As the movement for inclusivity and understanding of all forms of sexuality and gender expression grows, so does the accepted acronym, which currently includes: LGTBQIA. The first four letters are generally known (lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual) and understood but the last three letters are often points of question (queer, intersex and asexual).
The letter ‘A’ in the acronym stands for both ‘Asexual’ as well as ‘Allies.’ Asexuality is a form sexual identification that the majority of heteronormative culture does not understand, especially in such a sexually driven culture as the United States. It is a sexual orientation just like homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality, and like these sexualities, there is an asexuality spectrum.
Busting myths. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding asexuality, the most prevalent of which is that asexual people choose to abstain from sex. But this is not asexuality, this is celibacy.
Asexuality is not finding anyone sexually attractive. Though people who identify as asexual may not experience sexual attraction does not mean they do not have sex.
Another common misconception is that people who aren’t sexually attracted to others can’t experience intimacy. Simply put, this isn’t true. There are many different forms of intimacy, such as communication, and although sex is one of those forms, it is not the only form nor is it the ‘more important’ form. Many people say that a sexless relationship is unhealthy and that there are problems; but this is a judgment and not fact. The act of sex does not guarantee a happy relationship, just as the absence of sex does not automatically doom one.
One other popular myth hovering over asexuality is that those identifying as asexual were raped, molested or otherwise assaulted in their lifetime. While this may be true in some cases given the prevalence of sexual assault, it’s not proof of causation. Or even correlation.
Be an asexual ally. Stop assuming that everyone desires sex and are hyper sexual beings. And if you meet or know someone who identifies as asexual, check your assumptions at the door. Adopting the mindset that ‘no sex equals many problems’ undermines and stigmatizes an entire population of people.
As I write this, I realize that I have never deeply explored the possibility that I may lie on the asexuality spectrum. Just as I experienced pressure to like and be attracted to boys as a bourgeoning female-identified adolescent, I find myself experiencing similar pressure to outwardly express cravings for sex and sexual desire as an adult. Yes, I enjoy sex and that level of physical intimacy, but truth be told, I do not feel like or consider myself to be a very sexual person. For me, sex has never been a top priority and though I have participated in sex-driven relationships, these were the least intimate relationships I have experienced.
When I disclose to friends that I am ‘just not that sexual,’ I’m often confronted with responses ranging from confusion to blatant judgment. I’ve been told that my relationship will fail without sex and that there are clearly underlying problems that must be addressed if I want the relationship to stand a chance. Even when I try to explain myself — which, for the record, I should never have to do —I’m told that I need to stop rationalizing and justifying the problems in my relationship.
Haven’t people ever considered that forcing the issue of sex might be a problem in and of itself?
Creating a sex-positive culture has been both liberating as well as empowering for many people, but certain populations, like asexuals, have been ignored or even shamed. People must remember that sex is personal to every individual and what may be healthy for one person does not mean that it is or should be healthy for another.
Bottom line: Not everyone experiences sexual attraction. And that’s OK.