I always wonder why it seems to matter so much (to other people) what asexuality is “caused by.”
Of course, there are a lot of people out there who would say that asexuality doesn’t really exist, and that it’s just repressed sexuality caused by trauma, or “latent” sexuality caused by a lack of appropriate hormones or whatever pseudo-scientific bullshit theory is being spouted these days without any evidence to support it whatsoever.
But my question is not whether or not asexuality is, or can be caused by either of those things (because of course, sexuality in humans is highly complicated and possibly a little bit like HTML—in that if there is even one component missing, it might not work; so there are probably many different potential causes for asexuality), but whether it matters.
Now, to a sexologist, psychologist, or doctor, of course it matters; because if they can make people believe they can (and should) be “cured,” that’s going to rake in the dough. Many of them will want to hoodwink us into believing that they can help us to have a “normal and fulfilling” sex life, and will gladly contribute to creating insecurity that might lead us to seek them out with those all-too-prevalent messages that there’s something wrong with us. Some of them may really, truly believe that we can be helped by whatever cure they’re offering, and earnestly believe that what they’re doing is ethical; however, this is a little like a Christian making sure to tell you that you’re going to hell. They think they’re doing you a favor, but the science just isn’t there to back it up, and while it may be permissible to claim something like that of a religious nature, I sure wouldn’t want to trust a doctor who hadn’t done any research.
And I’ll admit, I’m a little leery of the idea of “repression” in general, for the sole reason that it can’t be proven or disproven. I mean, if a psychologist thinks you’re repressed, and you say that you’re not, they could easily just say you’re in denial. There’s no way to prove whether you’re repressed, and there’s no way to prove whether or not you’re in denial. Freud’s theories, while interesting, thus hinge on beliefs rather than scientific research. Not that I don’t think it’s possible to be repressed; in fact I do think in some areas of my life, I have experienced repression (for example, for about two weeks I stopped feeling any pain about M, and then I had a dream wherein he was trying quite hard to get my attention, and frustrated that I was ignoring him; subsequently I realized I wasn’t half as over it as I had thought). So certainly, it’s possible, but I think there’s great potential for abuse when starting from an idea that has its basis in belief rather than fact (and there have been plenty of cases of abuse, too; see Penn & Teller’s episodes on hypnosis and alien abduction).
But back to my question: Does it matter what asexuality is caused by?
From a scientific perspective, sure; it’s always good to know how things work. I’d like to see some research done on it. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about from a personal perspective, whether it actually would significantly impact the lives of asexuals to know such a thing. My answer? No.
Darling Dexter (book version, of course) is a good example of an asexual whose asexuality is highly debatable, and we would all surely suppose that his asexuality is caused by trauma, though it’s quite possible that he would have been asexual even without that trauma; there’s no way we can know. Still, we are meant to suppose that his asexuality, lack of empathy, and urge to kill were all caused by his traumatic experience. There are plenty of people who would say that he is just sexually repressed, though I would argue that it’s actually more like he was damaged to the point that whatever latent sexuality he may have had as a child, along with his ability to empathize with other people, and so on, were crushed to the point that they couldn’t develop; repression, by contrast, would mean that they had developed, but only under the surface (and while that may be true of TV!Dexter it doesn’t seem to be true of book!Dexter). I see it more, in other words, as the psychological equivalent of a severed limb, than something growing in the murky bottom of a lake. But even if he is repressed, there is no chance that he could ever recover. In the first place, due to his thrilling hobby, there is no way he could ever confide in a mental health professional; and in the second, therapy didn’t work for Brian, so why should we assume it could work for Dexter? He is damaged beyond repair, and so in practical terms, while a general knowledge of how repression works could give him an explanation for his resurfacing memories, he has no other use for it. He is not trying to lead a normal life by any means; he doesn’t want to. He is obviously quite happy with himself the way he is, and sees no reason to try to fix things.
That’s where a lot of us stand, although I highly doubt whether any of us have quite the same problems as Dexter when it comes to being able to confide in a psychologist. Probably for most of us, our asexuality is not a result of trauma at all. But even if it is, should we say that someone who is asexual because of trauma (if we could know that was truly the cause), is not “really” asexual at all? Would that actually make any difference, in practical terms? Would it invalidate that person’s experiences as someone with extremely low levels of sexual attraction/desire? No. Does it mean s/he can be “fixed?” Not necessarily. Or that s/he would even want to be fixed? Most likely not, if that person has indeed come to identify as asexual. Does it mean that if s/he did not suffer from this oh-so-tragic condition (whatever we’re supposed to believe it is), that s/he would surely lead a more fulfilling life? Most definitely not.
For those of you who have wandered in here by googling for treatments or cures for asexuality, I ask you: Why are you looking? Why do you believe that this is a condition that can be cured, and more importantly, why do you believe it should be? Do you really think that your life would be better if you had a “normal” sexuality? Are you really that dissatisfied with yourself? Or is it that your partner is dissatisfied with you for not matching his/her sex drive, and has made you feel inadequate? Otherwise, would you be happy with your life? Aside from being told that you’re abnormal and that there’s something wrong with you that needs fixing, if people accepted you the way you are, would you be happy with your lack of sexuality? Would you even realize anything was “missing” from your life?
Of course, I will add the usual caveat that I am talking about lifelong asexuality, and that if there’s been a sudden loss of sexual desire, there may be a problem. Just so there’s no confusion. But if you are someone who has always been this way, I would suggest that you seriously ask yourself the above questions. If you are a partner of someone you suspect is asexual, or if you are here on your partner’s suggestion/orders, I would recommend that you read this post.
And yes, for my regular readership I realize I’m mainly just preaching to the choir in this post, because I’m well aware of the general consensus: We’re happy the way we are and we don’t want to be fixed. Sexuality just seems like an awful lot of work to me, and I’m quite happy without that frustration in my life! Not that it’s not difficult to negotiate as an asexual in a highly oversexualized world, but I’m glad for the experience because it gives me a different perspective. It allows me to see a lot of the problems with our culture and its attitude towards sex, and work to correct them. Which gives me a positive, meaningful purpose to my life, and that empowers me. If I led a Normal Heterosexual Life, I would have none of that, so I’m glad that I don’t!