Elsa’s absence of a prince to crush on in the first Frozen while her sister Anna juggled not one, but two traditional male suitors caused a number of queer scholars to ask the question of whether it was being subtly implied that Elsa would perhaps prefer a princess from another land to keep her warm on cold nights in Arendelle? The plot of the first movie, where Elsa was forced to hide her powers and conceal her true self, also struck a chord with many members of the queer community who remembered being told by their own families to hide their genuine identities in order to fit in, and how that forced conformity felt similarly stifling to Elsa being forbidden from using her own powerful magic for good.

In the sequel, while Anna and her boyfriend Kristoff flirt during a game of charades, Elsa is bored and preoccupied. A mysterious female voice beckons and tells her there is more for her outside of the traditional provincial family life and the castle walls.

At the end of Frozen 2 (spoiler alert) Kristoff proposes to Anna, whom Elsa designates as the new queen of Arendelle, freeing herself up to ride off on her magic horse to pursue a life of adventure on her own terms.

Her true passions in the film are for her own unique power, her deep love for her sister, and learning about her ancestral history. She is far more excited by her current journey of exploration than finding any one particular person to mate with as the sequel concludes and the credits roll. And, this conclusion launched the buzz around her potential asexuality. But what is asexuality anyway? And, why does it matter if Elsa doesn’t want a prince or a princess to gallop away with her into the icy great unknown?

The Facts About Asexuality

Despite being classified in the DSM-5 as a disorder (more on that in a minute), asexuality is a recognized sexual orientation by sexuality experts. Approximately one percent of the population is asexual, and it is considered an official orientation by sex researchers and asexual activists alike.

Experts tend to emphasize that is it still a relatively rare minority compared with other recognized sexual orientations, while activists point out that one percent of the population is still over three million people in the United States alone who, just like Elsa, have never felt any desire to have sex with another person and should be allowed to live their lives without pressure from the rest of society to do so.

(Though the most recent version of the DSM still classifies asexuality as a disorder, experts who study sexuality and asexuality activists agree that increasing research and evidence continues to show that it is indeed a sexual orientation and not a disorder, and that the DSM will eventually be updated to reflect this new understanding and the cultural shift toward acceptance and normalization that is already occurring. The DSM has certainly been behind the times when it comes to sexuality before, with homosexuality wrongly included as a disorder until 1973, when it rightly became recognized as a sexual orientation.)

Understanding Asexuality

 Asexual activists explain that people treat them as if they are a special category of people who want special treatment, but they are not. They are asking for the same rights as everyone else not to ever have to have sex with anyone who they do not want to. The only difference is that, for them, the answer may be that they never want to have sex with any other person.

The asexual community is very open to members learning, changing, and having new experiences. They’re not the sex police, and not at all focused on forcing anyone to abstain from sex if or when they do decide they want to. It is a community of individuals who do not have a desire to have sex with others, and feel they should not be pressured to or told they have a pathology if they are happy living their lives, just like Elsa gleefully riding off into the horizon by herself on her enchanted horse without a prince or princess in sight.

Asexuality Is:

  • An orientation of people who do not desire to have sex with other people and do not feel sexually attracted to others.
  • It can also be a state of not wanting sex or feeling sexual attraction enough to seek it out with anyone else.

Asexuality Is Not:

  • A vow of celibacy or chastity
  • Any type of behavior
  • A disorder
  • A symptom of trauma
  • A decision
  • “Saving yourself”
  • A statement of purity
  • A moral stance
  • A promise
  • A phase

Grey Areas of Asexuality

One thing researchers have learned about all of us while studying asexuality is that for some people, whether they are sexual or asexual, sex and romance are not necessarily connected. Some asexual people may have romantic feelings or be attracted to other people for nonsexual reasons and may form intimate partnerships that simply do not have sex as a culmination of their feelings for each other (just as some sexual people do not develop romantic feelings for their sexual partners).

Some asexual people, while not enjoying or desiring sexual activity, may have some types of intimate partner contact that they are okay with if the person they love or feel romantic attraction to discusses it with them in advance to determine what types of touch they are okay with versus what kinds of contact are definite nos.

The overall lesson is that intimate partners should always discuss and establish consent for any intimate activity. Consent should never be assumed. No one of any sexual orientation is ever owed sex from any other person at any time, even if they are partners or married to each other.

As with the general public’s incorrect and insensitive focus on whether trans people decide to have gender confirmation surgery, asexual people receive a lot of invasive and offensive questions about whether or not they masturbate. Some asexual people do and describe it as a physical relief akin to scratching an itch or “cleaning out the pipes,” and it does not mean they are not asexual.

What makes someone asexual is that they chose to identify that way and that they do not want to have sex with other people. It does not mean that they cannot physically function sexually, and some asexual people who desire children can have them with partners they may not have sex with otherwise except for the purposes of conception and family building.

A benefit of the increased visibility of the asexual community online is that asexual people can find other asexuals they are compatible with, and many do and form long-term romantic relationships that simply do not have sex as the thing that bonds them together or is considered what makes them intimate partners.

Talking to Children and Teens About Asexuality

For parents, one of the ways to understand how children develop sexually is that it is like any other kind of childhood and adolescent development. You want to be supportive of the child, but also not assume that what they say or feel about something one day is how they will always feel about it.

While other types of identity such as gender consciousness and gay sexual orientation have been shown to be vivid to some children early on in their development, there is no such data on asexuality, which is, by definition, an orientation that people arrive at after they reach sexual maturity.

Childhood and adolescence, on the other hand, are by definition a state of flux, and not a state of maturity, so there is no reason to assume that a child or teen who has expressed little or no interest in sex with other people may not develop one with maturity, which has been shown to vary greatly and not be standardized in relation to chronological age (meaning that one thirteen-year-old could be having strong feelings of crushes and sexual desire while a different sixteen-year old-might not because they have not reached sexual maturity yet).

Women, in particular, may discover and begin to understand their own sexual desire much later. Elsa, at her current age of twenty-one, is still young enough in relation to when many women begin to understand their own sexuality and desire that it is possible that she could still discover her own desire for men or women in a future film, or not.

If your child expresses views that they feel asexual, it makes sense to have a similar conversation you would have with any child or adolescent about sex that emphasizes that they should never feel any pressure to do anything sexual that they do not want to, because sex should always be a choice—whether they are gay, straight, bi, or asexual.

It’s important to be respectful and open minded about it while also being open to continuing the conversation and letting them continue to grow and change as they mature and new experiences or feelings may or may not emerge. All children should be reminded that they are inherently lovable and will be loved, no matter what they come to learn about their sexual or asexual selves.

It’s Up to Elsa

 In a recent video from the red carpet before the premiere of Frozen 2, a reporter asked the actors who play the animated leads in the movie whether or not Elsa would ever “get a girlfriend.” They all answered with some version of, “That’s up to Elsa,” and “If that’s what she wants.”

Though these replies may seem like the artful dodging of highly paid celebrities who have been forbidden to reveal any future film plots, they are also correct in terms of how it is appropriate to discuss asexuality, queerness, and sexuality with children and adolescents. Whether Elsa ends up being asexual or does discover desire for a partner of any gender in the future, it’s up to Elsa, and not for anyone else–parents, friends, or even fans–to tell her otherwise.

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Last Updated: Dec 23, 2019