Asexuality: the Spectrum
Asexuality is a spectrum, but what does it really mean to be Asexual?
Most people think that asexuality refers to those who feel no sexual attraction, but surprisingly, that’s not always the case. Sexual attraction is the desire to have sex with someone who you feel to be attractive or alluring. Asexual people do not experience this in the way most people would consider typical. Some asexual people will never experience sexual attraction and have no interest in romantic relationships of any kind. But, that’s just the start of the asexuality spectrum as some asexuals do desire sex, but only in certain situations or, perhaps, not very often.
Variations of Asexuality
Someone might consider themselves demisexual, a type of asexuality that refers to those who do experience sexual attraction, but only once an emotional bond has already been formed. However, they can experience romantic attraction prior to a bond or connection. For example, a demisexual person wouldn’t see someone across a bar and want to sleep with them. But, they might discover that once they have a strong friendship with someone, they begin to experience sexual attraction to them.
On the other hand, some asexuals might consider themselves aromantic. This means, they do not desire any level of romantic relationship with another person, but might still search out casual sexual relationships.
Grayromantic and graysexual are also identities that some people under the asexuality spectrum resonate with. Grayromatic refers to those who can experience some level of romantic attraction, but find it difficult to define. And, graysexuals tend to lean towards having no sexual attraction but don’t 100% rule out any degree of sexual attraction.
One common missconception about asexual people, is that those who do not desire sex, are not interested in having relationships that extend past being platonic.
In addition to or instead of sexual desire, asexuals might also feel:
- The desire for a love relationship with someone (romantic attraction)
- Being attracted to someone because of their appearance (aesthetic attraction)
- Wanting to hug or cuddle based on physical want or attraction
- Wanting to be friends with someone (platonic attraction)
- Wanting a connection that’s based on emotions
All of these forms of attraction can exist for asexual people, plus plenty of others. Furthermore, even those asexuals who don’t desire sex might still engage in the activity consensually.
There are many reasons why an asexual person can engage in sex, including, to create children, fulfil their libido, make their spouse happy, enjoy physical sex, express and receive affection, and enjoy sensual sex, which includes stroking and snuggling. Asexuality means different things to different individuals, thus it’s perfectly fine for some asexuals to have little to no sex drive or sexual desire but still engage in sex.
Simply said, everyone’s experience of being asexual is unique, and there is no one right way to be asexual.
Additional misconceptions about asexuality:
Abstinence and celibacy equal asexuality
Asexuality is not abstinence of celibacy. Abstinence or celibacy is the decision to refrain from having intercourse, despite experiencing sexual attraction. Usually, this is just transitory. A person may decide against having sex until they wed or amid a trying time in their lives. Celibacy might be undertaken for an extended length of time due to religious, cultural or personal reasons. But, even if a person’s celibacy lasts for their entire life, it does not make them asexual. A celibate person will usually experience urges or desires for certain people but will choose not to act on them.
The fact that abstinence and celibacy are choices makes them distinct from sexual apathy. Furthermore, those who choose celibacy or abstinence might undoubtedly feel sexual attraction. Asexual people may not even refrain from having sex at all.
Asexuality is a medical ailment
Many individuals believe that asexual people are ‘wrong’ in some way. For example, some people think asexuality is caused by hormone imbalances. Many people incorrectly believe that everyone experiences sexual attraction. So, if an asexual person doesn’t experience that same desire, they can be concerned that something is wrong with them. However, being asexual is neither a medical issue nor a problem that needs to be resolved.
Some well-intentioned individuals might imagine that asexuals would experience sexual attraction if they were to meet the right person, but this is not how asexuality functions. Finding love or finding romance is not the issue.
Though it should go without saying, being asexual is not the same as:
- Aversion to closeness
- Decline in libido
- Stifling of sexuality
- Sexual repugnance
- Improper sexual behaviour
To try to better explain the asexuality spectrum and all the different experiences people have, we spoke to some people who identify as asexual and asked them to tell us what asexuality means to them:
Gina, a student who identifies as asexual, says, “I think it’s a valid identity just like any other, and I think asexual people deserve even more recognition.”
Asking Bisi, an asexual woman in her mid-thirties, she says “I always wondered if something was wrong with me. I sometimes feel attracted to people, but it dies off quickly, sometimes before they even make a move. I struggled to understand why for years, but with the advent of sex education, I now know myself to be asexual.” When asked how she manages this in a society where she’s expected to one day get married and procreate, she said “I am bidding my time on that. I am yet to meet someone who understands that, and until then I am quite comfortable with this part of my life.”
Gideon, a husband and father who is asexual discloses, “I let my wife know who I am. We have always been in love with each other, but the sex part has always been a tad difficult. I remember watching Big Bang Theory with my wife and she likened me to Sheldon. In a way, I get it. I am just glad our relationship transcends sex, we have so many things in common.”