The LGBTQ+ community is large and ever-changing, so it may be difficult to understand where you stand on the spectrum and that is totally okay! Sexuality is fluid and ever-changing, so the most important part is letting yourself explore and learn what you feel the most comfortable with.
In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to be asexual and what it entails to be a part of this community.
What does being asexual mean?
The asexual identity refers to those who feel little to no sexual attraction. This does not mean that those who are asexual don’t engage in sexual activity. Being asexual is an orientation, it should not be confused with abstinence or celibacy.
Asexuality is however a very large spectrum where other sexualities such as aromantic and demisexual fall between. Some asexual people might not want to have sexual interactions at all while others might experience these interactions to further an emotional connection.
Learning that you might be a part of the LGBTQ+ community might be scary at first, but there are many ways to plug yourself into the community and learn to be comfortable with your sexuality.
if you’re curious about how you might identify, here’s what you should know about what being asexual means:
History of the word asexual
The word asexual first came to existence in 1890 when German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld mentioned those who have no sexual desires in his Sappho und Sokrates. He referred to asexual individuals as “anesthesia sexual.” Later in 1897, sexual reformist Emma Trosse began to give light to the current definition of the word “asexuality” as we know it today. In her work “Ein Weib? Psychologisch-biographische: Studie über eine Konträrsexuelle” (A woman? Psychological-biographical study of a contrary-sexual) she defines asexuality as well as writing about how these individuals are normal and should not be discriminated against.
The Kinsey Scale, which rates the heterosexuality and/or homosexuality of a person, was responsible for putting a variety of sexual orientations on the map. Asexuality included. In 1948, the Kinsey Scale included a category titled “X” for those who identified with having no “socio-sexual contacts or reactions”.
In 2001 the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was founded by David Jay. It would become one of the most important community platforms for asexual individuals. From then on out the word Asexual slowly made its way into pop culture. Celebrities such as David Bowie spoke about asexuality further solidifying the meaning of what it means to be asexual.
Related: This TikTok About Marilyn Monroe’s Sexuality is the Most Important Thing You’ll See All Day
Alternatives to the word asexual
Because identity is personal and different people are comfortable using different terms there are a variety of ways to say the word asexual, including:
- Gray Sexual
Over time language evolves and this creates new words derived from a multitude of historical nuances. Labels and terms can also carry connotations, bad or good, which is why one might identify more with one term over the other despite them meaning the same thing. It is also important to note that the word asexual can encompass homosexual, nonbinary, and transgender individuals, and so much more. In addition, there is a spectrum within the term asexual which includes demisexuals and aromantic so make sure there is communication regarding these niches.
What NOT to call asexual people
Hateful words that refer to the asexual community should always be erased from conversations and speech. Words such as “neuter” are not considerate and are very harmful. Stereotypes and slurs are still present in conversations regarding the asexual community so it is important to identify these words and effectively remove them from conversations.
It is also critical to note that members of the asexual community have begun to reclaim derogatory terms to take back the oppression they have faced. Although within the community this is acceptable it is still not okay to refer to asexual people with a derogatory term if one is not a part of the community themselves. Always ask before assuming someone’s sexuality.
What makes someone asexual?
The typical definition of asexuality is someone who has little to no interest in sexual experiences with others. This being said, it is key to understand that asexuality is an umbrella term and that the spectrum has two orientations: sexual orientation and romantic orientation. This means asexual can mean very different things to different people.
If you feel confused on how you might fit into the asexual spectrum, don’t fret! The beauty of asexuality is the flexibility and variety it provides. For example, some asexual individuals have romantic desires, but do not wish to engage in any sexual activity. On the other hand some asexual-identifying individuals prefer friendships and platonic relationships, but experience arousal and masturbate to achieve satisfaction. There are so many variations of asexuality, but not one is “wrong.”
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Because asexuality is a spectrum there are identities that fall within such as demisexuality, aromanticism, and graysexuality. Looking into what each of these identities mean might help solidify how you fall within the asexuality umbrella. Asexual people can fall in love and have meaningful relationships just as everyone else does. How they might approach this is what defines the identity.
It’s always a great idea to trust that members of the community know more about their sexuality than you do, listen to asexual people when they speak about their identities.
Perspectives on being asexual
Because there is not much asexual visibility there are a variety of misconceptions that surround asexuality. Since asexuality is an umbrella term people have taken to deciding what is considered asexual and what is not. This is of course a perfect example of negative stereotypes driving the narrative, there is no “right” way to be asexual.
The biggest perspective that needs to be tackled is the distinction between asexuality and abstinence as these things are completely different. Being celibate or abstinent means that there was a conscious decision made despite having sexual desires, asexuality is not a choice it is an orientation. In the same way asexuality does not equal a lack of intimacy or sexual repression.
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Just because the majority of asexual individuals do not experience sexual attraction that does not mean they don’t feel any other forms of attraction. An emotional connection might be just as important as a sexual connection to someone who identifies as asexual. Within asexuality there is also the idea of queerplatonic relationships. This is equivalent to a very close relationship that requires the same commitment as a romantic relationship, minus the romance aspect.
The asexual flag
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) held a contest on its forum boards in 2010 to create a pride flag for those who identify as asexual. The user “standup” won and the flag has represented asexuality since. The colors mean as follows: black: asexuality, gray: asexuality and demi-sexuality, white: non-asexual partners and allies, and purple: community.
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Understanding an umbrella term can be tricky. Where do you fall and do you fit in? Might be questions you ask yourself. What many fail to realize is the range that you might find on the asexuality spectrum. If any of the above feels relatable it is worth reading more about the sexualities that lie within the asexual identity such as demisexuality and aromanticism.
Always remember that there is no right or wrong way to be asexual and that you are the only person who can determine your identity.
If some of the ideas above resonate with you and you’re thinking of coming out, make sure the conditions are safe and have a plan of action regarding housing and food if things don’t go as planned.
In addition, be sure to learn about the other identities that make up the LGBTQ+ community on our website or subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.
- Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen.
- Loveless by Alice Oseman
- How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess
Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture by Sherronda J. Brown