whatever the facts are. Still, I have a suspicion that genitals are pretty important in a lot of homophobia. Take away the sex, after all, and it just becomes love, which doesn’t really change based on the genders of the participants. Gay men stop being told “that’s dirty, things aren’t meant to go up that way” (and yes, I have heard that one). Lesbians stop becoming the fantasies of random guys, and no one assumes that they’re the way they are because they didn’t meet a man who was good enough. Bisexuals aren’t seen to be in it for the promiscuity. For asexuals, the benefit is obvious.
It seems to me that a lot of the pressure is taken off ‘controversy’ if the controversy doesn’t involve sex.

And then we get to our sex lives. Can I really claim they could be improved if we scrap the assumption that we all need sex?
“OMG, sex” seems to be the order of the day (no pun intended). The multi-billion dollar industry telling us exactly how to get our kicks in bed provides us with all the pills, instructions, body image role models and toys that are so clearly necessary. And it can’t just be me who feels really insulted. Perhaps its because I know that one day I’m hoping to have to sift through all these disparate shards of sexuality with some equally confused partner, trying to figure out which bits of what we’re told we need we actually want. But it still strikes me that sex should be something wonderful and individual, something we all figure out for ourselves. Perhaps it’s the incredibly individualist culture of the asexual community, but I don’t want to be spoonfed someone else’s idea of sex.
All models of sex, though, have one thing in common. They say that sex is enjoyable, and that it’s of crucial importance. Even the fundamentalist sex-negative view acknowledges that these two generalisations are true of everybody.
Which is, of course, why asexuals are so damn scary. If it isn’t enjoyable and it isn’t important, WHAT THE HECK IS IT? And the answer has to be; sex is whatever it means to you and whoever you choose to practice it with. Go out and non-conform. Because everything you’ve been told about what you have to need is a lie. Just have fun.

This prediction is, of course, a fantasy. There will never be enough people saying “Actually, I never really saw why it’s worth the fuss” to significantly change the views of that proportion of people I call ‘heteronormative’. The vast majority of the world does want sex, and, quite rightly, want to identify by that desire. Even if they didn’t, the old-fashioned ways of thinking would find ways to cling on. But, in small, open-minded pockets, I think asexuals can really make a difference. We can, just by our existence, truly challenge most of the great beliefs about sexuality. So maybe just a small revolution, or a series of them. Maybe revolutions that, like the asexual community itself, are more about individuals than about groups.



  1. "sex is whatever it means to you and whoever you choose to practice it with"

    This should be written in golden letters. It's not only a desire as you wrote, but it also reflects my thought.

  2. I second the comment made above - if only everyone could understand and accept that.