So, I stumbled across one of those really depressing facts about human nature. Although we like to set ourselves somewhere above other animals because of our ability to reason, we’re much more driven by our genetic programming than we ever want to imagine.
Last night, someone shared a link to an article about prejudice against asexuals (referred to as “Group X” because people who are not sexually attracted to anyone are simply categorised as “X” on the Kinsey Scale).
I’m not sure that I found the article, and the results of the study it referenced, shocking, or even surprising, but I did find it upsetting.
Think about it for a moment.
What is it about asexual people that inspires prejudice and discrimination? We’re not going to steal your partner. We’re not sexually promiscuous. We don’t go around molesting kids. All we do is … well, generally avoid sexual relationships. So, when there’s discrimination, it’s based on something we don’t do rather than something we do actually do, which is kind of odd, if you think about it. Are people afraid we’re going to eat all the cake? (There’s an asexual in-joke there, based on the old question: “What’s better than sex?” Cake, of course.)
I won’t go into detail of how the study was actually performed – you can read the article for yourself here – but a few things that surprised me were:
- Asexuals were considered even less favourably than other ‘different’ sexual orientations, such as homosexuals and bisexuals.
- People taking part in the study wanted less contact with asexuals.
- People were less likely to rent property to, or to employ, an asexual.
Measures were taken to eliminate possible bias against single people, so these attitudes were not based on the assumption that all asexuals must be single.
Reading that, I have to ask: What have we done? What is it about us that offends people so much?
Then it occurred to me. We’re different; that’s all it is.
Look at other animal species in their natural environment. (Yes, I know that’s getting quite difficult now.) Often, the weak, the old, the sick, the different, are driven out of social groups, and it makes sense from the point of view of survival. Every member of the group needs to contribute. Trying to protect and care for those who aren’t able to contribute is a drain on the group’s resources, and is a threat to the survival of all members. Cutting them out is the only thing that will work from an evolutionary perspective.
And in spite of the complex societies humans have created, we are still, at our core, simply animals. We have evolved over millions of years to behave in ways that are best suited for survival – and that means cutting out the ones who are different.
We are a conflicted species because, on the one hand, we have created societies that try to support everyone, regardless of individual needs and ability to contribute. On the other, we are animals, ruled by the same instincts that enabled our ancient ancestors to survive in a far more harsh and cruel environment. Social conditioning tells us to do one thing, our instincts tell us to do another.
And ultimately, those millions of years or evolution seem to win out over a couple of hundred years of modern civilisation.
Asexuals are not a threat to anyone’s survival – we contribute, and we’re less likely to produce offspring to compete for limited resources – but it’s our difference that people see, and that seems to be all that matters.