Challenges faced by asexual spectrum survivors of sexual violence (part 2)

Challenges faced by asexual spectrum survivors of sexual violence (part 2)

This post was originally posted at The Asexual Agenda and Concept Awesome in August 2013. It is part two of a three-part series; we re-posted part one here last week.


Trigger warnings: If you have any sort of sexual violence-related trigger, you should probably skip this post.  Specific triggers in this post for rape, sexual assault, child molestation, invalidation of both sexual orientation and lived experiences, sexuality policing, coercion (if you think additional warnings need to be added, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to add them)

This is part two of the series.  You can find part one here (on tumblr) or here (on The Asexual Agenda).  This series focuses on awful things people say to asexual spectrum survivors, sometimes out of spite, sometimes out of concern, and sometimes out of ignorance.  Each section has a quote (or collection of related quotes) followed by a “translation” of the quote (or a distillation of the essence of the argument, if you will) and then commentary on why this is an awful thing to say.  This series is intended to accompany my resources for ace survivors project (masterpost here and tag here).

Now that everyone’s up to speed on what’s going on, let’s dive straight in.

“Well, you’re asexual, so being raped probably wasn’t as bad for you as it would be if you were sexual.”  

“It’s worse to be raped if you are asexual.”

Translation: I believe there is a quantitative measurement for situational suckiness.

I don’t even know where these ideas came from, but they need to go away FOREVER.  It is not “better” for asexuals to be raped.  Neither is it “worse” for asexuals to be raped.  We should not be going around ranking other people’s emotional pain.  It’s not like there’s a finite quota for awful situations in the world, so please stop trying to tell other people that their experiences are worse or better or more purple than yours.  Just stop.

If you’re part of the “it’s not as bad for aces” camp, I understand that you may be trying to be comforting.  I understand that you may be thinking, “Well, if you’re asexual, you’re never going to have sex, so you won’t have to worry about all the PTSD-related hang-ups about sex that may crop up!”  The thing is, you don’t know what any given survivor’s triggers are.  They might be triggered by sexual content, rape scenes in movies, people invading their personal space, etc., in which case not being sexually active will not actually make their life easier!  You also don’t know if they’ll ever have sex again; some aces do, after all, have sex!  So, I understand if you’re trying to be comforting, but actually you’re A. making a whole lot of assumptions about the situation that might be wildly inaccurate and B. discounting the emotional pain of the person you are talking to (i.e. “it’s not as bad as it could have been, so you have nothing to complain about”).

As for the “it’s worse for aces camp”…I really don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.  Are you trying to make aces feel better because you think the aces will be comforted by the knowledge that they’re more traumatized than non-aces?  Are you trying to make non-aces feel better because they will be glad to hear that the aces have it worse?  Are you trying to make everyone feel bad about everything?  Look, I think we can agree that rape is awful.  Sexual assault is awful.  Sexual violence of all kinds is awful, regardless of the sexual orientation of the target.  You should not be talking about “better” or “worse,” especially since there is no quantitative way to rank the suckiness of any given situation.  So please stop.  You’re not helping anyone, and just making yourself look foolish.

Also, if you are writing a novel in which your main female character is saved from the trauma of rape by her asexuality, please go sit in the corner and think about your choices.  (Yes, the corner is getting pretty crowded at this point, but I am sure you will manage.)  Here’s some inside information: being asexual won’t actually save you from being traumatized by sexual violence.  Your plot element is offensive and inaccurate, so kindly find a different one.

“You’re asexual?  Were you raped or something?”

“Did something happen to you as a child?”

Translation: You must be repressing your true sexuality because of some terrible sexual experience.

If you’re not a survivor and someone asks you this, you can A. laugh it off and point out how wrong they are or B. roll your eyes at them and tell them you’ve heard it all before.

If you are a survivor, what do you do?  (This is, of course, assuming that you weren’t triggered by their questions.)  You can lie and say you haven’t been sexually assaulted.  You can say you’ve been sexually assaulted but that has nothing to do with your asexuality (assuming that you know/believe that), but how do you know that they’ll believe you?  Even if you say, “I was correctively raped because I was asexual,” there are people who will try to argue that actually you were just a late bloomer before you were raped, and now your “asexuality” is just you repressing your “true” sexuality.  Alternatively, they may argue that you actually did experience sexual attraction before and now you’re just projecting your current feelings about sex onto your past self.  Basically, no matter what you do, there will be someone trying to tell you that they understand your feelings and sexuality better than you do.

The situation is even worse for people who were sexually abused as children, because there may literally be no way to know that their sexuality was not affected by their past experiences.  They can’t just hop over to the alternate universe where they weren’t abused and say, “Hey, alternate universe!me, are you still ace?  Yes?  Cool.”  So even if they say, “Look, I am ace, regardless of my past experiences,” there will still be That Obnoxious Person who yells, “BUT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, HAHA, SUCKER.”  (M. has written an excellent post on this quandry, and I highly recommend it.)

Why is it anyone’s business whether a particular ace was raped or molested or assaulted?  That’s private information, and if you’re just casually asking that of anyone who outs themselves as ace to you, let me be the first to tell you, STOP.  If someone is currently experiencing themself as an asexual person, who are you to tell them that their experiences are inauthentic?  No one, that’s who.  Even if someone believes that they are asexual as a direct result of sexual violence, their experience of their sexuality is perfectly legitimate, and you don’t get to hold veto power over their identity.  You are not the sexuality police, and you are not the record keeper for the Hall of Sexual Violence.  The next time you start asking someone, “But did something happen–” stop, think about what you’re saying, and then don’t say it.

“How do you know if you’ve never tried it?  No, I mean really tried it.”

Translation: I demand that you prove your sexuality to me, even if you may find the experience upsetting and triggering.

Some people seem to think that sexual assault doesn’t qualify as “real” sex, and so they have the right to demand that ace survivors go have “real” sex in order to “prove” that they really are ace.

If you are one of those people, let me tell you right now, nobody is required to “prove” their sexuality to you.  You are not the sexuality police, and you cannot take away someone’s Asexual Registration Card if you think they haven’t met your arbitrary specifications for Proper Asexual Testing.  You can be a virgin and be asexual.  You can have had sex with a thousand different partners and be asexual.   You can have been raped and otherwise not have had any sexual contact and be asexual.  Wow, it’s almost like your sexuality has nothing to do with how much sex you have or haven’t had!  How weird is that?

Also, demanding that survivors go have sex is really awful.  (Well, actually, demanding that anyone go have sex is really awful, but demanding it of survivors is especially awful.)  Survivors will have sex if and when they (not you) want to.  There are folks who have incredibly strong triggers, and forcing them into sexual situations in order to “prove” something that they already know to be true about themselves is not only cruel but also incredibly dangerous to their mental well-being.

And you know what?  Even if the person in question is an ace survivor who is having (and enjoying having!) tons of sex, that’s none of your business.  What other people do or don’t do with their bodies is none of your business!  You don’t get to decide whether a particular act is “real sex,” and you don’t get to interrogate other people about what they do in their bedrooms (or kitchens or living rooms or in the backseats of cars).  So kindly stop.

That’s all for this time.  Tune in next time for such scintillating remarks as:

  • “If you talk about being assaulted, people will think asexuality is fake.”
  • “If you’re sex-averse, there’s something wrong with you, and you should consult a doctor.”

and more!

Click here to read part three.

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