I’m openly asexual, and I also pay attention to media mentions of asexuality. So I’ve heard all the standard attacks and denials. I can handle them.
But here’s what I think is particularly nasty: attacks on my boyfriend.
This happened a few times in my boyfriend’s circle of friends. It’s a fairly typical circle of friends in that it consists of people who are mostly the same age, race, and social class. This particular circle consists mostly of gay white educated young men. They’re my friends too, of course, and I have nothing against them.
A year ago, one of these men, named J, found out that my boyfriend and I were going to an asexual meetup that weekend. Meetups are something we do on occasion. We go to a cafe and have casual conversations about whatever people like. More often than not, what we discuss has nothing to do with asexuality. J seemed to have a different image in mind though. J accused my boyfriend, over instant messages, of getting into a sexless relationship for me. He said I was trying to convert him to asexuality.
On a more recent occasion, my boyfriend went to a movie night. This is something we do every few weeks, but this particular week I was out of town so he was there without me. The host of the movie night says to my boyfriend, “So, I heard you were asexual. What’s that about?” My boyfriend had to explain that I was asexual, but he wasn’t. This led to a situation where all his friends were quizzing him on asexuality.
My boyfriend felt very uncomfortable, because he felt put on the spot to defend the legitimacy of our relationship to his friends. He felt like he was in a double-bind. First they assumed that we’re in a sexless relationship, and then they questioned the legitimacy of sexless relationships. My boyfriend wanted to inform them that our relationship is sexually active, but also didn’t want to imply that sexless relationships were somehow less legitimate.
That’s what bothered my boyfriend the most, but I was more bothered by the larger pattern of behavior. They pounced on him when I wasn’t there. It felt like they were using underhanded tactics to hit me at my weak spot. And they’ve never mentioned any of it to me, even though my boyfriend said they should redirect questions to me.
It’s true that I’m not as close of a friend to them, and that may explain their behavior. But if they were really interested in learning about asexuality, they should have asked the more knowledgeable person. My boyfriend is not asexual. He gets all his information about asexuality secondhand through me. He doesn’t necessarily know how to respond to all the standard attacks. And why should he have to? Asexuality isn’t his own lived experience.
On another occasion, a different friend said to me in front of my boyfriend, “You’re the most sexually active asexual I know.” That was awkward, and assumed knowledge about our sex lives. But you know, that wasn’t as bad, because at least he said it to my face.