Last week marked asexuality awareness week: seven days dedicated to raising the visibility of an often-overlooked sexual orientation: asexuality. Asexuality is defined as the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. It is different from celibacy, which is a choice, and it does not necessarily result in abstinence. You might not have heard of the asexuals, but we actually make up 1% of the population. It’s just that this isn’t apparent because those who are asexual often are not aware there is a label to define them, while those who do identify as asexual (or ‘ace’) rarely show this in their everyday behaviour. They’re not going to talk about what turns them on or who they’d like to bang because, well, it just doesn’t apply. This lack of visibilty can make figuring out who you are and coming out especially difficult for those who do define as asexual.
And when you do come out, people suddenly feel entitled to ask some inappropriate questions, my favourite being: "So, if you’re asexual, do you masturbate?". Actually the average asexual masturbates the same amount as the average person. This is because asexuals still feel arousal and have a sex drive, it’s just that due to the lack of sexual attraction to other people, this arousal isn’t directed to anyone in particular.
While it can be great that people ask questions about asexuality to ace people, sometimes certain comments border on the offensive: from 'you just haven’t had good enough sex yet' to 'you’re just closeted' and so on. Some asexuals report being asked whether they were abused in childhood or whether they would like some therapy to change who they are. Ideas like these about asexuality are both common and often inaccurately applied to a lot of LGBT+ people.
What it really comes down to is that we just don’t think about sex with other people. That’s it, a genuinely lack of interest in sex. Many of us are not repulsed by sex, it’s simply something that doesn’t cross our mind at all. When you consider that this is really the only difference between ace people and ‘allosexual’ people, it's clear that we’re pretty normal! We’re also a very diverse community, due to the variety of romantic orientations that exist.
Romantic attraction is different from sexual attraction: ace people can identify as heteroromantic, homoromantic, bi-/pan-/etc- romantic, even aromantic (feeling no romantic attraction.) The romantic spectrum is a mirror of the sexuality spectrum; it’s simply that for most people, the two orientations match completely, so the distinction isn’t drawn. This means that asexuals can actually forge very meaningful and intense relationships in the same way as allosexuals. There are other forms of intimacy than sex, but ironically, a lot of ‘romantic’ asexuals do have sex too, most commonly as part of a loving relationship with an allosexual person.
So, I hope that I’ve managed to make asexuality a little clearer to you, dear reader. Only in recent decades has the community started growing and coming together, thanks in large part to the role of the Internet in helping bring asexuals together from far and wide.
Please remember though, that due to the diversity of the ace community, that my overview of asexuality is just that of one white, male, homoromantic ace person. My experience with asexuality might well be drastically different from that of another asexual.
I suppose the takeaway of this article is that asexual people are honestly not that different to everyone else, and the sooner we all see that, the sooner the community and integrate and be proud