Why aren’t there more Christians in the online ace community?

To be clear: I’m not complaining.  This is not a problem, but it is an interesting question given that, in the English-speaking part of the asexual community, the portion of the population that calls themselves Christian seems disproportionally lower than the prevalence of Christianity among English-speakers in general.  The ace community is very US-centric, even, and the US in particular is known for having a lot of Christians.

So what’s the deal?

I can only speculate, but I think some particular aspects of ace culture and its norms, alongside the norms of the Church, play a part in discouraging Christians who don’t experience sexual attraction from thinking of that (lack of) experience as an orientation, from seeking out people with similar experiences, and from feeling comfortable engaging with the ace community once they find it.

There’s been a little written on this subject here in this post on Asexual Explorations — and apparently there are some conflicting accounts of how many asexual people are religious, but I’m going to ignore the Bogaert stats for now because they’re from the UK ten years ago and do not appear to reflect the online spaces that I’m familiar with and which I’m placing under discussion in this post.  In contrast, 2008 AVEN stats suggest that although the majority of religious AVENites are Christian, religious aces in general are slightly outnumbered there.  The explanation that AE offers is this:

My hypothesis: religious people who experience little or no sexual attraction are less likely than nonreligious people to go to AVEN or, if they find it, to actively participate.

Sounds about right.

First, I suspect that, though they will likely feel strange on account of their asexuality, if they grow up in a context where they are expected not to have sex rather than in a context where they are expected to have sex, religious asexuals will, on average, feel less strange on account of their asexuality than their sexual counterparts. As a second prediction of this hypothesis, religious asexuals will, on average, identify as asexual later in life than nonreligious asexuals, if they ever identify as asexual.

…As an explanation of low participation in ace communities (or just AVEN, specifically), the “if they grow in a context where they are expected not to have sex” angle appears to be treated as applicable to all religious people in general, or as a characteristic more common to religious backgrounds than to nonreligious backgrounds, which: yes, but also no, no, no.  I’m guilty of making mistakes like this too, but if “religious” is the word you’re using it, you need to treat it like the extremely broad category that it is.  Saying “religion” is not the same thing as saying “a very specific subset of Western Christianity” — so don’t say one when you mean the other.

The thing is, even if we presume that this hypothesis is just talking about abstinence-until-marriage Christianity, a description like “a context where they are expected not to have sex” needs some qualification, because the thing about abstinence until marriage is… it’s until marriage.  And then, once you’re married, you’re gonna have sex.  Why wouldn’t you?  Of course you will!  There’s an unquestioned cultural mandate that marriages are sexual and that if you date for long enough you’re going to get married and that if you get married you’re going to have sex and of course you’re going to get married; the Church is something of an amatonormativity hotbed at times with its fixation on the heteronormative family unit and its Jay-Gatsby-like faith in the idea that marriage is part of the inevitable normal life path.  “Won’t ever get married?  Of course you will!  Of course you will!  You just haven’t met the right person yet.”

It’s rarely so blatant (except when it is), but I would not characterize this as “a context where they are expected not to have sex”.  It’s definitely a context where people are expected to have sex — eventually.  It’s a context where the unmarried, though, are expected not to have sex yet.

And I am incredibly grateful for that.

But no, it’s not the same as sex not being on the radar or being free from compulsory sexuality.  It’s not not insidious, just an insidiousness of a different kind.

Where the hypothesis is probably right is in guessing that this “not yet” variant of compulsory sexuality allows young aces some breathing room before they’re expected to perform, meaning that the expectation of expressing sexual interest and being pressured into unwanted sex is (at least in the teenage years) a little less likely, and that comes with a side effect of young aces being relatively less aware of other people’s sexualities and thus, taking longer to figure out that they might be asexual.  I don’t know how disproportionately common that narrative is among Christian aces because 1) delayed realization of asexuality is pretty common anyway, and 2) there aren’t many talkative aces in the community speaking up about these kinds of experiences with Christianity, which brings me back to my original question.

What is it about the Church and the asexual community that makes the funnel from one to the other so narrow?  Presuming that asexuality occurs at the same rate among Christians as among anyone else, why don’t I see more of them around here?

I think it has to do with a set of expectations that Siggy referenced here, the expectation that acceptance of certain things (like gayness) will come first before people can get to asexuality.  It may not make sense in the abstract, but it does make sense culturally and numerically.  Continuing with the gay example — there are more gay people than asexual people (as far as we know), and the gay and lesbian community in America has been around a lot longer and gained (relatively) more cultural force than the ace community has had time to do.  You can generally count on people to be aware of gay people’s existence, is the point here.  So it’s a little strange in this culture for people to start learning about other marginalized sexual orientations if they aren’t already on board with letting gay people get on with their lives.

But this is also not just a Church vs. Gay People issue.  I don’t think any Christian starts to question their sexuality, starts exploring the asexual community, and then just gives up because “Aw man!  This is a community that would accept sides of me that I didn’t know were acceptable, but if I joined them then I’d have to stop spewing heterosexist BS, and I can’t give that up.”

A plausible scenario, sure, but one I don’t figure will account for much, for three reasons:

1) Heterosexism already exists in the secular parts of the ace community, just like racism does, just like cissexism does.  There are a fair number of us who have a commitment to stamping them out, but if we were doing such a good job at this that heterosexist Christians didn’t feel welcome to talk, then heterosexist atheist aces wouldn’t be making bizarro posts drenched in scientism with overt anti-gay sentiment and then putting those posts in the asexual tag (*cough*).

2) Heterosexist Christians who are dedicated to being vocally anti-gay tend to be the kind of Christians who reject the entire model of “sexual orientation” altogether and would probably either reject ace community discourse on that basis or never discover it in the first place, instead pursuing other avenues to explain themselves, such as conceptualizing their lack of sexual attraction as purely a matter of sex drive (and thinking of themselves heterosexual people with issues, essentially).

3) If a devout asexual Christian thinks to investigate asexuality, and accepts asexuality, and begins to think of their own sexuality as asexuality, then it’s not just the community’s general acceptance of gay folks* that challenges the Churched background they likely come from.  It’s the aromantic acceptance, and the bi/pan acceptance, and the trans acceptance, and all the references to non-binary genders and the community’s track record with distancing itself from “repression” and the pervasive background noise of feminism and the different models of consent and the boundless sex-positivity — there’s just so much, so much, so much that ace discourse will presume you’re already on the same page about before you get to the community, because asexuality is treated as this advanced niche of mogai literacy that you get to by passing through other things first, and that’s jarring enough for your garden-variety muggle even if they haven’t grown up in an environment of not just men and women’s bathrooms but men and women’s Bible studies and Adam and Eve and an all-male clergy and Church’s version of the heteronormative timeline and an entirely different set of discourse on sexual morality — especially if they still reside in that world, pay respect to that world and hold to it still.  To the “conservative Christian”, the conceptual categories and the moral compass we use here are ones that are thoroughly foreign.

*This does not hold true across the board, and it’s important to acknowledge that.  I’m making this generalization because it’s something I see commonly taken for granted in ace discourse.

Acknowledging the tighter grip of Churched cisheteronormativity and how it can make Christian aces feel alienated from the community does not suggest that we should have to compromise for them.  What it does suggest is that there is more educational work to do, that the very dedicated corners of Western Christianity present more communal stakes that would inhibit ace participation, and that the work to dismantle those barriers is primarily the responsibility of Christians to clean up the Church in general (another reason I’d like to gain more of a Christian following on this blog, argh).  It’s not so much that the ace community needs to tone down the radical stuff as it is that the Church needs to turn it up.

So while I take issues with the way we discuss “religion” sometimes, I’ve reached very different conclusions than the ones discussed by Aqua here.  We need to do more to affirm the validity of fear of sex, yes, but besides the fact that I’m not particularly worried about Christians feeling silenced here (my ace atheist followers are unnecessarily tolerant of me, in fact), I’m skeptical of all claims made about Purity Culture turning someone asexual or making them mistakenly think they’re asexual, which is why I asked Aqua for links on that.  The article I got in response (tw for rape) was too hard on my stomach for me to dare wade into the comment section.  That piece is rough for me to read, for several reasons, in part because what it frames as a happy ending is for me more bittersweet.

I’m glad everything worked out in her marriage, and I’m glad she’s happier now.  That’s good.

But.

Both the original letter-writer and the post’s author conceptualize not-wanting-sex (what we here might refer to as sex aversion) as “sexual dysfunction” that made them feel “broken”.

The asexual community tries to emphasize that sex-averse people are not broken, that it doesn’t matter what “caused” it, and that romantic relationships without a sexual component can still be whole and meaningful.  In criticizing Purity Culture as the sole cause of their sex aversion (which it may well have been), these two women appear to be in opposition to those ideas, and rather than challenge them on that, it appears some parts of the ace community are taking them at their word and agreeing that, yes, certain kinds of personal sex aversion are bad, even though in secular contexts we do not hesitate to argue that calling sex-averse people broken is wrong.

Are we still “not broken” if we’re the ones who broke ourselves?

I, personally, do not know what percentage of my disgust toward naked bodies has to do with lust being categorized as a sin — and I kind of don’t care, but those women do.  Does it make sense to respond to their anguish by agreeing that sex-aversion is a deplorable sexual dysfunction depending on the cause?  What happened to the “support sex-averse people, no matter what, no matter if it’s ‘natural’ or not” that I thought we stood for?  Can we even be sure that these people wouldn’t be sex-averse if not for their upraising?  Especially given that other sex-averse people’s deliberate efforts to desensitize themselves and make themselves feel as zealously enthusiastic about sex as they thought they were supposed to can still fail, even in spite of powerful social pressure to have sex and sexual feelings?

Why am I the only one raising these questions?  Did I miss something?  Am I misinterpreting something here?

Honestly, y’all have me second-guessing myself.

From my perspective, the question isn’t a matter of  how to make conservative Christian aces feel more welcome or how to be considerate of Christians who “thought they were asexual”, but instead, “How do we balance an acknowledgement of the problems with Purity Culture with equal efforts to reach even Christians with the message that sex-aversion isn’t anything to be ashamed of?”

That’s our problem, if there is one.  We say “asexuals aren’t repressed”, but we don’t do anything to interrogate or analyze what “repression” would actually look like.

Advertisements

46 responses to “Why aren’t there more Christians in the online ace community?

  • Kasey Weird

    I was super happy to see this post today, since your one from yesterday about no sex *after* marriage had me wondering about Christian aces and their apparent invisibility to a great degree. My idle thinking about it sort of wandered down the same avenues you have here, with respect to identifying potential barriers to self-identification and community participation and the like, so I don’t have much to add, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing about this!

  • Siggy

    I felt Asexual Explorations hit the nail on the head in that the lack of Christians in the online communities probably comes from selection bias in who identifies as asexual and stays within the community. However, the way he phrased the mechanism makes it sound like Christian asexuals are doing just fine without the identity. I can think of a lot more uncomfortable hypotheses that involve Christianity inflicting unseen horrors upon millions of people. But I’ve never written out these ideas, because as an external critic, it would come across as, “Here are bunch more horrible things I think Christians are doing. Um, I don’t really have evidence for any of it?” Better to leave that one for the internal critics.

    Oh yeah, and I’d like to point out, in case it wasn’t obvious, that Libby Anne’s article on repression was written for an atheist audience. Love, Joy, Feminism is a well-known atheist blog, I hear good things about it. The idea of people repressing their sexuality due to their religious upbringing, that’s a common atheist narrative. That’s one of the things I have to worry about when I do visibility work for atheists. It’s one of the reasons why, even as an atheist, I’m still assailable–I was brought up Catholic, so maybe I’m still repressing myself. And I don’t know, maybe some people do repress themselves, there are some anecdotes along those lines. I feel like there are some complicated issues we’re not really hashing out there because for visibility purposes it’s better to just say “that’s different” and move on.

    • Spade

      “However, the way he phrased the mechanism makes it sound like Christian asexuals are doing just fine without the identity.”

      Yeah, which is kind of… yes and no. In Christian contexts were loudly expressing sexual desire or sharing sexual exploits is discouraged, asexual people don’t stick out as anomalous so much. But the silence on the subject also leaves people unequipped to deal with sex aversion in marriage, as that couple of examples showed.

      “But I’ve never written out these ideas, because as an external critic, it would come across as, ‘Here are bunch more horrible things I think Christians are doing. Um, I don’t really have evidence for any of it?’ Better to leave that one for the internal critics.”

      Haha. Well, I don’t know what you have in mind, but you’re probably right on some of them. I have a somewhat similar problem in that there’s a lot that I want to take the Church to task for, most of it rooted in its refusal to reckon with its relationship with colonialism, but since I don’t have a home congregation anymore, I don’t even feel like a proper insider myself, and railing against the flaws of the Church here on this blog — if I’m hoping for it to change any minds at all — would be wasted on an audience primarily composed of people who aren’t involved with the Church anyway.

      “The idea of people repressing their sexuality due to their religious upbringing, that’s a common atheist narrative.”

      And one that I am so, so tired of, by the way. I think that’s why Christians get so hyperdefensive with their cries of “No! We love sex! It’s great, it’s fantastic, it’s in God’s plan! All married people should have it!” which… is the kind of backlash that really doesn’t help me out.

      “I feel like there are some complicated issues we’re not really hashing out there because for visibility purposes it’s better to just say ‘that’s different’ and move on.”

      Yeah, and in a 101 context, it makes respond to “Is asexuality caused by religious repression?” with “No. Next question.” But when it comes to intracommunity discussion, we can afford to go more in-depth and consider how, if “repression” is a legitimized phenomenon, then incorporating asexual experiences, it makes just as much sense to say that the opposite of repression (or a subset of it) must also exist — the case of sex-averse and asexual people trying to make themselves act and feel “normal”. And given how unsuccessful that usually is, why would we expect the standard narrative of repression to be any less so? I’ll make room for the possibility, but some more skepticism here wouldn’t hurt.

      • Siggy

        It’s hard to talk about repression in relation to asexuality because of the thick layer of politics you have to dig through. Anti-religious discourse (and the backlash against it) is this lumbering giant that doesn’t particularly care if it steps on asexuals or people with mental illnesses or whoever. But there’s a lot of asexual politics we’re dealing with too.

        For instance, I think it’s okay for a sex-repulsed asexual to try to change themselves (same as for someone who thinks they might be “repressed”). They shouldn’t feel any obligation to, and they shouldn’t conceptualize the sex-repulsion as an intrinsic problem. But for me to say that is impolitic, because it sounds like just by emphasizing the choice, I’m encouraging the behavior. It’s like talking about how some women like having their man open doors for them–it’s literally correct, but everyone wonders what I’m *really* trying to say.

        I don’t know, it seems like some people are happier trying to change themselves, and some people are happier not doing that. And it’s hard to recommend any action to one group without recommending it at least part of the other group, because many people don’t know which group they’re in. We live in an imperfect world, I guess.

  • Zhanna

    Hey! I just want to say that I’m an ace Christian who’s been following your blog for a while, and I really enjoy reading what you have to say. We’re here, we just may be silent.

  • Vasha

    Honestly, the idea of Christians not recognizing that we’re asexual because Christians aren’t supposed to be sexually attracted to people is just ridiculous. (I know this was kinda just a short part of the post, but it stuck with me). At least in the Christian communities that I’ve found myself in, we ARE supposed to be attracted to people. My christian higschool split us up by gender once a year so that they could talk to the guys about how “we know you all thinks girls are attractive but wait until marriage.” on a men’s retreat with the Christian group at college, I was told “You have to think about how you’re going to stop yourself from lusting now, because it’s going to come up eventually!” One of the adult leaders at church asked me if there were any hot girls on campus, saying “hey, you’re allowed to look, you’re just not allowed to touch” (which… wow, was not expecting that).

    Basically in summary, “Don’t have sex until marriage” =/= “We expect you not to find people sexually attractive until marriage” =/= “Being sexually attracted to someone is sinful.”

  • Ace in Translation

    You make some very good points with regards to Christian aces and feeling broken. I feel part of why it might be hard to bring up discussions of religion – and why religious aces might not be so inclined to discuss or disclose their religion in ace spaces – , especially with regards to conservative Christianity, is because within the ace community because we’re constantly trying to distance ourselves from what we identify as a particularly Christian form* of sexual repression. And in turn, the communities might not seem all that welcoming to participate in all together, or people refrain from disclosing their religious affiliations.

    * I fully agree with your point that what is presented as “Christian repressed sexuality” in non-Christian and/or anti-Christian spaces isn’t a reflection of the reality of Christian thoughts and attitudes towards sex.

    But with regards to the ace community demographics, can I just make the following remarks: US-centrism of a community says absolutely nothing about whether or not non-US residents in said community reflect US demographics. Or in other words: just because the US has a lot of Christians, doesn’t mean that exact demographic would show in a US-centric international community. US-centrisms means that the focus is on US specific topics, or the topics are discussed through a US-specific lens, while non-American topics are not discussed or largely ignored. (and in fact, I’d argue that the discussions of religion in the ace communities are US-centric as well; in the way in which they are conducted, and the frequency in which people discuss their religious/non-religious* affiliations in connection to their asexuality. It’s completely foreign to the way that would be done in other countries)

    US-centrism doesn’t mean that the people participating in these communities are necessarily a close reflection of American ideas, sentiments or demographics. So you can say very little about whether or not there are “a lot” or “very little” Christians in the ace community based on that 2008 AVEN poll, unless you can control for nationalities, or have a census specifically geared towards US aces. The US, compared to other western countries, does have a very high religious demographic, so part of – if not the entire – “wow AVEN really has a lot of non-religious/atheist folks” can be explained by the international make up. From an American perspective, we might seem more non-religious, but from a Western European perspective, we might seem really rather religious. And that is a point I haven’t really seen brought up yet when people point out the amount of non-religious people in ace spaces. Are people noticing these demographics because they’re American, or because it really is exceptional?

    * I know you’ve written about the usage of “(non-)religious” before, discussing the terms and the various meanings. I use (non-)religious here to mean “(not) identifying with an institutionalized, western concept of religion” (which I realize is problematic, especially in an international context – but I can’t find any other way to convey what I’m trying to say here)

    • Spade

      That is a very good point, and I should have thought of that. I’m sorry.

    • Siggy

      I have the raw data from the 2011 AAW survey, and I could look into this. How much of the statistics on religiosity are explained by non-US makeup? I’ll have to get back to you on that.

      I think age is another confounding factor. In the US, at least, the younger generation tends to be far less religious, and that could be what we’re seeing. On the other hand, it could also go in the other direction: there could be fewer older people in the community because older people tend to be more religious.

      • Ace in Translation

        it would definitely be interesting to see some evaluation based on the 2011 survey. All I have is my gut feeling that this is a factor in explaining the ace demographics, and it would be great if we can check whether it indeed is. Isolating the US aces in the 2011 survey and seeing what they answered to the religion question is an easy solution (I understand a full analysis of all nationalities is not workable, as the nationality break-down isn’t available in your summary of the results for that exact reason).

        Are there any comparable surveys on religious denomination done for the US that allows age break-downs? This research looks promising: http://www.pewforum.org/2010/02/17/religion-among-the-millennials/ It gives a break-down comparing different age groups, and has some statistics on religious affiliation.

        • Siggy

          Andrew eventually did some nationality analysis of the survey but it wasn’t published. I have this data, but I may have to wait until after my vacation to look at it.

        • Siggy

          The short answer appears to be… the US respondents are not much more likely to be religious than the rest of the respondents. We’re talking 2% more Christians in the US sample than in the entire sample. I may make a more detailed write-up at some point.

  • Laura (ace-muslim)

    I think the point about how in order to participate in most of the existing online ace communities, you have to accept a lot of pro-LGBTQ and feminist discourse is a factor in why not very many asexual Muslims living in the U.S. seem to have joined ace communities. I like these characteristics of ace communities, but at the same time, those aren’t exactly the most obvious places you would go to learn about asexuality, and they may not seem particularly friendly to many asexuals. So it would be helpful if there were other paths into ace communities that are open to people who aren’t coming from a social justice background.

    There are many, many other factors that come into play in regard to why there aren’t more Muslims in online ace communities, especially once you look beyond Muslims living in the U.S. and I don’t really know what the answers there are.

    I also want to emphasize Spade’s point that a lot of discourse among atheists and agnostics about what “religious people” are like is actually very very specific to certain forms of Christianity in the U.S. or sometimes the U.S. and U.K. and CANNOT be generalized to non-Christian religions or to other cultural contexts. It is really frustrating to see this kind of sloppy discourse.

  • aceinlace

    because the thing about abstinence until marriage is… it’s until marriage.

    And not only are you supposed to have it, but in a lot of churches it’s treated like an icecream sundae: your super awesome treat for staying abstinent till arriage, and now you get to eat ice cream every night with your partner! And ti’s going to be amazaballs!

    As far as why (I, at least) don’t discuss religious issues much is because it’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people, not just in an “I’m offended” way but in that a lot of people have been hurt by religious ideas and by their religious upbringing, and (rightfully) have baggage left over from it.

    Then there is the endless (as you mentioned) “asexuals are privileged when it comes to religious beliefs! You’re the ideal, you could never be oppressed or hurt by religious ideas about sex.”
    And it’s just like…wow, not even going to bother discussing religion re: asexuality when so many people are going to come at it from such a place of ignorance and lack of nuance. I don’t have enough patience/interest in religion for that.

    As far as your overall question (why aren’t there more Christians in the online ace community?) I always just chalked it up to it being online and having a younger population; younger people are more likely to identify as nonbelievers, and atheists are pretty known for being active on the internet.

  • caelesti

    There may be a lot of ace Christians that just aren’t talking about their faith. Activist communities in general (at least of a more left-wing variety) tend to be pretty culturally secular- and U.S. (esp. urban) culture tends to have an idea that religion is this private thing you do and don’t talk about, like going to the bathroom (actually rather like attitudes towards sex used to be!) Being visibly religious (clothing, diet, holiday observations ) makes you stand out. In addition to xenophobia and general cluelessness about Islam, I think those are big reasons observant Muslims have trouble in this country. In online activist groups, I come across more of super-vocal atheists (ones who are outright hostile to religion at times) Then there’s the “spiritual but not religious” faction who may consider themselves Christian, believe in God etc but often don’t belong to a church.

  • Aqua

    Sorry, I should’ve put a trigger warning for that link I gave you. It’s a hard read. I hope I didn’t end up implicitly saying more problematic things, but I’m sorry if I did. I should’ve mentioned the other context, that she felt ‘broken’ because of Purity Culture’s expectations towards sex; they really do expect a woman to go from thinking “all sex is bad” to “sex is the best thing ever” on the wedding night, and enthusiastically please their husbands (or at least a sub-set of Purity Culture does). That’s just bound to set its adherents up for disappointment, and think something is wrong with themselves for not being able to live up to those expectations. All the years of social conditioning to avoid ‘lust’ can’t suddenly all be unlearned on the wedding night.

    Sex-aversion as a result of religious upbringings such as Purity Culture, is an issue I’ve seen debated, though not in the asexual community, and I never saw a resolution for it.

    I was working on a follow-up to my original post, asking if there were concepts that I needed to clarify.

    • Ace in Translation

      Related to the topic of “why aren’t there more Christian asexuals”, sexual repression and asexuality (though from a different angle): I came across this article: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/07/30/i-am-not-asexual-and-why-i-care-what-others-call-me/ (article does come with a trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence)

      It’s an interesting discussion on why this person chose their labels and rejected others, and the role of religion and celibacy in their life (also see the discussion). It also circles back to our community’s issues when it comes to asexuality being “inate” or “caused by something” and repression of your own sexuality. As both Space and you, Aqua, are interested in the subject, I though I’d drop the link here.

  • icklebrina

    (this is a bit off topic, and overly personal…)
    I don’t know about others, but as an ace Christian I haven’t been a part of the online community as a result of a combination of a few of the things you mentioned.
    The whole culture of not being pressured for sex young definitely helped out in the delayed reaction that I had to realizing that I was asexual. Not only were those around me telling me to wait for sex, but I was also just not that interested in personally experiencing it. Sure there were guys I liked and I talked about crushes with my friends, but I always had fewer crushes and less to talk about (although, hearing that sexual attraction was hard to resist did always have me scratching my head a bit. Looking back now I wonder that I didn’t realize sooner, but at the time I just figured it was because I’d never been in a serious relationship). Since sex was something I wasn’t particularly concerned with doing, as well as something I was being told to avoid doing, it was often something I just didn’t worry about or consider.

    Equally intrinsic to my delayed realization though, was my lack of understanding of asexuality. I don’t remember when I first heard of it, at some point in university probably, but I always had in my head that it meant someone who had zero desire for a relationship and family, and since I had always pictured myself having both of those things in the future (at some unspecified point), it never even occurred to me that it might apply to myself. In fact, even the idea of not being sexually attracted to people wouldn’t have clued me in because I had always pictured myself married with kids at some point and sex would be a part of that. My desire or lack of desire for sex never really played any part in my imagining of a future relationship because I’d always been told it would be a part of that relationship (and a part that I would enjoy) so there was no point thinking about it because obviously it would happen and I would, of course, be excited to have sex with my partner despite my lack of concern with it at the moment. (I scored an ‘F’ on a Kinsey test when I took it before realizing I was ace largely because of the expectations society had given me towards my future relationships).
    In fact, it wasn’t until I saw a realization of an asexual couple (in fanfiction of all places), that I began to realize that my understanding of asexuality was wrong, and then started looking into both it and the ace online community and saw just how varied asexuality is and began to tentatively apply it to myself (and that was just at the beginning of the year, so it’s still relatively new to me).

    So, for me, I haven’t really been a part of the online community largely because the whole concept of it is new to me. Additionally, having seen the ‘Christian aces are just repressed’ comments, and having grown up around fear and hatred towards the LGBTQA community makes me a bit leery of all of a sudden jumping in and claiming to be both. But who knows? That may change in the future.

    Anyway, sorry for the verbal vomit, but thank you for being an ace Christian who isn’t afraid to talk about both aspects. It’s meant a lot to me to find and read your posts as I’ve been going through my own journey, and to know that there are others out there.

    • Spade

      Not understanding sexual attraction or asexuality at first is very common among aces of all stripes, but I think those other couple of things you brought up toward the end have affected me, too. The idea that any Christian upraising can call the validity of your experiences into question can be very frustrating. Thank you for commenting, you’re very much not alone, and I’m glad you’ve been able to get something out of my writing.

  • Arrela

    I’m a Christian (ish?). I’m asexual-ish. I also don’t recognize most of this at all. Would it be presumptuous of me to put that down, at least in part, to being Scandinavian rather than American? I conceptualize and experience both my (a)sexuality and my religion in a way that is different from what this post seems to assume that I do. I come from a country and a church where most theology students are women, some priests are gay and most bishops think that either same-gender couples should be able to get married in church or the church should give up the right to marry people all together. At the same time I come from a country where it is a lot more comfortable for everyone involved if you tell a stranger about your last one night stand than if you tell them about the last time you went to church.

    In a convoluted way I think religion might be one of the reasons I am not more open about my (a)sexuality: People already think I am a weird conservative prude (probably, absolutely not, ehh), and already think, largely because of exposure to American media, that Christian (Side note: Why is “Christian” capitalized in English?) people are moralist repressed prudes – I don’t want to add to either one of those. This also leads to me being relatively silent about it on the internet, because, who knows, maybe they would find it.

    I dislike the leaps you make from religion to politics. Being Christian does not mean that one is anti-lgbtq+, anti-feminist or not sex-positive. It seems to me that you are talking about a specific group of Americans with specific religiopolitical (Is that a word? It is now) beliefs, and that’s an interesting conversation, but it tells you nothing or very little about Christians as a whole. Most of the Christians I know are pro-Palestine left leaning people who advocate for a better sex education. One can very much be Christian without being conservative, and one can very much be conservative without being Christian.

    If, however, we are talking about that specific religiopolitical group, then I think this post makes a lot of sense. Going off what I have seen from similar (not really, but close enough) groups in Norway, there is nothing more heteronormative. The expectation that you will one day get married and have children is a lot stronger than the expectation that you will not have sex until you get married (I actually haven’t met a single person advocating that particular stance. The closest is people saying they don’t want to live with a partner without being married to them.)

    This comment is disorganized and doesn’t really have a point, sorry about that.

    • Spade

      “Would it be presumptuous of me to put that down, at least in part, to being Scandinavian rather than American?”

      You would know better than I would. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to make no difference, though.

      “At the same time I come from a country where it is a lot more comfortable for everyone involved if you tell a stranger about your last one night stand than if you tell them about the last time you went to church.”

      My campus is a lot like that, too.

      “In a convoluted way I think religion might be one of the reasons I am not more open about my (a)sexuality: People already think I am a weird conservative prude”

      Yeah, I’ve written about some of that too in other posts. Doesn’t stop me from taking up space in the ace community, but it does increase the hesitation to come out to folks in person.

      “Side note: Why is ‘Christian’ capitalized in English?”

      It’s a proper noun, instead of a common noun. Proper nouns are nouns like people’s names, the names of countries, religions, etc. and are always capitalized.

      “I dislike the leaps you make from religion to politics. Being Christian does not mean that one is anti-lgbtq+, anti-feminist or not sex-positive. It seems to me that you are talking about a specific group of Americans with specific religiopolitical (Is that a word? It is now) beliefs, and that’s an interesting conversation, but it tells you nothing or very little about Christians as a whole. Most of the Christians I know are pro-Palestine left leaning people who advocate for a better sex education. One can very much be Christian without being conservative, and one can very much be conservative without being Christian.”

      …Yes, I’m aware of that. I’m a Christian myself. Sorry for being misleading about that. The idea in this post was that coming from an American Christian background is not synonymous with those influences, but it does make it more likely that someone has had more exposure to those influences, in a way that can be harder to push to the side when it’s tied up in personal religious identity.

  • Finn Scathach

    This was a really interesting post to read. I grew up in a Christian environment but went through a sexuality crisis at sixteen/seventeen and concluded that I was gay before later realising it was a lot more likely I’m ace, and now I identify that way. But at the same time, I spent a considerable amount of time wondering if my move towards identifying as ace was due to internalised homophobia and figuring, “Well, that kind of sexual attraction is wrong so I should just … not feel it,” and somehow squishing down that part of myself. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but for a while it was definitely something that worried me. So that’s probably also a factor for people.

  • Andrea

    Hi! I just wanted to say that I am also an Asexual Christian ( and I even attend a Christian Liberal Arts college) and while I don’t generally actively participate in the online community (it get very overhwhelming very quickly) I do read a lot of the posts that pop up.

    I know that my religious identity and background influenced my understanding and coming to terms with my sexuality. going to youth groups and all that there is ALWAYS a sex talk of some kind about purity, and lust and all of that, and how about you need to save sex for marriage and how its this precious gift from God to us. and I always though they were kidding/ exagerating how big of a problem lust was/ sexual attraction, like I assumed it wasn’t that big of a deal it was just one of those things that they had to talk about. But I definitely had a lot of fear about getting married and having to have sex because wow is there a lot of pressure for your wedding night sex to be the BEST THING EVER which is just unrealistic. and then I got older and my friends started to get married and I started to realise that they actually wanted to have sex with each other. and so that triggered a lot of self reflection and I came to the conclusion that I was asexual (this was a little over a year ago)

    I know that for me that was made harder because of my religious upbringing – coming to terms with asexuality as my identity (because it was a word that definitely fit me) was hard because it meant giving up a lot of what I had always assumed about my future, getting married having 2-3 kids, raising them in the church, I still want those things, but it was going to be a lot more complicated now, I also still have a lot of fear about finding someone in the church who will still want me for who I am and all of those complications (because fun fact: a lot of Christians want to marry people who share their faith values and asexuality is not well known in the Church)

    as for not being a part of the community as much – I have read some things people have said about asexuality being central to their identity which for me isn’t as true (not to be a super cheesy Christian but for me it is definitely true that my first identity is as a child of God) and the community was super overwhelming to think about getting involved in. and then I also have a super supportive Christian community in person that I know (despite not being all the way out to all of them) will always love me and take care of me so it seemed less vital.

    I don’t know if any of this is helpful but that’s just my take on the situation

  • yukiblogsaboutshit

    Your beliefs it’s interesting. You’re a Christian ace but can’t do what the bible says “go forth and multiply”.

    • Spade

      Oh ho ho ho, what is this? Some sort of insinuation that I’m not practicing my religion correctly?

      • yukiblogsaboutshit

        Hmmm, not really, is there a correct way to practice religion? I’m just pointing out the fact that being asexual and being a Christian contradicts each other. It’s like mixing oil with water. They will never go together. I’m just amaze how you believe in this illusion of a religion. That you have this personal god.

        • Spade

          “Hmmm, not really, is there a correct way to practice religion?”

          Apparently you believe so.

          Maybe these three things will help. 1) “Go forth and multiply” was given as a command to get things started, and I think the human population has done plenty well on that count. That’s it. It’s not like one of the Ten Commandments that we’re all supposed to obey. 2) I’m really not all that ideologically invested in Genesis. 3) The gist of my religion, if you want to simplify it like this, is to be like Jesus. Reproduction doesn’t figure in that.

          • yukiblogsaboutshit

            Why do Christians cover the fact that Jesus fucked Mary Magdalene? Do you think it makes Jesus less if he had sex with a woman, especially a prostitute? If he loved a woman? I think Jesus if he ever existed is not the son of a God. I think he’s just a normal person who did good things. Who influenced other people to do good things. I think that itself is amazing enough but why do religion feel the need to exaggerate things. Feeding people of this illusion. Thinking that the holy bible is so holy. I think the bible is just a book, that inspires people, a book about our history, just a book.

          • Spade

            “Why do Christians cover the fact that Jesus fucked Mary Magdalene?”

            You mean not cover? Your source for this information is someone other than Dan Brown, I presume.

            “Do you think it makes Jesus less if he had sex with a woman, especially a prostitute?”

            You mean do I think sex is inherently a sin? Nah. I just have no particular reason to believe that happened.

            “If he loved a woman?”

            …Of course he did. Jesus loves everyone, that’s kind of his whole schtick, you know? And I know you didn’t mean like that but come on, you’re talking about Jesus here. You’ll have to be precise and acknowledge more than one type of love.

            “I think Jesus if he ever existed”

            Uh. Whether or not Jesus of Nazareth ever existed is not really a matter of debate. He’s a historical figure.

            “I think that itself is amazing enough but why do religion feel the need to exaggerate things.”

            I mean, if you’re already defining religion as illusion and exaggeration in the first place, then you’ve already decided that for yourself. Was there a particular point you wanted to make about how Christianity supposedly conflicts with my orientation?

          • yukiblogsaboutshit

            Hmmm you’re right, you make sense, I respect that. I was wrong to assume that asexuality conflicts your beliefs. I just hate religion itself, because some people say that you have to be good to be in a better place when you die. Being good is not like that, I guess what’s good to me is not good for other people.

          • Spade

            Thank you. Yes, what constitutes “being good” and what can result from it are all highly contested matters — but it can be fun to theorize about and discuss them sometimes.

  • ChristianAce

    I was glad to read your post. I am a conservative Christian who recently *coughs yesterday* went public as being asexual. I’ve spent a week searching for blogs or group’s of Christian Aces, but there’s nothing out there. I can say from personal experience that being asexual in high school as a Christian is pretty easy. In college… OK not so much, when you don’t date, but the church still applaud’s your dedication to celibacy. But then it happen’s… You hit about 25 & being chronically single is no longer so socially acceptable. You hit 30 & you aren’t dating and aren’t “looking for the one” all the sudden questions start to fly. Speculation’s of homosexuality start to fly, or perhaps you have a problem of some sort. Getting a job on staff at a church becomes so hard, cause no conservative church wants to hire a single women. It’s an unspoken concern of a single women being a… Let’s just call it a “sexual risk” I mean how would it look! Unknown sexuality is feared the worst in Western Christianity. I personally chose to identify as asexual because I think maybe there’s a chance we can all stop worrying about who or if I’m going to have sex & get back to the business of doing the Lord’s work. I for one am going to do everything I can to bring awareness in the conservative Christian circles I’m involved in because it shouldn’t be such a big deal.

  • Cinder Ace

    Just wanted to share a little of my story… I grew up in a Christian family (although I’m not a Christian anymore) and regularly attended church, where in high school I went through the purity Sunday school classes and read Every Young Woman’s Battle–all the while thinking, “Well, it’s not my battle” and feeling like the whole thing was a non-issue for me. But that didn’t keep me from realizing I was different from my peers; if anything it underscored the difference, because of the way sex was presented as *every* person’s desire. I also always knew that marriage meant having sex, so I told people I didn’t want to get married, really meaning “I don’t want to have sex” but not being able to say that because I assumed I was the only one who felt this way, as *every* other person experienced sexual temptation. I sometimes wonder if the teachings about purity that I was exposed to contributed to my asexuality (or at least my sex-repulsion), but at the same time I think that my aversion toward sex was a definite part of me before I went through those classes, and all the classes really did was emphasize to me how different I was from everyone else.

  • a small thing | The Ace Theist

    […] about sex, and given the usual tone and context, it reminds me of a question I once […]

  • Please stop saying “aces aren’t repressed” | The Ace Theist

    […] upbringing is part of the reason why they’re ace and/or sex-averse — which is why, in this post, I […]

  • Growing up ace and Christian – cinderace blogs

    […] 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 m… […]

  • Christianity as Trauma | The Ace Theist

    […] talked before about folks making a distinction between “acceptable sex aversion” and “sex aversion cau… and I’ve talked about Christians and aces both trying to distance themselves from the specter […]

  • Sex-aversion and purity culture – cinderace blogs

    […] by “Asexual, because reasons” by Siggy and this post by Coyote. Also kind of a follow-up to my last […]

  • Review: The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker | Prismatic Entanglements

    […] decide that they couldn’t be comfortable identifying as asexual themselves. The community already seems to have this bias; such a thing will only exacerbate it. [The graph of religious identification from the community […]

WP account not required to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: