I moved all of my personal musings to one of my other blogs (Me, My Sexuality And…) but I think that my adventures at “Sex School” warrant being posted on my sexologist website since this is where I’m getting a lot of my training in the field. I think my experiences at school are also relevant because they are (and have been) training thousands of sexologists who are out there working with people, writing papers, and doing interviews about sexuality!
Considering how many encounters I’ve had with A-Ignorance in the passed I’m sure there will be more to write in the future!
Today in a workshop class, while discussing language my professor said that people who masturbate aren’t really “asexual” – they are “self sexual” and only people who also don’t masturbate are really “asexual.” I suspect that this professor also said the same thing last trimester because starting mid-way through last trimester I started getting extra criticism about identifying as “asexual” and still being involved in the discussion of masturbation aids (it’s sex school, that’s a normal lunch-time conversation topic).
When I took the teacher to task by asking if she would tell *anyone* else that they couldn’t identify the way they choose because of a behavior they engage in (ie someone who identifies as a lesbian but occasionally has sex with men for whatever reason) I was told that of course anyone can identify anyway they choose and it’s important to ask your clients how they define the terms they use to describe themselves but the real problem she has is with the word “asexual” because, she said, it means you don’t have any sexuality at all and that’s not accurate. Well OF COURSE it isn’t accurate to say that a person doesn’t have a sexuality, *everyone* has a sexuality- that’s a unique and complex part of every person and no one is claiming they don’t have a sexuality. Even if the word “asexual” is problematic when trying to be applied literally I think it can be understood easily enough when comparing it to other orientation labels. For instance all other orientation labels “X-Sexual” refer to who the person is sexually attracted to (not counting themselves). Heterosexuals are sexually attracted to those of a different gender identity, homosexuals are attracted to those of the same gender identity, omnisexuals are capable of being sexually attracted to just about everything. The prefix attached to “sexual” has nothing to do with the person’s behaviors with others or alone, the prefix simply indicates who they, typically, are sexually attracted to. The “a” as in “no” or “none” as a prefix is not meant to imply “no sexuality” it is meant to help clarify who we are, typically, sexually attracted to (and there’s so much more to sexuality than that!!).
While my professor claims that she was trying to make a statement about how labels are problematic, her statement that “people who masturbate aren’t really asexual,” just promoting a common misconception seems to be making the problem worse and the vocabulary less clear for students, easier to understand. No professor would ever say “people who have sex with someone of the same gender aren’t really straight!” (and no, not just in the sense of “they’re in denial” or “they’re repressing” or whatever, there are people who aren’t sexually attracted to members of the same gender who, for various reasons have sex with people of the same gender). I can’t imagine anyone ever saying “the way this person identifies is totally wrong!!” with any seriousness, except of course when it comes to asexuals. If I hadn’t pressed the issue (I had to bring us back to the subject) I don’t think she would have ever gone beyond the simple statement that “if you masturbate you can’t be asexual.” – I honestly believe that she would have left it at that without any discussion about the difference between using the term in a biological/medical/psychological context and using the term as an orientation label.
I’ll write later about my previous experiences with A-Ignorance (it isn’t quite “phobia” so much as it is “trivialization” and “pathologizing” in my experience). Feel free to comment and share your experiences with sex/sexuality/education professionals on the subject of asexuality.