“One Plus One Makes Three” (summary)
…It’s interesting that Buddhism has the “celibacy is too easy for you if you’re asexual” idea, ‘cause I’ve heard the same from some Christians. I find it odd that sexual desire is considered so much more important than other desires—a monastery wouldn’t turn away someone for not having enough desire to murder people. (“Oh, sorry, it’ll be too easy for you to keep your ‘don’t murder people’ vows. You have to go home.”) Why is sexual orientation so important? Why is it more important than sexual behavior? After all, it doesn’t even matter if the half-monthers are celibate; they’re barred from monastic life, while the dude who has sex with everybody in town would be allowed entrance as long as he stopped having sex with everyone.I’m also interested by the idea of characteristics associated with the third sex being positive even if the third sex itself isn’t. It kind of reminds me of the quandary some asexuals get sucked into—celibacy/abstinence is often viewed in a positive context, but celibacy because of lack of desire isn’t…
But while such purity is often ascribed to celibacy… it is not obvious whether that ascription applies equally to the subset of celibates who are asexual. Celibacy may be pure because it constitutes a conquest of the baser desires of the body… if so, the celibate asexual’s claim to purity is attenuated because his licentious desire is not overcome, but rather absent. And even if described as pure, the absence of desire may be viewed as a disquieting purity, insofar as our hedonic pleasure in others is viewed by some as a generative, fecundating, and humanizing force even (or perhaps especially) when sublimated… Thus, while bisexuality and asexuality may in some senses be viewed as simple opposites (oversexed v. undersexed), they share negative connotations. But these connotations, in turn, are differently negative. (Kenji Yoshino, The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure (2000), note 8.)
The phenomenon is discussed in Prejudice Against “Group X” (Asexuals):
In our recent paper (MacInnis & Hodson, in press), we found that those who disliked homosexuals also disliked bisexuals and asexuals. In other words, these prejudices are correlated. Heterosexuals who dislike one sexual minority, therefore, also dislike other sexual minorities, even though some of these groups are characterized by their sexual interest and activity and others by their lack of sexual interest and activity.
This anti-asexual bias, at its core, seems to boil down to what Herek (2010) refers to as the “differences as deficit” model of sexual orientation. By deviating from the typical, average, or normal sexual interests, sexual minorities are considered substandard and thus easy targets for disdain and prejudice. Contrary to conventional folk wisdom, prejudice against sexual minorities may not therefore have much to do with sexual activity at all. There is even evidence, for instance, that religious fundamentalists are prejudiced against homosexuals even when they are celibate (Fulton et al., 1999). Together, such findings point to a bias against “others”, especially different others, who are seen as substandard and deficient (and literally “less human”). “Group X” is targeted for its lack of sexual interest even more than homosexuals and bisexuals are targeted for their same-sex interests.
There seems to be an assumption in some quarters that because asexuals don’t experience same-sex sexual attractions, people who hate such attractions think asexuals are A-OK. In fact, the lack of any sexual attraction is considered “unnatural” in another way and therefore people who have rigid ideas of what sexuality should be like are likely to hate asexuality too (if they know about it).
It was really fascinating to see this element appear in a discussion of Buddhism.
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