So, you just heard about asexuality and you are wondering what exactly it is. Or maybe you already have heard of it but you would like to know more. The most important thing to keep in mind as you are doing your research is that there are as many ways of being asexual as there are asexual people in the world. If someone in your life tells you they are asexual, ask them what the word means to them. That being said, the most commonly accepted definition is as follows:
A person who is asexual experiences little to no sexual attraction.
What is meant by sexual attraction? Well, since we TAAP members are all asexual, that is a bit difficult for us to answer, so let’s talk about what sexual attraction is not. Sexual attraction is not…
The attraction that leads to the desire to date someone. Some asexual people experience this and others do not.
The desire to participate in sex. While the “little to no sexual attraction” definition of asexuality is the most common, some people identify as asexual specifically because they do not experience sexual desire. There is quite a bit of overlap between not experiencing sexual attraction and not experiencing sexual desire. Most asexual people do not experience either, but some people who do not experience sexual attraction still may want to participate in sex for various reasons.
The physical urge to experience sexual pleasure (i.e. feeling horny). While some asexual people do have low to non-existent libidos, asexual people can also have average or even high libidos. Some asexuals choose to relieve this urge through masturbation or sex.
The appreciation of visual beauty. It is possible to find people visually appealing without being sexually attracted to them.
The attraction that leads to the desire for physical (non-sexual) touch. Many asexual people enjoy cuddling, hugs, kisses, hand-holding, etc.
The attraction that leads to the desire to be friends with another person. A platonic crush is often referred to as a “squish.” While the word “platonic” is commonly used to mean “non-sexual” among the general population, to asexual communities it usually means “non-romantic.”
The Grey Area
Asexuality is a spectrum (notice how the definition says “little to no”). Some people experience sexual attraction very rarely or under specific circumstances. People who fit this category often identify as grey-asexual.
A commonly used identity under the grey-asexuality umbrella is demisexual. A person who identifies as demisexual does not experience sexual attraction until a strong bond is formed.
The term “asexual-spectrum” is used to be specifically inclusive of people who identify as grey-asexual and/or demisexual.
Many asexual people also identify with a romantic orientation label to indicate which gender(s), if any, they are interested in dating (see romantic attraction, above). Non-asexual people may also identify with a romantic orientation if it differs from their sexual orientation (for example, someone could be aromantic and bisexual). Here are a few common romantic orientations:
Experiences little to no romantic attraction.
Romantically attracted to two or more genders.
Romantically attracted to all genders or attracted to people regardless of gender.
Romantically attracted to the same gender. Most asexual people of this romantic orientation prefer referring to themselves as a gay asexual or an asexual lesbian over the term homoromantic.
Romantically attracted to a different gender or the “opposite” binary gender. Most heteroromantic asexual people do not identify as straight.
Experiences romantic attraction very rarely or only under specific circumstances.
Experiences romantic attraction only after a strong bond is formed.
Due to the lack of sexual attraction and possibly the lack of romantic attraction that asexual people experience, they often form relationships in their life that are structured differently than non-asexual people. While the following relationship structures may be common among asexuals, people of any combination of orientations and genders can be in any of these relationships.
Since many asexual people still do experience romantic attraction, this is still a type of relationship that asexual people will engage in. However, there will often be slight differences to a relationship where at least one partner is asexual. For example, it is common for these relationships to be sexless (but they do not have to be).
Also referred to as quasiplatonic relationships and abbreviated to QPR (or QPP for queerplatonic partnership/partner). This type of relationship is intentionally vague and hard to define. It is a very intense form of friendship, which often has a level of commitment beyond what is considered “normal” for friendships. Queerplatonic partners may be life-partners and get legally married or raise children together.
Polyamory is a relationship style that involves being open to having more than one partner at a time. There are infinite arrangements this can work out as, but some common ones for asexuals include: a romantic partnership between an asexual person and a non-asexual person where the non-asexual person has sex with other people; and a triad (three people in a relationship) where the two people who are not asexual have sex with other.
Nonamory is another relationship style that means the person in question is not interested in any committed partnerships whatsoever. This is common among aromantic people who do not want QPRs.
Compared to other LGBTQ+ communities, the asexual community has only recently come together due to the advent of the internet. Much of the asexual community activity is still carried out online. Here are a few basic aspects of asexual culture:
A colloquial term for an asexual person that is a phonetic shortening of the word asexual (similar to bi and bisexual). It can be used as an adjective or a noun.
The Ace Flag
A flag consisting of four horizontal stripes of black, grey, white, and purple from top to bottom.
The Ace Ring
A black ring worn on the right hand middle finger to indicate that the wearer is asexual.
Ace Playing Cards
A pun based on the term ace. Aces of Spades often refer to aromantic asexuals and Aces of Hearts often refer to romantic aces. Various efforts have been made to assign meanings to the other two suits. The spades symbol will often be used independently of the playing card to represent (aromantic) asexuality.
The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN)
The website and organization founded by David Jay in 2001. AVEN is responsible for the initial unification of the asexual online community through online forums and push for awareness of asexuality in the general population. In recent years, the community has grown and started to diverge. As a result, more organizations (such as TAAP) that have similar goals have also been founded, and there are other online social platforms for asexuality, such as Tumblr.
Ace Meetup Groups
Many cities and universities have in-person meetup groups for asexual people, such as Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic.
A well-known asexual in-joke coming from the phrase “Cake is better than sex.”
A favorite mythical creature among asexuals. This possibly originates from an interview of J.K. Rowling where she said that Charlie Weasley is “more interested in dragons than women.”