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WTF is Asexuality?

Let’s dispel misconceptions and gain understanding of asexual identity.

Photo: RDNE Stock project via Pexels

Imagine a world where sexual attraction isn’t universal—where intimacy, relationships, and raising a family don’t intrinsically flow from sexual desire. Well… you’re living in it. For roughly 80 million asexual people (or “Aces”) around the globe, a lack of sexual attraction is normal, not unusual.

While asexuality has existed for as long as we have, Aces still face stigma, discrimination, and harmful misconceptions. 

So, whether you’re exploring your own identity, trying to understand an Ace friend, or are just curious to learn, let’s unpack what asexuality is and clear up some myths.

Photo: Cottonbro Studio via Pexels

Asexuality is a distinct sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction towards others. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) defines it as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” It exists opposite allosexuality: the feeling of sexual attraction towards others.

Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an innate part of who someone is. Just as heterosexuality and homosexuality describe innate attractions, asexuality describes a lack of sexual attraction.

When Aces come out, a common response is “you just haven’t met the right person yet.” But asexuality isn’t something to be fixed—for many Aces, it’s a lifelong orientation. Just as sexuality can change throughout our lives, some people may only identify as an Ace for a period of time. 

Asexuality exists on a spectrum, too. Those identifying as “gray-ace” or “graysexual” may occasionally or situationally experience sexual desire, falling somewhere between absolute asexuality and more prototypical sexuality.

Asexual People Can Still Have Romantic Relationships

Asexuality refers to a lack of sexual attraction, but it doesn’t imply a lack of romantic attraction. Many Aces desire intimate, romantic relationships and make long-term commitments like marriage and raising children. 

While some asexual people also identify as aromantic, they are not the same thing. Asexuality doesn’t preclude romance or relationships.

Ace people are just as likely to fall in love as anyone else. This desire isn’t just driven by sexual attraction. Asexual people can enter into fulfilling relationships with non-ace partners, while others prefer to seek partners who are also asexual. 

Relationships can be intimate without sex, relying instead on emotional connection and shared experiences. All humans have a need for belonging; this is as true for people who don’t experience sexual attraction as for those who do.

Photo: Jonathan Borba via Pexels

Aces Can Still Choose To Have Sex

While some Aces may be repulsed by or disinterested in engaging in sexual acts, this is not true of everybody who identifies as asexual. 

Just as allosexual people can engage in sex for reasons other than sexual attraction, many Aces enjoy the intimacy and closeness of sex, or choose to have sex to conceive or to please a non-ace partner. 

It’s important to understand that sexual attraction and sex drive are distinct. Asexual people can still have libidos and become aroused, without that prompting a desire to be sexually intimate with someone. 

Some Aces can enjoy the physical sensations of sex without being driven by sexual attraction, while others may enjoy masturbation despite having no desire or interest in partnered sex. Asexuality does not define attitude to sex, and there are a diverse range of sexual behaviors within the community.

Asexuality is Not A Disorder

Asexual people often face discrimination and minority stress as a result of prejudice and poor societal understanding. 

Some wrongly consider asexuality as a mental disorder, and Aces often receive harmful advice to “get help” or are told that eventually they will find someone to be sexually attracted to. This is no different from telling someone who is gay that they just haven’t given opposite-sex relationships enough of a go. 

While some people may experience distressing changes in sexual desire as a result of various mental health conditions, this is not asexuality. Aces do not experience sexual attraction as a motivation for desire, and pathologizing this rather than treating it as a normal part of human variety does a huge amount of harm.

Whether you were seeking to understand asexuality for yourself, to support someone else, or are simply curious, I hope you now feel better informed. The more that people are able to separate the myths from the realities of asexuality, the easier it will become to replace judgment and prejudice with affirmation and visibility.

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