Why does representation matter?

Why does representation matter?

Representation is important for two distinct reasons: it spreads awareness of asexuality and it gives asexuals the opportunity to see people like themselves. Spreading awareness is good for society and they way asexuals are treated, whereas the second aspect is often a much more personal experience for each person.

Awareness matters because one of the primary issues that faces asexuals today is the cultural assumption that they don’t exist. Not only does this allow aphobic stereotypes and attitudes to stick around, it also makes being asexual an isolating and confusing experience. It contributes to asexuals internalising toxic messages about themselves and makes it significantly harder for them to even know what their orientation is in the first place. Representation is a strong antidote to a lack of awareness because it shows that being asexual just another normal way that people can be different from each other.

As for the more personal side of things, it can be difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it first-hand, but there’s nothing quite like seeing yourself in another person for the first time. Having another person articulate your own feelings – perhaps feelings you didn’t even know you had – creates the conditions for clarity, self-acceptance, and a feeling of normality. For people whose experience cuts them off from others, this is a powerful, important, and often transformational process to go through.

An asexual might ask themselves, "Why can’t I see the spark other people do?", "Why is everyone so different from me?", "Why can’t I just be normal?", but representation has the power to cut through that unhealthy mindset. It can give a person something to point at and say: "That’s me. There are people out there who know how I feel. I’m not alone." Good representation works because it can’t be faked: when you see it you can tell the writer really understands what the world looks like through your eyes.

The sad reality is that this kind of representation is very rare or non-existent for asexuality. Surveys of asexual typically find that even though asexuals place very high importance on representation, few can think of (many) examples.