Writing From Factor X

November 22, 2010

On Pedestals, And Why I Fear Them

I am a young asexual woman. I am not sexually active now and never have been, and I’m not especially interested in ever becoming so. The reaction that some people have been known to have to my sexuality is amusing and infuriating all at once. I have been called “pure,” “chaste,” asked to divulge my magical secret of being able to resist the desires I must surely have.

Which erases the fact of my sexuality, by presuming that I must be resisting anything. It cheapens what I am to assume that it is derives from some sort of act of will; it erases my realness by presuming that no one could ever just be uninterested. But it is the presumption that my asexuality is a sign of some great purity of my soul that angers me most.

I am not pure, particularly not in the sense of transcending human failings. I am as flawed as anyone else. Allow me to make that clear, because purity implies that I am somehow above humanity, not part of it. And that’s a dangerous implication to make, because for better or worse, we cherish those we see as human in ways we do not cherish those we see as otherwise. It is not a coincidence that we anthropomorphize things that we wish to understand, nor that we dehumanize things we wish to destroy.

In the philosophy cherished by such people, asexuals are placed on pedestals, elevated loftily above the impure, filthy masses. We are angels, we are holy, we are good and sweet and light. We aren’t people, though, not people who have a tendency to say ‘fuck’ a lot and a filthy sense of humor and their own opinions on the system of morality we’re being shoehorned into.

Which is wrong in so many ways, really. Sex is not inherently bad. And people oughtn’t be judged on their goodness based entirely on the kinds of sex they like to have or don’t.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about pedestals, it’s that they’re constricting. You have to stand in one place; you can’t actually move about or do anything without falling off. And you will fall off, eventually, even if it only comes down to someone who dislikes you giving you a good shove. The taller the pedestal is, the harder you fall. Fuck that, I say. I’d rather stand honestly on the ground.

Asexual people aren’t devalued in the same way as gay and bi people are by people who hold such sex-negative views. Indeed, we’re prone to receive compliments, or the odd nonasexual person who enters asexual communities asking how they, too, can become asexual. With increasing visibility, I doubt we’ll be declared a sin, nor that we’ll see such hostile anti-asexuality emanating from the socially conservative.

But that doesn’t mean that asexuals will be accepted for what we are. My suspicion is that asexuality is likely to continue to be treated with something akin to benevolent heterosexism as visibility increases. That we’ll be held up as model minorities, the “right” kind of queerness, as long as we stay nicely nonthreatening and quietly out of the way. We’ll be free of explicit pushback if we hold our place on the lovely nice pedestal they’ve built for us; we’ll be lauded, even, for being specially free of such temptation.

Who could be displeased with that?


  1. I recently saw a concrete example of this that really pissed me off: celibrate. One of the personal reasons they cite for celibacy is asexuality, which they explain. It starts out alright, but then they say this:

    Recently, some individuals and groups have made up their own definitions of asexuality, based on people identifying as but not truly being asexual. This makes things a little confusing for those seeking information on asexuality. Misleading websites have appeared that suggest asexuality has much in common with homosexuality, some going so far as to say that one can be homo-asexual. However, a person identifying as such is more likely to be a homosexual practicing celibacy.

    Fuuuuuck them.

    Comment by Siggy — November 22, 2010 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

    • Oh, I had not seen that. Fuuuuck them indeed.

      I wonder if it would be worth sending a protest letter or something?

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 22, 2010 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you for this. I recently came out on a forum to a mostly positive response. I got a few of comments which really crossed the line into what you describe here. I had a difficult time figuring out what it was exactly that bugged me about them, but you’ve summed everything up perfectly with this post.

    Comment by Finbarr Ryan — November 22, 2010 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

    • You’re welcome, and I’m really glad you found this helpful. 🙂

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 22, 2010 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  3. Yep, we’re all little cherubs who lack sexual organs. We’re messengers from God, basically. I expect to receive my wings and halo in the mail any day now.

    Not only is this a problem because it assumes certain behaviors go along with asexuality and that it’s a choice, but also because this kind of thinking has serious religious overtones. I’m not sure what the demographics are for the religious beliefs of asexuals. I’m an agnostic atheist. In any case, I hope that we aren’t regarded as religious fanatics in the coming years.

    Comment by Mage — November 26, 2010 @ 1:01 am | Reply

    • I’m an atheist myself, but I didn’t want to specifically focus on the religiousness of the whole thing for a variety of reasons (including the fact that this behavior is not entirely specific to the religious, although it does tend to correlate strongly with certain flavors of Christianity). I do get rather sarcastic when people assume my asexuality is down to ultra-Christianity, though.

      Actually, I remember seeing a fairly high percentage of atheists in a lot of the ace communities I’ve been in. Might be an Internet thing, might not.

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 26, 2010 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

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