Content note: this post discusses homophobic and acephobic attitudes
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the intersection of asexuality and Christianity. I saw a comment on Rachel Held Evans’ blog post “If My Son or Daughter Were Gay,” from a mother asking for advice because her daughter had just come out as asexual. She noted that while homosexuality was frequently discussed on the blog (Rachel is a strong proponent of what I might call a progressive Christian attitude towards the LGBT* community, and often hosts discussion), asexuality had never been discussed.
Asexuality is in an odd place, compared to the other minority sexual orientations, when it comes to Christianity. Some religiously conservative Christians tolerate or even applaud asexuality while condemning all other non-heterosexual orientations. In that way, asexuality escapes the vitriol to which the LGBT* community is subjected*. But this leniency is often based out of a misunderstanding of asexuality– and it’s by no means universal. I know of other aces who’ve been told, by Christians (and others) that their asexuality is sinful, or even that they’re going to hell for it.
I’ve observed four primary areas of tension between asexuality and Christianity. The first is the mistaken idea that asexuality is voluntary, or is basically celibacy. The second is that asexuality isn’t a choice, but is still commendable. The third is that asexuality is preferable to being gay. The fourth is that asexuality is sinful. These ideas are probably familiar to anyone who does ace 101, but I believe this four ideas are so prevalent in Christian discussions of asexuality because of deeper beliefs that run strong in many Christian communities.
I think the idea that asexuality is voluntary, when it occurs in the Christian communities, stems in large part from the fact that many Christians, especially conservative Christians, think sexual orientation is a choice– or, rather, having a minority sexual orientation is a choice. They don’t acknowledge that many aspects of our sexuality are inherent, and out of our control. Sexual fluidity is discussed in the context of people “becoming” straight, but never the other way around. Anyone who “chooses” not to be straight is therefore in error, and asexuals are caught up in this condemnation.
Others consider that asexuality is a gift from God. They may cite verses such as Matthew 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 to argue that being asexual is a favored state, or makes life easier. Regardless of what group(s) “eunuch” really described in that context, this is incorrect. I suspect many or most asexuals would not say that asexuality makes their life easier; most asexuals still experience the desire of intimate companionship, and many also experience romantic attraction, but in our society, these two things are considered tightly coupled with sex and sexual attraction. It’s difficult to have one or two without the other, especially with a partner who is not asexual.
There are Christians who think that being asexual is better than being gay (whether or not it’s also better than being straight). They are wrong. They are wrong for many reasons. They are wrong because no sexual orientation is “better” than any other. They are wrong because they are often working off of the idea that being gay is wrong. (By the way, if you’re one of the Christians who thinks that and you’re reading this? Know that there is no verse in the Bible that says being gay is wrong. No, not even that one. Go look. I dare you.) They are wrong because this idea leads Christians to encourage gay, lesbian, and bi/pansexual people to repress their sexuality and live as if they were asexual. No one should have to repress their sexuality, and it’s incredibly damaging to do so. Being gay is not wrong. Being asexual is not wrong. Being asexual is not better than being gay.
Christians who believe asexuality is sinful may be coming from one of a couple of places. If they are talking to or about female aces, they may be influenced by misogynistic ideas about women existing solely for marriage, children, and the sexual pleasure of men. If they’re speaking more generally, they may be operating off of the incorrect assumption that the nuclear family is the basic unit of, and integral to, Christianity. (If you are one of those Christians reading this, I suggest you go back and read the Matthew verse I referenced above.) Or, homophobia may have convinced them that heterosexuality is the only good sexual orientation, and therefore anything else must be condemned. Or, they may be under the mistaken impression that asexuality is “unnatural” and therefore sinful.
I suspect that asexuality will be a larger blip on the radar of Christian communities in the coming years, as it becomes more generally known. Asexuals and Christians alike (qua asexuals and Christians) are likely to encounter these ideas more frequently. It’s important for asexuals to understand where these ideas likely come from, and it’s important for Christians to understand why these ideas are wrong. Asexuality is not a choice, it’s not a blessing, it’s not better than being gay, and it’s not a sin.
*Being trans* isn’t an orientation, but I’ve discovered that many Christians routinely write “the LGBT community” and lump trans* folk in with their blanket condemnations, without understanding what it means.