Not tonight, dear - in fact, not ever (National Post, May 10, 2006)
An intriguing article in the Post's April 28 Body and Health section explored the properties of asexuality (not to be confused with celibacy, the voluntary repression of natural urges), which is described by those experiencing it as a "permanent absence of lust or libido."
It seems more and more asexuals are coming out of their, er, separate bedrooms. Global membership in the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) has doubled in size in the past year, and now boasts 7,500 men and women, 150 times their 2001 numbers.
If the percentage of self-selected asexuals determined by a British survey -- the 1.05% who agreed with the statement, "I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all" -- are extrapolated for Canada, we have in our midst about 346,500 Canadians who have no sexual interest in the opposite -- or their own -- sex. Combined with approximately 3.2 million asexuals in the United States, that's enough of a critical mass from which to form a serious rights lobby group. With heterosexuals' loss of a monopoly on the institution to homosexuals, why, after all, shouldn't asexuals have the right to take pride in openly platonic marriages rather than shamming "normalcy" at the altar?
Is asexuality an orientation or a disorder, as homosexuality was long considered to be? I spoke with Tony Bogaert, a psychologist at Brock University who is planning an international study on the subject. He explained that for a statistical abnormality to be considered a disorder requiring treatment, the phenomenon must generate some degree of distress in those experiencing it. But that doesn't seem to be the case for most asexuals. Indeed, Cijay Morgan, a 43-year old asexual from Edmonton, says she finds the absence of sexual urges "liberating": "I think it is in my hardwiring because it feels as normal as being right-handed or blue-eyed." I imagine asexuals, who never feel the extreme highs or lows of erotic engagement (although they can have romantic attachments), look at sex as most of us see heroin. We know use and withdrawal confer ecstasy and anguish, but we don't miss what we've never tried.
Morgan shows courage in going public. Our society is so highly sexualized, with so much pressure exerted by the media and surrounding culture to exploit our capacity for sexual satiety -- early, often, with multiple partners/genders, and indefinitely -- that confessing one's reduced interest or indifference to sex is tantamount to self-identifying as a social pervert.
Bogaert agrees. He feels that such testimonials will offer a kind of validation to those for whom sex is less than an obsession: "Average people may get some degree of relief from knowing that there is a group of individuals who are not sexual at all; [they'll say] 'Maybe I don't have to be super-sexual to be a happy individual or a functional member of society.' "
Others are less sanguine about the phenomenon. Certified sex therapist Joy Davidson says in the Post article, "You have to wonder whether [the asexuals] protest too much ... It's the 'ra-ra' uneducated, rigid flag-waving that I have a problem with."
There's more than a whiff of defensiveness here, not to mention conflict of interest. After all, asexuals don't need sex therapists. More to the point, the road to gay rights was paved with 'ra-ra' flag-waving and Gay Pride parades, so why not asexuals? I suspect Ms. Davidson is a liberationist, contemptuous of the sexually ascetic, and sympathetic to the sexually enthralled who provide the grist to her professional mill.
Apart from the porn industry and sex therapists, though, most people should be supportive of asexuals. The Bible doesn't consider asexuality an "abomination." Nobody gets STDs from it. It precludes abusive relationships that almost always erupt through sexual jealousy. No honour killings amongst asexuals. No patriarchy, no matriarchy. Asexuals save themselves time, energy and money, and doubtless rarely make fools of themselves. They are innocent of consumer or producer participation in raunch culture. And since they are capable of sexual intercourse, they can have children if they wish to, and parent effectively in effortlessly monogamous relationships.
Far from being a disorder, universal asexuality might be the perfect prescription for utopia. An under-populated utopia, to be sure, with a fairly dull nightlife and a dearth of flower and candy shops, but with the advantages of pedophile-free parks, and no incentive for little girls to dress like hookers. Oh yeah, and no hookers either.
Best of all? Zero motivation for suicide bombers. Those 72 virgins? Fuhgeddaboudit.
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