What is Asexuality?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual individuals feel less or absence of sexual attraction towards anyone. According to AVEN (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network), and in simpler terms, “an asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.”
A lot of Indians are still not familiar with the term asexual which lead to the erasure of the orientation, misunderstanding, and prejudice against asexual individuals. Unlike celibacy, asexuality is a sexual orientation but it is often not discussed in the country. India as a country, refuses to discuss sex and yet ironically, an asexual individual is often looked down upon which shows that it is essential for the society that individuals reproduce.
India as a country, refuses to discuss sex, yet an asexual individual is often looked down upon which shows that it is essential for the society that individuals reproduce.
Importance of Representation
Representation is an important part of the discussion surrounding sexual orientations and identities. It helps in awareness, identification and creating an understanding of different sexual orientations. It normalizes the existence of identities and creates a sense of belonging for the individuals of those identities. It also aids in bringing up the narratives which were hidden over the decades and helps in story-telling of different identities and voices. Without proper representation, people could be misguided, misinformed creating stigma and discrimination for the underrepresented people.
Famous Asexual Characters all-over the World
There are a few famous asexual characters in books, web-series, and movies. Some of these include,
- Sherlock Holmes
- Jughead Jones from Archies
- Todd Chavez from BoJack Horseman
Lack of Asexual Representation in Indian Media
So far, the popular culture and media in India are lacking asexual representation. Overall, the asexual community is coming out to give interviews and educate about asexuality in India. But as far as movies and serials are concerned, there is still a long way to go. Some books have asexual characters but it is still a rarity in India.
Often sex is seen as the final goal of relationships in the media. Bollywood’s definition of love is not only patriarchal but also heteronormative in most cases. It also focuses on sex after marriage and makes it a compulsion for a couple to get married and have sex. Often daily serials revolve around marriages and choose to not talk about sexuality in any form. Web-series are no different when it comes to not giving the asexual community their representation.
Many people in India still equate the term asexual to something non-existent or illness instead of thinking of it as an orientation that humans can have. Often, it is being equated to celibacy or prudish behavior. Movies and serials often portray leading actresses as reluctant to have sex before marriage making matters worse for many asexual women as people are fed the belief that women prefer post-marital sex. It is equally damaging for sexually active women leading to moral policing. Thanks to Bollywood, the stereotypical depiction of homosexual community is still creating prejudice for them. In such cases, the path to proper representation of asexuality looks like a distant dream.
Many people in India still equate the term asexual to something non-existent or illness instead of thinking of it as an orientation that humans can have. Often, it is being equated to celibacy or prudish behavior.
Impacts of Lack of Asexual Representation on Society
Asexuality is often misinterpreted as a lack of sex by society, this leads to conflict between the asexual community and the society at large. Media is an agent of socialization. Most of the culture is carried forward through popular media. During this era of globalization, international shows cover the distance of lack of representation for the queer community in India. But as far as the asexual community is concerned, many things need to be improved at both the national and international levels. The majority of Indian society is still using Television as a medium of entertainment and information. Unless asexual characters are not introduced and normalized through movies, books, and shows, there will be a barrier in understanding asexuality and struggles of asexual individuals.
A survey of LGBTQIA+ community published in the Journal of homosexuality found that media can influence self-perception for queer individuals. The presence of positive role models can help in affirming personal identity and helps in coming out process. Positive role models in popular media also help in identifying one’s orientation and identity to individuals who do not have access to academic jargon. Lack of representation leads to a higher probability of denial and discrimination by society and family. It is exclusionary and can hinder an individual’s sense of identity in the long run.
Asexuality as an identity is unrepresented and misunderstood in society as large. Asexual people are seen as either religious celibates or as people who need medical help. They are told that something is wrong with them for not having sexual attraction. In the cases of sex-repulsed asexuals, who do not have the desire of sex, matters become worse ranging from forced marriages to honor killings.
With a lack of representation, many asexual people who do not have access to the internet or expensive academic books still struggle within the closet due to a lack of knowledge or vocabulary to describe how they feel. Popular media is the only means of information to them which can help them to see someone like them on screen and creating a larger acceptance for asexuality in India.
Outside India, the misinterpretation of asexuals, for instance, in the case of Sherlock Holmes, one of the showrunners stated that “if he was asexual, there would be no tension in that, no fun in that, its someone who abstains who’s interesting”. Which led to asexual erasure. Often in the west, asexual characters are created but are not talked about as asexuals.
In India and west alike, media tells us that sex is an inevitable part of a relationship, it creates an illusion of beliefs like sex is the end goal or important for a relationship. It is different in the case of asexuals, queerplatonic relationships, platonic romantic relationships and friendships are a vital part of their lives. Popular hyper-sexualized culture is also a reason behind widespread misogyny and lack of acceptance for non-sexual relationships. Relationships are often interpreted in a conservative manner in movies and serials leading to re-establishment of the patriarchal and hypersexual notions of love and marriage.
Often in daily soaps and Bollywood movies, women characters change themselves to have acceptance by being more “submissive” or “adjusting” and this view is often imposed on asexual women off-screen in such a way that they ought to have sex in order to be considered as capable of being loved or respected in worse cases. It is high time that Indian media educate themselves about different orientations and develop diverse characters for the audience.
Featured Image Source: Youth Ki Awaaz