What is asexuality?
An asexual person is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. They may or may not find certain people beautiful or fall in love, but this isn’t accompanied by a desire to have sex. This is different to celibacy, which is a choice to not have sex; asexuality is a sexual orientation just like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality etc. Many asexuals want relationships and use the idea of romantic orientation to describe who they are romantically interested in, often identifying as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or panromantic. Others don’t feel romantically about others and may identify as aromantic.
What causes asexuality?
No one knows. Many asexuals feel they have always been asexual, some feel their sexuality is fluid. What we do know is that there is no evidence that asexuality is linked to sexual repression, abuse, sexual disorders, or a lack of partners.
Do asexual people masturbate?
Some do, some don’t. Ultimately, it’s all up to the person. Just because a person doesn’t experience sexual attraction, it doesn’t mean that they can’t experience sexual arousal.
How do asexuals feel about sex?
Most asexuals think sex is a great thing for other people to do; it’s just not something they have any desire for. Some asexuals are indifferent to sex, some find the idea repulsive; some enjoy sex, some find it boring. There is no set way to feel about sex among asexuals, just like there isn’t for sexuals.
Wait, so some asexuals have sex?
Some do, some don’t. Asexuality is about who you are sexually attracted to, not who you have sex with. Just like gay people who have had sex with people of the opposite sex are no less gay; asexual people who have had sex are no less asexual. There are many reasons why people choose to have sex, and sexual attraction is only one of them. Asexuals can still want to have sex for all sorts of reasons, such as expressing love, physical intimacy or just because they like the way it feels! Being asexual doesn’t stop someone having a sex drive or experiencing arousal; and some asexuals choose to have sex to satisfy these desires, others will not.
Surely you need to try sex before you can decide if you’re asexual or not?
Plenty of people know they are gay, or straight, or bi; before they have sex with anyone. Asexuals are no different. Asexuality is about sexual attraction, not the ability to have or enjoy sex.
The Asexual Spectrum
There are other people who identify on the asexual spectrum, who usually don’t experience sexual attraction but do under certain circumstances, or very rarely. They may call themselves grey-asexuals. Demisexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction unless they are romantically or otherwise emotionally attracted to someone.
I don’t fancy everyone but I’m happy to identify as straight/gay/bisexual/etc, why do they feel the need to be grouped in with asexuals?
Not everyone who could identify under the asexual spectrum will choose to do so. Those who do may feel that they can’t identify with their friends’ conversations about sex, or have problems in their relationships about sex which they don’t see others having; and find the asexual community a place where they can relate to others.
Aren’t all women demisexual?
No! This idea is based on the sexist stereotype that men want sex and women want relationships. Many women will be able to tell you that they are sexually attracted to people who they aren’t romantically interested in, or don’t know very well. And not all men are sexual: some men are asexual, demisexual or grey-asexuals.
For most people, their sexual and romantic orientations are aligned and so the way in which people think about relationships involves the two, making the concept of romantic orientation less obvious. For asexual people however, it can be quite obvious that they are experiencing one but not the other, although that doesn’t mean that they are at all easy to separate.
Romantic orientation is similar to sexual orientation in that it comes in as many different varieties. Someone who is asexual could also be heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, aromantic, androromantic, gyneromantic, or something else entirely. This also leads to terms such as “gay asexual”, which is someone who experiences romantic attraction, but not sexual attraction, to people of the same gender. It’s a way of expressing who you experience romantic attraction to.
So, asexual people still have relationships?
Yes! Most asexual people experience romantic attraction, which is a desire to be in a romantic relationship with someone. Even aromantic asexuals can still have relationships; some have some very close friends that they value a great deal, whilst others may choose to engage in romantic relationships even though they don’t experience romantic attraction to their partners. This may seem strange at first, but in the same way as an asexual person can be in a sexual relationship, there is no reason that an aromantic person cannot be in a romantic relationship. Aromantic people in romantic relationships may engage in “romantic” behaviours for the benefit of their partner, whilst not having any innate desire to do so.
Is there an aromantic spectrum?
Yes! In the same way that some people experience sexual attraction rarely or under specific circumstances, there is a spectrum to being aromantic. Some people are grey-romantic, meaning that they experience romantic attraction rarely, weakly, or only under certain circumstances. People on the aromantic spectrum may also define as homoromantic, heteroromantic, or biromantic, etc.
Asexuality and LGBT
Why are asexuals included in LGBT/Warwick Pride?
Asexuals face many of the same problems as LGBT people in a heterosexist society; such as feeling isolated or ashamed of their sexuality, not learning about their sexuality in school sex education or having it represented in the media, not having visible support groups for people of their sexual orientation, being assumed to be heterosexual by friends and family, and many experience homophobia because they don’t express overt heterosexuality. Also, many asexuals are romantically attracted to people of the same sex (around a third according to some surveys) or are trans; so are naturally part of LGBT.
Surely straight asexuals should be excluded from LGBT?
Straight asexuals face the problems above just as much as other asexuals; and need a safe space just as much as other asexuals. Being, or being able to pass as, straight is no reason to be excluded from LGBT: many trans people are straight, and some bisexual and pansexual people choose to only have relationships with people of the opposite sex.
Why do asexuals want to be part of LGBT? How does it help them?
Asexuals face many of the same problems as LGBT people, and many see working with the LGBT community as a good way to tackle the prejudice and discrimination they all face. Like many people within the LGBT community, many asexuals want to work towards greater sexual freedom: which includes the freedom to not have sex if you don’t want to.
Some places you can find out more:
- Warwick Pride Asexual/Aromantic Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- The Pride library, where we have a number of leaflets and resources (these are available at the Welcome Buffet or by request).
- The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, AVEN, at www.asexuality.org.
- The Asexual Awareness Week website, at www.asexualawarenessweek.com
- The AVEN wiki at www.asexuality.org/wiki