This is a collection of links about the various things that religious people have said about asexuality and what it’s like to be asexual in religious contexts. I can only provide what I’ve found and what people have already written on, so for now, only Islam, Christianity, and Paganism will be primarily addressed here. If you have any links to add to this list — any blog posts on the relationship between religion and asexuality — then please let me know.
Edit 12/4/2014: After this post was published, the theme of religion was chosen for the October Carnival of Aces. Check the link for more recent writing on this subject.
Edit 6/21/2022: Please stop linking to this post next to links from Landover Baptist.
Islam and Asexuality
My religion includes teachings like, “Marriage is half the religion,” and “Marriage is part of my way and who goes away from my way is not of me.”
This is what it’s like being asexual and Muslim.
In a patriarchal Islam, the reality is that because of my asexuality, aromanticism, non-libidoism, and sex-aversion, as a wife I would innately and always be in a state of recalcitrance (nushuz) unless I had made special arrangements in advance, and if those arrangements fell through, then I would revert to being in a state of recalcitrance. I am not able to be a “good Muslim wife” and there is no way for me to become one.
Ace-mulsim’s masterpost of all her posts on asexuality, Islam, and marriage, including the above
Christianity and Asexuality
There seems to be this idea that there’s some version of Christianity out there that categorically hates sex (and I get where that’s coming from and all, given that most Christianities are very particular about what kind of sex is acceptable, but last I checked, the Shakers were dying out). The thing is — I see people responding to this presupposition more often than I see the thing itself.
One of the responses to the above post, about being asexual in the Mormon Church
i grew up mormon, and heard all my life that while sex outside of marriage is one of the Worst Sins Ever, sex within marriage—and marriage itself—is the most holy thing anyone could ever do. in fact, according to mormon theology, if you do not get married and have children, it is literally impossible for you to reach the highest tier of heaven. oh, you can go to heaven, sure, but you’ll never be as close to god as those people who fulfilled their life mission.
The final results of the Church Email Project, in which I contacted several nearby churches for their stance on asexuality. Their responses won’t necessarily allow you to predict how any given church might respond to the subject, but it should give you a window into some of the kinds of rhetoric specific to Christianity.
A couple of accounts from some asexual Christians about negative reactions to asexuality from other Christians
An anonymous contribution to the F-ACE-ing Silence zine (Issue 1) from an asexual Christian begins on pg.14
Aydan’s post on Christianity and Asexuality
I’ve observed four primary areas of tension between asexuality and Christianity. The first is the mistaken idea that asexuality is voluntary, or is basically celibacy. The second is that asexuality isn’t a choice, but is still commendable. The third is that asexuality is preferable to being gay. The fourth is that asexuality is sinful. These ideas are probably familiar to anyone who does ace 101, but I believe this four ideas are so prevalent in Christian discussions of asexuality because of deeper beliefs that run strong in many Christian communities.
If you sit down with a Christian religious representative – whether a priest, pastor, reverend, monk, or nun (and I have conversed with many) – sexual attraction/desire will almost always be on this list of human attributes, even if a diversity of objects of that desire is recognized.
Depending on the denomination, the responses I have often received upon broaching the topic of asexuality range from the old-school “it’s an unnatural defiance of God’s will” to the more psychologically-informed “it’s an unhealthy aversion.” Such responses rely heavily on the idea that God’s design in human creation includes experiencing sexual attraction/desire.
Buddhism and Asexuality
Being a member of the third sex not only prevented you from being ordained, you also weren’t allowed to give alms to begging monks or be preached to at all. The third sex is also apparently unable to meditate, because they cannot develop the necessary concentration “due to their defilement and bad kamma [karma]” (98). Harsh. But why was the third sex being excluded at all? Wouldn’t you think that asexuals would be the perfect people to enter a celibate order? Well, actually, “a certain lack of restraint (asamvara) is required in order for there to be a basis for a vow of restraint. The idea seems to be that the pandaka [that is, the third sex] does not have enough sinful willfulness to have something to take a vow against” (99). Basically, monasteries didn’t want asexual folks because they wouldn’t have to struggle to maintain their vow of chastity.
The next time someone tries to tell you that “Buddhism” is “asexual-friendly” or is all about “transcending sexual desire and becoming asexual,” feel free to point them toward chapter 9 of Richard Jaffe’s Neither Monk Nor Layman. The book as a whole is about Buddhist clerical marriage in Japan, but chapter 9 has an extended section (202-206) on various pro-clerical marriage arguments that specifically drew on an idea of sexual desire as innate and immutable and argued that advocating clerical abstinence was an infringement of human rights.
Paganism and Asexuality
Basically, my patron Goddess is a lover and a fighter; she is seen as the Goddess of love, sex, and warfare. So, I’m sure you can see why my rejection of sex puts me at spiritual odds with my faith. I went through some dark times when I literally questioned whether one can be both a pagan and hold feelings of asexuality at the same time, I wondered if those two things could live in the same house. […] I also felt very strongly that I could not discuss this situation with my Pagan family. I was ashamed and felt like I was a “bad Pagan”, I was afraid of the judgement I was convinced would come.
The Trauma of Being an Asexual Pagan (cw for NSFW text at the link)
To not enjoy sexual experience as a woman is seen as setting a limit on yourself. It is succumbing to your Christian past. It is being locked in social norms rather than allowing yourself to expand your spiritual body and let your kundalini rise.
To be an asexual female pagan is to be regarded as one who cannot accept their natural instincts.
Atheists on asexuality [+ obligatory footnote that no, atheism is not a religion, but I figured it was relevant enough to include anyway, and the excerpt below becomes all the more interesting in light of the above]
Sometimes atheists have a negative reaction to asexuality because it’s assumed that religion and asexuals are pals. This assumption does not come from any real experiences, but from an oversimplified view of religion and asexuality. Religions don’t like sex, therefore they must like asexuals, who don’t have sex.