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!!