Why words like allosexual and consexual are needed in asexual-spectrum discourse
I’ve been mulling over demisexualitymyths’ recent post about terminology for people who experience sexual attraction for a few days, and I am going to have to object to some of their arguments in that post about using words like allosexual and consexual.
This is what demisexualitymyths wrote in the post (full post linked above):
I also find “allosexual” problematic, because it is not a sexual orientation, yet it is being used as the opposite of one. Furthermore, while I defend the right for people to use whatever labels they want to describe themselves, I do not defend the right of one group of people to label another. “Allosexual” isn’t a label people have accepted for themselves, and it erases the differences between the LGBTQ community and heterosexual people. Plus, there is a certain arrogance in needing a particular word to say “everyone who is not us”. I know I’ve used the term once myself, but I have thought about it very critically, edited that post, and I will be using language like “not asexual” or “not on the ace spectrum” to describe people who aren’t asexual.
It is true that “allosexual” is not a label that people who experience sexual attraction chose for themselves–unless if sexologists using it in their research for decades counts–but neither are many words used by various minority groups to describe majority groups. “Cisgender” is not a word that cis people chose for themselves, but it is necessary in the trans community to be able to talk about the majority of people who are not trans, in order to fully articulate what makes trans experiences different from the majority of people’s experiences with gender.
In response to the idea that words like “allosexual” and “consexual” erase the differences between LGB+ allosexual people and heterosexual people, the same argument has been made about the word “cisgender.” Radfems (specifically TERFs) have been arguing for a while that describing people as “cis” lumps cis women in with cis men and thus lumps groups together that have a big power differential between them. I take the position that adding “cis” as a descriptor to cis people does group them together, but it does not argue that there is no power differential between cis men and cis women. I take the same position about allosexual and consexual as terms: it is true that allosexual people represent an extremely broad range of power differentials among them, but describing them as allosexual does not deny that. Just like how the phrase “white people” doesn’t argue there isn’t a power differential between white men and white women (or between white heterosexuals and white LGB+ people), how the phrase “straight people” doesn’t argue that there isn’t a power differential between straight men and straight women (or between straight white people and straight POC). The argument that a phrase by itself that describes an extremely broad group erases the differences of members among that group just does not follow.
In response to the argument that needing a word for “everyone who is not us” is arrogant, having a word to describe a previously unnamed majority avoids the pitfall of people regarding the majority experience as the “normal” experience and thinking that “there is normal sexuality and there is asexual-spectrum sexuality” or “there are normal gender experiences and there are trans gender experiences.” Having a word to describe the majority group’s experiences of the thing in question is important because otherwise, the minority group is marked as deviant. Saying “Asexual-spectrum people vs. the rest of the world” or “Trans people vs. the rest of the world” specifically marks the minority groups in question as deviant, or choosing to deviate from “the rest of the world.” If anything, it’s the unnamed-majority being termed “the rest of the world” that reinforces the idea of a lack of diversity among the groups that comprise “the rest of the world.”