Most people think asexuality doesn’t exist. Asexual people are can often be thought of as freaks and weirdos that can’t get a partner. Some think they’re celibate and not asexual, others wonder if they haven’t found the right person, or that they were abused. I’m going to tell you that none of these things are related to asexuality.
Asexuality is defined as the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. It’s a fairly simple definition, but life is more complicated than that. This definition only refers to sexuality, but people experience romantic attraction too. Asexuals (aces) can still experience romantic attraction towards people of any gender. However some are aromantic, which means they don’t experience romantic attraction to anyone.
Some people feel their experience of attraction is more in the middle than black and white asexual/sexual, or aromantic/romantic. These people might call themselves grey sexual or grey romantic, in order to give a word to their varying degrees of experienced attraction.
Some might only develop sexual or romantic attraction to someone they’ve formed a strong emotional bond with. These people might call themselves demisexual, or demiromantic. I know you might be thinking “but that’s just like everyone else”, but generally people who identify as demisexual can take months, even years to develop attraction for someone. It takes a long time to form a strong emotional bond with someone. As far as I know, that isn’t the general experience of people who just want to get to know someone a bit before having sex or starting a relationship.
Sexual attraction vs Romantic attraction
I know this is a lot of terminology, but I promise it’s useful for everyone to know to understand a bit more about the world around you. For most people, the experience of attraction is associated with both sexuality and romance together, but if you think about it, that isn’t actually true.
Have you ever wanted to have sex with someone without wanting a relationship with them? Have you ever been in a relationship with someone you weren’t particularly into physically, but loved them for who they are? Perhaps you have made friends with someone only to find that some time down the line you become attracted to them unexpectedly? Have you ever found that you no longer wanted to be with someone romantically, but still wanted to have sex with them, or the sexual attraction was gone but you still loved them? If you have experienced any of these, then you know that romantic and sexual attraction are not the same thing, and can be experienced separately.
This is an important thing to realise when understanding people who have different romantic and sexual orientations, and this knowledge can be applied to everyone. Are you straight, both sexually and romantically? This is heterosexual & heteroromantic. You could be bisexual but more often form relationships with people of the same sex. This could be called bisexual homoromantic. Are you attracted to people of all genders sexually but don’t experience romantic attraction? This could be called pansexual aromantic. Are you not really into sex with people but are interested in people of the opposite sex romantically? Asexual heteroromantic.
How do you know you’re Asexual?
Some of you might be wondering how you can *know* that you’re ace. There are a great many ways to know, or not know, and that’s okay. Many aces assume they’re bad at sex, or that everyone else experiences the world as they do, and don’t really understand why everyone makes such a big deal about sex. Others might have sex, and realise that it’s not really something they’d ever seek out. Some know immediately that they don’t feel that way towards other people, and don’t ever want to seek out sexual contact. Everyone’s experience of their sexuality is unique to them, and aces are no exception to that.
How to Support Someone Who is Asexual
If you want to support a friend who is ace or might be coming to terms with it, the best thing you can do is accept it for what it is: normal. Approximately 1% of the world’s population is ace, and at 7.7 billion of us on the planet as of November 2019, that makes 77 million aces worldwide. Aces, like queer people have always existed.
The internet has been able to provide vocabulary about ace’s experiences beyond local terms, and that is hugely important for making them feel less alone. This person might know immediately the words that describe their experiences, or it might take a long time figuring it out. They might identify in various ways until they figure it out and that’s okay. Sifting through all of your experiences and deconstructing everything you’ve learned about relationships and sexuality over the course of a lifetime to figure out where you fit in is not an easy task. And it’s okay to get it wrong in the process.
You may not understand all of their experiences, and that might make you inclined to dismiss them, but you don’t have to understand everything to accept its validity. I would encourage you to challenge your understanding of sexuality, the relationship between love and sex, and to seek more information.
Resources for More Information
Good sources of information include the Wikipedia pages, which is maintained by Asexuality Visibility Education Network (AVEN) which is both a website with more personalised information about the experiences of aces, such as think pieces and blog posts, and a forum. This forum is the largest for aces worldwide, and also has subforums for people who are friends, family and partners of ace people where they can ask questions and get support. There are also plenty of facebook pages and groups where people can share information (and LOTS of memes), get support, and organise meet ups.
AVEN website: https://asexuality.org/
AVEN forum: https://www.asexuality.org/en/
Asexuality Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asexuality
Grey Ace Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_asexuality
Irish Aces FB page: https://www.facebook.com/IrishAces/
Irish Aces Twitter page: https://twitter.com/irishasexuality?lang=en
Irish Ace Meets FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/167435833797082/
Aces, Aros, and Enbies (the best meme page): https://www.facebook.com/AcesArosEnbies/
Click HERE for more about sexual and romantic identities from LGBT Ireland