A crash course on asexuality
Imagine that you’re deciding to buy dessert and all your friends tell you that you should get pie since it’s the best. However, when you get to the pie section of the grocery store, they might look great, but you don’t want any. So, instead, you decide to get a cake for dessert. While this is a simplification of sexual and romantic attraction, choosing cake instead of pie in this situation is like being asexual.
Asexuality, simply defined, is someone who does not experience sexual attraction which is unlike allosexuals, who do experience sexual attraction. It is a spectrum, with asexual and allosexual as the endpoints. Those who fall between the two endpoints are referred to as grey-a or grey-sexual, which means that the person doesn’t usually experience sexual attraction, but can sometimes. There are also demisexuals, who only feel sexual attraction after having a strong emotional bond with someone. Again, it is a spectrum.
While those who identify as asexual do not experience sexual attraction, they do experience other types of attraction; sensual, aesthetic, and romantic attraction are distinct from sexual attraction, so it is possible for someone who identifies as asexual to be romantically attracted to someone else, but not sexually attracted. It should be noted that romantic attraction also falls on a spectrum like asexuality, so it is possible to be both aromantic and asexual.
The idea that attraction to others can be divided into sexual attraction and romantic attraction can be hard to grasp in a society where sexual and romantic attraction are usually bound together. It is common in mainstream media to portray mostly allosexual relationships, which is problematic for those who are questioning whether they are asexual or identify as asexual. While there are platforms like Youtube that host many LGBTQIA+ channels that discuss asexuality at length, like Ash Hardell’s, there is still a lack of representation in mainstream media of asexuality.
Being asexual is not a phase either for the majority of people that identify as such, and should not be viewed that way since it implies that not experiencing sexual attraction is a problem. Finding the right partner or having really good sex are not solutions to getting someone who identifies as asexual to suddenly experience sexual attraction. However, it is possible that over time, an asexual person may choose to change their identity on the spectrum or not identify as asexual anymore as their sexual identity changes.
Asexuality is also often confused with celibacy, which is choosing not to have sex. While some who identify as asexual are completely opposed to any form of sensual or sexual activities, some asexual people have sex or masturbate. This may be for a myriad of reasons that could be to connect emotionally with a partner or simply curiosity. It’s important to not judge or question someone’s identity on the asexual spectrum as valid solely based on their sexual experiences or lack thereof since there is a such wide variety of experiences.
There has also been some contention over if those who identify as asexual are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not. While the “A” can stand for asexual, it is often understood as ‘ally,’ which means that asexuals have sometimes been subject to erasure within the community. Many that lie on the asexual spectrum also identify with other sexual orientations like bisexuality or pansexuality, which complicates where they identity within the community. In general, most asexuals consider themselves to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Hopefully, this brief introduction to asexuality has helped remove some of the intrigue around it. If you are interested in learning more, X-Pride and the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) are great places to finding out more about asexuality.