Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says they are asexual? This article lays out some of the common questions that you might have about asexuality and then answers them for you.
What is an asexual person?
An asexual is a person who is not sexually attracted to anyone of any gender. Everyone has certain people they are not sexually attracted to – asexual people just find that everyone falls into this group. Other than that though, asexual people tend to be very varied.
Increasingly, an asexual person is often described as 'ase' or 'ace', like a homosexual person is often described as 'gay'.
Does this mean that asexual people can’t form relationships?
Certainly not – many asexual people want to be in close relationships. They are just as likely to form close friendships as any other person. Many asexuals also crave romantic relationships and are perfectly capable of crushing on people and falling in love.
There are certain asexuals who do not wish, for whatever reason, to form romantic relationships. Increasingly these people are defining themselves as aromantic or asexual-aromantic.
So who do asexuals fall in love with?
Some asexual people do have a gender preference for their relationships – an asexual may define themselves as homoromantic (wanting to be in a relationship with a member of the same gender), heteromantic (wanting to be in a relationship with a member of the opposite gender) or as biromantic (wanting to be in a relationship with a member of either gender). Some asexuals define themselves as aromantic, not wanting to be in a relationship with anyone at all, just as many straight, gay or bi people may not wish to be in a romantic relationship. Of course, some asexual people choose not to define as any of these groups, taking life as it comes. Some asexuals are also polyamorous.
So do asexual people only have relationships with other asexuals?
It is usually easier for asexual people to have relationships with each other, but it is unlikely. Most asexuals end up in relationships with people who are not asexual. Although this can cause problems in a relationship, with communication and determination, there is no reason why a relationship with an asexual is less fulfilling than a relationship with anybody else.
What about sex? If they don’t fancy anyone, what’s the point?
Some asexuals do not want to have sex. Some of them even find the idea repulsive or plain boring, and many of them find the concept pretty strange; after all, if you think about it, sex is a pretty odd thing. However, some asexuals do have sex, and for many different reasons. Some wish to have children. Many try it as an attempt to ‘fit in’, or out of pride, loneliness or curiosity. Some do it out of duty, love or because they enjoy pleasing their partner. Some of them think it feels nice. There are hundreds of reasons why people have sex, and ‘because I am attracted to my partner’ is a common one, but only one of many reasons. Sex is an incredibly varied practice between people of all sexualities, and everyone is different, including asexual people. Some asexual people have fetishes such as BDSM. Every asexual has different boundaries, so if you really need to know, ask the individual – but it’s a very personal question. Of course, asexuals need to practice safe sex just as much as anyone else; if there is a chance of blood, semen or vaginal fluids to pass from one person’s body to another’s use a condom or dental dam.
But if you have sex, you can’t be asexual!
For a wide variety of reasons, gay people have been known to have sex with the opposite sex (as some straight people have had sex with the same sex) – does this make them ‘less’ gay? No. Sexuality is defined by how a person feels, not by how a person behaves. If a bisexual woman has only had sex with another woman, is she a lesbian? Not if she is also attracted to men. If an asexual person is not attracted to anyone, it is irrelevant to their sexuality whether they have sex or not.
It’s a common misconception that asexual people have no sex drive; it varies between them. Some have none at all, while other’s is quite high – it is just not aimed at anything or anyone.
Do asexual people masturbate?
Oddly enough, people seem very interested in whether an asexual masturbates or not, ‘if it’s not too personal a question’. Perhaps surprisingly, asexual people are as likely to do it as anyone else; some individuals don’t of course, but if it feels pleasant and no one needs to know, people are quite likely to touch themselves down there. So, to underline this, yes, asexual people are as likely to masturbate as anyone else. It’s incredibly frustrating and disconcerting to be asked over and over again.
Wait a minute, loads of asexuals masturbate, but still don’t want to have sex?
This question confuses being attracted to someone, being able to experience sexual pleasure and wanting to have sex, three very different categories. Most asexuals are as capable of feeling pleasure down there as anyone else in the population, and many experience a drive that needs to be sated sooner or later. But some asexuals don’t see the appeal of sex with a partner (since they are not attracted to them), likening it to picking your nose – sometimes rather satisfying, but not something you’d want someone else to do to you! And of course, some asexuals do have sex, and some enjoy it.
No, seriously, I thought asexuality was the same as being celibate.
Celibacy means to abstain from sex, to deny your desires and not have it. It can also be a temporary state – some people will be celibate for years, and then become sexually active. It is, however, a choice. Although some asexual people are also celibate, plenty aren’t, or wouldn’t refer to themselves as such, because they’re not ‘giving up’ anything. Of course, asexuals may be having sex, so that certainly stops them being celibate.
How many asexual people are out there?
No one really knows exactly how many asexual people there are, as very few scientific studies have been done to find out, and not everyone knows what it means (including some asexual people!). However, in the surveys that have been done, slightly over 1% of the population appears to be asexual.
What makes someone asexual? Can it be ‘fixed’?
No one knows what makes someone asexual, just as no one really knows why someone is any other sexuality. Whether it can be fixed depends on whether an asexual person is considered broken! As to changing an asexuals orientation to something more socially acceptable, it would be as difficult to change as anyone else’s.
Myths and misconceptions about why someone is asexual:
- Asexuals are just too ugly to get a partner
This is most definitely untrue; meet a few asexuals and judge for yourself!
- People who claim to be asexual are just trying to get attention by being weird.
The same can be said for anyone doing anything even slightly out of the ordinary, and rather than announce that you are not straight, if you really want attention, dying your hair a funky colour is much easier. Asexual people are just as likely to be ‘weird’ as anyone else, regardless of their sexuality (and hey, who wants to be normal?).
- Asexuals are genderless / have abnormal or absent genitalia
Asexual people are not neutered in some way. Genitalia and gender for asexual people is much the same as it is for anyone else in the population – although the majority identify as the sex they were born into, asexual people are just as likely to be transgender or intersex as anyone else.
- Asexuals are sterile
No, they’re not. Asexual people are as capable of having children as anyone else, and many of them want them.
- Asexuals are just gay and can’t face it
Although many people ‘in the closet’ might deny their sexuality, asexuality is a distinct orientation. Certainly some asexuals may well be denying their ‘true’ orientation, but the same can be said for anyone, whatever sexuality they identify with.
- Men can’t be asexual
They definitely can! It may be a common stereotype that men will shag anything that moves, but not all men follow it.
- Asexuals are incapable of dirty thoughts
Oh, they’re capable!
- Asexuals must be very religious
Not necessarily, an asexual person can be of any faith, or none at all.
- Asexuality is just a phase
It’s very unlikely; asexual people are pretty much going to stay that way. This is the same as saying that a gay or straight person is just having a phase.
- Asexuals are just late bloomers; they haven’t met the right person yet
This is one of the most common things an asexual hears. Although the statement is often well-meaning, an asexual person, especially an adult who has completely finished puberty, is very unlikely to suddenly become attracted to someone. Many asexual people are in fulfilling relationships; they have found the ‘right person’ but remain asexual. Are asexuals who are over 50 also ‘late bloomers’? It’s the same as telling a straight person that they haven’t met the right member of their own sex, or a gay person they haven’t met the right member of the opposite; technically, it may be true, but it’s very unlikely and quite insulting.
- Asexuals just have a hormone imbalance/have too little testosterone
No, asexual people are as likely to have normal hormones as anyone else. Abnormal hormones are likely to affect sex drive, not who the individual is attracted to.
- Asexuals are all depressed.
Many asexuals are very happy with their lives! Although depression and some anti-depressants can diminish sex drive and minimise the desire to seek out a relationship, most people with depression have been attracted to people at some point in their lives when they were not depressed, whereas asexuals do not experience this.
- Asexuals are just afraid of intimacy.
Perhaps some of them are, but not any more than the rest of the population.
- Asexuals are probably a bit autistic.
Although some asexual people are on the autistic spectrum somewhere, most of them are not, and being on the autistic spectrum does not make you asexual!
- Asexuals are attracted to themselves!
Um, no, they’re not.
- It’s ‘unnatural’ or ’inhuman’ to be asexual; sex is necessary to life!
Woah there, perhaps some heterosexual sex is ‘necessary’ for the human race, but that doesn’t make what any other practice, or lack of, ‘unnatural’. The animal kingdom has examples of asexuality, whereas birth control is rarely used by animals – which is more natural? As for thinking someone doesn’t count as human if they aren’t attracted to someone, that’s not only ridiculous, but offensive.
- We should pity asexuals, they’re ‘broken’.
Asexual people are not broken! They may tackle relationships from a different stand-point, but most of them are very happy with being asexual and are perfectly fine without your pity, thankyouverymuch. Your understanding, now that’s different.
- Asexuals must have some horrific psychological trauma in their past, or been sexually abused.
Asexual people are no more likely to have been abused than anyone else in the population, and sexual abuse does not make someone asexual.
- Asexuals can’t know they don’t fancy anyone until they’ve tried to have sex!
If all an asexual person needs to do to ‘discover their true sexuality’ is to try sexual acts with members of each sex, than why have many asexuals done this only to confirm they aren’t attracted to men or women? People of other sexualities know what their sexuality is before trying sexual acts with people, because they are attracted to them. Surely asexuals can be aware of their own orientation simply because they aren’t attracted to anyone? Pressuring an asexual into having sex to ‘check’ their feelings is as insensitive as pressuring a straight person to do so with the same sex, and about as likely to succeed. Trying to perform a sexual act without feeling comfortable usually means you are not going to enjoy it.
- Asexuals are too ‘close-minded’ to experiment with sex and relationships.
Asexual people are as likely as anyone else to be close minded. Being asexual does not mean that you refuse to think about sexuality or relationships; many asexual people have had to think a great deal about them to identify as asexual.
- Asexuals are just frigid.
Bad word; don’t use it. Asexuals may find it more difficult to engage in sexual behaviour, but it doesn’t make them cold, impotent or necessarily sexually unresponsive.
- Asexuals reproduce on their own!!!
Now now, if you remember your biology GCSE, asexual reproduction means reproduction without sex – this is something that bacteria and some plants do, not human beings! To say that a person is asexual is does not mean they can clone themselves by splitting in half!
Why bother identifying as asexual?
It is important that people understand who they are. Many adolescent asexual people go through a period of being unsure about their sexuality, knowing that their disinterest in the opposite sex would presume that they are gay; whilst not being attracted to the same sex either. This leaves many young people confused and worried, thinking that there must be something wrong with them that has made them deny themselves, or that something is biologically incorrect. Learning about asexuality is often a huge relief, as the person learns that they are not broken, ill or alone.
Do asexuals come out?
Some asexuals do, although many find it difficult, as not everyone understands exactly what is meant by an asexual person. Some asexual people believe it isn’t anyone else’s business, and would rather tell people they are not looking for a relationship when the subject comes up, or will only tell a partner once they are in a relationship with them, or not at all. However, some people feel a great sense of relief at telling others they are asexual, and feel liberated by the acceptance of others.
Is it easy for an asexual person to come out?
That depends entirely on the individual and the people he or she comes out to. The main difficulties asexual people face are a lack of understanding or belief, as some people are ignorant of asexuality and refuse to acknowledge it, or insist that something is wrong with the asexual person that can be fixed or grown out of. Although often less extreme but more complicated, many asexuals face similar problems with coming out as gay or bi people.
What is asexuality’s place in the LGBT community?
The LGBT community exists to help provide support and equality for people with a minority sexual or gender identity. Asexuality is another, slightly lesser known sexual minority. Asexual people often have similar experiences to gay people, coming to terms with their own sexuality and coming out. Asexual people are also capable of relationships with the same sex, and are as likely to be transgender as anyone else.