Asexuals (or Aces) make up roughly one per cent of the population and claim the A spot of LGBTQIA+Lesbian (L), Gay (G), Bisexual (B), Trans (T), Queer (Q), Intersex (I), Asexual (A), + denotes an umbrella term used by 'marginalised sexual and gender diverse people whose gender, gender expression, or sexual identity do not conform to cis-gender or hetero-dominant gender identity'. This acronym is intersectional by virtue of its nature as well as non-exhaustive and inclusive (as denoted by the +). Over the years, the + has been understood as encompassing Questioning (Q), Two-spirit (TS), or Pansexual (P). In other words, this term represents fluid (non-conforming) notions of gender identity and sexual orientation supposedly transgressing the binary constructs of our society (male v. female and heterosexual v. homosexual).close. In a largely sex-focused society, asexuals are still often misunderstood, misrepresented, and misdiagnosed. In the media, for example, asexuals are often presented as robotic, emotionless, childlike and, more often than not, male-identifying or non-gendered aliens from space. This leaves aces of all genders feeling hard done by, but there are some gender differences in the way that asexuals are treated.
It is important to note that because asexuality directly opposes gender norms (something that we will unpack in a moment) a large number of asexuals do not identify with the gender binary, instead finding freedom in alternative expression. However, for those who do identify as man or woman, there are some unique pressures. For those who identify as men, sex and sexual performance are a huge part of masculinity norms. This starts young, as teenage boys often feel pressure to engage in sexual activities in order to graduate from boyhood to manhood. We all know about player culture, womanizing, and Barney Stinson’s ‘Playbook’. The societal pressure to ‘perform masculinity correctly’ can make asexuals that identify as men feel like failures or outcasts, and they can feel pressured into having unpleasurable or reluctant sex.
For those who identify as women, asexuality has a darker history. Women throughout time have been expected to refrain from enjoying sex, and have experienced a lack of sexual autonomy. Even today, a woman’s sexual acts can be hugely influenced by religious or cultural practices. Oftentimes, a woman is expected to be a sexual paradox, the vixen and the virgin, both sexy and reserved. The asexual woman can be made to feel like she doesn’t have sexual desire because women aren’t supposed to feel that way; sex is the domain of men and women merely partake in the ritual. At the same time, ace women may feel like they have to have sex anyway, either to retain a romantic partner or because of societal expectations.
It is important to say that a lot of asexuals have and enjoy all kinds of sex. That might seem paradoxical, but sexual desire is not the only reason why people have sex. Desiring intimacy, enjoying orgasms, enjoying pleasuring your partner, and conception are all just as valid. Sex can even help migraines and cramps and burn calories. Sex is also a tradeable good. So whilst gender norms may make Asexuals feel pressured to have sex in some circumstances, they are also fully capable of having consensual and pleasurable sex.
Regardless of gender, asexuals are still massively over-medicated. Whereas historically women who enjoyed sex were seen as deviants who needed to be medicated, nowadays Asexuality can be treated as something that can be ‘fixed’ by counselling, switching birth control, or taking drugs that affect sex drive. It is thought that due to a lack of awareness of asexuality, a lot of aces are still diagnosed with ‘Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder’, an umbrella mental disorder which includes inhibited sexual desire. There are still medical professionals who argue that asexuality must be caused by hormone imbalance, sexual abuse, or sexual repression, as opposed to being a sexual orientation.
In summary, asexuality directly opposes gender norms irrespective of one’s gender identity as sex is considered such an integral part of society. Aces may often feel a disconnect between their gender and their sexuality, especially as asexuality is often misrepresented in the media. Although asexuality does shed light on dominant gender norms, one can also see just how sex-focused these can end up being.