I was shocked at the way The View hosts responded to David Jay. You would’ve thought he was on the show because he was an alien. They could not possibly wrap their heads around an “asexual” identity and were actually rather harsh in their questioning. One host asked “so then why do you [asexuals] need to organize” and when he responded that it was so similar people could get together and talk another host chimed in and said “if you’re not having sex what is there to talk about?” Inadvertently they made him feel abnormal by being so blunt in their confusion.
Watching the way these women reacted to the concept of asexuality reminded me of a similar experience I’ve had, on a much smaller, less personal scale. I am gluten and lactose intolerant. I did not choose to be that way but my digestive system cannot break down gluten or lactose. When I tell this to people, many react in a similar manner to the women on the View– utter confusion. “You mean to tell me you can’t eat pizza? Or ice cream?!” is the typical response. They act as if it’s the worse thing that could happen when in reality I am quite content with my intolerances. Not eating gluten and lactose makes me feel good. It works for me. It may not be everyone else’s cup of tea but I don’t care because at the end of the day I did not choose to be this way and I have adapted to this lifestyle in order to not feel sick.
I think the women on The View felt the similar towards David’s asexuality as many people feel to the idea of being gluten and lactose free. Most people are definitely not “asexual” but a good 1% of the population is, which is a substantial amount. I believe the film was trying to emphasize that although asexuality is different, it should not be regarded as abnormal or inferior or preposterous like most people perceive it to be. It is a personal choice and a perfectly valid identity. The film showed why we should be more conscious of our responses to asexual discussion. I don’t take offense to people’s sometimes-extreme reactions to my intolerances but sexuality is far more personal, so I cannot even begin to imagine having people question me as much as the asexuals were in the documentary. The women on The View should have been more respectful in their attempt to understand this foreign concept. When a person’s visceral reaction to adversity is complete confusion, it instantly makes the other person feel abnormal and stigmatized. After watching this documentary I have a new level of empathy for asexuals that feel a constant need to explain themselves to others.
The documentary also explored the idea that there is a separation between sexuality and intimacy. By naming the different types of asexual couples, for example asexually romantics, the movie makes clear that many aseuxals strive for the same intimate connection with another person as any sexual person sans the sexual acts exchanged. I had never really thought about the possibility that intimacy ≠ sexuality, because our culture typically intertwines the two. This article from PsychWorld does a good job explaining the difference. I think our culture categorizes the two different concepts as one in the same because of movies such as Friends with Benefits or No Strings Attached in which both storylines, at the basic level, start out with two heterosexual relationships that at first try to be nothing more than “sex partners” and both ultimately end up in love. If you’ve never seen either movie both final scenes capture the gist pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goPvYeQwlPI (Friends with benefits) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoabUMmRutk (No Strings Attached). I can recall countless conversations with my own girl friends about a guy their solely hooking up with (or so they claim) and oftentimes we’ll erupt into a chorus of bad rom-com clichés saying things like “just be careful,” “you know these things never end well,” or “someone always ends up developing feelings and it tends to be the girl.”
Like many other pieces of texts we’ve read this movie has again taught me the importance of stepping out of the heteronormative lens our culture relies so heavily on because it leads to exclusion for people who don’t identify with this “norm.” Thinking back to the sexologists we learned about many weeks ago, in their process to create a more sexually enlightened world, their science lead to/backed up racists, classist, and homophobic ideologies. Their first principle, alone, which states that sexuality is innate and part of being human, instantly stigmatizes 1% of the population.
Asexuality also brought up the idea of “recycled rhetoric.” When studying bisexuality we saw similar reactions to the ones aseuxals often receive. People make assumptions that they’re just “too sexually confused to pick” or “are just taking the easy way out.” Esterberg writes in chapter 41 of NSS that, “Yet others argue that bisexuality doesn’t exist. Bisexuals are ‘really’ straight or gay or something else – or would be, if society hadn’t had its way with them. In popular discourse, bisexuals are often seen as a menace,” (278). This same approach was seen in the documentary, particularly at the pride parade, when many people were either radically confused, fearful, or downright rude to the asexuals simply trying to bring awareness to their identity (i.e. the man who yelled “I pity your poor soul”).
David Jay and the documentary shed light on the often forgotten identity of being an asexual in a world that is obsessed with definitive sexual categories and restrictive binaries. I took away three primary lessons. 1) Asexuality is just as valid as any other sexual identity and does not merit discrimination or judgment. 2) Sexuality and intimacy are not as intertwined as our society likes to believe. And 3) Asexuals deserve the respect that any other sexual group receives in order to hopefully reach a one day more sexually inclusive and liberating, fluid society.
What were your reactions to asexuality? This was very new to me but because we all come from different backgrounds, is asexuality something that people have been more exposed to than me? Also, what does the pride parade scene from the documentary say about the LGBTQI culture and the progress it’s made? Bear in mind this was in San Francisco. Are there any other instances of minorities being exclusive towards each other (not just sexual minorities) and how has that worked itself out?