Asexual, aromantic, agender.
So, LGBTQIA. Many of these are pretty straight forward (though expect some more yelling about the word “queer” as the month goes on), but the A gets a little dicey. It gets left off, forgotten, or misunderstood. So what do these identities really mean? Who uses them, and why?
The A stands for asexual, aromantic, and agender, and all three of these identities actually have massive implications for sexual orientation and romance as a whole.
An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction. They don’t look at an attractive stranger walking by and think, “mmph, I’d like to have sex with that person!” That’s the simplest definition of asexuality, but the reality has a lot more nuance.
There is a whole spectrum between allosexual (someone who experiences sexual attraction) and asexual (someone who does not experience sexual attraction). Folks who don’t quite identify as allosexual or asexual usually refer to themselves as “Grey-A”s – meaning, the grey area between being someone who experiences sexual attraction and someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
Another orientation in the grey spectrum is “demisexual” – someone who only experiences sexual attraction to someone that they have an emotional connection to. A demisexual person will also not look at an attractive stranger walking by and think, “mmph, I’d like to have sex with that person!” but they might go on several dates with someone and develop feelings for them, and then find that they experience sexual attraction to that person.
Some asexual people are sex-repulsed. This means that they are generally not interested in talking about sex, and they are definitely not interested in having sex. Some asexual people are fairly neutral on the idea of sex. They’re not horrified by it, but they’ll probably only have it for partner maintenance – as in, to connect with an allosexual partner who does want sex. Some asexual people enjoy having sex. They don’t experience sexual attraction (as in, they don’t see someone and desire to have sex with them), but they enjoy the physical experience of having sex, like genital stimulation and being close with a nice person.
Also, asexuals often make the distinction between sexual attraction – desiring sex from a person – and sex drive. Yup – there are asexual people with a high sex drive! Their libido wants sexual stimulation, but their attraction meter is on the low side. This sex drive can be fulfilled through masturbation or by having sex with a person that doesn’t mind their partner not feeling sexual attraction to them.
It’s like the different between seeing a delicious piece of cake and craving it, and recognizing that you’re hungry and eating to satisfy that hunger.
Some asexual people enjoy being in romantic relationships without sex, some people prefer to be single, some people enjoy romantic relationships and have sex with their partners because they love their partners. It is absolutely dependent on the person!
Some common questions about asexual people:
Are asexual people broken?
Nope! Not experiencing sexual attraction is perfectly normal! Some of them may be distressed about it (especially during middle/high school, where all of their friends are talking about crushes and who’s hot and they’re just like “…?”), but that’s a product of how society emphasizes sexual attraction as necessary for happiness and connection, and not a product of there being anything wrong with being asexual.
How do people know that they’re asexual?
Usually, they realize they’re asexual when they find out about the word asexual! “Oh my god,” friends have said to me. “I didn’t realize other people also felt this way. I’m not alone. I’m not broken.” Many ace (short for asexual) folks go through young adulthood dating and having sex like their peers because they assume that it’s what they’re supposed to be doing, because every movie and bathroom gossip session told them that they should be having sex. They have sex they’re not really interested in having, and they think there’s something horribly wrong with them. And then the word asexual comes to their attention, and they read up on it, and a light bulb goes off in their head.
So, do asexual people reproduce by budding?
Ha. Ha. Gosh. No asexual person has EVER heard that joke before. You are so funny. Ha. Ha.
Did asexual people experience sexual trauma? Is that why they’re asexual?
Not necessarily! Most asexual people did not start life off as allosexual, and then become asexual after being sexually assaulted. Most asexual people started off their post-pubescent experience as asexual, and still are today. But I can’t rule it out for some people! Sexual trauma CAN affect sexual orientation (more to come in a later post), so it would be super generalizing of me to say that NO asexual people are asexual because of sexual trauma. It’s just not “the usual” way that someone comes to find themself as asexual, and if you hear “I’m asexual” and process that as “I experienced a sexual assault in my past,” you need to take a step back and keep your mouth closed.
Do asexual people ever get turned on? Do asexual people masturbate?
Sometimes and sometimes! Sexual arousal is not the same thing as sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is when you feel sexual desire upon interacting with another person. Sexual arousal is when your genitals engorge with blood, your body produces lubrication, and other physical signs that say “this body is now ready for intercourse.” They’re often connected, but not always! You can feel sexual arousal from reading erotica, listening to a sexy soundtrack, fantasizing, and just plain touching your genitals! Some asexual people get aroused and masturbate, and some of them don’t! Totally depends on the person.
What’s with the word “allosexual?” Don’t you mean normal?
Well, I sure don’t mean “normal” when I say allosexual. That would imply that there’s something abnormal about asexuality! In conversations about asexuality, we used to talk about the spectrum from “sexual” to “asexual”, with grey identities in between, but that still implies asexual differs from the baseline, by being the only word in the spectrum with a prefix. Instead, asexual and allosexual are words that both stem from the word sexual, indicating that they’re related to that umbrella concept. The prefix “allo” means “other” and the prefix “a” means “not”.
Are all asexual people single and lonely?
Nope! Some of them are, but lots more are happily partnered, or enjoy being single. In monogamous relationships, partners are each others only source of sexual contact. A monogamous allosexual person may not be interested in dating an asexual person, because it might be important for that person that their partner feel sexual desire for them. But there are a lot of asexual people who are happily partnered. Asexual folks could date other asexual folks, they could date allosexual people who don’t find sex to be very important, or they could have sex with a partner who doesn’t mind not being sexually desired during sex. They could enter into an open or polyamorous relationship where their allosexual partners fulfills their sexual needs with other allosexual partners. There are so many possible relationship configurations that it seems silly to imagine that only one factor – asexuality – is the top reason why a relationship might fail!
This is only a brief overview of asexuality – there are as many variations on asexuality as there are asexual people! If you have ace friends, don’t assume anything about them – they’re a unique person, just like you!
Next up, aromanticism!