…or, if you’re asexual yourself, how to be a good ally to other ‘aces’.
Try to get to know what different terms mean
My spell checker is telling me that ‘aromantic’ (not romantically attracted to anyone, regardless of gender) isn’t a word – but here I am. At some point in the future I can imagine having a very close friendship (maybe even cohabiting and/or marriage, for practical reasons) with another ‘aro-ace’ woman. Some people might call this a ‘queerplatonic’ relationship – somewhere between ‘friendship’ and ‘relationship’. I don’t use any terms for myself other than ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’, but that’s just personal preference. I understand that it can be exciting to find or create a word for a particular concept – and it can also help in finding others who feel the same – so I would not criticise someone else who felt that additional labels were useful for them.
Just as an example, it’s commonly assumed that asexuals are defined by not having sex, and while this is true of many aces, some do have sex, for various reasons. I think it’s worth aces (myself included) bearing this in mind – no single one of us can possibly represent the whole community, and if doing visibility work, we should try to present a broad picture, if possible.
Understand why some asexual people want to talk about it
I’ve been asked many times, “What’s the point in talking about what you don’t experience?” I believe it’s because many asexual people grow up feeling very alienated, in a world where it is assumed that everyone experiences sexual attraction. To find that there’s a word that ‘fits’, and that you’re not alone, can be very comforting. Some of us want to impart that comfort to other people. Of course, some aces don’t want to be ‘out’ and this should be respected too.
Respect privacy – including your own
It’s incredible how many people think it’s acceptable to be rude in their self-proclaimed ‘quest to understand’. The starkest example is the question, “Do you masturbate?” If it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask in any other circumstances, what makes it appropriate now? If you’re on the receiving end of this kind of question, it’s easy to fall into becoming a ‘privacy martyr’ for the sake of ‘educating’ someone, but you’re a person, not a search engine. If you’re not comfortable with the question, don’t feel that you have to answer.
Challenge erasure if you feel able to do so
The question “What is your sexual orientation?” on equality and diversity forms often has no viable option for asexuals. Or maybe there’s a question (e.g. on a sex advice forum) from someone who isn’t sexually attracted to anyone; the usual tone of reply often involves suggestions of what might be “wrong” with the asker. If you can, you may wish to provide a pointer towards AVEN (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network at asexuality.org).
Words: Simone Goulding