I’ve been trying to write this post for a while because it felt too personal and too angry; then I finally decided to hell with it, just get it out. So here we go.
Let’s just lay this out up front: much of Paganism is unwelcoming to asexuals or asexuality. Not intentionally (usually), but unwelcoming all the same.
Two terms I will be using in this post:
Asexual: as a person, an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction to anyone of any gender. May be aromantic (having no romantic orientation or desire for a romantic relationship) as well, but may not.
Allosexual: a person who experiences sexual attraction; may be homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or any other orientation. The key here is not to whom they are sexually attracted, but the fact that they experience sexual attraction at all.
As with a lot of issues, this one is complex and is rooted in many of the struggles of the past. Much of the fertility or ecstatic rites of various forms of Paganism arose from the need to remove sex and sensuality from the Christian context of sinfulness, so it could be seen as a natural part of life and thus no longer something to be ashamed of, which is good. I’m not against seeing sex as a natural function of the body.
It’s just that this emphasis on sexuality can feel exclusionary to asexuals, for whom sex just isn’t that big a deal in our lives (this isn’t even touching on sex-averse or sex-repulsed asexuals or people regardless of sexuality who have experienced sex-related trauma).
Sex is natural. So is asexuality.
Asexuality isn’t a fear of sex, it isn’t a feeling that sex is impure, it isn’t a hatred of sex. Asexuality is, quite simply, the lack of sexual attraction. Some asexuals have sex, like sex, even love sex! But it’s not the overwhelming drive it is for sexual people and it isn’t the centerpiece of our spiritual or religious practice.
The very cycle holy days of a number of Pagan religions center around the fertility of the Earth and thus a form of reproduction.
I am not at all suggesting that Pagan religions as a whole should eject all sex or sex-related traditions from their practices.
What I am asking for is understanding. For Pagan leaders of all varieties to educate themselves on the true scope and beauty of human sexual orientations (and gender identities, but that’s a whole other post). I’m asking for an awareness that asexuals exist, Pagan asexuals exist, and an acknowledgement that being sexual is not natural for everyone.
Here is the reality of being asexual in a society where experiencing sexual attraction is regarded as the norm: asexuals experience a dreadful amount of erasure and torment from allosexual people. We’re constantly told from many directions we’re not really asexual, we’ll feel differently when we meet the right person, it must have been some trauma in our childhood that made us this way, all we need is the right medication. It’s not unheard of for asexual people to experience “corrective” rape. Even many within the LGBT+ community to which we rightfully belong tell us we don’t. We’re told we don’t count or don’t matter because somehow we don’t experience the same kind of harassment as the other letters. We’re erased when our letter is given away to allies. All around us are messages both subtle and not that tell us there is something wrong with us. Our very few canon representations in entertainment are often lost in translation; see Jughead in Riverdale, a character whose canon asexuality in the comics has been completely erased for television.
Asexuals do not need to release the baggage of our upbringing. We do not need medication. We are not broken, we are not frigid, and we are not denying an essential part of ourselves. We’re perfectly happy the way we are–or could be, if the society around us didn’t keep trying to convince us there’s something wrong with us. What we do need is acceptance and inclusion, just like every other part of the LGBT+ community.
What can you do, as a Pagan leader, to help?
The first thing to do is educate yourself. Then start acknowledging that asexual Pagans exist and that we may have different spiritual needs in some areas that allosexual individuals.
Maybe think about expanding the focus of your traditions. Think about ways Pagans who are asexual can still participate without feeling marginalized or excluded. Go find yourself an asexual Pagan to talk to and ask what makes them uncomfortable and what would make them less uncomfortable (with their consent to answer such personal questions, of course). Think about including a secondary set of circles, celebrations, and/or rituals without the sexual elements. Or, alternately, simply state outright that your tradition or religion may not be the best place for people on the asexual spectrum. Personally, I would rather be told up front I’m not welcome or acknowledged than hang around the edges wondering if the sexual content of rituals and mysteries would be too uncomfortable for me. Others may feel differently.
When I went looking for resources for asexual Pagans, other blogs for other asexual Pagans, for some kind of asexual Pagan community, the most recent activity I could find was from 2015; I wonder if all the others just got tired of being constantly erased and ignored.
My asexuality and the sense of not really having a place in established Pagan religions is part (only part, but a large part, one third at least) of why I began building Chaos Paganism. The holy days, rituals, entire structure of Chaos Paganism is designed to be as welcoming to asexual Pagans as possible with a structure that allows but does not demand sexuality as part of the practice. I intend for it to eventually be a living Pagan religion as I share it with others. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t.
I don’t want other asexual Pagans to have to rely on me getting it right in order to feel welcomed and part of the ever-growing face of Paganism.
About Chaos Paganism: If you’re interested in learning more about Chaos Paganism, I post about it mainly at my blog on Pagan Bloggers.
Chaos Paganism is a religious and spiritual practice designed for the outcasts of the outcasts, those Pagans who just can’t seem to find a home anywhere else. Modern Pagans and Polytheists who don’t feel a strong connection with nature or the Wheel of the Year, asexual Pagans, Pagans who worship new deities or those that originate from fiction, Pagans who are not Wiccan and want rituals that are not borrowed from Wicca. Chaos Paganism is designed to allow as much personal interpretation and freedom as possible with in a structure and is intended to eventually bring together people who otherwise might not have a spiritual community.
This post is scheduled for Monday, July 10th, which is the day I leave for a week-long apartment/room-hunting trip in Salem, MA before I move there at the end of the month. I’m excited! Wish me luck!