Dear Planned Parenthood of Northern New England,
I was at one of your clinics today. Although I’ve been to Planned Parenthood before, this was the first time I had to check the box that said “Has anyone forced you to have sex?” It was why I was there, it has been six months and I was getting an HIV test. When the nurse practitioner asked me about that checked box, I teared up and blurted out my whole life story, how I kept trying to have sex with people because I thought I’d meet “the right person” or “someone who knew what he was doing” and would suddenly want what everyone else wanted. That for the first 24 years of my life I didn’t know that asexuality existed or that it was possible that I wasn’t broken, that there were other people like me. I told her that shortly after I had FINALLY discovered that there was a word for people like me and had decided that I never wanted to have sex again, I had a horrible encounter with a classmate. When I was all sobbed out and had nothing more to say, I looked up at her, she was smiling sympathetically but this poster on the wall behind her caught my eye. I scowled at it. She turned around. “All,” I said, “I hate that. I don’t like sex. A lot of people don’t!” She sighed and said, “I don’t like those either. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex, but they sent them to every clinic. I had no say in it.” She knew all about asexuality! I have never met a medical professional so accepting. She ran all the STI tests and referred me for rape counseling. She said I was not the only asexual person that’s been in that chair. I left the clinic feeling 100 times better than I did when I walked in, but that poster still bothers me.
I realize that sex positivity is extremely important, but poor wording can lead to asexual people feeling like we have to keep experimenting and pushing ourselves to do things we are uncomfortable with in order to be “normal.” True sex positivity recognizes that there is no “all,” no one way to experience sexuality, that every person has different attractions, desires, and needs, and that some people don’t experience sexual attraction at all. Some people don’t like sex, for whatever reason. And that’s fine! The message that mainstream society pushes is that EVERYBODY is a sexual person when that’s just not true. It is disheartening to receive this same message from Planned Parenthood, who I have always seen as “the good guys,” the kind of organization that understands non-heteronormative sexualities and gender identities. Although the Planned Parenthood website incorrectly defines asexual as “having no desire for sex play with a partner,” asexuality is an sexual orientation that one is born with just like homo, hetero, bi, or pansexuality. An asexual person is one who does not experience sexual attraction. It has nothing to do with sexual activity or desire. Many asexual people experience romantic attraction and do have sex to please their non-asexual partners. Some asexual people enjoy sex if they have it (but are not sexually attracted to anyone and don’t seek it out), while others are indifferent or repulsed by it. Asexuality.org has more information.
I realize that most of your patients are sexual people, but one percent of the population is asexual, so if the population of the Northeast is 55,317,240, about 553,173 of us are asexual. I guarantee that I am not the only asexual person to use your services. I actively support your organization. I donate every time I visit and have written letters to the editor and and to my congresspersons in support of Planned Parenthood when it was de-funded in my state last year. It saddens me that an organization so accepting of LGBT individuals would cover their offices in posters that may alienate asexual patients and contribute to the societal message that asexual people are “broken.” I wish that your poster said “most of us like to do it” rather than “we all.” As your fantastic nurse practitioners know, asexual people exist.
-An Asexual Patient