Five things asexuality does mean and five things it definitely doesn’t

Spoiler alert: We’re not secretly robots

Every time someone asks me about identifying as asexual, it excites me. Asking questions is so much better than assuming you know what someone’s identity means, especially if you’re not familiar with it.

Asexuality is one of the most misunderstood sexual orientations and even experiences prejudice within the LGBTQ+ community. This Pride Month let’s break down some myths and look at the truths of what being asexual means.

1. Myth: Asexuals are celibate

Being asexual means a lack of sexual attraction. This might be no sexual attraction, limited attraction, conditional attraction, or fluctuating attraction. Just because someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy sex. Some asexuals identify as sex-averse (not interested in sex) while others identify as sex-appreciative (they enjoy sex). Think about your vibrator or your right hand. You’re probably not sexually attracted to them but you know they can show you a good time.

There are many different types of attraction. The five main types are:

  • Platonic: a desire for friendship
  • Sexual: a desire for sexual contact
  • Romantic: a desire for a romantic relationship
  • Sensual: a desire for physical intimacy
  • Aesthetic: an appreciation of a physically attractive person

This means that, while asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction, they might still seek a romantic connection. Or they might still appreciate a pretty-looking person.

2. True: Asexuals are still fun

Asexuals are not necessarily boring or uptight or prude-ish. Even if they are any of those things, they can still be three-dimensional and complex people – the same as anyone else. Just because someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction or want to have sex or want to have a relationship, doesn’t mean they are any less of a person.

Heteronormativity is the concept that being straight is the norm. It’s why most of the characters on TV are straight and why most of the songs on the radio are about straight love.

There’s also a concept called allonormativity which describes the assumption that everyone experiences romantic and sexual attraction. When, in actual fact, most people in the world question whether they might be asexual. This is why there is a severe lack of well-represented asexual people in media, education, or politics. It’s why there is a positive bias toward married couples, a societal guilt trip of single people to find partners, and why schools don’t include asexuality in safe sex talks.

Allonormativity is why people can often associate asexual people as “other” or robotic, even inhuman. In reality, asexual people are just as human and interesting as the next person.

3. Myth: Asexuals can’t fall in love

Sex isn’t the be-all and end-all of love. Plenty of people can fall in love without sexual attraction or wanting sex with their partner/s. Asexual people are absolutely still capable of falling in love and many do. There are thousands across the world who are in loving relationships and marriages.

In fact, a survey found that while 32 per cent of asexual people identify as aromantic (no romantic attraction), 94 per cent said that they experience romantic attraction.

A bar graph of romantic orientations among asexual respondents, sourced from the 2018 Asexual Community Survey (N=7,836). 32% are aromantic, 18% heteroromantic, 10% homoromantic, 41% bi or panromantic, 25% gray-romantic, 26% unsure, and 18% other.

via Twitter (@MCsociology)

4. True: Asexual people are misunderstood and often demonised

In 2017, 114 per cent more homeless young people identified as asexual than those in the general population. There are plenty of misconceptions about what asexuality means and it rates highly in young people who are sent to conversion therapy by their families.

5. Myth: Asexuals are just scared of relationships

While plenty of people are scared of relationships (and some asexual people might be among them), a fear of relationships is not what causes asexuality. It is as natural as any other sexuality and is less about fear or emotional connotations of sex and relationships, and more to do with the actual desire for one.

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6. True: Asexuality is a spectrum full of sub-identities

There are many different identities under the asexual umbrella. The six key identities are:

  • Asexual/aromantic: a lack of sexual/romantic attraction.
  • Grey-sexual/grey-romantic: might sometimes experience sexual/romantic attraction or in a limited way.
  • Demisexual/demiromantic: experiences no sexual/romantic attraction unless there is a strong emotional bond.

You might find asexual people using a combination of these terms. Such as ace/aro to show that they are both asexual and aromantic.

There are some more uncommon sub-identities of asexuality. These include:

  • Aceflux: their identity fluctuates across the ace spectrum.
  • Fraysexual: the opposite of demisexual in that attraction disappears once an emotional bond is made.
  • Quoisexual: being unsure about whether you do feel attraction.
  • Cupiosexual: lack of sexual attraction but desiring a sexual relationship.
  • Apothisexual: repulsion towards sex and sexual attraction.

Like any sexual orientation, asexuality can change. This is completely natural and experienced by most members of the LGBTQ+ community and straight people. This happens because the human brain is constantly adapting to take on new things and maturing over time. It’s called sexual fluidity.

A person’s identity is always valid. If a person chooses to identify under a different label in the future, that is still valid. Asexuals often move between sub-identities of asexuality.

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7. Myth: Asexuals are broken

One of the most harmful stereotypes of asexual people is that they are broken. This is never the case. Asexuality, just like any other sexuality, is completely natural and valid. In the same way that gay people don’t experience attraction for the opposite sex or how straight people don’t experience attraction for the same sex, asexual people simply don’t experience it for either.

The misconception that asexual people are broken is one of the biggest causes of the fact that asexual people experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence at 43.5 per cent.

8. True: Asexuals can masturbate and have orgasms

Just because asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy sexual touch. Some asexuals may still masturbate and orgasm although some may not. Masturbation is a great way to relieve stress, release endorphins, and relax.

9. Myth: Asexuals are just waiting for the right person

This is one of the least helpful things you can say to an asexual person. Not only is it patronising and untrue but it’s harmful to the person and only tells them that their identity isn’t valid.

Asexual people are not just waiting for the right person. Any more than straight people are waiting for the right same-sex person, lesbians are waiting for the right man, or gay men are waiting for the right woman.

10. True: All asexuals are valid

All asexual identities are valid and wonderful and should be celebrated this Pride month! Show your support to the asexual community by educating yourself and others on what it means and how you can support them.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

• Dear straight people, think twice before coming to any Pride events this summer

• These reactions to Rebel Wilson coming out prove why we still need Pride

• Take our homophobia on campus survey and help us expose the problem at unis