Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to Be Open to Sex?

The theme for July’s Carnival of Aces is “Sex-Aversion and Sex Repulsion”. I am going off a little to the side of this topic and talk about being sex-indifferent because, as someone who is sex-indifferent, I have much more to say about it.

NOTE: When I say I am sex-indifferent, I mean that I am neither sex-averse/sex-repulsed, nor am I sex-favorable. As is evident in this post, sex is such a loaded matter that true indifference is nearly impossible.

I sometimes encounter the implication, both inside and outside of ace communities, that sex-indifferent aces are okay with having sex, being in sexual relationships, or that of course the sex-indifferent aces are having sex. Once in a long while I see this sentiment expressed more explicitly. Even in the call for submissions, sex-indifferent aces are grouped with sex-favorable aces as one of two groups. Why? As a sex-indifferent ace, I feel like I have nothing more in common with the sex-favorable aces than I do with the sex-averse/sex-repulsed ones.

If I say that I am indifferent to playing tennis, would you assume that I am going to get a tennis-playing partner anytime soon? Or ever?

You see, all activities have some kind of cost. Time, for example. I am not going to live forever, so most people would understand that, if I say that I am indifferent to tennis or feel that tennis is pointless (and when I imagine myself having sex, my reaction is ‘that would be so pointless’) that I probably would prefer to do something which I actually like and do not consider pointless. Sure, if one of my tennis-loving relatives asked me to play with them, I might oblige, but it has been more than ten years since I have played tennis.

Of course, time is not the only cost of sex. There is the risk of sexual-transmitted infections. And the risk of someone getting very emotionally hurt, especially since, as a very sexually-inexperienced asexual, there is a lot I do not know about navigating sex, and my partner would be at high risk of emotional hurt as well (for example, if it is obvious that I am not enjoying myself and they take it personally). To me, sex is not worth that much, and I have ruled it out except for the few specific situations in which the benefits might justify the costs/risks.

On top of that, I am romantically-averse, which deserves a post or two in itself, but for now I just want to make the point that sex-indifferent people may have other aversions which might interfere with normative romantic-sexual relationship.

Now to answer the question in the title … I think the assumption that sex-indifferent aces are open to sex/having sex/etc. is an expression of compulsory sexuality.

I did not grow up in a culture of of compulsory tennis-playing, so if I say that I am not interested, people understand that I probably do not want to play. But under compulsory sexuality, if I do not have some kind of obstacle like sex-aversion/sex-repulsion, then of course I am OK with participating in sex … huh? I am aware that compulsory-sexuality is very harmful to sex-averse/sex-repulsed people and that people who push compulsory sexuality do not in practice give sex-averse/sex-repulsed people a pass. The point I do want to make is that, under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place, and the assumptions made about sex-indifferent aces are made because we have not provided a reason for opting-out.

Recently both the sex-repulsed and the sex-favorable have been talking about the ways they feel uncomfortable in ace-spectrum communities. I do not feel uncomfortable as sex-indifferent ace in ace communities, but I hope that in these discussions people will make it clear that many sex-indifferent aces do not want and are not participating in sex.


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30 thoughts on “Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to Be Open to Sex?

  1. So I’m the guilty party who lumped sex-indifferent aces with sex-favorable aces in the call for submissions this month. I appreciate your post a lot. I really do.

    I’m going to post a reply on my own blog because I think I have a lot of thoughts, too many for a simple, short, comment.

    • Well, you are not the first who has lumped sex-indifferent aces with sex-favorable aces, it was just a convenient example since it was right there in the call for submissions … and I notice that the call for submissions is a little different now 😉

  2. This topic is one that has crossed my mind before, but not enough thoughts coalesced for me to consider writing about it, so thank you for posting this. It’s a good question. The absence of a Big No feeling toward something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be saying yes to it any time soon, if at all. I guess the presumption is that if they were in a situation that called for it, sex-indifferent aces wouldn’t mind having sex — but I hadn’t realized that line of thinking could itself actually be a manifestation of compulsory sexuality before.

    “The point I do want to make is that, under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place, and the assumptions made about sex-indifferent aces are made because we have not provided a reason for opting-out.”

    Very, very important point.

    Again, thank you.

  3. I changed my mind and decided I didn’t really have anything worth making a whole post about. I guess… I guess I just want to say I never was actually assuming sex-indifferent aces were having sex. I really don’t think I ever was. I believe that some other aces who group things this way might, unfortunately. But I, personally, grouped sex-indifference with being sex-favorable for the sake of my Call for Submissions simply because my subject matter was specific – repulsion/aversion – and so both of those categories fall in the “not repulsed/averse” section. Repulsed/Averse people often would write from an “inside” perspective on the matter, and Indifferent or Sex-Favorable folks would write blog posts from an “outside” perspective – as you did. 😀

    I was making it a binary and I understand why you feel desperate for it to NOT be split into only two categories, but I think in some cases it is warranted. I think sex-indifference often could be grouped with sex-aversion in some other ways, because of the lack of positive feelings gotten from sex. And I liked learning about your experiences with it here, as it probably varies in what it means to different people who identify as such, but I feel kind of enlightened now as to what it means for you and probably for some other people too. 😀

    (By the way, I think because of a lack of sexual attraction or even drive, many sex-favorable people who also identify as being on the asexual spectrum don’t actually have sex often either. There are people who say “Sure, it’s pleasurable, BUT” and that’s why they’re on the ace spectrum in the first place, and the ‘but’ matters a lot to them, so much so that it often stops them from seeking out sex.)

    • Yes, it occurred to me that the purpose of putting sex-indifferent and sex-favorable aces in a single group was that they are both outside of sex-revulsion/sex-aversion, but I would have preferred the wording ‘aces who do not experience sex-repulsion/sex-aversion’ to make it clear that that was the angle.

      And yes, the logic I used in this post could also apply to sex-favorable aces (though I decided not to comment about them in this post because, well, I am not one of them). For that matter, it could apply to people of any sexual orientation – there are a zillion reasons why people may not want sex. The point is that, like for almost any other activity, people make cost-benefit analyses for sex, and that for sex-indifferent aces, there is often not much on the benefit side – and even if someone experiences sexual attraction, they also may feel that sex is not worth it and thus not want sex.

      • I agree with all of that. 😉

        I don’t want to change my post now, because you reacted to my words and I kind of want my words to remain the same. But in the future, I will definitely be more careful to do that.

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