Sexism and Asexuality: Part Two

Note: the first two posts in this series were originally published at Confessions of an Ist.

I’ve heard it said that for a women to be asexual means for her to conveniently conform to the demands of the patriarchy, but that’s very untrue.

Asexuality is a free pass out of exactly zero of the thousands of ways the patriarchy polices female sexuality. My not being sexually attracted to men isn’t excused because I’m also not sexually attracted to women. The sex toys in my dresser aren’t condoned because I’m only using them on myself. The fact that I want intimacy from people– from men, even– without wanting to have sex in return doesn’t meet with approval. That I enjoy being attractive, without wanting to attract anyone and without being attracted to anyone, puts me squarely in that illogical category known as “being a tease,” just like millions of other women who dare to do something for themselves rather than for a male audience.

Women cannot express our desires, be they romantic or sexual or platonic, without being shamed and belittled, and being asexual doesn’t change that. We’re not supposed to have desires. We’re supposed to be sexualized, and sexy, but not sexual; available to men, but with no desires or demands of our own except for those which serve their fantasies. Asexual women don’t get a free pass out of that. Some asexual women, certainly, do have no sexual desires, but I suspect there are very few asexual women who have no desires at all. And asexual women are no more sexually available to men than are women of any other sexual orientation. Therefore, we fail at the two primary components of patriarchially-sanctioned female sexuality: available (no more so than any other women) and without any desires of our own (no). The patriarchy isn’t exactly falling all over itself to give us cookies.

As an asexual woman, I am too sexual to be “proper,” because I enjoy sexual pleasure (and, even more scandalously, on my own terms and for no one’s benefit but mine). I am also not sexual enough, however, because I am not sexually available to men. I do not receive any sort of approval for being asexual; I have not unlocked some sort of magic guide to negotiating through the worst of the patriarchy by being asexual. I put up with the same objectification, fight the same fights, and live in the same fear as the equivalent white allosexual woman of my socioeconomic class. And all this, by the way, is while being celibate. If I were currently sexually active, I would have to wade through the same garbage as my allosexual counterpart.

The thing about the patriarchy is that there is no way to win. It is an obstacle course constructed to be unwinnable. Not everyone loses as badly– for many women, their race, class, sexual orientation, religion, and/or position on the gender binary clear many obstacles away– but no one wins. To say that any particular group wins simply means you aren’t paying attention. There is no way to satisfy the demands of the patriarchy, because the demands of the patriarchy are conflicting and mutually exclusive. It is literally impossible. None of us win– not allosexual women, and not asexual women.

About Aydan

Aydan is an aromantic asexual biology grad student in the US. She blogs at Confessions of an Ist about asexuality, Christianity, environmentalism, and feminism.
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4 Responses to Sexism and Asexuality: Part Two

  1. Siggy says:

    There is no way to satisfy the demands of the patriarchy, because the demands of the patriarchy are conflicting and mutually exclusive. It is literally impossible.

    I tell myself something similar whenever I worry that I’m confirming stereotypes. I can’t confirm all the stereotypes, because they contradict each other!

    • Aydan says:

      I’d never actually thought of it in a positive light like that; I usually focus on how it’s impossible to win. I like your perspective better.

  2. PostHumanity says:

    I also struggle with the fear of being “a tease”. I am aromatic as well as asexual, to society there is no reason that I should strive to make myself attractive if I am not looking for a mate or trying to keep one. But I love to look beautiful and dress up and go out and meet new people. Sometimes I find myself policing my actions: I’ll pass on the makeup if I’m already wearing a nice outfit or at parties I will try not to talk to someone for too long lest they think I’m interested. I feel like I’m stuck between being true to myself and conforming to outside pressures for fear of leading someone on.

    • Aydan says:

      Yeah, I definitely hear you. It’s a nasty intersection of misogyny and anti-asexual sentiment, I think. Sometimes I draw back on making friends because I have a hard time figuring out what is perceived as flirting and what is perceived as friendliness (and I suspect that’s another area where all women can do is lose, because there’s no right answer).

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