Understanding Asexuality

Understanding Asexuality

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In recent years, scientists and laymen alike have learned more about asexuality. Despite an increasing recognition of the term, many people still hold numerous misconceptions regarding what asexuality is and isn't.


If a person experiences a persistent lack of sexual desire towards individuals of any gender, they may choose to identify as asexual. Roughly 1% of the population is thought to be asexual.


Though most asexuals tend to use the same label, individuals may approach their sexual lives, or lack thereof, in a variety of different ways. Learning more about asexuality will allow you to better understand those who identify with this minority orientation.


What does asexuality look like?


There are many misconceptions surrounding asexuality. To begin with, anyone can be asexual. Individuals of all genders, ages, and backgrounds may identify as "ace." Asexuals are not simply abstinent or celibate, though, naturally, some asexuals choose to abstain from sex altogether. Other individuals may choose to have sex because their partners desire it. Some may have sex regularly despite their lack of attraction and desire.


Some asexuals have a fundamental sex drive without any sexual attraction. This sex drive might, for instance, be satisfied via masturbation. Others may never experience physical arousal. Asexuality in not a disorder, hormonal problem, or anxiety-based issue, though, as with any population, certain individuals may struggle with other mental or physical conditions. In short, asexuality may present itself in many different ways, depending on an individual's exact body chemistry, feelings, and values.


Asexuality is distinct from other gender and sexual identities.


Asexuality is considered a sexual orientation. For the sake of simplicity, many asexuals may also use labels such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual, though these labels may apply more to romantic interests than sexual ones. Others may choose to be label their romantic attractions more specifically. A man who identifies as a homoromantic asexual, for instance, may seek non-sexual relationships with other men. Terms like heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and panromantic may be coupled with the asexual label to further clarify romantic interests. Likewise, some asexuals may also identify as aromantic. These individuals tend to feel no need to pursue either sexual or romantic relationships with other individuals, though some may desire companionship. Asexuality, therefore, may present itself very differently from person to person.


Many asexuals desire romantic relationships or companionship.


Contrary to what some might believe, asexuals often desire relationships with other individuals. In most cases, however, sexual attraction is not the impetus for entering into committed relationships. Those who seek romance and affection may pursue relationships that are much like standard romantic relationships, sans the desire for sex. Some may seek out asexual and/or aromantic partners, whereas others navigate relationships with sexual partners. Despite their orientation, some aces may engage in sex for the sake of bonding, or for the sake of their partner. The act can still be physically enjoyable for many, despite the lack of sexual desire. In other cases, both partners may agree that an open relationship is a better option for satisfying the sexual needs of both partners. In yet other instances, asexuals may simply choose not to pursue relationships. Relationship dynamics will vary based on the needs of the asexual and their partner.


Some individuals identify as "gray asexuals."


Gray asexuality is the term used to describe individuals that fall somewhere in between being asexual and sexual. These individuals tend to experience only limited sexual attractions. Demisexuality, for instance, is a term used to describe those who experience sexual attraction solely after forming significant emotional bonds with others. These individuals may therefore only become sexually attracted to a very limited number of individuals over the course of their lives. Those who feel that sex plays a fairly minor role in their attractions may choose to identify with this label.


Could I Be Asexual?


If you don't feel sexual attraction to anyone, you surmise that you're asexual. It may be challenging to determine if you're asexual, however, if you've never been sexually attracted to another person. Instead, you may need to compare your feelings and behavior to others. Do you experience sexual desire like others in your life?


You may be asexual if you feel generally disinterested in sex, or view the process as a solely physical act devoid of desire. Perhaps you've felt that your experiences with sex and attraction don't match up with those of your friends. Maybe you've even been made to feel strange due to your lack of lust for sex. Maybe you've questioned your sexual orientation, only to find that you're equally disinterested in sex with all genders. Though sexuality is rarely clear-cut, these questions may help you better understand whether or not you could be ace.


If you're questioning whether or not someone you know is asexual, you may consider gently broaching the subject with them. Express your interest in a non-judgmental way. Note, however, that sexual orientation is very private to many, and others have no responsibility to share their feelings or behaviors with you if they choose not to. Unless you are interested in pursuing a relationship with someone, another person’s sexual orientation is probably irrelevant in your daily life.


In Conclusion:


Like people of all sexual identities, asexuals lead varied and diverse lives. Some may engage in sex, whereas others may avoid it. Romantic relationships may be on or off the table. In short, asexual individuals live their lives much like everyone else, simply without sexual desire. The next time you think about the LGBTQ+ community, don't forget to acknowledge asexuals, too.

Editor, 03/30/2017