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Ontario asexuals challenge assumptions

Ontario asexuals challenge assumptions

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Brock University study found one percent of population does not feel any sexual attraction
From the age of 11 or 12, Frances says, she knew there was something "off" about her.
 
At 17, she fell in love with a man – but felt no sexual attraction. A few years later, she fell in love with a woman – but again, nothing. After spending years in bisexual women's and lesbian communities, the London, Ontario, resident realized those labels didn't quite fit. Although she was interested in romance and a self-described sex-positive feminist, Frances simply wasn't interested in sex. Haunted by stereotypes, she panicked: "I said to a friend I was going to die alone, surrounded by cats."
 
Her friend suggested she check the internet for a community for people who want romantic relationships without sex.
 
Last December, Frances took that advice and discovered the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). For more than a decade, the group has educated the public about asexuality and connected tens of thousands of asexual-identified and questioning people with resources and each other.
 
Like other identity-based communities, AVEN stresses there are as many ways of being asexual as there are asexuals. Some are in non-sexual romantic relationships (monogamous or not), others in sexual relationships, still others single. Some see asexuality as a political, queer or radical identity. Others want nothing to do with politics.
 
What asexuals share is that they do not experience sexual attraction to other people, and AVEN's spectacular growth – and scientific data – suggest they're far from alone. A widely cited 2004 study on sexual behaviour in the UK by Brock University psychology professor Anthony Bogaert suggests about one percent of the population self-described as "never having a sexual attraction."
 
In a society many describe as relentlessly sexual, asexuals can also face invisibility, isolation and questions that range from genuinely curious to outright hostile.
 
May, also from London, describes the scrutiny she faces for being a "happily single" 30-year-old asexual woman. "Aside from 'Are you gay?'" she says, "the most popular speculation is, 'Were you abused as a child?'"
 
May's experiences point to how assumptions about "normal" desire can affect sexual and asexual people alike, working in tandem with homophobic, sexist and ageist stereotypes. Her knack for sarcasm, she says, is often interpreted as flirtatious. "There is always the irritating subtext of 'sex,'" she says. "The one that dictates [that] any 30-year-old woman without a ring on her finger who pays a lot of attention to another person is just offering her body to them."
 
And despite the work of Bogaert, York University's Ela Pryzbylo, UK researcher Mark Carrigan and others, academic takes on asexuality have often been silent or silencing. As an undergraduate in a psychology course on human sexuality at a public university in Ontario, Sarah says she found diverse perspectives in the course, ranging from evolutionary biology to social and cultural, yet the text made not one mention of asexuality.
 
But when Sarah started a dialogue, her professor not only listened to her critiques, but also invited her to give a guest lecture on the topic. Now a graduate student in Toronto, Sarah travels to her alma mater to lecture on asexuality each year. Drawing from psychology, sociology and queer theory, she invites students to consider the role of power and scientific authority in making some identities and practices seem normal and natural and others seem pathological.
 
Of course, it's not only straight people who trot out such stereotypes. Nate, who has marched in AVEN's contingent at Toronto Pride for the last two years and identifies as queer, says as much prejudice can come from corners of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community as from straight people. "A lot of people think, 'I'm gay, I'm liberal, I'm accepting,' and then here's another thing, and there's a sense of rivalry for no reason."
 
A gay friend made a comment about how Frances, who is now in a relationship with an asexual man, "isn't really queer anymore." She replied, "I'm still queer; I'm just a few letters back at the end of the line."
 
Increasingly, local asexuals are building communities through and beyond the internet and stepping forward to challenge assumptions about sexual norms. Both Toronto and London are now home to regular asexual meet-ups, with more information available through AVEN.
 
For Frances, asexual communities, like trans communities, could create space for alternative genders and intimacies that aren't focused primarily on sex. As a self-described queer "doer and joiner," she is frustrated by the segregation of gay, lesbian and trans communities and sees asexuality as a different path to building queer community. "When only certain narratives are given a stage," she says, "it does create these huge gaps. I don't want anybody to feel broken."
 
Note: All of the people interviewed in this story asked that their last names not be used in order to protect their privacy. 
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Comments

LMAO
LOL @ AS, Toronto Ontario

You are hilarious. You should do standups. You don't like asexuals because you think they are childish, you hate straight people because they hate you, you hate other gay people who are more masculine / feminine than you are i.e. you don't like anyone who is different from you. That's the kind of person you come across.

Fakers who are holidaying in other people's misery - I am pretty sure that this is what some straight people would say about gay people. Many straight people nowadays accepted you for who and what you are even if some of them don't fully understand why people are gay or think being gay is weird. Why can't you accept others who are different from you even if you can't comprehend the reasons behind it?

I pity your narrow mindedness, you call yourself part of a liberation movement but refuse to help others who want to be free.
children of the revolution are all stillborn
Edward, first I came out before Gilbert Baker invented the rainbow flag in 1978 in SF so I know more about it than you ever could. Second, you must be under 30 since your world is haters or friends (the facebook infantilization syndrome). I do not hate asexuals. I believe they are whining phoneys. Fakers who are holidaying in other people's misery. Pseuds who are vampirizing the gay and trans movements for their own self-entitled kicks. No room for childish wannabe disrespectful attention-seeking fakers in any liberation movements. Capiche, infant?
LOL
“You also never answered the charge above: name one instance in the world where an "asexual" was beaten, killed, thrown out of a home or job or family for being "asexual"

If you weren't gay you would probably be the first one to beat asexuals up, you seem to hate us lol.

It is amazing that some people being oppressed themselves fail to realize that they sometimes oppress/hate others (usually even smaller minority than the one they belong to) just for being different lol. You see the world in black and white. You are not capable of seeing other colours - and I bet you don't know why LGBT have the rainbow flag. You probably think it's because gay people are happy people and like bright colours. Rainbow colours represent different varieties of sexual expression from gays to transgender people, from a lot of sex to no sex at all i.e. the whole colour spectrum.

I personally don't support the idea of asexuals participating in pride parades. And those who take part in the parade are usually LGBT asexuals. And most of them probably suffered the same way as most of sexual LGBT people did. And I think it is not a requirement nowadays to suffer or be beaten in order to earn a right to be affiliated with the LGBT movement.
such mollycoddled children
You stay right in your infantilised bubble Averyhen. Just where your mommy kept you with a lovely gold star. It's called satire, creche princess. Look it up. Sheesh what a maroon!
@Stupide
Do you read your posts? I mean, really? I swear, you're practically proving me right by just sitting there and spewing insults; “silly” “maladjusted nuts” “need to be mocked” “frauds” “con artists” “idiotic infants” “assholes” and the whole 'broken, get help' response just in one short post! You're a goldmine, really. I suppose you think you addressed my question about romantic vs. sexual and romantic feelings without sexual attraction with your 'get help' statement... I'll just have to disagree with you on that, just like everything else you've said. I see you're not looking for discussion, you're just looking for a conduit for your anger or whatever the hell people 'not getting boners' makes you feel.
@Dan
Dan, I agree that asexuals don't even hold a candle to the social struggle of the LGBT community... but then, where exactly should they be put, and why does this devalue their desire for recognition? Recognition is good, it helps people, it builds community, it gives people something to reach out to when they're being told 'broken'. Asexuality is a sexuality (well, lack thereof... but it's in that category), and it overlaps with some of the LGBT community (there are some trans on AVEN, I think, and there's plenty of people who identify as homo- or bi-romantic)... Shutting up and going away (like what Stupide is suggesting) isn't a good option, as it kinda kills that whole recognition/community thing.
@Ahvaren
I'm not sure what else to add here. Asexuals appropriating the term queer simply doesn't sit well with me (just as ostensibly heterosexual people latching onto the term). Yes, asexuals face personal struggles and that's unfortunate. But they are not persecuted by the state, or by religions, or by, until recently, much of modern culture. Claiming otherwise is rather disrespectful to the community they're claiming to be part of.
Phoney Baloney Infantilism
I have been throught he entire AVEN web site and find not one example of one person who was singled out in public and beaten or killed for being asexual. I can find no examples of an asexual person being denied housing, jobs, medical treatment, human rights and personhood for being asexual. You are mimicking the LBGT struggle to pretend you have a movement (which the AVEN author says number 1,600 or so people! I would suggest a good deal of growing up need happen and the power and privilege of such a silly group of maladjusted nuts needs to be mocked, called out and exposed as the frauds and con artists you are. Last breath wasted on such idiotic infants! Asexuals = assholes. Not being sexually attracted to any human when young and healthy is a travesty and a medical problem depriving you of the joy you are withholding from yourself. Get help! Or shut up and stop talking about the fact that you don't get boners over people.
We're not prudes on parade
trying to rid the world of sexual expression or contact.
Our assertion of our orientation, perspective and behavior applies only to us, and indicates no crusade in the works.
@Dan, Again
And I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm actually wondering. Most of the insults and over-the-top-ness was for Dr. Stupide's benefit.

Maybe it's cause I know someone who's been in the situation where she thought she was broken and there was no one she could reach out to. Thinking (and being told) for 20 years (that's where the year number came from in my reply to Stupide) that you're completely alone isn't something anyone should have to do, especially when it's avoidable.

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