A is For What Now?
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
A survey, to start: Raise your hand if you struggled with Valentine's Day.
Don't worry - it's normal. Romantic and sexual pressures are harrowing enough already when they're not being forced upon us by Hershey's and Hallmark cards. Thankfully, it's over, right? We can all go back to our normal levels of sexual confusion, yes?
Well, not all of us.
Merriam-Webster defines "Asexual" as "not having sexual feelings toward others;" "not experiencing sexual desire or attraction;" or "not having or showing a particular sexual identity."
Now, this doesn't mean asexuals are necessarily repulsed by sex. Some asexuals even have sex, especially if they have a sexually active partner who wishes to engage in a consensual manner. But, when it comes down to it, asexuals simply don't see the world in a sexual way.
An analogy may help. Picture this: there's a beautiful chocolate cake on the table. It's been made with the finest ingredients, and the decorations have been masterfully applied. And you can appreciate all of this! But here's the thing:
You're not hungry.
Many people - myself included - have used this analogy to describe asexuality. Mainly because it also helps to illustrate how some of us - many of us, even - do experience other types of attraction. Just like we can appreciate the decorations on a cake, we can appreciate a person in well-tailored clothes or the personality of a close friend. We're often aesthetically attracted to people - just not sexually.
So what does this have to do with Valentine's Day? Or with every day?
For myself, at least, the problem is that very few people actually know I'm asexual. Or if they do, they don't entirely understand what that means.
And it has a tendency to make me feel invisible. Because frankly, when I'm at the bar with my rugby team, and everyone is talking about their sex life, I don't really feel like sticking my nose in and explaining to everyone what asexuality is. When I'm at a meeting with my coworkers, and they ask how my date went the prior evening - with a not-so-subtle-wink thrown in - I generally respond with, "it went well," and let them fill in the blanks. I don't want to explain how wanting to date someone and wanting to have sex with someone can be completely different things. I don't want to have to deal with people being flabbergasted at the idea that I'm just not interested in sex.
Part of the problem is that Asexuality, much like many other sexual orientations (or gender identities), is terribly underrepresented in media. Even in the show Sex Education - a show I consider to be quite progressive in its views on sex - glosses over the subject in under two minutes, never to be explored again.
I don't have the space to delineate the entirety of my woes (and my successes!) with asexuality, so here's how I'll conclude: just like other queer representation, Asexuality needs to be more broadly explored in media. For everyone's sake.
Take, for instance, a show that does this well - the critically-acclaimed show Bojack Horseman. In Bojack, one of the main characters - Todd - is asexual. And while that declaration is in-and-of-itself a nice declaration, the show doesn't just stop there: it devotes entire episodes - entire plot arcs, even - to Todd's experiences with dating, romance, and asexuality.
This is the kind of representation that the asexual community would like to see more of. More romances that don't involve sexual tension. More exploration of relationships without mention of what may or may not occur behind closed doors. Something to make asexuality feel more normal.
And to make us feel just a little less invisible.
- Danny Garcia, J.D.