Sexuality is something most people think about and question at one point in their life. For some, sexuality is simple and they know immediately who and what they are attracted to. But for others, like myself, it can be extremely confusing and the answer isn’t always black or white, but rather a spectrum, leaving some feeling very unclear. For me, my sexuality is something I am still very unsure of.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always hated the idea of intimacy, but it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I discovered the term “asexual” and I really identified with it. Despite the fact that this word made sense for me, I had never met anyone who shared a similar experience and feeling. I honestly still haven’t. Asexuality is a sexual orientation- like being gay, straight or bisexual. The asexual visibility and education network states that, “an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” About 1% of the population identifies as asexual, but there is considerable diversity among the asexual community. Each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. I remember my first kiss wasn’t until I was 16 and afterwards I went home and cried because I forced myself to do it in order to avoid comments about being a prude. Pretty much every single sexual encounter I have had since that point, whether I was kissing someone or fucking them was either non-consensual on my behalf or I was just doing it because I felt like I had to. Maybe my feelings that I’m asexual come from the fact that that the greater majority of my sexual experiences have been traumatic, or maybe I experienced them as traumatic because I’m asexual. I don’t know if I will ever figure that out, but for now all I know is I hate sex. I hate people touching me. I hate the idea of intimacy. And I am unsure if that will change or not. I can identify strongly as asexual today but that’s not a be all end all. That doesn’t mean I won’t change or figure out that maybe I just haven’t had a strong enough connection with someone to feel good about sex, but for right now that’s what I identify as.
I often feel unsure about labeling myself as asexual because of the stigma associated with that sexuality. Here are some things that I urge you all not ask or say to someone who comes out to you as asexual because it is damaging and confusing to hear your sexuality constantly be de-legitimized and questioned.
- “Maybe you just haven’t had good sex. You or your previous partner was probably doing something wrong.”
This is the thing I hear the most and it’s extremely frustrating and annoying to be confronted with. Firstly, please don’t assume you know anything about my sexual encounters. That is extremely invasive. Secondly, yeah. I haven’t had good sex. Being asexual for me means I am not interested in sex and I do not like sex, so therefore; any sex I have would not be “good” for me.
- “Maybe you haven’t met the right person yet.”
This is something that people say and it suggests that we can be ‘fixed’ by meeting a certain someone. This isn’t how it works.
- “So you’re gay then?”
No. Gay and asexual are two different sexual orientations.
- “So you’re not attracted to ANYONE?”
Attraction and desire to have sex are two separate things. I can look at someone and think, “wow that person is really attractive,” but I don’t automatically fantasize about having sex with them. I think that’s the same for most people, no matter what sexual orientation you have. You can be attracted to someone but not feel the need or desire to fuck them.
- “Is it like a chemical imbalance?”
No. Just no.
- “Why are you so scared of sex? You must be a prude.”
Asexuality is not a fear of sex or relationships. Some asexuals surely do have a fear of sex, but that fear of sex is not correlated to their sexual orientation.
- “How can you be asexual when you dress provocatively or and when you flaunt your body?”
How one dresses and presents oneself has no correlation to his or her sex life. Someone wearing a mini skirt is not asking for sex.
- Are you choosing not to have sex? Are you saving yourself until marriage? Are you still a virgin?
Asexuality is not an abstinence pledge and asexuality is not a synonym for celibacy. A lot of people who identify as asexual have had sex. This does not make them any less asexual. So don’t say, “but wait… you’ve had sex? How can you be asexual?” either.
Asexuality is extremely underrepresented in society and not fully understood as a sexual orientation. Most sexual research is on heterosexual orientations and when there has been research on non-heterosexual orientations they have almost solely focused on homosexuality and bisexuality, leaving out other identities such as asexual and pansexual to name a few. Little is known about the factors associated with asexuality, given that sexual attraction and sexual behavior are imperfectly correlated. In Anthony F. Bogaert’s “Asexuality: Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample” he states that, “Little is known about gender differences in the asexual population as well. However, it has been suggested that more women than men are asexual. Gender differences within some asexual studies were found regarding the importance of masturbating for describing asexuality: More women than men stated that ‘not masturbating’ was important when describing asexuality.” Additionally, some asexual individuals do experience sexual attraction toward others, but lack the drive to act on this attraction. This suggests that, to fully acknowledge the diversity within the asexual population, it is important that researchers distinguish between romantic and sexual orientation when asking about self-identification. Within the asexual community there are a complete variety of people who have different experiences and all of the things I have stated have been based on personal experience. Even if you can’t fully understand it’s important to have an open mind and to not worry so much about labels.