Trigger warnings: If you have any sort of sexual violence-related trigger, you should probably skip this post. Specific triggers in this post for rape, sexual assault, child molestation, therapy trolling, denial of proper therapy, identity policing (if you think additional warnings need to be added, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to add them)
This is the third and final part of the series. You may want to read part one (here on tumblr and here on The Asexual Agenda) and part two (here on tumblr and here on The Asexual Agenda) before proceeding. This series focuses on awful things people say to asexual spectrum survivors, 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. This series is intended to accompany my resources for ace survivors project (masterpost here and tag here).
Okay, we’re finally in the home stretch. Let’s do this thing.
“If you’re sex-averse, there’s something wrong with you, and you should consult a doctor.”
“I mean, yeah, it’s okay to have PTSD, as long as you’re getting treatment for it!”
Translation: I will accept your quirks as long as you are in therapy that fits my specifications and are actively working to get rid of those quirks.
Let’s say you’re an ace who has experienced sexual violence of some kind. You probably have a lot of people (many of whom are other aces) telling you that you should go get therapy. So why don’t you do that?
Hey, remember how some people think that asexuality is caused by sexual violence? (If you don’t, maybe you should reread part two.) That misconception causes huge problems for ace survivors who try to get therapy. A fair chunk of PTSD treatment is geared toward “reclaiming your sexuality,” and so an ace who goes in to be treated for PTSD may (if they have a clueless therapist) wind up having their therapist try to “cure” their asexuality. This can cause the ace patient pretty serious distress, not to mention damage to their self-esteem and self-image.
This is assuming that the ace in question manages to get themself to therapy at all. Many aces, when faced with the odds of having a completely clueless therapist, will decide it’s better not to risk it. That’s not even factoring in the stigma of getting therapy, the extreme reluctance of many folks to report being the target of sexual violence, and the fact that the ace in question may need an LGB- or trans*-friendly therapist. Remember, not all ace survivors are heteroromantic and/or cisgender, not all of them were attacked by someone of a different gender, and having a clueless therapist, as we’ve already established, can be pretty damaging.
This is, of course, assuming that the ace in question has access to counseling services at all.
But let’s assume that the ace does have access to ace-competent (as well as whatever-else-they-need-competent) counseling that’s within their budget. Whatever problem you decided that they needed to go to therapy for (I most often see sex-aversion cited) may not even be addressed in therapy. If, for example, the therapist doesn’t think the ace’s sex-aversion is an issue (and it seems as though a fair number of ace-competent therapists don’t, if it’s not causing the patient distress), they’re not going to address it or try to treat it. Even if they do try to treat it, there’s no guarantee that it will go away. Heck, that’s true of PTSD as a whole–therapy for PTSD tends to be more about learning how to manage it (for example, learning how to deal with panic attacks or learning how navigate situations that are likely to make you triggered) rather than trying to “cure” it.
So when you demand that someone get counseling to cure their sex-aversion, their PTSD, or their general fear or dislike of sex, you’re assuming that A. they have access to affordable therapy, B. they are actually willing to play the Russian Roulette therapy game, C. they haven’t already tried therapy and found it either entirely useless or harmful, and D. they aren’t already in therapy that isn’t interested in “fixing” whatever it is that you find offensive.
You don’t get to decide whether a particular person “needs” therapy. Even if an ace really does need therapy, they might not have access to appropriate resources, and so telling them over and over that they need therapy is unproductive and extremely obnoxious. You also don’t get to specify what a successful therapy outcome would look like; that’s for the ace in question and their therapist to decide. You aren’t the therapy police! I don’t care if you’re ace and you’ve never been sex-averse, and based off of that overwhelming evidence, you’ve decided that sex-aversion is wrong. I don’t care if you’re a survivor yourself and you got over your sex-aversion, so you’ve decided that some other survivor needs to get over theirs because it’s clearly a result of trauma. You’re not the therapy police and you’re not the sexuality police! So kindly stop policing other people.
“Don’t talk about that; you’ll make us look bad.”
“If you talk about being assaulted, people will think asexuality is fake.”
Translation: Sit down and shut up.
Ah, yes, the eternal problem of the Unassailable Asexual. To be the perfect asexual advocate you have to fulfill every criterion on a long list (allistic, able-bodied, conventionally attractive, neurotypical, etc., etc., etc.), and, of course, being a survivor of sexual violence is the fastest way to get yourself thrown out of Perfect Asexual Advocate Land. But don’t worry! You can still be an asexual advocate…as long as you never talk about that stuff. You wouldn’t want to reflect badly on the asexual community, right?
Guess what! If I am going to talk about my asexuality, that means talking about all aspects of it, all my experiences because of it, including the really ugly bits. If that makes me a terrible asexual activist, so be it. I never claimed to be unassailable. I don’t want to be a poster child for the asexual movement–let’s be honest, I’m nowhere near as photogenic as Highly Photogenic Poster Boy David Jay. I want to be someone others can point to and say, “Look, it’s not just me; I’m not alone.”
Sadly, thanks to the folks who think they can fix us with their ~magical genitals~, sexual violence is a part of many aces’ experiences. If you silence the voices of survivors, you isolate those survivors, and halt any discussion that might occur. When you only allow “unassailable” aces to be advocates for the community, the majority of the aces you attract will be more or less “unassailable,” and those who are “assailable”–who really, really need people to talk to and reassurance that they are not alone–will feel that they do not have a place in the community.
Let us speak. Better yet, listen to what we’re saying. There are more of us than you think. And if you really want life to be better for the next generation of aces, you’re going to have to confront the sexual violence problem eventually, so why not start now?
…and thus concludes this incredibly upsetting and triggering series. Major kudos to everyone who stuck through it.
Hopefully this series is just the first part of a larger conversation about sexual violence and asexuality that we can get going in the community. The more people start talking about it, the more ideas we get out into the open, and the more possible solutions we find. It’s not going to be easy, and change isn’t going to instantaneous. But I’d like there to be some recognition that this is an issue. I’d like there to be some ace-competent resources for survivors out there. I’d like there to be ace-competent crisis hotlines and ace-competent therapists.
More than that, I’d like there to be a safe space for asexual spectrum survivors in our community. I’d like there to be a safe space for every survivor who has ever been told that they should have just put out or that they aren’t really asexual, just traumatized or that they need to sit down and shut up and stop reflecting badly on the ace community. I didn’t have that safe space for a very, very long time (and there are still days when I wonder whether I really have that safe space now), and I don’t want anyone else to go through that. I’d like for someone to be able to come into the ace community, say, “I was correctively raped” or “I was sexually assaulted” or “I was sexually abused as a child,” and get sympathy and understanding and acceptance rather than a kneejerk reaction of, “Stop talking; you’ll make us look bad!” or “You need therapy!”
Maybe I’m an idealist. But if this series has made one person–whether ace or not–stop and think about the way they talk to/about ace survivors, if it has made one ace survivor feel less alone, I’ll consider it a (small, but not insignificant) step in the right direction.
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Thank you for writing this series. I think this is very important.
Thank you for reading it!
Thanks for this series.
You’re very welcome. Thank you for reading!
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Great article, thank you for writing. As as a fellow asexual survivor of sexual assault, I’m glad to see articles like this being written.
I particularly appreciated the link to M.’s childhood abuse post from part 2 because as a survivor of both childhood abuse and religious abuse as well as debilitating environmental/energetic sensitivities who is homosexually oriented yet often has felt marked ambivalence regarding sex, I genuinely wonder whether or not and/or how true the typical mainstream accusations are, and feel attacked by many in the ace community for my interest in my own case because of how compatible it is with many of those common misconceptions. I personally find a great deal of relevance to other aspects of my experience in Sharon Keller’s, “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight,” and Dr. Elaine Aron’s, “The Highly Sensitive Person”, but still do not think asexuality is _caused by_ sensitivity nor from sensory integrative challenges, only that they may contribute to such aces’ self-awareness to an extent they are able consciously to self-identify with their asexual trait. And clearly, not all who self-identify as asexual are sensitive! Aron says the same of HSPs because similar conformist pressures arise for that minority community, too: the perfect angel put upon by a cruel, insensitive world, but some HSPs are rotten, manipulative, narcissistic people!
What I most appreciate about this series is its exposing the abuse patterns of sexual conformity even within the ace community, and formulates social conformity as an abusive system in a way relevant to abuse in other areas: I found myself unexpectedly triggered by M.’s description of lacking agency as she alluded to the effects from her childhood sexual abuse because of its similarities to my own _religious_ abuse, and appreciated so much how her defense of the individual and vindication of their prerogative to freedom from others’ projections was applicable to _all_ types of conformity’s abusiveness. I was savaged at APositive for suggesting asexuality be part of LGBTQA as a political entity, evidently because many asexuals experience asexuality to be a void of sexuality so incompatible with a community formed on the bases of sexuality, but really they were attacking _my_ sexuality thinking they were defending themselves as asexuals (and in their defense included petty personal insults, a clear sign of vapid desperation), and instead only perpetrated conformist abuse upon me for offering political advice. The feeling of powerlessness without others’ understanding and cooperation, and the threat from conformist pressures’ cultivation of ignorance, is rarely so well indicted. Thank you for this important and well articulated series.
Over the past several years, the Apositive community became dominated by people who felt excluded from AVEN or other asexual communities, for basically the opposite reasons that we hear most often in the tumblr/blogosphere. Namely, AVEN has too much focus on gray/demis, tries too hard to combine LGBTQ and A, mods enforce too much PCness. If it makes you feel better, you should know that they’re not a particularly influential group.
It does…though I admit I’m unclear which of the two, AVEN or APositive, to which you may specifically be referring. Thus far I’m feeling pretty alienated both from and by the self-proclaimed asexual community, so I’m not sad if neither are very influential. I’m finding much more intelligent discussion happening amongst those who do _not_ self-identify as asexual but who are caring individuals grappling with issues facing those asexual. To an extent that’s understandable as asexual individuals are in the ones in the crucible, but I don’t appreciate being slammed for calling for solidarity with other so-called alternative sexualities nor for discussing asexuality’s sexual aspects when there is evidently quite a contradictory dialogue in this regard amongst those who do self-identify as asexual…it’s very combative, derisive, and in my opinion irrational and arrogant, a lot of the time. I’ve read asexuals claim sex can be pleasureable and you remain asexual so long as it’s not that the sex is with _that person_ that’s what “gets you off”, that asexuality must be experienced as an _absence_ or void of sexuality…it’s pretty schizo, the discussion I’ve encountered so far.
I had heard of asexuality and found myself interested, but had nothing to go on that I could, well, identify. It was the documentary, “(A) Sexual”, I caught that night on Netflix I was going off, where AVEN seemed like the only game in the online-to-RL town. I decided to see what story Google’s algos might tell, and visited APositive first because I handicapped AVEN’s ranking in my own mind as having disproportionate exposure by default, and because David Jay’s “2 years later” epilogue in the documentary struck me as proving he was less interested in committing to others than he was in avoiding sex, which I find pretty reprehensible and even pathological, to be perfectly honest.
I was trying to describe how Apositive members view AVEN. And I was saying Apositive is not very influential. By contrast, AVEN is so influential that everyone is either part of it, or reacting against it.
But I should resist being drawn into a discussion of asexual communities because I would talk forever and derail the thread. Everybody’s got an opinion. Everybody’s got lots of opinions on LGBTQA and (A)sexual too. If you’re interested in mine, I guess you can ask me over e-mail or Tumblr.
I found the following piece deining a sex-negative feminist prudery insightful and constructive a framework to contextualize individual autonomy’s primacy over sex, including both asexuality and how sex abuse survivors cope:
*sigh* touchscreens! Defining, not deining *rolling eyes* There were a couple more errors on my earlier posts, too…I hate second-guessing every keystroke!!!!!
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Thank you. You don’t understand how much this means to me.
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I’m a sex-repulsed asexual survivor getting PTSD treatment, and guess what? My counselor doesn’t care if I want to have sex or not! She cares if I’m self-injuring, yelling at the people who love me, feeling depressed or scared, hating myself… all the ACTUAL problems I have. Being sex-repulsed and asexual aren’t problems for me, and I don’t need treatment for those things. It’s my right to decide exactly how much sex I’m willing to have, even if the answer is none at all. And I honestly don’t care if my sex-repulsion is caused by my PTSD. Not everything that is caused by trauma is automatically bad. (Post-traumatic growth, for example, is a documented phenomenon of positive changes as a result of going through trauma.)
Thank you for this. This is one of two google responses I got for corrective rape that wasn’t about some other country and one of the few sites I found that doesn’t deny that violence happens to the asexual community.