While many of us may have encountered the term in high school biology class as a reference to the method of species reproduction, today, it’s also used to talk about human sexuality. You may have encountered it, but not been certain about how to fit it into the context of your worldview.
We live in a society that prioritizes the desire for sexual engagement. We see this motivation as rational and universal. It is not the case with individuals who self-identify as asexual, and, as an unintended consequence, these people are marginalized or made to feel abnormal.
When Sex Is Not the Most Important Thing
Asexuality in terms of human sexuality, is the absence of sexual desire or the low-ranking of pursuit of sex with others as an important facet of existence. Because it doesn’t exclusively mean that an individual feels no sexual attraction ever at any point or has no desire for pleasure, this can cause a bit of confusion. If this is of interest of you, see the asexual dating sites.
That makes communication with any individual who espouses this sexuality vital, so no misunderstandings arise. Disambiguation of this life way and those who follow it has become a primary goal of advocates in recent years.
Also going by the shorthand identifier of Ace, asexual individuals may and often do seek purely romantic relationships, in which they engage in tender, bonded dynamics with other human beings. These may be differentiated from pure friendships, which are also highly esteemed, by the depth of feeling and commitment invested by the partners.
Neither friendships nor romantic bonds should be minimalized due to their sometimes physically chaste nature. Those who identify as asexual should also be differentiated from individuals who are non- or aromantic. The latter term refers to people who do not desire romantic involvement or the attendant cultural symbols of emotional intimacy.
Asexual individuals are often friendship-focused in their social and romantic lives. Because of this, the weight and value of emotional intimacy and all its attendant hallmarks may be even greater than what is accorded within sexually motivated relationship dynamics. If you’re lucky enough to date someone like this, you’re in for a rich and rewarding connection.
Asexual people do experience attraction. Romantic, emotional, and platonic attractions center on emotional intimacy, vulnerability, and psychological bonding. Sensual attraction indicates a desire to touch, cuddle, and physically be close to another in a non-sexual sense, while aesthetic attraction is a desire to have a relationship with an individual who is beautiful or otherwise aesthetically pleasing.
Sexual Desire Without a Specific Focus
Sexual pleasure isn’t avoided, but it is weighted differently and may even be something sought alone. This can be confusing to people who are new to the concept, but it’s actually not unusual in the sphere of human behavior. It simply means that they do not feel sexual attraction to specific individuals as their default behavior.
The desire for pleasure may be very present, but it is not viewed as an attribute of a specific relationship. While many people may go through life periods in which they feel this way, they are not necessarily asexual in the larger sense of the word. It is not a permanent feature of their self-ascribed identity, but may relate instead to a lack of appropriate partners.
A related sexual identity is demisexual. This refers to individuals who do not feel sexual attraction to or receive sexual gratification from partners with whom they do not share a deep emotional bond. Demisexuality is considered a part or an overlapping subset of asexuality.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that simply because a person identifies as asexual, it doesn’t necessarily mean they refuse to have sex at all. It simply isn’t their primary focus within a relationship, nor is it their primary driver for seeking partnership.
Asexual individuals can and often do:
Just as with sexually-motivated or centered identities (e.g. homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual), asexual people fall upon a spectrum. There is no single way to embody this sexuality. That complexity is one of the reasons many people unfamiliar with it may dismiss it.
However, asexual individuals can be rewarding and gratifying partners precisely because many prioritize emotional and communicative intimacy. Based on the individual, they may also offer an astounding and rich sensual intimacy that often does involve sexual pleasure for their partners, even if they choose to abstain.
What They Are Not
In the 19th century, homosexuality and heterosexuality became formalized concepts, and theorists valorized them according to social mores of the time. Heterosexuality was deemed natural and homosexuality was considered a perversion or a mental disorder. Nothing could be more incorrect.
Just as with this example, individuals who identify as asexual are not broken, disordered, unnatural, or in any way incomplete as human beings. To look for a reason someone has chosen this sexual identity is implying that this is somehow wrong or requires repair.
It’s also important to keep in mind that people who are asexual are not simply going through a phase of not wanting sex. The idea, as simple as it is, can seem foreign to many who are conditioned to classify the pursuit of sex in any formation as a necessary feature of humanity.
Asexuality is not the same as celibacy or abstinence, although the behaviors these terms describe also can occur. Celibacy is a long-term choice to forgo sexual interaction, not the absence of it as a motivation or desire. Abstinence is similar, but usually a short-term choice.
While this is new information for many of us, the life way itself isn’t new. It’s simply been shoved to the edges of societies that focus on the pursuit or attainment of sexual gratification. By acquainting ourselves with ideas that recognize people’s right to be treated with equal consideration, even if they’re different from us, we are building a stronger community.
Asexual identities are valuable in this endeavor, and offer each of us an opportunity to focus on deeper relationships. By familiarizing ourselves with different ways of being, we also open ourselves to building better bonds, paying closer attention to the needs of others, and developing clearer communication of our own needs and desires.