I don’t understand why some sexual people have a problem with being called sexual. I really don’t. And it’s not all of them that take offense to it either. Asexuals don’t use the word as a way to insult or demean people who experience sexual attraction; we use it because what the hell else are we…
1. It’s anti-queer and anti-trans. Because as people living under a cis-supremacist, heterocentric patriarchy, any of us whose sexual orientations are seen as deviating from the norm are ALSO seen as then being defined solely by those sexual orientations, which are then used to mark us as “perverts”, etc, due to our assumed “hypersexuality”. See also: the anti-queer rhetoric that queers are all sex fiends who spread AIDS; transphobic rhetoric about the “danger” of trans* folks using the bathrooms that are appropriate for them. Calling all queer AND straight folks who have sex “sexuals” manages to simultaneously render invisible AND reinforce that history (by erasing our actual orientations, while reducing our marginalized identities to a label that defines us only in terms of pure sex, which is exactly how homophobes have talked about queerness for, oh, the entire course of history).
slut-shaming (edit: since I wrote this I’ve changed my views somewhat and I don’t really like the phrase “slut shaming” anymore - I think calling it misogyny is more useful and also doesn’t apply a pejorative label to people who may or may not be comfortable with that label) and rape culture. I know this is a heavy charge. But it’s true. Calling people “sexuals” reduces them to an assumed willingness to have sex. Rape culture is all about doing exactly that. Like, if I had a nickel for every time I’d heard someone explain that a rape survivor couldn’t have been raped because they were “sexual” before and/or after their rape, I wouldn’t need student loans. Under rape culture, men can’t be raped because they “always want it”; women can’t be raped because they SECRETLY “always want it”. Simply expressing any sexual desire at all means you “always want it”; rape is never seen as serious because we are defined as always being “sexual”, regardless of the fact that having sexual desire doesn’t mean you always feel sexual/want sex all the time (And that’s not even getting INTO how rape culture and capitalism contribute to this by sexualizing women’s bodies, and bodies that are coded as women’s bodies, against our will). Which brings me to:
3. It’s inaccurate. Sexuality - just like asexuality - is not a monolith. There are asexual folks who have sex; similarly, there are also people who don’t identify as asexual, and who experience sexual desire, who don’t have sex and don’t always feel sexual. Calling us all “sexuals” is not only dehumanizing, slut shaming, rape apologizing, anti-queer rhetoric, it’s not even actually reflective of the reality of many of our situations. I have sexual desire, but I’m not sexual all the time. Go figure! Sexual desire is not necessarily a constant; it’s often fluid and changing. I mean, ultimately this point is less of a concern for me that the first two points, because inaccuracy in and of itself does not encourage violence, the way rape culture, slut shaming, homophobia and transphobia do; but when you combine this particular inaccuracy with the rape culture-spewing, slut shaming, homophobic and transphobic society we live in, well, you get a big, red, flashing “DANGER WARNING” from me.
4. It’s disempowering and disrespectful. When it comes to queer identities like homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc, self-determination is important. We come to these labels often through great personal struggle; through experiencing violence, through losing family members, through internalized hatred and fear. When we claim these labels publicly, we do so at great personal risk. In short, you should respect other peoples’ identities. Calling us all “sexuals” erases the sexual identities we have struggled so hard to own, and that is a shitty thing to do, regardless of why you’re doing it.
In short, I don’t CARE if it takes longer for you to type out peoples’ actual sexual orientations instead of just lumping us all together into the humiliating, hurtful, dangerous category of “sexuals”. You should do that, not because we’re all a bunch of nitpicky, “whiny” jerks who just want to feel special, but because to call us all “sexuals” is to perpetuate dangerously violent rhetoric, while actively disrespecting peoples’ identities. (Like, being called “sexuals” is actually starting to verge on triggering for me, which is a big part of why I haven’t been engaging in this debate very much up until now.) That is some straight-up damaging “no your intent really doesn’t matter here” shit.
(I’m probably missing things; I didn’t touch on the subject of asexual folks who also identify as bisexual, pansexual, etc, mostly because I feel pretty ignorant on the subject and didn’t want to disrespect anyone’s identity. So, I’m sorry if that made anyone feel erased. I’d love to read a response to this from someone who identifies that way.)