These cries ring out virtually any time asexuality is mentioned.
“I don’t understand!”
“It’s too complicated!”
Translated, what they really mean is:
“I don’t want to bother to understand!”
“It’s all new to me, so I’m just going to call it complicated!”
Comments like these approach asexuality not as a rich and complex part of the human experience. Instead, they approach asexuality as a whiny teenager approaches a trigonometry exam. They don’t want to put in the effort required to learn anything new, so instead, they just start complaining.
Now, certainly, if you ever find yourself in the middle of a deck of aces, there will be words used that you’ve never heard before. You don’t have to understand all of them, and honestly, that’s fine. But there’s a big difference between admitting that you don’t understand what a queerplatonic squish on a panromantic non-libidoist is and dismissively complaining that asexuality as a whole is too complicated to bother to try to understand.
There are too many labels! Not another community! [#]
- I just think that too many labels are not such a good thing and people should not judge others on “their label” (well, that’s my point of view).
- oh for gods sake, enough with the labels. good grief,
- geezuz..another community? why all the labels..i can’t get enuff sex from my wife, i’m male and wife’s a female. I know you find that strange , but what label does that give me
- Oh great. Another community to not be a part of.
- Or great, another group of innocent people for the GOP and Fundies to victimize.
Why these comments are a problem:
In general, people who complain about labels and communities are not a part of the communities and are not described by the labels that they are complaining about. Often, they’ll complain that there are “too many labels”, as if there’s one of those plastic punch label makers that we’re all sharing, and it’s running short of tape. The reality is that for many of these people, the only label they ever want to see is “straight”.
These are not people having a label applied to them against their will. They have absolutely no right to complain.
Labels are not a way to be “unique” or “special”. Labels are a way to communicate. They’re a way to describe our experiences and feelings. They’re not a strict cage that limits who we are to a word, they’re freeing. They let us say “Here is who I am” without having to spend an hour and a half trying to come up with the right analogies and descriptions.
The label “asexual” and the community of asexuals has had a profound positive impact on my life. They’re trying to deny me that.
How to respond:
- Explain that just because a label does not apply to them, that doesn’t mean that other people don’t find it valuable.
- Inform them that the number of labels or communities is not limited, and that there can be as many groupings and descriptions as people feel are necessary.
- Explain that words are useful, self-contained descriptions of complicated concepts. Bonus points for offering a snarky, over the top example of how a complex thing can be compressed into a single word (like “localized or regional temporary occurrence of water drops falling from clouds in the atmosphere” can also be called “rain”).
Do we need another word for this? [#]
- That’s ridiculous. Another word for it is a eunich who have been around since biblical times.
- I am genuinely perplexed by this. Why is there a need to label someone asexual? If you are just not interested in sex, how does this even come up?
- why make a group out of it. why not just say i prefer not to have sex, don’t need a reason, it’s your choice. isn’t just saying your celibate mean the same thing?
- So, is being asexual now the official way to explain that you’re ok with being single? Do we really need another label for people?
- We don’t need a new category for people who can’t get dates or who are too shy to close the deal on sex.
- If people are happy being celibate then more power to them.
Why these comments are a problem:
These sorts of comments are made by people who fundamentally do not understand what asexuality is and generally have no interest in learning.
How to respond:
- Just point out that they’re wrong.
It’s too complicated. You can’t even agree on a definition! [#]
- My first thought was that there is something wrong when specifying your sexual identity is more complex than ordering at Starbucks.
- How can a group of people identify as themselves under a certain name, if they all have different interpretations of its definition?
- Here is an idea. Let’s get in a big discussion without first agreeing on the meaning of the key word.
Why these comments are a problem:
“Asexuality: A sexual orientation characterized by a persistent lack of sexual attraction toward any gender.”
Hey, that was easy, right?
That’s what it boils down to. That’s the definition pretty much everyone uses, although we all say it in different ways. Some people will specifically add an extra clause for “or does not experience a desire for partnered sexual activity”, while others include that as part of “sexual attraction”. We may have different ways of describing it and different points we emphasize, but we’re not fundamentally disagreeing with each other.
It’s like the color blue. I know what blue is. You probably know what blue is. The shade of blue I’m thinking of right now is almost certainly different than the shade of blue you’re thinking of. But we’re both thinking about blue. We agree about the concept of blue. We’ll include sky blue and Dodger Blue and navy blue and generally will even take cyan. People don’t go around saying “Well, what about red? Is that blue?” They don’t force people to decide on a very specific wavelength range that can be considered “blue” to the exclusion of all others. No one is ever going to say “This is too complicated. You all can’t agree what blue is, so I don’t believe in blue.”
People who say we can’t agree on a definition just aren’t listening to us.
And yeah, it can be complicated. Human sexuality kinda is like that. But asexuality is no more complicated than any other sexual orientation. That definition we use is essentially the same definition structure used for any other sexual orientation. And every other sexual orientation is really freaking complicated when you start looking at them, too. Let’s try it out, shall we?
“Heterosexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by exclusive sexual attraction toward members of the opposite sex.”
Sure, okay, people will take that as an accurate definition of heterosexuality. But wait a minute… What about frequency and number of occurrences here? Are we talking just one case ever and that’s enough? Or does it require a pattern, like at least two a year for three years in a row, just to be sure? Does someone have to be at least 30 or something to make sure there’s no same sex attraction hiding somewhere, before they can say “It’s only been guys, so yeah, I’m heterosexual”? And then there’s “Exclusive”. What about people who tried out for the other team that one time after getting drunk in college? So, not exclusively, but maybe “primarily toward members of the opposite sex”? But then how far does “primarily” extend, before it ventures into bisexual territory? And about the phrase “opposite sex” there… Is it really sex? Or is it gender? Or gender presentation? And “opposite”? Well, what about intersex people that happen to look “male” or “female”? Are they “opposite”? If a man is attracted to a CAIS intersex person, do you go by chromosomes or external features to determine that man’s sexual orientation? And while we’re at it, just what in the hell is “sexual attraction”, anyway? Unless you can define it all precisely and unambiguously, then I refuse to believe that heterosexuality exists, because it’s too complicated for me and you can’t agree on a definition.
How to respond:
- Plainly state the definition. Bonus points for using condescending dictionary style part of speech and pronunciation guides.
- Point out that the commonly accepted definition of asexuality is identical in structure to the commonly accepted definitions of other sexual orientations.
I find it amusing that we get “that’s such a non-thing that it doesn’t even need a word” at the same time as we get “that’s such a complicated thing that I’m offended at being asked to process it.”
Heterosexuality is very complicated too if you want to discuss its nuances, as your extended example proves. The fact that asexual people are now inventing or modifying language to talk about nuances in OUR lives that do not currently have shortcuts the way heterosexual people do does not mean our orientation is ridiculously complex.
And yeah, the people who say “there’s already a word for that” while describing SOMETHING THAT ISN’T ASEXUALITY just baffle me.
I got the “there’s already a word for that” from my mom when I was trying to explain what being asexual meant. She said “we already had a word for that. We called it having no or little sex drive.”
After talking with her more I realized that, for her, sexual attraction and a sex drive are interconnected, they are not really separate things. I explained to her that asexuals can have a sex drive without being sexually attracted to someone. She didn’t really believe me until I used myself as an example and explained exactly what I experience.
She finally seemed to accept what I was saying, but seriously sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back with her.
I’ve always hated labels—they’ve never really been perfect or exact or whatever, and I still can’t find one and God dammit I have to give up sooner or later—but I get that they’d make you understand yourself better and really help with explaining attraction. Still, asexuality doesn’t mean aromanticness… Oh never mind I’m too tired for this. Just wanted to say that just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean they don’t want to understand and yes, labels and people are complicated. People don’t just hear asexuality and the definition and understand it straight away. We still don’t know what causes all these sexual orientations so yeah… Goodnight.
It’s too complicated?! See that girl/guy? Feel that urge? I DON’T feel that!
Friend-Walks past a bakery/jewellery shop. CAKE!!!/ SPARKLY THINGS!!! Rushes in, buys everything.
Me-ooh cake/jewellery. Keeps walking.
That’s how I see asexuality. Does that make sense to anyone?
I’m definitely Ace, and maybe somewhere on the aromantic scale so I totally got you. But my mind went to a sports analogy.
It’s like seeing a room full of people screaming/cheering at a sports broadcast, wearing overpriced team shirts, ect. And you look at the screen and see a bunch of 200 lb men smashing into each other. And I’m like, who would want to do that or watch it, seems painful and unnecessary to me…
Yes, I understand. We all like different things. Some of us like sports, some of us don’t. Some of us like cake, some of us don’t. Some of us wear black rings, some of us don’t. Some of us have sex, some of us don’t. I’m afraid no matter how much we try to explain, people will remain in the dark.