Every year, 6 April marks International Asexuality Day – so join us as we explore what asexuality is and what it isn’t, and how we can be an ally to people who identify as asexual.
What is asexuality?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation and a spectrum. Definitions of asexuality vary, but it generally refers to a person who desires zero or little sexual contact with other people.
Asexuality is an umbrella terms which reflects a broad diversity in people’s experiences of sexual attraction and arousal, and desires for relationships.
People who identify with asexuality sometimes refer to themselves as being “ace” or part of the “ace community”. It is also the “A” in LGBTQIA+.
Other terms under the asexuality umbrella include:
- grey-asexual/graysexual – this refers to a person who may experience sexual attraction very rarely or only under specific circumstances.
- demisexual – a person who only experiences sexual attraction after developing a strong emotional bond with someone.
So asexual people never have sex?
Not necessarily – an asexual person might choose to engage in sexual activity, including sex with people or masturbation. They may also experience arousal and orgasm.
Do asexual people have romantic relationships?
Yes, many do – they may experience falling in love, and they might choose to get married and have children too. Asexuality does not mean a person doesn’t desire emotionally intimate or romantic relationships. However, for those who don’t, they might identify with the terms “aromantic” (someone who does not experience romantic attraction), “greyromantic” (someone who very rarely experiences romantic attraction) or “demiromantic” (someone who is only romantically attracted to those they’ve emotionally bonded with first).
Being asexual and aromantic/grayromantic/demiromantic are not mutually exclusive – it’s all down to the individual!
What’s the difference between asexuality and celibacy?
Celibacy refers to a person who voluntarily chooses not to engage in sexual activity, despite the fact they may feel sexual desires. They will typically commit to celibacy for an extended period of time, sometimes their whole life. It is also not the same as abstinence, which again, is a choice to not engage with sexual activity but usually for a more limited period of time, and similarly has nothing to do with sexual desire/attraction.
Conversely, asexuality is not a choice, in the same way that being heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. is not a choice.
Is asexuality the same as a loss of libido?
No, a loss of libido may happen for a wide range of reasons, including medical, psychological, and age. If you previously experienced sexual desire but no longer do to the same extent or not at all, and it’s something that you are worried about, then consider speaking to a health professional or counsellor.
How can I support asexual people?
Asexuality is frequently misunderstood, and sometimes even dismissed – here’s how you can by an ally to asexual people:
- Believe people when they say they are asexual.
- Educate yourself on asexuality, as well as other identities.
- Do not tell asexual people that they are “going through a phase”, or that they “just haven’t met the right person yet” – this is a lazy and offensive stereotype and it’s just false. Not everyone needs sex or relationships to be happy.
- Some societies assume that all people are sexual, but this is simply not true – so challenge this assertion when you can.
- Do not quiz a person on their asexuality (or any other identity) – people will offer information if and when they choose to. It’s no one else’s business but their own!