Sexuality is a spectrum that includes homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, and everything else. But what gets left out of most discussions on the topic is asexuality. Studies on asexuality have so far been extremely scarce. Only recently has the internet provided means for enough people who self-identify as asexual to connect to form communities, and like the LGBT community, hope to achieve visibility and find acceptance.
In a society as sex-obsessed as ours, not being interested in sexual activity is literally incomprehensible to some. Generally, American mainstream culture assumes that the only reasons to abstain from sexual activity are religion, illness, or old age, and any adults who happen to be single must be looking, whether the goal is marriage or just a good time in bed.
Asexuals are an exception to the “rule,” by definition experiencing very little or no sexual attraction or interest in sex. Another category is that of the gray-asexual, sometimes called “semi-sexual.” Exact definitions vary, but it’s generally used by people who are in the “gray area” between sexual and asexual, such as those who have a sex drive to a lesser extent than most people, but still more than they feel a “regular” asexual person does.
It should be noted that asexuality is not a description of a behavior or choice, as abstinence is, but a simple lack of sexual desire. While some asexuals are also aromantic—completely uninterested in romantic relationships—others consider themselves homoromantic, biromantic, or heteroromantic and want a life partner for the love and companionship, but not the sex.
In a society where it is assumed every adult must be interested in sex, many who admit they don’t care for it find themselves being asked if they were abused as children or told they should see a doctor to be “fixed.” Another common misconception is that asexuals are just in denial about their homosexuality, despite the fact that being asexual and being romantically interested in the opposite sex—or any other—are not mutually exclusive.
Like the rest of the sexuality spectrum, asexual people can be found in all genders, ages, and ethnic groups. Romantic asexuals can and do fall in love just like everyone else, but may wonder “is something wrong with me?” when they don’t feel the sexual attraction everyone says they should. Many asexuals have sex anyway, to see if they like it or to please a partner, and this is sometimes used as “evidence” against asexuality existing.
But it’s no different than a gay person trying to have sex with someone of the opposite gender. It can’t “change” them, and it proves nothing. It’s true that some people lose interest in sex with age, and certain health conditions or medication side-effects can drastically lower or eliminate sex drive, but some people just never develop an interest in sexual activity to begin with.
Within the LGBT community, although the “A” of some of the longer acronyms,LGBTQQ2IA*and QUILTBAG,does stand for Asexual (for others, it stands for “ally”)there’s a debate about whether or not asexuality is inherently queer. Some organizations accept all asexuals with open arms; others say those who are heteroromantic can only be allies. If inclusion within a minority group requires that one could potentially be harassed for it, then by that definition asexuals do qualify.
“Asexual people—no matter their romantic orientation—share with queer people the experiences of coming out, being presented since birth with negative and/or erasing messages about their orientation, being pushed to change their relationships to fit the status quo, and sometimes having their orientation blamed on bad experiences or mental/physical illness,” Asexual activist Swankivy told 429Magazine. “We have a lot in common with each other, even though some of our struggles manifest differently.”
Asexuality is also like other orientations in that there is no hormone test for it; each person has to figure out what they are for themselves, and what they will choose to identify as. Regardless of all else, what matters the most is that each person decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with, no matter what label, if any, they choose to apply to themselves.