The Comment Section: Nothing Bad Happens

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One claim you’ll see over and over in comments on articles about asexuality is the belief that nothing bad ever happens to asexual people.  Life is easy and free of troubles for us.  We never have problems with relationships, and nobody has ever treated someone differently because they were asexual.  The commenters can’t fathom why anyone would have a problem due to being asexual, so therefore no such problems can possibly exist.

So, apparently…

No asexual has ever felt broken or alienated or alone.

No asexual has ever been rejected by friends and family.

No asexual has ever had an endless stream of relationships fail because of sex.

No asexual has ever been ridiculed or mocked or been told they’re broken or inhuman.

No asexual has ever has had someone offer to “fix the problem” through sex.

No asexual has ever been raped by the person who offered to “fix the problem”.

No asexual has ever been beaten or killed because they wouldn’t “put out”.

The commenter, despite just having learned of the existence of asexuality, has never seen any of these things happen and they don’t know anyone that these things have happened to, therefore they refuse to believe that such things happen, even after being presented with first hand accounts of them actually happening to actual asexuals.

In many cases, the commenter will dismiss the problems that asexual people might face because they’re not perceived to be as severe as the problems faced by other people.  Rarely are these more severe problems ever encountered by the commenter themselves, but that fact does not deter the commenter from using these issues to attempt to silence asexuals.

Specific Subclasses:

Asexuals aren’t persecuted or oppressed or discriminated against! [#]

Examples:

  • People will continue being Special Snowflakes and claim to be an oppressed minority because it’s better than just being different, and continue to offend actual oppressed minorities.
  • Even if asexual is a sexual orientation, those who have it are not legally oppressed in any way.
  • and last time I checked asexuality is not actively being persecuted by society
  • There are no laws barring asexual people from marriage nor are churches blaming asexuals for hurricanes, shootings, etc.
  • Unless you go around wearing a sign saying you’re asexual, society doesn’t know and doesn’t care so you couldn’t possibly be discriminated against in any intentional way.
  • I see what you are saying, but nobody has ever killed someone for being asexual.

Why these comments are a problem:

Ohhh…  Where to begin with this…

First of all, it is exceedingly rare that someone who is asexual makes a claim of oppression or discrimination or persecution or whatever over some trivial matter.  If an asexual says that they were oppressed or discriminated against or persecuted because they were asexual, listen to them.  Because they probably were.

Next, in the vast majority of cases, the thing the person is commenting on never even remotely mentions oppression or persecution.  The commenter is pulling oppression out of thin air to use it as an attack.  It’s a strawman.  Simply saying “I am asexual and I exist” is not a claim of oppression.  Talking about your sexual orientation does not indicate that you think you’ve been persecuted for it.  Discussing a problem you’ve encountered in your life does not mean that you’re saying that you have it worse than everyone else.

Oddly, these people seem to believe that facing oppression and persecution is a necessary condition for having a minority sexual identity.  You apparently don’t get to join the club unless you, personally, experience daily oppression for who you are.  And they’ll often be very specific about what qualifies.  Often, being denied the right to marry comes up as the criteria.  Asexuals can’t be possibly be included because no one is preventing them from being married.  Right, so, what that means is that where I live, in the State of Washington, gays and lesbians also can’t be included, because we passed R74 a few years back, and the Winsdor case made the Feds recognize these marriages.  And does that mean that someone would be considered queer in some other states, but not queer in Washington, at least not after December 9th, 2012?  Over time, as laws change and as people become enlightened, such a definition will cover fewer and fewer people.

A number of these kinds of comments suggest that keeping quiet will let you pass and prevent oppression.  Are you asexual?  Just keep it to yourself and nothing will ever happen!  Well hey, that’s a great idea!  Let’s have everyone do that!  Hey, Sally, got a homophobic boss?  Well, just show up at the office party with a beard to throw him off the scent!  Hey, Joe, nervous about what people might think of your religion?  What’s the big deal, hide that prayer rug and no one will ever know!  Hey, Phil, live in a town full of racists?  That’s what thick white cake makeup is for!  …  Never mind that forcing someone to hide who they are out of fear is a form of oppression.

These comments usually ignore intersectionality of any kind.  It’s a blanket “Asexuals are not oppressed!  Asexuals have no relevant problems!”.  That means that if you’re a homoromantic ace or a trans ace or an asexual person of color, congratulations!  You will never experience any kind of oppression or discrimination or persecution of any kind, because your asexuality acts as an immunity idol.

It’s also just outright dismissive.  What these people are saying is, “I can’t think of any problems you might face off the top of my head, and you probably don’t have my problems, so I’m just going to yell at you for implying that you might have problems.”  Just because someone hasn’t heard of it happening, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

And when an asexual does try to bring up a problem that they actually have personally faced?  Well then, that doesn’t matter, because someone else has it worse.  You can’t talk about erasure, because there aren’t any laws against asexuality.  You can’t talk about having trouble with relationships, because you can’t get fired for being asexual.  You can’t talk about corrective rape, because you’ve never been killed for being asexual after walking out of a bar.  What they’re saying is that your problems aren’t important enough to talk about, because there are other, bigger problems out there.  Absolutely, all of those other issues are horrible, and it would be fantastic if we could find a way to solve them.  However, the fact that there are other problems out there, does not completely prohibit discussion and resolution of smaller problems.

“I’m sorry, you can’t deal with the leaky pipe that’s flooding your basement, because there’s a coal ash spill in North Carolina.” 

“I’m sorry, you can’t change your flat tire, because there’s a civil war in Syria.”

“I’m sorry, you can’t deal with that pebble in your shoe, because the inevitable heat death of the universe will eventually extinguish all possibility of life.”

That kind of thinking is ridiculous.  We’re not a one problem at a time kind of species.  There are enough of us to work on multiple problems at once, and it’s even possible for the same person to be working on more than one problem at the same time.  You have a right to talk about problems that you face, whatever they are, however big or small, simply because you face them, and you don’t have to go before some kind of Grand Unified Problem Importance Committee to justify it.

How to respond:

  • Detail the issues you’ve encountered, if you feel comfortable doing so.  First hand accounts can be very powerful.
  • Explain that your problems may not be the same problems as others, but that does not somehow make them less worthy of discussion.
  • Explain that something that may seem trivial to someone else is actually very important to you.
  • If you have encountered the exact scenario that they’re claiming “Never Happens To Asexuals”, call them on it.  Tell them exactly what happened to you.
  • First hand accounts or verifiable claims are better than hazy third person hearsay or gut feelings.  “This happened to me” or “Here’s a news story about this” are better than “I heard someone on AVEN once say” or “People on Tumblr think this”.
  • Avoid claims of oppression or “Having it worse”, even if you are oppressed or really do have it worse.  Nobody gets a medal in the Oppression Olympics.  Simply tell your story and let others hear what you have to say.
  • Remember that these claims are often made by trolls who’ll never concede.  You’re not in it to convince them.  You’re in it to show everyone else that what they’re saying is wrong.

No one has a problem with it. [#]

Examples:

  • Tell me, besides being looked at strangely when you announce your asexuality, what is the big deal about it? Are you going to risk being kicked out of your home for coming out as asexual? The biggest hurdle for the asexual community to possibly have to overcome seems to be, “to finally not be thought of as slightly weird/closet gay in denial/hormonally challenged until the doctor dispels that idea.”
  • And by the way, most people don’t care one way or the other if you are asexual.
  • No one is persecuting asexuals.
  • No one has a problem with it!
  • NO ONE is denying asexuals any attention, respect, or rights.

Why these comments are a problem:

First of all, this class of comments is an attempt to trivialize who we are.  They’re saying “What you are isn’t important enough to have a problem with.  Asexuality is a nothing.  You’re a nobody.”  Attempts to sideline us are unfortunately common.

More importantly, most of the time, the people making these claims don’t bother to look at the problems that asexuals do face.  They’ll mock serious problems that some of us do face and they’ll throw out and shoot down strawman problems that we don’t even claim to face.  They simply shut us down and tune us out before we can even talk about the issues facing us.

What problems do we tend to encounter because of our asexuality?

  • Pathologizing of asexuality as a disorder.
  • A lack of societal awareness of asexuality, which frequently leads to ignorance and insults.
  • Relationship issues, particularly family relationships and romantic relationships.
  • Difficulty navigating a sex-driven world, in particular, the social expectations regarding sex.
  • Threats, coercion, sexual assault, rape (in particular “corrective” rape), and potentially even murder.

These are just some of the problems that some asexual people face.  There are countless others.  They are real.  They do happen.  Do not let anyone deny this.

How to respond:

  • Detail a number of cases where people definitely do have a problem with it.  (SwankIVY’s “Letters to an Asexual” series, Anagnori’s invalidation tree, “Ace Bingo Cards”, and the parade scene in (A)sexuality are good resources for this.)
  • Point out that there are a large number of negative or hurtful comments being posted to the article.
  • Talk about situations where people you’ve encountered have had a problem with asexuality, if you feel comfortable doing so.

There are no laws against it.  What rights are they fighting for? [#]

Examples:

  • It is NOT part of the LGBT community. No one is denying any rights to people who choose not to have sex.
  • If being gay is about political rights, then they don’t fit in because they are not fighting for any kinds of rights because they are not being denied any thing.
  • What right is denied to an Asexual person? Just name one, please.

Why these comments are a problem:

It implies that “fighting for rights” is the only reason people ever identify as gay or transgender or what have you.  That’s a preposterous assertion.  It’s my understanding that people tend to identify as gay because they’re gay, not because they enjoy political organization.  Beyond that, the this claim implies that once those rights are granted, there will no longer be a need for the LGBT community.  “Cancel the parade, everyone!  Say goodbye to the Castro and the Village!  Board up the gay bars! Tear down those rainbow flags!  We’ve got our rights now, so it’s all unnecessary!”

Fighting for legal rights isn’t the only reason to form a community.  Being around other people who understand how you feel so you don’t have to constantly explain yourself is one of the primary reasons.  We also are drawn to find a community because so many of us felt alone, like we were the only person who felt this way.  The larger our community is, the more visible we are, and the more visible we are, the more likely someone else will be able to grow up knowing that they’re asexual, instead of feeling lost and broken for years until they stumble across the word.

Also, despite the claim, there actually are legal issues that concern asexuality.  Discrimination is one of them.  There are people who will discriminate against anyone who is not heterosexual.  While there are laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation in many places, in some cases, those laws are written in such a way that they do not include asexuality.  For instance, RCW 49.60.040 in the State of Washington (where I live) defines “sexual orientation” as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity.”  Asexuality is not included.  Under the letter of the law, asexuals could legally be fired for being asexual.  There’s a report of an asexual couple who could not adopt a child because they were asexual.  Asexuals with homoromantic leanings may run into the same prohibitions against marriage that homosexual people fight against.  And if asexuals do get married, there are sometimes “consummation laws” that require sexual intercourse for a marriage to be considered “valid”, and that may not be something an asexual person is willing to do.

How to respond:

  • Inform the person that the LGBT community is about more than just “fighting for rights”, or it would disappear after those rights were obtained.
  • Explain that “fighting for rights” is not the only reason people seek community, recognition, and acceptance.
  • Discuss legal issues that have or potentially could impact you as an asexual.

They just want attention! [#]

Examples:

  • WHY do people find it necessary to display their orientation to the public? Is it low self esteem or a desire to get attention?
  • [A prominent asexuality activist] may not be attracted to men (or women), but she sure is attracted to attention.
  • If it isn’t bad enough that we have Gays and the like, now some DA Wants to play the Asexual Card for attention?
  • We need mroe attention seekers in the world (sarc)
  • Having a crusade to announce to the world that you are asexual is just a desperate plea for attention over LITERALLY nothing.
  • Yes, it is disgusting that one would lie about “sexual assault” for attention.

Why These Comments Are A Problem:

I always find it fascinating that these remarks are often thrown at asexuality activists who were interviewed for an article.  What?  You mean that awareness and visibility activists are just talking about asexuality for attention?  WHAT A SHOCK!

Of course they’re doing it for attention.  That’s kinda the whole point.  Trying to insult and discredit an asexuality activist by saying they want attention is like trying to insult and discredit a NASCAR driver by saying they just want to show off how fast their car is.

On a more serious note, however, these comments are not strictly directed toward an activist who’s out there as a face for the cause.  They often imply that the only reason any asexuals want to talk about asexuality is for the “Look at me, look at me” factor.  They’re suggesting that we’re making it up, that we’re just pretending to be like this, that we’re lying about it all.  Most of the time, they never explain why we’d do something like this “for attention”, particularly when the attention we do get is so often negative.

In some cases, they make disgusting assertions that we talk about asexuality specifically because we want to be victims.  This type of remark is a corollary to the claim that keeping asexuality to ourselves will solve all our problems.  It flips that thinking around, and states that because we’re talking about it, we want to have problems, because problems will make us victims, and being victims will make us…  something?  I don’t really know where they’re going with that argument.  In any case, it’s not an argument that is limited in use to people attacking asexuality.  It gets thrown at just about anyone who doesn’t conform to the narrow norms of the close minded.  And it doesn’t make any sense whenever it gets used.

I want attention.  I want people to know that asexuality exists.  I want people to understand what asexuality is.  I want people who are asexual to be able to understand and embrace who they are.  I want to talk with others like me.  I want them to know they’re not alone.  I want to know that I’m not alone.  I want attention.  That is why I talk about asexuality.

How To Respond:

  • Disarm the comment by embracing it.  Come right out and say that you are talking about asexuality for attention, because asexuality needs attention.  Tell them why it’s important that people pay attention to asexuality.
  • The “They just want to be victims” crowd are typically trolls that are best ignored.

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5 thoughts on “The Comment Section: Nothing Bad Happens

  1. I really hate when people expect the disadvantages asexual people have to exactly mirror the disadvantages LGBT people face. Not only does it ignore people who are both (as you mentioned–it’s possible to be LGB and/or T as well as asexual); it suggests there is one oppression axis and if you are not on it somewhere, you are not experiencing anything marginalizing for your sexual orientation. Also, the standards they apply to us regarding whether we’re being hurt enough ACTUALLY EXCLUDE A LOT OF LGBT PEOPLE. Like you said, “BUT MARRIAGE” doesn’t work anymore in places where gay people can get married, but yeah, I think those gay people are still a marginalized group and yeah, I think there is still meaning in identifying as queer/needing to organize around being queer even if homophobia disappeared tomorrow. I’ve had people say YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TURNED AWAY FOR GIVING BLOOD!!!!!! as if that would be a defining characteristic of oppression, but there are lots of LGBT people who aren’t affected by this (basically, anyone who’s never had anal sex in a coupling where at least one of the partners was male), and there are reasons you can be turned away that have nothing to do with oppression (like if you don’t weigh enough, like me). Plus there are queer people who might be assumed straight sometimes (being more gender conforming with their clothing/hair, being bi/pan and happening to be with someone who is or is perceived to be cross-gender, being gay but “looking straight” and having no partner right then, or having a same-gender relationship that involves a trans person who is mistaken for a different gender even though they are the same gender as their partner). It’s a double standard for us, always.

    • Great comment. As an ace who is your latter example (trans guy who is often misgendered, in a homoromantic relationship with a cis queer guy), this really resonated with me. And thank you to the author of this great series.

  2. One thing I found really paradoxical with these kinds of comments, is that the underlying message of “The asexual community is not oppressed, so why talk about it” is “Shut up! I don’t want to know who you are, how you feel and what your problems are.” Telling someone to shut because what they say disturbs your worldview IS oppressing.
    Another thing they don’t / won’t acknowledge, is how much pressure they put on you to have sex. I’m not asexual, but I’m 22 and I’ve never had sex, and I can already feel the looks of people as if there’s something wrong with you if you’re still a virgin past a certain age. There IS pressure and embarassing questions, and I imagine it must be even worse when you tell people it’s just the way you are, and it’s not just temporary.

  3. Thank you for posting this article. I never understood asexuality myself because I am a very sexual person, but I am also a member of the LGBTQIA community and I really am trying to understand how it might feel to face the world as someone different. This article opened my eyes, it directly quoted a lot of the disagreements or hesitations I had about people who identify as asexual, and it provided clear and logical responses to those hesitations. If it helps at all, my mind was opened by this and I no longer feel the way I did before.

  4. Hi, I’d also like to point out that all of this ‘Opression Olympics” “asexual a face no opression” stuff
    FULLY relies on the asexual being a cis-gendered male and/or economically privileged westerner (give or take)
    because a necessary platform to being an “un-oppressed asexual” gleefully enjoying sex-free asexyness, is the basic ability to SAY NO to sex.

    To be a non-oppressed asexual requires one to be ABLE to fully practice asexuality- including the ability to freely choose not to have sex.

    The ability to abstain from sex requires the ability to abstain from marriage or to establish a sex-free marriage.

    And right there we’ve cut out a large percentage of the world’s women.

    And this is why I call bullshit on the no one ever is killed because of asexuality – refusing marriage (or sex, or sex in marriage) is connected to a fuck-ton of murder and sexual violence (‘honor killings’ associated with marriage refusal for one).
    If refusal of marriage is often met with gendered violence, I don’t think it is any less likely to be the case if the root of refusal is asexuality.

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