Asexuality 101

Facts about Asexuality:

  1. An asexual is a person who experiences little or no sexual attraction.

  2. Asexuality does not mean lacking sexuality. “Sexuality” can refer to so many traits besides sexual attraction, and asexuals can have many of these “sexual” traits.
  3. There are various kinds of nonsexual attraction. One commonly discussed kind is romantic attraction. Asexuals sometimes identify with various romantic orientations (e.g. heteroromantic, biromantic, aromantic), although other asexuals do not use these concepts for themselves.
  4. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a behavior. A few asexuals are sexually active, and most abstinent people are not asexual.
  5. There is an asexual spectrum. “Gray-A” is a general term for people on the boundaries between asexual and non-asexual, and “demisexual” is a related term (see recommended sites). “Ace” is used to refer to the entire spectrum.  There are a few words to refer to people not on the spectrum, including “non-asexual”, “allosexual” and “allo”.
  6. There is a significant asexual community. Primarily online, but also offline, there is a strong community with a well-developed discourse.
  7. Asexuals fight invisibility and erasure. Asexuals are often ignored or told that their identity is invalid. Most asexuals grow up without knowing that it’s even a possibility, and end up believing themselves broken or freaks. There are parallels to bisexual erasure; note that bisexuals fare worse than gay or lesbian people on most measures of well-being.

Common Responses:

  • Do you masturbate?” Some asexuals do and some don’t. This falls under the category of things that many people see as sexual, but which nonetheless does not require sexual attraction. No, it’s not really an appropriate question to ask someone.
  • Are you sure your asexuality isn’t caused by hormones/immaturity/abuse/anxiety/prudishness/autism/etc?” Like most other things that exist, asexuality is surely caused by something. But there is little reason to believe that it is caused by any of these particular things, and yes there are scientific studies on that sort of thing. Often people suggest such causes as a way of dismissing asexuality.
  • Why do asexuals feel the need to talk about what they’re not doing?” Asexuals may discuss pressure from society, or how they form relationships, or any number of other things. Also, many asexuals are not interested in talking about it, and you just don’t see those people.
  • It’s so amazing that asexuals can rise above the need for sex!” For an asexual, being asexual requires no effort, so it doesn’t make sense to praise it. This is also insulting to all other parts of the asexual spectrum, and to non-asexuals.
  • “What are you saying, that the rest of us are sex-crazy?” Lots of people aren’t super into sex, even though they aren’t asexual, and that’s okay. And if a person is super into sex, that’s okay too.

Recommended websites:

Asexuality Visibility and Education Network
Asexual Archive
A glossary of terms

Other Media:

Asexuality: The ‘X’ In A Sexual World” on The Huffington Post
Taking the Cake: An illustrated primer on asexuality (Zine)
The Invisible Orientation (Book)
Asexuality Top Ten (video series)
Asexual Spectrum Aces (FTBCon panel)