Lying outside of the cis-heteronormative peripheral are two aspects of human sexuality left unexplored. LGBT+ psychology began earnestly in the 20th century, shaking off the notion that queerness (or rather male homosexuality) was a disease or something to cure. However, the field has yet to develop a repertoire of research concerning asexual or polyamorous identities. Within and beyond the Western world, we’re still struggling to accept queerness, fully understand consent and overcome misogyny. Rape culture is rampant and online pornography remains the prime source for young people to learn about sex, sexuality, and intimacy.
So what can asexuality and polyamory do for us?
Asexuality: the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.
Polyamory: the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved.
When seeking to understand other human experiences, we have to use empathy; the ability to discern and share another person’s thoughts and feelings. Society’s tunnel-visioned view of sex and sexuality as being default cis-heterosexual, coupled with male dominance, makes it difficult for other voices to gain traction. Now we’re beginning to dispel this, leaving us to rebuild our attitudes towards sex and sexuality. What will they become? What will a world without beauty standards, male gaze, and queer erasure look like?
It’s hard to imagine. But we can begin by making sure that notions of sex and sexuality are inclusive and start by empathising with the ace and polyamorous communities. To the naive cis-heterosexual person, the idea of not experiencing sexual attraction can seem bizarre and raise all sorts of questions. Good questions, if asked respectfully. Suddenly, sexuality becomes a non-essential aspect of the human condition. But it is indeed a spectrum. Some asexuals still engage in sexual relationships, some experience romantic or other sorts of attraction and others retain sexual fantasies. To the naive cis-het individual, having multiple partners can also seem outlandish. Indeed, it has been quite taboo and questions may arise concerning jealousy or relationship maintenance…
However, it is really important to consider these experiences because they reveal the open-ended nature of human sexuality and present new possibilities. Acceptance of diversity is crucial for rebuilding healthier, more positive cultural expectations of sex and sexuality. Diverse sexual orientations and practices ought to be more common in public awareness, depicted more in film and TV and written about so that it’s no longer marginalised. More importantly, representation helps the ace and polyamorous communities. Normalisation means everything to queer people, who just want to get on with their lives and be happy.
So what can asexuality and polyamory do for us? They can broaden our minds, inform our attitudes and help us rebuild the scope of sex and sexuality.