Being Asexual in a Society That Doesn't Get It
Person A: “I am asexual.”
Person B: “A sexual? What does that even mean?”
In conservative and traditional societies, many people aren’t familiar with the term known as “Asexuality.” In fact, sometimes even asexual individuals themselves don’t understand their sexual orientation; they wonder why they can’t relate to their friends when they talk about their desires or attraction towards someone.
Asexuality is more common amongst females than males, and asexuals are considered minorities. This is where I fit in: I’m an asexual female who lives in a society where asexuality is largely unheard of. If it is, it’s oftentimes misunderstood and unrecognizable.
Needless to say, it wasn’t such a thrilling experience when I first opened up to my mother about my asexual orientation. We have a very close relationship and are open to many topics, but sex isn’t one of them. So I wasn’t prepared for her reaction when I finally told her. “Asexuality, Mom, describes one's sexual orientation or lack thereof,” I said. “Asexual people generally don't feel any form of sexual attraction or desire towards any person whatsoever, and I’m one of them."
By the time I finished the last sentence, my mother’s face was etched with a magnificent frown and her mortifying silence shot daggers into my heart. She eventually asked me to repeat what I said. Then she shook her head and told me that I’m trying to follow some weird foreign “trends.” I clarified to her that asexuality is not a choice and one cannot just switch into an asexual. I reminded her of the previous times where I repeatedly told her about my utter indifference towards getting married and having children in the future. During those times she thought I was going through a “phase” that would eventually lead to maturity. But I’m 21 now, a full-fledged asexual.
My disappointing experience with my mother didn’t stop me from addressing my sexual orientation if the situation called for it. I met a few asexual girls who are now my closest friends, and they’re very comfortable with who they are. My friendship with them has both empowered and consoled me during the moments where I felt insecure and alienated.
Before, I wasn’t sure whether it was my use of the word “asexual” that baffled my mother or the phrase ‘sexual orientation’ that intimidated her. But I don’t blame her; it’s the same case with anyone who has never heard of asexuality. Especially for someone who believes that a girl’s first and foremost role in life is to marry and procreate. Yet, of course, this does not mean that all asexual women don’t want to get married and have children. It all depends on the individual.
Asexual girls and women (and people in general!) should never give in to the destructive feelings of inferiority or shame. Not even if the cultural environment in which they belong tries to condemn them into treating asexuality as an illness. You are who you are, and you will only thrive when you’re a strong woman who accepts herself and celebrates her identity.
By Ahlam Bensaga, 21