It would be unproductive to jump into the actual content of this blog without providing a working definition of asexuality to begin with. But, since this blog is not meant to be an encyclopedia and there are numerous websites out there (such as AVEN — remember that name, because it will be coming up again and again) that do a much better job of providing definitions than I can, I will keep my explanation brief and functional.
Although different definitions exist, an asexual person is generally classified as someone who does not experience sexual attraction to any person, regardless of gender (Bogaert, 279) Therefore, they experience no desire for partnered sex (ie. sex with another person). An asexual person may, however, experience other aspects of human sexual behaviour. This definition implies a distinction between one’s sexual attraction and sexual behaviour — as Bogaert notes, there is “imperfect correlation” between these two areas (Bogaert, 279).
How is asexuality different from celibacy?
Celibacy is a choice, whereas asexuality is understood as inherent to the individual (Jay, “Overview”). It is conceptualized as similar to sexual orientation, in that one does not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual; it is simply a part of who one is.
Is asexuality a medical/psychological condition?
While there are certain disorders that may result in a reduction of sexual desire (such as hypothyroidism and depression), these are generally treated as separate from asexuality (Prause and Graham, 342). There is currently no evidence that asexuality indicates a “problem” with an individual.
Is asexuality rare?
Some research, such as that done by Bogaert, indicates that the prevalence of asexuality within a population may be around 1% (Bogaert, 282). While research is still sparse and figures like this one cannot be taken as a general rule, it seems clear that the number of self-identifying asexual people within the population cannot be dismissed as negligible.
Can asexual people fall in love?
Someone who identifies as asexual may still identify as romantic, and terms such as “heteroromantic asexual” and “homoromantic asexual” are sometimes used. Sex and love must be considered as entirely separate entities, as they serve very different functions in a relationship (Diamond, 174). Since asexuality does not translate to the erasure of emotions, many asexual people still feel romantic attachment to others and are perfectly capable of sustaining romantic relationships. Some people do not experience either sexual or romantic attraction and may be classified as “aromantic asexual”. It is also important to remember that not all forms of love are romantic, and that even an aromantic asexual may fall in love.
Can asexual people have sex?
Asexual people are still capable of having sex, just as a homosexual man is capable of having sex with a woman. There are a variety of reasons why an asexual person may have sex, including but certainly not limited to relationships between one sexual partner and one asexual partner (Jay, “Relationship FAQ”). Asexual people are still physically capable of feeling sexual arousal and some may occasionally masturbate, but their sexual desires are not generally “attached” to another person.
So what does this mean?
It means that there is not, and cannot ever be any one checklist for asexuality. What one person considers to be asexual may be very different from what another person considers it to be, and likewise one asexual person may lead an entirely different sort of lifestyle from another asexual person. There are also various sub-groupings and alternative labels that exist under the umbrella term of “Asexual” that are too numerous to explore in any great detail here (but if you’re interested, you can start by checking out terms like Grey A).
If this is the first time you’re hearing about asexuality, I hope you aren’t confused, but I do hope that you’re overwhelmed, because this is an inevitably overwhelming subject. In order to understand the asexual community’s push for public awareness, it is absolutely imperative to have an appreciation for the complexity of this area and how easily blurred the distinctions between different modes of sexuality, romance, and intimacy can become.
So, for the purposes of this blog, who should we call asexual?
The people who call themselves asexual.
Bogaert, A.F. “Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample,” Journal of Sex Research 41, no. 3 (2004): 279-287.
Diamond, L.M. “What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire.” Psychology Review 110, no. 1 (2003): 173-192)
Jay, D. “Overview.” Asexual Visibility and Education Network, March 16, 2012, http://www.asexuality.org/home/overview.html
Jay, D. “Relationship FAQ.” Asexual Visibility and Education Network, March 16, 2012, http://www.asexuality.org/home/relationship.html
Prause, N. and Cynthia A. Graham, “Asexuality: Classification and Characterization.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 36, no. 3 (2007): 341-356.