Asexuality: When You Fit In (But You Really Don’t)
By Elisa Furlan
reviewed by amadou barrow
Asexuality. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that term? I bet the answer is “People who don’t have sex.”
Well, yes. But no. When I was first researching the term, I thought so too. However, asexuality is much more than not having sex. It’s been defined in many ways throughout the years, and many definitions don’t say anything about intercourse. Instead, one of the most canonical definitions is “individuals who do not experience sexual attraction,” which doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t or won’t have sex.
But what is sexual attraction? It may sound like a stupid question, but when I was going through a major (a)sexual crisis I read the canonical definition and didn’t know what it meant. I thought there was only one type of attraction: you like someone, you want to date them, possibly kiss them, and that’s it. No sex involved. I mean, I knew that people had sex but didn’t know that they might feel the need or the will to have sex with them when they look at them. There have been times when my friends made comments about wanting to have sex with someone, and I would be very confused, but still laughed. I thought it was a joke.
Don’t get me wrong, it was probably a joke, but what they were feeling behind that joke was real. And I had never experienced anything like it.
An umbrella term
To avoid confusion about the “having sex” stuff, I want to clarify that asexuality isn’t a clear or unequivocal sexuality per se — like homosexuality or bisexuality — but a spectrum open to different possibilities. People who identify as asexuals may also, but not necessarily, identify as one of the following.
- Demisexual. In contrast with the canonical definition of asexuality, demisexuals are defined as those “who do not experience primary attraction, the physical or sexual attraction, but do experience secondary attraction, deep emotional attraction.” They may not experience sexual attraction initially but they do after forming a solid bond with their significant other.
- Greysexual. A person who falls between allosexuality — those who experience sexual attraction — and asexuality may identify as greysexuals. The current definition of greysexuality is a person “who only rarely experiences sexual attraction.”
As you can see, someone who falls under the asexuality spectrum may still have sex and experience sexual attraction. Moreover, not all asexuals are attracted to people of the opposite sex. You can be attracted to females, males, both, and anything in between. Only not sexually.
All about emotions
Asexuality is all about the emotions behind sex and not the act itself. Many people who identify as asexuals — but not demisexuals or greysexuals — might still choose to have sex with someone. The reasons behind it may vary from one another.
- Curiosity. Sex for some can be like ice cream. Even if some of them contain strawberries, which you really don’t like, you might still wonder if they managed to create it in a way that could potentially lead you to liking strawberries. I’m not fond of strawberries, and I wouldn’t say I like strawberry ice cream, but you never know. Some people might. People who don’t have sexual attraction might still want to try sex — especially during teenage years — because everyone else is doing so. Moreover, some asexuals feel physical pleasure from the act and might choose to have sex for fun. You know, like playing Mario Kart.
- Expectations. Have you ever met an asexual? I haven’t — apart from me, obviously. Considering this, what are the chances that the person you like likes you back, and both of you are asexuals? If this happens to you, consider yourselves very lucky because the chances are very slim. Therefore, asexuals might be in a romantic relationship with an allosexual and decide to have sex because their partner asks them to.
- Pregnancy. Do you want children and adoption is not an option? Then I guess you need to have sex with your partner. There’s not much to say about that.
(Almost) fitting in
I’m a female and I’m attracted to males. Not sexually, but I still do. So, where do I stand? In the LGBTQ+ community or outside? Great question.
Sometimes, being asexual means you (almost) fit in: you like someone from the opposite sex, you can have “biological” children if you want, you’ll never be a “disappointment” to your parents because you’ll never kiss or marry someone of the opposite sex (unless you like people of the same sex, but that’s another story). You’re not repressed — at least not enough. So you’re not really part of the LGBTQ+ community.
But let me explain to you what the “+” stands for. The community’s full name is LGBTQIA (we can even add another + to make it even more inclusive, but let’s stick to the basics). Guess what the “A” stands for? Yes, asexual.
Nonetheless, asexuals aren’t really seen as part of the LGBTQ+ community. We’re invisible: to society and the community. You may be wondering why, right? I don’t have an answer for you, but I know this: all labels are created to make people feel part of something. Even the most open and inclusive community has members that refuse someone because they don’t fit into the normal “standard.” Can you do something about it? Yes and no.
Yes, you can talk about asexuality and help people realize that you do exist and you’re as valid as anyone else.
No, because it’s their choice. You can’t force them to accept you.
But you can change your attitude towards it. You can say “I don’t need labels. I’m me, regardless of what you may think or believe.”
You choose to accept yourself. All the rest comes after, not before.
Elisa is a positive and enthusiastic writer with an enormous passion for books. She is mostly interested in the fields of equal rights, global environment, and justice. She believes in the power of words: everything we know, we know because we read about it, heard it on the news, or someone told us – it is all connected to words. Contributing to change this world – the one and only one we will ever know – is a privilege as well as a duty: everyone can write something on the internet, especially these days; not everyone, though, can communicate effectively. It is her goal to help this world change, word by word.
Amadou is a public/global health researcher from Gambia and a Digital Health Researcher & Analyst at SolaVieve Technologies. He received a BSc in Public Health with honors from University of The Gambia and Masters in Reproductive & Family Health from University of Benin, Nigeria. He is also completing a Masters in International Health at Heidelberg University, Germany. He is a passionate digital health enthusiast with a special focus on holistic health and wellbeing at individual and population levels.
Barton, A. (n.d.). Demisexuality as a Contested Sexuality. Retrieved May 28, 2021, from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/iusbgender/article/download/29295/33892/70740
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Hille, J. J., Simmons, M. K., & Sanders, S. A. (2019). “Sex” and the Ace Spectrum: Definitions of Sex, Behavioral Histories, and Future Interest for Individuals Who Identify as Asexual, Graysexual, or Demisexual. The Journal of Sex Research, 57(7), 813–823. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2019.1689378