On the Existence of Asexual Men

Do asexual men exist?

Yes, absolutely.  Asexuality in males is real.  I am one myself.

So, you’re a guy, right?

Last time I checked, yeah.

And you were born that way?

Yep.

And you’ve got all the guy parts?

Uh… Yeah…

And they all work?

As far as I can tell.

And you feel like you’re supposed to be a guy?

I guess so.

So, then, how can you call yourself “asexual”?

Because I don’t feel sexual attraction toward anyone.

But you said your parts work.

That they do.

And that you feel like you’re a guy.

Well, I don’t really care for football and I don’t own any power tools except for a drill, but other than that…

And yet you claim to be asexual?

Correct.

You’re wrong. Asexual men don’t exist. You’re either straight, gay, or bi, or something ain’t working right, or you’re really a woman trapped in a man’s body and are in denial. It’s impossible for a man to be asexual.

I exist, therefore your hypothesis has been refuted. Please try again with a new hypothesis which accounts for this new evidence. That’s how science gets done.

So… I don’t get it.

That much is clear. Why don’t we start this over from the top, huh?

So, you’re a guy, right?

Yes, I’m male. And “cisgender” as all those kooky kids and their crazy new-fangled words might call it. In other words, I’ve got the factory-original male equipment and the male mind to go with it.

And you’re asexual?

Yes.

But I don’t understand. How can you be male, with functioning parts, and still consider yourself asexual?

Asexuality does not depend on your anatomy. It’s not a function of gender. Asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction toward anyone. It’s just as possible to be asexual with a penis as it is to be asexual with a vagina as it is to be asexual with anything in between, and there’s no requirement that a person disown their privates in order to join the Ace Club.

And by “functioning parts”, you mean that you can get erections, right?

Yes, among other things that would be considered “functioning”.

A-ha! There! You’ve just proven that you’re not asexual!

What, because somehow an erection is an infallible sign that a man is sexually attracted to something?

I hate to break it to you, but erections are not necessarily a sign of sexual attraction. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to the tight clothes that they’re wearing. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to waking up in the morning. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to bumpy roads. I doubt most men are sexually attracted to randomly walking down the street. Yet most men have probably gotten erections from wearing tight clothes, waking up in the morning, driving on bumpy roads, and randomly walking down the street.

An erection is a physical process. Sure, it can sometimes be caused by emotional stimuli, such as sexual attraction, but attraction is not a requirement.

So, why do you think you’re asexual?

Because I don’t experience sexual attraction. I don’t look at women (or men, for that matter) and immediately think that I’d like to get them in my bed. I don’t feel what people mean when they use the word “hot” to describe someone. I don’t really think about sex and how I must get some RIGHT NOW or I’ll go insane.

What about the whole thing about how men think about sex every seven seconds?

I think about how that statistic is wrong every seven seconds.

Are you the only asexual male?

Um. No. There are clearly others.

Well, how come it doesn’t seem like there are?

[I didn’t conduct a survey or anything, so this section is mostly pure conjecture. I apologize if it’s completely off-base. If you have any objections to what I’m saying, please let me know and I can work to improve this area.]

I think the reason that it doesn’t seem like there are more asexual men is that men are less likely to realize and accept that they’re asexual. So much of the stereotypical male identity is wrapped up in sexual prowess that it’s difficult to step back and admit that you don’t really fit in that world. If you’re a man, you’re supposed to be constantly horny, always in the mood and always on the prowl. There’s simply no option for a man to feel otherwise. It’s as if semen is a highly volatile substance and if you fail to get it out of your body before it reaches a critical mass, you will literally explode. (And preferably with the assistance of someone else, too. If it doesn’t end up in or on someone else, where it will be neutralized by their body heat, then it can apparently remain dangerous, which is why masturbation is viewed as an outlet of last resort.) The only thing that can stand in the way of a man having sex is the inability to get an erection, but if you can’t get it up, there’s a pill for that, a pump for that, a ring for that, an implant for that…

But to say “I’m not interested”? Well, that’s just not possible for a man. Clearly, if he gets an erection, then he’s interested, right? In many ways, for a man, sexual attraction is seen as equivalent to getting hard. If he stands at attention looking at a woman, he’s straight, if he’s looking at a man, he’s gay, and so on. So, when he gets an erection and it’s not directed at anyone in particular, then maybe he just needs to sow his wild oats until he finds what does it for him. And there’s the irrational fear that if a man isn’t turned on by a woman then OMG HE MUST BE GAY, so he’ll force himself to believe that he’s attracted to women, even though he doesn’t feel anything in particular for men or women. It’s simply not acceptable for a man not to want to use that erection with someone. If he doesn’t, there must be something wrong with him, he must be broken.

And so, in a world where that’s not just the predominant view, but pretty much the only view, you can see how it’s hard for a man to figure out that he’s asexual. Faced with that sort of overwhelming attitude, he’s just going to hide how he feels, so he doesn’t appear to be weak or broken or damaged. Men aren’t supposed to admit their feelings, especially when those feelings aren’t shared by others.

Additionally, conflating sexual function with sexual attraction can lead some men to erroneously rule out asexuality. “I’ve had sex, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t have been able to if I were asexual.” “I masturbate, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t do that if I were asexual.” “I like having my penis touched by someone else, therefore I’m not asexual, because I wouldn’t like it if I were asexual.” They’ll take events like those, join them to even the faintest glimmers of aesthetic or romantic attraction and use that as evidence to prove that they’re straight or gay or bi or pan or whatever, when in reality, all they’re experiencing is a physical reaction to stimulation.

By the time a man reaches the age where they’ve gathered enough life experience to decide that they’re just not all that interested in sex, they’re typically at a point where they can say “Well, I’m not 18 anymore, the hormones have died down” or “The fires of passion always die down after a few years, but I still love her”, or any number of other convenient excuses that obscure the truth.

How did you figure it out?

It took me a solid week-long journey of self-discovery to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t simply “straight, but not very good at it” and that I was, in fact, asexual. I’d known for years that I just didn’t think about sex the same way other people did. I had a girlfriend that tried to awaken me sexually, but wasn’t all that successful. I just figured I was shy or that she wasn’t the one. I hadn’t had sex in over eight years and it didn’t bother me at all. I just figured I had a low libido or was just better at masturbating than everyone else or something. It never really occurred to me that I simply was not sexually attracted to anyone. I considered myself straight, pretty much through the process of elimination. After all, I’d never been attracted to a man, so therefore I had to be straight.

But it sort of bugged me. I didn’t fit. Whenever I heard other people talk about sex or about hot women, it was foreign to me. They may as well have been talking about golf.

One day, I had a conversation with a friend about a somewhat baffling depiction of sex on some TV show and as we went on, it became very clear that I was not like everyone else and that there had to be something out there, some reason, something to explain how I felt. It became too much to be able to deny anymore, so I went looking for answers. I went on my journey with open eyes, willing to embrace whatever it was that I discovered.

Asexuality is what I found. Asexuality fit me.

Pretty much everything fell into place at that point. All the things I’d done, all the things I thought, how I felt, it all made sense to me.

I went looking for answers. I went looking for myself. If I hadn’t taken that step, I’d still be “straight, but not very good at it”. Most men who may be asexual aren’t going to take that step. They don’t know that there is that step to take, or they’re afraid of what they’ll find, or it just doesn’t bother them enough to start looking.

And that points to the core issue. The information isn’t out there. For most people, there’s straight, there’s gay, there’s bi, and that’s all. They aren’t aware that there are other categories which might fit better. They aren’t aware that it’s perfectly fine for a man to not be sexually interested in anyone. If more men know about asexuality, more men will realize that’s what they are.

 

A Bit of Attraction

So, you’re asexual. That means you can’t love anyone and are going to die alone, right?

Asexuality only means that a person does not experience sexual attraction. It doesn’t mean that they can’t fall in love. It doesn’t mean that they want to be alone forever. It just means that they don’t see someone and immediately want to jump their bones. There have been asexual people who have fallen in love and gotten married.

Wait, so… Some asexuals get married? What do they do on the honeymoon?

Play Scrabble.

(No, really.)

But how can you fall in love with someone and not want to have sex with them?

Love and sex are different things. Appreciation of beauty and sex are different things. It is quite possible to think someone is stunningly gorgeous and be dumb-struck in love with them and not be interested in having sex with them.

There’s a word for a relationship without sex. It’s “Friendship”.

There are many non-asexual couples where the sexual flame has long been extinguished, but who are still inseparable. There are many non-asexual couples who are in circumstances where they can’t have sex, but they’re still madly in love. Just because there’s no sex, that doesn’t negate the romantic aspect of the relationship. Would you say to an elderly couple that they’re “just friends” because he’s no longer able to perform? Would you tell a couple who’ve been in a bad car accident that they’re “just friends” because she’s paralyzed?

But those people are still attracted to each other. How can you have a relationship without attraction?

There are actually multiple different kinds of attraction. Sexual attraction is just one. Asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction, however, they may experience other types of attraction. Romantic attraction is what draws a person toward someone else and makes them want to get into a relationship with that person. For most people, romantic attraction and sexual attraction are directed toward the same person. They will find someone romantically and sexually attractive, that is, they will want to have a relationship with that person and they’ll want to include sex as part of that relationship.

It’s possible to experience sexual attraction without romantic attraction. A one-night stand, a friends-with-benefits situation, even some extramarital affairs are often examples of this arrangement. A person will only see the partner as sexually interesting, but not want to become romantically involved.

For many asexuals, they will experience romantic attraction without sexual attraction. They’ll want a girlfriend or boyfriend, and want to do most of the things that couples do, like go on dates, live together, take trips with each other, even get married and spend every moment of the rest of their lives together. But amongst all of that, there’s no burning desire to do the horizontal mambo. And it’s not a temporary “Not tonight dear, I have a headache” type of thing. The interest just isn’t there.

So do asexuals just randomly pick someone out of the phone book and call them up for a date?

Um. No.

Just like the different sexual orientations you’re probably already familiar with, there are multiple romantic orientations:

  • Heteroromantic: Romantically attracted to the opposite sex/gender.
  • Homoromantic: Romantically attracted to the same sex/gender.
  • Biromantic/Panromantic: Romantically attracted to both/all sexes/genders.
  • Aromantic: Romantically attracted to no one.

For instance, a heteroromantic man would be interested in a romantic relationship with women. Likewise, a homoromantic woman would be interested in having a relationship with other women.

In some cases, a heteroromantic asexual might call themselves a “straight asexual” or a homoromantic ace might say they’re a “gay asexual” or “asexual lesbian”. Those terms are used as convenient shorthand, because saying the word “heteroromantic” is a mouthful and will probably get a confused blank stare from whoever you’re talking to. However, other asexuals will refuse to use those words to describe themselves, as they carry such a strong sexual connotation.

(By the way, there are other romantic orientations that I did not include in the list above.  If your feelings on love and romance don’t fit into one of the boxes above, I’d recommend looking around for a more complete list.  Something like “androromantic”, “gynoromantic”, or perhaps even “wtfromantic” might suit you better.)

In my case, I lie somewhere between heteroromantic and aromantic and I still haven’t quite sorted it out yet. I know that I’m not homo- or bi-romantic because I’ve never felt any interest in having a relationship with a man. But at the same time, I’m not terribly drawn into wanting a relationship with a woman, either. I had a girlfriend once, but it never felt quite right. Whenever I think about being in a relationship, I don’t desire closeness or inseparability. It’s more that I want someone who’ll take the wheel on long road trips or run interference against salespeople in the store or help me load Ikea furniture into the car. But I know that I’d want it to be a woman. So yeah, still totally confused there… Moving on.

In addition to romantic attraction, there’s aesthetic attraction. Aesthetic attraction, aside from being remarkably troublesome to spell, is being attracted to the way someone looks. This may sound sexual in nature, but it is not. Instead of thinking, “She’s hot, I’d totally tap that”, aesthetic attraction is more along the lines of “She’s cute, I’d totally stare at her for hours and study the lines and curves and contours and the interaction of the lighting on her hair and the way the colors she is wearing highlight her fingernails”. It’s more like the sense one gets looking at a beautiful landscape or a masterful painting, and there’s no sexual desire connected to it.

I definitely experience aesthetic attraction. There are certain people or certain types that will draw my eye, but I have no desire to have sex with them, I don’t picture them naked, I don’t really even want to talk to them. I just like the way they look and they stand out to me for some reason.

Are asexuals only romantically attracted to other asexuals?

No, not necessarily. Love is blind and doesn’t really care about sexual orientation. Very often asexual people will end up in relationships with non-asexual people.

And how does that work out?

It works out like any other relationship. Most of them fade away within a few months, some will last a year or two, sometimes they’ll move in together, maybe even get married, have children, get divorced and end up in a bitter custody dispute. You know, the usual.

No, I mean, how does a rela- Wait… Have kids? What?

Asexual people aren’t inherently incapable of having sex, and they’re not inherently infertile. Since asexuals generally can have sex and are generally fertile, I’ll let you figure out the rest.

Okay, that brings me to the point. How does a relationship work between someone who wants sex and someone who just isn’t interested?

Sometimes it just works. If the non-asexual partner has a low sex drive or the asexual partner is willing to have sex as often as the other partner wants, then it may be a non-issue.

Sometimes it’s difficult. If the asexual partner doesn’t want to have sex or isn’t willing to have sex as often as the non-asexual partner would like, then there could be trouble in the relationship. Often both partners will have to compromise in some way, but if both partners are committed and loving, they may find a way to make it work.

Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. If the asexual partner flat out refuses any kind of sexual activity and the non-asexual partner requires it three times a day, and neither party is willing to give, that relationship will not last. It will probably end in a pit of misery and resentment.

Sometimes it’s comically misguided. Like when the asexual partner talks about the sexual activities of night before with all the passion and fire of an economics textbook. But that’s a topic for another time…

An Asexual on Sex

A quick note before I begin: To all the asexuals out there: It’s okay to be a virgin and it’s fine to not be a virgin. It’s okay to be curious about sex and it’s fine to not be interested in it at all. It’s okay to enjoy sex and it’s fine to dislike it. It’s okay to not want to experience sexual pleasure and it’s fine if you want to orgasm by yourself or with someone else. It’s okay to have sex and it’s fine to not have sex. Your experience may be different than mine, and it doesn’t mean that you’re wrong or your broken. It just means that you’re not me, and we’re each walking the path of our own lives.

All asexuals are virgins, right?

No, we’re not all virgins. Some of us are virgins. Some of us have had sex a few times (I’m in this group). And some of us have had a regular sexual relationship with a partner (or multiple partners).

How can you be asexual and have had sex?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality or homosexuality. Sexual orientations are not defined by who you’ve had sex with throughout your lifetime, they’re defined by who you’re sexually attracted to. Think of it this way: A heterosexual male is heterosexual because he’s sexually attracted to women, even if he’s still a virgin and hasn’t had sex with any women. And if there’s that one night in college where he was young and confused and really really drunk and he went a little bit too far with that guy from the party because it seemed like a good idea at the time, that doesn’t make him gay or bi, because his sexual orientation is defined by his attraction, not his youthful indiscretions.

An asexual who has had sex simply isn’t sexually attracted to the person they’ve had sex with.

But, um, how can you be asexual and have had sex? I mean, physically?

Physically, there is no inherent difference between an asexual person and someone who is not asexual. We’ve got the same parts and pieces in the same arrangement and angles as everyone else, and they’ll work the same way, too. The only difference is emotional: Who we feel an urge to use those parts and pieces with. A heterosexual person wants to use them with someone with different parts and pieces, a homosexual wants to use them with someone with matching parts and pieces, a bisexual or pansexual doesn’t really care, and an asexual doesn’t really feel an urge to use them with anyone else.

Asexual males can get erect and ejaculate, and the sperm is normal human male sperm, it’s not some sort of magic sperm that can grow into a clone of the father on its own under the right conditions.

Asexual females can get wet and engorged and can get pregnant, and a pregnancy requires a male contrubution, they’re not capable of parthenogenesis.

Asexuals of any sex are capable of orgasm.

So, uh, asexual women having sex, that I get. “Lie back and think of England” and all that. They don’t have to do anything. But asexual men… How does that work?

Blood fills the spongy tissue of the penis, causing an erection, and the erect penis is-

I know how it works, but how does that happen?

You mean, how can an asexual man get an erection without being sexually attracted to the person they’re with?

Yeah, what’s the deal with that?

Obviously, the ability to achieve erection and not be sexually attracted to the person the erection will be used with is not an isolated feature unique to asexuals. There are plenty of examples of gay men who have fathered children through natural insemination. There are also plenty of examples of men (gay, straight, or otherwise) who’ve left the bar at last call with whoever was willing to join them. A man clearly does not have to be sexually attracted to someone to be able to have sex with them.

I can only speak for myself here, as I’ve never run a survey of non-virgin asexual males regarding erectile capacity during intercourse, but here goes. Even though I’m not sexually attracted to anyone, my body can and does respond to sexual situations. It’s like downstairs says “Oh, hey, SEX! I know what that is. I’ll go get ready in case you need me.” It’ll react that way to some sex scenes in movies, or to porn, or to knowing that you and your girlfriend had planned on having sex for about a month and now she’s getting into bed with you. It may be a Pavlovian response, where I know that the situation may have the reward of sexual pleasure, so my body gets prepared. Additionally, an erection can be caused by physical stimulation, regardless of the source of that stimulation. Many men have gotten erections from tight underwear, loose underwear, driving on bumpy roads or getting a physical at the doctor, and none of those things are generally targets of sexual attraction. When I had sex, there was a decent period of touching and caressing prior to starting intercourse, all of which was arousing. In fact, immediately after putting on the condom, I required a bit of direct stimulation to make the erection usable.

Some people confuse an getting an erection with sexual attraction. It is very important to note that they are not the same thing. Certainly, an erection can be the result of sexual attraction, but there are many other ways to get one (Like the physical stimulation mentioned above), and most of those other ways will work the same way on an asexual’s penis as on a non-asexual’s penis. Hell, when I was in the 7th grade, I used to get an erection every day in math class. Now, I like math and all, but I don’t like it that much. Sometimes erections just happen and there’s no reason for it.

Oh, and, don’t forget: Despite what President Clinton may have claimed, sex doesn’t necessarily require a penis to be placed within a vagina. So it doesn’t require a functional penis to be involved. It doesn’t even require a penis at all. Hands, mouths, and various devices and implements that may or may not be battery-operated can all be used during sexual activity.

Why bother? I mean, if you hate sex, what’s the point?

As I noted in an earlier post, views on sex vary widely among asexuals. Many asexuals do not hate sex. There are many reasons that an asexual person might have sex. These reasons include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • To please their partner.
  • Because they’ve been told, “Try it, you’ll like it”.
  • To satisfy their libido.
  • Because they’re bored.
  • To find out what its like.
  • Because they want children.
  • To “fit in” with other people.
  • Because it feels good.
  • Because they want to.

I had sex because my girlfriend at the time wanted to have sex with me. She knew that I wasn’t all that interested in sex, but we figured that it was worth a shot because maybe I’d become more interested in it if I experienced it. Of course, I did want to know what it was like, since sex is supposed to be this super-amazing, mind-blowing, life-altering thing that everyone else seems to be relentlessly chasing. Something like that’s gotta be good, right? But most importantly, I did it because I wanted to do it. No amount of begging and pleading would’ve gotten me to do anything if I didn’t want to do it (Anyone who’s tried to get me to eat Thai food knows that). In the end, I wasn’t terribly impressed. It was okay, I guess, but nothing to get all worked up over. It just wasn’t my bag.

What do you do when you have sex?

You know all the different things non-asexuals might do that they’d consider to be sex? Yeah, asexuals might do any of those. It’s not like there’s some ace code of conduct that says asexual women must lie passively and asexual men must thrust in the missionary position and any deviations from these standards are punishable by no cake for a month. During sex, asexual people, regardless of gender, can be as active or as passive as they want to be, and engage in activities ranging from dull to kinky.

But can you feel anything?

We can. Nothing about asexuality prevents an asexual person from experiencing physical sexual pleasure, whether that pleasure comes from a kiss on the cheek or genital stimulation. An orgasm in an asexual is no different than an orgasm in someone who isn’t. Sexual response will vary from individual to individual, just like among non-asexual people. Many asexuals who have had sex have never experienced an orgasm or may experience pain during intercourse (particularly women), however, you’ll find the same issues among non-asexual people, as well.

As for me, do I feel anything? Hoo-boy howdy yeah! Um, I mean, yes, I found the act of intercourse to be quite pleasurable physically.

None of this makes any sense to me. Asexuals having sex. “Asexual” means “not sexual”, so it’s not possible for an asexual to do sexual things. Are you sure you’re ace?

I don’t like the description of asexuality as “non-sexual” or “not sexual”, as I feel those terms carry the implication that an asexual person has no sexual ability or is incapable of doing anything of a sexual nature or is impotent. That’s simply not the case. Asexuality alone has no bearing on physical and physiological attributes and functions. I’ve got a penis and a pair of testicles. I can get erections. I can masturbate, lubricate and ejaculate. I can experience the intense physical pleasure of an orgasm. I can father a child. All the parts down below are present and functional, just like in any other healthy factory-original male. The only difference is that I don’t have any burning interest in using those parts with anyone else, because I’m asexual. Not having any interest doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of doing so.

What was sex like, from your point of view?

Somewhat analytical and disconnected. I was far more into trying to figure out what actions I was supposed to be taking at the various points in the process. Am I supposed to kiss the breast or caress it now? Is the clitoral stimulation too fast or too slow? I distinctly remember being bored at one point, wishing that my orgasm would arrive so that I could stop. It wasn’t the epitome of all life experiences, as I’d been led to believe. But at the same time, it felt good, both physically and emotionally. The whole process felt different and in some ways better than masturbation, the warmth and the varying pressure being notable examples. And I very much enjoyed sharing the experience with the woman that I loved at the time.

Interestingly enough, I have a record of some emails I sent to my partner on the subject in the days following our get togethers. They’re a monument to aceness. Instead of things like “Oh baby, you were so hot last night” and “I just got hard again thinking about what we did”, these mails are full of more practical issues, like the application of lubricant, discussion of technique, and talking about how I wasn’t expecting to be thirsty after sex. Anyway, here’s some quotes from those mails:

“Anyway, yes, I did enjoy it. It was different than I had imagined. It took a lot longer than I was expecting (Must’ve gotten caught up in the rhythm and forgotten to orgasm…). And it felt different, too. The way people always talk, I was expecting more of an electric explosion type of ‘WowWowWOWOW!’ sort of feeling the entire time. Sure, it was nice, but I don’t see why it gets people acting stupid and ruining their lives and such.”

“At the beginning, it wasn’t that much different from masturbation and was fairly dull and repetitive, almost ‘Is that all there is?’ “

“Touching there, kissing here, rubbing there… It doesn’t make much difference. It all feels pretty much the same to me. Stroking your breast does about as much for me as stroking your shoulder.”

“Anyway, I will be willing to do it again sometime. It meets with my approval.”

Your honor, I would like to submit these letters as Exhibit A for the proof of the existence of asexuality…

Um… Yeah. Wow. So, uh… What should I know if I, as a non-asexual person, want to have sex with an asexual?

As I wrote above, asexual people can have sex and still be asexual. There’s nothing physically preventing most of us from doing so. However, just because someone can physically have sex doesn’t mean they will want to. Many aces do not want to have sex. They may be repulsed, they may not be with the right person, it might not be the right time for them, or they may simply not want to. Even those who are willing to have sex are generally less into it and won’t do it as frequently as a non-asexual partner might prefer. Trying to coerce or pressure or guilt an asexual into having sex with you is an officially uncool thing to do. “No” means NO.

Sometimes aces will be willing to work out a compromise situation when they’re in a relationship with a non-asexual person, but it’s important that such a compromise come from a place of respect and that the compromise be honored by both parties. The single most important thing to remember when dealing with a sexual relationship with an asexual person is that you need to talk to them. Communication. Tell them your wants and needs and listen to their wants and needs. And talk. Don’t accuse and don’t demand. Also, not all asexual people will be willing to compromise.

Understand that an asexual person probably sees sex in a very different way than you do. You might see it as the supreme expression of love, joining of two souls into a single blissful passion. They may see it as the rubbing of genitals against each other for a half hour or so. They may not find you sexually attractive, but that’s not a personal rejection of you and there’s nothing you can do about it. It doesn’t mean they think you’re fat or ugly or horrible to be around or they don’t love you anymore. Their minds just don’t work that way. You will need to learn to accept that.

One thing I’ve seen happen again and again is that the asexual person will gradually become less and less willing to have sex. There can be many reasons for this, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re falling out of love. They may have come to the realization that they can’t overcome their repulsion. They may have started feeling guilty that you’re clearly attracted to them and they can’t return the favor. They may be growing less and less comfortable in sexual situations. The novelty might be wearing off. Or they may simply not be as willing to do it anymore. You will never know what the reason is if you don’t talk to them about it.

And again, no means no. If someone doesn’t want to have sex with you, then they don’t want to have sex with you. It doesn’t matter that they’re asexual. It doesn’t matter if they’ve had sex before, even if that sex was with you. No means no.

Asexuality and Celibacy: What’s the difference, anyway?

I have a friend that hasn’t had sex in a while. Does that mean they’re asexual?

No. Not having sex makes that person celibate. It doesn’t make them asexual.

But isn’t “Asexuality” just a fancy-sounding word for “Celibacy”?

No, not at all. Celibacy and asexuality are two different concepts. Celibacy means someone doesn’t have sex. Asexuality means someone doesn’t have sexual attraction.

I still don’t see how those are any different. They both mean that person isn’t getting any.

Not necessarily. Asexuality describes an orientation, not behavior. Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, and asexuals aren’t attracted to any sex. However, it’s possible for someone to have sex with someone they’re not sexually attracted to. Someone can be asexual and still have sex. It’s not like we’re going to kick them out of the club or anything.

So… What is the difference, then?

Here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet for you:

  • Celibacy: Not having sex for some reason. (“I don’t have sex because __________.”)
  • Abstinence: Choosing not to have sex for some reason. (“I don’t have sex because I choose not to.”)
  • Asexuality: Not having sexual attraction. May or may not have sex. (“Sex? What’s that? Please pass the cake.”)

A lot of people try to explain the difference between asexuality and celibacy by saying something like “Celibacy is a choice. Asexuality is not.” I don’t agree with that characterization.

First of all, it implies that celibacy and asexuality are nearly equivalent concepts, where one is voluntary and the other is involuntary. This is not correct. Asexuality describes an orientation, not a behavior, while celibacy is only talking about behavior. Someone who is celibate is not having sex by definition, while someone who is asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction, but they may or may not be having sex. It is possible for a person to have sex multiple times a day, yet still be asexual.

Secondly, the claim that celibacy is a choice is not always correct. A celibate person is a person who is not having sex, but the reason for them not having sex could be beyond their control. For example, someone could be in a situation where there are no partners available, such as being locked up in prison or on the International Space Station for a few months. In that case, it’s not a choice to be celibate, it’s a product of their environment. Likewise, someone could be celibate because they simply don’t have a partner at the moment for whatever reason. Those people may want sex and would have sex if it were available, but circumstances have forced them to be celibate. (In some cases, people have taken the phrase “involuntarily celibate” or “incel” to describe their condition. To claim that celibacy is a choice is to erase those people.) Abstinence is the choice not to have sex.

Now I’m confused. Does that mean that an asexual cannot be celibate or abstinent?

No. Asexuality and celibacy are separate concepts, however, they may overlap in an individual. Many asexuals are celibate and some are also abstinent. Filling in the blank from the definition of celibacy above, a celibate asexual is likely to say “I don’t have sex because I’m asexual and do not experience sexual attraction, therefore sex isn’t all that interesting for me.” An asexual person may or may not be celibate. An asexual person may or may not be abstinent. A person who is abstinent is also celibate by definition, but a person who is celibate may not be abstinent, because they may not have made a deliberate choice to not have sex. Someone who is celibate or abstinent is not necessarily asexual, in fact, most people who are celibate or abstinent are not asexual.

It is important to note that while a person may have religious or social reasons for being abstinent, a person does not have religious or social reasons for being asexual. It can be considered offensive to assume that an asexual is “planning to wait until marriage” or wishes to “remain pure”. Asexuality is not a choice, so there is no motive there. An asexual is asexual because they’re asexual, not because they want to be and not because they’re striving for a higher purpose. Of course, it is possible for an asexual to be practicing abstinence because of a religious or social reason, but it is the abstinence that is for the religious or social reason, not the asexuality.

In my case, I am a celibate asexual. I have not had sex in nearly nine years. I do not consider myself to be practicing abstinence because I have not made a deliberate choice to not have sex. I also do not identify as involuntarily celibate, because I’m perfectly fine not having sex. I just don’t have sex because I don’t have a partner and I’m not terribly interested in finding a partner. If I were to end up in a relationship with someone and they wanted to have sex, then I imagine that I would be willing to do so. (After all, that happened before.)