A serious discussion on repression.

For discussion of general issues pertaining to asexuality.
Roy
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A serious discussion on repression.

Postby Roy » Fri May 04, 2012 1:02 am

We all know that one of the classic snap-diagnoses of people upon hearing that we are not interested in sex is "You must be repressed" or "You must be a homosexual in denial".

Personally, I often reject this instantly because it's such a cheap, go-to diagnosis that someone clearly didn't put any thought into before saying. But recently I've been forced to re-evaluate the possibility of repression, and my stance on it. Note that I'm not trying to slap every asexual into realizing they might be repressed, I'm examining the phenomenon mostly in myself, and since asexuals are the only people who are experienced in these kinds of topics in such depth, it's in my best interests to investigate this alongside other introspective and inquisitively-inclined asexuals (basically I have nowhere else to go).

Before going any further, I feel it's important to point out that the natural reaction for anyone in this position is to reject the notion completely. It's natural to let pride or fear get in the way of clear judgement, especially when it concerns such a deep aspect of ourselves, but if any level of peace is to be found then these emotions cannot be allowed to interfere with proper reasoning here. Humans are emotional creatures first, intellectual creatures second, and wise beings last. But we also have the ability to put aside our emotions when we choose, to use our intellect justly when it's needed, and to let the clarity of wisdom shine through when we're truly balanced. In other words, when I say "serious discussion" I mean "serious discussion". Let's consider it objectively, no matter how sure of ourselves we are, no matter how prideful, no matter how much we have already invested in our asexual label. This is a serious matter and deserves some serious thought.

So firstly; how does repression work? This isn't a rhetorical, I genuinely have no clue, and through lack of trying. If I knew then I wouldn't be making this topic, but reliable sources on repression are mired in pseudo-psychological, plagiarized, theoretical bullshit. But the point is that we know it exists. And we also know that people who are repressed often aren't aware of it, yet display very defensive and irrational behaviour towards the possibility of repression (and around their given repressed trait). So we have a phenomenon that:

  • We know almost nothing about how it works or how it's caused*
  • We can't predict it, but there are various repetitive patterns (i.e. it's common around strong drives such as anger, sexuality, etc.)
  • It's very difficult/next to impossible to observe it in ourselves
  • Most importantly, it can happen without us ever knowing or even suspecting

*I'm of the opinion that modern psychology is not very advanced compared to the big picture, so for me to simply observe the effect of something does not give a clear picture on how it works (theories do not satisfy me, I want facts). I'd compare it to trying to view the Louvre at night through a keyhole, because no matter how powerful your torch is, you're still looking through a tiny hole from a fixed perspective.

So, in light of those factors, is it possible (some) asexuals are really just repressed? I would say; Yes, without a doubt. And I've spoken to ex-asexuals who do indeed admit to previously being repressed, although we didn't speak in great depth so I won't offer that as any meaningful evidence. If anyone does know any examples of asexuals who realised they were repressed, I'd be more than interested to hear about it, please.

Asexuality has always been a puzzle; why, if every other animal feels the uncontrollable urge to have sex, do we not? It's hard-written into our very nature, we're supposed to not only enjoy sex wildly, but actively seek it at every available opportunity. But we do neither. Instead, we're either disinterested or disgusted. At best we have a child-like or intellectual curiosity. It doesn't really make sense. Now, I'm not knowledgeable enough on animals to know if asexuality exists in animals, but could asexuality be related to the advanced intellectual capacities of humans? Personally, I've noticed a high degree of mental advancement among the asexual community that I have found nowhere else. Especially not with such a seemingly unrelated attribute. The level of intellectual activity, open-mindedness, empathy, introspection, logic, friendliness, philosophical interest, individuality, sensible spiritual/religious pursuit, artistic ability and expression, drive for self-improvement, maturity, etc. I've observed in the asexual community (AVEN, here, others) is something I have never, ever seen before except in cases where people unite specifically to embody and encourage those qualities. I'm not at all trying to say that asexuals are all wonderful and perfect or anything, I'm just pointing out a very glaring trait that such a random community shouldn't logically be expressing or cultivating in such excess. There's also the factors that there's a drastically higher rate of autism in the asexual community, higher rate of past trauma and abuse, mind-blowingly high rates of gender confusion, and an explosive interest in cats. So the point here is; is repression more likely in people that have these attributes? (again, not rhetorical, I really don't know)

And then there's the huge kicker that most asexuals have what I'm calling "residual sexual qualities". I'm talking about the romanticism, the physical attraction, the urge to masturbate, the crushes, the need for intimate physical contact (hugs), the dependency on "that special someone", and anything else I'm missing. Why are we capable of these things, which everyone else links to sexual behaviour, yet not capable of desiring sex? Could these qualities be our repressed sexuality expressing itself?

Thorts?

Astrid
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby Astrid » Fri May 04, 2012 4:23 am

I'd never deny the possibility (probability?) that some asexuals are in fact repressed sexuals. The same goes for some heterosexuals that I suppose could be repressed homosexuals/asexuals/you-name-it.
However, as far as I am concerned, evidence suggests that asexuality does occur in animals (http://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.ph ... ty#_note-0 - I apologise that I wasn't capable of finding anything more specific...) And maybe I underestimate animals, but I wouldn't expect a sheep to repress its sexuality.

I have myself considered whether the development of the human mind has had some influence of our capability to set sexuality aside. However, I doubt it, especially if asexuality really do occur at seemingly high rates in some other animal species. On the contrary, I could imagine that some people would want to distance themselves from this highly sexualised society, but as far as I see it, that wouldn't make these individuals asexuals, as I believe that sexual attraction isn't something you can just decide whether you want to experience or not.

I guess that from a biological perspective, some might argue that asexuality (as well as homosexuality) could be nature's way to control over-population. (I unfortunately have nothing to support this statement.) How nature is to decide which individuals are to turn out sexually deviant, I can't explain.

Whether repression is more likely in people with the various attributes you mention... I think that is very hard to judge based on asexual communities. Certain people might be the ones seeking communities, web fora, etc. I could imagine some of the attributes as open-mindedness, empathy, friendliness, maturity could be a result of the asexual individual feeling deviant, hence the responsibility of embracing other "deviant" groups arises.

I apologise the messy way my thoughts responded to your post.

mindlife
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby mindlife » Fri May 04, 2012 7:11 pm

If I were, in fact, a repressed sexual, my thoughts would be running toward sexuality and active sex all the time. My imagination, I think, or I would imagine(that's a joke) would be cluttered with sexual imagery.
The non-sexual interactions I have with people are intense and just full. Full of emotion, thought, impressions, and none of them sexual.
I am very romantic, and I do have romantic thoughts about people, but sexual situations don't enter into these thoughts.
THE Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none. N. Hawthorne

Roy
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby Roy » Sat May 05, 2012 1:50 pm

mindlife wrote:If I were, in fact, a repressed sexual, my thoughts would be running toward sexuality and active sex all the time.

Why? That wouldn't mean you're repressed, that would mean there's a part of yourself that you're denying and trying to suppress or ignore. Your example hangs on the assumption that you'd be fully conscious of your sexual nature, in which case it's not really repression. Repression, at least the type I'm referring to, is both powerful and subtle (subtle from the perspective of the repressed individual at least). It's deeper than just denial, it's total ignorance of huge chunks of your personal psychology, in some cases even blocking or re-writing your memory. That's not just something you can ponder for 2 seconds then decide "Nope, definitely not repressed" (this is pretty much what I was doing when considering repression in the past). The sheer complexity and influence of repression is why it's an issue for me, and for asexuals in general. It's something quite serious and difficult to face.

mindlife wrote:The non-sexual interactions I have with people are intense and just full. Full of emotion, thought, impressions, and none of them sexual.
I am very romantic, and I do have romantic thoughts about people, but sexual situations don't enter into these thoughts.

Same here, but this doesn't discount repression. If anything it can reinforce it, but that's down to individual circumstances. So I can't speak for your situation, but for me, I find that my personal relationships are teeming with subtle indications that make me question what is really going on under the surface. At least enough for me to take it seriously when someone knowledgeable and intelligent mentioned to me the possibility of repression.

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KAGU143
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby KAGU143 » Sun May 06, 2012 12:37 pm

This is an awesome topic! Thanks for starting it, Roy!

I would say that it's highly likely that a substantial percentage of asexuals are repressed to some extent because, as you noted, a repressed individual is not aware of being repressed.

I think that the image of asexuality which DJ is trying to portray via AVEN is not entirely accurate, at least for the majority, but I would not call it entirely wrong either.
I have observed that a very large number of asexuals are, in reality, asexual plus "X", with the "X" being some other factor, like gender confusion, autism, schizophrenia, poor self-image, a sexual fetish, a history of abuse, genuine hormonal issues, fear of intimacy, and probably other issues as well, certainly including sexual repression.

In nearly all of these, the cause and effect ratio is impossible to determine and, ultimately, I don't think that it should matter.

It seems that there is an ongoing attempt to deny the connection between asexuality and the other factors that often accompany it - perhaps because it is feared that an honest acceptance of those factors would somehow negate asexuality's validity as a bona-fide sexual orientation?
I don't know if that's the reason, but I don't think that total honesty about the various conditions that are associated with asexuality would cause very much damage to its validity, if they caused any at all.

Regardless of the cause, even if one can be determined, an asexual is still an asexual. Period. So what if it is caused by their also being an Aspie? There is no known cure for Asperger's syndrome, just as there is no known (or reliable) cure for most of the other issues I listed.
I believe that it is a waste of time to focus on the cause of a benign condition unless the person is truly miserable and wants to do everything possible to try to change it. Most asexuals seem to be fairly content with their lack of sexual attraction to others; it is only the resulting social or relationship problems that cause them distress and the ever-increasing awareness of asexuality is gradually helping in that regard.

So ... in response to your original topic, I think it is not only possible but highly likely that some asexuals are sexually repressed on a subconscious level.

However, if they are content with being asexual and don't wish to try to fix something which, from their perspective, is not the least bit broken, I don't see that it makes any difference. They are not faking being asexual.

If asexuality could be considered a destination, I would propose that it can be reached via a lot of different roads.
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

mindlife
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby mindlife » Tue May 08, 2012 7:02 am

I first learned about repression in Freudian terms. That is, repression is a mechanism by which people defend the integrity of their personality. The idea that most mental processes are unconscious is a Freudian assertion also, but I just can't conceive of defense mechanisms as being unconscious.
On which side are we to fall?
Shall we favor the equilibrium that is the fruit of the use of these defense mechanisms, or shall we say that we worship truth above all things and spend our lives in hypnosis treatment (or whatever flavor has been chosen for the day)?.
As an asexual, I feel an equilibrium, a stasis I do not wish to undermine.
And as for asexuality being a destination-- well one might say it was a destination since the term was only coined about twelve or fourteen years ago.
Still, there was an asexual there in me, in my behavior and in my avoidance of sexual situations and contact, before the term was coined. And this was reality since my early teens.
It was a perspective on myself, intimacy, relationships and space.
It has not changed in all these years.
THE Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none. N. Hawthorne

mindlife
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby mindlife » Tue May 08, 2012 7:04 am

There is a certain repressive dynamic in it, but asexuality itself is not repression.
THE Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none. N. Hawthorne

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FalconEagle
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby FalconEagle » Fri May 11, 2012 11:10 am

Luckily I've never heard those arguments used. I'd imagine that I'd reject the ''You're repressed'' argument on the basis that it's being used by someone with no existing knowledge on the subject.

Of course, there will always be repressed [insert sexuality], asexuals aren't exempt from this. I can't really say how repression works, as it differs greatly for everyone. Each case it unique, So there's no overall, pinpointed definition for this. As for asexuality in other animals, this is known to exist. I can't find a citation for this that isn't an AVEN thread.

But I've argued for a long time that, as long as you fit into the definition of asexuality, then you're asexual. That can always subject to change.

I can't really say much more on this subject, since I have no knowledge or experience with it. It'd be kind of hypocritical for me to say more.


I guess that from a biological perspective, some might argue that asexuality (as well as homosexuality) could be nature's way to control over-population. (I unfortunately have nothing to support this statement.) How nature is to decide which individuals are to turn out sexually deviant, I can't explain.

That would suggest that nature has a thought process....The chances are that there's no overall explanation.

ASIC

Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby ASIC » Tue May 15, 2012 3:59 pm

Roy wrote:The level of intellectual activity, open-mindedness, empathy, introspection, logic, friendliness, philosophical interest, individuality, sensible spiritual/religious pursuit, artistic ability and expression, drive for self-improvement, maturity, etc. I've observed in the asexual community (AVEN, here, others) is something I have never, ever seen before except in cases where people unite specifically to embody and encourage those qualities. I'm not at all trying to say that asexuals are all wonderful and perfect or anything, I'm just pointing out a very glaring trait that such a random community shouldn't logically be expressing or cultivating in such excess.
Thorts?


One quick thought - what immediately springs to mind is the probability (?possibility) that what you are seeing there is the result of the spare capacity not being burned off in frantic sexual pursuit...

Another strong possibility is that any community, online or otherwise, is inherently self-selecting from among those with the interest or capacity to seek out such a community - people who don't find the company congenial will surely make fewer contributions and/or never seek to join in the first place.

(Though I have to say that while I'm not familiar with AVEN, what I've heard about it here hasn't presented the impression of an especially open-minded, friendly, philosophical, spiritual, artistic etc. enclave... sour grapes? And I've certainly seen as many flamewars here as in other - non-asexual - communities with which I'm familiar.)

What was I saying...?

I do think that when you exclude sexual activity you rechannel all that dedication elsewhere, both in terms of the sheer time freed up and in terms of emotional capacity and levels of energy. Hence the deliberate dedication to celibacy in various fields (even if it's only 'sleeping alone the night before the big match'). On the other hand, sexual pursuit also generates the most enormous outpouring of creative material - I'm not sure what proportion of masterpieces have resulted from consummated as opposed to unconsummated love, mind you, I have a suspicion that happily fulfilled lovers are too much tied up in each other to create Great Works.

None of which has anything to do with repression, but is general meandering in response.

Kellam
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby Kellam » Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:28 pm

I'm new here and new to this whole way of thinking about sexuallity but as soon as I found the deffinition I definitely experienced the lifting of a cloud of denile, or repression in myself. I had been an avowed hetero my entire adult life until earlier today. I was a repressed asexual. I was denying even the possibillity that asexuallity could be anything other than cellibacy, than the denile of urges for some purpose. I had never considered how the definitions fit my own experiences.

I know a bit about what the veil of repression looks and feels like. I'd experienced it before when I became aware of a set of addictive tendancies in my behavior. When I came here and wrote my first post, the catharsis that followed was nearly identicle, minus a sense of tragedy, to the first time I spoke about alcoholism in public. I was relieved when I posted here.

And if you want to talk about the symptoms of sexual repression just look at your average homophobe and then compare their level of rehtoric to that of a "Gay Converter" or someone from Westboro Baptist. The more hate, the more repressed the individual is likely to be. And sometimes the opposite is true, think of the closeted gay man who becomes a womanizer to mask his true desire. I think sexual energy must work the blood up to a boil when you restrain it. I have never boiled. There are two main reasons I don't think asexual's could be repressing sexuallity masked by a lack of interest. One, I was repressing my lack of interest by adopting hetero-norms. Two, how would a closeted asexual express that rage? Is there anyone to yell at. "You damn people, all . . . not having sex! Ooh it makes me mad!" Doesn't work!

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Barnacle
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Re: A serious discussion on repression.

Postby Barnacle » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:12 pm

I don't have much to bring to the table on this discussion (other than agreeing on the general lack of resources on sexual repression) other than to reveal that yes, asexuality exists in animals.

That is, there are perfectly healthy mammals (who have had their hormones checked by scientists :clap: ) who for seemingly no reason, do not mate. I believe it was observed in rams, and rats. I can't find the studies now (not even sure my school is still subscribed to that database) but I did find the rodent one quoted in an article on asexuality from the New Scientist:

The limited research on asexual mammals suggests that asexual behaviour is actually not that rare. For example, studies in rats and gerbils done as early as the 1980s have demonstrated that up to 12 per cent of the males in the population are not interested in females. Named "duds," these animals are described as asexual in the literature.