As I was thinking about acephobica, negative stereotypes of asexuals, and common forms of gaslighting and invalidation that asexual people get, it occurred to me that a lot of the denials, “explanations” and so on are closely related to each other. In particular, there are three big widespread themes about asexuality I found that people tend to invoke when denying it:
- Asexuality is a disorder, abnormality or defect.
- Asexuality is a pretense, not sincere or real.
- Asexuality is a choice made as a an ideological or political statement.
Each of the branches on the chart above is an “explanation” used to delegitimize people’s claims that they are asexual, or on the asexual spectrum. People say phrases to the effect of, “You’re not asexual, you’re actually __________,” or “You only feel that way because of __________.”
I suspect there are two closely related reasons why people try to invalidate asexuality so much. First, it’s because the arguer wants to control the asexual person and silence them or keep them “in line.” Secondly, it is to protect the arguer’s own self-esteem by allowing them to discredit someone else, look down on someone else as inferior, and avoid admitting one’s own mistakes. Neither of these motives is usually a conscious, deliberate train of thought when a person tries to invalidate another’s identity, and people will readily come up with more noble or “logical” reasons why they are so opposed to asexuality’s existence, but on a subconscious level these feelings are usually there.
The chart above does not include every acephobic stereotype and form of invalidation or gaslighting that asexual people encounter. It is only meant to outline the broad, recurring themes I’ve noticed, and how they interact with each other. I may do a more extensive version of the chart later.
You may also note some crossover between acephobia, ableism, ageism, and misogyny here. That is not a coincidence, because many of the acephobic ideas used to delegitimize asexuality are ableist, ageist or misogynistic as well. This causes serious identity problems and self-doubt for asexual people who are not able-bodied, neurotypical cisgender adult men - the so-called “unassailable ace” archetype. There is also considerable intersectionality between asexuality and race and LGBT issues, though I couldn’t think of many ways to represent those groups on the chart.