Trigger warning for rape.
A post discussing masculinity, asexuality and rape has been passed around Tumblr for a while, and I decided I ought to point everyone to it, because it provides a very interesting critique of virgin-shaming, rape apologism and fucked-up views of masculinity.
The author starts out discussing a personal experience of a friend and former partner of hers– an asexual man who was coerced into sex by a woman. The post was apparently prompted by a truly incredible piece of rape apologist insensitivity:
I remember once, I mentioned this whole story—my relationship with the man and this sexual scenario he found himself in—to another male. The boy I told this to is heterosexual and when I described it to him, he basically said to me: “Are you SURE your friend didn’t want it? Are you SURE he’s asexual?”
There are certain problematic aspects of this post: for instance, she suggests that female rape survivors are more likely to be believed than male rape survivors which is, tragically, all too often not the case. Nevertheless, she calls attention to a very important point: society’s fucked-up notions of sexuality really fuck over asexual men.
Part of being “a real man” is having sex with a lot of women (before eventually being ensnared by the old ball-and-chain, of course). Celibates are not “real men.” Virgins are not “real men.” The abstinent are not “real men.” Those with low sex drives are not “real men.” And, crucially, asexual men are not “real men.”
So of course asexual men endure the standard array of pathologization, criticism, mockery and disbelief when they come out as asexual: “there must be something wrong with you,” “you’re just repressed,” “you’re just a late bloomer,” “you’re a misanthrope,” “you can’t get laid,” “you’re gay, aren’t you?”
However, with a very few exceptions, asexual women and nonbinaries do not find their gender identity being questioned because of their sexual orientation. After all, in our culture, women are supposed to be less interested in sex; a woman who isn’t interested in sex at all isn’t that abnormal. A man who isn’t– God. There must be something wrong with him! He must be broken somehow! Unfortunately, as the author points out, sometimes this even leads to corrective rape of asexual men.
The same idea that men are always and everywhere hypersexual that causes so much grief to asexuals is also one of the major reasons that men have their rapes disbelieved. You can’t rape a man, after all. Men always like sex! (Unless it’s with another man, of course, but even then you get the homophobia and “he must have secretly liked it” bit.) A man will go down the street and want to fuck everything that moves! All men are secretly Jack Harkness in disguise! If you aren’t willing to fuck any lady with a pulse, it’s clearly a sign that you are not a real man.
In particular, a lot of people have this bizarre idea that trying to rape a man is like trying to stick a marshmallow into a parking meter. But I think we’ve all experienced our genitals not being under our conscious control– just ask any teenager who got an erection during chemistry, or anyone who went soft during sexual intercourse they really wanted. Women experience vaginal lubrication and, often, orgasm during their rapes; men experience erection and, often, orgasm during theirs.
The public’s anatomical idiocies aside, I think it’s pretty clear that anti-asexual-men bias and apologism for the rape of men have the same origin: the idea that men always want it. I think we all know that men as a class don’t always want it. Some men always want it; so do some women. Some men never want it; so do some women. Most people are somewhere in between. And everyone’s sexual desires depend on the person and the circumstance: even the horniest man is not going to want to fuck someone he finds physically unattractive, without protection, after he’s been awake for 72 hours and when his dick has several major injuries.
How, therefore, do we battle this idea of the hypersexuality of men? The article presents a few ideas:
We need positive portrayals of asexual men and virgin men and celibate men in mainstream media.
We need to accept that masculinity is completely and totally separate from a male’s sexuality.
We need to acknowledge that all males, sexual or asexual, have the right and the capability to say “No” to sex at any time.
We need to show men respect regardless of their sexuality and their sex lives, in real life AND in the media.
We need to acknowledge that men can be victims of sexual assault and we need to take it seriously.
We need to accept asexual men as being the equals of sexual men.
We need, as a society, to acknowledge and accept that men deserve love/respect/companionship regardless of their sexuality and their sexual activity. Asexual men deserve love just as much as sexual men do.
We need to respect virginity, celibacy, and abstinence as valid choices that men can make for whatever reasons they see fit and know that those choices have no impact whatsoever on their masculinity.