If you spend a lot of time in Biology classes or on Tumblr, chances are good that you’re more than familiar with the term. Otherwise? Maybe not so much. You might have heard it here and there, but even then, it’s probably accompanied by a lot of misinformation and, sometimes, scorn. With all this, it stands to reason that you’d have a few questions about asexuality. That’s cool! The title of this post says that these questions are “embarrassing,” but that is really just a marketing ploy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know more about a term that you’ve heard about but don’t really feel comfortable bringing up around your parents or teachers.
Now, I am a straight, cis-gendered woman, so I obviously cannot speak for everyone who might identify as asexual in some way. I also cannot tell you if you might be asexual. But asexuality is a sexual orientation that often doesn’t get discussed very often, which means that it’s one that you may have a lot of questions about. So, check out the answers to the questions you probably have about being asexual:
So, uh, what is it?
In the most basic of terms, asexuality (called “ace” for short) is a sexual orientation that applies to anyone who does not experience (or rarely experiences) sexual attraction to any gender. There’s also a flag, which you can see above.
So, being asexual means you don’t want to have sex. Got it.
Sort of! But not quite–like most things, there are complexities within this term. Some asexuals experience feelings of romantic, intelligent, and/or emotional attraction to people, and identify as a “romantic” asexual, while others feel no interest in pursuing any kind of romantic relationship with anyone.
Asexuals can also feel romantic attraction occasionally, which can be referred to as “gray-romantic”, or may feel attracted to someone once they get to know them on a deeper level, which is usually referred to as “demiromantic.” (If you’re interested in terminology, you can check out a more complete list at the LGBTQ Center at UNC Chapel Hill’s website.)
In short, sexuality is a spectrum–there are many people who feel totally certain about what they are from day one, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to fit into one specific box every single day. People change, and your sexuality may change slightly over time as you realize more things about yourself, and none of this means that your sexuality is any less valid.
That’s basically the same thing as celibacy, right?
No. Celibacy–AKA purposefully not having sex–is a choice, while asexuality is a sexual orientation and, thus, cannot be chosen. There are aces who abstain from sex, and there are asexuals who have had sex in the past, and there are asexuals who do have sex. None of these actions validate or detract from one’s sexual orientation.
What are the stats on this?
About one in 100 people are asexual, though many may not know that they are asexual. Women are also more likely to be asexual–according to one study done in Britain in the 1990s, 70 percent of asexuals were women.
If you’re asexual, does this mean you’ll never be in a relationship?
No! You don’t have to be in a relationship if you are asexual, obviously, but many asexuals who experience feelings of romantic attraction have successful relationships, either with other asexuals or sexuals.
“Asexual” sounds a lot like “agender.” Are they the same thing?
People tend to mix up these two terms a lot. It is true that both words start with the letter “A” in them! This, however, does not mean that they are the same thing–“asexual” is the sexual orientation that means someone does not experience sexual attraction; “agender” is an identity under the nonbinary and transgender umbrella that describes someone who does not identify as any one gender. One can be asexual and agender at the same time, of course, but identifying as one does not require you to identify as the other.
But asexual people don’t really experience discrimination, right?
Coming out as asexual can be just as hard as coming out as gay or lesbian or trans–and sometimes even harder, since asexuality is a less well-known orientation and therefore not viewed as being as “legitimate” as others. And, if you don’t feel sexual attraction, it can be challenging to exist in a world in which pretty much everything from movies to books to advertisements are sexualized, since the constant presence of sex–which everyone else seems to be obsessed with, but you can’t make yourself care about–can make it hard to relate to other people.
What do I do if I think I’m asexual?
It’s up to you! If you feel like everyone in your life is going to be supportive, you can go ahead and come out. Or, you can pick and choose people who you want to tell.
If you aren’t ready to come out (or need to do some more research before you figure it out) there are a number of resources and forums that will help you figure everything out. The Asexual Visibility And Education Network is probably the most comprehensive option, with basic information, FAQs, and forums. There’s also Asexuals Anonymous, which is a Tumblr blog dedicated to creating a safe space for asexuals online. There’s also CardHouse, which is supposed to be another safe alternative for asexuals.
If you need some more explanation, you can check out this video:
Do you have any other questions about asexuality? Let us know in the comments!