Black Rings

Some people will wear a black ring on the middle finger on their right hand in order to signify that they are asexual.  There’s no particular significance to the color or finger selection.  Black was chosen because it was a neutral color, while the right middle finger was chosen largely because a ring on the left middle finger would clash with a wedding band or engagement ring on the left.

Most of the time, the ring is a plain black band of some sort, made out of plastic, stainless steel, or hematite.  Some people will opt for a fancier design, with an “Ace” symbol, or with purple and grey highlights.

The black ring symbol began in a thread on AVEN in June of 2005:

The Asexuality Flag

This is the Asexuality Flag.

The need for a flag was driven primarily by the desire to have a symbol that belongs to all of us, something that we could use to identify as ace and represent asexuality with that was not tied to a specific group. Prior to its adoption, people would use things like the AVEN triangle or a half-filled heart, but those had problems which prevented their wider adoption. The AVEN triangle is, well, the AVEN triangle. It’s the logo of a single website that not every asexual person is affiliated with. The half-filled heart implies romance, which meant that many aromantics were uncomfortable using it.

In the Summer of 2010, a number of asexuality sites, led by users on AVEN, came up with a number of designs for an asexuality flag, then held a multi-stage vote to determine the winner.

The selected design was created by AVEN user standup, and first posted at 4:36 PM on June 30th, 2010.

Some of the other designs included hearts and spades and triangles and all manner of other symbols.  Some of the designs looked like country flags.  In the end, the simple, four-bar design was chosen.  This design avoids the unwanted connotations that specific symbols like a triangle or heart might have, it avoids any hint of national affiliation, and perhaps most importantly, it fits in with the striped designs of most other GSM pride flags.

(Plus, it’s really easy to draw.)

The four colors all have meanings:

  • Black:  Asexuality.
  • Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality.
  • White: Non-asexual partners and allies.
  • Purple: Community.

Since the flag was selected in 2010, its use has exploded.  You can get buttons and bumper stickers and clothes with the flag on it.  It’s been seen at pride parades around the world, and some flag makers now offer it for sale.  Many asexuality related websites or blogs now incorporate the flag into their design.  And, of course, people have even made ace flag cakes.  Additionally, the black-grey-white-purple color scheme has been adopted by many aces as a way of indicating their asexuality.  I’ve seen ace shirts, ace nail polish, ace friendship bracelets, ace headbands, and ace scarves.  Even the logo of this site incorporates these four colors.

For more information:

You can trace the progression of designs and the voting process through these threads over at AVEN:

Here’s some shots of the flag in the wild:


That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.


I’m guessing that many of you reading know what “asexual” means, since my audience is pretty much exclusively ace or ace-friendly.

Asexual:  One who does not experience sexual attraction.

With minor variations, that’s what we all here understand it to mean, right?

And I’m sure we’ve all come across people who use the word differently, from the strict biologist talking about fungi, to the “I wish my homework were asexual” meme posters, from the people using it as a synonym for celibate, to the angsty 16 year old who’s decided to become asexual because boys suck.

Clearly, not everyone uses the word as we use it.  I would say that most people don’t even know about the definition that we use.

So, why is it, then, that whenever anyone remotely famous uses the word “asexual” to describe themselves, we automatically assume that they mean it the same way we do and embrace them?  How do we know that they’re not using it like the angsty 16 year old does?  How do we know that they don’t mean that they’re actively choosing to ignore their sexual attraction and not have sex?

This has been bothering me ever since I first went looking for a list of famous asexuals. It seemed like so many of the people on the list were included because they’ve never had sex or because of some tenuous link of the person having used the word “asexual” in some interview at some point long ago.   There’s usually not enough context because the interviewer doesn’t quote them directly, or the way they describe themselves is ambiguous and seems to imply celibacy or abstinence more than asexuality as we know it.  In one case (which I won’t mention by name), the cited justification for claiming that the person is asexual comes from an almost embarrassingly incoherent sentence which I would sooner take as evidence that they’re using a variety of controlled substances than as evidence that they’re asexual.

I understand that we need a public face, someone to point to and say, “Yeah, I’m just like them”.  It’s important, it’s valuable, it give us immediate legitimacy.  Clearly we’re not alone and not making it up if that person is one of us.

But what if they’re not?

I’m writing this because of the reaction to the articles about Tim Gunn reporting that he hasn’t had sex for 29 years.  People in the tag are screaming about how the articles are somehow erasing his orientation and denying his identity because they refer to him as “celibate”, rather than “asexual”.  Yes, he’s described himself as “asexual” in his book, but what if he didn’t mean it in the same way we mean it?  Is there anywhere that he’s made it clear exactly what he meant by the word “asexual”?  If he used the word asexual the same way we did, then we have every right to get upset over the way the articles erase his orientation.  However, at the same time, if he’s not using that word the way we’re using it, then we have no right to assign him an identity that’s not his.

I’ve only seen one unambiguously, confirmably asexual-as-we-mean-it famous person, and that’s the writer Keri Hulme, talking about it in this article, complete with a shout-out to AVEN.  Are there others who are definitely using the word asexual in the same way we do?

Tim Gunn on 29 Years of Celibacy

On an episode of a show called “The Revolution”, Project Runway’s fashion guru Tim Gunn talked about his 29 year celibacy streak.  While he’s apparently not asexual, as some people have claimed (Gunn attributes his lack of sex to a particularly bad breakup), the clip is still worth a watch for those celibate aces out there (like me) as a positive affirmation that you don’t have to have sex to have a happy and successful life.

Here’s the clip and article about it:

Quotes from the clip:

Gunn:  “Do I feel like less of a person for it?  NO!  Not even remotely!”

Gunn:  “I’m a perfectly happy, fulfilled individual.  And I have feelings, it’s not as though I’m some barren forest.”

Dr. Jen: “There’s a lot of people who are very comfortable with where they are at that point in their life.  Tim, I think that it’s great that you shared that very personal, and that you put the context on it that it’s okay with you.  It’s so easy when you hear ‘I wanna have more sex, I wanna have more sex’, well, maybe you don’t ‘wanna have more sex’, and that’s fine!”

Mario: Secret Asexual?

Mario went from the ice covered reaches of the highest mountain to the depths of the ocean, from the parched desert to inside a volcano, he was shrunk to microscopic size, shot out of a cannon, harassed by a rabbit, smacked in the head by a giant pendulum, attacked by a carnivorous piano, choked on toxic gas, fell into an endless abyss more times than he can count, and even had his hat stolen by a monkey.  And for what?


Talk about ace.