A thought experiment for non asexual people

« Imagine that you wake up one day in a world in which all sexuality has disappeared. A completely asexual world. In this world, hardly anyone feels sexual attraction and nobody speaks about sexuality. No words exist to describe sexual experiences and no ideas are available to understand them. Imagine further that in this world being asexual is the normal and privileged way of being, no proper person would think about sexuality. It is known that some people are sexual but this is not deemed an interesting subject. In the few instances where it’s spoken about, sexuality is always shown as symptomatic of some incapacity, trouble or condition. In this world, you can’t find a word to speak about sexual practices and relationships. Asexual relationships, on the contrary, are valued above everything else. There are the most important relationships in one’s life and the main task for an adult is to seek and find an asexual partner.

Imagine now that you wake up in this world only to realize that you are not asexual. And not only are you not asexual but you’re also strongly attracted toward sexuality. Of course, you’re not able to figure out what you feel but you know all the same that there’s something wrong with it. There’s no one around you to help you out and when you eventually find informations regarding sexuality, it’s always portrayed as shameful or as something requiring medical attention. You would like to form an intimate relationship but when you’re with someone your sexuality quickly becomes an issue. You’ve tried to discuss your feelings and needs with your partners but you’ve only encountered a lack of understanding. Some have blamed you for your situation and some have even pretended to cure you. You eventually understand that your sexuality drive people away and, not knowing what to do, you finally resign to loneliness. »


Fortunately, for most readers, such a world is nothing but a fiction. The world you live in allows you to understand yourself and to be understood by others. But I would like to ask you this : thrown in such a world, what would you do ? Would you like to be able to speak about your experiences and to understand them ? Would you like the words « homosexual », « bisexual » and « heterosexual » (among others) to be available to you ? Would you like your feeling and needs to be marginalized and ridiculed or recognized as a legitimate alternative ? Would you like to be able to meet people that understand you and with which you’d be able to form sexual or asexual relationships ?

If your answer is « yes » to any of these questions, I believe that you now have a better grasp of our experiences and expectations. I believe you’re in a better position to understand our attempts to make this isolation, this difficulty to inhabit a world that erases us, nothing but a bad dream. In the end, we want the same thing as you, we want such a story to be nothing but a fiction that one can read absent-mindedly and instantly forget.

To know more about asexuality, click here.

About Baptiste

I blog here or here and tweet here.
This entry was posted in activism. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A thought experiment for non asexual people

  1. Frank says:

    But it’s an asymmetric question. An asexual person in a sexual world feels social pressure to act against nature, while a sexual person in an asexual world would feel social pressure to not act according to nature – which is the case (in our sexual world) for many people who have unusual sexual fetishes.

  2. L says:

    I’m ace and have a paraphilia, so I know what it’s like on both fronts. The third is even worse: how to experience, live, and talk about the intersection of paraphilia and asexuality. Zero language currently exists to discuss that reality.

    Frank, I’m assuming that in this fictitious world, “nature” would be different also.

    • Seth says:

      I had the same reaction to Frank’s comment. Then I realized that he was talking about acting against one’s own nature (orientation), not acting against nature in a broad sense. He has a valid point, but I don’t think it makes enough difference to constitute a serious problem with the thought experiment.

      • Frank says:

        I’m sorry – ‘nature’ was a poor choice of word and Siggy’s interpretation is correct.
        My point, however, is that not being able to do what you want to do (sex, in this case) is just as frustrating but far less disturbing/traumatic than being required to do what you don’t want to do. Why not invert it the other way:
        ‘Have a sllce of cake.’
        ‘I don’t like cake.’
        ‘Everybody likes cake.’
        ‘I don’t.’
        ‘Oh, go on. Try it. You’ll like it.’
        ‘No! Seriously, I don’t like cake!’
        ‘But how do you know you don’t like cake if you don’t try it? Maybe you’ll like this one. It’s really nice…’
        ‘No. I. Just. Don’t. Like. Cake.’
        ‘Oh, I get it. What you’re really saying is that you don’t like my cake.’

        • Seth says:

          Your argument is accurate as far as it goes, but I think the important point is not having difficulty doing what you want to do vs. being pressured to do what you don’t want to do, but that in either case your inclinations are, to quote the article, “always portrayed as shameful or as something requiring medical attention”. That’s the bigger problem: society telling you there must be something wrong with you. And I think this gets the point across better than any analogy using something that isn’t controversial at all and isn’t part of anyone’s core identity.

    • This is really intersting bc the part where I write “Would you like the words « homosexual », « bisexual » and « heterosexual » (among others) to be available to you ?” seemed a bit awkward since it doesn’t account for intersectionality. It sounds like I’m saying heterosexuality is on the same foot as homo or bisexuality, which is obvisouly wrong.

      • Seth says:

        Obviously wrong in reality, but not necessarily wrong in the thought experiment. If asexuality were the norm and sexual attraction seen as problematic, it seems to me that would put hetero- on the same foot as homo- and bi-.

        • Baptiste says:

          Exactly. The problem comes from the fact that we would like 1) the thought experiment to be non contradictory and performs whatever educational task we devise it for (obviously) but 2) we also would like the thought experiment to function as an analogy (asexuality is to sexuality in the thought experiment’s world what sexuality is to asexuality in the real world).
          But (2) seems hard to reach since (a) as Franck pointed there’s an asymetry between not being able to express one’s own sexuality and being recquired to do what you don’t want and (b) sexuality in the TE’s world put homo-, bi- and heterosexuality on the same foot, whereas those sexualities are not on the same foot in reality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s