Yesterday, I watched a documentary about asexuality ("(A)sexual," 2011). As I am committed to furthering my knowledge in LGBTQIA and other areas, I feel the need for more education about asexuality and its place in our society. There are various reasons for my limited knowledge, such as: (a) asexuality wasn't discussed in any of my undergraduate or graduate courses, (b) I have not witnessed or participated in a conversation about asexuality within or without LGBTQIA community, (c) I have not noticed that the topic is discussed as often as the topics of being gay, transgender, or queer, and (d) even in counseling magazines or journals, the topic of asexuality is not popular. Our culture is very much sexual - sex is either implicitly or explicitly insinuated in different areas of human functioning. Being sexual is considered normal. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as it is expected for species to multiply. This and other beliefs about sexuality have certainly penetrated our counseling profession as well, where we do inquire about our client's sexual lives when it is pertinent. Counselors are taught that sexuality is a healthy and often necessary part of intimate relationships. Although not all counselors may believe this claim, I think that most of them do.
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network defines an asexual person as one who "does not experience sexual attraction." Asexuality is considered a sexual orientation. An asexual person, similarly to a gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, or queer person, does not choose his or her asexuality. It's also distinct from celibacy, because one chooses to remain celibate, even though he or she may experience sexual attraction. From the documentary it was evident how many people didn't know about asexuality or didn't understand it. Also, there are various assumptions about it, such as an asexual person may just be gay; the person's hormone levels are messed up; the person carries much anger and resentment about relationships; the person has been very hurt by his or her ex; the person doesn't want to acknowledge his or her attraction to the same sex, so the individual chooses to declare him- or herself as asexual; and more.
Here are some of the questions I may ask counselors:
- How much of your higher education has been allocated to the topic of asexuality?
- How much do you know about asexuality?
- What are your assumptions about asexuality?
- Do you believe that asexuality is some kind of a discrepancy or deficiency within an individual?
- Do you believe that without sexual relations individuals cannot form a true, intimate, and lasting relationship?
- How would you respond to a client, who states that he or she is asexual?
I encourage counselors to contemplate on these and other questions about asexuality, because without awareness of personal attitudes, we might unwittingly lead our clients onto an unfavorable path. My personal take is metaphysical, as usual - humans have different purposes on this planet, some of which do no include engaging in sexual relationships or procreation. These humans are choosing to focus their energy on other tasks that they need to complete during their lifetime. Therefore, as a counselor I would not see my asexual clients as deficient in any way, nor would I encourage them to "try having sex and see if they will eventually like it" or explain that "maybe they haven't met the right person yet."
You can find more information about asexuality at http://www.asexuality.org
It is also a great forum for your asexual clients to engage in discussions and meet other people.
Evelyn Pavlova is a counselor and an Ally, whose preferred population is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, invisible minority, asexual, and ally) individuals. Her areas of interest are eating disorders, mood disorders, mindfulness, and spirituality. Read more about her new counseling journey at www.curvyroad.weebly.com