An asexual person who does not know they are asexual will grow up believing that they must be sexual, feel sexual attraction, and be sexually active. Sexual desire is thought to be as natural and universal as breathing, and a person who does not have it must be abnormal or defective in some way. Asexual people are pressured into being “normal” by the stigma and stereotypes our culture has regarding virgins, celibacy, aromanticism, and several other concepts. An asexual person who does not conform to compulsory sexuality will encounter prejudice, harassment, pathologization and other problems; they are, essentially, being pressured or coerced into acting allosexual.
And much of the time, these messages are so universal, and so unquestioned, that we internalize them: we learn to silence our own objections to sex, and we scold ourselves for being “abnormal.” The discovery of asexuality is a turning point for many of us, and transforms our sexuality from a problem that needs to be fixed into a different yet beautiful thing we can be proud of. To identify as asexual means we no longer apologize for what we are, and that we know we do not need to follow our culture’s expectations about sex. The asexual identity frees us to say “No,” with a confidence that we did not have before.
But what of the asexual people who do not know what they are? What of the asexuals who consent to acts of sex purely because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do? What of the asexual people who have sex because they want to be “normal,” knowing that their friends, family and lovers will reject or look down on them if they are abnormal? They do not have the information about asexuality that they need to make fully informed decisions about their sex lives. They might not have the confidence needed to resist people and social standards that would pressure them into having sex that they do not truly want. They can still consent to sex, and may even enjoy it, but they are not entirely free, and their consent is not freely given.