Asexuality and Rape

11/02/2009

Real Men Don't Rape

IMPORTANT: Read this first. This post will be talking about the impact of the rape culture on the asexuality community and will be based on the y’know fact that rape and coercion towards sex are as common as they are in reality. This means if you desire to spend the comment thread whining about how rape isn’t all that common or other rape apologist lies, your comment will never make it.

Okay, that out of the way, this post has been a long time in the coming. I’ve been wanting to talk more about asexuality and this is an issue that has been bugging me for years now. There has been a long conversation in the community and outside of it on the question of “Are Asexuals Oppressed?” Rather, do asexuals face discrimination or the effects of bigotry yet?

And well, the answer is no big surprise. No, there is not much of an active resistance to asexuality because the bigots don’t really know we exist and most resistance we do get is from assumptions or presentations within the LGBTQ community (assumed to be gay because of lack of interest in opposite sex, assumed to be gay by same-sex relationship or strong friendship, seen as trans or intersex or genderqueer by presentation, etc…).

In fact, most activists for the asexual community such as David Jay have focused on the well acknowledged problematic inclusion of asexuality as a mental disorder in the DSM.

And well, I have little to say about that. It’s a disgrace, it should be amended and conversations with psychologists have been mostly positive, but the narrow focus has allowed a far more subtle and interconnected problem to receive little to no acknowledgment.

That problem is how asexuals are exceptionally prone to the outskirts of the rape culture when they interact with and date sexuals. This is especially true of romantic asexuals.

Now what I mean by this is not that they are especially prone to forcible rape and the types of rape we most focus on when discussing rape, though these occur far too often and can affect asexuals just as much as sexuals.

What I mean are coercive rapes. Those where one’s autonomy and free choice is put to intense pressure and manipulation in order to force a technical consent, which is nowhere near the gold standard of mutual enthusiastic consent or informed consent. This can occur in many forms:

- Using alcohol to try and remove ability to withdraw consent
– Stating that whether one’s partner loves you or not is wholly dependent on whether or not they put out.
– Wearing down resistances to no so they accept to shut you up.
– Lying about the effects of sex without desire in order to manipulate a partner into giving sex.
– And using cultural memes towards how sex is owed to your partner to exact sex from an unresponsive and not-enjoying-it partner.

As well as many others.

So the question may be, how is this an asexuality problem rather than a sexual problem or a feminist issue?

Well, it is those latter, but it is also an asexual problem, because 99% of the world is sexual and awash in cultural narratives towards how sex is owed in a relationship and away from earnest examination of sexuality and relationship structures.

In short, asexuals in relationships can find themselves highly prone to being coerced into sex they would not have agreed to otherwise, because of sexual society memes about how sex is owed in romantic relationships.

As an illustration of this is the Asexual Relationships forum of AVEN, where every day or two, there’s at least one more heart-breaking post of someone being coerced by their partner or societal messaging that they owe sex to their partner.

In fact, I didn’t even check before making this post and sure enough, heartbreaking example number 1 was in the 5 most recent posts:

I want to have sex with my boyfriend. if I don’t think about what sex is actually like. you know if I don’t actually picture it…. then I can think of it in a romantic way. but when I read and actually see sex in a real way then it looks so horrible and awkward and strange that the thought of it makes me want to cry.

I am torn. I want to have sex with my sexual boyfriend. I learned to enjoy kissing in my own way. will I learn to enjoy sex? I had to force myself to kiss for a long white. but sexual acts makes me feel dirty thinking about me doing it. but it would be great if I could actually have sex!!! I am confused I don’t know what to do has anyone ever compromised before???? my boyfriend isn’t demanding sex but I know he would like it.

By poster Angel_eyes. Now before anyone jumps on hir or assumes I’m singling her out, ze’s just one of a thousand like hir. And this is hardly constrained to one sex, asexual men have posted similar tales of pressure from partners and expectations.

The point is that this problem is pernicious. A surprising number of asexuals have stories in their past of being coerced into sex they didn’t want or engaged in reluctantly to “try and find out if they really were” or engaged in entirely on the demands of a sexual romantic partner.

And a lot of it stems from the same rape culture that feminists talk about and a general ignorance of and resistance to a model of sex centered on mutual enthusiastic consent.

And asexuals may just be another victim of this idea that “yes should be a default” in a committed relationship, but they are one especially prone to it. Not only are they ones for whom the default is usually no, but they are usually ignorant about the “accepted rules” most sexuals use to navigate the rape culture.

They have no interior sexual desires to gauge against the sexual request against them and little cultural narrative on how to have a conversation about sex that’s mutually respectful.

That and sexuals’ refusal to have conversations about sexuality and sexual desire leads many “expectations” being highlighted in relationship and little models available for rejecting it.

Not to mention that the idea of a singular model of a romantic relationship as a committed sexual relationship can cause inherent tension as sexuals desiring sexual release can feel resentful and trapped by a lower-libido partner and thus increase pressure on them to “meet their needs” rather than discussing relationship ideas and models to find what works best for both partners if anything.

For romantic asexuals especially, the problem of coercive rape is a point where the passive bigotry of silence and ignorance about the reality of asexuals has put many into a very bad situation that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

It’s not just the DSM IV, it’s also susceptibility to coercive rape or as Angel_eyes and many others have put it “compromising on sex” for no reason other than our messed up sexual and relationship mores.

8 Responses to “Asexuality and Rape”

  1. Ily said

    Great post, very important point, and I agree 100%. I think this issue is especially problematic for people who might identify as asexual, but don’t know about asexuality or aren’t aware anyone else is like them. Most of these people are probably having sex because they think they “should”, not because they want to. I was headed down this path myself, before I found AVEN. As an asexual, you’re constantly being told you’re wrong. Any fledgling ideas you have about asserting yourself in the face of social pressure can be easily squashed.

    As sad as some of the posts on AVEN make me, at least those people have a chance for some other asexuals to tell them what’s up. For every person that posts on AVEN, there are 10,000 asexuals (and if anything, that’s probably a low number) who will never tell anyone about the conflicts they feel in regards to sex.

    I have sexual friends who had sex for the first time when drunk, with random people, just to “get it over with”. And I’ll never know what they really thought about it. While you can say you had sex “to get it over with”, you can’t currently say you had sex due to social pressures. There’s extreme pressure to convince ourselves that all the sex we’ve had was welcome and right for us. I hope part of the legacy of the asexual movement will be at least to get people talking about the insane pressures that everyone faces to have sex.

    And I love the concept of “enthusiastic consent”. If you’re not enthusiastic about sex (as few asexuals are), how could it possibly be a good experience? And if your partner doesn’t care about sex being a good experience for you, why are you with that person? Is that a weird or impossibly high standard?

    • cerberustheasexual said

      And if your partner doesn’t care about sex being a good experience for you, why are you with that person? Is that a weird or impossibly high standard?

      No, and it really shouldn’t ever be considered such. Enthusiastic consent should be the bare minimum for all peoples and a partner that doesn’t respect one’s autonomy is not a good partner.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. […] Asexuality and Rape IMPORTANT: Read this first. This post will be talking about the impact of the rape culture on the asexuality community and will be based on the y’know fact that rape and coercion towards sex are as common as they are in reality. This means if you desire to spend the comment thread whining about how rape isn’t all that common or other rape apologist lies, your comment will never make it. […]

  3. […] Asexuality & Rape […]

  4. […] even when you get a good cop, the system and society itself is really, really, really really, […]

  5. Larry said

    I am a male and was raped by my marital partner. My wife, not surprisingly soon to be ex, says she was once asexual – but I am sure she “was” not because she would understand me and she obviously does not no matter how many words I expend or show in inaction – after I came out of the closet with her. Before and ever since I came out to her (nearly a year ago), she has heeded no signs or an outright “No” enunciated, except once. I was noticing in our relationship how absolutely numb and distant I felt when she would initiate sex. This prompted me to plug in the word “asexual” into google search, without much hope I would get anything beyond descriptions of amoebas and other such biological life. Well, that didn’t happen. I discovered there are others like me, came out to my wife, and joined Aven. In my interactions with my wife, coming out as asexual didn’t change matters, as mentioned previously. It seemed like there was a monthly sad, farcical if not so tragic, pursuit-avoidance shuffle. I would hide my private parts between my legs, turn to the side away from her, keep my legs solidly together, but she ignored these very clear signs and variably pleaded. She would always couch her desire in what was euphemism for sex,: “being gentle.” I very quickly became wise to this and would ask her if this meant sex before getting under the covers, and she would say no, but then it would progress aggressively, albeit not brusquely, to intercourse. I would remain passive to point of death in these coercive transactions. At one point, I pulled away from her aggressively in her attempt to have sex, she bolted out of bed incensed – as angry as I had ever seen her. It was an inauspicious setup for the next night. She again initiated sex. I said “No” clearly and audibly, but she ignored it and continued in going through the motions of having intercourse with a deadened me. I didn’t pull away, afraid I would provoke the volcanic scene of the night before. My wife refuses to be educated about asexuality and says men can”t be raped (even while she apologizes for not listening to me – my “No”). With all this said, I still think my wife is a good person deserving of love, but the relationship is highly dysfunctional and is irretrievably broken. Sometimes a personal story can be cathartic but also be assistance to others. I hope this is the case with this posting.

    • cerberustheasexual said

      *Appropriate physical gesture of support*

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and I am so very sorry that she did that to you and I hope you can extricate yourself safely.

      Hopefully, by more and more asexuals talking about this problem and more importantly, more sexuals bothering to become educated and learning how not to be rapists/ stop supporting rape culture, we can eventually reach a world where stories like yours are not heart-breakingly common.

  6. Larry said

    Thank you very much for your comment. Just a short genuine expression of support means a lot.

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