During UEA’s Asexuality and Aromanticism Awareness Week, the organisation Movement for Asexuality Awareness, Protection, Learning and Equality (Maaple), gave a talk at UEA on the challenges faced by asexual and aroromantic people.
The UK-based Maaple are a movement for asexuality awareness and formed in 2015 following the general election. Their aim is to go beyond awareness of asexuality and to have more of an activist role in improving the lives of those who identify as asexual and aromantic.
Asexuality is defined as not experiencing sexual attraction to others, but it is more complex than this simple explanation. Other categories exist, such as demi-sexuality where someone does not experience sexual attraction until they are deeply or emotionally connected with someone.
According to George Norman, guest speaker for Maaple, the problem with defining asexuality is that “you end up defining something by what it isn’t.”
“The average age for somebody coming out as asexual and finding out about the word for the first time is 19-20”, Norman stated, suggesting that the importance of Maaple’s work cannot be understated.
In response to this statistic, Maaple is campaigning for the UK Census Office to include asexuality as an option on the census. If this campaign proves to be successful, the UK census would become the first nationwide census to include this option – a significant step for asexuality awareness.
Norman spoke of a recent study on US campuses which revealed that “nearly five per cent of the [college] population identifies as asexual”. This is a huge leap from the 1 per cent regularly quoted from a 1994 study, a study the speaker says pre-dates the term ‘asexuality’ being used by the general public as a descriptor for their sexuality.
Maaple stressed that more awareness needs to be devoted towards asexuals and how they are romantically diverse. For example, aromanticism is defined as not feeling romantic attraction towards anyone of any gender. It is important to note that being aromantic does not mean someone is asexual as well.
Norman stressed this point, saying “There’s an essential difference between sexuality and romanticism. Sexual attraction being very different from romantic attraction.” He added that “sexuality is not some rigid, solid thing”.
Stigma and oppression against asexuality is another issue Maaple are looking to tackle. Norman referred to a study of public opinion towards asexual people, which suggests that people would be more likely to refuse to rent houses to and to employ somebody if they knew they were asexual.
Looking towards the future, Maaple believes that creating LGBTQ+ Spaces open to non-cisgender, non-heterosexual, non-heteromantic people on campus is a step forward in helping us become more understanding and accepting of asexuals.
Norman also believes that friendships are important and need to be reclaimed. He said, “we should recognise that and celebrate that more than we do.”