This is a post written for the August 2014 Carnival of Aces, which has the theme “The Unassailable Asexual”. Details are here: http://queenieofaces.tumblr.com/post/93501116848/august-2014-carnival-of-aces-call-for-submissions
And I apologize in advance if this gets ramble-y and confusing. I’m trying my best here but I’m aware it’s a bit convoluted.
From what I can gather, the basic idea of “The Unassailable Asexual” or “Gold Star Asexual” is that many people aren’t unassailable when it comes to their asexuality. If you look up “unassailable” in The Free Dictionary, which compiles definitions from multiple different dictionaries, some of the relevant definitions are:
Impossible to dispute or disprove; undeniable.
not vulnerable to attack or assault.
I think the main purpose of discussing the idea of “the unassailable asexual” in the first place was probably to drive home the fact that it is difficult to fit this “ideal” mold. That all of the people who are not unassailable (who are assailable, if you will allow that,) are not alone; that a person’s asexual identity being able to be easily attacked is actually quite common.
It would be amazing if other people, both inside and outside of the ace community, would look at any random given asexual person and say, “Yeah, I believe you completely when you say your sexual orientation is asexual. I’m not gonna try to tell you you’re not ace. Of course you are.” But that is a fantasy.
Many people – heck, probably most people – have some specific aspect about who they are, how they act, or what they’ve experienced that makes them a target. Something that makes it so their asexuality is “assailable”.
It might be the fact that they fall on the autism spectrum. Or maybe it’s a history of having been abused, or perhaps it’s simply the fact that this person finds pleasure in something deemed too-sexual-for-the-person-to-still-be-asexual, such as reading erotica or masturbating at times. And countless other personal factors can become reasons their asexuality becomes doubted. There are so many ways this happens.
Interestingly, when you look up “assail” in the dictionary too, the definition isn’t only “to attack”, although yes, definitions #1 and #2 are such a thing.
But a notable thing is that there is also the following definition:
To trouble; beset: “was assailed by doubts.”
And that example sentence – “was assailed by doubts” – that is probably the most insidious of the ways failing to be an unassailable asexual person hurts us asexual people.
It’s not just other people attacking our label. It’s us, ourselves, doubting it fits – often before we have officially adopted the asexual label. We are asexual, deep down we know we don’t experience sexual attraction, and we’re really close to accepting that fact. But then we start to doubt it.
We think: “I have a lot in common with asexual people’s experiences, but can I really be asexual if I am a rape survivor?” or “I’m not sure I really am asexual, maybe it’s just my anxiety disorder making me feel this way where I don’t find other people sexy.”
From the inside out, we are assailing that “asexual” label too, and that is a very unfortunate place we find ourselves in.
I’ve seen a lot of newcomers to the ace community, often anonymously asking tumblr advice blogs or posting their question on the AVEN forums, saying “if ____, can I still count as an asexual person?” and overwhelmingly, most of the good advice I’ve seen dispensed is always “yes, you can be. The only thing that being asexual means is that you don’t experience sexual attraction. If you fit that definition, and you feel comfortable labeling yourself asexual, then you’re welcome here. Regardless of romantic orientation, if you have sex or if you’re celibate, if you enjoy sex or if you’re sex-repulsed, if it was caused or if you think your asexuality’s innate.” I see this good advice being dished out regularly, and I’m happy about that. I think that is the right message to be sending.
This way, the newcomer to our ace community has had their asexuality made unassailable. It’s not a vulnerable identity anymore. If you come out to a new friend and say, “Hey, I’m asexual”
and your friend says, “But that can’t be true, I know you like to use a sex toy for masturbation – I’ve seen it in your bedroom,”
you aren’t vulnerable to that attack.
You can easily defend yourself and say, “The fact that I masturbate doesn’t make me any less asexual. I don’t experience sexual attraction to people and that is that.”
I think this is a powerful and important thing, for our own sakes first and foremost. Even if your friends and family still doubt your asexual sexual orientation, if you know that you can be secure in your asexual identity label, then you can go on with your life as a happier, more confident person. And the more confident you are about your own asexuality, the more likely everyone around you in your life will accept that the label is right for you.