Asexuality 101

by | Nov 21, 2023 | Intersectionality, Queer, Wellness

These days, people are becoming more aware of what all the letters in LGBTQIA+ stands for due to social media and the internet. There are some who still think the “A” in LGBTQIA+ stands for ally, but “A” stands for asexual/aromatic/agender. There is more to sexual orientation, attraction, and gender than those letters, so the plus sign encapsulates the spectrum not seen within those letters. Sexual orientation is different from gender identity and attraction.

Sexual orientation refers to gender(s)/trait(s) you are sexually attracted to. Examples of sexual orientations include lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and more. Sexual fluidity is looking at one’s sexual orientation as continuing to change over time instead of static and set for life (Zheng, n.d.). Furthermore, gender identity refers to an individual’s personal sense of gender, which encompasses nonbinary, trans, agender, female, male, and more. In addition, there are different types of attractions, such as sexual, romantic, sensual, emotional, and intellectual, to name a few. The different types of attraction describe how or why you are attracted to them. All the while, romantic orientation refers to gender(s) you are romantically attracted to. This can entail aromantic, biromantic, heteroromantic, homoromantic, demiromantic, and more. If you are unsure of what those words mean, separate the first part of the word from -romantic, and it should help. For example, bi-romantic means people who are romantically attracted to male and female genders.

Given the field of sexuality, attraction, and gender is rather large and complex, we’ll focus on asexuality since it’s a less well-known orientation on the list of LGBTQIA+ identities.

What is Asexuality?

Essentially, asexuality is a spectrum and refers to individuals who do not experience sexual attraction toward anyone regardless of gender. They may choose to engage in sex without sexual attraction and can desire emotionally intimate relationships (The Trevor Project, 2021). In addition, they may have partner(s) and children. People who identify as asexual sometimes refer to themselves as Ace or Aces.

Being asexual is part of who they are and NOT a choice. There is not only one type. There are a lot of gray areas. Examples on the asexuality spectrum include demisexual (i.e., people who feel sexual attraction after having formed an emotional connection), grey-A (i.e., people who identify as existing between sexual and asexual on the overall sexuality spectrum), and queer-platonic (i.e., a type of nonromantic relationship where the emotional connection goes beyond traditional friendships) (The Trevor Project, 2021). There are also variations in intersectionality of asexual and romantic orientations. For instance, you can identify as asexual and aromantic, meaning you do not experience any sexual or romantic attraction to people. Another may identify as asexual and homoromantic, which means they do not feel sexually attracted to people but feel romantically attracted to people of the same gender.

Many are still not knowledgeable about the existence of asexuality, their struggles, or have difficulty understanding asexuality. Some refer to asexuality as an “invisible orientation.” Due to this, many who identify as asexual often feel/felt they themselves do not belong. This may happen since they often do not discover the word, asexual, and its meaning until later in life. Additionally, the asexuality part does not become apparent to their peers until around puberty, especially when they start dating. Adolescents tend to bully or pick on those who are different from them, including those who are different in their sexuality.

An asexuality researcher, Anthony Bogaert, indicated about 1% of the population may be asexual (Bogaert, 2004). Due to the low percentage of folxs, who identify as asexual, there are often mixed relationships with sexual people, which can present challenges due to differences in sexual interest (The Asexual Visibility & Education Network, n.d.). Mixed relationships mean folxs who identify as asexual may be in relationships with folxs who are not asexual. Each mixed relationship is different in how their needs are being met within the relationship.

Common Misconceptions of Asexuality

  • People think being asexual is “wrong” or means they have a medical condition.
    • In reality, there is nothing wrong with someone being asexual.
    • People do not need sex to live as healthy human beings or to be in healthy, fulfilling relationships. Love can exist without sex.
  • People, who identify as asexual, “just haven’t met the ‘right’ person yet” or it is just a phase.
    • This is extremely invalidating and shaming them for identifying as asexual.
    • There is no “right” person. They just identify as asexual.
  • People who are asexual hate sex.
    • No. They just don’t feel sexual attraction towards others.
    • Asexuality is a spectrum as well. Some may feel a level of sexual attraction given certain circumstances.
  • Asexuality is celibacy.
    • This is incorrect. Celibacy is abstaining from sexual intercourse for various reasons, and these individuals often experience sexual attraction.
    • Asexuality is having no or minimal sexual attraction to others.
  • Asexuality is a fear of intimacy.
    • This is inaccurate. People, who identify as asexual, can have intimate relationships without sexual attraction, such as close friendships or those who have sex without experiencing sexual attraction.
    • They can have romantic crushes on people as well.
  • Asexuality is a loss of libido.
    • This is incorrect. If you had a libido, it is likely loss due to a specific situation. Moreover, sexuality can fluctuate over time.
  • Individuals, who identify as asexual, do not experience discrimination or oppression.
    • This is false. Given the lack of information and awareness, those who are asexual tend to be targeted because they do not feel sexual attraction.
    • They themselves often feel alone or like something is wrong with them.
  • People, who identify as asexual, should dress a certain way to not illicit sexual attraction from others.
    • This is horribly backwards and wrong. It is like blaming a sexual assault survivor for the assault.
    • People can dress however they want to dress to express themselves.

Knowing the common misconceptions can help prevent inadvertently invalidating yourself or your loved ones. Placing your own identities or values onto another person if they identify with something different does not help. Go in with an open-mind and be open to learning about another person’s identity. It is important to know about asexuality since you or someone you know may identify as asexual without even knowing it.

Unfortunately, some in the LGBTQIA+ communities are not supportive of people who identify as asexual. Asexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation. Having terms for one’s experience can be helpful and feel less isolating. There are multiple online forums (e.g., https://asexualgroups.wordpress.com/) and Ace week from October 22-28 (https://aceweek.org/) for those who identify as asexual for additional support. Some who identify as asexual may choose to “come out,” but it is not a requirement and is a personal choice. Similarly, some identify asexual with queer; this is also a personal preference since it is your identity.

Are You Asexual?

The following few questions may help on your journey as you explore your sexual orientation, including whether you identify as being on the asexuality spectrum. The questions are not comprehensive. Please feel free to do your own research and talk with loved ones about it if you feel safe to do so.

  • How do you feel about sex?
  • What is your interest in sex like? Interested? Disinterested?
  • How do you feel when sex is being discussed? Objective? Emotional? Confused?
  • Do you ever pretend to be more interested in sex than you are to appear “normal?”

If you are interested in learning more in podcast form, an asexual activist, model, and writer, Yasmin Benoit, conducted an interview on an I Weigh with Jameela Jamil episode, Asexuality and Aromanticism with Yasmin Benoit (https://podcasts.apple.com/pe/podcast/asexuality-and-aromanticism-with-yasmin-benoit/id1498855031?i=1000601375483). Benoit co-founded International Asexuality Day, April 6, and founded UK’s first asexual rights initiative.

All in all, sexuality is complicated since humans are. With how today’s society treats sex, gender, and attraction, individuals who do not identify with heterosexuality or as hetero-romantic tend to be marginalized and discriminated against. At the same time, everyone is on their own journey in learning and exploring their identities. Every journey is different because people are different. There are no right or wrong way to explore your identities. At the end of the day, you define your identities, whether it is sexuality, gender, or something else. It takes a lot to be able and confident to move through the world as your authentic self. It is okay if you cannot or do not want to…safety is a very important factor to be considered. Living life as a human is difficult enough without us placing extra pressure on ourselves to live a certain type of life. Live your life as you see fit.

 

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