Published on March 10, 2014 | by Jacob Hughes0
Love Without Sex?
Currently defined as having no sexual attraction to either gender, asexuality has come to help millions of people worldwide to identify themselves. But what do we actually know about it?
Asexuality has lived quietly alongside its louder, sexier partners of non-heteronormativity for thousands of years; it has never enjoyed the frenzied obsession in the media that the latter have in the last decade.
It appears that for some, there’s not much to be outraged or excited about when no sex happens.
For most people, there’s no such thing as a sexuality that doesn’t revolve around sex.
Unlike Uganda, most of us are lucky, we live in a time of incredible sexual freedom.
We’re told you can love someone of the same gender, spread your love to more than one person, or even have a sexual, romantic, monogamous relationship with your shower head, if you swing that way.
But what happens when you remove sex from the romantic equation?
Reactions to the idea of asexuality can range from friendly ignorance to confused anger. Some people take it personally. Some get genuinely upset.
‘Is it a religious thing?’, ‘I think there’s a pill for that’, ‘You just need a good screwing’.
So why do we know so little about asexuality? Why, when we think ‘asexual’ do we think amoebas and tadpoles?
Asexual’s make up one per cent of the entire population, as reported by CNN, so the phenomenon isn’t exactly uncommon.
The asexual is difficult to sell to. How do you go about pigeon-holing a person who is unwilling to buy, what the majority of the market is trying to push?
They can’t be sold a sports car by attractive people or by the lure of baby-space in the back – and certainly millions of others can – so why bother wasting money on a relatively tiny one percent?
For many, asexuals are the anti-consumer and ultimately a lost cause. The letter X on the numbered Kinsey scale becomes the marketing folder labelled, ‘Don’t bother’.
Asexuals have pervaded literature for hundreds of years. Never directly acknowledged, they often occupy the outskirts of our stories, unable to participate in the fun of love or romance.
The disinterest in sex and procreating, makes them surplus to any classic narrative requirement.
More sinisterly, the refusal to engage either sexually or romantically is exaggerated to the point of rendering them sociopathic, or even psychotic.
What better way to enhance the horror of a serial killer than to make them unable to love, or even have sex?
From Hamlet to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, the asexual has always had a home in English culture – though for some reason, it is easier for us to imagine the asexual as a being from another planet, both figuratively and literally, than to belong to our world.
To ‘out’ any of these figures would be suicidal from a marketing perspective, the ambiguity being part of their appeal. Recent attempts to rewrite them as sexually interested shows just how anxious we really are about asexuality, a backlash most of us don’t even notice.
Everyone knows at least one asexual person but probably don’t realise it. These people exist, and coexist around us; all they want is for everyone to be ok with that. Just like they are with everyone else.
“So you see a sex scene, do you think; what’s going on here?” the plastic presenter for CNN quips in his career-making boyish grin. These ludicrous questions alienate asexuals, in society as a whole and in our imaginations.
If even these ‘demi gods’ of information are so perplexed by their sexuality, why should we try and understand them? They have been scrutinised and found to be unsatisfying targets of our curiosity.
“You’ve NEVER had sex?” Juju Chang, the reporter for abc News, asks in a hushed voice of mock surprise. The assembled panel of spokespeople from the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) look back morosely with mournful expressions that echo captive polar bears trapped in a zoo’s plastic north pole.
The AVEN representatives’ vacant stares, tell the tale of their world-weary indifference to the questions thrown at them again and again, by condescending presenters.
Dr Suzie King
Dr Suzie King is the owner and founder of Platonicpartners.co.uk, and a psychotherapist who defines her sexuality as celibate.
King has been running Platonic Partners since 2009, as she “wanted to make a place for people who want intimacy and romance, without sexuality, to feel safe.” Since then it’s gained seven thousand members who almost span the globe.
During our chat, King explained that life had taken on a whole new phase as a non sexual person and despite her being asexual, it is apparent that not having sex has not affected her individual capacity for love.
Platonic Partners (PP) and AVEN have co-existed in their internet niche of non-sexuality, since PP‘s establishment in 2009; they are still the only produced, designed and managed websites for asexuals online.
AVEN serves as a message board where people can connect and relate; Platonic Partners goes one step further to turn the dating website’s basis upside down.
Here, people make profiles where they can chat and meet others who value an emotional, intelligent connection.
Platonic Partners, however, does not cater exclusively to asexuals. Instead its focus is on those of us who, for whatever reason, don’t or can’t have sex – helping them to make lasting connections and be open about their sexual choices.
This place has become a haven for people who feel outcasted by their physicality or sexuality, helping them to realise that our world is so big it has a place for everyone.
Mary’s story is more painful than most, or rather, her beginnings were. Troubled with trauma from childhood, Mary found herself not fitting in when her friends journeyed into adolescence.
Spending years feeling like her frustrations were because she hadn’t found the correct way to have sex, Mary tried every type of sex there was going.
She told ALN that it was when she first heard of asexuality, researched the term and read just the first sentence on the wikipedia page, that it felt like a light was shining through her – dispelling her worry and past baggage.
For a woman to get through immense trauma, rape, degradation, violence and mutilation, and now be a happy, authoritative and enthusiastic person, is something close to miraculous.
Now she is the mother of a three-year-old boy, studying for a masters and says she just wished she’d realised sooner.