Asexual Perceptions of Allosexuals

HEY. I’m calling you out, ace community. I’ve seen something prevalent in our community, and I think it’s time that it needs to end.

The way we talk about and portray allosexual folks is often almost a caricature. We often speak of them as if they are constantly horny, unable to abstain from sex, and unable to experience love without needing sex. We sometimes act as if we are superior because we are able to pursue our interests without ‘all that sex business’ getting in the way. We often suggest that our friendships are more important to us, or even that allosexuals will always choose a sexual relationship over a platonic or queerplatonic one.

We need to stop this. This is detrimental to many people. It erases the experiences of allosexual folks who are in queerplatonic relationships, are celibate, are aromantic, or are in mixed relationships with asexuals. In addition, it suggests to romantic asexuals that romantic, or even platonic, relationships with allosexuals is a lost cause, as they could never repress their UNCONTROLLABLE NEED FOR SEX. It also contributes to the pressuring of aces in mixed relationships to ‘compromise’ and have sex that they may well not want, since no sexual person could ever be in a romantic relationship without sex. However, it also perpetuates rape culture and gross assumptions about sexuality that need to be stopped.

Where do we get these ideas from in the first place? Society teaches us that men can’t help but rape, objectifies women, and tells us that a woman’s most important role is to have (heterosexual) sex and have children. Women are portrayed as constantly sexually available. Most of society only recognizes monogamist, sexual, romantic relationships as legitimate primary ones. In the law, platonic relationships are hardly recognized. The media is increasingly hypersexualizing images of men and (mostly) women. Nearly everything in society sets us up to make these assumptions about allosexual people. Then the taboo of talking about sex prevents us from discussing our sexualities with others and realizing that these myths that society teaches us are simply not true. In addition, we are hurt by allosexual folks who erase and discredit our own sexualities and relationships.

However, by talking about allosexual people as if they can’t help but need sex all the time constantly and can only think of relationships as sexual, we are only perpetuating the problem. It teaches us that if we ever want to be in a relationship with a person who is allosexual, we will be forced to have sex, since they can’t live without it. It makes us more likely to distrust or push away allosexual folks as friends, zucchinis, or partners, since we are believing these ludicrous assumptions society teaches us. It makes us discount the experiences of allosexual people in non-sexual primary relationships, accounting that they won’t last, since a sexual person cannot live without sex.

This totally erases allosexual people who abstain from sex for whatever reason. Allosexual people at least have their own experiences to know that they are not constantly craving sex. However, many of us don’t have these experiences, so we allow what society teaches us to become our main archetype for what allosexual people are like.

So how do we fix this? We need to not make generalizations or assumptions about allosexual people. We need to realize that, like us, they are human and their sexualities exist on a wide spectrum. We need to look at the beliefs we have about sexuality and allosexual folks and critically examine where those come from and how society, the media, and we are contributing to them. We need to not shame people for being allosexual, and accept their sexualities as part of who they are, and realize that does not make them a better or worse person. We need to openly communicate with our romantic, sexual, platonic, and queerplatonic partners about what their sexualities mean to them and talk about how that interacts with our own. We need to listen when allosexual people call us out and tell us we are making assumptions or contributing to the false conceptions of sexuality that our society teaches us.

Most importantly, I believe we need to have discussions with our allosexual friends about their experiences. This will help dispel many of the misconceptions some of us have about allosexual folks, as well as open communication and create allies. There’s an entire wealth of information to be shared and explored. We merely need to talk about it!

 

About Annette

Annette is currently working on her undergraduate degree in Communication. She is an asexual lesbian and enjoys being involved in the queer community on her campus. This is her first foray into more serious blogging, though you can find her personal tumblr at annetterfly.tumblr.com. When not particularly busy, Annette enjoys learning, hanging out with her friends, and making videos of stick bugs dancing to sick beats. She is not nearly as un-hip as this biography suggests.
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18 Responses to Asexual Perceptions of Allosexuals

  1. Sciatrix says:

    Is shaming a really prevalent problem, though? I absolutely agree with you that I see a fair bit of people assuming that allosexual people are on average a lot more sexual than people maybe are. But in community, the only time I ever see people cross into shaming is when they’re very new to ace spaces, and then they get very quickly reprimanded by multiple people.

    I think part of the problem is that it’s very hard to get a good “average” frame of reference, especially when the allosexual people most likely to be loud about their experience of sexuality are maybe not a representative sample of the way that everyone feels. And it’s especially hard if you’re asexual and you see allosexual people coming in to say things like “I could never date an asexual!” every time you’re mentioned, or allosexual people saying things like “[an asexual in a relationship with an allosexual person] must be employing abusive cultural messages to get this relationship.” I don’t often see allosexual people counterbalancing points like this with “I would consider dating an asexual person,” so it’s easy to get a skewed impression of what allosexual people will and won’t do.

    Mind, I have no idea how to solve this except to encourage people to talk to each other more and to generalize less, which is exactly what you’re advocating. I completely agree that that’s the most obvious and most effective solution. But is there any way to prevent these misconceptions from forming in the first place?

  2. Minyoung says:

    It’s not necessarily society and media but sometimes bad experiences that ppl have difficulty moving past , insecurity that contributes to this perspective as in my case..

    I will get chewed out for this but yes I do have these thoughts about allosexuals and mainly it’s enforced by the allos ( am I allowed to shorten it like that ? ) from AVEN. I never understood why they came there in hopes their partner would somehow have sex with them or why is sex so important to them that the asexual needs to compromise and have it or the relationship won’t last…or why does their happiness , esteem etc revolve around sex.

    I have had bad experiences with 4 allosexuals so I think that is where my negativity originates from…. The last non ace I loved with all of my heart but in return all he could think of was rape fantasies of me , wanting sex from me as rewards and he did this knowing I was asexual and didn’t like those things. I always wondered why wasn’t love enough for him.
    Also I think another thing that contributes to my negativity is that I’m kinda frustrated..everyone I like wants sex and I don’t want to have it so it rules me out it makes me feel worthless and that I’m destined to be alone forever cause finding an asexual is hard and I do believe that every allosexual I meet is going to want sex. Forgive me for generalization but I have never met a non ace that would totally be ok without having sex so it’s kinda hard for me to get rid of that perception.

    I’m not trying to offend any allosexuals or meaning any malice to the post. I’m glad you did make the post it will kinda guide me into fixing myself but for me that perception will be very hard to get rid off 😦
    ( forgive me my English isn’t my first language >< )

    • Italophile says:

      I know that it’s been months since you commented, but I felt compelled to reply because I am an allosexual who recently started dating an asexual and I too have found some of the threads on the “Partners” section of AVEN to be highly disturbing. Sure, I like sex, and it would be great if it was a part of my life, but the idea of compelling an unwilling or uninterested partner to have sex with me is completely repulsive to me. Consent is so very very important to me, and that can never exist if one partner has no interest or is repulsed. And if that wasn’t reason enough, I think a large percentage of allosexuals would agree with me when I say that the experience is only really gratifying if you feel really and truly desired by your partner.

      So basically, what I am trying to say is: Please don’t write all of us off because you happen to have met the douchebags among us. There are a lot of people like me out there who would never cross our partners’ comfort boundaries, no matter what “animal instincts” we may have. If you keep looking, you will find us; we are out there 🙂

  3. I like this post. And I agree, asexual discussion of allosexuality is generally pretty bad. I think the problem is that there’s a temptation to say ‘allosexual people are like this.’ If you think of what it would be like to say ‘Asexual people are like this,’ then you can start to understand how ridiculous this is. And how the answer isn’t ‘No they’re not’ or ‘Yes they are,’ the answer is ‘That’s a gross oversimplification of a really complicated and diverse group of people, many of whom have basically nothing in common with each other.’ I know a couple of allosexual people who are definitely allosexual, but whose reactions to the idea of not having sex for the rest of their lives are neutral to positive (and I’m considering whether I’m in that category myself). I know some allosexuals for whom sex is crucial to their identities, and some allosexuals for whom sex is crucial to their ideas of a loving relationship, and some who just like it a hell of a lot, and, yes, some who fulfil all the worst allosexual stereotypes.
    tl;dr: Allosexuals are DIFFERENT. How allosexuals feel about sex or sexless relationships is massively complicated, and complicated even more by the fact that a lot of allosexuals don’t even realise that its possible to feel different about these things than everyone else, and it would be really mega-awesome if what asexuality does is create the ability for allosexuals to recognise these differences and have ways of talking about them, rather than pushing the idea that allosexuals all work the same way, which is ultimately a harmful idea to allosexuals and to asexuals.

    tl;dr, tl;dr: I agree.

  4. epochryphal says:

    I think another key point to be made here is how isolating this (binarist, othering) “asexual vs allosexual” approach can be to grey-a’s and demi’s! And I think trying to account for greys and demis opens up a talking about a spectrum of experience, not a yes/no switch but a potentially confusing feeling with axes of intensity and frequency and clarity and maybe some other things.

    And absolutely correct, demonizing folks for having a clear experience of sexual attraction is sucky.

  5. Mark says:

    Reblogged this on Mark Carrigan and commented:
    This Guardian article was the first time I’d noticed sexual people (I prefer this term to ‘allosexual’ i.e. ‘sexual’ and ‘asexual’ as adjectives rather than nouns) respond with indignation, as bewildering as it was in its intensity, to being identified as ‘sexual’ people i.e. as a distinguishable group rather than humanity as such. But inevitably, when we designate a group, particularly when using a noun, the possibility exists that we falsely attribute a homogeneity to that group which doesn’t exist. One of the things that fascinates me about the asexual community is quite how diverse it is (in a range of different ways) without the extent of this difference undermining the collective identity (i.e. the ‘umbrella’ definition). In fact the difference is, in a superficially paradoxical way, the condition which secures the commonality. But it stands to reason that much as ‘asexual’ works discursively by negating the ‘sexual’, bringing an opposing point of identification into language around which a relatively heterogeneous array of subjects can converge, so too might this be true of ‘sexual’. It’s just that until we identify ‘sexual’ people, as a distinguishable sub group (albeit a very large one) rather than human beings as such, the discursive opening which allows the articulation of internal differences (i.e. the range of what it is to be ‘sexual’) is foreclosed and there’s no basis for reciprocal articulation of the ways in which we differ in spite of our commonality of being ‘sexual’.

    • I think when allosexual people hear about asexuality, something in our worldview often breaks. There are two ways to react. The easiest is to box asexuals, to mentally construct them as something with its own separate existence rather than something on a spectrum, and to assume that the rules that work for Everyone Else are different in this tiny parallel universe. I think this might be one reason allosexual people get annoyed at being labelled something, because it stops asexuality being Something Else, which doesn’t concern them, and asexuality becomes one of two ways to be, and suddenly there’s a comparison. Everything asexuality is is suddenly relevant TO YOU. It’s like going from a comfortable anthropology; ‘Hey look, this tribe barter possessions in exchange for wives. They don’t even do the normal thing and marry for love. Weird’ to an uncomfortable one; ‘So marrying for love isn’t necessarily normal. In fact, it’s uncommon. So do we still think it’s the best way to do things? Why? What about all the times something that looks like the bartering system crops up in our culture? Are we deceiving ourselves about how different we are?’

      Having said that, I don’t know if I’d call allosexuality a sub-group. The differences just seem too vast to me, because asexuality is a positive identity while allosexuality is an outgroup. And allosexual people have typically been very bad at discussing how allosexuality works, but I don’t think there’ll actually be much common ground. My pet theory is that there’s, like, a bazillion things which the experiencors call sexual attraction, so some people will have a complete absence of sexual attraction but never notice because of the combination of aesthetic and romantic attraction that they assume is it, and some people will have attraction closely tied to emotion and some will have almost directionless libido which they choose to act out with others, and, given how much ‘sexual attraction’ will fall apart when examined, the distinction between asexual and allosexual, which is pretty clear while the people who identify as asexual do so as a positive identity, will fall apart, and I don’t think ‘allosexual’ (or ‘sexual’ or ‘non-asexual’ or whatever) is a good enough word to use to discuss all these different sexual attractions and not-sexual attractions and sexual not-attractions.

      tl;dr: I speculate wildly about things I have utterly no evidence for.

  6. Mark says:

    “I don’t think ‘allosexual’ (or ‘sexual’ or ‘non-asexual’ or whatever) is a good enough word to use to discuss all these different sexual attractions and not-sexual attractions and sexual not-attractions.”

    Some sexual people make that argument in response to asexuality though…

    • But there are two core meanings to asexuality. The first is ‘people who don’t experience sexual attraction’. The second is ‘people who identify as asexual.’

      With regards allosexuality, the second definition isn’t very helpful, because the definition wouldn’t be ‘people who identify as allosexual’ but ‘people who don’t identify as asexual,’ which is an outgroup not an identity. So I guess it comes down to whether the first definition, ‘people who experience sexual attraction’ is a decent core meaning. And I reckon not experiencing sexual attraction is a much more solid concept than experiencing it.

  7. Mark says:

    Yeah I completely take your point. But I think an identity can’t emerge until a group is designated. I wonder what allosexual/sexual identity might look like a decade or two down the line…

  8. Laura says:

    I’m allosexual and reading posts on the existence/possibility of romantic friendship/queer platonic relationships, relationship anarchy, not prioritizing romantic-sexual relationships etc. was something of a revelation because I’d always wanted these things. So being told I can’t genuinely feel this way because I experience romantic and sexual attraction is…disheartening, I guess? I’m not trying to come off as whiny – I know attitudes to sexuality and relationships must alienate asexual people FAR more than they could alienate me, and I know lots of asexuals have had horrible experiences with allosexual people. I’m just saying allosexuals who feel like me definitely exist, too 🙂

    • Eugh. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t form relationships in a certain way. When we started the asexual community, we were very clear that it was a toolkit- you use the word if it helps, rather than if you pass some arbitrary test. I feel like that about aromantic thought- if the concepts make sense to you, whoever you are, run with them. Because there’s a MASSIVE unexplored spectrum between aromantic and alloromantic, especially amongst allosexual folks, and aromantic aces just end up shooting themselves in the foot if they say no-one else can use their precious words.

  9. Pingback: Not everybody wants to do it | The Asexual Agenda

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  11. *throws confetti all over this post* YEESSSSS.

  12. Pingback: Assumptions | A journey of baking and love

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