The theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is “Naming It”.
One question which is sometimes asked about asexuality as a sexual orientation is “But why do you need a name for it?”
Swankivy answered this question pretty well years ago. In short – things which exist tend to have names, and to have a name for asexuality is to acknowledge that it is a thing which exists.
Since a large part of the human asexual experience is to doubt whether what we feel is what we really feel, and to learn how to not trust our own feelings because our culture tells us that we can’t be feeling what we are feeling, having a name is a big deal. Having a name acknowledges that it is a thing, and suggests that we can know our own feelings, that we can trust ourselves to know ourselves.
For those who remember the series of posts I did on In Love and Warcraft Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), one of my major criticisms was that even though the protagonist was plausibly asexual, the play never used the word ‘asexual’ or acknowledged that it could be a valid way to be. Even if the play had ultimately used the word ‘asexual’ just to say that the main protagonist was *not* asexual, I would have probably been okay with it, since it was more important to me for the play to acknowledge that asexuality is a thing than for it to have an actually asexual protagonist. However, as the play currently is, it has a protagonist which many asexual people would identify with because she seems like an asexual, yet never affirms that being asexual is *okay*. To someone who is asexual, but does not know how that word is applied to humans, or is not aware of other asexual humans, I am afraid that story could encourage them to doubt and distrust themselves even more. And it would have been so simple to fix just by *briefly* mentioning asexuality in a non-derogatory context.
That is not to say that the word ‘asexual’ is never misused – it definitely is sometimes misused. For example, when disabled people who do not identify as asexual are said to be ‘asexual’ on the basis of their *disability* rather than their *feelings with regards to sex/sexual attraction/etc.* that is a misuse of the word ‘asexual’.
However, assuming the word ‘asexual’ is being used in a way which is somewhat in accordance with the way it is used in the asexual community, I generally feel better about an essay/story/etc. when they use the word than when they don’t. Using the word means that they acknowledge our existence. When the word isn’t being used, it is much more likely to be something which erases us and claims that our feelings are not valid.
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I love how you addressed the way that asexual invisibility leads to an erosion of trust in self. When who I am is never mirrored back to me as a valid and real way to be, I start to truly doubt my own reality. I remember as a teen and young adult having the conscious wish to “be like REAL people.” I kind of thought of myself as half formed and unreal–real people wanted what you were SUPPOSED to want (sexual partnership). The fact that my own experience was legitimate never once occurred to me. I couldn’t trust what I felt or what I wanted. This lack of trust spilled over into other areas of my life as well. I find that I can’t trust almost any internal need or state–hunger, fatigue, illness, health. Anything that comes from inside of me is suspect. (Fortunately this is changing, and much of that change began with adopting asexuality as an identity).
I am glad that you are trusting yourself more 😀 And thanks for commenting!