Acephobia & Anti-asexual hate crime
Prevalence of acephobia
Whilst social awareness is growing, asexuality is still not widely recognised, and prejudice against asexual people remains largely unexamined. The little research that there is in this area has uncovered strong bias against asexual people. Relative to heterosexual people, and even to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, asexual people were found to be the target of more prejudice, avoidance and discrimination. Of all the sexual minorities studied, asexual people were the most dehumanised, viewed as “machine-like”- cold and emotionless. This demonstrates the need to address anti-asexual bias and that asexual people are at risk of experiencing violence, abuse and discrimination.
Recognising anti-asexual prejudice
Acephobia is a prejudicial attitude toward asexual people based on negative stereotypes. It can include believing that asexual people:
- are less than human or against human nature
- are deficient or broken; that it is a result of mental illness or sexual abuse
- have just not met the “right” person
- are confused or ‘going through a phase’
- cannot experience love and have relationships
- are just “prudes”; that asexuality is a choice rather than an orientation
- don’t face oppression and are damaging the LGBT cause.
What is anti-asexual hate crime?
Any offence should be treated as an anti-asexual hate crime if the person who experienced it or anyone else feels it was an expression of acephobia. Anti-asexual hate crime can include verbal abuse and violence from neighbours or strangers. Because people’s asexual identity is not always visible to strangers, anti-asexual abuse can often be concentrated in settings where the targeted person and perpetrator know each other. That can include verbal abuse or unwanted sexual touching from acquaintances and anti-asexual domestic abuse from family or partners. This also includes actual and threats of so-called “corrective” rape, to “fix” the person’s orientation.
These crimes are less easy to recognise but it is equally important to record and address them in a manner that addresses their motivation of hostility. To qualify to be recorded as a hate incident, a report needn’t include anti-asexual language. It is enough for a reporting person to perceive that it was motivated by acephobia.
Recognise the gap
Services are increasingly familiar with hate crime against lesbian and gay people, but asexual people have their own distinct needs, which can be overlooked or underplayed. Build your knowledge, policies and systems to tackle this important issue.
Tackle anti-asexual prejudice within LGBT+ communities
Asexuality is a part of sexual diversity, and so belongs within the LGBT+ community. However, asexual people can face prejudice from other sexual minority groups, such as being refused entry to LGBT spaces or inappropriate treatment by LGBT services. Some LGBT people argue that asexuality is not a sexual orientation, and therefore shouldn’t be included in LGBT umbrella. Similar reasoning was employed to object to bisexual and trans inclusion in lesbian and gay movements historically – and full inclusion of these groups remain an issue today.
LGBT people working as service providers can also sometimes oppose asexual inclusion. It is important for LGBT+ services to raise awareness of asexual spectrum identities and acephobia, and work towards welcoming all sexual minorities to their service. Demonstrate that you take acephobia seriously by speaking out against it.
Asexual people may face homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
Homophobia is not an intolerance of gay and lesbian people, but of people attracted to people of the same gender. Sexual orientation is distinct from romantic orientation; asexual people may have heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic or aromantic attractions and so may face homophobia or biphobia. Asexual people may also be trans, non-binary or have a non-conforming gender presentation, so may face transphobia. Therefore asexual people may face anti-LGBT hate in addition to acephobia, and often these prejudices are linked. Determining how it should be recorded should be done together with the service user.
Make a positive impact
For every acephobic incident or crime someone tells you about there will be many more unreported. Help people feel that telling you was worthwhile. An important but under-utilised way of doing that is by referral to asexual and LGBTQIA support, advice, advocacy and social groups. Though some people are able to get criminal justice outcomes, many do not. Enable people to consider a range of options including help from police, discrimination law, restorative justice, emotional support, or assistance complaining about anti-asexual attitudes from a provider of goods or services.
Asexual people are diverse
Many people face hostility that they feel had multiple types of motivation, for instance both anti-asexual and racist. They are entitled to ask police and other safety services to record it under several hate incident categories. Ask open questions about motivation and support service users in determining their own account of events. Also, bear in mind that a crime or incident may have more than one hate motivation.
Be led by perception
It is the right of anyone reporting hostility to ask safety services to record something as anti-asexual. That is because police guidance states that any crime or non-criminal incident should be recorded as motivated by sexual orientation hatred if the person reporting it feels it was motivated that way. Though courts need evidence to record a hate crime, police and other services do not need proof to record an incident or crime as anti-asexual and/or other hostility.
Create a safe environment
Many asexual people feel pressured to pass as sexual when talking to services, which can prevent people from disclosing important information about incidents. Make efforts to enable service users to feel safe disclosing issues related to their identity.
Recognise diversity in the asexual spectrum
People’s sexual identity does not always fit into a neat box. Under the asexual umbrella you find people who feel a strong tie to asexual communities and others who do not. Some asexual people will experience no sexual attraction, others identify in the grey area between asexual and sexual (grey-A), and other experience sexual attraction only alongside a strong emotional and romantic connection (demisexual). Some asexual people have romantic and/or sexual relationships, others focus on familial love and relationships. However someone identifies and what ever their relationships look like, be flexible and understanding that everyone’s experiences are valid how ever different from your own.
Recognise the challenges of being asexual in a sexual world
Sex and sexual attraction is given huge emphasis in art, society and culture- it’s even used to sell inanimate products. This can be an extremely alienating and isolating experience for asexual people. Acceptance and space to be themselves is extremely important for asexual people, as for all sexual minorities. Finding an asexual community online or offline can be helpful in self-acceptance and reducing social isolation.
Visit The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, which hosts the world’s largest online asexual community and archive of resources on asexuality.