Because the language of consent is often deployed to attractions that are precise or popular, we run the risk of excluding others who navigate attraction differently. Asexuality, the sexual orientation that involves little or no sexual attraction, hasn’t much been explored vis-à-vis consent. To some degree, the queer community also fails to recognise asexuals (or aces) and as Pride grinds to a halt, it’s become even more imperative to busts some myths surrounding asexuality and how consent can be applied to their identity.
First, I would like to acknowledge that I’m not asexual and don’t speak for the asexual community. I’m only writing from the standpoint of observing boundaries regardless of how one sees themselves. But I also welcome criticisms or pushbacks, or if I have oversimplified things. With that in mind, let’s work through a few things.
Asexuality doesn’t run on an absolute model of engagement, a one-size-fits-all for ace communities. Asexuality falls into a spectrum. Asexual people can choose to engage in sexual activity while others don’t, can desire emotionally intimate relationships, or stay aromantic (without romantic attraction). Essentially, asexuals are not a monolith. When we say consent also applies to asexual people, it’s not in the way that it’s usually framed, which is enthusiastic consent – a model that requires the parties involved to show willingness and excitement before sexual activity.
While enthusiastic consent tries to achieve safety and eliminate grey areas, the way it shows up in practice can be ableist given that verbal communication is one of the common tropes. But this is a topic for another day. For asexuals who do have sex, not all are ”enthusiastic” about consent, not all display the grammar/markers that constitute expectations for enthusiastic consent. This is not to say that consent isn’t important to them, or shouldn’t be checked in continuously as the sexual activity progresses. But enthusiastic consent can also lead to one exaggerating their feelings at that moment.
Point is, consent in this current frame doesn’t resonate with all asexuals, or even with people outside of the asexual identity. In other ways, the asexual community are at risk of being shamed into sex or ”performing enthusiasm” just to please their partners. Boundaries can also be crossed and violated. Fostering an environment that enables them to say ”no, I don’t want to have sex with you today” without shame or immediate consequence is important.
As mentioned before, the model of enthusiastic consent isn’t all-encompassing, especially for communities and subsets of people which the asexual community is one.