A Very Brief (And Woefully Incomplete) Primer on Asexuality

… Well, some of us do on occasion, but we aren’t exactly crazy about doing so.
Source: falunel.deviantart.com

I’ve made mention several times on Twitter, Facebook, and right here on The Archive that I am an out-and-proud Asexual. But recently, I’ve noticed people within my circle of friends and family discussing the topic of asexuality more or even coming out to me as falling under the asexual spectrum (yes, asexuality is a spectrum; we’ll get into that).

So, I felt like it was my duty to talk about asexuality; not just among friends, but publicly so that all of those curious about it could understand it better. After all, one of the biggest problems plaguing the asexual community is a lack of visibility that leads other to claim that it “doesn’t exist” or that we’re just “secretly gay” or “trying to be special.”

Now, to be clear, this isn’t going to be a perfect resource. I may be asexual myself, but I’m not an authority on sexual orientation (if such a thing can be said to exist). To that end, this is going to be a HIGHLY simplified collection FAQs and debunked misconceptions tinged by my own experiences. If you want to learn more, I deeply ask you to check out The Asexual Visibility and Education Network for more information. So, with all veneers of expertise removed, let’s begin.

Attraction Vs. Desire Vs. Activity

One of the larger misconceptions is that asexuality is just a fancy name for what others would call celibacy. Another is that asexuality is just an excuse to justify a weak libido. These couldn’t be further from the truth.

Asexuality, low-to-no libido, and celibacy together demonstrate the disconnect between sexual attraction, sexual desire, and sexual activity respectfully. It’s often difficult for most asexuals or “aces” to explain the concept of sexual attraction since – surprise – we don’t experience it and it’s kinda hard to explain something that you don’t have a frame of reference for.

The simplest explanation I can muster is this: An ace can still be sexually aroused (genitals are stupid and can be turned on by just about anything) and many are still willing to engage in intercourse (until evolution allows humans to reproduce through parthenogenesis, babies need to come from somewhere). However, they simply don’t find others sexually attractive. We can certainly identify people as “cute,” “beautiful,” or sometimes even “sexy,” but sexual attraction may as well not exist to us.

This separates asexuality from the aforementioned low libido – a loss of sex drive and sexual desire that can be countered with medical treatments – and celibacy – the active choice to abstain from sexual activity for various reasons. So when in doubt remember this: if there’s no sexual attraction, it’s asexuality. If there’s attraction but no drive or desire, it’s low libido. If there is attraction and desire but you actively choose not to, it’s celibacy. The important point to take home here is that, whatever you identify as, it’s your identity and it’s valid.

Sex-Positive, Sex-Neutral, and Sex-Repulsed Aces

As briefly mentioned above, many aces still engage in sex or sexual acts. However, not all of them do and not all of them enjoy it or enjoy it to the same extent. This is why the asexual spectrum and the distinction of grey-asexuality or “gray-a” is so important. Different aces may, and likely will, have varying feelings towards sex.

Sex-positive aces regard sex as an enjoyable experience and may even encourage openness about sexuality. However, they still don’t find themselves sexually attracted to anyone. When interacting with a sex-positive ace, please note that their sexual identity is still valid and the fact that they find sex enjoyable doesn’t make them less of an ace. Remember; there’s a difference between attraction, desire, and action.

Sex-neutral aces – the camp that I belong to – tend to treat sex as a tertiary thought. We aren’t exactly opposed to the idea of sex and many of us will gladly engage if it means pleasing a lover or wanting to start a family. However, we aren’t exactly crazy about the idea and probably won’t break our necks to get some. The same considerations paid to sex-positive aces above should be given to sex-neutral ones. Again, attraction is not desire is not action (is that getting through yet?).

Sex-repulsed aces are genuinely disinterested or even disgusted by sex and/or sexual activity. In some cases, just the mere mention of sex makes them incredibly uncomfortable. Bare this in mind when interacting with sex-repulsed aces and respect their comfort zone. This also means not treating them – or any ace, for that matter – as emotionally or psychologically broken. There doesn’t necessarily need to be some kind of trauma to be repulsed by sex. Sometimes, people just find sex undesirable for any number of reasons (speaking personally, I usually just find sex too funny or too clinical to be enjoyable).

Demisexuality

I can’t in good conscience talk about the asexual spectrum without giving at least a brief mention its most often underrepresented section; the demisexuals.

Demisexuality falls under and is a very important part of the asexual spectrum. It describes a person who CAN develop a sexual attraction towards a person, but only after a deep, emotional connection has been formed. This makes it one of the most difficult orientations in the asexual spectrum to explain to people and, by extension, one that catches a lot of criticism – even from fellow aces.

But, it’s important to note that demisexuals ARE part of the asexual spectrum. They don’t experience sexual attraction in the same way as other sexual orientations would and need to be respected and welcomed. They aren’t outsiders; they’re human and kin.

How To Respect An Ace

I know I’ve beating the “attraction/desire/action” drum this whole time, but it seems so difficult to convey the importance of it to some people. These folks and I have a valid and legitimate orientation – a very specific way that we prefer to interact with our lovers in order to feel comfortable and secure. This doesn’t mean that we are broken or seeking attention and it’s not a moral or ethical choice like some people consider celibacy to be; it’s just the way we are and we all need to respect that.

Also, just as you should ANY sexual orientation, we ask that you respect our boundaries. If one of us tells you that sex or talking about sex makes us uncomfortable, please stop. If we don’t want to have sex with you, please understand that it’s not a negative judgment of you but us trying to maintain a comfortable sexual environment.

Ultimately, we aces are just like everyone else. And like everyone else, we just want to feel happy and comfortable in our own way.

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Sex, Romance, and Dangly Parts: Three Things That The Agent Is Sick of Explaining To People

... And if you can't understand a simple explanation, you probably aren't trying hard enough to understand it. Source: Quora.com

… And if you can’t understand a simple explanation, you probably aren’t trying hard enough to understand it.
Source: Quora.com

Do you have a quirk about your personality or a personal belief that, despite your best efforts, you are constantly forced to explain in excruciating detail to people because they assume that you’re like that for completely unrelated reasons?

… ’cause I do. I’ve got a lot of ’em. Quirks for days.

I hate explaining these things about me to people, not so much because I constantly have to repeat myself, but because their misunderstanding of me comes off as insulting – if not to me, then to the people who are in the same boat as me. And it’s even worse when you have to explain it to the same person multiple times.

So, once and for all, let the world know that…

I’m not a prude; I’m asexual

This is probably one of the biggest problems that I (and many others, I’m sure) face as an ace – just because we don’t want to have sex, people assume that we’re prudish, virginal, moral guardians looking to ruin other people’s fun.

In fact, I’m not even all that against sex personally. I have a large collection of erotic art stored away. Some of my favorite songs are sexy love ballads. Hell, I recently wrote an entire article dedicated to the amazonian sex goddess that is Steven Universe‘s Garnet.

I simply don’t ENJOY sex as much or in the same way as other people. I prefer to avoid direct sexual encounters because I feel they distract from what I really want out of a relationship; emotional support and intellectual stimulation.

I’m not gay; I’m panromantic

… And since I don’t f***, I also can’t be gay… not that it hasn’t stopped people from thinking that.

I think what bothers me most here is more what it implies about other’s views of homosexuality rather than their thoughts about me. It seems this only ever comes up as a negative when people ask or at least that’s how they come off.

Make no mistake, I do find myself attracted to women more often. But when all I want is an intellectual chat and a reassuring cuddle, it doesn’t really matter who I get it from as long the feeling is mutual.

Thankfully, this is one of those things that was more a problem in my youth than it is today. But it still comes up often enough where I wanted to bring it up here.

I’m not transgender; I just REALLY like crossplay

Back in my college drama club days, one of my most beloved roles was in the murder mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the incorrigibly fun-loving maid-servant Ruby Pinkbottom – a role written to be played by a man in a dress. To this day, it’s considered by many of my friends to be one of my best performances.

… As well it should be. I’ve had a LOT of practice with drag roles.

Costuming is one of my favorite hobbies. I love being able to become someone else for a few fleeting moments to escape the drab, boringness of real-life. Of course, when you’ve become things like aliens, vampires, and warriors often enough, even they get old after a while. So what else is there to explore but the opposite gender?

I guess the technical label for me would be ‘gender fluid’, but I definitely identify as male by default.

Basically, I cross-dress and cosplay for fun because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a real-life shapeshifter. So don’t be shocked if you see photos of me at a convention dressed as Bismuth in the future.

Crucial Advice in Matters of Love (and Why The Agent Is Asexual)

The J. Geils Band was not entirely right; Love only stinks if you don’t talk about it.
Source: ottmag.com

Lately, it seems that multiple key figures in my life have been having difficulties in their romantic lives (no names given to protect the innocent) and this troubles me. Not so much because their problems involve me directly, but because I care about them all and don’t want to see them hurt. I have a very ‘big brother’ instinct to want to punch anything that makes people cry.

However, after these problems blew over (or at the very least stabilized themselves), I noticed that they all have the same common problem; they were non-traditional relationships where all parties involved failed to communicate to each other.

Now, I’m not going to say that these so-called alternative relationships are bad or destructive. I’ve seen plenty healthy relationships work out with multiple partners and partners of the same sex. Hell, often they have whole families of their own that are more stable than the average traditional family.

I think the problem here is that the times have changed. Alternative lifestyles are more accepted than ever before. As a result, new people are indulging their curiosities. And that’s perfectly fine, but they’re often so eager to dive in that they disregard forming that mutual understanding with their partner/partners.

I cannot stress enough how important talking to each other is. Don’t wait until it becomes an issue to discuss it either; nip any potential problems in the bud now. Talk about each other’s needs, other partners if you’re interested, and even the small stuff like music and mood lighting.

And don’t give me the diatribe of, “but a relationship is supposed to an adventure. You need to figure things out for yourself.” F*** that noise. That’s why I broke up with my first ex-girlfriend.

Incidentally, that’s also why I make it clearly and openly known that I’m asexual. I owe it to anyone that may have an interest in me that there are just some things I have no desire to get involved in up front.

As for why that is, It’s not that I don’t feel romantic inclinations towards others; far from it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for my heart to be caught several times a day. I simply have no room for the sexual aspects of traditional relationships in my life.

For one, I’m far too busy to concern myself with sex. I have a day job to pay bills, a passion project that I’m trying to make into a business, multiple hobbies to maintain my mental health, and the full list of chores to do around the house. Even if I did care about it, I doubt I could adequately dedicate myself to it to my partner’s satisfaction.

Then there’s the aftermath of sex; parenthood and STD’s. Contraception isn’t infallible, after all. “What if something happens? Can I be a father? What if they get diagnosed with something after?” Given my mind’s tendency to race with uncontrolled thought, it’s a miracle that these thoughts haven’t led to castration yet.

That said, I recognise that sex is a need that others need to fill. So I don’t judge and I communicate MY needs to any one that’s interested until I find the right person (or persons – who knows what may happen?) with the needs to match. And really, that’s all any of us can do.