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Discrimination against asexual people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Discrimination against asexual people (also known as acephobia[1][2][3] or aphobia)[4][5][6] encompasses a range of negative attitudes, behaviours, and feelings toward asexuality or people who identify as part of the asexual spectrum. Negative feelings or characterisations toward asexuality include dehumanisation, the belief that asexuality is a mental illness, that asexual people cannot feel love, and refusal to accept asexuality as a genuine sexual orientation. Asexuality is sometimes confused with celibacy or abstinence.[7] Asexual people sometimes face hate crimes, and the discrimination against them has been compared to that faced by other sexual minorities.[8][9]

There have been efforts to combat anti-asexual discrimination through legislation or education (such as asexual workshops).[10][11]



Behaviours and attitudes that are considered discriminatory include the idea that asexuality is a mental illness, that asexuality is a phase or a choice, the idea that asexual people cannot feel love, and those that make asexual people feel dehumanised.[2][12][13][14] Aspects of discrimination experienced can depend on other parts of one's identity.[15] As of February 2019, asexuality is poorly-understood; in a Sky News survey, 53 per cent of the 1,119 people questioned felt confident in defining asexuality, but 75 per cent incorrectly did so or thought asexual people simply lacked libido.[16]

In 2011, LGBT activist Dan Savage stated that asexuality is a choice, described it as "choosing not to have sex", and deemed it unworthy of attention,[17][18] and Ruth Westheimer, a sex therapist, was criticised for her view that the ability to have orgasms means that one cannot be asexual.[19] In 2015, she was also criticised for implying that asexuality is a problem that needs solving.[19]

Asexual people whose asexuality has been accepted only because there is no other explanation for their lack of interest in sexual activity have come to be known as "unassailable asexual[s]".[20] Disbelieving attitudes towards asexuality can leave asexual people afraid to come out.[20]

A 2017 LGBT survey conducted by the Government of the United Kingdom found that, although only two per cent of its more than 108,000 respondents were asexual, they have the joint-lowest (with pansexuals) average life satisfaction of any sexual orientation among cisgender respondents, that asexuals are the least comfortable LGBT group in the United Kingdom (among cisgender respondents), and 89 per cent (the highest percentage of any group surveyed) of cisgender asexual respondents were reluctant to be open for fear of negative reactions.[9]

Social discrimination

Asexuals may be socially discriminated against due to beliefs that heterosexuality is the default sexuality or that asexuals are actually gay or lesbian people in denial.[13][21] Asexual spaces have also been known to discriminate based on age.[20]

Asexuality has been seen as a joke.[22] Two studies found that asexual people are more dehumanised than heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals, often being compared to animals or robots due to their sexuality.[23][8][24] A different study, however, found little evidence of serious discrimination against asexuals because of their asexuality.[25]

Having emerged more recently as an identity, asexual people often have less legal protection than gay, lesbian, and bisexual people,[26] although in New York, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act categorises asexuals as a protected class.[27] Asexuals have also been known to have been subjected to corrective rape.[28][17][20] They may be pressured into engaging in sexual activity, and into going to a doctor to have their asexuality "fixed".[29] A 2015 survey found that 43.5 per cent of the almost 8000 asexual people polled had encountered sexual violence.[20] There is a misconception that asexual people are never in sexual situations and therefore cannot be sexually assaulted.[20]

Some, such as sociologist Mark Carrigan, believe that asexual discrimination is more to do with marginalisation, and that a lot of it is a result of a lack of understanding and awareness of asexuality.[30][31] There is also controversy over the inclusion of asexuality in the LGBT and queer umbrellas for a variety of reasons, including the belief that asexuals do not experience oppression akin to homophobia and transphobia,[18][17] the belief that asexuality is not a sexual orientation,[32] and the belief that queer as a slur can only be reclaimed by those it has historically been used to oppress.[33] Sherronda J. Brown of Wear Your Voice stated that some people who oppose the inclusion of asexual people in the LGBT community have been known to argue that asexuals are not discriminated against at all, and that asexuals experience straight privilege.[34] Brown criticised this view as erasing the asexual identity because it assumes that everyone is straight unless proven otherwise and portrays asexuals as fraudulent and infiltrators in the LGBT community.[34]

Institutionalised discrimination

In some jurisdictions, marriages can be voided if not legitimised by consummation.[35] This has been viewed as discriminatory to asexuals.[36] Sex education programmes in schools have also been known to discriminate against asexuals.[37][38]

In early 2015, Russia passed a law banning, amongst others, people with "disorders of sexual preference" from obtaining driving licences. The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights stated that it effectively banned "all transgender people, bigender, asexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, and people who need sex reassignment" from driving.[39]

Media and services

Asexuals are less-well represented by mainstream media and services, facilitating hostility and prejudice towards asexuals, and can lead to their rejection from both the straight and LGBT communities. Some online dating services, including Bumble, and, lack the option for users to identify as asexual, which obstructs their ability to find romantic partners.[40]

In 2012, the TV programme House was criticised for portraying asexuality as a medical condition as well as "problematic and pathological", and encouraging scepticism about it.[41] In 2017, the decision to turn the character Jughead in Riverdale (a television programme based on Archie Comics) from asexual to heterosexual was met with disapproval, with one branding it "asexual erasure".[42]

Anti-discrimination endeavours

In New York, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act categorises asexuals as a protected class.[27]

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network is an organisation founded in 2001 by David Jay, and aims to raise awareness of asexuality,[43] including by getting it discussed in schools to discourage discriminatory attitudes.[2] The Asexual Awareness Week is an organised event formed by Sarah Beth Brooks in 2010, also with the aim of raising asexual awareness and dispelling misconceptions about it.[13] There have been attempts to increase awareness of asexuality in universities.[44] Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic is a meetup group for asexual people centred in Washington D.C.,[45][46] whose members founded The Asexual Awareness Project, an asexual advocacy organisation.[45]

In autumn (fall) 2014, the book The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, written by Julie Sondra Decker, was published. Decker said that she would like to see the book used in sex education to increase common knowledge of sexuality.[47]

In 2015, United Kingdom Labour Party parliamentary candidate George Norman called for Parliament to add asexuality to equality legislation, and to recognise that one per cent of the UK's electorate are asexual.[26]

In 2016, the Asexual Aromantic Alliance was founded at Iowa State University to encourage co-operation between the asexual and aromantic communities and "help eliminate acephobia."[3][48]

There have been efforts to stop the exclusion of asexuals from LGBT pride events.[17]


  1. ^ Joshua Glenn Parmenter (August 2018). "The Culture of Sexuality: Identification, Conceptualization, and Acculturation Processes Within Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Cultures". Utah State University. p. 96. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Joe Morgan (30 March 2015). "Here are the 11 biggest asexual myths busted". Gay Star News. London. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b Logan Metzger (20 February 1029). "A look at the Asexual Aromantic Alliance and who they are". Iowa State Daily. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  4. ^ Bruce LaBruce (3 April 2012). "Asexuality Is All the Rage". Vice. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Anything but lacking". The McGill Daily. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  6. ^ Morgan Lev Edward Holleb (2019). The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 31. ISBN 9781784506636.
  7. ^ Harmeet Kaur (20 October 2019). "Asexuality isn't celibacy or abstinence. Here's what it is — and isn't". CNN. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  8. ^ a b Cara C. MacInnis; Gordon Hodson (24 April 2012). "Intergroup bias toward "Group X":   Evidence of  prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance, and  discrimination against asexuals" (PDF). Asexual awareness week. Sage Publications. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b UK Government. "National LGBT Survey: Summary report". Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  10. ^ "LGBTQrazy: A is for…". The Brunswickan (University of New Brunswick). Vol. 147 no. 7. 17 October 2013. p. 10. It’s important to talk about asexuality because it’s often an overlooked sexual identity, and acephobia – discrimination against asexual people – is experienced by many asexual people.
  11. ^ Joelle Ruby Ryan, "On Being Asexual and Transgender: Notes on Identity, Visibility, and Empowerment", in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender (ed. Laura Erickson-Schroth), Oxford University Press (2014), ISBN 9780199325368, page 367 "I now give asexual workshops, screen the film (A)sexual with a postfilm discussion, and try to have conversations with my friends and colleagues about asexual identity and acephobia
  12. ^ "Let's Talk About Pride! How To Make Intersectional Spaces At Pride". ComicsVerse. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Robyn Exton (14 November 2016). "Aces Show Their Hand - What Is Asexuality And Why You Should Know About It". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  14. ^ Elizabeth Hanna Hanson (2013). "Making Something Out of Nothing: Asexuality and Narrative". Loyola University Chicago. p. 83. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  15. ^ Harrad, Kate, ed. (2016). Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain. Thorntree Press LLC. ISBN 9780996460170.
  16. ^ Lydia Smith (4 February 2019). "Three-quarters of people can't define asexuality". PinkNews. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d Latonya Pennington (1 June 2018). "Asexuals Shouldn't Be Excluded From Queer Spaces, Especially Pride". Pride. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  18. ^ a b Dominique Mosbergen (21 June 2013). "LGBT, Asexual Communities Clash Over Ace Inclusion". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  19. ^ a b Rachel Kramer Bussel (26 August 2015). "Dr. Ruth is wrong about asexuals: It's a legitimate sexual orientation, not a problem to be solved". Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Julie Kliegman (26 July 2018). "When You're An Asexual Assault Survivor, It's Even Harder To Be Heard". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  21. ^ Nicole Wiesenthal (Autumn 2014). "Glossary of Asexual Terms". The Mirror. Vol. 3 no. 3. p. 19. Closely linked to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia
  22. ^ Tom Grennell (3 January 2017). "ACES An Asexual Interview". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  23. ^ Gordon Hodson (1 September 2012). "Prejudice Against "Group X" (Asexuals)". Psychology Today. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  24. ^ Julie Sondra Decker (2015). The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781510700642. Retrieved 17 March 2019.[page needed]
  25. ^ Gazzola, Stephanie B, and Melanie A. Morrison. "Asexuality: An emergent sexual orientation". Sexual Minority Research in the New Millennium.
  26. ^ a b Jack Gevertz (28 April 2015). ""Parliament doesn't recognise my sexuality": Britain's first openly asexual candidate, George Norman, speaks to Vision". York Vision. Archived from the original on 3 December 2018. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  27. ^ a b "The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act ("SONDA")". Office of the Attorney General. Archived from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  28. ^ Dominique Mosbergen (20 June 2013). "Battling Asexual Discrimination, Sexual Violence And 'Corrective' Rape". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  29. ^ Olivia Petter (19 October 2017). "Former asexual person reveals experiences: 'partners pushed me to go to the doctor to get 'fixed'". The Independent. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  30. ^ Lucy Wallis (17 January 2012). "What is it like to be asexual?". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  31. ^ Maddie Wright (26 October 2017). "Asexual students on identity, experiences of intolerance". The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  32. ^ Debbie Luxon (30 October 2019). "Myth-busting asexuality: Being asexual in Cambridgeshire". Cambridgeshire Live. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  33. ^ Mortimer, Dora (9 February 2016). "Can Straight People Be Queer? - An increasing number of young celebrities are labeling themselves 'queer.' But what does this mean for the queer community?". Vice Media. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  34. ^ a b Sherronda J. Brown (11 May 2020). ""Ace And Aro People Are Just Straight" Is A Heteronormative Lie". Wear Your Voice. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  35. ^ Elizabeth F. Emens (2014). "Compulsory Sexuality". Columbia University. p. 351. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  36. ^ Sally Goldfarb (2016). "Divorcing Marriage from Sex:  Radically Rethinking the Role of  Sex in Marriage Law in the United States". p. 20. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  37. ^ Miri Mogilevsky (21 January 2016). "5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Support the Asexual Youth in Your Life". Everyday Feminism. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  38. ^ Marie Claire (23 February 2015). "What It Feels Like To Be Asexual In A Sex-Obsessed World". Marie Claire. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  39. ^ Roland Oliphant (9 January 2015). "Vladimir Putin bans transsexuals from driving". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  40. ^ Julie Kliegman (14 February 2018). "Online dating isn't easy — especially when you're asexual". The Verge. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  41. ^ Tracy Clark-Flory (1 February 2012). ""House" gets asexuality wrong". Salon. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  42. ^ Julia Alexander (26 January 2017). "Riverdale's Jughead is no longer asexual, and that's a problem for fans". Polygon. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  43. ^ JohnThomas Didymus (27 April 2013). "Asexual Visibility and Education Network marks Asexuality Day". Digital Journal. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  44. ^ Erickson-Schroth, Laura, ed. (12 May 2014). Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. Oxford University Press. p. 367. ISBN 9780199325368. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  45. ^ a b Isabel Nathan (19 October 2018). "Asexuals, you are not alone". Washington Blade. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  46. ^ "Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic". Meetup. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  47. ^ Ellen McCarthy (24 November 2014). "Asexuals seek to raise awareness of the 'invisible orientation'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  48. ^ "Asexual Aromantic Alliance". Iowa State University. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
This page was last edited on 18 June 2020, at 00:26
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