Why Does Love Have to Equal Sex? The Lack of Asexual Representation Needs to Change
As far as queer representation goes, asexuality doesn’t get much air time.
Despite being a new(ish) edition to the LGBTQIA+ acronym, asexuality is the sexual identity we talk about the least. There aren’t many celebrities who openly identify as asexual, and there aren’t many asexual characters portrayed in TV and film. The conversations just aren’t there, like they are with gender, sexual fluidity and other queer identities right now.
But why is that?
Asexual activist, filmmaker and model, Caroline Cull, thinks that it stems from a lack of understanding.
“There’s a huge problem right now in the industry where minors are being played by 25-year-olds, and shows like Euphoria are shooting actors in the nude when they’re supposed to be portraying underage characters,” Cull says.
But this casting has been happening since the rise of teenage dramas. Just think of shows like The OC and the original Gossip Girl, in which actors in their mid-twenties are playing high school students. Not only did their bodies not reflect the age of their character, but their hyper-sexualised storylines didn’t align with all young people.
“Their excuse is ‘teenagers are having sex/are sexually frustrated’ but what we’re seeing is an increase in teenagers being the complete opposite,” Cull explains. “1.7% of the global population identify as asexual.”
Thankfully, shows like Netflix’s Heartbreak High, are introducing asexual characters into their storylines. As one of the only shows with male asexual representation right now, Cull was brought back to some of the experiences she’s had throughout her journey.
“Ca$h’s story arc was beautifully written and features one of the VERY few cases of male asexual representation worldwide, let alone homoromantic male asexuality. Many people are told that they’re not welcome in the LGBTQIA+ community because they don’t experience discrimination or prejudice, and this story arc presented that experience in an accurate and emotional way.”
“When Ca$g’s character is told that “you just haven’t had the right sex”, I was brought right back to so many instances in relationships and dates before I discovered asexuality.”
Many teens experience sexual repulsion, says Cull. This results in them having to skip through shows or stop watching them altogether if they’re too graphic.
“It took me a long time to realise that people actually watch shows, or buy things from advertisements because a ‘sexy person’ is selling it. It blew my mind that “sex sells” was actually literal.”
The idea that “sex sells” has been rooted in capitalism since the dawn of time. The basic thought is that sex is a universal desire, which means that it appeals to everyone and therefore, it’s an “easy” way to sell a product. Although the actual phrase “sex sells” is quite modern, the earliest known use of sex in advertising was all the way back in 1871, by the Pearl Tobacco brand, which featured a naked maiden on the package cover. In 1885, W. Duke & Sons followed suit and inserted trading cards into cigarette packs that featured sexually provocative starlets. It then went on to become the leading American cigarette brand by 1890.
But what about people that sexual activity doesn’t appeal to? Asexual-identifying people aren’t motivated by sexual attraction and to abide by the concept that “sex sells”, means to count asexual people out of who you’re trying to market or appeal to. And that’s just plain ignorant.
As an activist in the film industry, Cull heavily championing asexual representation, but through her work, has learnt the extent of misunderstanding that people have surrounding what it means to be asexual.
“A lot of the problem is people assuming, or talking over people in the asexual community. I can’t explain how many times I’ve had to correct people from saying ‘are you okay with being alone?’ or ‘I thought you said you were pansexual?’ because it’s based on a notion that nobody would love you if you don’t put out.”
Which is totally ridiculous, right? Even as someone who doesn’t identify with asexuality, I’m genuinely offended by the thought that no one would love me if I didn’t have sex with them. So much intimacy can be had without sex.
But apparently, most people don’t think that way.
“Dating as an asexual is honestly exhausting,” says Cull. “Everybody is using dating apps, and I spend 75% of my time explaining to my matches what asexuality is because they didn’t bother to look at my bio, and 25% of my time then explaining that no, you’re not going to cure me with your d*ck.”
“I personally find it easier to open relationships. That way, my partner can have casual sex to satisfy any high libido, while our relationship remains romantic and sometimes just platonic. If I could have a partner that just wanted to hug and take naps and dance around listening to old ’70s music and cook together like an old married couple that would be ideal.”
So what needs to change?
Cull says that it’s not about changing the way others view sex — because everyone is different.
“We do, however, just need to be a little more compassionate and patient, especially in MLM (men-loving men) or WLW (women-loving-women) relationships. LGBTQIA+ relationships are often sexualised and fetishised. It was only 2003 that the world was outraged that Madonna and Britney kissed on stage. I think people just need to mind their own business.”
In order for there to be an evolution in understanding asexuality, to debunk the common misconceptions that we have towards asexual people and relationships, we need to open the conversation more. It’s true that the things we don’t understand and haven’t personally experienced tend to freak us out, but in my opinion that’s all the more reason to educate ourselves.
Below, Caroline Cull shares five of the most common misconceptions around asexuality and how we can begin to debunk them.
Asexuals Don’t Date
Not to be confused with being aromantic, asexuality is just on the lower end of the spectrum of sexual attraction. Many asexual people date, and have a lot of love to give. Some asexual people will be aromantic asexual, which means they experience little to no sexual or romantic attraction, but they’re separate spectrums.
Asexuality Comes From Trauma
Some people on the asexual spectrum have experienced sexual trauma, which has resulted in them experiencing a block towards sexual attraction. I like to call it a body’s natural defence mechanism. It’s not something to be ashamed of or debated. It is also not exclusive to all asexual people.
Asexual People Don’t Have Sex
Many asexual people have high libidos, or just have sex for pleasure. I like to phrase it as their sex drive is “I want it now” whereas sexual attraction is “I want them”. Sex can be fun, but sex for some people on the asexual spectrum is a little different. I personally can’t be bothered, but solo sessions can relieve a lot of stress. I use apps like Quinn, which is audio-guided masturbation. Since people don’t do it for me and emotions do, it’s a lot easier that way.
Asexual People Don’t Want Kids
Many asexual people want kids and a family, and it’s 2022. There are so many options for families these days where procreating with your partner is an irrelevant factor.
Asexuals Aren’t Part of LGBTQIA+
We hear this ALOT, and it’s often from people within the LGBTQIA+ community (sorry to say often cis-het white gay men.) We’re proud to be the A in LGBTQIA+, with many of us also being homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, etc. Love is Love. Why does love have to equal sex?
Caroline Cull is an asexual activist, filmmaker and model. She’s currently working on a pilot called Girl Riot, as an asexual consultant. Currently studying acting, she hopes to represent an asexual character on screen in the future. You can follow Caroline here.