Last night I attended an event at my school called, “Addressing the A.” As you may be aware, the queer community’s acronym keeps expanding. It is currently the LGBTQAIGNC (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming). This is where my sister would insert an alphabet soup joke, and this time I might agree. We’re going to need an acronym for our acronym soon. But last night’s event, put on courtesy of the Queer Collective, was about asexuality.
Although there is very little published on asexual people and how much of the population they comprise, a few studies tentatively postulate that people who are asexual make up 1-1.8% of the population. Asexuality is something that is not commonly brought up, and if it is, it is as a joke or a condition that needs to be cured.
Let’s stop that now.
Asexuality exists. Ace is becoming/has become a colloquial term for asexuality (I am ace, I am a member of the ace community, I feel very ace). Asexuality, like every other sexuality, is on a continuum. Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It’s not repression, you don’t need to find the right person, and you don’t need to try it to see if you are actually sexual. That being said, being asexual does not necessarily mean the person is aromantic. Many asexual people want intimate, romantic relationships, and fall in love. There are also people who are aromantic and asexual. It is a spectrum, like sex, sexuality, gender and everything else.
What got me the most at this event were the struggles the ace community faces. There is obvious marginalization by the heterosexual population and culture, but also by the queer community. Three out of the five ace speakers mentioned that there was a lot of pushback, disbelief, and a lack of understanding from the queer community. This is not to say that there is absolutely no acceptance or community to be found there, almost all of the ace speakers said there were accepting people there.
A major difficulty the ace community faces, is trying to create a space in a country/world where sexuality is viewed as integral to a person’s identity and drive. Asexuality challenges assumptions about how sexuality works, most especially the commonly held belief that everyone needs sex to not only be happy, but healthy. Because of this, ace people grow up without models of intimate, fulfilling, romantic and nonromantic relationships that are not based on or around sex.
As one of the ace folks said last night, people who are sexual have to learn how to experience new ways of being intimate that don’t revolve around sex. They also need to accept that romantic feelings and interests have to go both ways and stop reading sexual interest in what may be friendly, platonic advances. The problem is, our society teaches us to read everything through a sexual lens and to assume everything is about sex. I agree and think that both straight and queer relationships could benefit from focusing less on sex and more on intimacy.
This is obviously an incomplete and initial foray into asexuality based only on information obtained from a single event. I will return with more thoughts at a later date. If you want to do some more digging of your own, here are some places to start:
(A)sexual a documentary on Netflix
Definitions – Courtesy of asexuality.org
Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.
Gray-asexual (gray-a) or gray-sexual: Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality, for example because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable.
Attraction: In this context, it refers to a mental or emotional force that draws people together. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but some feel other types of attraction.
Aesthetic attraction: Attraction to someones appearance, without it being romantic or sexual.
Romantic attraction: Desire of being romantically involved with another person.
Sensual attraction: Desire to have physical non-sexual contact with someone else, like affectionate touching.
Sexual attraction: Desire to have sexual contact with someone else, to share our sexuality with them.