Over the past decade, asexuality has received an increasing amount of visibility, but there are still so many people who don’t either know what it means, or they think it’s a term only relevant in biology class. The basic definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction. This can be quite difficult for some non-asexuals to grasp, and unfortunately it leads to a lot of misconceptions about what asexuality really is. A common mistake people make is referring to asexuality as simply not wanting or liking sex, but there is so much more to it than that. Here’s a neat list of important things you should know about it:
1. Asexuality is not celibacy.
The main issue here is that a lot of people conflate the two terms. Asexuality is a matter of attraction, while celibacy is a matter of behavior. Also, asexuality is an orientation, and celibacy is a choice, regardless of how someone identifies.
2. Asexuality is not a product of abuse or hormonal imbalances.
This is definitely a tricky topic because there are some asexual people who have experienced abuse and their experiences certainly should not be invalidated. However, assuming that all asexuals have had a traumatic past which resulted in their asexuality is offensive and wrong. Additionally, there is no evidence that asexuality is caused by hormonal imbalances, so don’t bother telling an asexual person to get theirs checked.
3. Asexuals are not “waiting for the right person.”
First of all, the idea that some perfect person will waltz into someone’s life and complete them is super-problematic; everyone is already complete on their own. This idea is sort of like telling a lesbian that she just hasn’t met the right guy yet, and if you wouldn’t do that to a lesbian, why do it to an asexual?
4. Asexuals are incredibly diverse.
Asexuality is basically an umbrella term for a bunch of sexual and romantic orientations. One could be grey-asexual (experiencing sexual attraction very rarely), or demisexual (only sexually attracted to people they have a close emotional connection to). They can be romantically attracted to men, women, multiple, or all genders, or they can be aromantic and not be romantically attracted to anybody. Some don’t mind sex, some are sex-repulsed, and some are indifferent.
5. Asexuals are capable of many kinds of love and relationships.
Contrary to popular belief, romantic love is not the most important thing in the world, and it’s also not the most important type of relationship. Also, a sexless romantic relationship does not mean it’s unfulfilling or just an ordinary friendship. There are many ways to define intimacy and how to express it, and each asexual person has their own definition. Asexuals can choose to be in committed, long-term romantic or platonic relationships with one person or multiple people. They can also choose not to have significant others and focus on maintaining meaningful relationships with friends and/or family.
6. Asexuality is not a phase.
Yes, sexuality can be fluid, but to tell someone that their identity is temporary is insulting and implies that you know them better than they know themselves. This is especially relevant for younger people who identify as asexual because they usually hear this kind of argument used against them. When was the last time a straight teenager was told they were too young to know for sure they were heterosexual? Probably never.
7. Asexuals deserve visibility in LGBTQIA movements.
What makes asexuality a little different from other orientations is that we’re fighting just to be recognized. Granted, when romantic orientations are factored in there is quite a bit of overlap in issues (e.g., homoromantic asexuals who are fighting for marriage equality), but that’s where intersectionality comes in. Asexuals are not trying to win the gold medal in the “Oppression Olympics.” However, it’s very difficult to have your existence denied at nearly every turn. And it’s no walk in the park to live in a hypersexual society where wanting sex and romance is expected and you’re labeled as a prudish, inhuman freak for falling outside the norm.
Asexuality has almost always been the invisible orientation, and there are so many more things that could be added to this list. But with more visibility and awareness, maybe one day there won’t be a need for “Asexuality 101” articles to debunk misconceptions and asexuals can finally come out and not have to worry about blank stares or the inevitable amoeba jokes.