As we approach Valentine’s Day, I think it’s important to talk a little about one of the lesser-known LGBTQIA+ identities. Asexuality is a broad spectrum, but generally speaking, an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. This is not the same as abstinence or celibacy – there is no choice or cultural obligation to refrain from sex involved. Furthermore, asexual people can still have a sex drive and experience arousal; they just don’t have a desire to have sex with others. They can still desire relationships, and even be part of relationships with sexual intimacy. A lot of views of asexual people paint them as prudish or inexperienced, and that is not the case. Asexual people can be averse to sex or neutral about it; asexual people can have sex and still be asexual. The main difference for asexual people is that for them, sex isn’t an incentive.
I identify as on the asexual spectrum myself, specifically as demisexual (more on that later). One thing I’ve had to explain often to friends and family alike is that asexuality isn’t a fear of sex or born of inexperience. An asexual person doesn’t have sex as a driving motivation, but can still find a person aesthetically attractive, desire emotional or tactile closeness, or want a romantic and intimate relationship with a partner. An asexual person can still want to kiss, or hug, or cuddle; it’s just sexual attraction itself that doesn’t particularly hold interest.
As I mentioned before, asexuality is a spectrum. Some asexual people don’t have any kind of aversion to sex; they just don’t have any particular drive toward it either. Many asexual people in relationships will have sex with their partners because they like giving their partner pleasure and engaging in an intimate act with them! Some asexual people may only infrequently want to engage in sexual activity with partners or not at all, but don’t have a negative reaction toward sex in general. And some may have a strong aversion to sex, not wanting to be anywhere near it or hear it mentioned. Lastly, some asexual people can even experience sexual attraction, but only if they already have a powerful emotional or romantic bond with a person. All of these experiences are valid, and part of being on the asexual spectrum.
A lot of people who I’ve explained asexuality to have responded with something along the lines of “well that’s normal, you shouldn’t want sex until you’re really close with someone,” or even more telling, “Listen, after a certain point in marriage sex just loses its appeal if it ever had any.” To them, I typically respond with “Well, have you ever considered whether you might be on the ace spectrum yourself?” Sexual attraction is a natural human experience, and a lot of people do not require an emotional connection in the slightest to be sexually attracted to someone, be they celebrities or strangers on the street. If you do find that sexual attraction is something you’ve felt is missing from your life, or something that only rarely in certain situations exists, then exploring asexuality might be a source of comfort for you. If it isn’t, then there’s no need to consider the label – the only reason to ever consider any sort of label is if it works for you – not anyone else.
There is another identity that runs parallel to asexuality, and that’s aromanticism, typically shortened to “aro” as a way of referring to an aromantic person, like how an asexual person is shortened to “ace”. As the term might suggest, an aromantic person is someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction. They very well could and often do still experience sexual attraction, but romance is something they have little or no desire for. Unlike asexual people (unless they are also aromantic or otherwise not interested), aromantic people do not seek out romantic relationships, though they still can desire strong emotional intimacy with others. For them, a romantic relationship is something they just have no interest in. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have meaningful relationships – aromantic people can build lifelong relationships with friends, family, and loved ones of other types than romantic.
If anything in this little write-up resonates with you, I encourage you to look into asexuality yourself. It’s a broad spectrum, and it has room for people who only rarely experience sexual attraction, only experience sexual attraction toward people they’re already emotionally close to, or don’t experience sexual attraction whatsoever. Having previously had sex, or actively having a sexual relationship with a partner where you participate because you want to please them rather than for your own needs, does not rule asexuality out for you. It’s never a required label for anyone, but for people who have ever felt like they were lesser or broken for not experiencing sexual or romantic attraction, it can be a great source of comfort.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, learning about asexuality and aromanticism is all the more important. There’s room for all sorts of love under the rainbow, and every single one is just as important as the rest.
If you’re interested in reading more about asexuality, please take a look at the resources below!
The Asexual Visibility & Education Network – https://www.asexuality.org/