I was 10 years old when I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I realised I was asexual around the same time as my peers realised they weren’t. In late primary school, the boys and girls didn't want to play together anymore - they 'fancied' and wanted to 'go out' with each other. I watched girls fighting over boy drama in the cafeteria and wondered what had gotten into everyone.
That’s when I decided I’d attend an all girls’ school under the naive belief that, in the absence of boys, none of the girls would care about sex or dating. I quickly discovered that a same-sex environment had the opposite effect.
By the time I was a teenager, my peers started to wonder what was wrong with me. The sexual frustration was turned up to 100, which made it all the more obvious that I wasn't reacting the same way as the other teens. While their sexuality was directed towards any nearby boy, a poster of a boy, or even each other, mine wasn't directed anywhere. And other people wanted to work out why that was more than I did.
Before believing that it was just my innate sexuality, it was easier to assume that I was gay and in denial. Maybe I was molested as a kid and I’d forgotten about it, but been left with psychological scars. I could be hiding a hidden perversion – my dad asked me whether I was into inanimate objects or children when I told him that I wasn’t attracted to men or women. I might be a psychopath, unable to empathise with people enough to deem them attractive. The theory that held the most weight was that I was 'mentally stunted', and I was treated as such. I started to wonder if they were right.
At 15, I learned the word asexual. It was during yet another analysis session of my sexuality at school. I described myself as not being attracted to men or women for the thousandth time, and someone suggested I might be “asexual or something.” With a quick Google search, I realised I wasn’t alone. Asexuality is a term used to describe those who experience a lack of sexual attraction and/or low levels of sexual desire towards others.
It wasn’t a mental or physical disorder, or a personality flaw, or anything related to my appearance or my life experiences. It wasn’t the same as being celibate, or anti-sex, or just being a ‘late bloomer.’ It was a legitimate sexual orientation characterised purely by a lack of sexual attraction or desire, meaning that it had no implications on whether an asexual could masturbate, or actually enjoy sex, or have children, or be in a romantic relationship. There were no limitations, just a way to bring a lot of people under one united umbrella.
There's only 3 more days until the beginning of #AceWeek and I'm so freaking excited! I can't wait for you all to see the projects I've been working on. Thank you everyone for your continued support, your patience and for getting my work out there. 💜🖤 Dress: @killstar Necklace: @houseofbats . . . . . . . . . . . #yasminbenoit #killstar #wewearkillstar #model #photoshoot #alternativegirl #alternativemodel #blackmodel #alternativefashion #alternativeblackgirl #gothicfashion #gothgirl #blackgoth #afrogoth #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike #asexual #aromantic #asexualpride
A post shared by Yasmin Benoit, MSc (@theyasminbenoit) on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:31am PDT
I had finally found an answer to everyone’s question... only, no one else knew what the hell I was talking about. Unfortunately, they didn’t stop them from spewing the same ignorant views I had been hearing for years.
To an extent, I can’t blame them. It’s been almost 10 years since I discovered the term and it is barely part of public consciousness. It isn’t included in sex education or any conversations about sexuality. We’re left out of policies, pathologised in psychiatry and there is next-to-no representation for asexual people in the media. You can count positive examples on one hand. Most of the time, asexuality is either a fleeting reference, the butt of a joke, or a trait in a character that’s either an alien, robotic, or evil – a manifestation of their lack of empathy. Think your Sheldon Cooper, your Data from Star Trek, your Lord Voldemort.
Especially for women, it's seen as a symptom of their prudishness, unattractiveness or overall blandness, which needs to be resolved by the end of the plot so they can be complete, appealing, lovable people. After all, being virginal is a good thing, perpetual sexual unavailability is not, particularly when you need a loving sexual relationship to be whole. Even our non-fiction portrayals tend to conform to stereotypes and perpetuate a ‘woe is them’ narrative. And among all of these things, they’re probably white, occasionally East Asian, but never Black. Black people are hypersexualised to the point where that would become contradictory and confusing for the audience. And that’s what I would end up being.
Don't let the phrase "experiences a lack of sexual attraction" fool you, asexual people aren't missing out on anything. In fact, I think being immune to other people's sexual allure and having a sexuality independent of others is a more akin to a superpower! There's no reason why asexual people shouldn't be included in conversations about sexuality and welcomed into sex positive spaces. Which is why I'm so proud to be able to work with @lovehoneylingerie as an ambassador and bring some asexual representation as the demon bunny that I am in their new 'Fierce' collection. That's my kinda fantasy. 🐰 What's yours? 🖤 #FreeYourFantasies . . . . . . . . . . . #lovehoney #lovehoneylingerie #asexual #aromantic #yasminbenoit #asexuality #lingerielover #lingeriemodel #alternativemodel #alternativeblackgirl #afrogoth #blackgoth #Halloween #halloweencostume #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike
A post shared by Yasmin Benoit, MSc (@theyasminbenoit) on Oct 16, 2020 at 11:35am PDT
When I first mentioned on social media that I was asexual, I had no intention of becoming a voice for the asexual community. It seemed too unlikely to contemplate. After all, I was a Black gothic student from Berkshire who got sat on at school because I was that invisible. On top of that, my work as an alternative lingerie model meant I was far from the girl/boy-next-door like the asexual activists who had come before me. But, apparently, that's what the community wanted. From there, my activism took off.
I quickly found myself becoming one of the community's most prominent - but unlikely - faces. I used my platform to raise awareness for asexuality, empower asexual people, dispel misconceptions and promote our inclusion in spaces we've traditionally been left out of. From incorporating asexuality into lingerie campaigns, speaking at government institutions, being the first openly asexual person to appear on LGBTQ+ magazine covers, and opening asexual spaces, my work has been intersectional if not a little controversial.
I had never experienced hatred online like I have since speaking openly about asexuality. Only through my work did I become aware of acephobia and the exclusionary discourse surrounding what at first seems like an inoffensive and discreet orientation. It’s shown me how important asexuality activism is, and it’s made me aware of just how diverse, powerful and unique the asexual community is. How they stand up for the rights of others even when we’re ignored ourselves, how they’ll never let their invisibility stop them from developing their own unique culture, history, and progressive understanding of human sexuality and love.
This week is Asexual Awareness Week, an occasion founded by Sara Beth Brooks a decade ago. It’s one of the few times in the year that the community demands to be seen and people start looking.
Don’t miss us, we have a lot to show you.
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