Research into the history of asexuality is only just beginning to gain any traction. Which is fitting, because it’s only in the last decade, really, that there has been an awareness that asexuality exists at all – and that awareness is very far from being widespread outside the LGBTQ part of the internet. We are still very much an invisible orientation, and as such not much is known about our history.
Having said that, we do know that the Kinsey Reports – the hugely influential studies of human sexuality published in 1948 has a sliding scale of 0-6 to measure how heterosexual or homosexual someone was, and a seperate category X for those who are not attracted to anyone. That’s us. So clearly we’ve been around since the first serious investigation was going on.
In fact, according to this discussion in AVEN’s forums as early as 1896, budding sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, in his book Sappho und Sokrates says There are individuals who are without any sexual desire (“Anästhesia sexualis”)
He also says It is also not possible to artificially evoke the kind of drive, that is not existent or almost not noticeable. In case of a complete atrophy there is no way that it would spontaneously develop.
And that’s what I would like to talk about today. One of the places where we are almost certain to find reflections of ourselves is in medicine, as a problem to be cured. Acing History has a good summary of the pathologisation of asexuality under the terms of ‘frigidity’, ‘sexual anaesthesia’, and more recently ‘Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder’ (HSDD). This gives us a great place to start when it comes to trying to uncover our history, but it also segues into something of direct relevance today.
This year’s theme for the IDAHOT organisation is Mental Health and Well-Being. Normally I would talk in more vague terms about all of us under the (Queer, MOGAI, LGBTQI+) umbrella. All of us, after all, suffer ill effects to our mental and physical well being by being members of a minority in general, and particularly by being members of a minority that is opressed.
However, today I sat down to write my post immediately after having signed this petition:
and I thought ‘well this is spot on theme for a blog hop concerned with the mental health and physical wellbeing of queer people, and it has the advantage of being something I can talk about from experience.’
I really encourage you to go to the petition and at least read the article that accompanies it. The long and the short of it is that – clearly not having the wisdom of Magnus Hirschfeld – they’re bringing in a pill that they claim can do something for disinterest in sex in women. So that they can claim that it’s not going to be used to try to ‘cure’ asexuals of their orientation, the FDA have specifically said that the pill should not be prescribed to people who are not distressed about their disinterest because they identify as asexual.
This is nice, of course. But let’s ask ourselves, how many of those women who are distressed at their lack of interest in sex are distressed because they’ve never heard of asexuality? How many of them even know that asexuality is an option?
While we continue to be an invisible orientation, it’s completely disingenuous to say ‘of course we won’t press this on the asexuals.’ Seriously. Ten years ago I’d have taken it myself because I didn’t know what I was. I didn’t know there was absolutely nothing wrong with being disinterested in sex.
I am livid to think that in my desperation to be ‘normal’ I might have grasped at the chance to take a drug that I had to take every day for the rest of my life, a drug with significant side effects and little apparent effectiveness. And I might have done that, not knowing there was nothing wrong with me at all except that I wasn’t straight.
I am livid to think that while there are people out there who don’t know asexuality exists, of course they’re going to be distressed about themselves. Of course they’re not going to protest that there’s something wrong about them being forced to have sex they don’t want, because people somehow think it’s a disease not to want it. And it won’t ‘cure’ them, because they don’t need to be cured, but it will be a direct threat to their physical and mental well being.
So please, sign the petition. This is a chance to make history instead of simply observing it. Please also let people know that asexuality is a real thing that has been around as long as research on sexuality has existed, and if you don’t want sex it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
In honour of the hop, I will be donating to Gendered Intelligence, a great charity for young trans people in the UK. And I will be giving away a book of their choice from my back-catalogue to one commenter chosen at random. Thanks for reading!
Click here to be taken to the list of participants in the blog hop or use the links below.
Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality.