Today marks the start of Asexual Awareness Week 2019, also known as AAW or Ace Week. As some of you may know, I came out as ace earlier this year, so I’m going to actually put some effort into AAW this year! ‘Asexual’ is a label I have identified with on and off for about five years now, and the reason I came to understand what it meant was because of AAW, so I thought I would do my bit to give back and contribute to this week of ace visibility.
I’m going to post on here every day of Ace Week with lots of brilliant ace content, so keep checking back! I will be boosting the work of asexual artists, writers, activists, and more. For today’s post, I’ll go over the basics of asexuality by covering some frequently asked questions. (Please note: I have tried to represent this information accurately, but I am just one person, so do not take the following as exhaustive or 100% gospel truth for everyone in the ace community.)
So, what exactly is asexuality?
I’m glad you asked, Imaginary Reader! Asexuality is a sexual orientation much like homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, or heterosexuality. The widely-accepted definition of being asexual is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of gender (in much the same way that a hetero woman isn’t attracted to other women, or the way a lesbian is not attracted to men. Aces aren’t sexually attracted to anyone!)
However, asexuality is also the name given to a whole spectrum of different experiences, and under its umbrella fall orientations like demisexuality, grey-asexuality, and more. As such, not every ace person uses the label of ‘asexual’ in the same way or gives it the same meaning. As a friend of mine once said, “If you ask ten different aces what asexuality means to them, you’ll likely get ten different answers.”
Well that’s just confusing!
Yes, it can be a bit overwhelming when you’re just getting started understanding the asexual community, but it becomes simpler to understand the more you learn. The main thing you need to keep in mind is to be respectful of other people and the way they identify, and you’ll do just fine. Ask questions in good faith and you’ll be answered in good faith (although, at the same time, nobody is obligated to educate you on a subject or explain their identity to you, so just make sure someone is comfortable to have the conversation before bombarding them with questions!)
Does asexuality have anything to do with celibacy or abstinence?
Nope, not a thing! Celibacy and abstinence are choices or pledges to avoid engaging in sexual activity, however much one might want to. Asexuality is an orientation that (generally speaking) involves having little to no interest in sex, and it is not a choice.
Additionally, some asexual people do have sex! Asexuality isn’t about behaviour, it’s about attraction. Plenty of ace people have and enjoy sex without necessarily needing it in their lives, and some people are perfectly happy without it.
Is asexuality part of the LGBT+ community?
Yes! That’s what the A stands for in LGBTQIA+. If you see any flags with black, grey, white, and purple stripes at Pride, that’s us – come say hi!
Don’t asexual people get lonely?
No more than anyone else does. Ace people are perfectly capable of making connections with other human beings without sex being a priority. I could write a whole post just about how sex and romance are not the be-all-and-end-all of human connection, but I’ll save that for another time.
In any case, many asexuals do in fact engage in romantic relationships (not that that is the only way to live a whole and fulfilled life!) because there is a difference between romantic and sexual attraction. There are actually loads of different kinds of attraction, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll keep it simple with just those two. Ace people can still feel all those nice squidgy warm feelings of love without wanting to bump uglies.
And disregarding sex and romance entirely, friendships and family relationships can be just as – if not more! – rewarding and enriching as sexual and romantic relationships. This is true for everyone, not just asexual and aromantic people. We can all understand and appreciate the value of a true friendship.
Oof, it seems like there’s a lot to learn! Where can I go to find out more about this stuff?
There are loads of great resources online where you can learn about asexuality and other aspec identities, so I’ve included links to some of those below:
The Asexuality Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) is one of the biggest and best resources for learning about asexuality. Most people who are questioning whether they are asexual or not will spend a lot of time on this site! Plus, their forum is the biggest online ace community there is.
Ace Week has a lot of great info about asexuality, especially about Asexuality Awareness Week, although it is very US-centric.
What Is Asexuality is a site with some accurate and clear info about asexuality.
Galop has some useful information and practical advice about acephobia/aphobia and anti-asexual hate crime.
The Asexual is a brilliant journal filled with insightful and thought-provoking artwork and articles from the ace community.