1 лістапада 2017

10 Myths About Asexuality

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On being in harmony with oneself, one the beauty of the human body and on the differences between being asexual and selling out your soul.
Изображение: verasen
© verasen
Faster, higher, stronger, more often. Sex is definitely the most fashionable kind of sports. For centuries culture has been telling us that it is not only enjoyable and fun to have sex, but also mandatory. We are being told that having regular and diverse sex is a norm we need to strain after, while lack of sex should be a cause for worry, guilt and shame. It is surprising that in the era of glossy magazine covers the topic of asexuality becomes a fruitful ground for prejudice and various scary tales. Helped by Dasha, an artist and asexual, we are debunking the most widespread myths about asexuality.

Myth One:
Asexuality is a physical or psychological disorder

An asexual may not feel physical attraction to other people in principle or have an very low level of attraction—this does not depend on the potential partners’ gender. In a culture where lack of sex is seen as an alarming symptom and a reason for worry, asexuality is easily labeled a disease.

Might it be a result of a childhood trauma? Or is there an answer in your medical record? If you identify as asexual, you must be familiar with tactless assumptions like those. Although asexuality is not in the ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems), even doctors fall for the stereotype about the pathological nature of asexuality.

In spite of this, asexuality is not a body’s malfunction nor a mental disorder. A person who has suffered violence or has psychological issues may also be asexual along any other traits and habits they might have. There is no cause-and-effect relation between the choice for asexuality and our bodies’ physical features.

Dasha: If I think why I feel like this… It seems to me that on the Internet they are mostly inclined to believe that it’s either a psychological or a physiological problem. I did not undergo any examinations in either field. I am fine, I feel fine. There is no need for anyone to try and figure it out in order to “put me right”. I am subscribed to a couple communities on asexuality on the Web—not because I want to communicate, but to see some adequate information: all I’d read before was written in a too scientific language with too many physiological terms with everything coming down to medicine and its norms. But everyone has their own reasons. When they try to tell me that sexual life is supposedly defined by physiology or nature, I want to say: come on, we live in the 21st century, what nature are you talking about?

Myth Two:
Asexuals are not interested in communicating with other people

Asexuality does not mean an isolated way of life. Like any other person, an asexual can be an extravert or an introvert and shape their circle of friends and acquaintances depending on their temperament, character and needs. There are no difference between asexuals and pro-sexuals in the social sphere.

Dasha: It is easy for me to communicate with others, for example, on work-related topics. I can speak with you in an absolutely adequate way as Dasha the colleague. I was a student at some point and, of course, I communicated with classmates: I was an activist, I made good progress in studies, I wasn’t a freak. This means that I did not have any difficulties socialising. I have friends and acquaintances, they are people whom I have known since childhood and I cherish them because I don’t need to explain anything to them.

Myth Three:
Asexuals are repulsed by the human body

The perception of the body as an object of desire and the accent made on sexual attractiveness are foreign to asexuals. But this doesn’t mean that asexual people are repulsed by a person’s looks or that it is a taboo topic with them.

Dasha: I see it [the body] rather as an object for exploration, not as a sexual object. In my work I stick to the cult of nature: any person is beautiful to me. I like it when I am working on a portrait to invent a person’s character based on their appearance. I always have an impression that I know everything about the person.

Myth Four:
Asexual people are unhappy, the lack of sex makes them depressed

As already stated above, asexuality is not a result of one’s suppression of their own needs. There is an opinion that prolonged deliberate abstinence may damage one’s health, but till this day there hasn’t been reliable research-based proof of that. Neither is there proof of asexuality’s impact on quality of life.

Dasha: It seems to me that there is some zero-sum divide of one’s life energy. Like the one between career and family, that we can either have one or the other: one person cannot have enough energy for both. I want to apply my energy to art, not to be knocking on locked doors. Asexuality to me is rather a comfortable state, because I cannot put it in words why I do not have the urge to have sex. I just don’t. I have never wanted to start a relationship with anyone. Realising this about myself has been a gradual process. There were no breakthroughs or revelations, you just come step by step to what you are.

Myth Five:
There is no need to talk about asexuality publicly

Like many other gender identities, asexuality finds virtually no representation in public consciousness. Lack of accessible information on asexuality is a fruitful ground for stereotypes and prejudice, which can be found in abundance today both in online discussions and discriminatory social practices.

Dasha: On the one hand, I didn’t feel the need to position myself as an asexual. We don’t bring up this topic among friends: in my close circle we don’t discuss each other’s personal relationships and respect each other’s privacy. On the other hand, it is very necessary not to be pressured into feeling responsible before the society. The way homosexuals are pressured, saying they can’t make a full-fledged family in its “natural” understanding. In some places same-sex couples are not allowed to have children… The problem of social responsibility is the same in both cases, and neither group should be pressured. That is why I would like for this topic to be covered more.

Myth Six:
Asexuality is not discriminated against

This very assumption is already a form of discrimination. Asexuality is often devalued by denying its existence or stigmatising it as a disease. The asexual way of life is never mentioned as a viable alternative to the pro-sexual, but is rather seen as a deviation from the norm and a lack of any identity. Within the LGBTQIAP community asexuals and their problems don’t always get enough attention either.

Dasha: Nowadays the topic of sex gets a lot of coverage: in movies, in arts, everywhere. Billboards, literature… much is linked to sex. People who don’t have it start getting the feeling that they are lacking something. Everywhere they are being told that it is cool, great and that everyone needs it. It is the same with the family and children, there are many things that follow the same pattern. Once, for example, I had a very unpleasant situation when I was on a trip and found a place to stay through Couchsurfing. When we were discussing the details with the person I said right away: “I’m not going to sleep with you”. But when I arrived, this problem suddenly came up. I had to leave and look for another place to stay. Because of situations like this I am sometimes very bothered by the thought that, probably, someone needs something from me, and this “something” is implied by default. And then I don’t know what I should do. Because I don’t want to hurt anyone, but it is rare that people believe in asexuality. It is easier for a person to believe that I don’t like them than in the fact that I just don’t want sex.

Myth Seven:
Asexuality is equal to celibacy

There are significant differences between asexuality and celibacy (the vow of chastity). People who have taken the vow do experience sexual attraction but have to suppress it and abstain from intimacy due to religious or other reasons. Asexual people, on the other hand, don’t feel erotic attraction towards other people.

Asexuality should also not be confused with sexual abstinence: compulsory or voluntary limitation of one’s sexual activity. The notorious “virginity until marriage” is an example of abstinence, but in this case one deliberately suppresses sexual impulses.

Dasha: In literature you can often see the situation where an evil spirit offers the protagonist to sell their immortal soul in exchange for being a genius and all the delights of creative endeavour. To get that the protagonist needs to reject any kind of romantic involvement. They need to sacrifice their feelings, their love. For me it wasn’t a sacrifice to renounce intimate communication with someone. Because a sacrifice would be to renounce something that you need and like. I just got rid of a problem, of something that was a burden on my shoulders. I feel very comfortable being alone: it is one thing, for example, just to meet someone to talk, and a totally different thing when the relationship presumes that the other person is constantly around. I value my solitude very much and am not ready to sacrifice it.

Myth Eight:
Asexual people stop being asexual when in a relationship

Many asexual people who have sexually active partners have indeed to change their sexual behaviour in order to please the loved one or for the sake of having children. But this may remain an unpleasant or even traumatising experience for an asexual person. In couples where one of the partners is asexual, it is important to maintain the healthy balance between each other’s needs and desires: to make one’s other half to change their sexual behaviour under physical or emotional pressure means subjecting them to violence.

Dasha: Thank god I haven’t been in such situation [in a relationship with a pro-sexual], so I can’t share a personal experience. But if I imagine this hypothetically, then I would probably only would do it if it was a question of life and death. I think that [insisting on sex in a relationship with an sexual] is violence. On the other hand, when you start a relationship with someone, let’s say, actively sexual, then you must presume what awaits you… And when you make this choice, when this issue emerges of whether to have or not to have sex with them, or when you fall in love, maybe there are scenarios where you can totally “change faith”. Maybe, why not? I cannot say for sure that in 20 years nothing will change in me. Of course, at the moment I believe nothing will ever change, ever. But who knows what might happen? [On having sex for the sake of procreation] Maybe if someone has an exclusively platonic relationship, I can imagine them adopting an orphan, but it is difficult for me to imagine that they would want to give birth to a child, to force it on themselves, putting it bluntly.

Myth Nine:
Asexuality is a new fashionable trend

The issue of asexuality is not new at all. A sufficient number of examples can be found in history of people leading an asexual life, although they did not formally identify as asexuals: Hans Christian Andersen, Immanuel Kant, Isaac Newton, Nikolai Gogol. The term itself has, indeed, appeared relatively recently. First studies touching upon the topic of asexuality date back to mid-20th century. In his fundamental work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) Alfred Kinsey introduces the category “X” on the scale of sexual orientation to signify people who don’t experience sexual attraction towards others. In 1977 Myra T. Johnson has published Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups, which made her probably the first author to explicitly address the issue of human asexuality.

Large-scale empirical research conducted in the United Kingdom in 1994 showed that 1% of the respondents “had never felt sexual attraction to anyone”. A series of works on asexuality by Canadian scientist Anthony Bogaert confirms that over 60 million people around the world are asexual.

2001 may be considered the starting point of a public discourse on asexuality. This is when the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) emerged, whose mission is to educate people on asexuality and make a stand for asexual people’s right for self-determination.

Myth Ten:
Asexual people just haven’t found the “right person” or have made a rash and incorrect choice

These incredibly persistent stereotypes come up in the discussion of any “atypical” gender identity, and asexuality is no exception here. Asexuality is multifaceted. Just like no one, except for the person themselves, can claim with confidence that they are asexual, in the same way it is ridiculous to argue about the “real” reasons in every particular case, let alone give advice.

Speaking of their asexuality, a person confirms their identity and asks others to respect it but doesn’t seek for advice as to “how this problem should be solved”.

Dasha: I haven’t had any shocking revelations or swings in my understanding of who I am. You just come step by step to realising who you are. If you are completely sure of what you’re doing, then you should not be concerned about others’ life. If you don’t like something, then, of course, you’d want everyone to be as miserable as you… I have developed a rule for myself: to any question I can simply answer “So what?” I started looking at emotions from a slightly different point of view, namely that people are just bored and have nothing else to do. It is enough to just imagine for a second that it’s all made up and you can no longer look at things the way you did before. That is why my only problem now is whether I have money for public transport. With my own hands I have put an end to any emotional connections I might have had, and the moment I realised it I felt like the happiest person in the world.
Dashka Maksimova для MAKEOUT