Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Asexuality Subject to Religious Prejudice?

Online, I've encountered some people who are adamant that asexuals don't belong in the queer community - particularly cisgender heteroromantic or aromantic asexuals. One reason they cite is the idea that prejudiced religious people are fine with asexuality but are usually vehemently anti-gay.

To be honest, it doesn't really make sense to me why we'd let homophobes define what is queer. But in any case, is that claim accurate? Is asexuality (specifically aromantic and heteroromantic asexuality) fine with religious bigots?

Not really.

Generally, Christian conservatives are stereotyped as anti-sex. But that's not true. They're opposed to any kind of sex that occurs outside of a heterosexual marriage. But generally they expect that you will find yourself an opposite sex partner to marry, and you will  have sex with your spouse.

For a Catholic, the only religiously supported means of opting out of sex is to become clergy (nun, priest or monk). I could see that working for many aromantic asexuals, although not everyone with that orientation is suited to that lifestyle. But it very much doesn't work for heteroromantic asexuals.

And most Protestant churches don't have celibate clergy, so that option is out. And if you're not a member of celibate clergy, regardless of what brand of Christianity you're in, you'll be expected to marry an opposite sex partner.

For an aromantic asexual, this means feigning romantic feelings. Some aromantics are romance-repulsed, so that would be very difficult and unpleasant for them.

A heteroromantic asexual doesn't need to feign any emotions to find themselves an opposite sex partner. But once they get married, the problems begin.

In most Christian traditions, sex validates a marriage. It's to the point where if you've never had sex with your spouse, even if you fulfilled all the other requirements to marry them, many churches wouldn't consider the two of you truly married.

Furthermore, many Christians don't necessarily require consent for marital sex, especially the female partner's consent. Marital rape is considered acceptable in many Christian churches - indeed, in many cases, 'withholding' sex from your partner is a sin.

This is obviously a big problem for sex-repulsed asexuals. But even sex-indifferent or sex-favourable asexuals are prone to getting bored with sex, or simply not being willing as often as an allosexual partner is. They might get away with it if they're male, but a woman who refuses her husband sex runs the risk of him ignoring that refusal.

Plus, babies are expected in these religious traditions. If you're not making enough babies, then people start to wonder if something's wrong. And using ART is sinful - although you might get away with IVF using your own gametes, as long as you don't discard any spare embryos, and possibly find a way to collect sperm without masturbating.

Speaking of masturbation, while some asexuals have no libido, and some are just as happy masturbating as having sex, there is a group who are actively turned off by sex, but nonetheless have a libido. (For example, autochorissexuals are excited by sexual fantasies that don't involve them, but turned off by the thought of getting involved.)

And masturbating is definitely considered a sin in most Christian churches. Masturbating because you're single is sinful but understandable. But masturbating in preference to sex with your spouse? That's definitely not OK.

So far I've discussed only Christianity. But from what little I know of Islam and Judaism, conservative groups in both religions have broadly similar rules, and being asexual would be just as unpleasant.

So the answer is yes. Both aromantic and heteroromantic asexuals are subject to religious prejudice. It simply takes a different form that the prejudice against people with same sex attractions. But then again, so does transphobia. Prejudice is prejudice, no matter what form it takes.


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