Growing up ace and Christian

This post is for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces, which is on Cross Community Connections. I’d been wanting to write about this subject already, and this Carnival seems like perfect timing.

I was homeschooled, so I never went through a sex-ed class. But I did get sexual purity Sunday school classes, where we discussed books like Every Young Man/Woman’s Battle­—the battle being with sexual temptation. And the whole time, my thought was, “Um, it’s not my battle!” But neither the book nor the youth leaders ever mentioned that as a possibility. I mean, the book titles say it all—every person’s battle (well, as long as you’re a man or a woman).

I assume the authors of those books and the teachers of the class had never heard of asexuality. At the very end of the girls’ book there was a short chapter on “What if I’m not attracted to guys?”, but that just meant, “What if I am attracted to girls?” At the beginning of the book the authors stated, “Everyone is a sexual being. Even when you’re not doing anything sexual, you remain a sexual person.” And I didn’t like being told that about myself, because it didn’t seem right, but I didn’t have the language or the framework to object to it.

I’d hear Christians say that sex is a gift from God, and I cringed away from that sentiment, because it wasn’t a gift that I wanted. I always knew I was different from everyone around me, and I think part of the reason I did (as opposed to assuming everyone else was like me, like some aces did growing up), was my Christian environment. Once, one of my peers took a vocation-discernment test and received “celibacy” as a possible result, and she reported that to the rest of the class with laughter—and everyone else laughed too. My asexuality didn’t go unexamined because of Christianity’s emphasis on abstinence; rather, I was surrounded by married people, and told that my peers and I would also get married someday. And I always knew what marriage meant. Sunday school didn’t teach “Don’t have sex”; it taught, “Don’t have sex until you’re married.”

My church and Christian culture in general told me sex was powerful, that it was hard for people to control their sexual urges, that it was normal to masturbate and fantasize and want to sleep with the person you were dating—but those desires had to be contained until you were married, when suddenly all your sexual needs would be fulfilled by your spouse. That meant I did not want to get married, because marriage equaled sex. It meant I thought I could never have a romantic relationship, because romantic relationships became marriages. It mean I thought I was destined to be alone forever, because the only long-term, committed relationship you could have was a romantic one.

It didn’t get any better after I discovered asexuality; when I Googled around at one point, trying to find a Christian view of it, I only came up with articles like this horror, which calls asexuality “sub-Christian”  (content warning in the “sexuality” section at least for heterosexism,  cissexism, binarism, and sex-normativity/compulsory sexuality). I also concluded, from a little more Googling and verses like 1 Corinthians 7:4-5—“The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again”—that it would be wrong to be in a sexless relationship with an allosexual. And nothing I had ever been taught contradicted that conclusion; the idea of a sexless marriage was never mentioned.

Christianity helped me realize I was asexual, even if I didn’t know that word at the time, because of its emphasis on sex and sexual desire/temptation. Christian culture is sex-normative, and it made me feel isolated and completely alone. It gave me a messed-up view of men as having voracious, barely-controlled sexual appetites, insisted that I was sexual even though that didn’t ring true for me, and told me that if I wanted a romantic relationship, I would have to have sex.

Hearing asexuality mentioned as a possibility alongside the talk of temptation would have been so validating; it would have been such a relief to have my feelings acknowledged and presented as okay. Instead, I had to wait till I was 20 to find out that asexuality was a thing, after suffering through years of compulsory sexuality from my (now former) religion. So what could Christians do better? It’s not hard: Know about asexuality. Be okay with asexuality. Don’t glorify marriage above singleness, and don’t glorify marital sex. And when you teach about sexual purity, mention that being ace is a thing—and that there’s nothing wrong with it.

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4 thoughts on “Growing up ace and Christian

  1. Coyote February 13, 2015 / 8:25 am

    “So what could Christians do better? It’s not hard: Know about asexuality. Be okay with asexuality. Don’t glorify marriage above singleness, and don’t glorify marital sex.”

    On the contrary, I think for some Christians these things would be hard. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m with you on this — I don’t by any means believe that Christianity (at its core, if you will) is necessarily incompatible with acknowledging (a)sexual diversity. But, as we also know, there are many kinds of Christianities, and for some Christians, a belief that “we are all sexual beings” is very built into their view of sexual ethics and theology (ex. humans experience sexual attraction BECAUSE God wants us to experience sex and marriage exists BECAUSE we all want sex and we have to save sex for marriage BECAUSE that’s the appropriate designated outlet for a universal urge, etc.). Acknowledging that aces exist? Breaks all of that, and that’s threatening and difficult to reckon with, especially if they’ve never developed any alternative lines of reasoning. So what I’m saying is, the Church would have to practically take itself apart and rebuild itself in order to fully accept us. Unfortunately.

    Liked by 2 people

    • cinderace February 13, 2015 / 1:27 pm

      Hmm, very true, sadly… I forget too easily how it’s not just extreme fundamentalists who hold those views but that they’re actually integral to some of the larger denominations. I think, or like to think, that my church at least would have handled things differently if they’d only known asexuality existed; I feel like they just didn’t realize it was a possibility for anyone to be different, and that all the goodness/importance of sex talk was just what they’d always heard and believed because they’d had no reason to question it. I would hope too that more liberal-leaning denominations, like ones who already accept homosexuality, would want to also accept aces even if that meant reexamining their theology (I should look at your church email project again to see if it holds any support for that idea…). And I guess I’ve basically given up on the Christians who do value sex/sexuality that highly. :P But there are still aces within those denominations and they still have to deal with that… which makes me sad.

      Liked by 1 person

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