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.

What is Asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation.  Unlike heterosexuality, where people are sexually attracted to the opposite sex, or homosexuality, where people are sexually attracted to the same sex, asexual people are not sexually attracted to anyone.  It’s not an inability to have sex, it’s not celibacy or abstinence, it’s not a temporary “dry spell”, and it’s not a fear of sex.

If you’d like to learn more, you’re at the right place.  This site is all about asexuality.  I’d reccommend starting with “Q & Ace: An Introduction to Asexuality“, then branching out from there.

How Do I Become Asexual?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation.  It’s not something you can switch on or off on a whim, asexuality is not a choice.  Most asexual people will tell you that they’ve always been this way and that they’ve never known anything different.  You can’t become asexual anymore than you can turn yourself gay or straight.  Certainly, you can practice abstinence and choose to become celibate, but asexuality and celibacy are not the same thing.

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.)