Friday, February 17, 2012

Asexy Politics: Asexuality and the Law

As part of my ongoing adventures, I just went to give a talk at The Washington University Law School. There's been a wave of interest recently from law schools, asexuality represents unexplored legal territory, and it's a fascinating exercise for lawstudents to hypothesize what that territory might look like.

A couple of examples came up, though interestingly most of them related to romantic orientation more than to asexuality.

1) Discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. You can't fire someone just for being gay (though in many places you CAN fire someone just for being transgendered.) Does this apply to asexual people? In several states asexuality is already listed as a protected sexual orientation, and in the states where it's not that could oblst an argument for inclusion.

2) Things get dicier when you ask whether this extends to romantic orientation. What if someone is being discriminated against for being aromantic or homoromantic? Right now this is a concept that the law doesn't recognize or protect. Say an ace talks about building an intimate community, that wierds out their boss and they get fired. It's unclear how the law would handle that.

3) Speaking of people getting wierded out, it seems
Iike there may be unclear implications for sexual harrassment law. Under what circumstances does an asexual person engaging in nonsexual intimacy (presumably awkwardly) constitute sexual harrassment?

On to relationship law. Legally, the court can't "discover" whether or not two people are having concentual sex. So long as a relationship between two aces looks outwardly like a sexual relationship the two are indistinguishable to the court. This gets complicated when:

4) There's a question of custody or inheritance. If two people aren't married but SEEM LIKE they're knocking boots (and are straight), then the court has a history of considering them to be more weighty in questions of inheritance, child custody, etc. For aces who are just as intimate but who use less romantic language to describe their relationships, this could create some funky legal territory.

5) If you get deeper into nonsexual intimacy, everything goes haywire. Consider two people who are nonsexually intimate and who couldn't become sexually intimate in a way that the court would approve of. Two sisters can't legally be coparents of the same child, but two unrelated not-sexin' best friends can.

6) Of course, things REALLY get scandelous if you're some degenrate who has intimate nonsexual relationships with more than one person. This is verboden, since the court thinks it could pave the way for polygamist cults in Utah to force young women to marry old men. (Um, are we REALLY drawing the right legal line here?) Say that I'm triangulating with a sexual couple and thhe three of us raise a kid together- there's no way for me to legally be a part of that kid's life. The way around this would be to create something that's a cross between a marraige certificate and a binding legal contract, though we're a ways from this sort of contract being recognized by the state in the way that a marraige or civil union is.

Happy to hear any thoughts/corrections from the legal community!!


Anonymous said...

Not every state has anti-discrimination laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation either.

West Virginia has no such laws.

DJ DJ said...

Yes, should have clarified. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in many places, thanks for pointing out!

sidneyia said...

Another thing to consider is the fact that not pleasing one's spouse sexually is grounds for legal divorce in something like 30 states, and I believe is grounds for religious divorce in Judaism as well.

There was also a case (which I can't seem to find...grrrr) of a conservative lawmaker here in the US who proposed outlawing "sexless" marriages in addition to same-sex marriages. (In retrospect, it may even have been a *liberal* lawmaker who was proposing the law as a joke - which is even more disappointing, to think that even some liberals view us as punchlines).

Gaia said...

As sidneyia mentioned - not satisfying your husband sexually is grounds for divorce in Judaism.

What becomes interesting (and horrifying) in Israel, is that the Rabbanut - the Jewish Orthodox organization - is the authority for any marriage to be accepted as legal in Israel.
Ridicules, I know?
Besides the many other problems this creates, it makes the law issues around marriage very complicated for Ace people. We are completely unprotected in front of the law, if we wish to get married.

lache elis said...

I was just wondering. . . is there a way to get involved with the asexual community? Will we be represented at SF pride or anything? Thanks.

Unknown said...

What about cases where an asexual is married to a sexual person who rapes them. They're married, so is it rape?

Also, most of the polygamy cults are in Nevada. :p

(Though, speaking of Utah, there's been a surge in interest in asexuality around here, and I'm giving a presentation to UVU about it soon!)

Jenny said...

Yes, it's absolutely rape. For some time, the law refused to admit that a husband could rape his wife - in part bc of paternalism (wife = property), and also bc it's difficult to prove since most marriages involve regular sexual activity.

But, we now realize that abusive relationships frequently include rape, and I believe the law recognizes this pretty much everywhere in the US now?