Asexuality: Myths, Misconceptions and Other Things That Are Just Plain Wrong

Since asexuality is rather unknown, it is subject to a lot of misinformation and ignorance. Many of these misconceptions can be offensive and hurtful.  All of these are things that people have actually said to or about asexual people.  It’s time to set the record straight.

Asexuals don’t exist.

I’m asexual.  I wrote this.  You’re reading this.  Therefore this exists, therefore I exist, therefore asexuals exist.

QED.

Asexuality is the same as celibacy.

Asexuality describes someone’s sexual orientation, that is, that they do not experience sexual attraction to anyone.  Celibacy describes someone’s behavior, that is, that they do not have sex with anyone.  Orientation is not behavior, attraction is not action.  Celibacy and asexuality are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually linked.  It is possible for an asexual person to not have sex and be celibate, and it’s also possible for an asexual to have sex and not be celibate.

I do consider myself to be celibate, as I have not engaged in any sexual activity with anyone else in over nine years.

Asexuality is a choice.

Asexuality is not a choice.  It is a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, and like those orientations, it cannot be turned on or off on a whim.

I never woke up one morning, thinking, “You know, I’m tired of being turned on by people.  I think I’m going to stop that now.”  I’ve always been this way.

Asexual people can’t fall in love.

Many asexuals can feel the full range of romantic emotions, from a slight crush to true love.  It’s just devoid of a sexual component.  Asexuals are not limited to platonic love, either.  When an ace feels love, it can be every bit as complex and deep as the romantic love that anyone else feels.

There is a concept of romantic (or affectional) orientation, which describes who a person is romantically attracted to.  Romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation, although in many people, their romantic and sexual orientations do happen to coincide.  Common romantic orientations include heteroromantic (romantic attraction toward the opposite gender), homoromantic (romantic attraction toward the same gender), bi/panromantic (romantic attraction toward both/all genders), and aromantic (romantic attraction toward no gender).

Asexual people don’t/can’t have sex.

Most asexual people can have sex, and some of them do.  I have.  Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of sexual ability.  Asexuals are physically and physiologically indistinguishable from other people, in other words, in most cases, the equipment is all there and in working order.  If an asexual person is incapable of having sex, it is usually due to some other condition, and not necessarily related to their asexuality.

Asexuality is just a phase that you’ll grow out of.

I’m 32 and have never been sexually attracted to anyone, not even a naked woman standing in front of me, touching my junk and inviting me to reciprocate.  How exactly can that be considered a “phase”?  When am I going to grow out of it?

It’s just a hormone problem.

Most asexuals have hormones within normal ranges.  Asexuals who have started taking hormone supplements for some reason have reported no change in their orientation.

That’s not what “asexual” means.

And “gay” only means “happy” and “straight” only means “not curved”.  Words in the English language can have multiple meanings and can change over time.  Deal with it.

Getting laid will fix that.

First of all, there’s nothing to fix because we’re not broken.  Secondly, no, no it won’t.  I was asexual before I had sex and I’m still asexual now.  Many other aces who’ve had sex have had the same experience.  Sex wasn’t some super-awesome life-changing milestone that upended my worldview.

The corollary to this misconception is “Getting laid by me will fix that”, which ranks somewhere up around “Know what’d look good on you?  Me.” on the list of dumbest ideas ever for pickup lines.

You can’t know for sure unless you’ve had sex.

You don’t have to have sex to know what your sexual orientation is.  Most people, when they proceed into puberty (and in some cases, even before then), will naturally start to feel attracted to other people without having to engage in any kind of sexual activity at all.  They’ll know that they’re straight or gay or bi or what have you and they typically don’t have to hold try-outs to know which team they play for.  Asexual people are the same way.  They’ll know that they don’t feel that spark of sexual attraction, that they’re somehow not quite straight or not quite gay, that they’re different from everyone else, and they don’t need to have sex to confirm it.

I’m virtually certain that had I known what asexuality was before I had sex, I would have identified that way without needing sex to be certain.  As it was, I didn’t learn about asexuality for years after I had sex, but I knew that I was different.

Asexual people don’t/can’t masturbate.

In general, asexuals can masturbate and many do.  Asexuals generally don’t have impaired genital function, which means the parts typically work, and when the parts work, they can feel good to use.  Aces who masturbate will do so for reasons ranging from relieving tension to wanting the pleasure of an orgasm.  Of course, masturbation is a personal choice, and while many asexual people will masturbate, many do not.

I masturbate fairly regularly.

All asexuals are virgins.

Nope, sorry.  I had my v-card punched years ago.  Many other asexuals have also had sex.  Some have regular sexual partners, some are parents.  There’s no virginity requirement for being asexual, just as there’s no loss of virginity requirement for being heterosexual.

Asexuals are hermaphrodites.

Being intersex is completely unrelated to asexuality.  The various conditions grouped under the umbrella of “intersex” are all physical conditions.  Asexuality is not physical.  However, it is possible for an intersex person to be asexual.

(By the way, the word “hermaphrodite” is generally considered offensive, so don’t say that.)

Asexuality is the same as being a transsexual or transgender.

Asexuality is not a gender identity issue.  Most aces are cis-gendered, but some are trans, others are agendered, genderfluid, or what have you.  Asexuality only describes who someone is sexually attracted to (namely, no one), and has nothing to do with the gender they are.

I happen to be a cis-gendered male.

Asexuals just haven’t met the right person yet.

This assertion offends many asexuals.  They’ve seen thousands upon thousands of people in their life and have not been sexually attracted to any of them.  This claim acts to invalidate and deny a part of their core identity.  It’s a bit like going up to a heterosexual male and saying “You could really be gay, you know.  Maybe you just haven’t met the right man yet.  Keep trying, you’ll find him someday.”

Everyone feels like that sometimes.

I know that non-asexual people don’t walk around in an endless horny cloud of lust all day, every day, and that everyone feels like this sometimes.  But I feel like this all the time.  I’ve never found anyone attractive.  I don’t know what it’s like to think that someone’s hot.  I’ve never passed a woman on the street and had my mind start turning through all the things I’d like to do with her in bed.  I don’t relate to the manifestations of sexual attraction that I see around me every day.

Ever.

And that’s what makes me different.  That’s what makes me asexual.

Asexuals are really just gays in denial.

Homosexual people are sexually attracted toward people of the same sex.  Asexual people are sexually attracted to neither sex.  Asexual people are not hiding their attraction, they simply do not have any attraction to hide.

I have never felt any attraction, sexual or romantic, toward other men.

Asexual people are just afraid of sex or are disgusted by sex.

Some asexuals are afraid of or are disgusted by sex.  Some non-asexual people are, too.  Such feelings are not tied to one’s sexual orientation.  There are also many asexuals who are sex positive.  They’ve had sex or are open to the idea of having sex in the right situation.  I’m in this latter group.  I’ve done it before and I’d be willing to do it again in the right situation.

Asexual people are victims of some sexual trauma in their past.

The vast majority of asexual people have never had any kind of sexual trauma.  Most asexuals will be highly offended by someone trying to pin their lack of sexual attraction on some sort of unspoken, possibly repressed event.  And if they are victims of some past trauma, they’re generally not going to appreciate it when you bring it up and try to use it to invalidate their identity.

They have a pill that’ll fix that.

They have pills that’ll fix physical ailments, such as hormonal imbalances or blood flow issues.  Asexuality is not a physical ailment.  There’s no pill that’ll make an asexual start experiencing sexual attraction.  It would be like there being a pill that would turn a gay person straight.

Asexuality is caused by a brain tumor.

Hour-long medical procedural TV shows should not be considered reliable sources regarding sexual orientations.  Moving on…

Asexuals don’t/can’t have orgasms.

The majority of asexuals have normal, fully functioning sexual organs.  This means that the majority of asexuals have the capacity to orgasm.  Many asexuals do have orgasms, and often enjoy them.  Certainly not all asexuals have had orgasms, and some do not have fully functioning sexual organs, however, those cases are not due to asexuality.  Asexuality is only a description of sexual orientation, and in no way attempts to describe sexual ability.

I do have orgasms and I like them.

Asexuals are all homophobes.

This is categorically false.  The vast majority of asexuals are LGBT+ friendly.  There is absolutely nothing inherent in asexuality that minimizes, dismisses, invalidates, passes judgment on, or attacks homosexuality in any way.  Asexuality is another sexual orientation that coexists alongside every other sexual orientation.

Asexuals are all super-religious and against sex.

Asexuality has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs.  Asexuality is not a form of abstinence, it’s not the result of a purity pledge, and it’s not that we’re “saving ourselves”.  It’s equally possible for an asexual person to be a hardcore born-again no-sex-til-marriage brand of Christian as it is for an asexual person to be an atheist who enjoys casual sex with strangers on the weekends.

Asexuals all hate sex and everyone who has sex.

Asexuality should not be confused with antisexuality.  Most asexuals have no problem with sex.  Some don’t like the idea of sex when it comes to themselves, but are typically indifferent when it comes to other people.  Some even enjoy having sex.  Asexuality is merely a sexual orientation, it doesn’t have any effect one’s opinion on sexual activity.

I actually kinda liked sex.  It was a bit boring, but at least it felt good.

Asexuals are naïve and don’t know anything about sex.

Asexuality is not somehow a function of a lack of information about sex.  There are plenty of people out there who know very little about sex besides what goes where, and they’re not all asexual.  Conversely, there are plenty of asexuals who know quite a bit about sex and sexual practices, even though they’re not necessarily all that interested in trying them out.

I happen to have a rather sizable library on the various facets of human sexuality, from textbooks and research papers to illustrated sex manuals.  I have a bit of an anthropological curiosity on the subject, probably from my repeated attempts to figure out where I fit.

Asexuals are just faking it for attention.

How is someone who’s in the closet and agonizing over their identity “faking it for attention”?  Most aces are in the closet or not very open about it precisely because they fear the sort of attention they’ll get.  All of these things in this list are actual things that people have said to asexual people.

Certainly, there are some people who will claim to be asexual because it’s trendy.  But there are also people who pretend to be gay for some reason, and no one tries to use them as evidence that disproves the existence of homosexuality in its entirety.

In real life, I hardly ever mention that I’m asexual, as it’s not typically relevant to the day-to-day experience of a software engineer.  The most attention I’ve gotten from it have been a few awkward (yet positive) conversations with my parents and a guy at work saying “Yeah, we all kinda figured that.”  So clearly, that’s what I’m going for with this.

There are no asexual men.

There aren’t?  Man, and I was so sure that I existed, too…  Do I have to take back my “QED”?

Asexual men do exist, contrary to the stereotypes.  I’m one of them.  David Jay is, as well.  He’s one of the most prominent asexual visibility activists around.  He founded AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, the largest asexual community on the Internet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

And we’re far from the only two around.

Asexuality is a moral stand against sex.

Asexuality is nothing more than a sexual orientation.  It’s not inherently for or against sex or people who have sex.  When an asexual says something like “I don’t look at people that way” or “I don’t understand why people think sex is so important”, it’s not a value judgment, it’s not an attack.  It’s just a statement of fact. They literally don’t feel that way, they don’t understand it.

It’s also worth repeating that asexuality is not a choice, so it can’t be a decision that one makes to stand against anything.

Asexuality is evolution’s response to overpopulation.

I’ve seen this idea come up several times.  There are so many things wrong with this idea that I don’t know where to begin…  The concept of “overpopulation” is one of sustainability, not of actual, physical, overpopulation.  I have plenty to eat and plenty of space to live in, as did my parents when I was born.  Evolution didn’t come by one day and say “Well, there’s famine thousands of miles away in Africa right now and if you project out the current growth rates and consumption trends, there’s gonna be problems everywhere in about a hundred years, so, you know what?  I think I’m gonna make you not be interested in women.”  That’s just not how evolution works.  There’s the whole bit where advantageous traits are passed along throughout the generations, because they assist in successful reproduction, even if indirectly.  If there’s a trait that makes an organism not interested in reproduction, then that trait doesn’t get passed on, so it can’t become common within a population.  (On top of that, it doesn’t really matter if something was done to lower my effective fertility, since there’s plenty of people with reality TV shows that are more than making up for me.)

If evolution actually were responding to overpopulation, it would probably just make us smaller so we consume less.  Evolution typically doesn’t get much of a chance to respond to overpopulation, though, because famine and disease are far more effective instruments of population control which can eliminate the problem in a single generation.

Asexuals are all just confused teenage girls.

My driver’s license disagrees with this statement on multiple counts. Many asexuals are not teenagers. Many asexuals are not girls. And even those asexuals who are teenage girls tend not to be confused. Most people who identify as asexual do not do so on a whim or because we somehow just can’t recognize what sexual attraction is.  An asexual person generally examines their life very carefully before coming out, so you can be fairly certain that when someone says “I’m asexual”, the last thing they are is confused about how they feel.

You’re just single and looking for an excuse for why you’re afraid to date.

Except for those asexuals who aren’t single, or who genuinely don’t care about dating, or who really wouldn’t mind dating if the right person came along…

Asexuals hate their gender.

Asexuality has nothing to do with gender identity.  There are male asexuals and female asexuals and transgender asexuals and cisgender asexuals and agender asexuals and genderqueer asexuals and neutrois asexuals and all sorts of other gender asexuals that I haven’t mentioned here.  Some of them dislike their gender, some of them are happy with it, and some of them don’t care.  And none of them are the gender they are because they’re asexual and none of them are asexual because of the gender they are.

12 thoughts on “Asexuality: Myths, Misconceptions and Other Things That Are Just Plain Wrong

  1. Great post! I think it’s one of the best worded articles on ace misconceptions that i’ve read. I only picked up on one mistake –

    “Homosexual people are sexually attracted toward people of the opposite sex.”

    Otherwise, it was great!

  2. Thank you so much for this post. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, and it’s given me some ammunition to answer people who might ask me questions about my asexuality further on down the road.

  3. I found this page while searching for answers about why I can find someone attractive, but not feel the urge to want to have sex with them. I also am in a relationship, have no sexual urges for my boyfriend either. This is frustrating for him obviously. So, I just have a question: How do I know if asexuality is what is causing me to feel this way, or if it’s a symptom of my bipolar and depression? I’m sorry if this is a dumb question. :/

  4. I really enjoyed this read. I think you could have been a little less defensive.

    I really thought something was wrong with me. I always found sex to be a chore.

  5. I am just discovering this about myself. I’ve always known there’s something different about myself but never WHAT was different. I started hanging out with a lot of LGBT people and I felt like I fit in, so I knew something was clicking somewhere. I come from a super religious family so none of this could ever be talked about, but for years my mom has always said why aren’t you married! I said “guys yuck! eww!” She’s like “You a lesbian?” “No mom, just, no, I don’t want to be married, I like being single, ok?” I’ve dated and was engaged once but sex was dreaded and I would just try to put my body out of it and sleep while he did whatever he wanted… I hated every minute of it! I have now been single since 2005 and I am so happy! I don’t want to be fixed up or married or whatever…now that I found your website I finally can have some answers of why I am who I am! thanks!

  6. Wow.
    I just found out about asexuality a few weeks ago, and all the lights just came on. All though my growing up years I knew I was different but everyone said “You’ll find him someday….” or “God’s just protecting you until the right time….” Or they just laughed, and basically said, “How cute. She still thinks she’ll never get married.” It’s nice to know asexuality is normal, real, and that I don’t HAVE to be interested in sex. I’t’s nice to know there are other people like me out there.
    Thank you so much for a post that explains so proficiently the differences between asexuality and celibacy, and all the other things it is mistaken for. After telling my family about it just a few days ago, I have already been asked almost all of these questions, and it will be nice to be able to give a full and complete answer. Your post!
    P.S. You’re a guy! Yay! Mother said asexual guys are a myth, like dragons and unicorns! You’re my hero! Proof! :)

  7. I found this article very helpful. I have been romantically attracted to mostly men, but I’ve never felt physical attraction to them. I can admire the way they look, but in the same way I can admire a painting. I feel like I have to fake sexual attraction to get the kind of romantic involvement I want, even though I do enjoy sex.

    I feel like I’m missing out on something. Like I’m colorblind or tone deaf.

  8. I’m only 17 but i’ve struggled with having a high sex drive most of my teenage years, I’ve never really been attracted to anyone or wanted to date someone, Keep in mind I’m far from a virgin, but I just constantly feel incomplete but I can never feel attraction towards anyone.
    I enjoyed this though, I read through and realized how much I fit the profile.

  9. I have always known I was DIFFERENT, but was never able to define what it was that made me so. At last I know YEEHaa. I married had children and lived as a faithful wife for decades, but always felt I was being dishonest. Not to any one else, but to me. It is a blessed thing to discover a truth that has been with me for so long. My childhood and later years make so much more sense now. It’s an intensely personal and private journey, but I look forward to the rest of my life with this new understanding of my self like a blazon over my head. HERE I AM. LIKE IT OR NOT. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Cheers Friends LOL LOL

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