This is the sixth part of a six-part series on asexuality, in which we explore the history of the asexual movement, uncover current research on asexuality, debunk common misconceptions and discuss the challenges the asexual community faces.
In 10 years, activist David Jay hopes your kids will be learning about asexuality when they're getting "the talk."
"What is ace culture going to look like in a decade? I don't know," he said. "Will it look like gay culture? That might happen, but I'm not invested in that. What I am invested in is that as more aces come out, a much larger percentage of the population will have access to the term 'asexual' than there is right now. I hope asexuality will be far more visible, with more out aces and asexual characters on TV shows and movies. I hope it becomes a part of the bigger world of sexuality."
Mark Carrigan, 27, a PhD student at the University of Warwick who has been studying asexuality for half a decade, concurred. He’s eager to see an increase in asexuality awareness as he believes it will not just benefit the ace community but the world at large.
“More visibility for the asexual community will be very important,” he said. “And that’s not just because it’ll make their lives easier as a stigmatized group, but because there are cultural implications beyond those who are asexual themselves.”
Carrigan, who is not himself ace, says he sees many similarities between the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement and that of the asexual struggle for broader acceptance.
“I’d argue that gay pride and the LGBT rights movement was a very civilizing movement,” he said. “It had broader ramifications for the culture we live in, inculcating a greater degree of tolerance and more awareness of sexual difference. Similarly, more awareness for asexuality will likely lead to awareness of a different sort of sexual difference.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Anthony Bogaert, a Brock University professor and author of Understanding Asexuality, says he also believes that a better understanding of asexuality could be very useful to the world of academia.
"Asexual research has a lot to contribute to the academic world," he said. “When you study asexuality, it affords you a new lens on sexuality, allowing you to deconstruct it to some degree. From a theoretical perspective, it allows us to map the sexual orientation space from a kind of sexual geographer's point of view, an outside sort of view. It basically allows us to look at all people, categorize all people, in a way that wasn't there before.”
Already, the once limited realm of asexuality research has begun to expand. Last year, Dr. Susie Scott of the University of Sussex and Dr. Matt Dawson of Glasgow University were awarded a research grant of more than $150,000 for a project on a qualitative exploration of asexual identities and intimacy.
“Perhaps more significant than the amount of money is the vote of confidence in asexuality as a research topic,” said Dawson when questioned about the grant. “I think there is much more interest in asexuality now.”
With more academicians interested in the topic of asexuality and more visibility in the press and in the mainstream media (many aces pointed to the character Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” who is often portrayed as possibly asexual, when asked to identify a modern ace role model), Jay says that he hopes the ace community will soon get the recognition it needs.
“That's the thing that I'm most excited about -- for us to get to a place where someone can start questioning whether they're asexual as a kid and have the people around them know that that's okay,” he said. “We also want to get to a place where there are enough people around you to talk to and to have access to things like health institutions without having to worry about your asexuality being made into something that it's not."
Though the Internet has played a central role in the ace community’s inception and development, some aces believe that to achieve the community's goals for the future, the next step may be taking asexuality into the offline realm.
"[The Internet] is a great starting point but I don't know what kind of traction or mobility we're getting from it," said Eric P., a 22-year-old line cook who says he hopes to one day open an asexual bar in Florida. "If aces want a space in the world, well, we're not going to get it gift-wrapped. We're going to have to actively carve it out."