Trigger warnings: If you have any sort of sexual violence-related trigger, you might want to skip this post. Specific triggers in this post for rape, sexual assault, child molestation, corrective rape, invalidation of both sexual orientation and lived experiences, victim-blaming to the max, sexuality policing (if you think additional warnings need to be added, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to add them)
I’m currently working on a project to assemble resources for asexual spectrum survivors of sexual violence. (If you are interested in getting involved in this project, here’s the announcement post, here’s information on specific things I’m looking for, and here’s the tag for the project.) One of the first things I tried to figure out for the project was what specific challenges ace spectrum survivors face that non-aces don’t. This series (yes, there will be multiple parts) is the product of that brainstorming.
This series focuses on awful things people say to asexual spectrum survivors of sexual violence, sometimes out of spite, sometimes out of concern, and sometimes out of ignorance. Each section has a quote (or collection of related quotes) followed by a “translation” of the quote (or a distillation of the essence of the argument, if you will) and then commentary on why this is an awful thing to say (and suggestions for things you can say instead).
For the sake of full disclosure: I am a survivor of sexual assault, including corrective rape. This is not something I am ready to talk about, but I think it’s important to know where I’m coming from. I do not claim to speak for all asexual spectrum survivors; I’m just trying to get a conversation started.
The quotes from this post are a combination of things people have said to me personally, things I have seen written on the ace bits of the internet, and things other survivors have talked to me about. As such, the quotes may be somewhat biased toward partner assault. If you think I’m missing a category of comments, feel free to drop me a note in the comments or a reblog. While there’s a non-zero chance that I’m already planning to cover it in a later post, there’s also a pretty good chance that I was so busy typing aggressively that I forgot to include it and/or that I’ve never heard it before.
I’m sure these won’t be easy posts for many people to read (they certainly weren’t easy for me to write), so I will not be deeply offended if you decide to skip these posts. If you want someone to talk to, my ask box on tumblr is open or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, everybody understand what this is all about? Everybody respecting their triggers?
Buckle up, you’re in for a disheartening ride.
“Maybe if you hadn’t been such a frigid bitch, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“If you didn’t want to put out, you shouldn’t have been dating.”
“This is what happens when you play hard to get!”
Translation: You deserved to be attacked. Also, your partner’s desires are more important than your bodily autonomy.
This is something aces who were assaulted by partners will often hear, sometimes from the partners themselves. Their partners’ excuses will often follow the form of “I just love you too much” or “I just want to help you” or “It drives me crazy that you won’t let me touch you properly.” I’ve spoken to people whose partners attacked them in their sleep or while they were otherwise incapacitated, because “you won’t let me touch you while you’re awake, and I don’t know how else to get through to you.” There are also those who, when they went to friends or family for support after an assault, were told that if they had just “put out” like they were “supposed to,” this never would have happened.
News flash: Nobody owes anyone sex. Ever. It doesn’t matter if a touch-repulsed asexual is dating a hypersexual cuddler–NO SEX IS OWED TO ANYONE. Even if upon entering the relationship both parties agreed to have sex every single day, if Person A changes their mind, they do not owe Person B sex. It is entirely reasonable to break up with someone because of a sexual mismatch. (There is, in fact, a whole post on how to do that.) It is not reasonable to “take” sex from someone because they won’t “give” it to you and you “love [them] too much.” That’s rape. And if you think that by forcefully “sexing up” your partner, they will suddenly undergo a massive change in attitude and sexual orientation and become wildly enthusiastic about having sex with you, let me inform you that your attempts to “fix” your partner would be corrective rape. If you think that when two (or more) people agree to date, they owe each other sex (or any other kind of physical contact, for that matter), kindly go sit in the corner and think about how you are contributing to rape culture.
If an ace tells you that their non-ace partner raped or assaulted them, you should not be telling them that they just needed to put out. You should not be telling them that they are at fault for their attack. It is, in fact, possible to acknowledge the difficulties of a mixed relationship without blaming the ace for the attack; you can say, for example, “I understand [partner]’s frustration, as it can be really difficult to compromise when the two of you have such different [sex drives/desires/what have you], but that doesn’t justify [his/her/their] behavior.” If someone confides in you about something so personal and sensitive, you should be supporting them, not tearing them down and blaming them for being attacked.
“What did you expect dating a sexual?”
“The only way to be safe from rape is to date another ace.”
Translation: You brought this upon yourself.
If you have ever said or thought any variation of the above, please go join the previous group in the corner and contemplate what you have done. Let’s break down the problems with these quotes:
1. This is victim-blaming to the max. No one should ever expect to be sexually assaulted by a partner. If their partner assaults them, that is their partner’s fault, not theirs.
2. Not all allosexual people are rapists. I can’t believe I had to type that sentence. Allosexual people are, in fact, capable of communicating with their partner(s), and are also capable of terminating relationships that are making them unhappy. If an allosexual person assaults an ace, that’s a problem with them personally, not their sexual orientation.
3. Aces can and do sexually assault people. Not experiencing sexual attraction does not make you a wonderful person, and sexual violence is often about power, not attraction. Aces can be abusive. Aces can be rapists. Aces can molest children. The only surefire way to be safe from sexual violence is to become a cave-dwelling hermit and station a people-eating bear at the door.
I understand that some aces really want to date other aces! That’s totally cool. Ace/ace relationships can be awesome. If you want to talk about how awesome ace/ace relationships can be, go for it. But please don’t talk about how awesome all ace/ace relationships are (again, aces can be abusive) or how abusive all ace/allo relationships are. Generalizations and blanket statements won’t help anyone, and will make aces who have been assaulted (whether by allos or by other aces) feel really awful.
“Are you sure you aren’t just overreacting because you hate sex?”
“Are you sure it was really rape?”
Translation: I think you’re lying/overreacting.
Yes, non-asexual survivors face accusations of overreacting as well, but if you’re asexual, you’re going to get this in spades–just consider the reactions people had to Swankivy talking about being sexually assaulted. I’ve gotten this reaction as well, even from people I would consider friends. I had one friend, who is otherwise a wonderful and understanding person, ask me if perhaps what had happened to me wasn’t really that bad and it just seemed that bad “because of the whole asexual thing.” I then described to her in excruciating detail what my attacker had done, and she blanched and apologized profusely.
I shouldn’t have had to do that. I should not be forced to offer proof that my experiences were “bad enough” to qualify me as a survivor. My asexuality should not force me to achieve a certain score on the “legitimate sexual assault” scale so I can receive my “actual survivor certification.”
For some reason, some people believe that asexuals–as people who “hate” sex–are much more likely to exaggerate their stories or to claim that consensual sex was rape. I’ve got some news for you folks: for some people, it can be extremely hard to even acknowledge that they were sexually assaulted. They might blame themselves or come up with excuses (“he didn’t really know what he was doing,” “she said it was an accident so it couldn’t really be assault,” “it only happened once and I’m probably just overly sensitive,” etc.). This is especially true of partner assault–I have spoken to aces who took years to acknowledge that their partners had assaulted them, because they kept blaming themselves for the incident(s) or assuming that they were just being “too sensitive” or that their partners were “just trying to help.”
Being a survivor of sexual violence is not “trendy”–there is a huge stigma attached. There is a good chance that you will be seen as “broken” or “dirty,” and that’s not even considering the added “brokenness” of being asexual or the fact that many people, upon hearing that you’re an asexual survivor, will attempt to dismiss your sexual orientation, your experiences, or both (more on that in a later post). So, no, most people are not going to go around claiming sexually violent experiences for the thrill of it.
Also, good gravy, if someone trusts you enough to share something so personal and emotional, I sincerely hope you support and believe them rather than throwing them into a self-doubt/self-loathing spiral with your thoughtless comments.
That’s all for this time. Tune in next time for such thrilling comments as:
- “How do you know if you’ve never tried it? No, I mean really tried it.”
- “You’re asexual? Did something happen to you as a child?”
- “Well, you’re asexual, so being raped probably wasn’t as bad for you as it would be if you were sexual.”
and many more!