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.

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.