You might be curious what asexuality is. Possibly because you just saw my post on Facebook and want to learn more. Or perhaps Google (or Bing! but who uses Bing!) has brought you here. I thought it would be nice to provide a bunch of answers to your questions about asexuality, so I don’t have to answer them in person (I only get so many words per day and then my mouth shuts down). I will mention one thing up front. Asexuals often refer to themselves as “Aces” and I will used that terminology throughout to save me some keystrokes.
Q: What is asexuality?
A: That’s a great first question! According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, “an asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction“. That’s all good and fine for those of you who aren’t asexual, but some of us struggle with that definition. Another version floating about on the AVEN forums is “asexuality is a lack of innate desire for partnered sex“. Let’s break that down a bit more. The word innate (or inherent or natural might work) is used, because aces may desire sex for secondary reasons like pleasing their partner or to have a baby. When those reasons are removed, such as the partner suddenly deciding they don’t want sex anymore, an ace doesn’t desire or seek out sex. They don’t miss it at all. Desire refers to wanting something, like “I desire cake”. We use the word partnered because… doing it to yourself does not disqualify you from being asexual. Sex may have varied definitions on who you ask. Generally that refers to any act involving genitalia.
Q: How many people are asexual?
A: As near as we can tell, about 1% of people are asexual. According to research by Anthony F. Bogaert in his book Understanding Asexuality, he found this to be true of animals, so it might make sense that the same ratio applies to humans. The reason this is hard to measure is because if you asked 1000 people if they are asexual, there’s a good chance that 750 of them don’t even know what you are talking about. So, for now, we’re kind of guessing but 1% seems reasonable.
Q: But, I’ve heard you say such and such is “hot”. You can’t be asexual right?
A: There are many types of attraction. Aesthetic attraction is being attracted to beauty. However, if this does not lead to the desire for sex with that person, then this is not sexual attraction. It’s very easy to confuse the two, as I did for many, many years. To be honest, I always equated the word “hot” with saying someone is beautiful. I did not understand the sexual connotation that goes along with that. Romantic attraction is a desire to do romantic things with somebody and to develop a long lasting relationship. Sensual attraction is a desire to touch somebody in a non-sexual way, like hugging or cuddling. Then there’s emotional and intellectual attraction, where a person’s personality or intelligence draws you towards them. I think that’s all of them!
Q: Can asexuals experience arousal?
A: Yes they can, and this is easy to confuse with sexual attraction as well. Arousal is just an autonomic physical response, kind of like a reflex. Unless this leads to desire for sex with that person, then this is not a disqualifier for asexuality.
Q: Are aces physically capable of performing sex?
A: Generally, yes. However, they share in their lack of desire to seek it out.
Q: Are all aces virgins?
A: No, but 65% of them are1. For aforementioned reasons, an asexual may have sex for reasons other than an innate desire, or they may have had sex before they understood their asexuality.
Q: Hmm, all those ace virgins out there can’t possibly know what they are missing. How do they know they are asexual?
A: It’s very easy to turn this question around. First, did you not desire sex before your first time? It seems that for the majority of people, this desire was instinctual, which is fortunate since without it the human race might go extinct. Second, do you desire sex with a horse? What, you’ve never had sex with a horse before? Then how can you know you aren’t horsexual until you try it? (that is a funny word, I’m patenting that one)
Q: Aww c’mon, you have to try it before you can know.
A: Many aces, 35% of them, have tried it and still identify themselves as ace. You might throw out another excuse, such as they didn’t do it with the right person. Or, perhaps they weren’t in the right mood when it happened. Then how many times must they have sex before you are convinced they are asexual? And referencing the last question, how many horses do you have to screw before you realize you aren’t horsexual? (How about none)
Q: OK fine, you win.
A: I always do. Sometimes…
Q: What do you do with all your free time if you aren’t chasing sex?
A: The majority of aces are still seeking romantic relationships (see below). For those of us who aren’t, then I quote Napoleon Dynamite “whatever I feel like doing… gosh!” Aces aren’t robots. We still have friends and family and social lives, at least at the same ratio as the general public does. Personally, I get to spend a lot of time with my creative hobbies, such as writing music and at the moment making a video game. And I have an active social life with friends and family I love.
Q: Are you easily offended by sexual jokes or talk?
A: Personally, no, I still find the jokes funny. But 55% of asexuals are sex repulsed1, meaning they might be.
Q: If you aren’t into sex, then what’s the next best thing?
A: Cake! The running joke on AVEN is that since we don’t want sex, we think of cake in the way sexual people think about sex. Speaking of… I really would like a piece of cake right about now. But I don’t got any! *puppy eyes*
Q: Isn’t asexuality the same thing as celibacy?
A: 88% of asexuals disagree that these are synonymous1. Celibacy is a conscious choice to eschew sex, generally as a great sacrifice for a person that can cause distress. For an asexual, the desire for sex is lacking entirely, so celibacy is not a sacrifice for them. Asexuality is not a choice, it’s just there.
Q: What are your life goals then?
A: I explained this a bit in a blog post about not having children. The default template of life is to seek a mate, get married, buy a house, and have kids. That template works fine for many people, and I don’t disparage those who follow it. What I don’t like is when people follow that template without giving it any thought. If their primary drive in life is to follow what others are doing, and what they have been told to do, only for the sake of being obedient, then I feel sorry for them. (I do not believe this about anybody I know, because doing so would be a mere assumption on my part.) While society was much more strict as recent as 50 years ago, we live in a day when less traditional life paths are perfectly acceptable. Personally, I have no desire for a romantic relationship, so I am currently pouring my energy into my career and my music writing. I also hope to guide others to understand more about asexuality and themselves (hence the wall of text!). Other asexuals may still wish to get married, buy the house, and all that jazz, that’s up to them. I think the vast majority of asexuals have given a lot more thought about their life goals, seeing that the default template is much less likely to work for them. And, this is tough because without that template, there’s almost too many options out there! Anyway, I’m rambling, this is supposed to be a Q&A, not a long sappy blog post.
Q: Are you proud of being asexual?
A: I’m as proud of being asexual as I am of having brown eyes. It’s just the way I was made, it doesn’t make me proud or ashamed.
Q: Would you change your sexual orientation if you could?
A: The vast majority of asexuals, 78% of them, would say no1. Personally, I would not change it. I’ve got no game, and it’s too late to develop one! My lack of desire for sex has not been negative in my life in any way, other than never quite fitting in to our highly sexual society.
Asexuality and Romance
Q: Can asexuals desire romantic relationships?
A: The vast majority of asexuals do desire romance. 19% of asexuals consider themselves aromantic1, meaning they do not feel, or do not desire, romantic relationships (also known as Aro Ace). Personally, I feel that I am Aro Ace. The other 81% are of varying types of romanticism. For the romantic aces, they may try for a mixed relationship with a sexual person where they compromise on levels of sexual activity. Or they may enter polyromantic relationships where their partner can seek sex with a third member. Finally, they might pair up with another asexual.
Q: Are asexuals capable of having children?
A: Yes they are. Some asexuals will have sex in order to reproduce, while others may adopt children.
Q: Are there are other types of relationships an Aro Ace might consider?
A: There’s an idea of a relationship that lies somewhere between friendship and marriage. Imagine if you spent more time with your best friend, either living together as roommates or nearby. You might rely on each other for things in the same way a married couple might, like taking each other to the doctor, sharing the grocery and cooking duties, or other chores. You might do other friendly things together like watch television or play board games. There would also be a very deep emotional connection to that person, someone you can confide in and trust wholly. But there would be no romance involved. No sex or kissing, nor some of the commitments of marriage. This is called a queer-platonic relationship (QPR) for lack of a better term.
Q: This is a little off topic of asexuality, but can aromantics get into a romantic relationship?
A: This is certainly possible, though unlikely. If the romantic partner understands the lack of reciprocation from the aromantic partner about romantic feelings, then it can work out.
The TMI (Too Much Information) Section
There’s some topics that might be sensitive to some people. So they are hidden below this read more. If you’d like to stop here, then you’ve come a long way towards learning about asexuality. Thanks for reading!
Q: Do asexuals masturbate?
A: According to an informal poll on the AVEN forums, 76% of asexuals masturbate.
Q: Wait what?!? Asexuals don’t want sex, why would they do that?
A: Those parts still physically work. Some of the biggest reasons are: the physical sensation is enjoyable, still have sexual fantasies without being attracted to people, best way to make sexual arousal go away, and sheer boredom. Furthermore, for some males, not doing it for extended periods can cause the onset of nocturnal emissions which are… messier. There’s also some (fairly weak) research that indicates masturbation improves prostate health.
Q: Do aces have sexual dreams?
A: Another informal poll on AVEN says that 65% of aces do.
1According to the 2014 AVEN Census