WHAT IS ASEXUALITY?
An asexual person is someone who generally doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Many asexual people experience romantic attractions but do not necessarily feel the desire to act on these attractions in a sexual way. In this way, asexuality is different from celibacy, which is a chosen abstinence from sexual activity. Asexual people engage in relationships that are romantic, platonic, sensual, or aesthetic and identify in many different ways, such as homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, heteroromantic, and aromantic (see definitions below).
There are many different types of asexuality, and everyone experiences their asexuality differently! Some asexuals identify as Gray-A, which means that they can still become aroused depending on the person or the situation. Other asexual people feel little to no sexual arousal, while some express their sexual desires through masturbation.
Romantic Orientation vs. Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation is characterized by the gender and/or sex a person finds sexually or romantically attractive in relation to one’s own gender and biological sex. Bisexual, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, asexual, and pansexual are all examples of sexual orientations.
Romantic orientation (or affection orientation) refers to who someone wants to be in a romantic relationship with. Some romantic relationships involve sex and others.For example, a female identified person may be sexually interested in other female identified individuals, but her romantic orientation could include the same gender and other genders (bi- or panromantic); this means that she may only want to have sex with female identifying people but wants to be romantically involved with both male and female identifying people.
Examples of romantic orientation:
Homoromantic: romantically interested in the same gender and/or sex
Biromantic: romantically interested in men and women
Panromantic: romantically interested in all/most genders in the spectrum
Heteroromantic: romantically interested in the opposite gender and/or sex
Gray-aromantic: a person who occasionally experiences romantic interest
Aromantic: has little to no romantic interest
Can asexuals have sex or be in a relationship?
It all depends on the person. Some asexual people are both aromantic and asexual, which means that they don’t want to have sex or be in romantic relationships at all. This does not mean that they cut off all ties with everyone; they still have feelings and express affection towards other people.
As in all context, choosing to have sex with a sexual partner when one is asexual requires communication and consent. Indeed, some asexuals are more comfortable with the idea of sex than others and some asexual people still participate in varying degrees of sexual intimacy with their partner(s). Others may not find it appealing and may decide never to have sex, and others still may refrain from sex with others and instead express their sexual desires through things like fantasy and masturbation.
Some other terms and definitions used within the asexual community:
Squishes and Crushes
A crush is when you have a desire to date or have a romantic relationship with a person/people. A squish is a term used when someone has great admiration for a person and wants to build a relationship with them, though not necessarily a romantic one. The term squish is often associated with individuals who identify as aromantic.
Because sexuality can be fluid and is not necessarily black and white, some people identify in its gray areas. People who identify as a gray-a find themselves in between the sexual and asexual spectrum and may:
Sometimes experience sexual attraction
Experience sexual attraction but have a low sex drive
Enjoy and desire sex under specific circumstances
Demisexuals experience sexual attraction to people with whom they form a strong emotional connection. This does not mean that they are choosing to abstain, rather that they do not desire a sexual relationship until a close bond is formed.
How to be an Ally to Asexuals
Listen and believe asexuals! Everyone is the expert on their own experience.
Educate yourself about asexuality. Lots of resources exist. Use them!
Ask about asking. Not all asexuals want to be your asexuality encyclopedia. Make sure they are open to questions before asking.
Advocate for asexual visibility. Asexuality gets left out a lot. Include it! Support projects that make asexuality visible.
Move up, move back. Know when to talk about asexuality and when to listen to the voices of asexual people.
Learn more about asexuality at these safe and friendly sites:
There are tons of blogs and Tumblrs out there on asexuality, too!