Asexuality 101

Facts about Asexuality:

  1. An asexual is a person who experiences little or no sexual attraction. A person may also identify as asexual if they lack sexual desire or a sex drive.

  2. Asexuality does not mean lacking sexuality. “Sexuality” is a fraught term that could refer to any number of things.  Asexuals may or may not have traits that you consider “sexual”.  For example, an asexual may lack sexual attraction while still having a sex drive.
  3. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a behavior. A few asexuals are sexually active, and most abstinent people are not asexual.
  4. There are various kinds of nonsexual attractionSome common examples are “sensual”, “aesthetic”, “platonic”, and “romantic”.  Romantic attraction is particularly commonly discussed, and asexuals often identify with various romantic orientations (e.g. heteroromantic, biromantic, aromantic).  The proper approach to these concepts is that you may take them or leave them.  Not all asexuals identify with a romantic orientation.  Non-asexuals are also welcome to use these concepts if they wish.
  5. “Ace” is commonly used to refer to people on the asexual spectrum. Example usage: “Aces are awesome!”  The spectrum includes “gray-asexual” (or “gray-A”) people, who are in the gray area between asexual and non-asexual. It also includes “demisexual” people, who do not experience sexual attraction unless they have some strong connection with a person already.  In order to refer to people not on the asexual spectrum, common terms are “non-asexual”, “allosexual”, or simply “allo”.
  6. There is a significant ace community.  Ace communities exist both online and offline.  They have a rich history and political discourse since the early 2000s.  Of course, not all aces participate in a community.
  7. Aces fight erasure and other problems.  Many aces grew up in a context where asexuality was not a possibility, and as a result may have believed themselves to be broken or freaks.  This is improving over time, but it is still the case that aces may face misconceptions, disbelief, or even hostility.  They may also suffer from health and mental health disparities.

Common Responses:

  • Do you masturbate?” Some asexuals do and some don’t. See point #2 above.  Note, it’s usually rude to ask a person if they masturbate.
  • Are you sure your asexuality isn’t caused by hormones/immaturity/abuse/anxiety/prudishness/autism/etc?” This is a rude question, because it’s usually asked as a way of invalidating asexuality.  And the argument doesn’t even make sense–even if asexuality is “caused”, it still exists.  But to answer the question, asexuality probably has a very large number of different causes.
  • Why do asexuals feel the need to talk about what they’re not doing?” Aces may discuss how they interact with society, how they form relationships, or any number of other topics.  There are also many aces who don’t feel the need to talk about it.
  • You must have so much extra time!  I wish I could rise above the need for sex!”  Although I appreciate the effort to give a positive response to asexuality, it’s best to avoid the implication that asexuality is a superior state of being, or that non-asexuality is a lesser state of being.
  • “Do you believe rest of us are just obsessed with sex?” No, 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
Asexuality Archive
A glossary of terms
Demisexuality Resource Center

Other Media:

Asexuality: The ‘X’ In A Sexual World” on The Huffington Post
The Invisible Orientation (Book)
Asexuality Top Ten (video series)

Recorded panels I’ve done:

Aro/Ace Atheists (OrbitCon, 2018)
Asexual Spectrum Aces (FTBCon3, 2015)

See also: annotation on this asexuality 101 article.