THE INVISIBLE ORIENTATION: An Introduction to Asexuality
The Invisible Orientation is my nonfiction project about the lesser-known orientation of asexuality. It attempts to shed light on the struggles and experiences of the approximate 1% of the population who lack sexual attraction or sexual inclination toward others, providing information, resources, and tips for both asexual people and those who want to understand them.
Status: Published September 2, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing/Carrel Books. (Sold November 20, 2013 by my agent Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger.)
Length: 70,000 words / 200 pages.
- Lambda Literary Award 2014 Finalist in LGBT Nonfiction.
- Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award 2014 Finalist in Family & Relationships.
- Independent Publisher Book Awards 2015 (IPPY) Silver Medal in Sexuality/Relationships.
- Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2015 Winner in LGBT.
Hardcover: ISBN-10: 1631440020 / ISBN-13: 978-1631440021
Paperback: ISBN-10: 1634502434 /
Kindle: ASIN: B00MSYUXOO
Audio: ASIN: B00MR9SJJG
Japanese Translation: ISBN-10: 4750348147 / ISBN-13: 978-4750348148
French Translation: ISBN-13: 979-1097154783
Buy: [Amazon] [Audible (audio book)] [Barnes & Noble] [Bol] [Book Depository (USA)] [Books-A-Million] [Amazon Japan] [Alliance Magique (French)] [Fishpond (Australia)] [IndieBound] [Powell’s] [Skyhorse (my publisher)] [Walmart]
Download related materials: [Book Cover JPG] [Info Flier: Word DOC] [Info Flier: Adobe PDF] [Asexual Bingo Flier: Adobe PDF]
Get an autographed bookplate or electronic autograph: [Autograph Page]
What if you weren’t sexually attracted to anyone?
A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual.
Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that “everyone” wants sex, that “everyone” understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that “everyone” wants to date and mate. But that’s where asexual people are left out—they don’t find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that’s okay.
When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as “asexual.” Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.
In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.
See all my entries about The Invisible Orientation.
Also, check out some asexuality resources.
This title is an important resource for readers of any age who are struggling to understand their sexual orientation, or those who would like to better understand asexuality.
—Mary Ann Hughes, Library Journal Starred Review, full review here
I’ll admit it: I used to think asexuality was not real. I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept—sex is a huge part of my life, so how could it be insignificant to someone else? Boy, was I ignorant! This book is a comprehensive learning tool for those who are asexual, as well as those who are asexual curious. Advocating respect, this rare and precious resource will open your eyes and set the record straight in a clear and straightforward manner. Prepare to have your mind blown!
—Kendra Holliday, creator of The Beautiful Kind blog, full review here
This book shines a much-needed light on an experience that’s far more common than most people realize. Julie Decker brings together the many different voices and stories of asexual people, presents lots of valuable information, and offers helpful insight about how non-asexual people can be supportive. If you or someone you know is or might be asexual, read this book. And if you’re a sexuality or relationship professional, read this book. Asexuality is part of the sexuality spectrum and you need The Invisible Orientation on your shelves.
—Charlie Glickman, PhD, certified sexological bodyworker
This is a long overdue book, offering the general purpose introduction to the subject which has heretofore been lacking. It is an essential addition to any academic reading list that encompasses asexuality and should be required reading for any therapists with an interest in sexuality. It provides a sense of what it is like to be asexual that can sometimes be missing from academic work and engages with the literature while nonetheless refusing to be constrained by it. It is also immensely readable, providing an authoritative overview that sign posts the reader who is keen to explore further. I can’t recommend The Invisible Orientation highly enough and hope it has a wide readership. Given how effectively it critiques the myths surrounding asexuality, helping those who are not asexual themselves better understand something that can at first be deeply confusing, it is a book with the potential to make a positive difference to many people’s lives and help combat what the author describes as the ‘insidious form of exclusion’ which asexual people continue to experience.
—Mark Carrigan, department of sociology, University of Warwick—full review on Mark’s site and on Sociological Imagination
This fascinating book will make more space for thoughtful understanding of sexual diversity and desire and help us understand just how variable human sexuality really is. For sex educators, therapists and scholars, it’s a must-read. For asexual people (or the ‘A-questioning’), who are so frequently invisibilized and disrespected, it may well offer the kind of succor, support, and information that every person—across the sex, gender, and partnering spectra—deserves.
—Carol Queen, PhD, Founding Director, Center for Sex & Culture and author of Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture
Do you have questions about asexuality? Finally, you have answers. Asexuality is an orientation that is routinely invalidated, despite the fact that it is as real as the ground we all stand on. This book is for everyone, most especially those identifying or questioning identity as asexual, but also for the partners, friends and family of asexual people, and yes, the curious onlookers who think asexuality is weird, a choice, or somehow can’t have relationships. Nothing is further form the truth, and this book is your guide to exploring, understanding, enjoying and finding love, intimacy and pleasure in asexuality.
Asexual people have been treated as children for too long, routinely dismissed and living in a world where they’re constantly subjected to having the conversations about their own identities taken away from them. Finally, there is a solid resource with which asexual people can point to when facing questions from the ordinary to the extreme: The Invisible Orientation puts to rest the painful misconceptions that asexuality is a choice, or worse a symptom of something “wrong.”
The state of asexual understanding today is painfully reminiscent of the misconceptions, confusion and anger once reserved for the struggle to understand lesbian and gay identity and sexuality. Imagine going through life telling people you’re straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual and having no one believe you — or worse, telling you that your identity doesn’t even exist, and if they acknowledge it does, it is something that needs to be “fixed.” The Invisible Orientation demystifies the common misconceptions that asexual people are broken, or that their orientation is the result of sexual abuse or trauma.
In today’s world, asexual people are ignored, misunderstood, dismissed and silenced. To the (sometimes life-saving) relief of everyone touched by asexuality, this book is a bedrock of proof that asexuality is an orientation, and not a decision — or worse, a symptom. Warm and thorough, The Invisible Orientation shines a light on asexuality throughout all stages of life, and acts as a positive guide for navigating successful relationships of all kinds, and with all genders and orientations.
—Violet Blue, award-winning sex author and columnist, author of Tiny Nibbles
[T]his is a pretty awesome book for acknowledging the sheer breadth of human experience. It acknowledges all sorts of levels of interest in sex and romance, all sorts of orientations on the spectrum of attraction. […] It can be a means of finding information, whether you’re asexual or not; it can also be a means of finding validation, of finding a measured and sensible voice telling you that there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re not strange, there are people out there like you.
—The Bibliophibian, full review of the book here
I had never heard of asexuality before, and it was like walking into a dark room and turning on the light switch. Everything she said resonated with me. And it was just so wonderful to finally understand what was going on with me. So it was through education that I finally understood myself. And that’s why we need this book. Because we need to understand not only ourselves, but every orientation on the sexual spectrum.
—Davy Dave, in a video review of the book
Overall, this book is excellent. It is pretty much everything you could want from a 101 asexuality book. It’s easy to read, it’s well-organized, it has so much information, and it would be equally appropriate to hand to your professor, your partner, your parent, and your questioning best friend.
—Queenie, full review of the book here
Overall, this is an excellent resource and introduction to asexuality. I’m really excited about seeing it used in the future, and I would recommend it to anyone who finds they want to introduce people to asexuality without having to personally do 101 for them.
—Sciatrix, full review of the book here
This book is a fantastic resource for those of us who are asexual, and for people who are close to asexual people.
I powered through this book in two days, and was crying within ten pages from the profound sense of relief and support this book provides. It lists out what asexuality is, how we might have relationships of varying natures, the problems we face, how questioning people might determine if they’re ace, and how people close to aces can support us. It’s written in layman’s terms with a ton of external resources, very well-sourced, and easy-to-navigate sections.
1000% worth checking out.
I’ve come away from the book feeling much more sure (and positive) about calling myself asexual: somewhere in the nuanced and complex set of terms for self-concepts outside the “allosexual” (that is, non-asexual) range is one that fits me. Did it fit me every single day of my life? No. It’s not a perfect match for my whole history. But I’m now willing to consider that the preponderance of evidence supports my decision to identity as ace. It’s pretty liberating.
—darkemeralds, full review of the book here
I found this part quite empowering actually. She goes on to say that she decided after the failure of her second relationship that she was non – sexual (hadn’t heard the term asexual yet), and was determined to own her own feelings and let HER tell how she felt and not others. This part was so empowering and great to read! And someone who would’ve been so young at the time, I find even more inspiring.
—Sara, who’s reviewing the book in parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
This is, admittedly, the only book I’ve read on asexuality, so I can’t say for certain, but I honestly can’t imagine a better one. It came to me at the perfect time, erasing so much stress from my life within a week simply by allowing me to see, in someone else’s words and experience, all the things I’ve been struggling to reconcile. This is a fantastic resource for those who are asexual and those are who curious about asexuality, anyone who’s got questions about themselves or others, and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking answers about the issue.
—Bibliotropic, full review of the book here
The point of the book, according to Decker in the book’s introduction, is to talk about asexuality in layman’s terms. Decker accomplishes this feat perfectly. The book is written in a way that is concise, informative and easy to understand. There are some vocabulary words that she does introduce (aromantic, polyamory) but she manages to explain them in full detail without sounding like the typical boring scientist or confusing you.
—Rocco Sansone, full review of the book here
I honestly could not think of a better person to write this book and I’m so glad something like this exists. The book covers historical studies, and the differences between things you might not even realize should be separated. Decker’s skills as a writer also show when it comes to how well versed and organized this book is.
—Ace, Ace, Baby Tumblr, full review of the book here
Of the three books on Asexuality that I’ve read this year, this one was my favorite. It’s written in very clear, accessible language. It covers a variety of topics and issues. It’s a great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about asexuality.
The book covers Asexuality 101, asexual experiences (this section is very inclusive), myths of asexuality, a section specifically for asexual people (and any questioning people), and friends/family/acquaintances of asexual people. And I haven’t checked them all out yet, but the resources at the end of the book look great.
—Alison, An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge, full discussion here
Der Schreibstil ist durchweg sachlich und freundlich; wenn gegensätzliche Erfahrungen / Empfindungen besprochen werden (z.B. im Falle von Beziehungen zwischen Asexuellen und nicht Asexuellen), erfolgt keine Wertung, stattdessen wird stets betont, dass alle den gleichen Respekt verdienen. [English translation: The writing style is consistently objective and friendly; when contrasting experiences / feelings are discussed (e.g., in the case of relations between asexual and not asexual), will not be scored, but instead it is always stressed that all deserve the same respect.]
—Fiammetta de Bornelh, fructus dulces, full review here
More than anything this book arms the reader with the vocabulary, and confidence, to start in depth discussion and exploration of their (or their loved one’s) asexuality. I can think of no better place to start.
The writing manages to be simple and clear without ever patronizing, even when addressing all manner of different groups. Decker maps out an impressive understanding of those identifying on the asexual spectrum that gives context desperately needed for such an underrepresented topic.
—Evening Assam, full review of the book here
This is the Asexuality 101 book. It’s for laypersons, but I think it should also be required reading for professionals looking to better serve their asexual clients. It’s a starting point for real understanding, and one that outsiders looking in just can’t provide.
—Elizabeth Leuw, Prismatic Entanglements, full review of the book here
I am completely open to the possibility that this is an orientation rather than a condition. The problem for me was that this author comprehensively failed to make her case. I started in on this book hoping to learn something about his topic and I finished it (well, finished half of it before I gave up on it!) precisely as uninformed at the end as I had been at the beginning – or perhaps more accurately, no more informed than I was before I read it, and worse, no more convinced.
One problem with it was that is was one of the driest tomes I have ever laid eyes on. It was like reading a scientific paper, but without any science in it, leaving only stilted semi-scientific language, but with no vigorously beating heart of solid science underlying it. There were quotations, and references, and definitions galore, but nothing from scientific research. Almost worse than that for a book of this nature, it had absolutely no personal accounts whatsoever, not even that of the author! Not in the portion I read anyway. I think I would have learned a lot more, and empathized a lot more if I could have heard from people who experience this phenomenon/condition/orientation, and been able to read their input.
—Ian Wood, Novellum, full review of the book here
Clinicians may be able to recommend this book to self-identified asexual people, or those who have not yet self-labeled but exhibit little or no sexual interest in others and/or are questioning their sexual attractions to others. It is a straightforwardly written book and one that defines its terms clearly, so it could be recommended to a range of clients, including those without much background in science or clinical terminology.
—Romeo Vitelli, Providentia, full review of the book here
I didn’t learn much from this book, but that is because I’ve been immersed in learning about asexuality and awareness for more than two years now. It’s a lot to take in, but Decker keeps this in mind as she explains the various 101 aspects and terms used in the community. The writing itself had a patient, teaching tone that I think would be very helpful for someone who starts reading this without any knowledge of asexuality.
One of the best things about this book is the quotes from other asexual activists and bloggers interspersed throughout. Decker uses some of her experiences in some parts of the chapters, but the quotes help tie certain explanations together. There are so many voices in the community and each person experiences something different, which is important to show in an introductory book.
—Frances, bitter 20-something, full review of the book here
I mean, for a long, long time I just felt like a failure, because I didn’t know that asexuality was a thing, and thus I just thought I was a broken heterosexual. And even when I did know that asexuality was an option I thought it meant something different. So seeing a book like this in the market pleases me immensely.
(I mean, it would have been nice could I have read it years ago and saved myself a fair bit of personal anguish, but what can you do.)
—Jesse O Heiman, Excuse the Quality, full review of the book here (at the bottom)
Might there be a paperback?
Usually when books come out in hardcover, there isn’t a paperback at the same time. If the sales are good enough in hardcover that my publisher thinks a paperback will also sell well, it will be released. If not, there will only be hardcover, eBook, and audio. It all depends on how well it sells!
Are there going to be an ebook version?
Yes. It should release alongside the hardcover. There will also be an audio version. That information just isn’t available yet for preorder. Thanks!
Hello, this is Ultima from AVEN. I would have contacted you through the PM thread: Awesome Book, but AVEN is down right now so I am posting here. You requested that I write a review of your book The Invisible Orientation and I have finally gotten around to doing it. Sorry it took so long but I was sick last weekend and I am currently substitute teaching in an ESE class this month with students who have behavioral disorders so I am usually tired at the end of each day.
I put one short review on Amazon just saying how much I liked it. On Goodreads (I have never seen this site before!) I noticed that many people put very thorough and well thought out reviews so I decided to do a thorough review myself (review can be found at the link below). This is my first time writing a thorough review on a book so I hope you like it and apologize if you don’t (I will try better next time). Also, this one is a bit critical… just to warn you, but know that I do like your book.
I actually saw both before I saw your comment here. Thank you for reviewing! I don’t mind critical comments at all. I like more thoughtful, thorough, well-thought-out reviews that have critical elements way more than I like empty positive ones, so thanks so much for coming through with that. 🙂
I figured you would be ok with it because I saw a YouTube video that you made critiquing writing but I was worried that you might think I was attacking your book with my review.
Not at all, and thank you for the honesty! I wasn’t bothered at all, and you even took care to make it subjective. You definitely figured out why I included some repetition, too; I had talked to many people about how to present the book and it was agreed that some would probably turn directly to the section most relevant to them, so I had to assume that any chapter could be someone’s starting point.
Hi. I feel like I’m a little late to the party but I finished The Invisible Orientation today. I really enjoyed it and I’m going to be lending it to my mom and sister. As a long time watcher of your series Letters to Asexual, I love how your personality comes through in this book. One thing I do have to say though is that I got a little tired of how much was repeated but I understand that is good for people first learning this term, not people like me who have spent hours on forums dedicated to asexuals. Keep up the good work!
Thanks! Feel free to review it on Amazon or other book review sites if you want to spread the word at all–but no problem if you don’t do stuff like that. 🙂 Some of the repetition was intentional because I think people do pick up books like this and turn right to the section that they’re most interested in sometimes, and skip around, so the most important stuff is sometimes said more than once or in several sections. I’m glad you liked it!
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I was struck by your sentence “i got a little tired of how much was repeated”. The repeated message is that asexuals should never be discriminated against. Because they are. And the sad origin of the discrimination is ignorance. But seldom, if ever, is the point of view of the sexual partner in an A-S relationship seen through the same glasses. The ace partner doesn’t really understand what it means to expect a comprehensive sexlife and to have a hundredth of that in quantitative terms, a thousandth of that in qualitative terms. A true, honest and thorough discussion of the issue leads inevitably to (a) one of the two living in misery, (b) the couple splitting after a while or (c) the “trendy”solution, an open marriage where both members are allowed to see what the neighbor looks like but in actual fact it is only the S member who does that. Are there other solutions that may fully satisfy both partners?
Expectation of a “comprehensive sexlife” is surely something that, if it’s important to you, should be discussed with your partner, not simply expected without talking about it. If being sexually compatible in that way is a dealbreaker for you, that should be communicated long before a long-term relationship is established. (I think people don’t really understand that sex is not guaranteed in these relationships and is not a piece of the relationship that is automatically granted just by virtue of being in a relationship.)
As a person who wouldn’t want a relationship OR sex in a relationship if I had one, I of course am not qualified to speak on how important it can be, but I do recognize that it is for many to most people. However, I do know the status quo is frequently exploited to make the asexual person in a relationship feel like they are remiss in a duty they never agreed to but will be shamed for not offering.
That said, I think if something, including sex, is essential in your relationship, you should not have to be without it. You just can’t create a situation where your partner must comply if THEY feel it’s essential that they do NOT have sex. If you desire this thing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the other person is obligated to provide. Yes, the honest and thorough discussion you’ve mentioned does usually lead to dissatisfaction, splitting up, or open marriage, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with open marriage. (I couldn’t tell if you were implying there is.) I can’t guarantee that there are solutions that will “fully satisfy” all partners in a relationship, because some relationships might not be mutually satisfied with each other, but there are also options to discuss what sort of sensual, intimate, sexual, physical, or romantic acts each person needs and which each would be willing to engage in. Sometimes compromises can be reached where one person uses toys or has less traditional sex, participates by observing, or experiments with activities until they find one they both like. I did a talk on asexual relationships at the University of Virginia if you’d like to search for “‘Asexual Relationships’ talk at University of Virginia” on YouTube for more info.
I now come to realize the notion of “by default” has not been taken into consideration. Because 99% of the population is S, by default any of those 99% believe the person they fall in love with is also S. If that person is A, transparency rules dictate s/he states that in no uncertain terms. Only THEN is the field levelled off and there are no surprises, nothing can be taken for granted. When you say “if something, including sex, is essential in your relationship” you are setting out, without actually saying so, that there is a 50-50 possibility that sex is essential in a relationship, whereas we know there is a 1/100 possibility that sex is not essential in a relationship. It is therefore not “by default” and should therefore be explicitly mentioned. Unfortunately this is only now beginning to happen. In previous generations the S partner just walked into a trap s/he couldn’t have imagined existed.
You’re conflating the state of “not being asexual” with “finding sex essential in a relationship” here. It is absolutely not essential in every relationship with a person who is not asexual. While I believe people should be realistic about their partners’ sexual needs if they know theirs are uncommon, I believe it’s wrong for anyone to assume their partners’ sexual needs are similar to their own without asking and without talking about it, and I believe it’s wrong to put an asexual person in a position to believe their uncommonness dictates that they should accept that they are unacceptable as mates for 99% of people. Plenty of people do not consider sexual similarity or sexual preferences in the “mandatory” category of relationship compatibility. I’ve had dozens of conversations with non-asexual people who prioritized other things in their relationships with asexual-spectrum partners, and while they would probably prefer more sex if they got to create their ideal partner from clay, they understand that they don’t get to do that. You also need to remember that asexual people don’t necessarily know they’re asexual when they enter a relationship (or ever), and may not realize except through repeated exposures to sex that it isn’t about just getting used to it or having a lower sex drive than their partners. Societal pressure, shame, heteronormativity, and many other factors make asexual people feel like they are expected to compromise in many situations, and that they should do all of the compromising on the sexual front. It’s nice when it doesn’t work out that way, but implying that the asexual person is “trapping” someone by not clearly stating how they feel (when they may not even know) does suggest intention to put responsibility for incompatibility on the asexual person. In short, yes it’s likely that your partner will not be asexual when looking at the numbers, and yes it’s likely most non-asexual people won’t contend with this, but EVERY RELATIONSHIP will have some differences of desire on sexual and other matters, and within each individual relationship, the responsibility to negotiate that into something all partners can live with should be equally allotted to each partner.
There must be a reason why you don’t address the issue of “by default”. So, let’s rephrase that: in a given society there are things that correspond to “unless specified otherwise”. Example: both members of a couple will carry out a certain amount of work, either inside or outside the home, so that there is a balance. A sentence like “I’m not doing the household chores because we never agreed on that” is not acceptable. Of course if before sharing a flat or a house they “agree otherwise” then it is different. But if they don’t, a sound and reasonable assumption is that they will share the burden. The same holds true for having children within a marriage, for listening to music below 40 dB, for getting dressed before opening the door to the neighbor and for having sex. And hundreds of other “conventions” which, by the way, vary from one society to the next. Within our western society a sex life of 2 or 3 times a week, between 20 and 60 minutes each time, is a given. Again, “unless specified otherwise”. In our discussion here we are assuming they did NOT specify otherwise. So, if afterwards one of the members says “I’m A, therefore we will be talking about 2 or 3 times a year, it is that member who is changing unilaterally the rules of the game. The “game” is that a pawn in chess cannot move sideways. You may “agree otherwise”, of course, but in the absence of such an agreement the pawn does not move sideways. And what I read from many Aces is that they pinpoint their preferences ex-post-facto. So if you fall in love with a person and s/he is S while you are A, and for religious or other reasons there is no sex before the wedding, assuming you did not “agree otherwise” before getting married, your A parameters are not on the same level as those of your partner. Because if they are then you are accepting that your partner does not work either inside or outside the house, does not get dressed before opening the door, does not use the toilet when nature calls and so many other conventions that are just part of our daily lives
And yet dozens, possibly more than a hundred, of the non-asexual people I’ve talked to about this disagree with you about what is “expected” regarding sex life. I have had a ton of conversations with non-asexual people who think attitudes like yours about how much sex “everyone knows” you should expect are inaccurate and ultimately unhealthy for relationships where desire differs on any level.
You think it’s a given; plenty of people don’t. And that’s what I’ve been saying all along: If you believe you don’t even have to talk about something important to you because it’s so obvious you have a right to expect it–and you’re willing to claim publicly that this is a nearly universal standard accepted by people who are not asexual–you’re using the status quo in a way it shouldn’t be used. Communication in relationships is key, and maybe instead of suggesting a vital issue isn’t even worth talking about because you had a right to expect it was given, you might consider examining why you felt entitled to live your life without questioning this assumption.
Comparing how much sex your partner is obligated or expected to give you in a relationship to various understood norms of society is misleading, and the way you phrase it above steers into gaslighting (essentially: “we all agree on this–you’re the statistical outlier”). It’s an especially toxic framework when it’s used to present one partner as if they’re cheating the other of a deserved experience. Nobody should feel like they owe another person sex, and in this age of resources at your fingertips, you should be able to see the incredible diversity of the sexual spectrum and the fact that “standards” you’ve been presenting as givens of human life are anything but standard. And if all the jokes in stand-up comedy and sitcoms about frigid wives and marriage being the end of a sex life are any indication, I think it’s clear that it’s far more than just me who disagrees that there’s an established amount of sex that everyone’s having. Not to mention that even if you take surveys and determine averages, studies of sexual behavior are not supposed to be used prescriptively–that is to say, if you get a study that says “the average couple of X years old has X amount of sex,” that does not mean you get to take that result and use it to change someone’s behavior if it’s against their inclinations.
I feel I’m wasting my words, though, because you literally put having sex less than two or three times a week on the same level of widely understood inappropriateness as refusing to wear clothes or use the toilet. The sooner we stop viewing sex as something we’re entitled to, the sooner we’ll focus on matching with people who want what we want–instead of claiming virtually everyone wants the same thing at the same level so we might as well assume it’s true without any discussion.
Dude, did you seriously just say that 3-5/week sex is the ‘by default’ norm in a marriage and doesn’t even require prior discussion? Yeesh.
As a heterosexual woman who definitely likes sex and has been married for 20 years, I’d like to share a thing or two about how a consensual marriage works.
First, no specific amount of sex is ever guaranteed or even expected. Would one of us sometimes like more sex than we actually get? You betcha. Like, pretty much always one of us wishes we were getting more sex than we actually are (sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s me). That’s sort of how it works. We decided a long time ago that we pretty much only have sex when both of us are enthusiastic about it. It took a long time to get to that point (and many variations on compromises), and we’re both happy with the situation, because we both prioritize things over whether we’re getting our “ideal” amount of sex in any given week.
If one of us were to decide that we no longer like sex at all, for any reason, we’d talk about that and figure it out. And you’re right, we would probably have to make some difficult decisions: Split up, open marriage, or determining that we’re okay with both of us not having sex. I don’t know which we would decide, because we haven’t had to make that decision, but it’s a decision we’d make together because our marriage is a consensual relationship and not based in some arbitrarily determined “by default” societal “norm.”
Second, to address the point of whether an Ace is “supposed” to tell her/his partner ahead of time, let’s discuss how relationships-moving-toward marriage generally work. Unless it’s some sort of arranged marriage, one usually has talked about sex prior to the actual marriage–even if one is a virgin when one is married, one has at least *talked* about sex prior. Ask my mom, who was most definitely a virgin when she married, and most definitely had talked about sex with my dad.
(And most people nowadays have actually had sex prior).
So, generally speaking, unless one is deliberately keeping secrets from one another (and, let’s face it, if that’s the case, then one has bigger issues than whether one likes sex), the topic will have already come up, and there’s a fair chance that most people who marry an Ace who knows they are an Ace will have had these conversations and come to a mutually agreeable solution.
On the other hand, some people don’t know they’re Aces when they get married. Would you seriously suggest that these people ought to give their spouse sex just because it’s “expected”? That’s absurd. Maybe in the 1950s, yeah, when women were expected to submit to their husbands in all things (but, interestingly, if men felt like withholding sex in the 1950s for any reason including because they were getting better sex elsewhere, that was perfectly fine, so I’m not sure that’s a great standard to hold up).
I wonder if you might be expressing some fear here on your own behalf, because sex is very important to you, that you might fall in love with someone only to find out that they are an ace. That is a legitimate fear. There is nothing wrong with sex being a priority for you in your relationships, and I certainly wish you all the best in finding someone you really like who is compatible with you in that respect. And it is indeed the case that it’s possible that you could meet someone who is wonderful in every way but who, when you start getting into the sex stuff, expresses or finds out that she or he is really not into sex stuff. That would suck.
Sometimes life does suck.
I had a very dear friend who married his college sweetheart and they were very, very much in love. They were married for 17 years, and about 10 years in, he discovered that he very much wanted to have children and she confessed that she very much did not want to have children. They stuck it out for another 7 years because they were in love, but finally he simply could not stand the thought of never having children and she could not stand the thought of having children, and they decided, amiably, to split up and move on.
He married several years later and raised two incredible children who were the light of his life. I don’t know what she went on to do, but I understand she was very successful and I hope she was/is also happy.
That kind of shit happens and it sucks when it’s happening. And it’s life, and it’s not the end of the world.
What doesn’t have to happen is for people who don’t like sex to feel like their not liking sex is a BFD so great they have to announce it at the beginning of a relationship as if they were a felon applying for a job working with small children.
But if it is that important to you, and you don’t want to take a chance, then it’s perfectly acceptable for you to be the one to bring it up early in the relationship, just to be sure. Problem solved.
“Dozens”, “more than a hundred”, “tons”… You start with numbers. Fine. On focusonthefamily.ca you will read “According to Understanding Human Sexuality by Janet Shibley Hyde and John D. DeLamater (McGraw-Hill, 1997), the largest percentage of married couples reporting in a study said they had intercourse three times a week.”. I read on a forum organized by AVEN that a man complained he and his wife hadn’t had sex for over six years. What do we do with these numbers? Nothing. Each couple is a world in itself. And if the argument is “i feel like doing it once a year”, fine with me. But then intellectual honesty leads you to refraining from providing any number to your feeling, because as soon as you come up with numbers you all of a sudden have to become objective, and objectivity calls for studies, institutions (Kinsley Institute), a Gaussian curve, also known as “normal distribution”, and not what “Dozens” say. None of my friends, male and female, none, would agree that a relationship with one or two episodes a year is healthy. They would of course fully respect the A member, because respect is of the essence, but they would all call for a divorce or a free marriage. And they definitely would all agree to say everything goes provided you state it beforehand. I have read about hundreds of cases on the AVEN forum when one of them “discovered” the other was A after a while. A healthy relationship should never tolerate that the S member all of a sudden discovers: s/he should know. With knowledge comes the power to decide. That’s all I’m saying.
You are either missing the point or deliberately obscuring it. Because how much sex is “normal” to have is irrelevant to my point. What IS relevant to my point is that people don’t get to use statistics to assert that they shouldn’t even have to have the conversation. That it’s so much a given that you can expect to receive the amount of sex you want as a matter of course. That communication somehow isn’t necessary on this element of a relationship because you already took it for granted.
I brought up the huge number of people I’ve talked with who disagreed with you not to pretend I’m making objective claims about the reality of sex in relationships, but to make it clear that people don’t have to be asexual to have a completely different perspective on sex than you apparently do. The bottom line is that you’ve expressed an expectation, and you’ve claimed this expectation is so nearly universal that you wouldn’t even need to talk about it with the one you love because it’s as much of a given as expecting them to use the toilet. Asexual people are not the only ones who find this claim baffling and inaccurate.
A big part of my activism is to get people to stop taking sexual “norms” for granted. Assuming your desired level of sex is a common, understood standard so prevalent that it didn’t need a discussion is an act of potential abuse–and I say this because it is far more likely to be used against the 1% (whose members are predisposed to be shamed into thinking they must comply) than it is to be used against the 99% (who may also have pain over this, but are much more likely to use consensus to frame the narrative as if it is the less sexual partner who is remiss in a duty). Not to mention that just because someone’s in the 99% does not mean they are known to have the same opinion as you about how much sex you should be having. It’s not as if some people are asexual and everyone else in relationships is having sex as per the terms you laid out.
You give lip service to the notion that each relationship is a world in itself, but you do seem to think what “everyone else” is doing is somehow relevant to what people’s intimacy should look like, and you do seem to think the most common answers as per survey numbers back up what you’re entitled to expect. It just plain isn’t a given that people’s sex drives and interest in sex match up to what you believe is normal, and it sure is upsetting to imagine there are people going around invoking invisible clauses in relationship contracts.
Julie is spot on. She says:
“You are either missing the point or deliberately obscuring it.”
“Because how much sex is “normal” to have is irrelevant to my point. What IS relevant to my point is that people don’t get to use statistics to assert that they shouldn’t even have to have the conversation.”
Precisely. The statistics are irrelevant–each relationship is it’s own, and healthy relationships are based on mutual understanding, not statistical norms.
“That it’s so much a given that you can expect to receive the amount of sex you want as a matter of course. That communication somehow isn’t necessary on this element of a relationship because you already took it for granted.”
Right. If you’re taking a certain amount of sex for granted, you’re already the problem.
It’s interesting to me that Etienne had chosen to ignore my personal experience based in twenty years of marriage, to argue a point that neither of us was making (that there isn’t a statistical norm–of course there is a statistical norm, that’s how numbers work. But that’s not the point, as Julie so eloquently explained).
What are you so afraid of, Etienne? That ace activism will ruin your personal sex life because you won’t know whether you can count on a certain “statistical norm” of sex in every relationship?
Does your activism also involve going against statistics? When you speak about not taking sexual “norms” for granted do you mean to say “listen, statistics from the WHO, the Kinsey Institute, Masters and Johnson, and so many others all point at an average of 2 to 3 times a week, but they are all wrong”? These are surveys, Julie, that’s what people do, it is neither good or bad, it’s just a behavior. What I think your activism leads you to do, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is to say to As “listen, that’s what most people do, but you’re not a monster if you want to do it once a year, you don’t have to be pushed into any other behavior”. And I agree. What I’m adding to that is this: “…any other behavior but you MUST state it so in no uncertain terms to your partner, because if your partner is an S, and there are 99% chances s/he is, your partner is fully entitled to believe you’re an S too.” That’s all I’m saying. And again I speak from many stories read on the AVEN forum, the vast majority of As fails to report it to their partner in advance. I’m not dwelling into reasons, behaviors or anything else. What I’m saying is that the S partner just “discovers” it. And that’s unfair. And you, as an activist, can make the difference by telling your audience that As should never have to indulge, to accept, to suffer, but they should not have to inflict suffering onto the person they love by refraining from stating the truth, their truth, up front. Then the S partner is also given a chance. A chance to decide.
And to Heather: what are you so afraid of? That being honest to your partner from the very beginning will ruin your life?
Hi. I really wasn’t expecting a big deal to be started from my first comment. When I said I got tired of how much was repeated, I was going with the definitions of the words like demisexual and not the message being repeated. I do agree with the message that Asexuals should not be discriminated against. The thing that I like about Julie Sondra and her work is that she seeks to educate people and tries to point out attitudes that are unhealthy and detrimental to asexuals and to the people connected with asexuals. She also does it in such a way that is really thoughtful and intelligent and for the most part I agree with what I have heard or read from her.
Sidenote: I don’t agree that a partner is fully entitled to believe that their partner is sexual. One should never assume what a person’s orientation is or decide to go with what is believed to be the “default” orientation. This is just one of many unhealthy attitudes that is not just harmful to asexuals but to other orientations as well.
Sorry. I meant to type out Julie Decker and not Julie Sondra in my last comment.
So it’s an unhealthy attitude for the cabdriver to expect that you’ll pay when you get to your destination or for the waitress to expect you’ll pay the bill when you finished eating what you ordered…99% of those having dinner at a restaurant pay their bills. 99% of passengers pay their bill upon arriving at their their Destination. 99% of the people are sexual.
Yes it is. You are not entitled to sex if you are or are not in a relationship. Everyone has the right to say no to sex in a relationship. If one person ignores the other person’s desire not to have sex the relationship can become abusive/toxic. Your examples don’t work because in them the people in those situations are legally obligated to pay for/render the service requested. As I said above people are have a right to say no to sex and are not obligated to have sex if they don’t want to. If you want to have sex with someone hire a hooker. That is more in line with your examples because you are paying them for a service. People in relationships are not in them solely for the sex. It is a partnership between the people involved to do and work with each to compromise to meet each others needs without placing demands on them.
Also if you lived in a world where 99% of the people love skydiving or to be a little more extreme, loved jumping of cliffs, and you were part of the 1% who didn’t would you do what everyone else was doing or would you say that skydiving/jumping off cliffs wasn’t for you?
It’s kind of bizarre that you’re continuing to claim that because 99% of people are “sexual,” they are therefore entitled to what surveys report is common. Averages existing DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO simply expecting that your relationship will be average. “Well multiple reports designate this number to be typical; therefore, I have every right to expect that my relationship will involve typical sex too”–that is ultimately an abusive, entitled attitude toward sex that is right at the very root of what I want thrown right out with the trash. And it’s phenomenal that you would conflate your own sexual expectations with people doing their jobs. Having sex in a relationship is not at all like having a job you agree to perform for money, and not having sex in a relationship is not at all like CHEATING SOMEONE OUT OF SOMETHING THEY WERE PROMISED. Individuals in relationships do NOT automatically promise sex by virtue of being in a relationship with you, and it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to talk about how you and your partner(s) will express your intimacy. It’s also not as if everyone with a sex life that approaches typical simply mutually expected that it would be. Long story short, you are presenting something as a given that is not a given, and you are trying to use statistics to back up your assumption that they’re a given. They do not support your belief that certain frequency of sex is a given. There will always be an average. The average is not the same as a “should be and therefore is expected.” Averages exist because people are all over the map. You have no more right to “expect” the average than you do a right to be taller than you are if you’re shorter than the national average.
For once we seem to be talking about the same. I read “Everyone has the right to say no to sex in a relationship”. YES! But BEFORE you enter that relationship. Then the partner knows. If you are an S you will not all of a sudden dislike sex. But if you are an A, your partner an S and you withhold that “tiny” piece of information you are cheating. And if you read the AVEN forum and look for the stories of frustrated S writers living with an A, most of them come from people who suddenly “discovered” their partners are As, who refrained from saying so beforehand and who all of a sudden claim, loud and clear as yourselves, that “Everyone has the right to say no to sex in a relationship” and that the other partner has no right whatsoever to claim otherwise just because the A member overlooked that “detail” in the beginning.
No. What you’re saying here is that only the asexual person must disclose that they expect a certain level of sex in a relationship (in this case, none or not very much), while everyone else has no obligation to disclose that they expect a certain level of sex in a relationship (in this case, twice or three times a week, for 20 minutes to an hour). The bottom line is that you’re claiming we have to disclose while you have a right to expect, and that the situation automatically defaults to your standard unless we say otherwise. I understand THAT you are saying that, and that you believe it’s common sense just because many people have or want that amount of sex. I am disagreeing that it’s right to expect it. And the fundamental difference in our opinion here is that you think the commonality of your opinion makes it automatically in effect unless someone explicitly takes exception. That is not how things should work in any relationship. Any person participating in a relationship should disclose what they want. And frequently, if those tricksy asexual trap monsters are not saying how they feel ahead of time, it is because they have been shamed by sexual normativity attitudes like this into thinking they will not deserve love, will not have positive attention from their partners, and may not be considered appropriate partners. I’m not defending dishonesty when I say this, but I do think the very expectation you have is what contributes to many asexual people’s fear of disclosure. (And again, many don’t know how they will feel, and think they will come to accept it or tolerate it for the sake of the relationship.) Stop spinning asexual people “withholding” information as if they’re out to cheat non-asexual people out of something they had a right to expect, and stop contributing to problematic attitudes that make non-asexual people feel justified in expecting that satisfaction of their sexual desires on their terms is inherently part of the relationship package deal.
And I’d also like to add this:
Being in a relationship is not consent to sex. It is not “understood” consent to sex. It is not “understood” consent to any amount of sex. And it is not a blanket level of consent to sex that applies unless it’s explicitly declined.
Furthermore, it’s a generalization that if you’re not asexual, you “won’t” suddenly dislike sex. People’s sexual appetites change all the time. Just because you’re not asexual does not mean you will forever want the same amount of sex or that negotiations over how much sex will make your relationship satisfactory become non-negotiable once a marriage or long-term relationship is cemented. Non-asexual people have every right to change the contract too, and sometimes unforeseen circumstances like disability, illness, or just plain old fluidity of sex drive changes how you handle a relationship. You are not ever guaranteed a certain amount of sex by virtue of securing a relationship, and this “expectation” at the root of all this is what needs to be questioned. I know you have stated multiple times that you expect sex on your own terms as surely as cab drivers expect to be paid for their work, and I understand this is how you see the world. I think you should question it. And I think you should stop presenting one set of norms as any kind of default in a sexual relationship. They are statistics that exist to examine what IS, not statistics that justify holding all relationships to that standard unless they explicitly opt out.
I would also like to add that marital rape is a thing and being raped while in a relationship but not yet married is also a thing. So your point of “I read “Everyone has the right to say no to sex in a relationship”. YES! But BEFORE you enter that relationship.” is invalid. For everything else. I will redirect you to Julie’s and Heather’s comments because they have said all my points better than I could ever do.
Thanks for adding this, Stephanie. That comment gave me an extremely rapey vibe as well. Claiming that there’s a norm you are agreeing to without explicit consent implies that couples who are committed to each other are in a constant state of consent to the amount and frequency of sex only one partner may prefer, and that’s absolutely false. And boy is it gross to keep stating that everyone except asexual people understands how much sex they’re expected to have as part of a social contract. You can’t keep saying you “respect” asexual people if you claim it’s okay for everyone to assume they are not interacting with one, and you *shouldn’t* make a case for the most frequent/average answer to a question being assumed to be YOUR answer unless otherwise discussed. It’s a blank that you fill in with your combined desires, not a pre-filled field that has to be changed to something else if it’s not what you expected.
There’s not much more to be said. This is not a blog where dissent is acceptable, let alone welcome. If you are an S who claims an S engaging in a relationship is entitled to believe his/her partner is also an S unless stated otherwise by the sheer power of statistics you are a rapist.
You should warn people at the very beginning, Julie. I suggest something like “Sexuals and other rapists, refrain”. You will get many more totally incongruous comments like Stephanie’s that you can respond with a smile and a warm thank you…
Etienne, we know that most people are not asexual and have different wants than us when it comes to relationships. We also know that not many people know about asexuality and say hurtful things out of ignorance. For the most part, I am willing to put up with the comments that are ignorant as long as the person saying them is sincerely trying to learn and watch what they say moving forward. The issue we are having with you here is that you are not trying to learn and change or at least challenge your views on the subject. Also, when you misuse statistics to justify that sexuals are entitled to sex 2-3 times a week because that’s the norm and that any thing else must be stated otherwise and that if nothing else is said that is a given ignores how healthy consensual relationships work. Healthy relationships have good communication about sex and allows for things like changes in sex drive, illness job and life in general will affect how much sex you and your partner can have in a given week. I’m sorry but the fact that you don’t see the importance of communication, see sex as given in a relationship and have yet to acknowledge that some things in life can get in the way of sex and everything else you have said makes you seem less likely to respect sexual boundaries and makes you seem rapey.
Also not all sexuals feel the same way as you do. If you need an example look back at Heather’s comments where she clearly states that she is a heterosexual women.
Sigh. Nobody is calling you a rapist for believing that most people are S. What you are being told is that feeling entitled to sex just because you’re married opens the door to rape.
Acting on assumed sexual consent based on consent that was previously given at an earlier time, without reconfirming consent, is rape.
That is not an opinion, it is fact.
Huffing out of the conversation because someone defined rape and it hurts your feelings is childish.
Suggesting that Julie thinks all S’s are rapists is laughable. Hello, I’m S, and Julie has never accused me of rape even once. (Hey, Julie, better get on that. You’ve got a reputation to uphold.)
Suggesting that all S’s agree with your bizarre attitudes about presumed quantities of sexual activity inside a relationship is… Well, it’s mind-boggling, honestly.
Heterosexual woman who only sometimes gets the amount of sex she wants in her marriage and hasn’t yet accused her husband of fraud or misrepresentation because we talk about this shit instead of assuming
Etienne, if you are still here, I don’t think of you as a rapist, I never really did think that. Their is a difference between coming off as being rapey and actually being rapey. Your choice of words came off as rapey even if you didn’t intend it that way. I wasn’t sure if I made that clear in my last comment so I am adding it here.