I’ll be turning 30 soon and the one thing that always gets me gleeful is how much change my generation has seen in such a small time frame. Day-to-day life, technology, and the growth in how we view sexuality have all shifted vastly in such a short time. Outside of walking to the corner store for a full bag of chips at only 25 cents, I remember my school giving away those translucent Apple computers aka Macintoshes before Apple was Apple. I remember dialing up on the internet. And though I was too young to partake in conversations with the adults on subjects such as sexuality, I can also tell there’s been a shift in the way it is discussed.
Sexuality as a whole, and in this case, sexuality particularly referring to attraction is ever-expanding to make room for new identities. But with the shift, there are far more terms to keep up with and understand in order to best understand yourself. Today, we’re going to hit on what it is to be asexual – a sexual orientation that grows more and more in popularity cause “the more ya know,” right?
What Is Asexuality?
Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex. Homosexuals are attracted to the same sex. Bisexuals are attracted to both sexes. And according to Dr. Tara Suwinyattichaiporn, sexuality professor and relationship coach, those who identify as asexual “rarely and sometimes do not experience sexual attraction at all.” As someone who is hardwired to run with sexual attraction first, I literally felt like a cartoon character whose mind had just exploded trying to picture a sexual orientation that wasn't rooted in sexual attraction or having a desire to have sex with someone.
That is not to say that asexual people are inherently celibate or that they never partake in sex, instead, it's more commonly believed that they don't feel sexually drawn to people or to the desire to have sex. However, asexuality is not a sexual orientation that is one size fits all and the term can expand to encompass different meanings for different people who choose to identify as asexual, or ace for short.
On the Asexuality Spectrum
Sexuality is fluid – it has the ability to move in and out of the sometimes rigid boxes created for it allowing you to take on more than one identity. That said, asexual people may sometimes take on intersectional identities. They can be heteroromantic, biromantic, homoromantic, or aromantic in addition to being asexual. For those that identify as both asexual and aromantic, it doesn’t mean they don’t engage in sex or find themselves in romantic relationships. Both asexuality and aromantic fall on a spectrum, meaning that the individuals who fall underneath the umbrella may identify at various degrees.
As previously mentioned, some asexual people may still partake in sex and romantic relationships, while others may completely divest from those things completely. Asexual people may be either sex averse (no sex or interest in it), sex indifferent (no strong preference either way), or sex favorable (some aspects of sex are enjoyed though it’s not based on sexual attraction). And even, this preference is fluid. There is no one way to be asexual.
Though it's 'easier' for partners if they are both asexual, all hope isn't lost if an asexual person decides to be in a romantic relationship or have sex with a potential partner that does not also identify as asexual. “It's good for asexuals to communicate their attraction style because they may get a lot of misunderstandings from potential partners thinking that they are not interested since they don't experience sexual attraction.” Dr. Tara confirms that functional and healthy relationships are possible for people of all sexualities "when there's open communication about their sexual preferences and desires.”
Signs You May Identify as Asexual
Dr. Tara notes that asexual people look to “interesting personality, communication style, similar interests, hobbies, and worldview, etc” as the foundations in order to qualify their interest in people. "An asexual can still have romantic feelings and want the girlfriend/boyfriend type of experience. However, there are asexuals who are also aromantic - meaning they don't experience romantic attraction either. In this case, it's a friendship-based relationship.”
So what are some definitive signs that point to an asexual orientation? Here are a few but keep in mind there are far more than can be listed and due to fluidity, some of the signs will not apply to every person who identifies as asexual.
1. Ix-Nae on the Sex
You’re not choosing to be celibate, your interest simply isn’t piqued by sex (in most instances). If you fall somewhere on the spectrum where you’re not celibate, your libido may run low or you explore sex without being attracted to anyone. But, sex in this instance may result in zero personal gratification. For you and depending on where on the spectrum you fall, creating a foundation as friends may be key to getting enjoyment out of sex.
2. Getting to Know the Inside is Insightful
Looks mean little to nothing to you and because of this you probably have never had a celebrity crush, much less a crush on one of your peers or a rando at the bar that your peers may all be feeling. While you recognize that people are attractive, you do so without being attracted to them.
For you, feelings may stir when you’ve gotten to know someone on the inside. It doesn’t need to be emotional like with demisexuals, but essentially you want a foundation that feels like friendship.
3. Solo Endeavors are King
Sex comes in different forms, from oral to penetrative and even non-penetrative! While you may opt to explore sex, you may choose to do so alone as the primary modality of your exploration. Masturbation of some sort is generally preferable to partnered sex.
Though asexuality is still gravely misunderstood, the community is growing quickly as information becomes available and information is disseminated. If you feel you might identify as ace, then you might seek out community via social media platforms or local groups, which you can find on apps like Meetup. But whatever you do, don’t allow the unknown to make you feel isolated – use this as an opportunity to grow and maybe even meet your peeps.
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