This post was written by KJ for round two of the Carnival of Aces. KJ says: "I am a 25, asexual, grad school student who studies art and psychology. My hobbies are reading too much, running, cooking and tilting at windmills."
I come from a white, southern, Christian culture. Obviously, being white has afforded me multiple privileges. Being southern comes with the baggage of a terrible history of race relations and some spectacularly racist family members and family friends. Growing up Christian, I had privilege because I was a member of the dominant religious group. However, at age 16, I stopped believing and left the church, but my knowledge of that culture gives me help in ‘passing’ since religion is not a usually a visible aspect of identity.
Coming from this culture, I received some explicit and covert messages about sexuality. First, there was an assumption of heterosexuality. Second, there was an assumption that, as a woman, I would want to get married. Third, there was the assumption that I would have children. And there was the message that getting married and having children is the most important thing I could do.
The way things worked at my church was an example of all this. The youth group was set up as a place for ‘fellowship.’ It was a place that was explicitly Christian that encouraged us to spend time only with fellow Christians. A large number of the activities were set up to encourage the formation of relationships, from discussions about what God would want us to look for in a spouse, to relay races that involved holding toothpicks in your mouth and passing a lifesaver from person to person (the line was always set up boy-girl-boy-girl.) It was implied that marrying and marrying a fellow Christian was what we should do. It goes without saying that it was implied that we were all heterosexual.
When I announced, in high school, that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have children, my family ignored my statements. However, since I am now approaching my quarter-century mark, I’ve had explicit things said about my single/childless state. For instance when I was discussing the fact that I didn’t want to get married or have biological children, my brother made the comment that “well, people like you should really have children.” People like me means white girls from the suburbs with college degrees. There is a great deal of paranoia among the racists in the south that people of color are having more children than white people. Hence, as a white girl who displays no interest in reproducing, I am letting ‘the white race’ down.
Many friends of the family have made similar statements. I think they are especially puzzled because I am such a ‘good’ girl. I don’t wear mini-skirts or sleep around. I am smart, well-spoken and obviously able to take care of myself. But, by their standards, I have failed at an essential task: marriage and children (in that order, of course). Staying with family friends this summer, I was asked if I was thinking about getting married (I hadn’t seen these people since I was 16). A family friend, on my first trip home from college, asked if I was dating. When I told her I was too busy, she looked pained. I was a freshman in college, double-majoring. Even if I was sexual, who has time?
While I have a great deal of privilege, my asexuality sets me pretty far outside the bounds of acceptable white, southern, Christian female behavior. Though I’m not Christian, it is assumed I will follow those values. Being asexual and a virgin means I appear to have internalized the cultural value of purity. But I am not choosing to be celibate; I am asexual. I also feel silenced because asexuality is not talked about. I doubt any of my family would have heard the term. I did come out to my Mom this summer; of the family, she is the most liberal and easy-going of the family and has no investment in my producing a brood of children. She took it well and eventually, I might tell my brother. But cultural barriers make it harder to do this; being asexual is not just a personal quirk to my family and my culture, but an act of betrayal of the ‘natural order’ of life. I am a freak, not just because I am an atheist, liberal artist, but because I am asexual and refusing (as they see it) to order my life in a conventional way.