How is asexuality different from celibacy?
Put simply, celibacy is a choice; asexuality is not. When non-asexual people practice celibacy, for whatever reason, it’s a conscious decision to abstain from acting on the sexual attraction they have to other people. When asexuals are celibate, it’s because they naturally lack sexual attraction to other people. Of course, not all asexuals (or ‘aces’) are celibate – they might try sex out of curiosity, for the emotional intimacy with their partner, or because they like the experience without necessarily craving it. Either way, it’s not behaviour that defines a person’s asexuality – it’s how they feel.
How many people are asexual?
The scientific literature on asexuality is still very much in its early days (AVEN, the main organisation representing the ace community, was only founded in 2001) so it’s very hard to tell at this stage. However, in 1994 a survey was conducted in the UK, and out of 18, 876 respondents, approximately 1% said they’d “never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.” It’s the statistic that gets quoted most often because, well, it’s pretty much the only one we’ve got. In the UK alone, that would make for around 63,700 aces, which is a huge number of people.
What’s it like being in an asexual relationship?
I’ve been in an asexual relationship, albeit with someone who wasn’t asexual. In that situation, talking through boundaries and what the other person draws a line at is really important. I’d certainly like to have a relationship with a fellow ace, but because it’s so difficult for us to find each other, the likelihood of that happening is remote, at least for now.
Can you still be attracted to other people?
Absolutely, just not in the way most people would think of attraction. No matter where they are on the spectrum, asexuals enjoy having meaningful relationships in their lives as much as the next person. There’s more to a person’s identity than a sexual orientation in that respect – everyone has an additional romantic orientation. Thus, you can be asexual and biromantic (romantically attracted to men and women), panromantic (romantically attracted to any gender identity), homoromantic (romantically attracted to members of the same sex), or heteroromantic (romantically attracted to members of the opposite sex). Some aces are asexual and aromantic, meaning they enjoy platonic friendships, but don’t experience romantic attraction.
What’s the difference between sexual attraction and romantic attraction?
As a heteroromantic asexual, personally, if I meet someone good-looking, or who has a fantastic personality (or both) sex won’t even cross my mind. I’ll most likely be wondering what kissing them would be like, wishing I could hold their hand, or even just have long chats with them.
Is asexuality a sexual orientation or a lack of sexual orientation?
Good question! This is my own opinion, but I’d say asexuality is like the atheism of sexual identity: it both participates in and detaches itself from the world of sexuality. At the same time, asexuality is a widely diverse spectrum by itself. Some people, for instance, will occupy a grey area between sexuality and asexuality, where sex is something they might like having, but it’s not much of a concern in their lives (hence they’re called ‘grey-a’ or ‘graces’). Others will only start experiencing sexual attraction after a deep emotional bond has formed with their partner (demisexuals). I could witter on for hours, but my general point is that asexuality is a sexual orientation in its own right. It’s just very nuanced. I can only hope that the more awareness-raising we do, the more discussions we can have about it, and the more comfortable some people might feel in themselves as a result.
Lexy Hudson is the asexual convenor for YUSU’s LGBTQ Welfare Committee. If you’d like to know more about asexuality, or think you might be asexual, you can send her an email: [email protected]
Asexuality Awareness Week runs from October 20th-26th