Scottish International Queer Film Festival: A is for Asexual

The Glasgow Short Film Festival, as part of their series Dive In Cinema, released a programme of three short films for the Scottish International Queer Film Festival (SQIFF). According to SQIFF Technical Coordinator Marc David Jacobs, these short films redress the imbalances of mainstream asexual representation, which is almost all white and American. 

The three films are by and about asexual people of colour in India, Portugal, and the UK. I found these perspectives really refreshing because asexuality is often dismissed as an “internet identity,” only claimed by young affluent white people. Something I really loved about the SQIFF shorts was the emphasis on asexual men, specifically gay asexual men. Statistically, more women than men are asexual, and this means asexual men are often erased, sometimes as an attempt to discredit asexuality. 

“Infinite While It Lasts” by Akira Kamiki, is a love story about two Portuguese men, one asexual and one allosexual (not asexual). The sexualisation of queer couples not only erases same-gender asexual relationships, but is also harmful to allosexual queer people due to the pressure to be more sexual than they might like in order to “prove” their queerness. 

The documentary “Desire?” by Garima Kaul does a brilliant job of dispelling these stereotypes and highlighting why asexual people need representation: to stop asexuality being classified as a mental disorder, especially since marital rape is still legal in India. According to the film, “You must be religious,” “You’re doing it for attention” and even “You’re a threat to the human race,” are things Indian asexuals have been told. In India especially, the pressure to get married and have children is very strong, and to do this, sex is mandatory. One woman recounted that when she finally found the label for how she was feeling, her reaction was “This is great, I don’t have to worry anymore.” 

The film interviewed lesbian, gay, & straight asexuals, showcasing the diversity of the community. Discussions of asexuality centre the right to bodily autonomy whoever you are – the root of what LGBTQ people were fighting for in the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which made sexual activities “against the order of nature” illegal. 

Corinna Wan’s film “Fixers – Asexuality” included a section where she interviewed people on the street about asexuality, who replied with stereotypes such as “I think it’s more just a person who’s an introvert, I don’t see why they’ve suddenly decided to call themselves asexuals.” Wan also made a short film about an asexual girl whose friends think they can change her, but she later meets an asexual guy at a party, and they are perfectly happy together. 

In “Desire?” and “Fixers – Asexuality,” there is discussion with medical professionals about the acceptance of asexuality as a real orientation. In Desire? Dr Prakesh Kothari considers that he must’ve had asexual patients – people came to him who professed that they lacked desire, and medical tests revealed that there were no problems. The professional that Corinna spoke to agreed, saying; “It’s really important that we all have a sexual identity…that matches our inner experience. It’s also important that wider society acknowledges it and doesn’t put pressure on people to be something they’re not.” 

Garima Kaul’s “Desire?”, Corinna Wan’s “Fixers – Asexuality” and Akira Kamiki’s “Infinite While It Lasts,” screened in SQIFF Shorts: A is for Asexual from Wed 15 July, 10am, till Friday 17 July, 10am. Part of DIVE IN Cinema. 

Words: Beatrix Livesey-Stephens

Image: Garima Kaul

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