The Comment Section: I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One On The Internet

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The Internet is chock full of people who will freely give medical and psychiatric advice to anyone who comes along, whether they want it or not, and without any regard to silly concepts such as “accuracy”.

When this type of person meets asexuality, they have a field day.  “Why, there are so many things it could be!  Let me diagnose you, who needs a degree?”

Sometimes, the Fake Internet Doctor isn’t a fake doctor of medicine at all.  Occasionally, they’re fake experts in biology or evolution or even environmental science.  I’ve even seen fake doctors of political science exposing the truth behind asexuality!

Regardless of discipline, Fake Internet Doctors all have one thing in common:  A fatal allergy to actual, legitimate research.  They avoid it at all costs, and when you expose them to it, they will simply pretend that it does not exist.

Specific Subclasses:

It’s a psychological problem.  Have you gone to therapy? [#]

Examples:

  • Asexualism seems more like the sexual manifestation of a personality disorder than anything else. I’d say probably schizoid.
  • Usually when someone is disinterested in sex (and does not identify as asexual) it is because of some kind of emotionally/psychologically distressing or traumatic experience(s) with sex.
  • but I also think that a person of reproductive age with absolutely no interest in sex probably has an underlying psychological, emotional or indeed physiological problem to examine.
  • Human beings sometimes have psychological, emotional, or social issues that make them celibate.
  • A good round of therapy would help most of these delusionals.

Why these comments are a problem:

Because asexuality is not a psychological problem or personality disorder.  It is a sexual orientation.

These comments are what’s called “pathologizing”.  Basically, they take something perfectly normal and legitimate, and try to turn it into a disease or disorder of some sort.  If it’s a disorder, there’s something wrong.  If it’s a disease, it’s something curable.

This kind of thinking is highly damaging.  It makes people feel like they’re broken or defective somehow, that they need fixing, even though nothing is actually wrong with them at all.  Often, that feeling of brokenness will gnaw at someone’s thoughts, and can even cause anxiety or depression itself.

Additionally, people try to use various psychological conditions to explain away and invalidate asexuality in people with those conditions.  “Oh, she’s not asexual, she’s just autistic.”  “Oh, he’s not asexual, he’s just schizoid.”  Here’s the thing, though.  If someone is asexual and something else, they’re still asexual.  Even if they’re asexual because of something else, they’re still asexual.

Beyond all of that, the American Psychiatric Association recognizes asexuality and does not consider it a problem or a disorder.  In the DSM-V, it mentions asexuality, and says that if a person is asexual, then they should not be diagnosed with a sexual interest or desire disorder.  In other words, it’s not a problem, nothing’s wrong.

How to respond:

  • Point out that asexuality is not a disease or a disorder.
  • Explain how hurtful and damaging pathologizing asexuality can be.
  • Explain how asexuality can coexist with psychological or physical conditions.
  • If you have a copy of the DSM-V handy, quote it to them.

Go see a doctor and get your hormones checked! [#]

Examples:

  • I wonder if any asexual people have their hormones checked. It could be due to a hormone imbalance rather than just a personality trait.
  • These people need to get their hormones levels checked.
  • I think hormones, especially in women have a lot to do with it.
  • As a physician, my first question is what are their hormone levels? I have found in practice, that people who have low sex hormones obviously have low sex drives.
  • a medical work-up might could help some of them

Why these comments are a problem:

Again, these comments are pathologizing an orientation, making it look like we have a problem that needs to be fixed.

This brand of comment, in particular, is often uttered by “well-meaning” people who are “concerned for our health”.  They tend to get upset when we point out that what they’re doing doesn’t help us at all.  They don’t understand what they’re saying is “You’re not real, you’re a hormone deficiency”.

It’s worth pointing out that while hormones affect sex drive or level of sexual desire or sexual functionality, they don’t really affect who someone is attracted to.  There are numerous reports of asexuals who have started taking testosterone for one reason or another, and while they mention a boost in libido, they say it’s still not pointed at anyone.

In many cases, after someone who is asexual points out that asexuality is not a hormone issue and that their hormones have laboratory tested and shown to be within expected ranges, the conversation changes slightly.  “Well, I wasn’t talking about YOU!  I was talking in general.  Someone else out there might have a hormone problem and think they’re asexual and need to be checked out.  It could be a sign of a brain tumor or something serious.”

Now, certainly, I don’t want someone to die of an undiscovered brain tumor that’s affecting their hormone levels in some way.  Thing is, low hormones or brain tumors generally do not manifest themselves solely as a lack of sexual attraction.  To that end, here are some of the symptoms of things people typically use to discredit asexuality:

Low Hormone Levels:

  • Loss of energy/feeling tired
  • Hair loss, including possibly body/pubic hair
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression or other changes in mood
  • Drop in sex drive
  • Lower strength/lower muscle mass
  • Weight gain/increase in body fat
  • Forgetfulness/memory problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia/difficulty sleeping
  • Hot flashes
  • Breast growth/tenderness in men
  • Menstrual irregularity

Brain Tumors:

  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Symptoms of low hormone levels (some listed above), if the tumor affects hormone production
  • Personality changes
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of balance
  • Numbness or tingling

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above or if your level of interest in sex has suddenly changed, then by all means, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about it.  But if you’ve just never really felt sexually attracted to anyone, then you’re probably just asexual and probably don’t need to consult a physician.

How to respond:

  • Explain that asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a “hormone problem”.
  • Provide your hormone test results, if you have them.
  • Provide a list of other symptoms of hormone deficiencies, etc.
  • Explain that the TV show House is not a source of accurate medical advice.
  • Explain how hurtful and damaging pathologizing asexuality can be.

It’s the result of evolution and overpopulation! [#]

Examples:

  • What we see is a divergence of sexual proclivity suggestive of evolution
  • Asexuals are probably not less human. They are less animal. Which must mean they are MORE human. They may be more highly evolved.
  • I’ve always thought that humans would become asexual as we evolved in the next 1,000 or so years.
  • Asexualitly might just be a more advanced state of being.
  • I find myself wondering if this could be a biological reaction to overpopulation.

Why these comments are a problem:

Because they’re pseudoscience junk that makes me weep for the state of science education.

Let me take a step back here…  I don’t want to claim that there is no evolutionary basis whatsoever for asexuality.  There very well might be.  I mean, every living thing is the product of evolutionary selection.  (Although that does not mean that every trait of every living thing is necessarily selected for and optimized by evolution.)  My problem is that the comments I’m describing here don’t actually involve anything remotely approaching science or evolutionary biology.

There are two frequent strains of this nonsense.  In the first strain, the claim is made that asexuals are “more highly evolved” than everyone else.  In the second strain, the claim is made that asexuality is the result of some evolutionary defense against overpopulation.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

The phrase “more highly evolved” is a tip off that something ain’t right.  There’s no hierarchy of evolution levels, where something is more or less evolved.  Evolution doesn’t really care about rankings or supremacy.  It’s about the right adaptations for the environment.  So, while humans might be awesome with our upright walking and opposable thumbs and all that good stuff, we really really suck at surviving off a fumarole at the bottom of the ocean.  Does that make thermophilic giant tube worms more highly evolved than us?  It strikes me that the thinking that asexuality is “more highly evolved” probably comes from a combination of science fiction stories about emotionless aliens and a “sex is bad” brand of religious dogma, and not from, you know, actual scientists.

The overpopulation thing is also ridiculous.  It relies on two false premises:  That the planet is overpopulated and that evolution is instant.  While there are certainly concerns about long-term sustainability, the Earth is not overpopulated at this time.  People generally have enough space to live and enough food to eat.  If overpopulation were the cause of asexuality, you would expect to see high rates of asexuality in areas that are crowded or have recurring famines (Which, BTW, are often the result of greed or wars, not of an actual lack of food), and virtually no asexuality in areas where living area and food are plentiful.  Given the number of asexuals present in places like North America and Europe, I think that claim can be safely refuted.  There’s no widespread shortage of resources for asexuality to be a response to.  Of course, even if the world were over-populated, it would have only reached that point very recently, like within the last generation.  Evolution doesn’t work that fast.  It takes generations for traits to become prominent or get weeded out.  Evolution probably wouldn’t lead to asexuality, it would be more likely to simply favor smaller people who require less food and are less likely to starve to death.  More than likely, though, overpopulation would simply lead to a mass-extinction event that evolution simply won’t have time to account for in any way.

How to respond:

  • Explain that asexuality is not somehow “more evolved”.
  • Explain that asexuality is not the result of overpopulation.
  • Point them at a science textbook.

But…  SCIENCE! [#]

Examples:

  • If you’re asexual, it means you have sex with yourself. It’s in science. Something about bacteria. Or a cell splits itself, into two cells…because it doesn’t need a partner, to produce offspring. So it has sex WITH ITSELF. I learned that in 6th grade science class.
  • Also take a biological anthropology class, try Sex and Gender studies, so you can actually have a clue what the scientist really have to say on the matter.
  • To me, it is interesting because being asexual goes against biology and our innate need to survive through reproduction.
  • Biology 101. Learn it.
  • Unless I forgot my Biology, sex is a necessity to perpetuate a species…..How can you embrace a lifestyle, if embraced by all, would doom the species??????
  • What you’re really at odds with is the FACT that all human behavior is driven by biology derived through millions of years of evolution.

Why these comments are a problem:

Again, weeping for the state of science education.

Here’s the thing you need to understand about science before you ever talk about science:

It describes the world.  It does not dictate how the world must be.

If there’s some accepted scientific theory, and along comes some clear evidence that the theory is incomplete or is wrong, then that theory must be discarded or revised in favor of something better.  Reality always wins in science.

So, let’s say you’re doing research on sexuality.  You’re probably thinking that there’s a lot of people who like people with different parts than their own, there’s a few people who like people with the same parts, and a handful that like both.  So, you interview tons of people.  As you go, you start to notice something.  Here and there, you find people who don’t seem to like any parts at all.  That’s probably not what you expected.

Do you:

a) Ignore them completely.

b) Say that they can’t exist because science doesn’t mention them.

c) Revise your hypothesis to include this unexpected result.

The correct answer is C.  And guess what?  This actually happened!  As Alfred Kinsey was doing his famous study on sexual behavior, he found that a number of people just weren’t into sex at all.  So, when he was devising his famous Kinsey scale that describes sexual orientation, he used the numbers 0 through 6, which covered a range between “Exclusively Heterosexual” (0) and “Exclusively Homosexual” (6), but since he recognized that such a scale didn’t recognize the existence of that group that didn’t really care either way, he added another group for them: “X”.

That “X” represents asexuality.

OH LOOK!  IT’S SCIENCE!

How to respond:

  • Mention the actual, real scientists who do actual, real sciencey things and believe that asexuality is real.  Kinsey’s “X” from the 40’s, Storms’ two dimensional scale from the 80’s, and more modern research by Bogaert, Brotto, and others, all point at the existence of asexuality as a real sexual orientation.  Backed by science.

Asexuality will cause the extinction of the human race! [#]

Examples:

  • Unless I forgot my Biology, sex is a necessity to perpetuate a species…..How can you embrace a lifestyle, if embraced by all, would doom the species??????
  • Since we are supposed to be sexual beings with the purpose of multiplying the species, I submit that anyone who has no sexual attractions is defective.
  • You realize that we are animals and we do procreate?
  • To me, it is interesting because being asexual goes against biology and our innate need to survive through reproduction.

Why these comments are a problem:

Apparently, EVERYONE has to have sex that results in children or WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!  Into the baby factories, everyone!

The world population growth is doing just fine without us, thanks.  Just turn on your favorite Jack & Karen Plus 800 reality show, if you don’t believe me.

By the way, you’re also ignoring the fact that some asexual people do actually have kids.  (Fun fact:  So do some gay people, who you’re also attacking with this line of nonsense.)

How to respond:

  • Using demographic research and population trends, point out that they’re being a total dumbass.
  • Inform them that some asexuals may decide to have biological children.
  • Point out that their logic also condemns anyone who is gay, infertile, sterilized, childfree, or just reliably uses some form of birth control.

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3 thoughts on “The Comment Section: I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One On The Internet

  1. First of all, thank you for going through all of these comments and writing these responses. How you still have any faith left in people at all, I don’t know, but either way, you are my new hero now. Thank you for saving a lot of aces the trouble of having to read through all these insulting, trivializing comments.

    I think that people need not provide their hormone test results, even if they have them. That might assuage the commenter’s concerns about that one speaker, but let’s say for example that you meet an asexual who has PCOS… oh, let’s pick out anyone, hmm, who will we pick–ooh, how about me?

    Okay, let’s use me. I’m an asexual with PCOS, which means that I have more testosterone than people without ovarian problems. I do in fact have some of the problems that were listed that are associated with hormone imbalances: weight gain, check. Body hair, check. Insomnia, top-of-the-head hair loss, forgetfulness–it’s all there. But the fact that I have a hormone imbalance doesn’t invalidate me as an asexual–as mentioned, yes, and I appreciate that mention here.

    I think of hormones as kind of a “so what?” deal–if an asexual has hormone problems, so what? It doesn’t make their experiences any less real, and THAT’S what a lot of these Negative Nancies don’t understand. Everything else about that list is right, but I’m just saying that if you don’t want to provide hormone test results (because the negative commenters might see an imbalance as “proof for their side”) say instead that hormone results don’t matter, because it doesn’t make the experience any less real–and if someone isn’t particularly BOTHERED by their asexuality, then calling it a medical “problem” is not appropriate.

    Again, thank you for this list–it’s awesome–I’m not trying to criticize, just adding something, I guess. Rock on :D

  2. Just a quick reply ( I have to walk the dog who’s getting antsy)….

    I have four children. The amount of times that I conceived is exactly the same as my live births. The amount of times I conceived is a rather large percentage of my overall sexual encounters in life. As a woman, I have always been at a societal disadvantage and have bowed to societal and personal pressure to perform “the act”, mainly just to get it over with and stop the pestering. Lucky me, I was super fertile.

    I mention these things to point out that, at least for women, an aversion to sex may not necessarily effect the outcome of the human population. Also, the desire for a child can, in many instances, be a deciding factor in putting up with that nonsense. I adore my kids. They are literally the best things to ever happen to me ever, ever, ever. If I wasn’t 40, I’d have ten more. Of course, that would mean some unpleasantness, but it would be worth it.

    Oh, and now that I AM 40, and I AM done, I am DONE. Thanks but no thanks, ad infinitum……

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