An idea that manifests itself in my head as a graph, and I’ve been trying to think of the words for it in my head for so long that I’ve now given up. It’s graph time.
Pretend this first graph is a bell curve. It’s the closest I could manage in 30 seconds of MS Paint. The x axis represents some amalgam of libido, desire, attraction. Lets call it ‘how much you want to have sex’. Where wanting to have sex is for the forseeable future, not right now. The y axis represents how many people in the population have that level of desire. As you can see, a small subset of people are in the light blue shaded section. This is the space reserved for ‘asexuals’.
The first problem with the model is that asexuality doesn’t belong on the same scale as how much you want to have sex, because asexuality =/= not wanting to have sex. There’ll be some asexuals up in the non-shaded section, and there’ll be some non-asexuals in the shaded section. This is the other problem with the model:
This graph shows the level of desire people identify themselves with to the rest of the world. The bell curve is now skewed towards the sexual end, and there’s a gap between the asexuals and the rest of the population.
In quite a lot of circumstances, people who can rely on the label ‘asexual’ can validate their place at the low end of the spectrum. It’s abnormal, but it’s self-conciously, militantly abnormal. People (especially men) at the low end of the scale who aren’t quite low enough to get the label asexual, however, will often find immense pressure to identify upwards. Hence we get the second graph. The important point here isn’t just the skewed distribution. It’s the gap between asexuals and everyone else. This gap creates two problems. Firstly, non-asexual low-libido people don’t get to have role models. The gap self-perpetuates. And, secondly, as I discussed ages ago, asexual people don’t get to be part of the population. Asexual people are off to one side, away from the data set. They’re outliers with the reason for their outlieriness plain to see. And that skews the graph even more.
Which is bad for asexuals. Like, really bad for asexuals. Asexuals looking for romantic partnerships, for instance, really need to live in a society that is willing to accept that we’re on a scale, that there aren’t the outliers and then a gap. Acknowledgement of non-asexual low-libido voices is a massively big deal for asexual people. As well as the low-libido people themselves.
This is me finally managing to put into words when people say ‘what about the asexuals’ when they mean ‘what about the people who don’t want sex’. Sure, ‘what about the asexuals’ is a hell of a lot easier to say, but it doesn’t actually help ‘the asexuals’. It isolates them.
(PS. This post has been a LONG time coming. I was struggling to think how to present it back here, a post which I rediscovered today from a link in Figleaf’s asexuality tag. The second catalyst was this post by the ever-amazing Ozy of No,SeriouslyWhatAboutTehMenz?, which is an example of a post where I’d have, on further reflection, preferred every instance of the words ‘asexual men’ to be changed to ‘men who don’t want sex’, with an occasional ‘like, for example, asexuals! Spread the visibility love!’. This postscript added after a guilty realisation that I’ve been nothing but critical of NSWATM on this blog, and I want to clarify that this is just because it makes me Think Things, and, where the things are in agreement with NSWATM, I don’t often bother to write posts on them, because it’s already been said by someone with a much, much larger audience.)