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 also no. When I was first researching asexuality, I thought it was about not having sex, too. However, asexuality is much more than that. 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 I didn’t know that people might feel the need or the will to have sex with someone else – even just by looking 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 (sexual attraction) 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 to 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 initially experience sexual attraction, but they will 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 some type of sexual attraction. What’s important to note is that not all asexuals are attracted to the opposite gender. 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 person to the next.
- Curiosity. Sex, for some, can be like ice cream. Some ice cream flavors contain strawberries. I’m not fond of strawberries, and I wouldn’t say I like strawberry ice cream, but part of me still wonders: did this ice cream brand make it in a way that I’ll actually enjoy it this time? You never know – this strawberry ice cream may be good for people who don’t normally like strawberries. Likewise, 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 having sex 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. As a result, asexuals in a romantic relationship with an allosexual might decide to have sex because their partner asks them to.
- Pregnancy. When it comes to people who are heterosexual and asexual who want to have biological children, having sex with their partner is the least expensive and most practical option.
(Almost) fitting in
I’m a female and I’m attracted to males. Not sexually, but I still am. So, where do I stand? Am I in the LGBTQIA+ community or outside? Great question.
Sometimes, being asexual means you (almost) fit in. You could like someone from the opposite sex, which could eliminate the “disappointment” from parents because you’ll never be with someone of the opposite sex. You can have biological children. You’re not repressed — at least not enough. So you’re not really part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
But let me explain to you what the “A” stands for. Yes, you guessed it. Asexual.
Despite this, asexuals aren’t really seen as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We’re invisible to both society and the community. You may be wondering why, right? Although I don’t have an answer for you, I do know this: all labels are created to make people feel part of something. Unfortunately, even the most open and inclusive communities have members that exclude or reject people because they don’t fit into the normal “standard.”
Can you do something about it? Yes…to an extent.
It’s not your job to force people to understand and accept you.
However, what you can do is talk about asexuality and help them realize that you do exist and you’re as valid as anyone else.
Most importantly, you can change your reactions to other people’s attitudes and views. You can say “I don’t need labels. I’m me, regardless of what you may think or believe.”
You choose to accept yourself.
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