I don’t think that I would say that asexuals are an “oppressed” group–I have never heard, for example, of anyone being denied employment, forced to the back of a bus, or beaten-up exclusively for being asexual– and indeed I think that, for once, heteronormative assumptions may actually play into our favour here. That is to say that, since we are not explicitly interested in members of the same sex, others (or at least those who aren’t actively trying to have sex with us) tend to assume that we must just be straights who ‘haven’t found the right person yet,’ or even just ‘prudes.’
So no; I don’t think that, in general, asexuals are an oppressed group. However, I would say, without hesitation, that we are a marginalized group. We are marginalized, curiously, by the same forces which in some sense shield us from oppression–namely, normative assumptions. We have to deal not only with heteronormative assumptions, mind you, but also with sexually-normative assumptions: that is to say, the belief that all Humans possess certain sexual drives, whether targeted towards the same sex, an alternative sex, or both. As such, our views tend to be ignored, or dismissed as lies, or seen as unhealthy, unnatural, inhuman products of Hormonal imbalances, self-denial, or extreme conservatism*. Moreover, these assumptions are practically universal–sex is a key theme (if not the key theme) in almost all media, and even when it’s not, social critics deconstruct it until sexual themes can be shoehorned in; Almost all advertising is based upon sex; If you are not literate in the terminology and paraphernalia surrounding sex, you are seen as being hopelessly and ‘hilariously’ naive; I cannot even think of how many times I have heard well-meaning liberals equate sex to love. I would go so far as to say that culture in general is positively marinating in sex, although I would admit that it tends, more often than not, to be of the hypocritically puritanical** variety. As you might imagine then, there is a certain estrangement that inevitably comes to those of us who, for whatever reason, simply cannot be bothered to care. This, I believe, is by far the least pleasant experience associated with being asexual.
So where does this place us in relation to the rest of the “queer” community***? It was a question that I mulled yesterday as I went out with my girlfriend and her friends from the local Pride group. The only answer I can come up with is “an awkward place.” You see, the only thing members of this group need have in common is that they are, in some sense, sexually ‘variant’ from the cultural ‘mainstream.’ As such, sex tends to come up alot in conversation. Which is good, really. It’s important for people to have a forum in which to have healthy, non-judgemental discussions about their sexuality. But frankly, I’m not sure what business at all I had being there. We even went to a sex shop last night; for a while I was able to amuse myself by reading amusing pornography titles, and looking at dildos that reminded me of nothing so much as the chest-burster from Alien****…but then it went on…and on…and on, until I found myself incredibly bored.
It is, in my view a structural problem. The rest of the queer community deserves a place where they can just be who they are, but for those of us who’s main source of marginalization comes from the omnipresence of sexuality, I’m just not sure how we can participate in such a group. I cannot see any solution.
*I dare anyone to read through this blog and accuse me of extreme conservatism.
**Fun fact: Puritans weren’t actually prudes.
***And here I am defining “queer” as being anyone who is not “straight.” My sociological readers can chew me out for its ‘problematic’ usage (you guys love that word), but I’m not going to write LGBTQIAKP or whatever. So there.
****This turns you on? Really?