What does it mean to be asexual?
Asexuality is a label that some people choose to use to define themselves and identify themselves. It pertains to people who experience no or low sexual attraction or desire, regardless of physical capability to do so or of actual sexual activity. Some asexuals do find sexual stimulation pleasurable, while others find any sexual act offensive. What they all have in common is that at the end of the day, they do not want sexual partners. Asexuals who do enjoy sexual stimulation prefer to do it through masturbation.
What is an asexual?
Asexual people, or “aces”, have the physical capability of having sexual intercourse. Whether they actually want to have sex or not is a completely other issue. As such, asexuality can be set apart from celibacy. Celibacy is a choice, while asexuality is not. Celibacy is the decision to abstain from sexual acts whether for religious or moral reasons, for fear or trauma, or for other reasons. On the other hand, asexual people do not receive pleasure from sexual contact as other people typically do. Still, they may choose to have sexual interactions or even engage themselves in masturbation. This way, sex drive is differentiated from sexual attraction. They may choose to have sex to satisfy their curiosity, to attain physical pleasure or release from stress, to compromise with a romantic partner, in order to conceive children, or for other reasons.
Yes, asexual people can still have an intimate relationship with a sexual person or a fellow asexual person. Despite the lack of sexual attraction, they may still experience aesthetic, sensual or romantic attraction.
Aesthetic attraction is the appreciation of another’s physical appearance. This means an asexual person may have a crush and be physically attracted to a person. However, this typically applies to fantasies, such as to attractive celebrities or even fictional characters. But if this fantasy were to be brought to reality, an asexual person will not feel actual sexual attraction towards the person.
Sensual attraction is the desire for physical contact, although this does not necessarily lead to sexual activity. This can be hand-holding, hugging, cuddling, and more.
Lastly, an asexual person can still experience romantic attraction, which is a desire for romantic involvement with an individual. This refers to a desire to be in a relationship with another person. Similar to typical relationships, an asexual can identify as a hetero-romantic, a homo-romantic, a bi-romantic or a pan-romantic. Or, an asexual person may also have no interest in a romantic relationship and be a-romantic.
As such, we can distinguish emotional, romantic and sexual attraction as three different things. Being asexual does not restrict a person from having a relationship with a sexual person. For as long as both individuals understand each other and are happy, there are really no hard rules.
Sexuality is something that is fluid. Although it does not change easily, it is also not unthinkable for a person who was once sexual to become asexual, or the other way around. However, if you are a sexual person and you experience some sudden decline in sexual desire, it may be a symptom of an illness or a side effect of certain medication. If this explains what you are experiencing better, consulting with a medical professional is highly recommended.
The spectrum of sexuality spans from sexual to asexual. But while the two endpoints are clear, the gray areas in between are not.
One of the points that falls in the gray area is demisexuality. This is when a person experiences sexual attraction only after a strong emotional bond has been established between two people. However, this relationship does not have be a romantic in nature. A friendship is sometimes sufficient for a demisexual person as a foundation for sexual attraction. There is not really a hard and fast rule for a person to define himself as sexual, demisexual or asexual. The purpose of this spectrum is to expose people to various scenarios they may identify with and understand themselves better.
Another point in this long spectrum is gray-asexual (gray-a) or gray-sexual. This is for people who only experience sexual attraction very rarely, of an intensity so low that it's ignorable, or only under specific circumstances.
Autosexual, on the other hand, refers to people who are sexually attracted only to themselves. As such, they take sexual pleasure from their bodies through masturbation. However, despite the physical pleasure, they have no interest in engaging in sexual activity with another person.
At the very end of the spectrum are non-libidoists. These are asexuals who have absolutely no sexual feelings at all.
These variations of sexuality or asexuality may form various combinations with different romantic inclinations. An asexual person may be heteroromantic, homoromantic, panromantic, biromantic or aromantic. The same applies with gray-asexuality and demisexuality.
Romance and sex are two ideas that are often coupled together. We hardly ever think of them separately. We assume that two people who are in a healthy romantic relationship will eventually have sex, when they are ready — be it on the third date or on the wedding night.
However, in order to understand the asexual community, we should distinguish one from the other. Asexuality is characterized by a general lack or a low level of sexual attraction. From this, we must separate sex drive and romantic attraction.
Research has shown and asexual people do attest that they are perfectly capable of having sexual intercourse and reaching an orgasm. However, they either have not much interest in it or the experience does not provide the same pleasure as it does for sexual people. In fact, many asexual people do masturbate. They just don’t want sexual partners involved in the activity.
They do not equate sexual intercourse as an expression of love or romance. An asexual person can fall in love and be in a healthy romantic relationship without sex. But for sexual people, gender identities also apply. An asexual person may be attracted to a person of the opposite sex, of the same sex, of either sex or of neither sex. This is categorized as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic and aromantic. As such, an asexual person identifies himself in terms of his sexual preference as well as his romantic inclination.
Asexuals can have romantic relationships with both sexual and asexual people. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dating for asexuals. Asexuals may prefer to date other asexuals. This somehow makes the situation easier because less compromise is necessary between the two.
Finding another asexual you can fall in love with seems like a one in a million chance. But because of the internet, this has become easier. There are numerous dating platforms that specifically cater to asexual people. This allows aces to connect with each other. Other than dating platforms, there are also online asexual communities. Although this is not a dating platform specifically, it is still a medium for asexual people to find like-minded individuals. It is also a safe place to explore their identities and get to know themselves better.
It may be difficult for asexuals to explain their preferences to a sexual person, but when two people care about each other, nothing is impossible and compromise is key. Sexual persons should not be afraid to be involved with an asexual person. Even when your romantic partner is asexual, sex is not completely out of the picture. In fact, for some aces, sex still happens fairly often with their sexual partners. Even though the physical pleasure they get from the act is limited, they get pleasure from wanting to please their partners. That makes it equally enjoyable for asexuals and sexuals. Although their motivations may be different, the act itself is equally pleasurable and rewarding for the couple.
Although asexuality is fairly new as a term and topic of research, it is steadily gaining recognition as more and more people identify themselves as such, and more and more people understand it. A number of famous personalities even identify themselves as asexual.
- Morrissey is a former singer and songwriter for The Smiths. He often said that he is asexual and celibate. His autobiography exposes that he had once a relationship with Jake Walters. However, he had also been quoted saying, “Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course... not many.”
- Janeane Garofalo is a comedian who has identified herself as asexual. In a stand-up act, she declares, “I don’t have a fear of intimacy, I have sort of a genuine lack of interest.”
- Paula Poundstone is another comedian who speaks about her asexuality. “I don’t like sex. Therefore, I don’t have sex. It frees up time, but that’s not by design, it’s just a bonus.”
- Musician Bradford Cox has recently identified as gay. In the past, he had also stated he is asexual.
- Artist Edward Gorey said in an interview that he is asexual. "I'm neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something... I've never said that I was gay and I've never said that I wasn't... what I'm trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else."
- Physicist Isaac Newton and scientist Nikola Tesla were believed to be asexual and celibate throughout their lives.
- Emilie Autumn, musician, identifies herself as asexual although she has also said that she “never disliked sex”.
- Keri Hulme, author of The Bone People, declares herself an asexual atheist.
- Mike Skinner, a musician from The Streets, stated that he is asexual. In 2009, his daughter Amelia was born. And in 2010, he married his daughter’s mother Claire Le Marquand.
- Kenji Miyazawa, renowned poet, is frequently cited as a confirmed asexual.
For people who are trying to figure themselves out, it is most important to know that he or she may not fit in a single label. Diversity is intrinsic to human society. You may be sexual, asexual, or somewhere in between. Rather than finding a label that suits you, allow yourself to explore the unknown honestly. You may not find an easy label to identify with, but this is the only true sure way of knowing and recognizing yourself.