Friday, October 28, 2011

Is asexuality getting popular? (No, really.)

I have discovered that I apparently have a label.  There are even graphics one can post to proclaim one's proud membership to this group.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Maybe now that they've taken my term, I'll have to switch to another.  I'd hate to be painted guilty by association. 

One might wonder how that would happen.  Well, you see, apparently, this category is part of a new term people are trying to popularize.  Back when I was in college, the GLBT acronym was thought to span the spectrum (outside of straight folks, who don't count because they're in the majority I guess).  Now there's this new-fangled one I ran across while reading up on a controversy in the Young Adult novel world: QUILTBAG.

(I would hereby like to suggest that this acronym be made plural to include straight folks in the name of the diversity the folks who came up with the term claim to value.)

"Nurul says: September 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

"Ooh, is that A in your QUILTBAG stands for asexual? Because if yes then thank goodness, someone remembers us! It seems like the world refuses to acknowledge that we exist."

And have a Facebook group to prove it.  So what are other folks in this strange group like?  Feel free to check out some of their sites.

"S.O. says: September 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

"there’s a few discussion communities on this topic:"

So I'm part of an acronym that also contains labels for behaviors I do not condone.  What's a Christian girl to do?

I sometimes joke that the only thing worse than Christian young adults telling their parents that they're homosexual seems to be telling their parents that they're asexual.  In our culture (even in the church), being asexual is a kind of perversion reserved for the crazies and/or the most holy (monks, mystics, martyrs, and suchlike).  Mad people wired for self-sacrifice or self-destruction.  It's threatening to believers and non-believers alike for someone to look and say, "You know, this game you all play so intently holds no interest for me, so I'm just going to go do something else with my time and energy."

I'm not sure what I think about being in a QUILTBAG category.  In the church, we're taught that this lack of sexual desire is a spiritual gift, but spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to the Church to help us serve others, so where do a bunch of "secular" asexuals leave my theology?

Your thoughts?


  1. I'm still a little suspicious of the idea that a lack of sexual desire is a spiritual gift. It smacks of a false opposition of the spiritual and the corporeal. I'm also suspicious of the idea that a straight person who has sexual desires and finds fulfillment for them in marriage is somehow doing something spiritual.

    Rather, I think that living in a spiritual way is a matter of living your own life for God's glory, being yourself with integrity. For some people, that seems to mean being asexual. I also don't think that Christians have a monopoly on integrity and authentic living (though I would have to add that the most authentic human life, as I see it, is one lived in right relation to God).

  2. I agree with your suspicion of lack of sexual desire as a spiritual gift. I think it was while I was reading *The Sparrow* that I started to think about it very seriously. Spiritual disciplines are about struggle, about setting aside one good thing for another good thing. If it's not a struggle, it doesn't seem worthy of reward.

    For the same reason, I agree with your suspicion about a straight person with sexual desires finding fulfillment in marriage being spiritual. Do you find, though, that that is the dominant narrative in many churches today? Why do you think that is?

    I think you bring up a good point about bringing glory to God by trying to live your life in right relation to God in the body you've been given with the choices you have with integrity.

    Thanks, as always, for the great, thoughtful comments!

  3. I think there's clear Biblical precedent for saying that God is pleased when two people find fulfillment in marriage, and when they have children. It's how many people express their human relational and creative abilities (imaging God, as I see it). It's obviously not the only way to express those abilities, however. But it's common enough, and we celebrate marriages and births because as a community we affirm the importance of those relationships. We also celebrate friendships and vocational successes, though we probably don't think of them in quite the same way- perhaps we should emphasize their theological significance more?

    I wonder whether it's roughly analogous to comparing someone with celiac's and someone with diabetes: each of them must eat carefully and care for their bodies to glorify God, but one will do so by avoiding gluten and the other by monitoring sugars.

  4. Interesting point about recognizing the theological significance of friendships. The Bible seems to hold intimate friendship as valuable. There's the verse about a friend closer than a brother, and there's David and Jonathan. Sometimes they talk about that in Sunday school, but finding a friend closer than a brother doesn't lead to a big celebration ceremony.

    And then there is, you know, Jesus. He really talked quite a bit about love and friendship/brotherhood/family. He redefined a lot of these concepts, actually. His kingdom was not a biological kingdom; the ties were not by blood but by faith. All believers are adopted into the family. There are no spiritual grandchildren, etc.

    I do wonder why friendships and non-blood kin relationships are not held in as high esteem by the church as Jesus held them. Even if one were to contend that we aren't always supposed to do what Jesus did/would do, we are always called to do as He taught us to do and honor what He told us to honor.

    I'm not sure I totally follow your disease analogy. Can you clarify/spell it out a bit more?

  5. I figure everyone has their own set of needs and abilities, and that living with integrity means respecting those in a way that honors God. Celiac's and diabetes came to mind because the needs and solutions are pretty clear, and we can imagine two Christians who work with what they've got in different ways while honoring the same God. I suppose I could have said an introvert and an extrovert, or an analytic person and an emotional one, as examples of people who will live very different lives being true to what God has given them in terms of needs/abilities, while honoring the same God. Similarly, I think it's important for me (as a woman whose needs involve sexual intimacy) and for you (whose needs for intimacy do not involve sexuality) to be true to ourselves; it would be silly for you to think you ought to feel sexual desires in a way similar to someone with diabetes who thought they should avoid gluten instead of monitoring their sugar.

  6. I'll have to think on that. I suspect it informed my thoughts on the matter more when I was younger. I didn't feel at all guilty about not wanting to date or have sex, but I certainly felt that I was different in a way that most people would see as negative because it's just foreign to them. I knew that I should be thinking/feeling otherwise, but I didn't think/feel that way, and I wasn't suffering from guilt about the lack, which is actually what made me feel guilty. I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. People are so complicated . . .

    In one short essay, I wrote about this old lamp I had that was a bit dangerous and wired wrong, but I loved it anyway. (I was also talking about my grandparents and how their version of love seemed more like duty and like acting/assuming a role and how I was afraid that maybe I was more like them than I would care to admit. Not that I think much of that was explicitly stated in the piece. :)

    In short, I don't think I really struggle with it, but I know my mom really did for a while. I suspect that many people in the evangelical church would certainly struggle with it because they figure the only reason to remain unmarried as a Christian adult is if you're doing (possible dangerous) missions work of some sort. I'm not, so what's my excuse? That's what I read (perhaps incorrectly) into their puzzled looks.

    It's interesting to ponder how much is nature and how much is choice or inclination. Am I a eunuch by birth or by choice? If by choice, is it wrong not to be one "for the kingdom of God" as the verse says? Or do I just need a broader interpretation of what it means to be a eunuch for the kingdom? Maybe I'm the one who's limiting it to missionaries? I don't think so, though. I think I'm bowing to the interpretation of the majority. Maybe a little redefinition on my own part needs to happen . . .

  7. I think one contributing factor in how Christians respond to singleness is a poor understanding of what Christian freedom means. The body of Christ amazes me because it is a mysterious, spirit-led organic unity that grows out of incredible diversity, rather than being the result of identical Christians marching in lock-step.

    I think choosing to marry or be single is not a moral issue unless sexual temptation comes into the picture. This seems to me to be one of those grey areas where we are called to act wisely with the resources God has given us (including our own natures), rather than to do any one Right Thing. Paul obviously understood his own singleness as being closely connected to his fitness for ministry, and for a number of people that is an important connection, but I don't think his discussion indicates that would be the ONLY reason a Christian could have for being single. I also have my suspicions that his discussion should be interpreted as wise guidelines for a particular time and place, and not necessarily the end-all way of understanding how Christians should view marriage and singleness. The only thing he says is definitely God's command in the 1 Corinthians 7 passage is that married people must be faithful. Verse 7 makes it sound as if he realizes he himself is wired differently from a lot of them, and so doesn't really get how God is working in each of their situations; verse 19 makes it clear that keeping God's commands is what matters most.

    In the Matthew 19 passage, it seems to me that the disciples are getting hung up on the idea that maybe it's better not to marry than to get stuck with a woman you might get tired of. I wonder if Jesus' response, that there are some who choose to live as eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom, is just making the point that those who truly submit to God's authority (i.e. live as a citizen in God's kingdom) will have to choose not to marry if they cannot be faithful to a spouse as God commands. I'm puzzled as to how the whole "eunuch for the kingdom of God" thing gets turned into more than this- I don't see a particularly strong connection between the context of that discussion and mission work...?

    On a similar note, I bet Christians who marry and choose not to have children get similar flak/confused looks; again, however, I don't see where this is something God commands so much as an area for us to choose wisely how to live our individual lives. I know one couple who feel they simply would not make good parents, and so do not intend to have any children.

  8. "I think choosing to marry or be single is not a moral issue unless sexual temptation comes into the picture. This seems to me to be one of those grey areas where we are called to act wisely with the resources God has given us (including our own natures), rather than to do any one Right Thing."

    Wow. Pretty much all of it. Well-thought out and nicely articulated. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    "On a similar note, I bet Christians who marry and choose not to have children get similar flak/confused looks . . ."

    Oh, goodness, I suspect so. They think all the looks and gossipy middle-aged women whispering about them and asking Concerned Questions will stop once they finally stop being single, but a new battle awaits them. I guess the pervasive idea in the church that Christianity must be tied to biology (marriage AND babies) doesn't just cut the single people. I hadn't really thought about this, so thanks for bringing it up.