Ace Week with Yasmin Benoit

Ace Week with Yasmin Benoit

Ace Awareness Week

Yasmin wears:

Lacie bodysuit

Kestosque suspender

Grape stockings


In light of Ace Week (Oct 24 - 30th), we collaborated with model, activist, creator of the #Thisiswhatasexuallookslike hashtag, writer and proud asexual Yasmin Benoit on a shoot that celebrates asexuality, and the empowering experience of wearing lingerie for yourself.

The shoot incorporates the asexual flag (grey and purple) and shows what asexual looks like - not what we typically see represented on television which generally features white, dowdy, and unrelatable characters. We spoke to Yasmin about asexuality, lingerie, and self-empowerment.

Yasmin wears:

What is a common misconception about asexuality that you wish to debunk? 

A common misconception that I try to challenge when incorporating activism into my modelling is this pervasive idea that there's an asexual way to look or dress. It's a message I've received ever since I started being more open about my asexuality - people would say that I 'didn't look asexual.' Because I was a young Black girl, because people thought I looked nice, because I put some effort into my appearance.

There's this belief that if you're not sexually attracted to anyone, then it's either because you're sexually unattractive and no one would want you, or you should make yourself sexually unattractive, as not to attract any kind of attention. It can be quite a dangerous mentality, because it means that asexual people looking attractive is somehow extra provocative and trigger more aggression in others. This strange, frumpy asexual stereotype can make asexual people feel like they can't experiment with fashion and express themselves through it the same way as everyone else can. I don't think your sexual orientation needs to determine the way you dress. 

 Yasmin wears:

What is the significance of having an asexual lingerie model?

Lingerie is associated with sexuality, it's seen as being a sex-positive thing and it's associated with embracing your sexuality. It's also associated with feeling sexy for other people. I think having an openly asexual model who loves lingerie, but not for sexual reasons, shows the many ways that you can appreciate these kinds of designs. It also includes asexuality within a sex-positive space, which I think is really important, as we're often left out of those because of the assumption that we have no sexuality, no sexual interests, or that we're inherently anti-sex. 

It's also really significant for me personally, because queer people - particularly queer racial minorities - are taught to dim parts of ourselves to stay palatable, employable and avoid stigma in our respective industry. Being openly asexual isn't necessarily going to please everyone or make them want to work with you, it can have the opposite effect. To have the chance to to blend the theme of the asexual flag into the photo shoot for a well-established lingerie brand is amazing. I haven't seen a lingerie brand ever do that before, so it's great to be part of a historical moment. I hope it makes other asexual people feel seen and empowered.

Yasmin wears:

How does lingerie help you express yourself?

I've always had quite an unusual style, I don't like limiting myself to anything. Growing up interested in alternative and gothic subculture, I always saw things like corsets, stockings, big boots and things like that as being integral parts of a cool outfit. I also used to be really into video games and professional wrestling, where the women were always wearing something very akin to lingerie and kicking ass doing it. I guess it made me associate those looks with being powerful, and it was something I wanted to incorporate into my own style. So when I wear it, I feel like I'm channelling that energy. Lingerie is the closest thing you can get to a straight-up superhero outfit without going full Comic-Con. Unfortunately, you can't walk around every day in lingerie but photo shoots give me the opportunity to experiment with it and feel like I'm capable of back-flip-karate-kicking a giant man out of an arena.


What advice would you give to someone who identifies as asexual and is yet to “come out”?

Other people's reactions to you aren't a reflection of you, it's a reflection of what they don't know. There's a chance that people will completely get it and accept it right away, and there's a chance that they won't do that, but the latter doesn't mean that it's hopeless. It takes some people a while to understand. I also recommend that asexual people yet to come out prepare themselves for doing it often, as it isn't the kind of thing you just have to do once. It can be helpful to have some resources you relate to on hand, as people sometimes understand and accept asexuality more when they can see that it's a genuine sexual orientation that other people experience, not just a random word you heard on Tumblr one time. Finally, it's important to know that coming out isn't essential. You don't have to share the intricacies of your sexuality with anyone, not everyone is entitled to that information. If you don't want to use a label or tell people about it, or if you just want to keep it on a need-to-know basis, that's your right too.


How do you wish asexual people were more included in events such as Pride?

For me, it isn't just about including ace flags in the corporate side of Pride, it's expanding our idea of what Pride is and how the asexual experience relates to it. Asexual people have always been part of Pride, we might not have experienced the same systemic oppression as other identities, but we have the similar experience of having a pathologised, stigmatised identity which has lead to us being taught that there's something inherently wrong with us. It's something we have to unlearn and Pride is all about embracing the parts of your sexuality that our society has taught us to be ashamed of. I wish that we could expand our understand of queerness outside of who wants to have sex with who and how. That way, there would be less debate about asexual inclusion and it'd happen organically, and people would put the same effort into representing the asexual community as all the others. Personally, I'd love to be able to do what I did in 2019 when I opened the first asexual bar at London Pride without our inclusion sparking questionable think-pieces about whether or not we should be allowed to be there.


How can brands be more inclusive to asexual people?

If you're a sex-related brand, expand your marketing outside of the realm of sexual attraction. Be supportive of asexual people all year around. When it's International Asexuality Day (April 6), amplify that. When it's Ace Week in October, amplify that. Mark the occasion, donate to asexual organisations, charities and causes, help raise awareness, share our voices, use asexual models, work with asexual photographers and designers, seek them out. And not just for Pride Month or the special occasions, but all year round. We're just creatives like everyone else, and seeing that kind of casual inclusion on a regular basis is more likely to make asexual people - who are probably buying your stuff - feel like this is a brand that respects their existence.


Where do you want to see the Ace community in five years time?

I just hope that we get out of this weird groundhog day that we've been in for like...twenty years. Sometimes it feels like we're making progress, and we are, but at a much slower pace compared to other identities. The way we discuss sexuality has expanded a lot but it hasn't become very inclusive of asexuality yet. The kind of questions that I get as an activist now are strikingly similar to those I saw asexual activists getting in the early 2000s. We're still in a 101 introductory stage as if this orientation is some kind of new fad. I hope that in five years time, we're way past that and asexuality is more normalised. Then we can get into more interesting conversations and incorporate asexuality into how we understand sexuality in general, which will surely benefit everyone.