How to Support Asexual Youth

I have a new post up at Everyday Feminism about supporting the asexual youth in your life. Check it out:

Growing up, teens face a frustrating double standard.

On the one hand, the messages most of them get about sex from parents, other adults, and school is that sex is very bad and you shouldn’t do it (at least not until you’re an adult and married to someone of the “opposite” gender).

On the other hand, the way sex is presented in the media suggests that the desire for it is so overwhelming and overpowering that you can’t possibly control it – a dangerous message that feeds right into rape culture.

So what is sex? A terrible sin that good people should stay abstinent from, or an uncontrollable, animal urge that’s so euphoric and wonderful that we can’t live without it?

Any young person would get confused trying to sort these messages out. For an asexualyoung person, though, it can be even harder.

Asexual (or “ace”) kids and teens get all the same messages from our culture that allosexualkids and teens get, but they can rarely relate to them.

For them, sex might be pleasant, but not really a form of attraction or desire (watch out: those words mean slightly different things!). It might inspire curiosity, but not insatiable lust or that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. It might be something they don’t care about one way or the other, or it might be something they’re actively repulsed or horrified by.

Asexual people experience and imagine sex in a variety of ways, few of which are considered “normal” in our culture.

Indeed, our society privileges people who experience sexual attraction and desire, and this impacts asexual youth in a variety of ways.

For example, adults often tell asexual youth that they’ll “grow out of it,” which can be very invalidating. Even if your sexuality changes later in life, the one you’ve got right now is still quite real.

Adults may erase asexuality from sex education and from media depictions of sexuality and relationships. They may completely refuse to believe a young person who identifies as asexual because all teens are obsessed with sex, amirite?

This is a form of gaslighting, and it teaches young people not to trust their own perceptions of themselves and their desires.

All asexual people have to deal with comments like these, but they may especially impact young people who are just starting to think about their own sexuality and are less likely to have found supportive people and spaces that will affirm their identities.

So how can we be better at supporting asexual youth? Here are five ways to start.

Read the rest here.

How to Support Asexual Youth
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6 thoughts on “How to Support Asexual Youth

  1. 2

    It’s interesting to realise, at 33 years of age, that there is indeed a word/concept for this. I always thought I was odd, or would indeed ‘grow out of it’ when I was never having crushes on boys (or girls, or anyone). The only times I felt any sort of sexual desire was after I’d already formed an emotional bond with someone, and even then it’s not particularly strong.
    I could easily go my whole life with never having sex again and I wouldn’t feel that I’ve missed out on anything.
    So yeah, at 33 I’ve come to understand that I’m bi-romantic and demi/asexual.

  2. AMM

    I can’t say I’d thought about this very much, either, until my therapist told me a few weeks ago that I was “demisexual.” I’d just assumed that my dislike of pornography[1] and impersonal sex and preference for cuddling and emotional intimacy was just another way in which I was defective as a man (or, more recently, another way in which I was trans.) I’d also run into Emily Nagoski’s notion of “responsive desire,” which more or less seems to describe me, to the extent I can make sense of it.

    I’ve done a little reading since then, but I’m still confused as to how to fit myself into all the categories and sub-categories. For one thing, I’m not sure I know what “sexual attraction” means, let alone what it feels like. On the other hand, I like sex, at least when it’s with the right person and a situation that makes me feel good (and they don’t expect me to be what I’m not.) And there’s more stuff that confuses me about the whole demi-sexual and asexual spectrum stuff, but that gets into TMI.

    Or maybe I’m just really, really messed up, like people have told me all my life.

    [1] — On the other hand, I enjoyed “Barbarella” and “The Devil in Miss Jones, Part 2,” both of which I thought were hysterically funny send-ups of sexual tropes and attitudes. I didn’t think of them as porn, exactly, though I had someone jump on me for “watching stuff that disrespects women.”

  3. 4

    As an asexual, thanks!

    On asexual characters, you mentioned Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor. With the Doctor, the character isn’t actually human, and Holmes fits into the whole ‘obsessed with work’ type. It would be something to have a character be both asexual but otherwise normative.

  4. 5

    It sort of reminds me of characters which *maybe* were gay, but where it was only hinted at to avoid running afoul of censors (in some times), producers or audiences that wouldn’t accept queer characters. And later on it becomes tough to ‘claim’ the characters since there’s always the whole plausible denial thing built in. Some creators defend this on the grounds that it lets people imagine characters as they wish them to be, but really, choice of identity matters.

    And neither Holmes nor the Doctor have romantic relationships. I’ve found one assumption people make about asexuals which isn’t true is that asexuals are also aromantic. In fact, I’m having a tough time thinking of any character who even seems ace who is in a romantic relationship.

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