NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 1 — How To Handle Detractors

The following is a summary and commentary on the “How to Handle Detractors” breakout session, presented by Ivy Decker.

This session was essentially a live version of “Letters to an Asexual”, with an interactive audience participation segment.  Everyone was invited to write down invalidating or hateful or dismissive comments about asexuality that they’d received, and these cards were pulled from an envelope and discussed.

Here are some of the more notable points of the conversations:

“Evolution!”:  This comment claims that asexuality goes against evolution, that we’re going to lead to the demise of the human race, and therefore are against evolution, whose goal is the survival of the species, therefore asexuality cannot exist.

Remarks:

  • Humanity is in no danger of dying out due to the number of asexuals who aren’t reproducing.  There are over 7 billion people, and non-asexual people are doing a fine job of having children, even if we’re not.
  • This completely ignores aces who have or want children.  A lack of sexual attraction does not preclude the possibility of having children.  Also consider arranged marriages.  Many couples in arranged marriages were not attracted to each other, yet babies still somehow managed to happen.
  • It is a dishonest argument to make, unless one also uses it to attempt to discredit homosexuality.  (In which case, they’re still a jackass, but a consistent jackass.)
  • People who use “But…  Science!“ arguments like these generally don’t actually care about science.  They overlook the studies by actual scientists, doing actual scientific work who say that asexuality is a real think.
  • When someone says “What about the babies?”, they never actually care about the babies.
  • If the point of human existence is only to reproduce, then why isn’t menopause fatal?

“That’s not human”:  This comment makes the claim that someone who is asexual is inhuman or less than human, because sexuality is one of the fundamental pieces of what it means to be human.

Remarks:

  • You don’t get to define the humanity of others.
  • The “Best Thing Ever” is different for different people.  Some people are incredibly passionate about writing, and may feel that the fulfillment they get from writing is core to their human experience, but that wouldn’t give them the right to tell a non-writer that they’re not fully human until they’ve finished a novel.

“You haven’t tried me!”:  This comment tries to say that a person is asexual only because they haven’t yet experienced the sexual abilities of the person making the claim.  This is also known as the “Magic Penis” theory, although it is not specifically limited to that part of the anatomy.

Remarks:

  • This can often be scary and threatening.  In some cases, this remark can be followed up by unwanted action.
  • Although it’s usually said under the guise of wanting to help the ace person, it’s never actually about helping the ace person.  It’s about someone whose worth as a person is tied up in sex.  Some people can be personally insulted by a lack of interest in sex.
  • Even if the person weren’t asexual, there’s still no guarantee that they’d be attracted to or want to have sex with whoever was saying this.

“You’re just confused!”:  This comment tries to say that someone who says that they’re asexual doesn’t know what they really are yet, and that they’ll figure it out in time.

Remarks:

  • You know yourself better than someone else does.  If you’re not confused, you’re not confused.

“Special Snowflake!”:  This comment tries to dismiss asexuality as just being a way for someone to be “unique”.

Remarks:

  • Yes, you are unique.  Everyone is.  So what?
  • Many asexual people will tell you that discovering asexuality made them feel less alone, that finally they found other people like them.  Identifying as asexual brings a sense of community and inclusion, not of uniqueness.

“It’s just depression”/“It’s just autism”/“It’s just ________”:  This one attempts to invalidate asexuality by pinning it on some other cause.

Remarks:

  • “So what?  This is how I feel.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a result of _____, I still feel this way right now.”
  • “I felt this way before I was depressed.  That has nothing to do with it for me.”
  • This can often be turned around by saying “You just feel like you want sex because your hormones make you think that you do.”
  • For people who are depressed, autistic, disabled, socially anxious, etc., they can often be reluctant to come out for fear that it will make other asexuals “look bad” by giving the impression that all asexuals are depressed or autistic (etc.).  Additionally, they might fear that they would make the other group they’re a part of, by giving the impression that all disabled or socially anxious (etc.) people are asexual.  (See “The Unassailable Asexual” for more on this.)
  • Asexuality is an orientation, not a symptom.

“You’ll be alone!”:  This comment tries to say that someone who’s asexual will end up alone and friendless when everyone else they know gets married and has kids.

Remarks:

  • There is no guarantee that a straight person won’t end up as the “single friend”, but they never get this comment.
  • What does “alone” mean, anyway?  Why would other people getting married have anything to do with that?
  • There are different types of relationships, and not all of them are sexual in nature.
  • The word “just” in “just friends” carries a horrible implication that friendship is essentially meaningless and throwaway.

Other remarks:  Here are some of the other things said or brought up during the conversations that don’t really fit into the comments listed above.

  • “I didn’t become asexual because I found my boyfriend gross.  I found my boyfriend gross because I was ace.”
  • Sometimes ace parents are treated as “less adult” than their children, because their children feel that asexuality is a sign of immaturity or naivety.
  • When coming out, organic conversations can be more effective than a Big Sit Down Talk.  There’s usually less drama involved and less of a sense that it’s being forced on someone.
  • During sex ed or the “Birds & Bees Talk”, don’t treat asexuality as an afterthought or footnote.  Bring it up the same as other orientations.  Present it as a possibility.

And for the record, someone was playing the Ace Bingo card and “won” during this session.

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