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.

Is “Asexual” Another Way To Say “Celibate”?

Celibacy and asexuality are not the same thing.

Celibacy is a behavior, it describes one’s actions.  A celibate person does not have sex.

Asexuality is an orientation, it describes one’s attractions.  An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction.

It’s possible for a celibate person to experience sexual attraction and simply not act on it.  It’s possible for an asexual person to have sex, even though they don’t feel any attraction to do so.  And it’s possible for a person to be both celibate and asexual, where they don’t have sex, nor do they experience sexual attraction.

I explore more of the differences in this post.

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.

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.

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:  http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/01/24/tim-gunn-on-his-29-year-dry-spell-its-not-as-though-im-some-barren-forest/

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!”

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.)