Asexuality in the DSM-5

DSM-2 DSM-1

Asexuality is OFFICIALLY not a disorder, according to the APA.

The images above are from the DSM-5, which is the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The DSM-5 is a really important book.  It is used by doctors and mental health care providers around the world to diagnose mental disorders.

The DSM-5 explicitly and clearly recognizes asexuality, and says that if a person is asexual, that they should not be diagnosed with Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

This book reaffirms that you are valid, your feelings are real, and that you do not have a disorder for feeling that way.

Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong.

They do not know what they are talking about.  You can point them at this book as proof that they are wrong.

 

Full Reference:

On page 434, in the section on Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (302.72), at the end of the “Diagnostic Features”, it reads:

If a lifelong lack of sexual desire is better explained by one’s self-identification as “asexual”, then a diagnosis of female sexual interest/arousal disorder would not be made.

On page 443, in the section on Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (302.71), at the end of the “Differential Diagnosis”, it reads:

If the man’s low desire is explained by self-identification as an asexual, then a diagnosis of male hypoactive sexual desire disorder is not made.

Certainly, this is a vast improvement over what was in the DSM-IV.  Not only was there no asexuality exclusion there, but “interpersonal difficulty” was one of the diagnostic criteria for HSDD.  That meant that even if you were fine with being asexual, you could still be diagnosed with HSDD if someone else had an issue with it.  Additionally, the description of “Lifelong Generalized HSDD” was very similar to how people describe asexuality.

But this is not enough…

There are problems with what’s in the DSM-5.

  • “Scare quotes”:  One of the most noticeable issues is that in the section for FSIAD, the word asexual is in quotation marks.  This has the unintended side effect of delegitimizing asexuality in the minds of the reader.  They might see asexuality as a real thing, but have more doubts about “asexuality”.
  • Self-identification:  As written, these exclusions require that the patient say “I’m asexual” for them to apply.  That’s fine for those of us who know who we are, but what about those who don’t?  You can’t self-identity as asexual if you’ve never even heard of asexuality.  And there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people out there who are in that situation.  I’ve personally heard stories of people who have gone through “treatment” for HSDD.  It didn’t work and made them miserable.  Only afterwards did they discover that they were ace.  Self-identification only works when there is widespread awareness.  Psychiatrists need to be proactive in this regard.  Certainly, a psychiatrist should never “diagnose” someone as asexual, but they need to be providing the tools and information for their patient to make that determination on their own.
  • Asexuality is not mentioned in the Desk Reference version of the DSM:  The DSM is a thousand page, 3 lb. monster of a book.  Because of this, there’s an abridged variant, that only contains the diagnostic criteria.  Unfortunately, there’s no mention of asexuality in the diagnostic criteria for either disorder.  The asexuality exclusion is located in a different section of the text.  That means that if someone just looks at the diagnostic criteria in the Desk Reference, they’re not going to see it.
  • Clinically Significant Distress:  Part of the diagnostic criteria for these disorders is that there must be “clinically significant distress”.  But…  Repeatedly being told that you’re broken can cause “clinically significant distress”.  Wondering why you’re so different from everyone else can cause “clinically significant distress”.  Being pushed to fix something when there’s nothing wrong can cause “clinically significant distress”.  None of those are signs that you have a disorder, those are signs that the world around you has a disorder.

One more thing…

I would like to make it clear that I am not saying “We are valid because we’re in this book.”  We are in this book because we are valid.

A Parent’s Guide To Asexuality

First Things First

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like being straight or gay.  When someone is straight, they’re interested in people of a different gender.  When someone is gay, they’re into the same gender.  But when someone is asexual, or “ace” as it’s called, they’re not really into anyone in that way.  They simply don’t experience sexual attraction.  Asexuality isn’t something that needs to be “fixed” or “cured”, it’s just a part of who they are.

You’ve probably never heard of asexuality until your child mentioned it to you.  You’re probably a little bit confused and a little bit concerned.  That’s understandable!  This probably wasn’t a conversation you were expecting to have when you woke up this morning.  This guide aims to help explain what you need to know about asexuality, and what it means for you and your child.

It’s a good idea to let go of whatever preconceptions you might have about asexuality.  When people hear the word “asexual”, it conjures up a lot of images and ideas, and most of those are wrong.

Asexuality is not a problem that you need to solve.  It’s not a disease.  It’s not a disorder.  It’s not an Internet fad.  It’s not a cult.  It’s not a fancy word for celibacy.  It’s not a gender identity.  It’s not a choice.  It’s not some tree-hugging hippy liberal idea.  It’s not some conservative purity movement.  It doesn’t involve spores or splitting in two or anything like that.  It’s not some excuse to get out of dating. Asexuality is a sexual orientation.  That’s all.

Now, you’re probably wondering why, if it’s a real sexual orientation, you’ve never heard of it before.  That’s because the word used to describe it is relatively new.  Although it’s been around for decades, it really only started picking up popularity in the early 2000s.  But the concept is much older.  There have been asexual people for as long as there have been people.  They just didn’t have a word to describe themselves.  The age of a word used to describe a concept does not make that concept invalid.  After all, “heterosexual” wasn’t used until 1892, although there were certainly heterosexual people in the Middle Ages and in Ancient Greece and even earlier.

The current best estimate is that at least 1% of people are asexual.  This figure comes from Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a scientist who was among the first to explicitly study asexuality.  He wasn’t the first to notice it, though.  The famous researcher Alfred Kinsey, when he was working on the “Kinsey Scale”, realized that some people simply didn’t fit on his chart, so he labeled them as “Group X”.  Many people today believe that this Group X described asexual people.

If at least one out of every hundred people is asexual, this means you probably know someone else who might be asexual.  Think about the people in your life.  Is there a bachelor uncle or spinster aunt who never showed an interest in anyone else?  Is there a friend who always stays out of the sex talk?  Is there a cousin who got married a couple of times, but never had any kids?  Was there a college roommate who was more interested in books than hookups?  Those people might be asexual, too.  They might not even know of the word.

 

What This Means For You

This means that you have a child who is asexual.

No, really, that’s all it means.  Nothing in your life or your child’s life has changed. This is simply a revealing of what was already there.  It’s one of many things your child will come across as they live their life and discover who they are.

 

Why Is My Child Asexual?

Like any other sexual orientation, the cause of asexuality is unclear, and for the most part, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that your child is asexual.  It’s part of who they are.

Your child likely did not start using the word “asexual” lightly.  This isn’t something they’re saying on a whim.  They thought about it a lot, probably even agonizing over why they weren’t like everyone else.  For many people, the discovery of the word “asexual” is actually a liberating moment.  Finally, they become aware that they’re not alone, that there are other people like them.  They are sure this is who they are.

You didn’t do anything to turn your kid asexual.  They didn’t end up asexual because you scared them off of sex or didn’t hug them enough or anything like that.  Asexuality is not the result of poor parenting.  There is nothing you could have done differently that would have changed anything.

 

What Should I Do?

  • Listen to your child.  They know more about this than you do.
  • Try to understand.  It doesn’t all have to make sense right away, but what’s important is that you make an effort to understand.
  • Do research.  If you don’t understand something, or have questions you don’t feel comfortable asking your child, or if you simply want to know more, then spend some time and look up what you want to know.
  • Treat asexuality with respect.  Asexuality is not imaginary, it’s not a “teenage thing”, it’s not a punchline.  It’s an integral part of your child’s identity.  If you disrespect asexuality, you’re disrespecting your child.
  • Accept them.  This is important to them, and it’s important for them to know you care.
  • And most importantly:  Love them.

 

 What Shouldn’t I Do?

  • Don’t get angry.  There’s nothing to get angry about.  Asexuality isn’t a choice, it’s part of who they are.  Getting angry over your child being asexual is like getting angry that your child wears size 9 shoes or has brown eyes.
  • Don’t try to “fix” it.  There’s nothing to “fix”.  The APA recognizes asexuality as a valid orientation in the DSM-5. Sending your child to a therapist to “cure” their asexuality would, at best, be a complete waste of money, and, at worst, be a horrifying, traumatic experience.
  • Don’t try to convince them that they’re wrong.  Trust that your child knows how they feel and what they’re thinking.
  • Don’t dismiss it.  If your child says that they’re asexual, that means it’s important to them.  Brushing it off will tell your child that you don’t care.
  • Don’t “forget” about it.  If your child has to remind you that they’re asexual at some point down the line, it shows them that you’re not interested in their life.  You don’t have to remember all the terminology and all the specific details, but you do have to remember that they are asexual and what that means.
  • Don’t tell anyone else without your child’s permission.  Your child has trusted you with this information.  There may be other people that they do not trust with this information.  Don’t betray your child’s trust by telling other people about it.
  • Don’t say anything in the “What Not To Say” section below.  That section is a collection of hurtful and invalidating statements that should be avoided when talking to your child about asexuality.

 

What Not To Say

“What about grandchildren?” Many parents are concerned that they will never become grandparents after a child comes out as asexual.  First, you need to recognize that your children are under no obligation to produce grandchildren for you.  The decision to have or not have children is a personal one, and there was no guarantee that your child would have wanted to have children of their own, even if they were heterosexual.  However, nothing about being asexual prevents your child from having kids, if that’s what they want.  There are many asexuals who want kids and there are many who have kids.  Asexual people can become parents the same way anyone else can:  Adoption, surrogacy, artificial insemination, even through natural conception.

“But you dated someone!” Past dating history is not evidence that someone is not asexual.  Even current relationship status is not evidence that someone is not asexual.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they felt that they had to conform to social expectations.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they were experimenting with their own feelings, and that’s what led them to realize that they are asexual.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they were in love.  Dating someone has no bearing on whether or not a person is asexual.

“I was like that, too.  You’ll change!” When someone tells you that they are asexual, they’re not looking for reassurance that someday they’ll be “normal”.  They already are normal.  They’re looking for acceptance and understanding.  They’re looking for recognition of who they are.  By saying that you “used to be the same way”, you’re not helping them at all.  You’re dismissing them.  Asexuality is not some sort of teenage fashion trend that they’ll be over in a week.

“You’re too young to know.” If your child came to you and said “Hey, I’m straight”, would you think that they’re too young to know?  If they said “Hey, I’m gay”, would you think that they’re too young to know?  If you think they’re old enough to know that they’re gay or straight, then they’re old enough to know that they’re asexual.

“I don’t approve.” You do not get to disapprove of this.  You have no say in the matter.  When your child tells you that they are asexual, it is a statement of fact.  It’s not a matter that is open for debate.  You can’t talk them out of it and you can’t convince them to change, because it wasn’t a choice that they made.  There is nothing to talk them out of and there is nothing that they can change.  They are asexual and that’s that.  Your disapproval will only hurt your child.

“I’m fine with it.  Just don’t tell anyone about it.” If you want to silence your child, then you’re not actually fine with it.  It is not your place to decide who your child tells.  Are you embarrassed by it?  Are you worried what other people will think?  That is not your role as a parent.  Your job is to defend your child’s right to be who they are without fear.

“No one will go out with you if you say that.” There are several problems with this sort of statement.  First, you’re telling your child to hide who they are for the sake of finding a partner, instead of telling them to value themselves and find someone who will love them for who they are.  Second, you’re making the assumption that your child is actually interested in going out with someone.  They might not be.  A significant number of asexual people are also aromantic or are otherwise not interested in dating.  And finally, you’re saying that sex is the only important thing in a relationship.

“Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone someday.” Asexuality is not a synonym for single.  It’s not a temporary state that’ll just evaporate the moment the right person comes along.  When your child told you that they were asexual, they weren’t complaining about the lack of a suitable partner.  They were telling you what their sexual orientation is.  Certainly, they may meet someone someday.  And if they do, your child will still be asexual.

“I don’t want you to limit yourself.” The word “asexual” is a description, it’s not a self-imposed limitation.  Your child is not using it to shut themselves off from experiences they’re afraid of or aren’t ready for.  They’re not suppressing some part of their personality to fit this word, they’re using the word because it fits their personality.  An asexual person is no more limited by asexuality than a straight person is limited by heterosexuality.

“But I heard that sexuality is fluid.  Maybe you’ll change someday!” Maybe they will.  Maybe they won’t.  That’s not the point.  They are asexual today, and that’s what matters.  When you say something like this, what you’re really saying is that you don’t like the current state of things and wish they were different, and that you won’t accept your child until they change into something more acceptable to you.  Besides, this argument can easily be turned around:  If sexuality is fluid, maybe you’ll become asexual someday.

“We’ll take you to a doctor to fix this.” Asexuality is not something that can be fixed or cured.  You might be thinking that having no interest in sex is a symptom of something like a hormone imbalance or a brain tumor or something else.  While it’s true that a lower libido or disinterest in sex can be a symptom of a number of medical conditions, it’s rarely the only sign.  It’s natural to be concerned, but unless your child is showing other symptoms or there has been a sudden drop in their sexual interest, there’s likely no reason to involve a doctor.  Many asexuals have had their hormone levels checked, and often will find that the levels are within the expected ranges.  Some asexuals have even been on hormone therapy for various reasons, and they typically report no changes.

“God doesn’t approve.” Since the people who raise this objection are most often Christian, here are a couple of verses to take a look at:  1 Corinthians 7:6-9 and Matthew 19:10-12.  Many other religions have similar statements of acceptance.  I am unaware of any religion that specifically condemns asexuality.

“You’re going out with someone now.  I knew you weren’t asexual after all!” Dating someone is not proof that your child is not asexual.  There are many reasons your child might have for going out with someone, and sexual attraction doesn’t have to be one of them.  Saying something like this indicates that you never believed your child in the first place and were always looking for some evidence to “prove” that they were wrong.

“That must be so hard on your partner.” If your child is in a relationship when they tell you that they’re asexual, you might assume asexuality mean there’s no sex, and no sex means that there must be relationship strife.  However, neither one of those assumptions is necessarily true.  Asexuality doesn’t prevent someone from having sex, it’s just that asexual people generally aren’t very inclined towards it or enthusiastic about it.  Some asexual people do have sexual relationships with their partners for various reasons.  On the second assumption, being in a sexless relationship does not guarantee relationship troubles any more than being in a sex-filled relationship guarantees eternal happiness.  You do not know what is going on in their relationship.  You don’t know what arrangements, agreements, or accommodations they have made in their relationship.  It’s even possible that their partner is asexual, too!  If they are not sharing any of this with you, that is because it is none of your business.

If you’ve said any of these things: You’re probably reading this after your child came out, and if that’s the case, there’s a chance you may have already said some of these things (or something similar).  If that’s the case, then talk to your child and apologize.  Let them know that you now understand that you may have said something hurtful.  You can’t take back what you’ve said, but you can try to undo some of the damage it might have caused.

 

What Else Should I Know?

A single page cannot tell you everything you might need to know about asexuality, and I encourage you to do further research on your own.  The following is a very rough look at a few other topics which may come up when your child talks about asexuality.

The Ace Spectrum:  Your child might tell you that they are demisexual or are gray-asexual.  These categories fall along what’s called the “Ace Spectrum”, which means they’re somewhere in the middle ground between being asexual and not being asexual.  A gray-asexual person rarely feels sexual attraction, isn’t quite sure if what they’ve felt would be considered sexual attraction, or, for some other reason, doesn’t quite feel like the term “asexual” fits them right, even though it’s close.  A demisexual person does not experience sexual attraction until after they’ve gotten to know someone very well.  (Note that this is not the same thing as being unwilling to sleep with a stranger.  This is about never being attracted to someone unless they know them well first.  And before you say “Well, that’s just how everyone is”, consider that there are entire industries that revolve around people feeling sexually attracted to strangers.)  Both gray-asexuality and demisexuality are real and are perfectly normal ways to be.

Romantic Attraction:  Romantic attraction is separate from sexual attraction.  Although an asexual person lacks sexual attraction, they may still experience romantic attraction.  At the risk of oversimplification, if sexual attraction is about wanting to have sex with someone, then romantic attraction is about wanting to have romance with someone.  Romantic attraction, like sexual attraction, can be directed toward a gender or genders.  For instance, a man who experiences romantic attraction toward women would be described as “heteroromantic”, while a woman who is romantically interested in men and women would be “biromantic”, and so on.  Someone who does not experience romantic attraction would be called “aromantic”.  Although sexual orientation and romantic orientation are typically aligned (For instance, a homosexual person is often homoromantic, as well), it’s possible for a person to have any combination of these orientations.  That means someone can be an aromantic heterosexual or a panromantic asexual or any other or whatever else.

Gender Identity:  Gender identity is the perception of one’s own gender.  In other words, it’s how a person sees themselves as a man or a woman (or, in some cases, both or neither, or a combination, etc.).  Gender is separate from physical sex.  One way to think of it is that gender is in your head, while sex is in your pants.  Someone whose gender identity matches their physical sex (for example, a woman who happens to have a vagina) is said to be “cisgender”, while someone whose gender and sex at birth are not the same (for example, a woman who happens to have a penis) are called “transgender”.  Often, the concept of “preferred pronouns” will come up in a discussion of gender identity.  Preferred pronouns are how someone would like to be addressed.  For example, one person might want to be called “he”, someone else might want to be called “she”, and a third person might want the word “they” to be used.  It is important to note that asexuality is not a gender identity.  Asexuals can be any gender or any sex.

Under the Ace Umbrella: Demisexuality and Gray-asexuality

I’ve heard about something called the “Ace Umbrella”.  What’s that about?

There’s a gray area between asexuality and non-asexuality.  Some people say that they occasionally experience sexual attraction, yet still relate to asexuality.  The ace umbrella encompasses asexuals, as well as people in this gray area.

Some people, known as “gray-asexuals”, experience sexual attraction infrequently or not very strongly or possibly aren’t quite sure whether or not what they experience is sexual attraction.

One subtype of gray-asexuals, known as “demisexuals”, can experience sexual attraction only after developing a close emotional bond with someone.

So, if asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction and these people do, why the “umbrella”?  What do you have in common?

Many graces and demis tend to feel alienated by or disconnected from the sex-charged culture that they see around them.  Most of the time, they do not experience sexual attraction, same as asexual people.  When they do, the manner or frequency with which they do does not align with how “everyone else” describes their experience with sexual attraction.  In this way, their experiences are often very similar to the experiences of asexuals.

Many times, demisexuals and gray-asexuals will even identify as asexual or something like “asexual with an exception”.  The frequency of sexual attraction may be so low that they go years without feeling it, so, for all intents and purposes, they are equivalent to asexual during that period.

But isn’t that just “Normal” sexuality?  Most people aren’t attracted to everyone all the time.

Certainly, most people don’t feel constant sexual attraction.  However, most people seem to feel it fairly frequently.  Often it’s toward a romantic partner, but throughout the day, there might also be the hot co-worker or the random stranger on the sidewalk or the celebrity with the great body.  Even if most people don’t act on it, the attraction is still present.  Grays and demis aren’t like that.  For a gray-asexual or a demisexual, there may be years between episodes of sexual attraction or there may have been only one person that’s ever caught their eye.

So…  “Demisexual”?  Does that mean they only sleep with demi-gods?  Demi Moore?

Unlike “hetero-” or “homo-” or “a-“, etc., which describe the gender(s) that a person is or isn’t attracted to, “demi-” describes the circumstances in which a person may experience sexual attraction.  Demisexuals are only capable of feeling sexual attraction after they’ve developed a close emotional bond with someone.  Even then, they still might not feel anything.

It sounds like demisexuals are trying to make themselves out to be special because they only have sex with people they love.

Demisexuality is about attraction, not action.  It doesn’t mean that people are picky about their sexual partners.  It doesn’t mean that they’re “saving themselves for the right person”. When someone says that they’re demi, they mean that they can’t experience sexual attraction unless they’re close to someone.  They’re not choosing to repress sexual feelings for others because they don’t have anything to repress.

Furthermore, demisexuality says nothing about who a demi has sex with, or if they even have sex at all.  It’s possible to be demisexual and a virgin.  It’s possible to be demisexual and repulsed.  And it’s possible to be demisexual and sleep with anyone who is willing.  Demisexuality is only about the circumstances where one can experience sexual attraction, not about sexual activity.

It’s also important to note that demisexuality is not, in any way, a value judgment against other people.  Just because they only experience sexual attraction after developing an emotional bond, that does not mean that they feel there’s anything wrong with people who don’t require that bond to experience sexual attraction.

Okay, so they’re only sexually attracted to people that they love?

Not necessarily.  The close emotional bond does not have to be love.  It could be friendship, it could be a work relationship, or any number of other strong emotional connections.  Something purely platonic might still be capable of triggering sexual attraction.

How long does it take a demisexual to develop sexual attraction after forming the emotional bond?

Every situation is different.  Many demis say that it can take anywhere from months to years to come about.  Maybe less time, maybe more.  It’s not like there’s a chess timer that starts ticking the moment you meet someone, and if you don’t feel sexually attracted to them by the time the hands go all the way around, you’re not going to.

Are gray-a’s just asexuals who have sex?

It’s not about what someone does, it’s about what they feel.  If an asexual has sex, they’re an asexual who has sex, not a gray-asexual.  If an asexual masturbates, they’re an asexual who masturbates, not a gray-asexual.  The difference between “asexual” and “gray-asexual” is one of attraction, not behavior.

It’s not about enjoying sex, either.  If an asexual likes sex, they’re an asexual who likes sex, not a gray-asexual. It’s possible to enjoy sex and sexual activities and not experience sexual attraction.

How can someone be “Gray”?  You’re either asexual or you’re not.  Clear as that.

Is it clear where you fit if you’ve only felt sexual attraction once in your entire life, then never again?  Is it clear where you fit if you occasionally feel something that could potentially be sexual attraction, but it’s so weak that a passing breeze is enough to make it stop?  Is it clear where you fit if you’re sometimes sexually attracted to people and you like sex, but don’t feel any drive to seek it out and would be fine without it?  Is it clear where you fit if you’re not sure what sexual attraction even is, let alone whether or not you’ve felt it?  Gray-asexuals live in this land of confusion.

So what is gray-asexuality, then?  The description you’re giving is a bit fuzzy.

The definition of “gray-asexual” is intentionally vague.  It’s meant to be a catch-all for anyone who feels they fall somewhere near asexual on the spectrum between “sexual” and “asexual”.  There’s no strict criteria for what makes someone “gray”, there’s no shining dividing line.  If there were, it wouldn’t be a gray area.

It’s a bit like the purple spectrum between red and blue.  When you’re close to red or blue, the color can be described as “reddish” or “bluish”. There’s no clear line where being “reddish” stops, but it’s clear that it stops somewhere.  I mean, you can’t be one tick away from blue and still describe the color as “reddish”.  Gray-asexuality is sort of like “asexual-ish”.

Do demisexuals and gray-asexuals fall in love?

Like asexuals, graces and demis come in all flavors of romantic orientation.  Someone can be a heteroromantic demisexual or a panromantic gray-asexual.  For a demisexual person, a romantic relationship could potentially be the catalyst for sexual attraction, however, it won’t necessarily happen just because someone’s in love.

Gray-asexuals and demisexuals can be even aromantic and not be romantically attracted to anyone.   Additionally, a person can be demiromantic or gray-romantic, which are similar to being demisexual or gray-asexual, but around romantic attraction, rather than sexual.

How can you know you’re demi or gray and not asexual?

Well, if you experience sexual attraction occasionally, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re not asexual.

Aside from that, if you feel like you’re almost asexual, but not quite for some reason, then perhaps gray-asexual would be a better fit.  If you’re asexual most of the time, but there’s that one person you’re close to who’s an exception, then maybe demisexual would work.

How can you know you’re asexual and not demi or gray?

If you don’t feel like you’re demi or gray, then you’re not.  There’s no 100% surefire way to determine that just because you’ve never experienced sexual attraction before, that you won’t tomorrow.  You can be fairly sure that it’s not going to happen if it’s never happened before, but it can’t be ruled out completely.  It’s a bit like a scientific theory:  It can never be proven entirely, it can only be disproven.  After all, everyone who has experienced sexual attraction had a first time, and they probably weren’t expecting it to happen, either.

Look at it this way:  There are plenty of straight people in the world.  Most of them have never been attracted to a member of the same sex.  But how can they know for sure that they won’t be?  How can they be certain they don’t have dormant bisexual tendencies?  The common response is “Well, I just know“, but really, it’s impossible to know for sure.  It’s not something that stresses out a lot of straight people, yet I see a lot of aces worried that they might really be gray or demi.

For me, I’m asexual.  I don’t expect that it’ll turn out that I’m actually gray or demi, but if it does, I’m not going to push it away.  If I happen to experience sexual attraction one day, then okay, I’ve learned that I’m not asexual after all.  I’m not going to let this word that describes me very well right now tell me what to do in the future.  You’re not permanently locked into asexuality for the rest of your life once you’ve used the word to describe yourself, so if it no longer fits, don’t try to make it fit.

Things That Are Not Asexuality

Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person does not experience sexual attraction.  That’s all it is.  However, since asexuality isn’t well known, it’s often confused with similar (and sometimes not even remotely similar) concepts.  Because of this, it’s important to point out these distinctions and differences.  It’s also important to note that most of these concepts are not necessarily mutually exclusive with asexuality.  For instance, even though asexuality is not celibacy, it’s possible for someone who is asexual to also be celibate.

Asexuality is not celibacy or abstinence.

Celibacy and abstinence describe behavior, they’re about actions.  A celibate or abstinent person does not have sex.  Asexuality is an orientation, it’s about attraction, not action.  An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction, but they may or may not have sex.

Asexuality is not a lack of sexuality.

Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone can’t have sex.  Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone can’t masturbate.  Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone can’t wear make-up or nice clothes.  Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone can’t be interested in sex.  Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone is infertile or impotent.  Asexuality doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t have a libido.  Asexuality means that someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction, and that’s all.

Asexuality is not virginity.

Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, and won’t suddenly start experiencing sexual attraction by having sex.  Many asexuals have had sex, and yet are still asexual.  In fact, many asexuals don’t even discover that they’re asexual until after they’ve had sex and start to wonder why they’re not all that interested in it.

Asexuality is not a hormone imbalance.

Many asexuals have had their hormones tested and have been found them to be within normal levels.  Some asexuals have undergone hormone therapy for other conditions and have not reported any change in their sexual orientation.  In general, asexual people do not experience any of the other signs of a hormone imbalance (hair loss, erectile dysfunction, depression, hot flashes, etc.), so even when they haven’t been specifically tested, they can be reasonably sure that their hormones are in order.  Also, a loss of sexual interest due to a hormone imbalance is often sudden, while an asexual person typically has never experienced sexual attraction for their entire lives, so it’s not like anything was “lost”, because it was never there.

(If you do have reason to believe that your hormones may not be in order, particularly if you’ve suddenly lost the interest in sex that you used to have, go see a doctor about it.)

Asexuality is not a fear of sex.

Being asexual doesn’t mean someone afraid of sex, just like being heterosexual or homosexual doesn’t mean a person loves sex.  Being asexual doesn’t say anything about a person’s opinion of sex. Some asexuals are afraid of sex.  Some asexuals love sex.  Some asexuals are indifferent to sex.  Many people who do experience sexual attraction are afraid of sex, but that does not make them asexual.

Asexuality is not a purity pledge or a religious act.

Asexuality has nothing to do with adhering to religious beliefs and is not the result of taking a purity pledge.  If one chooses not to have sex because their religion or personal beliefs prohibit it, that’s abstinence, not asexuality.  It is possible for someone who is asexual to refrain from sexual activity for religious reasons, which would make them abstinent and asexual.  On the flip side, there are many asexuals who are not religious and do not appreciate having religious motivations ascribed to them.

Asexuality is not a choice.

Like every other sexual orientation, asexuals were born this way.  We never looked at our lives one day and thought “You know, I’m done with this sex stuff” and decided to become asexual.  You cannot choose to be asexual any more than you can choose to be gay or straight.  Certainly, you can choose who you have sex with or whether or not you have sex at all, but that’s behavior, not who you’re attracted to.  If you experience sexual attraction and choose not to act on it, then you’re not asexual.  Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction.

Asexuality is not a disease.

There’s nothing physically wrong with people who are asexual.  We’re not asexual because of a tumor or a virus or a parasite.  We’re not contagious.  Some people like men, some people like women, some people like both, some people don’t care, and there’s nothing to cure about any of those cases.

Asexuality is not sexual immaturity.

Someone who is asexual isn’t asexual because they’ve never had sex or haven’t had enough sex.  Someone who is asexual isn’t asexual because they haven’t met the right person yet.  Someone who is asexual isn’t asexual because they’re hiding or repressing their sexual desires.  Someone who is asexual isn’t asexual because they’re in some perpetual state of child-like naivete.  Someone who is asexual is asexual because they don’t experience sexual attraction.  No amount of experience or information is going to change that.

Asexuality is not a physical condition.

There are no physical signs of asexuality.  Just like you can’t tell if someone is straight or gay or pan or bi just by looking at them, you can’t tell someone is asexual just by looking at them.  Being asexual doesn’t mean that something downstairs doesn’t work right.  Being asexual doesn’t mean that someone has no genitals.

Asexuality is not a lack of libido.

Libido is also known as a “sex drive”, that is, the desire or impulse to experience sexual satisfaction.  Some asexuals do have a libido, it’s just that it’s essentially aimless.  Their bits downstairs will activate and call out for attention, but that doesn’t make a person feel sexually attracted toward anyone else.

Asexuality is not a gender identity.

Asexuality has nothing to do with someone’s gender.  There are asexual men, asexual women, asexuals who are transgender, and asexuals of no gender.  Asexuality does not mean someone is unhappy or uncomfortable with their gender or the parts they were born with.  Asexuality does not mean that a person is genderless.

Asexuality is not a relationship status.

On places like Tumblr and Twitter, I’ve seen many people say things like “Boys suck, I’m turning asexual now”.  Asexuality is a sexual orientation, it doesn’t mean that you’re avoiding sex because of a bad relationship experience.  If someone is avoiding sex, that’s called celibacy or abstinence, not asexuality.  You can’t be temporarily asexual because of a bad break up, that’s just not how it works.

Asexuality is not a relationship cure-all.

Similar to the “Boys suck, I’m asexual” line, I’ve seen people say things like “I wish I were asexual, then I wouldn’t have any problems.”  Asexuality does not mean that someone does not participate in romantic or sexual relationships.  Many asexuals will end up in relationships, and those relationships can have just as many problems as relationships between non-asexual people.  In fact, if an asexual ends up in a relationship with a non-asexual person, that can lead to all sorts of problems due to mismatched sexual interest.

Asexuality is not a dry spell.

If someone hasn’t had sex for a week, that doesn’t make them asexual.  If someone hasn’t had sex for a month, that doesn’t make them asexual.  If someone hasn’t had sex for a year, that doesn’t make them asexual.  If someone hasn’t had sex for a decade, that doesn’t make them asexual.  There isn’t some span of time that someone has to go without sex before they’re granted the title of asexual, because that’s not what asexuality is.  Asexuality is about not experiencing sexual attraction, not a lack of sex.

Possible Signs of Asexuality – Part 3: About Others

This is the third post in a three part series on the possible signs of asexuality.  The items discussed here aren’t meant to be any kind of “Am I Ace?” checklist, so it’s okay if you don’t identify or agree with any of them.  They’re just experiences that I’ve seen pop up over and over when asexuals talk about their lives.

The first day was all about thoughts you may have had about yourself and your identity, the second day was all about thoughts on sex and sexual activity, and today is all about thoughts about other people and other things.

Links to the posts in this series:

You’ve never wanted to “jump someone’s bones”.  You’ve never thought “I’d hit that”.

This is one of the more common reasons people discover that they’re asexual.  At some point in their lives, they’ll look around and realize that other people say things like that and mean them.  That straight out of the blue, one person will look at another, often a complete stranger, and think, “I would like to have sex with that person”, and that, in some cases, this thought will drive people’s actions.

Some asexuals may even look at this and think that’s bizarre.  Why would anyone do that sort of thing?  The whole concept is so different from how they look at the same scenario that it may be impossible for them to process those actions into something that makes sense.  For some asexual people, the thought “I would like to have sex with that person” could seem as random and unexpected as “I would like to paint that person blue, cover them with twigs, and dance around them in a circle all night”.

You don’t feel that anyone is “hot”.  “Cute”, maybe, “pretty”, maybe, but not “hot”.

Some asexuals don’t connect with the word “hot” and other words describing someone’s sexual desirability.  We’re able to judge and rank subjective beauty on a scale from “ugly” to “pretty”, we may feel that some people are “cute”, but “hot” can be a word that some asexuals avoid.  It’s not that we don’t understand it.  We can usually point at someone and identify whether other people might classify them as “hot”.  It’s that we don’t feel it.  When other people use words like “hot”, we can sense that there’s some innate internal buzzer going off inside their mind, and that the word is not just some synonym or sub-category of words like “cute” or “pretty”.  The word means more to them than “visually appealing”.  There’s something behind it, some sense, some response that’s driving them to choose “hot” over “pretty”, and we don’t experience what that sense is.

Additionally, the word “sexy” is also not within your realm of understanding.

You thought that everyone else was just pretending to be interested in sex.

Many asexuals describe having a sort of “Emperor’s New Clothes” view of sex at some point in their lives:  That everyone else is just pretending to like it simply because everyone else seems to like it, and they don’t want to be the only one who speaks out and says “No, I’m not really into that.”  In this view, a sexually charged culture enforces conformity.

This view often comes about during the teenage years.  The asexual’s friends all start talking about boys or girls, but they don’t feel anything yet themselves.  Puberty strikes different people at different times and in different ways, so at first, they’ll just think they’re not there yet, but as time goes on, they’ll realize that they never started getting all that interested in boys or girls.  This may lead to thoughts like, “Well, I never got interested in sex, so maybe no one else really did, either.  Maybe they’re all just faking to fit in.”

Which brings us to…

You just pretended to be interested in sex.

Sometimes, some asexuals will feel pressured to pretend to be interested in sex in order to fit in.  All your friends get caught up in what they’d like to do and who they’d like to do it with, but you don’t feel that way about anyone.  So, you just smile and nod, until…

“So, who do YOU like?”

…and you sputter out something about Johnny or Sally, not because you’re actually interested in them, but because they seemed like acceptable options to use to hide how you really feel, because if you told your friends how you really feel, they’d just laugh at you and think you’re a freak.

And so, you lie and go along with it.  Eventually, you may even end up in a relationship and…

You pretended to like sex so your partner wouldn’t think you didn’t love them.

For many people, love and sex are inextricably linked.  A sexual rejection is taken as a rejection of the person as a whole, a sign that they’re unloved, rather than just an indication that their partner has an activity they’re not all that interested in.  This can pose a challenge for asexuals in a relationship.  They can be truly, madly, deeply, and endlessly in love, yet just not care for sex.  They fear that letting their partner know how they feel would mean that their love would be doubted and the relationship would be destroyed as a result.  “If you really loved me, you’d want sex with me.”

It’s even possible that the asexual partner does enjoy sex, but are afraid to let their partner know that they don’t find them sexually attractive.  And so, they put on an act of attraction and will say things like “You’re so hot” or “You turn me on so much” when that’s not actually the case.

Sex is not love, love is not sex.  It’s possible to love someone you’re not sexually attracted to.  It’s possible to have and even enjoy sex, even if you’re not sexually attracted to the person you’re involved with.

Conversations about sex aren’t interesting.

Friends and coworkers like to talk about sex.  They like to talk about what they’ve done, what they’d like to do, and what they’ve heard about other people doing.  They boast about bachelor(ette) parties or one night stands.  They discuss who’s hot, how hot they are, and what attributes make them hot.  They make suggestive comments about the delivery person or the receptionist or the wait staff at the restaurant.

And you couldn’t care less.

If they’re talking about other people, like how “hot” the waitress is or how “steamy” the delivery guy is, there’s a good chance that you didn’t even notice them.  If they’re talking about parties or one-night stands, there’s a good chance you don’t have any comparable experiences to discuss.  You just zone out when they start talking about these things, and let the conversation run its course.  Sometimes, people may notice that you’ve gone quiet and think that you’re offended by where the conversation has gone, but that’s not necessarily the case.  You’ve gone quiet because you’ve got no input, no commentary, no questions.

You often find sex scenes in books/TV/movies to be out of place or boring.

You’re watching a movie when suddenly the male and female leads start going at it for no reason:  [fast forward!]

You’re reading a book when suddenly it turns to “heaving bosoms” and “love’s juices”: [next chapter!]

Perhaps it’s a sense of “Ew, icky”, but it doesn’t have to be.  More often, it’s a sense of “Why are they doing that?  What’s the point?  Get back to the story!”  Half the time, the sexual encounter is unforgivably contrived.  Sometimes you can even imagine the writers meeting with their editor or producer and being told to “sex it up a bit, the ratings are off this year”, and the writers just randomly drawing character names from a hat to decide who should go at it.

Bad acting and lame stories in porn really bug you, because, after all, what’s the point in watching a movie if it’s no good?

“Oh, come on, if that sort of thing happened in real life, she’d have that doctor arrested.  That guy is a terrible actor, it’s like he never even bothered to look at the script.  And don’t even get me started on that set and how cheap it looks!  It’s supposed to be a doctor’s office, so where’s the blood pressure thingy and the jar of tongue depressors and the bed with the paper stuff?  I mean, that looks like a cheap Army surplus cot from the 50’s!  That can’t possibly be sterile!  What’s this now?  Why is she moaning?  He’s not anywhere near her!  What is supposed to be happening?  She keeps looking directly at the camera, too.  And that guy keeps getting in the way of the shot..  Didn’t the director plan out the scene with the actors ahead of time?  Why am I even watching this?

You feel like sex comes naturally to everyone else, but you have to work at it.

You look at other people, and they seem to instinctively understand sex, and how to play the game.  Your partner handles it effortlessly, while for you, sex ends up more like a poorly-choreographed attempt at a secret handshake that no one taught you than a spontaneous expression of intimacy.  It’s like everyone else went to some sort of intensive training camp and knows everything inside and out, while you have to pick it up on the job.  Even so, there’s some secret that everyone else seems to know, the key to understanding the whole thing, and you know that you will never learn that secret, no matter how hard you try.

If given the hypothetical chance of a no-strings, no-regrets, no-consequences sexual encounter, you’d have to think about it.

Usually, this comes in the form of a hypothetical situation:  “Random Hot Person X appears in front of you and says ‘Let’s get it on’.  Would you go for it?”  For many people, the response is an unequivocal and immediate, “Yes”.  For others, it’s “No, I can’t, my boyfriend wouldn’t let me”.  But for you, it’s something more like, “Well, I don’t know…  It’s Friday.  Fringe is on.  I guess I could record it, but I was looking forward to watching it all day.”

You never initiate sex.

It’s not that you dislike sex.  It’s not that your partner isn’t any good.  It’s that you just never think about it.  It’s never on your mind.  So, as a result, you never think, “Hey, I’d like to have sex right now.  I should go see if my partner is up for it.”

This, of course, can cause problems in relationships.  Your partner may end up feeling like they always do all the work and may even begin to think that your lack of initiative is an indication that you’re not really in love with them.

You don’t catch it when people are flirting, even when you’re the one doing the flirting.

I’ve seen this one pop up in asexual discussions a couple of times.  It’s happened to me, and I just thought I was completely oblivious.  I’ve been told that I’m good at flirting, even though I just thought I was having a normal conversation.  And whenever someone is flirting with me, I won’t notice.  (And probably wouldn’t know what to do, even if I did.)  Only hours later, when I think back on the conversation, will I realize that something was off.

I was once on vacation, in a park, taking 3D pictures with a homemade stereoscopic camera.  A woman called me over and started asking questions about the camera, and telling me how she was a photographer, too.  We spoke for a minute or two, then I continued wandering around the park.  On my way back to my car, I passed the bench, and she loudly lamented to her friend “Where are all the good men in this town?”.

I was literally in the next state when I realized that she probably wasn’t that interested in my camera.

—————

I know that I didn’t discuss every possible indicator of ace-ness, and I’m sure there’s some of these that that you’ll have your own take on.  I’m even starting to come up with more things I should’ve written about, but I know that if I keep adding and adding, I’ll never actually get this out the door.

I sense a part 4 in the future…

Links to the posts in this series:

(BTW, in case you’ve been wondering about it this whole time, this is a XONOX.  It has absolutely no relation to anything else, I just needed a nonsense word and that’s what popped into my head, because that’s just the kind of nerd I am.)

Possible Signs of Asexuality – Part 2: About Sex

This is the second post in a three part series on the possible signs of asexuality.  The items discussed here aren’t meant to be any kind of “Am I Ace?” checklist, so it’s okay if you don’t identify or agree with any of them.  They’re just experiences that I’ve seen pop up over and over when asexuals talk about their lives.

The first part in this series focused mostly inward, on thoughts you may have had about yourself and your identity.  Today is all about sex and sexual activity.  If that’s not your thing, you might want to skip today and come back for the conclusion tomorrow.

Links to the posts in this series:

You’d much rather do X than do sex.

When you think about sex, you realize that there are dozens of things you’d much rather do.  I’d rather read a book, I’d rather watch TV, I’d rather play a video game, I’d rather go to a movie, I’d rather stargaze, I’d rather walk the dog, I’d rather go shopping, I’d rather organize the books on the bookshelf by date of author’s birth, I’d rather go bird watching, I’d rather build a Lego tribute to the Prime Ministers of Canada, I’d rather work on the car, I’d rather mow the lawn, I’d rather learn Esperanto, I’d rather fly a kite, I’d rather eat cake…

Your sex dreams don’t really have sex.

I had a dream with a warning for “adult content and mature themes”.  It was about mortgage payments.  I’ve had dreams where naked women throw themselves on me, and I tell them that I’m really busy and I’m supposed to be somewhere.  I’ve had dreams where women are very obviously coming on to me, and I completely miss it.  I’ve told women in dreams to put their clothes back on, because they look cold.  It’s like the part of my brain that generates dreams didn’t get the memo that I’m asexual, so it still is sending out these prompts for sex dreams, but the rest of my brain doesn’t process them, so they always end up weird.

Many asexuals say that they’ve never had sex dreams of any kind.

You think that “sexy” clothes just look uncomfortable or cold and can’t understand why anyone would wear them.

Tight pants look like they’re going to squeeze the life out of someone, and if it’s a guy wearing them, you know he’s gotta be in pain.  Heels look like a broken ankle waiting to happen.  Shirts that expose the midriff have to be freezing in this weather.  All that lace is just going to leave a weird pattern in your skin.  Thongs seem like they’re going to cut you in half like a wire saw.

And I never got the point of make-up, either.

You don’t really fantasize.

Everyone else seems like they undress people with their eyes.

Everyone else seems like they dream about having their way with the quarterback or the head cheerleader.

Everyone else seems like they would “hit that”.

But not you.  It’s not that you won’t, because you think it’s sinful or something like that.  It’s that you don’t.  Your mind just doesn’t work that way.  It doesn’t spontaneously imagine leaping into bed with someone.  Maybe it’s even that you can’t.  Maybe you’ve tried to devise erotic fantasies and have failed.  You tried to undress someone with your eyes once, but you couldn’t even figure out how to get their bra off.  And if you can make it to the hot & heavy, rather than picturing the perfect mix of ecstasy and passion, you get bogged down in the details and distracted.  You spend so much energy trying to maintain the fantasy that you lose whatever pleasure you were hoping to get from it.

You don’t like sex.

Some asexuals don’t like sex.  They don’t want to do it, they don’t want to see it, they don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to think about it.  At the age when most people were hearing about sex and thinking “I’d like to try that”, they were thinking “You want me to do what with WHAT?  No.  Just.  No.”

While not liking sex is not the same as asexuality, many asexuals don’t like sex, and discover that they’re asexual when they’re trying to find out why they don’t like sex.

A lot of non-asexual people feel this way, too, when they first hear about sex.  Let’s face it, the whole process is a bit icky, after all.  However, for most people who feel this way, those thoughts are pushed aside once sexual attraction kicks in.  But for the aversive asexual, sexual attraction never comes along to override these feelings.

The “ick factor” isn’t the only reason people don’t like sex.  Some asexuals don’t like sex because they find it uncomfortable or boring.  There are thousands of reasons that someone might not like sex.

You like sex, but it doesn’t feel “right”.

I don’t mean this in an “Oh, it’s sinful and dirty” sense.  I mean it in the sense where something seems off, like gears with mismatched teeth or walking with gum on your shoe or using a shopping cart that always pulls to the right.  At first glance, it seems like everything’s okay, but the more you think about it, the more things feel off.

Perhaps you physically enjoy sex.  Maybe you like making your partner feel good.  There are things you might really like about sex, but at the same time, there’s something missing.  When you watch your partner’s reactions, it’s clear that there’s something there that you’re not feeling.  It’s impossible to put your finger on it, but you know there’s something there.  Some intangible spark is behind their eyes, and you’re acutely aware that spark is missing in your eyes.

This was how I felt when I had sex.  It physically felt great, but emotionally, I was not connected to the moment and to my partner.  She wanted it, she was into it, she had been craving that moment for months, while I just didn’t have any of that.

You had sex because that’s what you were “supposed to do”.

You never were really interested in having sex, you never felt a drive or biological desire to have sex, but you thought you wanted to have sex because “that’s what people do”.  Later on, you got a partner, they wanted to have sex and you went along with it because “that’s what people do”.  You kept having sex because “that’s what I’m supposed to do”.  It felt more like an obligation or a chore than the expression of love it was supposed to be.  At first, you may have even wanted the experience, but as time went on, you grew tired of it.

When you encountered the naked body of someone for the first time in a sexual situation, you looked at it like a real-life anatomy lesson, rather than an object of desire.

This one happened to me.  I was in my bedroom with my first (and so far, only) girlfriend.  Following her lead, we were fooling around a bit.  She was wearing short shorts and sitting on my bed.  She sat me down on the floor in front of her, spread open her legs, and pulled aside her shorts.

I think that most young men in this situation look upon it with unbridled glee.  It’s a milestone in their life, something they’d been working toward, often for years.  Instantly, their mind fills with ideas and opportunities and a thousand fantasies, any number of which could come true within the next five minutes.  For many men, a sight like that is like being invited into the playground of their dreams and told to run wild.

So, what went through my mind?

“Oh, so that’s how it all fits together!”

There was no explosion of sexual urges, no endless stream of desires.  I didn’t really even feel compelled to touch it.  Instead, I was busy looking over the terrain like it was a road map, full of places I’d only heard of in passing.  I wanted to identify all of the bits and pieces that I knew were supposed to be down there and see how they were all oriented relative to one another.

Needless to say, I now look at this event as one of the big red flags that should’ve clued me in that I was asexual years ago.

You focus on the motions, not emotions.

When dealing with sex and physical closeness, you put an emphasis on trying to make the right moves, like touching the right place in the right way, instead of focusing on the emotional aspects.  In some cases, the pressure you feel to push all the right buttons may make the experience highly unpleasant.

“If I try it, maybe I’ll like it.”

So, you haven’t had sex.  You’re not terribly enthusiastic about it, either.  It’s not that you’re against it, it’s just not all that interesting to you.  But everyone else seems to like it, so maybe you will too, if you just gave it a chance.  Maybe you just need to try it out and you’ll see what the fuss is about.

I call this the “Green Eggs and Ham” hypothesis:

You do not like them, so you say.  Try them!  Try them, and you may.  Try them and you may, I say.

The idea that maybe you’ll become interested in sex if you try it out is a compelling one.  The thinking goes, how can you really know if you’re not interested if you don’t give it a shot?  Well, the answer is that you really can know.  After all, you don’t actually have to hug a saguaro cactus to know that would be unpleasant.  So, if you’re certain that sex is not for you, then don’t feel pressured to prove that you don’t like it by going a few rounds.

On the other hand, if you feel this way, you’re open to the experience, and the right situation comes along, then go for it.  Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, it doesn’t really matter, either way.  I felt this about myself, and I did try having sex.  Of course, what it lead to was…

You had sex and thought “Is that it?”

That’s it? That’s all there is?

Weren’t there supposed to be fireworks and standing ovations?  Wasn’t my life supposed to be changed forever?  Wasn’t it supposed to be the single greatest experience of my entire life?

What was supposed to be so great about that?  Why do some people devote their entire lives to pursuing that?  How could that possibly be responsible for ruining the careers of so many politicians?  How could so many people consider that to be the very meaning of life?

I don’t know, I guess it was kinda fun, a little bit, sorta.  Bit boring, though, too.

I mean, seriously?  Is that really it?  What’d I miss?

Meh, whatever.

You don’t like masturbating.

Maybe you’ve tried it before, but it didn’t work out and you didn’t get anywhere.  Maybe you never saw the point.  Maybe you do it, but you look at it like any other bodily function, like a sneeze or a shiver.  Maybe you think it’s gross or disgusting or repulsive.  Maybe you do it and wish you could stop.  In any case, you don’t look at it as something pleasurable and fun.  And it’s not out of a sense of guilt or shame or anything like that.  You just genuinely don’t enjoy it.

You masturbate, what would you need anyone else for?

You might look at other people and how they talk about sex and about what person X did for them last night, and think, “Huh, I can do that by myself.  I don’t need any help.”  You’re perfectly fine taking care of yourself and really don’t mind reservations for sexual pleasure as a party of one.  When other people talk about masturbation as if it were some sort of consolation prize for a distant runner up, you’re a bit confused, because it certainly doesn’t seem like a terrible thing to you.

When you think about having sex with someone else, you may think that a second person would just get in the way and complicate things.  Maybe you’ve even had sex and didn’t think that it was really any better than what you’re capable of by yourself.

You think arousal is annoying.

Instead of looking at arousal as a sign from down below that you need to get all sexed up as soon as possible, you just find it annoying.  It’s distracting.  It’s random.  And, for some people, it literally gets in the way.  If you could shut it down, you would.  It’s never directed at anyone, you don’t really want to do anything with it, it’s just kinda there.

————

Tomorrow’s conclusion is all about other people and things.  Hope to see you there.

Links to the posts in this series:

Possible Signs of Asexuality – Part 1: About You

A lack of experiencing sexual attraction is the only thing that all asexuals have in common.  That’s what the definition of asexuality is. But that definition doesn’t help people who are trying to figure out if they’re asexual.  It’s a definition through negation, which isn’t useful if you’re not sure what’s being negated. It’s like saying “You’re unxonoxian if you’ve never seen a xonox.”  How are you supposed to know if you’ve never seen a xonox, when you have absolutely no idea what a xonox is?  Maybe you’ve seen one, but just didn’t know that’s what it was called.  So you ask someone how to know if you’ve seen a xonox, and the best answer they can give is “Well, if you’ve seen a xonox, you’d know.”

Because of this, figuring out if you’re really asexual can be a challenge.  How do you know if you’ve never felt sexual attraction when you’re not sure what sexual attraction even is, and no one can satisfactorily explain it to you?  What I’ve found is that most asexuals don’t come to the realization that they’re ace from reading that definition. Instead, they read what someone else wrote on a blog or in forum posts, or they see a news article or YouTube video on asexuality and think, “That person just described me.”

Even though a lack of sexual attraction is the only thing all asexuals have in common, there are clusters of shared experiences, similar things that some asexuals have felt.  It’s these shared experiences which often make people come to realize that they’re asexual. In this series of posts, I’m going to explore some of them.

(Please note:  These aren’t universal ace traits, so don’t worry if you don’t fit into them all.  I haven’t even experienced all of these myself. This shouldn’t be looked at like a checklist or “Am I Asexual?” test or anything like that.  You can still be asexual even if you’ve experienced none of the things on this list and you may not be asexual even if you’ve experienced most of them.  There’s no diagnostic test to confirm if you’re asexual, there’s no twenty-seven point checklist, and you don’t have to pass an initiation or be referred by someone who’s already in the club.  The only person who can truly diagnose your sexual orientation is you. 

Also, I want to note that these thoughts or experiences should not be taken as some sort of manifesto of the unquestioned and unified belief system of all asexuals.  They’re not necessarily the right experiences or the wrong experiences, and certainly, some of them may be misguided or born out of ignorance.  I am writing about them here because some asexuals have passed through these thoughts on their way to discovering their identity, and I felt it was important to mention them for those people still making the journey and who may currently be thinking the same thoughts.)

In this first installment, I’m going to talk mostly about personal thoughts, thoughts about yourself and your identity.

Links to the posts in this series:

You don’t think about sex.

When thinking about activities you’d like to do with a romantic interest, sex rarely makes the list.  You might not catch the punchline to a dirty joke, because you’re not operating in that frame of reference.  When other people start talking about sex, you have to take a second to remember that other people think about that sort of thing.  When you hear that old statistic that people think about sex every seven seconds, you only think about how wrong that statistic is.

You realize that everyone else thinks about sex in a completely different manner than you do.

This is the one that finally tipped me over the edge.  One day, I was talking with a friend about some sex scene on a TV show I’d seen the day before.  I was trying to figure out the positioning and mechanics of what was supposedly going on because it didn’t make sense to me.  As the conversation went on, it became apparent that I was focused on the wrong thing, that it wasn’t meant to be about the impossible and/or uncomfortable contortions required to make the scene believable, it was meant to be about the sex.

This, in itself, wasn’t weird.  I’ll often find things odd about scenes in movies or TV shows and try to sort out the problems afterward.  What was weird is that at no point in the conversation did I ever think anything like “Oh hey, sex!  Yay!”  I realized that I never really did think that way.  Ever.

So I started rewinding my life, going over various sexual situations from my past.  What struck me was how, in almost every single one of them, there was something that made me feel different.  One or two things over the years might have just been a fluke.  A handful of things bunched together during one summer might have just been a phase.  But here, in event after encounter after situation, consistently, for close to 20 years since the start of puberty, there was something different.

I don’t find people “hot”.

My girlfriend had to be very persistent to convince me to have sex with her.

I find most porn to be boring or unappealing.

I’d zone out of most conversations on sex.

I never had “urges”.

I never saw the point of a bachelor party.

And on and on the list went.  It became absolutely clear to me that my views on sex were completely different from anyone else I’d ever talked to.  It wasn’t some isolated thing.  There was something fundamentally different about me.

It was because of that realization that I went out to try to discover exactly what it was that was going on with me, which is how I discovered asexuality.

You think of sex in anthropological or scientific terms, rather than romantic or erotic terms.

You might be interested in sex, but interested in the same way one is interested in geology or zoology.  You see it as an object of study, rather than an object of participation.  You might want to know everything about it and read everything you can about sexual activities, practices, variants, and combinations, yet at the same time, you’re not really interested in actually doing any of them.  You’d rather watch a Discovery Channel documentary on sex than a porn movie.  You’d rather read the Kinsey Report than Penthouse.

Sometimes, because of this, you may forget that others don’t typically look at sex as an intellectual curiosity, and you may talk about things in a context where other people are shocked or embarrassed by your openness.

You don’t understand what the big deal is.  You haven’t had sex for [insert significant amount of time here], so why are other people so worked up about going without for two weeks?

In general (although not universally speaking), asexual people don’t have a problem going without sex for long periods of time.  If you told an asexual person that they couldn’t have sex for ten years, their response will often be something along the lines of “Okay, whatever.”  If you told a non-asexual person that, their response will often be something along the lines of “That’s impossible!  I’d explode!”  (And again, not universally speaking.)

I’ve felt this way before.  I’ve seen people moan about how terrible it is that they haven’t had sex in two months.  There was a big story about a DJ who went without sex for a whole year as a publicity stunt, and everyone was shocked.  I’ve seen men make it sound like their genitals will literally explode under pressure if not emptied in, on, or by someone else within a timely manner.  But I haven’t had sex in years and I don’t miss it at all.  The concept that someone could be so affected by a lack of sex is totally alien to me.

So…

Sex is totally alien to you.

There’s this thing that everyone else does.  It’s on TV, it’s in movies, there are magazines devoted to it, songs about it, books about it.  It’s everywhere, all the time.  Some people are obsessed by it.  They can spend their whole lives chasing it, and sometimes it ruins them.

And you just don’t get it at all.

It’s not that you’re naive, it’s not that you’re sheltered, it’s not that you’re uninformed.  It’s just that it’s impossible to fathom why this thing is so important to pretty much everyone else in the world.

And whenever people talk about sex, they might as well be speaking in a foreign language or talking about the intracacies and nuances of macroeconomic theories or 17th century French literature for all you care.

It’s a bit like everyone else is a fan of a sport you’re not interested in.  You can watch a game, you can read the rules, you might even try playing once or twice, but in the end, it still doesn’t make any sense why people are so excited about getting to third base or scoring a touchdown.

You’ve thought, “I’m straight (/gay/bi/etc), but not very good at it”.

I felt this way for years before I discovered asexuality.  I’d had a girlfriend, and the occasional persons of vague interest had all been women, so clearly that means I’m straight, right?  But at the same time, I never really thought about sex.  I never went looking for it, I never felt like I needed it.  Whenever I thought about these women, I thought about things like going on vacation or scouring the local thrift stores for retro video games with them, but I never really thought about taking them to bed.  One day, I decided that meant that I was straight, but I just wasn’t very good at it.

Later, when I discovered asexuality, I mentioned this on an asexuality forum.  I was surprised by the number of other people who said that they had felt the same way.  Some of them had even used the same phrase to describe themselves.

You’ve thought, “I must be straight by default”.

I’ve seen a couple of people say that they felt this way before they discovered asexuality.  The assumption is that someone has to be straight, gay, or bi, no exceptions, no alternatives.  Everyone has to get placed in one of those buckets, there are no other options.  Clearly, since they didn’t experience attraction to the same sex, they couldn’t be gay or bi, therefore they had to be straight by default, since that was the only bucket left.

I think this makes a good thought exercise for people who don’t believe in asexuality.  If those three groups are the only options, where do you put someone who knows they’re not gay, because they’re clearly not attracted to the same sex, but at the same time, there’s not any evidence that they’re straight, either?  The only reason you’d put someone in the “straight” bucket is because “that’s what most people are”, which is a ridiculous reason to assign an identity to someone.

It’s a bit like saying there are people who like chicken, people who like steak, and people who like both.  You come across a vegetarian and you try to fit them into your limited worldview.  “Do you like chicken?”  “No.”  “Well, therefore you like steak by default.”  “No, I’m-” “You have to like steak, because most people like steak, and you said you don’t like chicken.”  “But-“  “YOU LIKE STEAK.  END OF DISCUSSION.”  There’s clearly a “none of the above” option here which needs to be recognized.  Some people don’t like steak or chicken, and some people don’t like men or women.

———–

Tomorrow’s post will focus mostly on sex and sexual activity (So you might want to skip tomorrow, if that’s not your deal), while the third day will be about things outside of yourself, like other people.

Links to the posts in this series:

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.

Q & Ace: An Introduction to Asexuality

I wrote this a while back for my friends and family.  I sent it to them when I came out.  It’s intended to be an overview of asexuality for someone who isn’t aware of what it entails and who was a bit blindsided and confused by an announcement from someone they’ve known for years.  Hopefully it’s useful for other people, too.

So, wait, what? You’re… Huh? What’s going on again?

I’m asexual. It’s a bit like being straight except I’m not into women.

Oh, so you’re gay?

No. Asexual. I’m not into men or women.

So, you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body?

No, I’m not transgender. I’m quite comfortable with the factory original parts and don’t see any need to replace any components.

Although, some people who are trans are also asexual.  They’re not mutually exclusive.

Are you missing pieces down below?

Uh, I don’t think so. Let me check…

Hang on a sec…

Ah, found it. Nope. All present and accounted for.

So, then, you’re saying down below doesn’t work or something?

Down below works just fine. It’s just I have no desire to interface my down below with anyone else’s down below.

You can clone yourself then?

No, different meaning of the word. Although, I’d have to say that binary fission would be an awesome trick for parties.

What are you talking about, then?

Asexuality means I don’t experience sexual attraction. That’s it. While other people are on an unending quest to find someone willing to test the repetitive compressive stress tolerance limits of their furniture, I’m on an unending quest to find a complete set of game cartridges for the Nintendo Virtual Boy. I’m simply not interested in having sex, although the customs and practices can be rather intriguing from a scientific or anthropological point of view.

You don’t want sex?

Right.

What, is it against your religion?

No.

Were you abused, then?

No.

Repressed or repulsed or something?

No.

They have a pill for that, you know.

That’s not what the pill is for. The pill is for people who are ready and willing, but not able. I’m perfectly able, just not ready and willing. Saying there’s a pill that’ll fix asexuality is like saying there’s a pill that’ll fix homosexuality. I’m not going to take a pill, feel a stirring in my loins, and suddenly want to sleep with the next woman I see.

What is wrong with you? Sex is AWESOME!

You can keep your sex. Red Alarm is awesome.

More Awesome Than Sex

You should try it some time. You might like it!

“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say!”

I did try it. I didn’t care much for it. I mean, it was okay, I guess, but nothing spectacular. Nothing close to what all of you claim. Kinda boring, actually.

Wait, you had sex? Gotcha! That means you’re not asexual!

I had sex twice. Nine years ago. Call it a youthful indiscretion or whatever. I didn’t know I was ace at the time. I thought I was straight and that sex was what I was supposed to do at some point, and she offered. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, just like being gay or straight. Orientation is not the same as behavior. A little bit of experimentation in college doesn’t make someone gay. A lesbian who wants a child and opts for natural insemination isn’t suddenly straight. I had sex for the experience and because I thought that doing it might make my libido turn on. It didn’t.

I don’t regret it at all. In fact, I think it’s good that I did try it, otherwise I’d probably have doubts that I’m really asexual because there’d be that chance that I would like it if I just tried it.

Maybe she just wasn’t any good. If you find someone good, you’ll change your mind.

Maybe she wasn’t. I don’t know. I don’t have any other data points to compare. But that’s irrelevant. I wasn’t put off by a bad experience. I never was really all that interested in it to begin with. She could have been the most mindblowingly skilled woman on the planet and I still probably would have said “Meh”.

It’s just a phase. It’ll pass.

19 years since puberty is “just a phase”? Well, I’ll give it another 20 minutes, but that’s it!

You could be a late bloomer.

I’m 32 and I’ve never been sexually attracted to anyone, not even a naked woman standing directly in front of me with her hands on my equipment. That’s not a late bloomer. Nothing was planted in my garden.

I’m so sorry for you. It must really suck for you.

No, it’s absolutely fine, actually. I don’t want sex. It’s not like I’m yearning to get laid but can’t, leading me to be a pent up bottle of frustration and sadness. I’m not missing out on anything because I’ve never felt anything to miss out on. It would be a bit like me telling you that your life must suck because you don’t want a copy of a game like Space Squash. You’d give me a funny look and shake your head in confusion over how I could possibly think that you’d be interested in that.

But sex is awesome! Everyone wants sex!

You can’t see me, but I’m giving you a funny look and shaking my head in confusion over how you could possibly think that I’d be interested in that.

By the way, weren’t these supposed to be questions?

Oh, right. So, uh… Aren’t you just putting a fancy name on celibacy?

No, not at all. Celibacy is the condition of not having sex, while asexuality is not feeling sexual attraction toward anyone. Think of it this way: Celibacy is “I don’t have sex because _________.” As in “I don’t have sex because it’s against my religion” or “because I can’t find anyone” or “because I’m in prison”. Asexuality is “Sex? Whatever. Please pass the cake.” So yes, I am celibate, but I’m celibate because I’m ace, not because I made some life choice to never have sex or just haven’t been able to get laid and have given up trying.

Not all celibate people are asexuals, and not all asexuals are celibate.

What you’re saying is that you can’t get laid and have given up trying?

Um. No. I’ve never even bothered trying because it’s just not that interesting to me. When I did have sex, it was entirely my partner’s idea, and it took a lot of persistence on her part to get me to the point where I said yes.

That’s a bit like claiming that I’m not interested in golf because I’m no good at it. No, I’m not interested in golf because it’s golf and it’s not interesting.

(Unless it’s Golf for the Virtual Boy.  In which case I’m all there.)

Why do you hate sex?

I don’t hate sex. I just don’t care about it. As far as aces go, I’m fairly sex positive. I’m not repulsed by it and I don’t have any problem with it. In fact, I find it secretly amusing when someone thinks that I’m offended by a sexual conversation and tries to steer things in a different direction. If I seem offended, it’s probably because I’m zoning out and not paying any attention because I have nothing to add to the conversation.

In the right situation, I might even be willing to give it another go. I just don’t feel any need to find myself in the right situation.

Anyway, go forth and fornicate, just keep your damn kids off my lawn.

So you can’t fall in love?

I can and I have. It’s definitely more than a friendship, it’s just not tied to sex.

Wait, how can you fall in love and still call yourself asexual? If you fall in love, you’re straight, gay, or bi. Pick one.

Sex does not equal love. Sexual attraction does not equal love. Many people are sexually attracted to people they do not love. Many people love people they are not sexually attracted to. And clearly, many people love people they do not have sex with. Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, not the lack of capacity for love.

You’re just inexperienced. If you get out there and keep trying, you’ll come around.

Did you have to “get out there and keep trying” to decide you were interested in sex in the first place? And who knows, maybe you’ll really get into gay sex if you just “get out there and keep trying”. After all, how can you say you’re not gay if you haven’t tried it out?

And that wasn’t a question.

But you’re like totally socially inept. Sometimes you don’t even want to go outside if there are people on the street. Ever think that maybe you’re not asexual, but that you really just have some sort of social anxiety disorder?

I can’t imagine that my social anxiety issues would cause me not to feel attracted to anyone. It’s not a matter of just being too nervous to ask someone out on a date. If that’s all it were, I would still likely feel attracted, but be unable to approach them. On the contrary, I think asexuality and the social issues have a symbiotic relationship going on. I’m not attracted to anyone, so I never feel compelled to break out and try to talk to someone that I’m attracted to.

Then again, maybe both are caused by my deep-seated fear of having to share a closet with someone.

So, uh… Do you feel anything, uh, down there?

Of course I do. There’s nothing physically wrong with my body.

Wait a minute, how do you know that?

A: Like I said, I’ve had sex.
B: Equipment is tested regularly and has been found to be functioning within normal operating parameters.

“Tested regularly”?  So, that means you, uh…? How can you be asexual if you…  you know?

That has absolutely nothing to do with asexuality. Like I’ve said, asexuality is an orientation. It relates to who I find sexually attractive, namely, no one. You don’t need to find anyone sexually attractive for that, it’s a physical response.

Of course, that’s absolutely none of your business, but anyway…

Have you ever thought that maybe you haven’t met the right person yet?

Right, maybe I haven’t. But given that I’ve never found anyone attractive in all the years I’ve been looking and that everyone else seems to find multiple people attractive EVERY DAY, I think it’s fairly safe to say that she’s not hiding behind a tree, just waiting for me to walk by.

Why did you choose to be asexual?

It wasn’t a choice. As the song goes, “baby, I was born this way.” (Of course, the song doesn’t mention asexuality, but whatever. We’re there in spirit.)

How did you realize you were asexual?

Last year, I realized that I didn’t think about sex the same way as anyone else I’d ever met. I started to explore those feelings and came to discover that I wasn’t really interested in sex at all. And I’ve always been that way. During puberty, as a teenager, when I had a girlfriend, and now as an adult. I didn’t really understand it. There weren’t any signs that my hormones were awry and I wasn’t depressed. Perhaps most significantly, I hadn’t had sex in eight and a half years and it didn’t bother me at all. Everyone else seems like they’d go insane if they hadn’t had sex in eight and a half days.

So, I was a mystery to myself, a puzzle to be solved.

I like solving puzzles.

And so I went looking for answers. Asexuality was the one that fit the best, so I took it.

But hey, I’m a scientist. I go with the theory that fits the evidence. Right now, the evidence points toward my being ace. But in the future, I recognize that there may be some new evidence that’ll come along and disprove the theory. Should that happen, I’m willing to go where that leads.

Ace? What’s that?

Ace…xual. It beats “amoeba”.

Why are you telling me all this, anyway?

To spread awareness and hope it’ll contribute to a better understanding of asexuality. I see other aces facing ignorance and struggling with those who are unable or unwilling to understand. On top of that, asexuality is almost completely invisible. I mean, I’ve felt this way for at least 19 years, since puberty, possibly even earlier, and I didn’t even know this was an option until April.

I’ve been a supporter of gay rights for years. It would be hypocritical for me to be open in my support there, yet be completely silent about who I am, now that I know who I am.

I know that one of the greatest factors in someone being willing to accept homosexuality is to know someone who is gay. I know that if I’m open about who I am and how I feel, that all of you will gain a greater understanding of asexuality and be more willing to accept us. You won’t see asexuality as some scary alien concept. You’ll see me. (Granted, I can be a scary alien concept at times, though…)

Were you hiding all this time, then? What took you so long to come out of the closet?

I haven’t been hiding. I really just found out myself back in April. I’ve been confirming the hypothesis since then and trying to figure out how to say anything about it. And it’s not like I’ve been trying to pass or anything. Even before I made the discovery, I never went around claiming to be sexually attracted to anyone. I’m sure everyone who knows me had already figured out that there was something off here. I mean, I have this picture on my desk at the office:

(I’m not really sure aces come out of the closet, though. I think we come out of the pantry, because of the cake.)

Cake?

Yes. We have cake. That’s how we recruit people.

Recruit people?

Of course. Just like any other sexual minority, we recruit people to help carry out our sinister agenda.

Sinister agenda?

Yes. Say, would you like some cake?

 

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Some excellent resources for learning more about asexuality are the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, at http://www.asexuality.org, and the Hot Pieces of Ace YouTube channel, at http://www.youtube.com/user/HotPiecesofAce