The Passionless Asexual

[Note: I’m swamped with work at the moment, so comment moderation and response may be slow. I realize other people have asked me questions, btw, before the last post went up, and I want those people to know I wasn’t ignoring them. The last few posts were all scheduled in advance so that I would have something going on here while I focus on other things.]

Here’s Amanda Marcotte responding to an article by David Wong on misogyny, wherein he claims that men are just so much more sexual than women, that women can’t possibly understand, and so men tend to think women are conspiring to give them boners in inappropriate settings:

Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.

All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?

It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.

I don’t realize if Wong gets this, but he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic, unambitious, and even though he decried treating women like decorative objects, I don’t really see how we fit into this. We don’t have any desire to impress men and get sex, so we’re never going to build and invent, right?

Amanda is right to call Wong out on his assumption that women just can’t feel as deeply sexual as men can. But whether Amanda meant to do so or not, she also plays into a common trope about asexuals that we’re all passionless, uncreative, and somehow lacking that “spark” of life that sexual people have. To her credit, she at least says “What about the gay artists?” a little later on. I haven’t read the comments, so perhaps she challenges this anti-asexual trope somewhere in there, but I wouldn’t make the assumption that she did. In any case, it’s a big oversight.

Now, Wong’s argument is familiar to me. I encountered a version of it several years ago:

9/7/2007  9:13:09 PM  M: it’s considered unnatural, because for many people, sexuality is the central driving force behind our decisions, endeavors, and pursuits as human beings
9/7/2007  9:13:17 PM  M: and for someone to step and say they dont have that
9/7/2007  9:13:31 PM  M: a “normal” person can’t comprehend that
9/7/2007  9:14:08 PM  M: and a truly asexual person, will never be able to truly understand what it means to be sexual
9/7/2007  9:14:28 PM  M: that person will never know what it’s like to have a mind that is sexually driven,
9/7/2007  9:14:47 PM  M: and by no means is it a simple, oh i like women/men and i act on it once in a while
9/7/2007  9:14:54 PM  M: it’s an all-encompasing process
9/7/2007  9:15:01 PM  M: that drives every single thought
9/7/2007  9:15:31 PM  M: to a sexual, an asexual claiming their asexuality sounds like claiming you can have fire without fuel

It’s one thing to feel like your own sexuality is the central driving force behind all of your own behavior. But there are a hell of a lot of people out there who don’t feel that way, even among *sexual people. Ask my partner, for one. Moreover, there are a lot of male *sexual people who don’t feel that way, too. Are they not “normal” because their feelings aren’t the same as yours?

Failing to recognize that other people feel differently from you, failing to recognize that other people can be motivated by things other than the things that motivate you, is an egocentric fallacy. Failing to recognize that creativity and passion can come from avenues other than sexuality is a huge chasm in your ability to understand others.

You want an example of a fantastically creative person who isn’t driven by sexuality? Look at Emilie Autumn. Hell, look at me. I haven’t got much published yet besides this blog, but I am furiously working on it. I have to create, you guys. I have to write. I am passionate about making the world a better place, and to that end I will strive to annihilate misunderstandings and create human connection through my writing, even to the detriment of other areas of my life. How dare anyone call me passionless.

I think a big part of the reason why people think that asexual people are passionless is that they’re unable to conceive of passion in a non-romantic context, and also to a large extent, unable to fully separate love from sex. They’re different processes. I would suggest that love, being a neurochemical brain state similar to OCD, is as much if not more likely to be the motivation behind great works of art. For a lot of people, it’s probably motivated by both, but which is the stronger of the two? I argue that for many people it’s actually love, but it gets subsumed under the heading of sexuality without recognition that while the two often go together, they really are separate processes.

But you know what? Even if the definition of “passion” is strictly confined to sex, I’ve still got it. Don’t make the assumption that asexual people are cold fish in bed. We’re not limp robots, as long as we want to be doing it and have enough experience to know what to do. And if we are? Then there’s something wrong, and you better find out what it is and try to fix it.

Wong’s theory is a bad one, and while Amanda’s response didn’t quite cover all of the reasons why, she is absolutely right to say this:

I have a counter-theory. I don’t believe that men build civilization to impress lazy women who keep saying no to sex, because we don’t understand what it’s really like to want it. I believe men built most things because women were shut out of political power, job opportunities, and education for most of history, and instead forced into servitude towards men in the home. I believe my theory has a lot of evidence for it, in the form of all of history. Plus, this theory doesn’t do much to explain all the gay men who have been creators throughout history, of which there have been many. You know, it’s not like Michelangelo was rumored to be doing the Sistine Chapel to catch a lady’s eye. His theory doesn’t really explain how it is that women, once given the opportunity to be creators, take it.


9 thoughts on “The Passionless Asexual

  1. Ugh, that’s a horrible theory. What about women who play sports, make art, play music, or go to war? But it’s too bad Marcotte pulled the asexual = sexless = passionless card to counter it. That’s annoying too.


  2. “I don’t realize if Wong gets this, but he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic, unambitious”

    I didn’t read that as saying that asexual people are passionless at all, rather the reverse: that that is what David Wong was claiming, and that she disagrees. Wong’s argument is, if I’m reading him right, essentially that all cultural achievements are in the end to impress some girl; Marcotte says that this implies that women a) are asexual, and hence b) are uninterested in creating cultural achievements because they have no interest in impressing men. Which she rightly condemns.


    • That’s what she might have meant, but she didn’t make it clear if so. Please point out to me where she actually challenged Wong’s assertion that asexual = unartistic/unambitious, if she did. Because just saying that he’s arguing that doesn’t mean that she disagrees with that part of the assertion. Clearly, she disagrees that all women are asexual. But it’s really not clear that she disagrees that asexuality means being passionless. And while I appreciate that she mentioned gay artists, it’s very easy to claim that gay artists are still motivated to make art because of their sexuality—but instead of wanting to impress women, they just want to impress other men instead. So there’s not really anything there that I can see that actually indicates that she disagrees with the passionless asexual trope.


      • She didn’t explicitly challenge the argument, I agree with that, but “he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic” is (or so I read it) an implicit challenge to his conclusion, not his premise…

        Then again, looking back at it, “We don’t have any desire to impress men and get sex, so we’re never going to build and invent, right?” makes it clear that it is the premise which she is challenging, so I suppose you are right, she should have made it clearer…


  3. “Failing to recognize that other people feel differently from you, failing to recognize that other people can be motivated by things other than the things that motivate you, is an egocentric fallacy.” Well said, girl! I couldn’t agree more. This is also the sort of thinking that drives all sorts of intolerance and bigotry.

    I also balk at the notion that sexuality is the driving force and motivation for all “normal” people’s thoughts and decisions. Sounds like a bunch of evolutionary pseudo-psychology clap-trap to me. I and most of the people I know are driven by love, inspiration, curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, a need for human connection, a sense of belonging, a desire to affect change in the world.


  4. I think Wong’s remark has been misconstrued by taking it out of context. The basic gist of his article was that our dominant culture misleads men into assuming that everything is about sex, thereby encouraging us to treat women as sexual objects whether we’re inclined that way or not. In this context, the quote does not reflect Wong’s opinion; he is describing the paradigm that men are pushed to accept.

    Remember, the title of the article is “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.”

    Of course, I wouldn’t argue that there *aren’t* men who espouse positions like that; just that in this particular case it’s been deliberately exaggerated for effect. The article in question *is* found on a satire site, after all.

    Here’s the link, for those who’d like to see it in context:


    • Aww, & now my original post seems to have gone missing… darn it, I put work into that! :(

      My point was that I think Wong’s intent has been misconstrued. Remember, the title of the article was “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.” The remark quoted was not Wong’s own position; it’s a paradigm men are pressured to accept by society and culture. And even then it’s been deliberately exaggerated for effect, since it’s intended for a satire site.

      Wong’s position is that men are taught that everything is about sex, and even if we don’t buy into that, it still leads to a lot of confusion about what we *do* believe. And if some part of the article don’t quite make it sufficiently clear, it reflects that confusion more than the author’s personal position. The language may be crude in places, but the point he keeps returning to is “there’s something very wrong with this.”


  5. Pingback: Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 7): Fullness and Passion | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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