A member of my meetup group who was interviewed for this segment but not included in the final cut has written an open letter to Steve Price addressing his (and other panellists) comments following the airing of the segment.
The segment can be watched here (link may not work for non-Australians)
Dear Steve Price,
I am writing this letter to respond to some of the comments you made regarding Asexuality on the segment on The Project last night.
I want to start by saying that I was initially going to be a part of the segment you so insensitively mocked but was cut from it due to timing constraints. Whilst initially being saddened about not getting to be a part of this wonderful piece of activism (yes, it truly was wonderful and I am thankful to those at The Project who did their part to spread awareness) I immediately felt relieved at being cut from the segment as it meant I avoided being the subject of those incredibly misinformed and harmful comments you made at the end of the segment.
I wish to, if you will allow me, address these comments and explain to you why they are alienating and harmful as well as not clearly founded in truth or logic and hopefully explain why it’s not okay to speak about someone’s sexual orientation in a way similar to how you did last night. So, here’s what you said and why that indicates misinformation and/or discrimination:
1) “Maybe they’re just doing it with the wrong people.”
I would firstly like to point out the implications of having a “right” or “wrong” sexual partner. If you are somehow trying to suggest that an individual not finding a sexual encounter pleasurable somehow makes their decision to have sex with their chosen partner “wrong” then I would implore you to stop placing value judgements on other people’s sex-lives and to instead let individuals engage in whatever sexual practices they are inclined (or not inclined) to pursue.
This aside, I would also like to point out to you the fact that orientation is not the same thing as behaviour. I could be a virgin and be asexual or I could be having great sex five times a day and still be asexual. The only defining factor in a person’s sexual orientation is who they are sexually attracted to. That’s it. Whether a person is having or enjoying sex is completely irrelevant to these matters of attraction and thus, assuming that Asexual people are simply engaging in non-pleasurable sexual encounters is clearly a misunderstanding on your part.
2) “Try a bit harder”
Firstly , I would like to address the ambiguity of this statement. It is possible that you are suggesting that people “try harder” to enjoy sex but as I mentioned above, one’s enjoyment of a certain behaviour is irrelevant to an individual’s orientation. Asexuality is not a dislike of sex. Asexuality is simply a lack of sexual attraction.
It is possible that you could have been suggesting that Asexual people should “try harder to be attracted to people” which I feel is quite a ridiculous sentiment. I say this because to me it seems clear that who a person is attracted to is not something that can be controlled no matter how hard one “tries”. Suggesting an asexual person “try a bit harder” to be sexually attracted to others is like telling any straight man to “try a bit harder” to be sexually attracted to another man. Fortunately or unfortunately, who a person is (or is not) attracted to is not the kind of thing that can be forced. It’s the kind of thing that just happens, whether in the way we want it to or not, which brings me to my next point.
If a person tries really hard for something they may never get, it is likely they will get very hurt in the process. Did you know that it’s actually quite common for an asexual person to feel broken prior to discovering that ASEXUALITY IS A LEGITIMATE SEXUAL ORIENTATION? Well the reason this happens is because people try (really hard) to be something they’re not and unfortunately fail; thus bringing feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness. Suggesting this to a person, such as someone who may have just discovered their own Asexuality through the segment that immediately preceded your intolerant comments, has the potential to cause great harm to people if they choose to believe in the idea that this is something they can change if they just “try really hard”. It wont happen. There is a reason conversion therapy doesn’t work. Who one is attracted to isn’t a choice, it’s a reaction.
3) “Spread your wings”
This statement implies one of two things. The first of which is that you are being facetious in an attempt to pull laughter from your fellow panellists and/or the studio audience. If this it is so, it is problematic for a number of reasons. Not only is it disrespectful to the incredible people in the segment who had the courage to speak out about such an incredibly personal part of their lives for the sake of helping others feel less alone, but it also is partially contemptuous of you to openly mock a minority on what is meant to be a news show just for laughs. If you did the same thing to gay people, ethnic people, disabled people, trans people…etc I’m certain that there would be a huge backlash against your remarks. Unfortunately, people seem to think that simply because a thing is less known, it is alright to mock it. It isn’t. It is invalidating and dehumanising and you are showing the world a bad example of how to discuss things such as this if this response was indeed the product of facetiousness.
The second thing I inferred from your instruction to “spread you wings” is that you believe that declaring ones Asexuality is a restriction of freedom. I would like to inform you that this is precisely the opposite; it is a claiming of ones freedom to define ones own sexuality, a defence of one’s right to have control over one’s sexual encounters and an understanding that one doesn’t have to follow the sexual “rules” laid down by society but that one can instead be true to oneself. I would say to you here what I would say to anyone who claims that Asexuality is the opposition of sexual freedom; it is far from so. Asexuality presents us with a new dialogue about how we as human beings deal with intimacy. It suggests more variations and more possibilities to how we express ourselves sexually and non-sexually and thus creates MORE freedom, not only for Asexual people but for everyone else as well. If being asexual means I choose to be celibate, this is me exercising my freedom to choose how I behave sexually. If Asexuality means I choose to have sex to make a partner happy, because it feels good or to sate my libido as opposed to because I’m sexually attracted to someone then that is ALSO me defining my own sexual behaviour. Asexuality gives me the freedom to do so and is far from restricting. No matter my decisions pertaining to my sex-life, if I am happy with them, my wings are already spread.
I myself think this is great advice to any human being and would personally love to see as much of the world as I possibly can. Unfortunately I have to inform you though, that geography can not define or change a person’s sexual orientation.
I feel as though your advice to travel links back into the idea that Asexuality is restrictive, that in being so that we cannot be open to experiencing what the world has to offer. I would say again that this is misinformed. I am not drawn towards eating brussel sprouts; the idea simply doesn’t appeal to me. I have nothing against others eating them and I am not dogmatically claiming that there will never be a point in my life when I will eat them – it simply isn’t something I am drawn to doing. I would say that my attitudes to introducing sex into my relationships with others is precisely the same; it’s simply not something I am drawn to. Whether I get curious as to what it would be like to have sex with a certain person, or what brussel sprouts taste like have no effect on my attitudes to experiencing the world and trying new things. I am all for that, I simply would prefer to do so on MY terms, not someone else’s.
5) “Have a romantic dinner”
If you actually paid any attention to the segment you were trashing last night, I need not tell you that many Asexual people are still willing to engage in and at times are looking for romantic relationships. The thing I feel I may need to explain to you is that sex does not need to be present in order for a relationship to be intimate, for individuals to be able to connect strongly on an interpersonal level. Love can exist in all kinds of non-sexual relationships. I can deeply love a family member without being sexually attracted to them. I can deeply love a friend without being sexually attracted to them. I can deeply love a pet without being sexually attracted to them and thus it goes to say that I can deeply love a romantic partner without being sexually attracted to them. No amount of romantic dinners could force me to add sexual attraction into that equation – no matter how much I love the other person. I will simply react to them how I am meant to and if that doesn’t involve sexual attraction, that’s absolutely fine.
7) “I find that ridiculous”
Do you want to know what I find ridiculous? The fact that someone could find pure honesty and people being true to themselves “ridiculous”. It isn’t ridiculous to accept all parts of you, even the parts that aren’t attracted to others, it is ridiculous to deny them, to expect them to change, to hide them and to fear them. By referring to a person’s understanding of who they are as “ridiculous”, you show the world that you are not ready to accept people for who they are, that you’d rather attempt to make them what you want. By calling Asexuality “ridiculous” you invalidate the lives of thousands of Australians and others internationally, you wrongly teach the world that sexual orientation is something to judge others for as opposed to something to realise about yourself and attitudes like that are harmful. By calling Asexuality ridiculous you taught me how far this country and the world still has to go in regards to accepting diversity and in celebrating our differences and unfortunately the thing that is truly ridiculous is the fact that a wonderful piece of activism such as presented on the Project last night could be turned into an opportunity for you to invalidate the existence of so many people. Being proud of who you are isn’t ridiculous, it’s incredible. It’s incredible that the Project decided to tell this story to the thousands of people who needed to hear it. It’s incredible that many have listened to this story and gone looking for other information. It is incredible that new people are finding the asexual community because of this segment on the Project and it is incredible that I was able to share my experience with the show’s producers and express my thoughts about the orientation and the community surrounding it. Unfortunately the thing that is truly ridiculous about this situation is the fact that I felt that I had to write this letter.
Thanks for taking the time to read this,