Discrimination against asexual people

Discrimination against asexual people (also known as acephobia[1][2][3] or aphobia)[4][5][6] encompasses a range of negative attitudes, behaviours, and feelings toward asexuality or people who identify as part of the asexual spectrum. Negative feelings or characterisations toward asexuality include dehumanisation, the belief that asexuality is a mental illness, that asexual people cannot feel love, and refusal to accept asexuality as a genuine sexual orientation. Asexuality is sometimes confused with celibacy. Anti-asexual hate crimes also exist, and there is some evidence that asexual people sometimes face even greater amounts of certain types of prejudice and discrimination than those of other sexual minorities.[7][8]

There have been efforts to combat anti-asexual discrimination through legislation or education (such as asexual workshops).[9][10]

Classification

General

Behaviours and attitudes that are considered discriminatory include the idea that asexuality is a mental illness, that asexuality is a phase or a choice, the idea that asexual people cannot feel love, and those that make asexual people feel dehumanised.[2][11][12][13] Aspects of discrimination experienced can depend on other parts of one's identity.[14] As of February 2019, asexuality is poorly-understood; in a Sky News survey, 53 per cent of the 1,119 people questioned felt confident in defining asexuality, but 75 per cent incorrectly did so or thought asexual people simply lacked libido.[15]

In 2011, LGBT activist Dan Savage stated that asexuality is a choice, described it as "choosing not to have sex", and deemed it unworthy of attention,[16][17] and Ruth Westheimer, a sex therapist, was criticised for her view that the ability to have orgasms means that one cannot be asexual.[18] In 2015, she was also criticised for implying that asexuality is a problem that needs solving.[18]

Asexual people whose asexuality has been accepted only because there is no other explanation for their lack of interest in sexual activity have come to be known as "unassailable asexual[s]".[19] Disbelieving attitudes towards asexuality can leave asexual people afraid to come out.[19]

A 2017 LGBT survey conducted by the Government of the United Kingdom found that, although only two per cent of its more than 108,000 respondents were asexual, they have the joint-lowest (with pansexuals) average life satisfaction of any sexual orientation among cisgender respondents, that asexuals are the least comfortable LGBT group in the United Kingdom (among cisgender respondents), and 89 per cent (the highest percentage of any group surveyed) of cisgender asexual respondents were reluctant to be open for fear of negative reactions.[8]

Social discrimination

Asexuals may be socially discriminated against due to beliefs that that heterosexuality is the default sexuality or that asexuals are actually gay or lesbian people in denial.[12][20] Asexual spaces have also been known to discriminate based on age.[19]

Asexuality has been seen as a joke.[21] Two studies found that asexual people are more dehumanised than heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals, often being compared to animals or robots due to their sexuality.[22][7][23] A different study, however, found little evidence of serious discrimination against asexuals because of their asexuality.[24]

Having emerged more recently as an identity, asexual people often have less legal protection than gay, lesbian, and bisexual people,[25] although in New York, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act categorises asexuals as a protected class.[26] Asexuals have also been known to have been subjected to corrective rape.[27][16][19] They may be pressured into engaging in sexual activity, and into going to a doctor to have their asexuality "fixed".[28] A 2015 survey found that 43.5 per cent of the almost 8000 asexual people polled had encountered sexual violence.[19] There is a misconception that asexual people are never in sexual situations and therefore cannot be sexually assaulted.[19]

Some, such as sociologist Mark Carrigan believe that asexual discrimination is more to do with marginalisation, and that a lot of it is a result of a lack of understanding and awareness of asexuality.[29][30] There is also controversy over the inclusion of asexuality in the LGBT and queer umbrellas for a variety of reasons, including the belief that asexuals do not experience oppression akin to homophobia and transphobia[17][16] and the belief that queer as a slur can only be reclaimed by those it has historically been used to oppress.[31]

Institutionalised discrimination

In some jurisdictions, marriages can be voided if not legitimised by consummation.[32] This has been viewed as discriminatory to asexuals.[33] Sex education programmes in schools have also been known to discriminate against asexuals.[34][35]

In early 2015, Russia passed a law banning, amongst others, people with "disorders of sexual preference" from obtaining driving licences. The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights stated that it effectively banned asexual people from driving.[36]

Media and services

Asexuals are less-well represented by mainstream media and services, facilitating hostility and prejudice towards asexuals, and can lead to their rejection from both the straight and LGBT communities. Some online dating services, including Tinder, Bumble, and Match.com, lack the option for users to identify as asexual, which obstructs their ability to find romantic partners.[37]

In 2012, the TV programme House was criticised for portraying asexuality as a medical condition as well as "problematic and pathological", and encouraging scepticism about it.[38] In 2017, the decision to turn the character Jughead in the TV programme version of Riverdale from asexual to heterosexual was met with disapproval, with one branding it "asexual erasure".[39]