What Not to Say to Your Ace and/or Aro Friend

I’ve addressed in past posts some of the stereotypes and problematic comments ace/aro people get – [Is Asexuality a Psychological Disorder for medicalization, Question Your Questioning for several of them ranging from medicalization again to “You’re too pretty to be ace!”].  However, there are others I haven’t gone into detail on yet, or want to discuss more explicitly, so this month’s post is a list of 4 things your local aspec friend probably won’t appreciate hearing.  Let’s jump in, shall we?

You’ll grow out of it when you’re older (both aces and aros).

A couple things here.  First, no one knows a person better than that person themselves, and many people probably haven’t put as much thought into their orientations/identity as that person either.  Coming in and just making proclamations like “oh, you’ll grow out of it,” like you could be a better expert on them than their actual self, is pretty damn arrogant at best, gaslighting at worst.

And second, so what if they do grow out of it?  Orientation/identity can be fluid, and that’s perfectly normal and fine.  The fact that it may change in a few years doesn’t invalidate the labels a person feels are useful to them now.  And also, if you say this, you’re actually acknowledging that fact: for a person to grow out of something, that something had to exist/happen first to grow out of :P.

And this goes for most things.  I didn’t repeat this on every entry because of the extra words, but most of the things here fall under the category of “I’m claiming to know this person’s subjective experience better than they, despite the fact that they actually live with that experience on a daily basis.”

You just need to try it / find the right person (both aces and aros, although my response is mainly regarding aces).

Two words: sexual harrassment.  Anything that boils down to pressuring people to try sex when they’re not interested, regardless of intent or whether it’s with you or someone else, can be translated to “I don’t care if you don’t want sex, I want you to have sex.”  If it were an allo on the receiving end, it would readily (at least I hope) be recognized as sexual harrassment.  I think people just don’t as often realize it’s the same thing when an ace person is on the receiving end because they get hung up on the labels involved in the discussion.

What about your partner (usually to aces)?

Three things here.  One, if you don’t know the person very well, you shouldn’t automatically assume they have a partner in the first place.  They may not right now, and may not ever plan to have one.

Two, we’re all humans with equal rights to enforce personal boundaries, and equal obligations to respect the boundaries of others.  If there’s tension regarding frequency of sex, yeah that’s something that partners will have to talk through, and one person may decide that lack of sex is a deal-breaker for them.  But that’s just how compatibility works in general.  The burden of compromise should never fall on the ace partner more so than the other partner.  If one person is overriding the other’s boundaries and wishes, especially for something as intimate as sex, that’s a problem.

And third and last, don’t forget that there’s more than one ace in the world, plus allos with low sex drive.  If they do have a partner or partners, how do you know the others aren’t ace in some way too?

Oh, they’re ace because they’re really just pure (both aros and aces, although my response focuses on aces)

“Pure” is a bad concept to bring in here, because it makes a religious moral implication, especially for women.  Aromanticism and asexuality are not morally superior “choices,” and as far as I can tell all the aros and aces I know are pretty sex/dating-positive when it comes to making moral or social judgements about how other people should behave, unlike proponents of purity culture.  If you consider someone virtuous, it should be based on their personal character, not on outdated, sexist views about what kinds of sexual behavior are appropriate and not.

And incidentally, assuming people are “pure” and “innocent” under common connotations is factually wrong too.  Aces can be kinky; they can have the “dirtiest” sense of humor in the room; some watch porn; some are sex workers.  (Most of the purity stuff I’ve heard centers around sex more than romance, so I can’t think of as many things that are aro-specific except that some of us might have dated before age 18).  Just because we don’t experience attraction the same way as many others doesn’t mean we’re pure or innocent by any measure XD.

And that’s it for today.  Only 2 weeks left of the semester, so you can definitely expect a post on schedule for next month as well.

Any thoughts or comments?  The comment box awaits your input :).

2 thoughts on “What Not to Say to Your Ace and/or Aro Friend

  1. As always, I appreciate the perspective and education you bring to us “normal” people. (Really, does a “normal” person actually exist? We all have striking differences from the main crowd that we may or may not wish to be known. And any time we classify ourselves as “normal”, we really are judging anyone who is different from ourselves as an arbitrary standard.)
    I especially enjoyed your comments on the purity culture. That movement has done harm in so many ways, and not just for the ace/aro community. I was the “pure” kid with the religious training I received, but when I hit real life, I found that I was ignorant, unprepared, and judgmental about what adult life consists of. Many regrets, but on we go….

    So glad the semester is easing up for you and there is more time to pursue the fun stuff!

    1. Yeah. I think “thoughts on the word ‘normal'” will be the next post I draft…it keeps coming up and I keep meaning to make a proper post on it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, lol.

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