All asexual people think the same way about sex, right? Don’t you all hate sex?
Not at all, actually. The opinions on sex among asexuals are just as wide and varied as the opinions of non-asexuals on sex. Some like it, some hate it, and some don’t care at all. Asexuality is only the lack of sexual attraction. Beyond that, anything goes.
Well, how do you feel about sex?
I am a “sex-positive” asexual. That may sound contradictory, but it does not mean that I want to have sex. What it means is that I’m fine with sex. I don’t hate sex, I’m not repulsed by it, I don’t look down on other people for having it, I’m not ashamed about the fact that I even had sex, once upon a time. I recognize that sex may be important to other people and I do not have a problem with that. I find sex and sexuality strangely fascinating, and I always have. I have a sort of detached anthropological scientific interest in the subject. Although I don’t really have any desire to take part in most of the activities and practices I’ve heard about, I still think it’s good for me to know about them, and I like learning about them. If you saw my bookshelf, you would likely not believe that I’m ace. I’ve got sex encyclopedias, sex manuals, books on masturbation, fellatio, and cunnilingus, even a book that describes 365 different ways to have sex, so you can do it differently every night of the year (Except during a leap year, apparently). I know about things some of my non-asexual friends have never heard of.
(Please note that “Sex-positive” doesn’t mean that I think that all sex is automatically good. There are certainly some aspects of sex which are terrible.)
However, wanting to learn about sex does not mean that I actually want to have sex. When it comes to having sex with a partner, I’m largely indifferent. I don’t actively seek it out. I’ve done it before and wasn’t all that impressed, but I wouldn’t necessarily be against doing it again in the right situation.
Okay, so some asexuals are fine with sex. What about the rest of them?
Not every asexual is sex-positive. Many asexuals are repulsed by sex. Repulsion goes beyond simple disinterest. A repulsed person is generally disgusted by the thought of sex or of sexual things. There are many variations of repulsion among asexuals. Some think that all sex, anywhere, by anyone, is “icky”. Others are only repulsed when it comes to any form of sexual situations involving their own bodies, but are fine with other people having sex. Some repulsed people may be fine with their own bodies and may masturbate, but find the thought of doing anything with someone else disgusting. In some cases, the mere mention of an anatomical word is enough to cause someone to feel sick to their stomach.
Being sex-positive and repulsed are not mutually exclusive. It’s possible for someone to believe that pretty much whatever goes on between consenting adults is fine and dandy, but at the same time be repulsed about the thought of engaging in sexual activity themselves. Part of sex-positivity is a sense of “to each their own”, which means respect for how much or how little sex a person chooses to have, whether it’s five times a day or zero times in a lifetime. There are no “sluts” and there are no “prudes”.
Repulsion, by itself, is not necessarily an indicator of asexuality. Many non-asexuals are also repulsed by the thought of sex. They’ll experience sexual attraction, but once their thoughts turn toward the act of having sex, their thoughts will be blotted out by the ickiness of the fluids and the body parts and other goings on. Some people may even mistake repulsion for asexuality, thinking that because they find sex disgusting, that must mean that they do not find anyone sexually attractive, which is not the case.
Some people have reported some measure of success in overcoming repulsion by engaging in exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is the process in which a person attempts to overcome a fear by gradual and repeated exposure to the thing that causes the fear. For instance, someone who is arachnophobic would be shown pictures of spiders in an attempt to desensitize the person to spiders. For someone who is sexually repulsed, they might try looking at pornographic images or videos, reading about sexual acts, or examining their own bodies as a way to minimize their repulsion. (Of course, your mileage may vary. I’m not a psychologist or therapist and I’ve never been sexually repulsed, so I might just be completely off base here. I would strongly suggest that you find someone who actually knows what they’re talking about before attempting any therapy of this sort. Don’t just listen to me. Also, don’t blame me if you end up scarred for life after you see some of the things out there on the Internet…) It’s also important to note that exposure therapy should only be attempted by those who actually want to change how they feel about sex. If you’re repulsed by sex and don’t really have a problem with it, then don’t worry about trying to “fix” youself, because you’re not broken.
Why do I always hear about asexuals that hate sex and everyone who has sex?
I believe you’re confusing asexuality with anti-sexuality. They are not the same thing. Anti-sexuals believe that sex is bad or wrong, either because of a religious objection, or because they believe that sex is at the root of many of the world’s problems. While it is possible for someone to be both asexual and anti-sexual, one does not have to be asexual to be anti-sexual, and not all asexuals are anti-sexual. (In fact, the majority of them are not.)
So, do all asexuals fit perfectly into one of these groups you’ve mentioned?
It’s possible to be some mixture of the categories I’ve described above, and it’s also possible for someone to fall into a category I haven’t mentioned. However, just because someone is asexual, you can’t know which, if any, of these categories that person will be. You’ll need to talk to them to find out. It’s generally considered rude to assume that they’re a certain way. Furthermore, it should be noted that someone’s general impression of sex may not apply to every specific situation. For instance, just because an asexual is sex-positive, that doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to have sex with you or anyone else. Just because an asexual is repulsed, that doesn’t mean they’ll flee the room in horror if the conversation turns to sex. Communication is the key to understanding the individual.