Yes, Christian Fascism’s Anti-LGBTQ Hate Extends to Asexual People, Too
Ace people are discriminated against for being queer. Here's why.
The larger LGBTQ community can be dismissive toward its asexual members at times. That’s demonstrably unfair, as ace people have incredibly queer experiences of coming out and navigating life with a nonconforming sexuality. Nonetheless, claims that asexual Americans don’t really experience discrimination abound.
Well, it’s time to put that claim to bed, because acephobic rhetoric is alive and well in the Christian right. In fact, earlier this year, a wide assortment of right-wing Christian think tanks endorsed a letter demanding Congress’ top Republican prevent the federal government from codifying ace relationships.
According to a new report from LGBTQ Nation on acephobia from the American Christian right, far-right anti-LGBTQ think tanks such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, The Heritage Foundation, and the Family Research Council signed a letter petitioning Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate minority leader, to act against the Respect for Marriage Act. The groups feared it would “require federal recognition of any one state’s definition of marriage without any parameters whatsoever.” Among the feared results, the letter decried “platonic marriages.”
“[T]he proposed Act goes far beyond merely codifying same-sex marriage in federal law,” the letter declares, leaning on anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” rhetoric. “It is a startling expansion of what marriage means—and who may be sued if they disagree—that threatens the freedom of numerous ‘decent and honorable’ Americans of different faiths, creeds, and walks of life who wish to live consistent with their deeply-held beliefs.”
How anti-ace sentiments thrive in the Christian right
According to LGBTQ Nation’s Tyler Songbird, the “platonic marriage” phrase isn’t a throwaway line. Asexual relationship structures have increasingly come under scrutiny by the American right. Songbird points to a Heritage Foundation report that claims abstaining from sex is mere “selfishness,” and a Witherspoon Institute thinkpiece that argues sex “has long been at the core of marital meaning.” That piece explicitly disparages “those who identify as ‘asexual’.”
“I think it matters deeply that we continue to define marriage as a sexual union,” the Witherspoon piece argues. “This ongoing thinning of marriage’s meaning leaves less and less of the concrete conjugal elements that can bind marriages together. Also, it seriously erodes the legal justification for the benefits, responsibilities, and protections with which the law endows marriage.”
Anti-ace sentiments abound in the Christian right. Conservative anti-LGBTQ talking head Christopher Rufo, a man intimately embedded with the Christian right think tank circuit, told Tucker Carlson that LGBTQ organizations “have taken moral power from within” Disney and obsessively track for “transgender, asexual, and bisexual characters” in the company’s shows. Evangelical Christian author Gene Veith condemned the “sex-free ‘friend marriage'” because “from a Biblical point of view, sex is what defines a marriage,” as “marriage creates a new family.”
Far more blatantly, the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, known for his incredibly anti-trans documentary What Is a Woman?, argued in April that ace people simply have low libido or disinterest in romantic relationships caused by a “dysfunction of the brain.” He claims this is most commonly “a symptom of spiritual despair.” Walsh went on to state that asexual individuals simply don’t exist, and that it’s impossible to be asexual but romantically attracted to others.
“One of the latest LGBT innovations is to draw this incoherent bifurcating line between romantic and sexual, but the distinction, just like the distinction between sex and gender, is meaningless,” Walsh declares. “Romantic and sexual are the same thing. They are characterized the same way.”
These values permeate through evangelical Christian spaces. In the ace journal Aze, one arospec ace writer named Lynde describes the “double-edged sword” of purity culture while at an evangelical Christian college. Lynde was “protected” from purity culture’s sexual shame in college, she writes, but purity culture also prevented her from understanding the dimensions of her own ace sexuality—and she increasingly felt burdened by evangelical Christianity’s obsession with romantic relationships, young marriage, and seeking out sex through the latter.
Christian fascism and compulsory sexuality
In her work Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desires, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, writer Angela Chen identifies that ace people feel pressured to have sex via compulsory sexuality. This is “a set of assumptions and behaviors that support the idea that every normal person is sexual,” where “not wanting (socially approved) sex is unnatural and wrong.” It’s easy to see where compulsory sexuality comes into play with the Christian right. The ultimate goal of evangelical Christian sexual politics is to control peoples’ sexuality (or lack thereof) and then force them to have sex in specific ways.
Rhetoric of family and procreation appear in religious right criticism of platonic marriage and other ace relationship structures because, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, sexless marriages challenge the nuclear family structure. In a society increasingly obsessed with white birth rates, there are plenty of reasons why a fascist Christian movement would want people to have as much procreative sex as possible. As long as the context is specifically controlled and religiously approved, that is. Otherwise, the more opportunities for those babies, the better, even if that baby’s existence has to be coerced out of others.
So yes, the far-right might not focus on ace identities as much as they do gay, lesbian, and transgender ones. But make no mistake. In the Christian right’s eyes, ace people are just as much of a threat to heteronormativity as anything else.
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