Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 24 March 2011

Is Acephobia a Big Deal?

Last month Glee aired an episode which had some aspects that, in my opinion, were ace-phobic, or at the very least implied that there was something wrong with anyone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. While discussing the episode on Twitter, I pointed out that GLAAD is unlikely to do anything about it unless the asexual community pressures them to, and someone pointed out that aces don’t face the same consequences to being mocked as transgender folks do.

And she was right. To the best of my knowledge, asexuals do not get murdered or arrested or turned away from jobs simply because they don’t experience sexual attraction. Any oppression we do experience, we experience because of being members of another group that is oppressed. For example, asexuals who are also transgender individuals experience discrimination against transgender individuals. Asexuals who wish to have romantic partners of the same gender might be read as gay and treated accordingly. And so on.

So I agree that asexuals are not oppressed for being asexual, merely invisible.

And yet…

Being invisible still hurts. Being mocked for who you are and not having others understand why it isn’t a big deal still hurts. And I want to be able to turn to someone with some power and say, “This is wrong,” and have them agree that is a Big Deal and worth telling the offender not to do anymore, without it taking away from the actual harm that others suffer as a result of untrue and negative beliefs about them.

Also, it’s not a competition. I don’t understand why it’s being framed that way… as if the members of the group that is treated most horribly “win” and the rest don’t even count. I want to live in a world where I can be for gay rights and bi rights and trans rights and asexual rights, rather than just having to pick one and fuck over everyone who belongs to the other groups.



  1. In a ideal world. No one would get pushed to the back of the line because people feel their plights are not a big deal. It’s not a ideal world but we can try to make it one. Everyone’s pain and suffering is valid. This isn’t a contest, we all need help and we all should receive help

  2. It is a big deal to people who don’t want sex right now, or ever. For religious reasons, their own moral code, or just cause they never actually feel like it. I know the difference between Celibate and Asexual, and I think that both groups matter, and that they both should have the right not to be made fun of for basically being who they are and doing what they feel is best for themselves. Even if it means not having sex, cause it’s what they want to do.
    I’m not exactly sure where I fit, but I do figure I fit somewhere in-between those two groups. So it does make sense to me.

  3. I could go to a lengthy discussion sighting the need fo runderstanidng & how sex usually comes up as th emain topic in the more louder parts in the LGBT community but I am just gonna say this.
    Crabs in a Barrel Mentality

  4. Well, on the other hand–isn’t constant and (to a degree) enforced invisibility a form of oppression all on its own? Oppression doesn’t have to be violent or about legal discrimination to count. Or, well, if it does, I see plenty of other complaints about Glee in particular and media in general that are suddenly invalid: desexualized and perpetually single queer characters in contrast to straight characters who get to have romantic relationships; unequal time put on relationships of queer and straight characters, stereotyping of queer people in media, Magical Gays, bisexual erasure, and so forth. If all oppression has to come down to violent or legalized discrimination… well, we’ve just drastically restricted the breadth of what it means to be an oppressed group under a privileged hegemony.

    I should point out, I’m not open about my asexuality in any context that I think could impact my career because I’ve seen the negative reactions people have had to asexuals and I worry that coming out could make people think of me with contempt, and in a work setting that could hurt letters of recommendation, it could hurt whether I get accepted to graduate programs, and it could impact whether or not I find work a safe place, which hurts my job performance. In the classroom, I’ve encountered situations that hurt me based on asexuality, and those negatively impacted my performance in those classrooms–and you can bet I felt very uncomfortable being out in those situations, particularly when grades are at all subjective. And if any of these things happen, I have no legal recourse and no protection at all.

    So there’s that. I agree that the scope of asexual issues isn’t as tangibly bad–we haven’t seen violence against asexuals very often, for example, and institutionalized discrimination tends to be much more about omission than about deliberate legalized discrimination. But if we’re boiling down oppression to those things, there are a whole lot of queer issues that are getting left out in the cold at the same time. Saying “you’re not being beaten, the law hasn’t noticed you, and therefore your issues don’t matter” as an excuse to ignore asexual issues is at the very least some serious hypocrisy on the part of queer organizations.

    But yeah, it’s not a competition, and Oppression Olympics never got anything done for anyone. And it should be possible to focus on many things at the same time, particularly something as easy as saying “Glee, you screwed up again on this one” when it comes from someone with some actual power.

    • Some really good points here. I feel the need to think on them before I can give a coherent reply. I agree, though, about invisibility being a form of oppression. I will reply more fully soon.

  5. Agreed on this one. I’ve been making sure to remember y’all exist, as asexuality is very invisible on the broader scale. And yes, it’d freak people out to learn about it. I know I had to process some gut-level reactions that I’m not proud of.

    Two side notes: (1) your survey’s use of “born” for gender is unfortunate. Assigned is more accurate. (2) you had a moment of bisexual erasure in that article when you said “gay rights” as if they include us.

    • Two side notes: (1) your survey’s use of “born” for gender is unfortunate. Assigned is more accurate. (2) you had a moment of bisexual erasure in that article when you said “gay rights” as if they include us.

      Oh my goodness. Thanks for pointing this out. The last thing I want to do is erase anybody. I’m trying to figure out how to fix my survey; I may take it out for the time being.

  6. […] Meowing at the Moon: Is Acephobia a Big Deal? And I want to be able to turn to someone with some power and say, “This is wrong,” and have […]

  7. I have to admit that I have not even thought about this till now. Shame on me! Not knowing is not something to be proud of.

    In my opinion, and it is just mine, neither asexual nor gay, nor trans, nor bisexual preferences should be an issue. In a perfect world, it should not even make a difference as we should judge people based on who they are and not what they do or not do in the bedroom. Sex should be perceived the same way as drugs, alcohol, or organic produce, meaning, that is a personal choice.

    As much as I know, usually there are two adults making choices and agreeing upon their relationship and the rest of the society has no say as long as it is consensual.

    Sometimes I feel like we expect too much from Glee. It is just a TV show and it is not perfect and it will not be perfect. Of course, if somebody decides to make an episode and include some kind of story line, they should do their research and try to make things as close to reality as possible.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. I have to think about this and do some research.

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