How Do We Support Asexual People?

Sat, 04/14/2012 - 17:13
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dear Betty,

as much as sex has a big part in my life (in theory and practice), i understand that there are people who have little or no interest in sex. mostly those people are pressured that they have any psychological or physical problem and they should take care of it. their way of desire or even non-desire are pathologized.

as a lesbian/pansexual identified person i fight for more respect and anti-discrimination. i found that asexuals have a very small voice and are also within the LGBTI-community not accepted. a friend of mine who identifies as a homoromantic lesbian (means she has no desire of having sex but having a lesbian relationship with a non-sexual kind of body contact) has a lot of difficulties to come out to her environment, because of the pathologization i described before. i write articles and try to support her in any way i can, because i think: people should have the freedom to choose to have or not to have sex and also to find their own right way of having sex.

you are a very wise woman, betty so i wanted to know what your thoughts on asexuality are. i think that we - how say "better sexlife - better world" should also support those who say NO! to sex.

i am looking forward to reading your opinion on this topic.

best wishes,
s

Dear S,

Of course I would support a person who chooses not to have sex with another person. I would hope they would include sex with themselves at least. It seems to me that there is so much asexuality already in existence via celibacy vows, abstinence only standing in for sex ed, and long term monogamous marriages that will eventually shut most people down sexually, it's just never captured my interest to any degree. However, it's my opinion that asexuality is not advisable nor is it all that healthy. A man will have wet dreams as will a woman when they are sleeping. Avoiding orgasms seems as foolish to me as deciding we can never sneeze, blow our noses or ever fart. Having an orgasm is just part of being human.

My question to you is why are you so interested in this and concerned that asexual people don't have a voice? Good grief, you need look no further than the GOP idiots running for president now. Most are about as asexual as you can get. And with all the fundamental religions demanding abstinence, virginity, purity, and monogamy, I'd say asexuality is booming for women. Just not for men who have sex with fallen women, you know, the whore, slut or prostitute. We would do better putting our energy behind getting rid of the sexual double standard. Wouldn't you agree with that?

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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I think the biggest confusion

Sun, 04/15/2012 - 11:05

I think the biggest confusion about asexuals is people assuming asexual means (and I lost my source with the words and haven't been able to find them -_-) anti-sex and anti-reproduction. Two words, in my opinion, those are very dangerous and very ugly for anyone to label themselves as out of ignorance.

Asexuality, to my understanding, has nothing to do with avoiding orgasm or hating sexuality. It experiencing orgasm and sexuality in a different way that is not penetrative or directly focused on types of genital contact (people still kiss, hug, hold hands and caress/pet each other).

AVEN defines asexuality as "someone who does not experience sexual attraction" - and even in their FAQ they list the medical issues that should be address that may be the cause of the lack of sexual desire. Even a "true" asexual will still feel sexual need from time to time.

There is defiantly a language gape and a whole slew of misinformation and misinterpretation. There is also the ongoing idea "I am this, so I because I am this and will always be this I cannot be that".  Nothing about sexuality is ever a ridged constant.

As for not having a voice....eh....I know from my perspective this has be a rather "vocal" asexual awareness month for me (the web comic Girls with Sling Shots just finished a story line on its "not in the relationship dictionary" couple and addressed some asexual issues (the posting form didn't tear itself apart in the resulting debates!). There are other random places I lurk where the subject of asexuals also comes up so.....asexuality is not a new or "strange" thing to me. I see it/read it almost as much as I do any other topic  Betty and Carlin and crew talk about.

And no, I do not count the current political drama as asexuality. Those are defiantly
the anti-sex and anti-reproduction (I REALLY want to find those two words again!
They were AWESOME words! With a whole 'history' explanation behind them!)
groups.

I agree with BPurg, Betty.

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 14:44
Elin A (not verified)

I agree with BPurg, Betty. And I have to say you went out and did exactly what S talks about being the problem by writing it off to dysfunctional sexuality and culture.

Asexuality is not something that is talked about and the tings you mention are people for different reasons being anti-sex. Asexuality is not booming amongst women. Sexual problems are, but that's completely different. The stuff you're talking about – problems with celibacy vows, abstinence, and sexless marriages, has to do with sexual oppression, having an anti-sex culture and so on. They pose problems because the vast majority do need to express themselves sexually. But again, different issue.

The human condition is infinitely rich and there's exceptions to every rule. As rare and strange as it may seem, it's natural that not all human beings are interested in sex without being sexually repressed. Orgasms and sex may be part of being human for the vast majority, but there are people who just aren't interested. You cannot say that asexuality is "not advisable" or "healthy", because it is what it is. Just as my sexuality is what it is.

So I definitely think it's something that should be talked about more, and something you might want to research about here at D&R. It's obviously a piece of the puzzle of human sexuality that we're missing.

I learn something new every day.

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 11:37

And now I understand the meaning of "asexuality" a little better. I honestly doubt I'll spend much time researching it, but I will at least view it with more compassion.

Our Libido's are plastic

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 13:39

Not fixed from birth till death. If you grow up taught to fear sex then you very probably will and your libido will wither as your avoidance of the thing you fear becomes your comfort zone. Libido can die and it can be reborn in the same lifetime. So I think Betty's 1st assumptions were valid.

Anatomical asexuality is almost impossible to distinguish from repressed sexuality in a sexually repressed society.   Societies like Holland, where there's lots of openess and little sexual fear are the best places for  people who are truly anatomically asexual, it's an environment where they naturally come out if you like. 

The problems with Betty's

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 15:37
Elin A (not verified)

The problems with Betty's assumtion was that asexuality doesn't exist, it's all sexual repression due to oppression. 
That it may be hard to distinguish is not the point, but the fact that it exists and that these people need to be accepted and supported.
I don't think there's anything called "anatomical asexuality". It sounds like you want to subscribe it to dysfunctional body parts. I seriously doubt it's that simple. We always want to explain away nature's quirks by making them into pathological conditions. But just because most function a certain way and we think that way makes sense, doesn't mean that there's per definition anything wrong with those who differ from the masses. 

I haven't said there's anything wrong with it

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 19:39

By anatomical asexuality I mean born that way, rather than having asexuality develop from life experience. Betty has acknowledged it exists. I have too. And I've said I think, and I think you'd accept too, that a sexually open and tolerant society  is the best environment to accept and support those people who are asexual. 

Ok, I see what you mean than.

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 12:13
Elin A (not verified)

Ok, I see what you mean than. However, I don't believe it has to be "born with" vs. society. Our chemistry will change throughout our lives in regard to many things.

She did not acknowledge asexuality as anything but repression in her first post, which is what I was discussing after your own comment about her first assumption being valid. I know she's acknowledged it since. I questioned your opinion of her first post, not her current standpoint. 

I don't understand why you bring up the whole "open, tolerant society" thing as if I've even remotely questioned it. All I did was correct what I felt was wrong about Betty's assumptions, and than told you that the point of my discussion wasn't the difficulties with distinguishing asexuality from repression - but to establish the fact that it exists in its own right regardless of how difficult or easy it might be to spot it. 

I think we're saying the same things

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 17:00

That asexuality exists in it's own right and not to make the 1st asumption that the person is sexually repressed. 

I'm not disputing anything your saying. For the sexually repressed, people can be happily repressed for decades and reach a point in life that precipitates a sexual awakening.  I'm not suggesting anyone is forced into a sexual awakening. Our sexuality is our own and should be respected. The desire for any change should come from us alone. The point I'm making about a tolerant society allowing asexuality to shine in it's own right is supplimentary, it's not in dispute of what your saying. It's pertinant to people like Betty who have to determine when trying to help someone if they're sexually repressed or somone asexual who's been pressured into thinking their asexuality is pathalogical. 

Betty I agree

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 19:59

I have no arguement with Ellin and no disagreement. We have to be able to discuss ideas without the expectation that we're being contradictory. and if any of my posts have given that impression I apologise. There isn't anything to argue about. rather I was hoping an interesting conversation about how to identify asexuality in the presence of sexual repression. Anyway I'll leave it at that. xx

I'm sorry, Betty.

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 11:55
Elin A (not verified)

I was not discussing you, although I see it may have come across that way. I was just arguing with Jake.   But I do agree it's important knowledge for all who work in the field of human sexuality.

Jake, I think it's a difficult subject and we need experts who have worked with sexually repressed people to help research it. Until than, all we can do is speculate...

Asexual chiming in.

Sun, 04/22/2012 - 22:28
B. (not verified)

Dr. Betty, I commend you for being willing to learn about asexuality and for viewing the community with more compassion (and not pity). Thank you.
BPurg mentioned AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. The website is www.asexuality.org. There is a wealth of information there for anyone who is interested. 
S originally asked how sexual people can support asexual people. Education and visibility are key, as are keeping an open mind and an open heart. One of the biggest oppressions people in the asexual community face is complete invisibility. This is especially true in sex-positive circles and in queer circles. (Yes, many aces are actually sex-positive! We support the theory and politics; we just don't want to have anything personally to do with it ourselves.) If you have the opportunity, speak up for asexuals. Some of us remain silent, others speak out tirelessly, but for both ends of the spectrum, it's always heartening to know that there are allies out there who care.
Another way to support asexuals is to not assume anything. There's currently a hypothesis that there is as much diversity within the asexual community as there is when comparing the community to other sexual orientation communities. We're a diverse bunch. What applies to one person may not apply to another. Educate yourself first, but then don't be afraid to ask us questions (politely and in good taste, of course). Most of us would rather talk about our identities than have assumptions made that simply aren't true. 

Finally, ask us about intimacy. Seriously. Sexual relationships to oneself and others are of course important to most people in this world, but if there's one thing asexuals do well, it's intimacy - on the emotional, sometimes physical, and community levels. Intimacy opens up into a whole new world once you take sex out of the equation.

So thanks to S for the original question, and if anyone is curious to learn more, please visit AVEN at www.asexuality.org.

~B.

Thanks for the links B

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 10:22

And your thoughts. But how do you know removing sex takes intimacy to a whole new world if your not having sex or interested in it. Aren't you making negative presumptions about the nature of sex and the bredth of diversity amongst many types of people and how their sexuality is expressed in their emotions and intimacy?  It may be worse for some people and for others the same world as yours or a very similar one. There's love we give (sexual or otherwise) and love we take. I think you may be charecterizing sex just with the love you take, of self gratification, because a good heart accepts love (sexual or otherwise) rather than taking it and the love we give sexual or otherwise is like music, diverse and universal. 

Jake, I'm not sure she's

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 14:55
Elin A (not verified)

Jake,

I'm not sure she's making negative assumptions about the intimacy having sexual relationships. It makes sense that it would open a new world, since it's a different way of expressing yourself. That doesn't have to mean it's a better world. Just different.
On the other hand, maybe it's the same world, they just don't know it :-)
I mean if you are asexual and never experienced or truly enjoyed the world of sex, how could you know the world of those who do?
Hm.............

Yes :)

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 16:51

"On the other hand, maybe it's the same world, they just don't know it :-)"

That's my hunch.  Be nice if B could post again and try and answer my question.

Everyones different but for me intimacy and emotion aren't  a different way of expressing myself, but very much related to sex and hightened by it, in the way our nakedness and vulnerability leave us open, and we bare our soul when we share the experience of orgasm.  

Not a better world, just different.

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 18:28
B. (not verified)

Elin A. interpreted my comment correctly. I'm definitely not making negative assumptions - far from it. Jake, you say that intimacy and emotion, for you, are completely related to sex and heightened by it. For me (and I know for many other aces, but I won't speak for the community), intimacy, vulnerability, and other emotions are key parts of relationships and of expressing ourselves. Asexuals "bare their souls" just as much as sexual people do; we just do so in different ways, outside of sexual contexts.
~B.

Thanks for the reply.

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 21:30

That the community might in some way be anti sex was my only reservation, so what you've said  sounds good and really nice to hear. Good luck with furthering acceptence and with the community. 

B, Now, thoguh, I feel you

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 13:10
Elin A (not verified)

B,

Now, thoguh, I feel you are making assumptions and being quite prejudice. Jake did not write that intimacy and emotion was only related to sex to him.
And people who have sex "bare their souls" outside of sexual context all the time. Sex is just one way amongst many. Please give me a specific example of how asexuals do it in a way that others don't.

B I hope your still here :)

Wed, 04/25/2012 - 09:21

Ellin I'm having a conversation with B (and you if you'd like one) I'm not cross examining her.  A conversation rather than an arguement or adversarial debate contains goodwill and giving people the benefit of the doubt and asking people what they mean. At the moment you seem to be pointing a slightly angry acusitory finger 1st at me and now at B. Can I ask you to stop doing this and please just relax, because I'd really like to have a productive conversation here in this rather special place. Thanks.

People who are asexual are minus something lots of other people enjoy and some are nuts about. How would I feel, and how would I turn all my experiences where I'm expected to be sexual but am in fact instead really uncomfortable into good karma. I could so easily hate on sex when society does and so make myself feel better as I am clean and pure and they are dirty and evil. As society is sex negative I would have to make the effort to be sex positive and to throw away that crutch of sex negativity and turn from someone who is feel good pure to someone who is missing something good. On a personally level that would be a really generous selfless decision.  But from there in finding my good karma  I'd have intimacy and love and I could go straight to it in relationships too. No attention from people who are sexually selfish who really don't have any interest in me as a person. With that component missing selecting a partner would in some ways be different, Though money and privilege are things to consider there's a greater likelihood I could have a mutually unselfish relationship. Lots of people who have sex have those relationships too, but especially if I was good looking, I think  being asexual would make my chances of finding a selflessly sharing relationship more likely. 

Jake, If we were in a room

Wed, 04/25/2012 - 13:47
Elin A (not verified)

Jake,

If we were in a room and I kept interrupting you, you could accuse me of keeping you from having a productive conversation. In the context your comment just stands out as overbearing, especially with the big lesson on how to have a conversation. You can set any tone you like together with B or whoever else you want to discuss with. It has nothing to do with how I choose to express myself, so it's really unjustified to try to present me as an obstacle in this rather special place.

I like to cut right to the point. If you interpret that as anger or finger-pointing or cross-examination (!), that's on you. From my perspective you're overreacting. That's on me.

Anyway, for the record, I reserve myself - and anyone else for that matter, the right to be angry, cross-examine and finger-point all I like. You can think I'm being an idiot, but spare me the lectures. Thanks.

Yes well I'm not going to argue with you

Wed, 04/25/2012 - 19:38

just asking you to share your ideas with the respect you expect from other people.   People resent being subjected to someones very low anger threshold and being personally accused and finger pointed at as much as you resent it yourself. Your acting this way over very small issues of understanding not from passionate conviction. Flipping 180 degrees as soon as I agree with you seems like you just enjoy being contradictory. There's an emotional undercurrent to online communication and It doesn't hurt to be nicer and consider the other people your talking to. It's the difference between just saying what you think and persuading someone else. This is a precious space where we can explore issues of sexuality intelligently. If you want to say anything you please as you like without considering how other people feel start a blog of your own and you can delete other peoples responses if you don't like them. I'm just asking you to consider the real people who your talking too and possibly wait 10 or 20 mins to let any anger subside before replying to them. I'm just asking you to consider what I'm saying, and this is my last time I'm going to ask you.  Have the last word if you like.

Partner of Asexual

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 02:31
frustrated_rejected (not verified)

My husband claims to be asexual, without knowing there is such a community or label. He didnt divulge to me that he has always had 'mostly zero' sex drive, until aboutseven years into our relationship/marraige. It began as about a year-long long distance romance, so I wasn't aware of what I was getting into until a commitment had been made, at least psychologically. Since he didnt tell me it was 'him', I went through many years of rejection, thinking it was me. Coming into candle-lit (by him) bedrooms, having massage (usually giving), etc. and then he'd say goodnight and roll-over. Or probably even worse, get into foreplay, but IF he got an erection, he couldnt maintain it, and after apologies, 'goodnight!'. Sometimes there was ejaculating, and interestingly, his apologizing for that and saying how he 'hated it' though not so much for the rodeo quickness, but that he hated orgasming itself. I think it was due to the lack of control, but can't remember if that was exactly what he said (way back then when there was sex at all). Anyhow, I felt pretty betrayed that he wasnt upfront with me to begin with - mostly due to the long-term rejection felt. Acutely before he admitted the lack of drive and periodocally still now. To have a 'mate' that has no attraction to you. I still feel attraction to him (chemical level), can't sleep next to him without spurring wet dreams or unresolved almost wet dreams, feelings of longing anyhow. We've had seperate rooms for about six years (17 years of marriage), but I did a lot of couch-sleeping before that - lying wide awake after the abrupt roll overs and "goodnights". While I would say he can still be 'intimate' and hug and cuddle etc. it just stirs sexual feelings in me which are awkward, like being with a sibling or child and then having 'forbidden feelings' about them. Feelings which should be perfectly natural and desireable with your partner. Or, rejection, 'why is he even with me'? In that way, I feel he is 'sexually selfish and doesn't care about me as a person' and thus it is VERY difficult to have any level of intimacy, beyond that we are share a house, pets that we are affectionate with, and are (succesful) business partners. We are looking at retirement soon (I'm fifty-five, he's fifty-three) and I really don't think I want to finish out the golden years with forced abstinence, of a physical relationship anyhow - but what are the odds at this age? Yes, I still regularly practice self-love Betty, in fact that's how I landed on your webpage - looking for new self-love ideas...  

Horrid Situation

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 08:55

frustrated_rejected

Have you talked to him about how you're feeling and what options might be open to you? It's obviously ok for him to be asexual if he's happy and content that way but not at all ok to insist on someone else being asexual with him if that's not how they want to live.
The obvious route would be to break-up the marriage (somewhat complicated given the shared business) and start again. You may or may not find someone new to share your life with, someone who has a compatible sex drive, someone you can like and love but at least you'd have a chance. People are living well into their 90s and beyond so 55 is quite young to give up.

An alternative would be to enter into a more open relationship where your husband agrees it's ok for you to hook up with other people to explore your sexuality. It's never appealed to me because I couldn't cope with either the sexual or emotional jealousy. If your husband is genuinely asexual, maybe he'd be fine with the situation providing it was kept emotionally limited. Could you do that? Would you want to?

Of course having "agreed" affairs may lead you towards finding a new permanent partner anyway or just add another emotional trauma to your life.

Only you can decide what's best for you, I'd probably wait until it was financially practical, probably at retirement and then look for a divorce. You might end up single but that sounds better to me than a life of sexual rejection. I'd also think about counselling with or without him as part of the break-up, to help work through your entirely reasonable anger, and your sense of frustration and undeserved rejection built up over the last 17 years.
Wishing you well whatever you decide NLH

Slipped in a partner-role of surrogate sufferer

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 08:13
Lizzie Smith (not verified)

Dear frustrated_rejected. What a strong personality you have. You are still young. The best years as a woman are ahead of you.  
The partnership contract you have negotiated for yourself sounds unreasonable in the way it hurts and uses you.
It seems like a big part of your energy and joy of life are siphoned out elsewhere without you noticing how the robbery exactly happens.
If a person knows in which manner she is hoodwinked, taken down the river, she can protest and make the necessary changes. A new equilibrium is attained with or without the former contract-partner. 
Many times spouses accept overblown sexual secrecy in partnered sex as a staple. It is true we need not tell everything to our spouses.
Prolonged withholding of sex from the wife is an extreme situation, though. All the cards should be lifted on the table.
The party who openly acknowledges having a problem with current arrangement should be offered a chance to evaluate all the components of the prevailing contract equation. The concept of fair play demands the problem-owner need not make decisions until knowing all the facts.

Dr Betty has sometimes recommended paradoxical methods for persistent, enigmatic partnersex situations.
Her wise advice often reminds me from my English teacher's favorite phrase: It is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. That perhaps meaning, let's not take the superficial face value of our labels and explanations for the whole truth.  
Firstly, asexuality, what is it in this case? Does it mean there is absolutely no sexual feelings in a person. And, if so, how does this fact bluntly lead to strictly separate bedrooms and no partnersex? On what grounds? Have you talked about these grounds in detail? How has the communication turned out?
Has there been a no-communication situation? Do you both know that refusing to communicate is a basic form of verbal abuse? Abuse is serious and needs to be resolved immediately.
Or, is asexuality a name for something else? An unconscious strategy in order to avoid dealing with unresolved shame and embarrassment concerning couplesex?
If I remember right Dr Betty has advised a woman in a sex-starved, frustrated position suprise the husband by arranging it so that she is short of coming on the living-room couch as the husband arrives at home. This requires stamina and staying power from her and does not apply in every setting. 
Feeling betrayed, rejected and frustrated is certainly a welcome sign for making a mental inventory and changing the partnership contract more favorable for you, frustrated_rejected. 
You do not mention anything of your husband masturbating regularly in privacy. Would you know about it if he did? How would you feel if he did? 
The statistics should be reliable in what concerns male masturbation in general. Do you think your husband fits in the 99,9 % of all men who regularly masturbate during all their lives whether if they are in a sexual relationship or not?
You mention of him being physically fit enough to having had orgasms and ejaculations earlier.
If serious illnesses, major psychological stresses or injuries can be excluded there is little reason to assume he has lost all his sexuality and orgasmic ability during your years together. 
Have you ever taken up the question of private masturbation? What has he answered? What have you done upon hearing it? Does his asexuality mean he totally denies sexual relief from himself, not letting you know about it? Could he be capable of carrying this as a secret from you knowing how much you long for sex together? Does he know of you self-pleasuring in private? What does he say?
Could you imagine private self-pleasuring of both of you becoming accepted together as a part of your many-faceted, flexible, rewarding, enriched partnersex experience? This can be done, even from a starting point that seems to be full of frightening psychological labels. 
 
It is not uncommon for a partner to feel deprived in a long time relationship. He doesn't knowingly sap energy from deprived and suffering partner. He only functions from a base that is for him the easiest available at the moment, the least painful position he can be in, considering his baggage from earlier years plus, mind you, the fact that you have enabled his behaviour with your compliance. Albeit the compromise taking place without your explicit verbal permission.   
It happens fairly often in couple relationships that one partner gets to play a role of surrogate sufferer, thus not-knowingly assisting spouse in maintaining his emotions and behaviour in a more bearable balance.

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