Being asexual: ‘I don’t really know what being attracted to someone means’
Banker Jonathan is part of the one per cent of the population who identify as asexual
For Jonathan, being sexually attracted to someone is a completely alien concept.
The 22-year-old explains: “I don’t really know what being ‘attracted’ to someone means. To be ‘attractive’ in the usual sense just doesn’t apply to me. I can judge prettiness and beauty, but there is absolutely no connection between seeing physical beauty and any desire for sex.”
Jonathan’s indifference to sex marks him out as one of a growing number of people who identify as asexual – not that he cares much for the label.
“Being ‘asexual’ doesn’t really mean anything to me, apart from that I don’t find anybody attractive. It’s more the lack of the feeling of attraction that determines my identity. Some asexuals are attracted to people because they are smart or funny, but for me there is no interest in sex.
“I can still see someone and think ‘they’re hot’, but I’ve never wanted to act on that thought. I know it’s not really normal, but I don’t care.”
Despite enjoying university and “never really feeling any oppression”, Jonathan admits “I was a little bit confused as a teenager. I always assumed I was heterosexual — just one who hadn’t found anyone sexually attractive.”
Like many asexuals, Jonathan isn’t repulsed by sex and still values aesthetic attraction. He’s had many sexual partners in the past and thinks these experiences helped shape his current identity.
Jonathan explains: “There was no eureka moment, though finding a term for it allowed me to self-define at around 18 or 19. I have probably experimented more than most people our age but only with the opposite sex because the same sex never held any interest.
“Sex can be enjoyable, but it’s seen as a possibility rather than a definite — I don’t see it as a motivator for my interactions with others. I have found some things that are of some interest but I think the crucial difference is that I don’t experience sexual attraction at all.”
In fact Jonathan, who know lives in London and works in finance after leaving a job in recruitment, feels his asexuality equips him with a unique perspective on relationships. He said: “My friends often ask me for advice as I can talk about any worries in a more objective and rational way. I can still partake in those laddish conversations and, if anything, my sexuality is sometimes a benefit.”
So what would an asexual relationship actually look like?
Jonathan explains: “It would still have the emotional connection at the core of any relationship, but there simply wouldn’t be any sex or sexual behaviour. There would still be physical contact such as hugging, but there is a complete lack of interest in sexual activity.”
This complete disinterest in physical intimacy, combined with the relative obscurity of the asexual experience – only one per cent of the population identifies as asexual – can lead to messy and complicated situations, as Jonathan knows all too well.
“While at uni I had three people who were very interested in me: one man and two women,” he said. “The man told me I was gay and in denial and one of the women was shocked that I couldn’t be attracted to her. It can be difficult for asexuals to broach the topic of relationships with people who aren’t asexual considering the rise of hook-up culture.”
As Jonathan explains, the constant need for labelling and its ostensible importance to the LGBT community can be another stumbling block on the road to acceptance – especially in a claustrophobic university environment inextricably linked to sex.
He said: “The only ‘group’ which has had an issue with my asexuality was my university’s LGBT community, as well as some members of the Christian Union. These were to do with individuals rather than anything ingrained in the LGBT community, but I found that if you didn’t fit their definitions then you were not particularly welcome.
“At best these labels can be extremely pretentious as everyone feels the need to be a special unique snowflake. I have honestly met someone who described themselves as a vegan-agnostic-baptist-kaballist-demisexual. At worst they labels create ‘us vs them’ mentalities. Of course they can be useful, but an over-reliance on them is foolish.”
Whatever the label, Jonathan maintains being asexual doesn’t preclude an ability to be emotionally intimate and have a family in the future.
He added: “I absolutely want to be in a long-term relationship and have a family. It can be difficult to explain an interest in an individual and say ‘but I am not sexually attracted to you’. For me, it might be easier if the other person was asexual as I wouldn’t need to explain it.
“It’s a concern, but I’d prefer to be different and interesting than the same as everyone else and be as dull as dishwater. Sexuality is fluid and it can change, so pigeon-holing and over-defining oneself is fairly pointless.”