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Acephobia and anti-asexual hate crime

Asexual and aromantic people can face prejudice and hate crime, which service providers and criminal justice agencies have a duty to tackle. The information below aims to assist services to better understand and serve the needs of ace people who experience hate crime.

Prevalence of acephobia

Whilst social awareness is growing, asexuality and aromanticism are still not widely recognised, and prejudice against asexual and aromantic people remains largely unexamined.

The little (but growing!) research that there is in this area has uncovered strong bias against ace people. Relative to cisgender and heterosexual people, and even to cisgender lesbian, gay and bisexual people, asexual people were found to be the target of more prejudice, avoidance and discrimination.

Of all the sexual minorities studied, ace people were the most dehumanised, viewed as “machine-like”- cold and emotionless. This demonstrates the need to address anti-asexual bias and that ace people are at risk of experiencing violence, abuse and discrimination.

Recognising anti-asexual prejudice

Acephobia is a prejudicial attitude toward asexual and aromantic people based on negative stereotypes. It can include believing that ace people:

  • are less than human or against human nature
  • are deficient or broken; that it is a result of mental illness or sexual abuse
  • have just not met the “right” person
  • are confused or ‘going through a phase’
  • cannot experience love and have relationships
  • are just “prudes”; that asexuality is a choice rather than an orientation
  • don’t face oppression and are damaging the LGBT+ cause.

What is anti-asexual hate crime?

Any offence should be treated as an anti-asexual hate crime if the person who experienced it or anyone else feels it was an expression of acephobia.

Anti-asexual hate crime can include verbal abuse and violence from neighbours or strangers, in person or online. Because people’s ace identity is not always visible to strangers, anti-asexual abuse can often be concentrated in settings where the targeted person and perpetrator know each other. That can include verbal abuse or unwanted sexual touching from acquaintances and anti-asexual domestic abuse from family or partners. This also includes actual and threats of so-called “corrective” rape, to “fix” the person’s orientation.

These crimes can be less often recognized in mainstream services, but it is equally important to record and address them in a manner that addresses their motivation of hostility.

To qualify to be recorded as a hate incident, a report needn’t include anti-asexual language. It is enough for a reporting person to perceive that it was motivated by acephobia. Police guidance states that any crime or non-criminal incident should be recorded as motivated by sexual orientation hatred if the person reporting it feels it was motivated that way. Courts will need evidence to record a hate crime.

Tackle anti-asexual prejudice within LGBT+ communities

Asexuality is a part of sexual diversity, and aromanticism is a valid romantic orientation. Therefore they belong within the LGBT+ community.

However, ace people can face prejudice from within our community, such as being refused entry to LGBT+ spaces or inappropriate treatment by LGBT+ services. Some LGBT+ people argue that asexuality shouldn’t be included under the LGBT+ umbrella. Similar reasoning was employed to object to bisexual and trans inclusion in lesbian and gay movements historically – and still results in failings in full inclusion and support of these groups today.

LGBT+ people working as service providers can also sometimes oppose asexual inclusion. It is important for LGBT+ services to raise awareness of ace identities and acephobia, and work towards welcoming all sexual and romantic minorities to their service.

Demonstrate that you take acephobia seriously by speaking out against it.

Ace people also face homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, etc.

Sexual orientation is distinct from romantic orientation; asexual people may have heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic or aromantic attractions and so may face homophobia or biphobia

Asexual and aromantic people may also be trans, non-binary or have a non-conforming gender presentation, so may face transphobia.

Therefore acepeople may face anti-LGBT hate in addition to acephobia, and often these prejudices are linked. Determining how it should be recorded should be done together with the service user.

Additionally, many people face hostility rooted in multiple types of hatred, for instance both acephobic and racist. They are entitled to ask police and other safety services to record it under several hate incident categories. Ask open questions about motivation, support service users in determining their own account of events, and bear in mind that a crime or incident may have more than one hate motivation.

The CATCH Partnership can help you ensure you get appropriate support after an incident that targeted several of your identities.

Make a positive impact and recognise the gap

Service are increasingly familiar with hate crime against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, but ace people have their own distinct needs, which can be overlooked or underplayed. Build your knowledge, policies and systems to address this important issue.

Many ace people feel pressured to pass as allosexual or alloromantic when talking to services, which can prevent people from disclosing important information about incidents. Make efforts to enable service users to be themselves in your service, and feel safe disclosing issues related to their identity.

For every acephobic incident or crime someone tells you about there will be many more unreported. Help people feel that telling you was worthwhile. An important way of doing that is by referral to ace and LGBT+ support, advice, advocacy and social groups, such as the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Enable people to consider a range of options including help from police, discrimination law, restorative justice, emotional support, or assistance complaining about acephobic attitudes from a provider of goods or services.