Compulsory sexuality

Not wanting to have sex is just as valid as wanting sex. The difference lies in how our society views sex and romance.

We have been conditioned to want both and that we will be finally whole once we have found the one whom we will fall in love and eventually engage in sexual activities with. However, this is not true for everyone, and not all people have the same desire for sex.

Different societies promote different sexual cultures, and indeed apply double standards within those societies to perceived sexual norms, particularly regarding cis and trans women (simultaneous expectations of chastity and availability), often resulting in undermining bodily autonomy. One normative assertion made by societies, pretty universally, is that everybody is sexually driven, with that drive being suppressed or expressed.

Professor and researcher Kristina Gupta uses the term compulsory sexuality to explain the ‘assumption that all people are sexual and to describe the social norms and practices that both marginalize various forms of non-sexuality’.

This can lead to asexual people having sex although they do not want to.

Representation of asexual people in the media

Within literature, film and television, asexuality is at most hinted at, and usually entirely unrepresented.

There are only a handful of asexual characters on screen, such as Todd Chavez in BoJack Horseman, and Raphael Santiago in Shadowhunters. While we are moving towards a more conscious representation of the Ace community, there is still a long way to go regarding the recognition of asexual people in the media, and further within political movements and conversations.

“Sex doesn’t make us whole. So, how could you ever be broken?”. – Sex Education, Season 2

By privileging sexuality, we marginalise non-sexuality. It is this sexualisation which leads to our society being one that is ‘compulsorily sexual’.

We need to start challenging this incorrect notion of universal sexuality in order for everyone to feel less pressure to engage in sexual activities and feel validated in their sexual identity.

List of terms regarding the asexual and ace community

Here are some useful terms for non-asexual people looking to familiarise themselves with aspects of some Ace people’s experiences.

  • Asexual = Asexual is a term that refers to people who have a ‘lack or a low physical attraction to others’. People who are asexual are still capable of being in relationships and form emotional bonds, however, they might not be interested in a physical connection. Some asexual people may also engage in sexual activities.
  • Aromantic = Aromantic people do not feel any or little romantic attraction towards other people. They still build relationships with others; however, these may be more platonic than romantic.
  • Demisexual = Demisexuality refers to people who need an emotional connection for a physical attraction to form.
  • Grey-Asexual = This term describes anyone who falls within the spectrum of asexuality and sexuality. People who are grey-asexual can experience no sexual attraction but can also do so occasionally. This identity is very fluid and varies from person to person.
  • Grey romantic = This term describes anyone who falls within the spectrum of aromantic and romantic. People who are grey romantic can experience from little to no romantic attraction. This identity is very fluid and varies from person to person.

It is important to remember that every person who identifies under the Ace umbrella experiences their sexuality differently, so it is best to ask or educate yourself before making any assumptions. As always, every person’s identity and body is their own and is not subject to the understanding, control and approval of others.