Asexuality vs. Rape Culture

Some of you may have heard my comments read on A Life’s most recent episode. I was responding to some of what was said in episode 4. I said:

You talk about how asexuals don’t really have a human rights issue to organize about, that all we want is visibility. You point out–and rightly so–that asexuals can get married, and marriage isn’t all about sex. Now, you mentioned that there is an expectation there that the marriage isn’t consummated until the couple has had sex. You say that of course nobody is enforcing how often a couple has sex, and sure, that’s true… but the real problem is that nobody is enforcing the right of the uninterested party to NOT have sex. Marital rape is very real, but often goes unrecognized as a real rape because there is this idea that if people get married to one another, they automatically grant consent to have sex with that partner in the future, therefore, they believe those people cannot be raped.

The panelists read some of my email and then summarily dismissed my argument… without actually having heard all of it. I did not write it all out in the email, because I had gone on to suggest that if they were interested, perhaps it might make an interesting topic for a whole show. I thought it would have been interesting to discuss my views with them on the air, but since they seemed not to have been interested in the topic, I guess I will go on the explain them here on the blog.

Henrik misinterpreted what I was saying, and argued that asexuals may actually be less likely to get married, and therefore less likely to be raped. Sure, that’s true. And yes, it is also true that asexuals aren’t the only people who can be raped, so it’s not an issue that is unique to asexuals. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was, since asexuals can never be assumed to give consent, asexuality inherently challenges the assumption that consent is automatically given under certain circumstances. To accept that asexuality exists means to accept that marital rape is a possibility. And not just marital rape. It works for any circumstance in which rape is excused or denied.

And in our culture, that happens A LOT!!

Go to that link. Read it, ALL of it, and then see what you think about dismissing the issue by saying, “But rape is a crime anyway.”

Sure it’s a crime. But it’s extremely hard to prosecute someone for rape, and very often is much more trouble than it’s worth to try. Much, MUCH more trouble. People just don’t take rape seriously, and that often includes judges, doctors, and police. And sadly, maybe some asexuals, too.

I think asexuals bring a unique perspective on rape which would go a long way towards challenging the way it is thought of in our culture.  Our very existence gives us the opportunity to do some good in the world, just by making ourselves visible. Since feminists are very anti-rape, maybe we should focus more on forging an alliance with feminists, instead of the GLBT community.


10 thoughts on “Asexuality vs. Rape Culture

  1. This is why I am wary of dating sexuals, even though there is the remote chance I will be willing to engage in sexual activities with them. Even if a man doesn’t physically force you into sex in a relationship, I have been through the mental toll of hearing someone say that it will be “different” with them, that “of course” I will have sex with them because sex is “an act of love,” and I don’t want that ever again either. It made me feel like a trapped animal. Asexuals do have to worry about that, and I hope that after asexuality becomes more and more visible people will realize that it’s not right to assume sexuality at all, much less which gender(s) are preferred, on someone’s part and that it is wildly inappropriate to even hint that opting out of sex is not an option in a relationship. Opting out is always an option.


  2. I missed the boat on the whole agender discussion, so here’s a long comment for you… ;-)

    I agree that we should align with feminists. However, that might be even more difficult than aligning with LGBT people. There’s that stereotype that feminists are man-hating spinsters who can’t get laid and whatnot, so it seems like sometimes feminists can go overboard in promoting (consensual) sex as something great for everyone. I used to read Feministing a lot, and there were so many times where someone would make an off the cuff “all people are sexual” remark. And it would feel weird for me to comment on it, because the discussion wouldn’t even be about sexuality. I’m an ardent feminist myself, have been pretty much since birth, but I feel like it’s a movement in which asexuals can currently feel alienated. Of course, that could change.

    I think the disconnect might be that you’re coming from a certain framework (feminist idea of the rape culture) that not everyone has been exposed to, far from it. Sure, all women think about rape, as in, “I probably shouldn’t go down this dark alley”, but it’s not something that’s ever really critically examined on a large scale. Maybe if you appear on the podcast, you could get into some more depth about that framework.


    • Heh, it’s probably for the best that you did miss that discussion–I guess I phrased it badly and most people seemed not to understand what I was actually trying to say anyway, so it got pretty far off-topic, though it did certainly generate a lot of interest.

      I definitely agree that there might be a strong tendency for asexuals to feel alienated within the feminist community, but isn’t there a tendency for us to feel alienated within ANY community with which we attempt to forge an alliance? I think the only way to change that, really, is to try to integrate ourselves with those communities, raise visibility & awareness, and hopefully change some people’s attitudes.

      Of course, there is also the issue of WHICH feminists we would try to align ourselves with, since there are so very many different kinds… There are plenty of feminist groups/events which are just downright awful, like that Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival or whatever it’s called. I would only be interested in joining up with a community that accepts trans people, personally–fortunately, the local feminist community around here does accept trans women, and in fact last year there was even a vagina monologue that was specifically dedicated to C. I think they are also pretty open and accepting towards asexuality, although it has been a while since I’ve been able to get involved with that group myself, since they usually hold meetings while I am at work.

      That was what I was hoping to do if I had gone on the podcast–even better, I think, would be to get someone from the feminist community who is particularly interested in anti-rape activism, and have all of us talk about it together. That way, 1) it wouldn’t just be me explaining everything the whole time, and 2) it would be a more well-rounded discussion with different perspectives represented.


  3. If there were movements in the asexual community toward an alliance with feminists, I would leave it. (I’ve read the same in AVEN w.r.t. LGBT.) As the inclusion of bisexuals hasn’t changed the discourse of gay groups excluding bis, I don’t expect feminists to change their anti-male discourse by an alliance with asexuals. They still ignore gays and trans! Moreover, such an alliance would invisiblize asexual men. In such case, I would migrate to a community of aromantics outside the alliance.

    At least in Spain, the feminists have promoted legislation of discrimination against men. Now, an aggression to a male partner is a misdemeanor, but an aggression to a female partner is a felony. And, as they forgotten that it could apply to lesbians when they wrote the law, they are now repealing the judges which sentence felony when a woman attacked her former wife.

    This Spanish law discriminates people for their mere gender, independently of the circumstances of the aggression. It’s like if any aggression to a gay were considered a hate crime, despite the actual motivation of the aggression.


    • Honestly, that doesn’t sound like feminism to me. That sounds like female supremacy. That’s nothing like the kind of group I’m talking about trying to forge an alliance with.

      There are definitely a lot of “feminist” groups out there which are rotten, and only care about their own issues while excluding black women, lesbians, trans women, etc. etc. I’m sure some would exclude asexuals, too. But there are a lot of feminist groups out there that are NOT like that, and not like what your experience with them seems to have been like. Feminists really, truly aren’t all man-haters; that’s not what feminism is about even though sadly, so many people think it is.


  4. We could make an alliance with some non-mainstream feminists, but my impression about Spanish main-stream feminists is based upon a law promoted by them, passed by the parliament and signed by the king. And they now control the ministry which applies this law. These are objective facts.

    Some people in Spain have coined the word hembrismo in order to distinguish this “feminism” and to put it at the same level as machismo. The parallelism fits perfectly in Spanish language, but whereas they don’t disassociate, the hembristas are contaminating all the discourse and, if we forged an alliance with them, they would surely contaminate asexual discourse.


    • I think there are some big cultural differences there, then, because the mainstream American feminists are not like that at all!

      I’m not suggesting that we form an alliance with the hembristas, as you call them. I don’t think we should form alliances with ALL feminists, because of course there are feminist groups out there that are bad (I would never form an alliance with anti-trans feminists, for example). And I’m not even suggesting that we should work on all of feminist issues even with the feminists that we might form an alliance with… it might be more appropriate simply to form an alliance with anti-rape activists, although I do think that most anti-rape activists are probably also feminists, and feminism lends a very important (even vital) perspective to consider when talking about rape and rape culture.

      I also want to point out, just for the record, that I don’t think that forming an alliance with a certain group really lets them into OUR community… it’s still two separate communities, just working together to tackle a certain problem.


  5. I think that you have a point in h0w both asexuals and feminists have genuine concerns about the issue of rape, specifically in terms of consent. Though some people might disagree with the idea of an alliance with feminists, it might be a good idea after all; most feminist groups I am familiar with are focused on fighting for equal rights under the law, and not gender supremacy; most feminist groups I know of are allies of the LGBT community, and accept trans and bis as legitimate. Unfortunately, so many people think of feminism as a dirty word these days, and only think of the negativity that some feminists bring to the table from being embittered at being a member of the disadvantaged party. Still, just because society at large views them negatively, doesn’t mean that asexuals should avoid a group that shares similar goals; most feminist groups aren’t doing anything illegal or image-damaging other than speaking out for their rights under the law.


    • In Spain, female supremacy is now the law, passed by the Parliament, signed by the King and confirmed by the Constitutional Court. They control the ministry which applies this law and repealed a judge who applied it to a lesbian couple. I know no case of transwomen, surely for demographic reasons, but I’d like to see how they react, especially if the trans victim had legalized they gender as woman, since in this case she is woman before the law.


  6. The idea of it being terrible to ‘lead someone on’ is one I think causes a lot of problems. Even in cases where people do disapprove of rape, a lot of the time they’ll add something like ‘but she did lead them on.’ Which is awful, like being nice and friendly and wanting to not be alone all your life is a justification for someone doing that to you.

    I don’t date, and I feel uncomfortable when people show interest in me, because if I’m friendly it gets misinterpreted – hell, half the time when I’m totally UNreceptive, they still chase me. And I’m a bit socially awkward anyway, so I’m sort of terrified of ending up in a situation where I’ve inadvertently given someone the wrong idea so they think it’s okay to do things I don’t want. Because a lot of guys do honestly think ‘she lead me on’ is a reasonable excuse.


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