Students aren’t being taught in formative sex education courses that asexuality is in fact a valid sexual orientation, leaving some ace students feeling lonely or “sexually broken.”
This essay discusses sexual coercion and mentions r*pe
By Ebony Purks
Since coming out as asexual a little over a year ago, I’ve noticed how adequate asexual representation is severely lacking across many industries, communities, and spaces; both digital and in-person. Most notably, spaces such as sex education, the sex-positivity movement, mainstream films and television shows, and even some queer spaces often neglect asexual people. Because of this, many ace individuals reap the consequences of being treated as an invisible or nonexistent community. For instance, we may discover our sexuality later in life, all the while feeling sexually confused until we do. But even if and when we learn of our ace identity, we may fail to understand the full spectrum of asexuality.
The lack of asexual representation in sex education courses in particular proves to be among the most harmful for ace individuals. Not seeing ourselves onscreen, within movements or communities may hinder our self-actualization, but the dismissal of asexual students and asexuality in sexual education creates potentially dangerous environments for ace students to exist in.
For starters, sex education classes assume students’ sexuality to be heterosexual and students are preached to about abstinence as if they are all clamoring to have sex. In doing this, sex education courses treat a desire to have sex as the norm and anything else as nonexistent. However. the generalization that all students are straight and sex addictive actively erases asexual students’ identities, especially for those who identify as both ace and a non-hetero romantic orientation. This also hurts the many asexual students sitting in sex education courses who aren’t yet aware they are ace because they’ve never known asexuality to be a legitimate sexuality they can identify as. And, consequently, students aren’t being taught in what is a formative education course that asexuality is in fact a valid sexual orientation, leaving some ace students feeling lonely or “sexually broken.”
This is affirmed by Dr. Nazanin Moali, a sex therapist based in Los Angeles and host of the Sexology podcast, who says, “[Although] asexuality is a spectrum, many [asexual] individuals do not experience sexual desire and arousal, which in turn might make them feel broken and defective [within a hyper-sexual society]. Looking through the heteronormative sex-ed lens, lack of [sexual] interests would get labeled as a form of sexual dysfunction; however, this might be a normal and healthy experience for [asexual] individuals.” Then there’s the common misconception that asexuality is abstinence. Sex education courses rarely illustrate the distinction that a person practicing abstinence is choosing to abstain from sex while asexual people are not entertaining a choice.
On the other hand, there are ace students who may have an idea that their sexual attraction differs from other students who start to show an interest in sex. But these particular asexual adolescents are afraid to confide in a trusted adult or peer about their sexuality out of fear of being gaslit. Adults, in particular, will often tell young ace people asexuality is something they will grow out of with time. Asexual adolescents may then internalize the misconception that they must engage in sex or sexual acts despite not wanting to in order to “fix” themselves or fit in with their peers, as the adults in their life suggest and their sex education courses don’t negate. This additionally causes other students to “develop a narrow and unrealistic image of individuals with an asexual orientation, placing additional pressure on asexual students to perform [sexually] in certain and expected ways,” Dr. Moali explains.
All of this considered, neglecting ace identities from sex education courses just further erases asexuality from public perception, can confuse young people who are ace, and even opens the gateway for ace people to be coerced into sexual activity (because of the continued narrative that everyone desires to have sex). What’s worse, asexual people all-too-often face harm from others through corrective rape because many people think asexuality is a problem that must be cured. Teachings of consent in sex education classes are vital for the safety of all students but aren’t frequently taught properly, if at all. So, it’s imperative for the adults leading sex-ed courses to effectively educate students about consent and emphasize its importance, including the danger of pressuring or coercing those who are not at all interested in sex.
So to ensure the safety of asexual students, even long after they graduate, the range surrounding the asexual experience must be an inherent lesson within sex education. It must be made clear that there is a distinction between being asexual and practicing abstinence. Going even further, to rectify the many other misconceptions of asexuality, there must also be a distinction taught between romantic attraction and sexual attraction as some asexual people do experience romantic attraction to others.
Ultimately, Dr. Moali confidently believes “by affirming asexuality as a normal part of one’s sexual orientation, the revised [sex education] courses can help [asexual] individuals make informed decisions about their sexual experiences. Instead of navigating relationships from the place of feeling inferior and broken, these courses [can] support students in constructing a healthy narrative about their own sexual identity.”
What’s most important is the inclusion of asexuality as part of a general sex education course will provide opportunities to all students and validate a wide range of sexual narratives. Dr. Moali further mentions how inclusive sex education courses would help asexuals feel comfortable coming out to friends and family, reduce secrecy or shame, and combat feelings of loneliness. So, it’s necessary for sex education to validate asexual people’s choices and feelings by informing their peers of the spectrum and reality of asexuality. Doing this would prevent other young ace people from feeling isolated as well as ensure ace students aren’t put into harm’s way due to ignorance that could be easily rectified through proper education.
Ebony Purks is a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in professional writing. She is currently a freelance writer and Junior Life Editor at The Tempest. Ebony specializes in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health, especially examining the many intersections between those subjects. Though when she’s not writing, she’s rewatching her favorite comfort shows or excessively tweeting.
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