Friday 15 April 2011

Choosing Not To Have Sex: Why The Big Deal?

JenniPosted by Jenni

As anyone who read my last post will know, I'm asexual.

(Recap time, boys and girls, and those others inside, outside or somewhere in between that binary! An asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction. Simple, right?)

My aim today is to give you a brief glimpse of some of the difficulties I encountered whilst beginning to identify as an asexual feminist. These opinions may be of the few, but they were a vocal few, and it made it pretty hard to reconcile those two labels for me at first.

See, the thing is, as well as being asexual; I choose not to have sex. Meaning not only am I asexual, but I am currently celibate. The two are not necessarily linked - one can be sexual and celibate, or one could be asexual and sexually active.* The aspect of this I am focusing on for today then, is my choice not to have sex - which comes primarily from my orientation (not a moral, religious or other viewpoint). Unfortunately some (and as I said, they are few) feminists seem to take issue with this. Sexual freedom for women is a big deal deal. A very big deal. And unfortunately, to some people my choice to take this freedom and choose to not have sex seems like a betrayal. Or perhaps, a sign that I'm not as free as I think. It's something I've seen in other areas of life too - my mother's choice to give up her potential career in order to raise two children has earned her a lot of stick from certain feminist peers of hers. Whilst this was indeed a choice, and not my mother following some kyriarchal tradition, to many it seemed to appear as such. In my case, I have been told the following three points frequently.

1. It's just a sign of your own sexual repression. Well, no, quite frankly. But, when I reply like this, I'm told that of course I would think that - I'm too repressed to notice! Really? I've had boyfriends, I've fooled around a bit (I've failed at finding a better word for that too though...) and I've just chosen not to have sex. If I were to change my mind, I would quite happily have sex. It's just that for me, sex is a non-issue. I'm not repressing my attraction and want to jump someone - I just don't feel that way.

2. It's not really a choice, it's your Christian morality/internalised slut-shaming/fear of societal repercussion that makes you think like this. Okay, so I am a Christian. I also ran a youth group in which my stance on sex before marriage was 'don't have sex due to pressure, only ever do it if you want to, ideally with someone you trust, wait until you're ready, use protection, and since I'm being professional, be legal'. I think that sums up my view on that quite well, right? Internalised slut shaming? I don't see sex as a moral/amoral thing - it's just something people do. If you want to have lots of consensual sex, and no-one gets hurt (more than they'd enjoy!), good for you. If you don't, good for you too! This is a view I've picked up from my parents, so I'm pretty sure if anything, I've internalised the opposite. And as for fear of societal repercussion? I have brightly coloured, short hair, wear interesting clothes, and flirt with most people. If cared what people thought, I don't think I'd ever been writing this post. Having sex at my age (20, if you're wondering) would probably draw less attention to me than being an out and loud asexual.

3. You're just going along with society's norms. Perhaps I am - I'm certainly going along with the norms of my mother's generation, and of my Church. But the norms of my peers? High school is still within recent memory for me, and the norms there are simple: If you are female, you should have sex to keep your boy. If you are male, you should want sex because that is what you do. Not only am I choosing to do something that flies in the face of these norms, I am choosing to draw attention to that fact. I think that's a pretty genuine choice.

And of course, that brings us to the final point for today - the accusation that I just think I'm better than people who have sex. You got me. I'm a huge prude who thinks anyone who has sex should be burned at the stake. Except, wait, I'm not. I choose not to have sex. And I also choose to be both a feminist and a queer rights supporter, and stand up for the idea that adults should be able to have consensual sex as much as they like (whether thats lots of sex, no sex, inbetween amounts of sex, lots of sex at sometimes but not at get my point), with whichever other adults want to have sex with them. The two are not mutually exclusive choices.
My best friend here in university is the opposite of me in many ways - she's tall, I'm short, she's curvy, I'm boyish. And she's the opposite of me in sexual behavior too. And you know something? Big deal. She likes sex, good for her. I don't particularly care about it, good for me. It's as important to us as the way she likes curry and I don't - unless one of us tries to force the other to conform to their choice, it doesn't matter. Neither of us is repressed, and neither of us has been pressured into our choice. She just went one way, and I went the other. And really, isn't that what feminism's all about? Being able to choose something that suits us?

This blog-post-turned-almost-rant was brought to you by Jenni, who would also like to draw your attention to the Lashings Tumblr - she just reposts the blog posts here on there because tumblr is a wonderful world full of feminism, fandom and asexuals (and many people of every gender identity and orientation you can think of!). It's at

*Despite not feeling sexual attraction, I will probably have sex with a future partner due to other reasons - romantic attraction, wanting to pleasure my partner, the fact the act itself is (apparently) enjoyable, and the fact I'm a very touch-focused person. Do feel free to ask potentially awkward questions, I'm used to it, and I don't mind at all.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I enjoyed this post. What's the point of feminism anyway if we all just have to fit into a new stereotype?