Sunday, 21 July 2019

Ace 101

Warning: This post contains adult themes

I only realised that I was asexual a few years ago.  For at least thirty years, I worked under the assumption that I was a traumatised heterosexual, or a repressed homosexual, or a sex-repulsed pansexual, or a demisexual who hadn’t met the right person yet, or I was just incapable of even addressing sexuality due to having no idea if I was just cis-gender with a queer fetish, transgender, or completely broken by the patriarchy.  None of these identities fit me, and as I spiralled out of my twenties, I did more and more research into both gender and sexuality to try to find ones that actually matched up with how I felt.

Currently, for gender I identify as non-binary, preferable gender neutral.  And for sexuality, I identify as an aroace, or aromantic asexual.  These make a lot more sense to me than anything else ever did.

So while I am finally relaxed, confident and comfortable with myself, I still find that most of my friends have no idea what asexual even means and often make incorrect assumptions.  That’s understandable; I only found out about it after 30 years, because I put the legwork in to research it because I had to.  Asexuality isn’t something most people learn about.  It certainly was never mentioned in sex education classes at school, while the media and society still regard this orientation as either something to mock or something to deny.

So, for The Friends, I’m going to attempt to demystify what Asexual actually means in this post.

Asexuality is both incredibly simple, and incredibly complicated.

The simple part:

Here’s the technical definition:

Asexual = person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction.

That’s all it means.  Any other connotations you have are inaccurate.

Here’s a very binary way of looking at it:

If a straight person is sexually attracted to a person of the opposite sex
and a gay person is sexually attracted to a person of the same sex,
an asexual person is sexually attracted to no person of any sex.

Or if a pansexual person can be sexually attracted to a person, regardless of their sex,
then an asexual person is never sexually attracted to a person, regardless of their sex.

NOTE: two common misconceptions about asexuality are A) that asexuals don't have a sex drive/libido and B) that if a person has sex then they can't be asexual.  A) Of course asexual people have a libido.  Asexuality is a sexual orientation not a physical condition, it only means that our libido isn't aimed at anyone, but it still very much exists.  A straight person isn't sexually attracted to people of the same sex, but that doesn't mean their sex drive is erased from existence when they are in a same-sex room.  B) Action doesn't equal attraction.  A person can have sex as much or as little as they want, that doesn't change what their orientation is.  A straight person who doesn't have sex is still straight and an asexual person who does have sex is still asexual.  It's who you are sexually attracted to, not what you do with it that is relevant.

The complicated part:

Asexuality is considered an umbrella term or a spectrum and under it are many, many variants.  You wouldn’t believe how many variants.  Oh boy.

For example, greysexual people only rarely experience sexual attraction, and demisexual people usually don’t experience sexual attraction and will only experience it towards one person with whom they have built a deep bond.  There are various other off-shoots and sub-categories.

The main assumption made about asexuals is that they don’t want or have sex, and that’s not necessarily true.  These things are down to the individual.  Being asexual doesn’t mean that you automatically don’t date or don’t have sex.  An asexual person is not the same as a celibate person.  They might choose not to have sex, but you can’t assume it.  Being asexual doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of arousal or enjoying sating that arousal.  It ONLY means that you don’t experience sexual attraction to others.

Some ace people think sex is gross, some ace people enjoy sex.  Some ace people never masturbate, some love it.  Some ace people can’t stand public displays of affection, some ace people are into porn.  Some ace people don’t even want to be touched, some ace people love snogging.  Everyone is different.  All of these statements go for anyone, regardless of their sexuality.  None of them define your orientation.

And then there’s this big one.  Romantic attraction isn’t the same as sexual attraction.  It’s probably fairly common within other sexualities that your romantic and sexual attraction sync up, so you never consider that they are different things.  But then there are people out there who are sexually attracted to others without any interest in a romantic relationship.  Well, guess what, it works the other way too.  You can be heteroromantic, homoromantic, panromantic, aromantic etc.  So a person might be romantically attracted to someone else, with no sexual attraction towards them.  That concept can be very difficult to understand for anyone whose romantic and sexual attractions match, including aromantic asexuals (like me).  The point is that you don’t have to understand to respect.

So you see, an ace person could fall in love and marry someone but still not feel sexual attraction for them.  They might choose to have sex with them, either because their partner requires that intimacy for the relationship to work, or because they are capable of physically enjoying it.  In fact, even an aro ace could fall in love and get married because platonic love can be just as intense as romantic or sexual love.  You just have to recognise that these are all valid forms of attraction, just different.


What’s really frustrating is that even within the aspec community, or at least people trying to understand those on the aspec, there is still confusion and disagreement.

For example, I took a questionnaire recently that was supposedly learning about romantic attraction under the asexual umbrella, and it kept making a glaring mistake.  It kept lumping the words ‘attraction’, ‘desire’ and ‘arousal’ into the same sentence.

The official definition of ‘asexual’ is ‘not experiencing sexual attraction’.  But every time this questionnaire, which was aimed at asexual people, asked how the participant identified, they used the sentence ‘doesn’t feel any sexual attraction, desire or arousal’, which isn’t what asexual means, so every time I had to pick a different option, one that was possibly more accurate but lacked the actual correct definition.  It was very annoying.

Let me explain the difference between ‘attraction’, ‘desire’ and ‘arousal’ using ‘eating’ as an analogy for ‘sex’.

Arousal is a bodily function, like hunger.  It can be just as impossible to ignore and won’t go away unless it is addressed.  You don’t have to see or even think about food to get hungry.  It’s just something your body has decided would be a good idea (for hunger, because the body needs nutrients to function, for arousal, because the body is designed to want to reproduce regardless of whether that is practical).

Sexual attraction and sexual arousal are not the same thing.  Maybe you can’t have the former without the latter, but you can certainly have the latter without the former.  Asexual people can get aroused.

Sometimes when I am hungry, I have a desire for a food I don’t necessarily like.  I see someone eating pickled onions on TV and they seem satisfied, and those little translucent balls sure look pretty, so I think I want to have some pickled onions.  But if I get a real jar of pickled onions and open up the lid, I can immediately smell the vinegar, which turns my stomach.  My body doesn’t even regard these as edible, my mouth isn’t watering, I might as well be looking at a jar of golfballs.  Now that the real picked onions are here I can tell that I don’t in fact want to eat any pickled onions.  I have no attraction towards these pickled onions.  The desire and the attraction are completely separate.  Desire was transient and conceptual, attraction is real and physical.

I’m not going to eat the pickled onions because that would be kinda gross and I wouldn’t enjoy it.  In fact, I’d probably throw them up.  Someone else might make themselves eat them anyway despite not wanting them, and someone else might find that the pickled onions did sate their hunger, but regardless of what we ultimately did with the jar of pickled onions, none of us would be attracted to them.

So I might get hungry and I might desire a food I saw on TV, and I might even like the look of that food on your plate, but I have no attraction towards eating it.  That’s the difference.


  1. Useful information, not yet known.

    1. Thanks. Didn't clear things up as much as I had hoped for my friends but I can try again.


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