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On the rainbow spectrum of human sexuality, those down at the darker end tend to get ignored a lot. Those without many (or any) champions include demisexuals—those who only experience sexual attraction toward those they’ve developed a strong emotional bond with—and the group I classify myself under: the asexuals, also called aces. Asexuality is often defined as “not having any sexual attraction at all.”

Let’s be clear about something right off the bat: “asexual” does not equal “hates sex.” Some aces are repulsed by sex, yes. Some don’t mind it or are indifferent to it. Some engage in it because their partners enjoy it and they like making them happy. And some like it. It’s up to the ace in question. Remember that asexuality doesn’t mean the lack of sex or a sex drive.

There are several different types of asexuals, such as heteroromantic aces, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, demiromantic, and aromantic. The prefixes have the same connotation they do as when put in front of the word “sexual,” but in a romantic sense; for example, a homoromantic asexual would be romantically attracted to the opposite gender/s. Many people don’t understand how a romantic attraction works, so I try to explain it thus: you want to spend time with them and get to know them and snuggle with them and maybe do things like kiss and hold hands. It’s very similar to a regular crush, but without any sexual feelings. The object of your attraction doesn’t turn you on; you don’t fantasize about sleeping with them or doing other sexual things. Simply put, it’s a strong attraction without sexual elements.

Some would point to the above paragraph and say, “But isn’t that the same as a friendship?” To put it bluntly—no. My relationship with my friends is not romantic. I love them, but in a platonic way. I don’t want to kiss my friends. You know the difference between the love you have for your friend and the love you have for your significant other. The thing about our culture is that it pairs sex with love in such a way that most people don’t even realize the stigma until someone tries to remove one side of the equation. Here’s the thing: you can have a committed, loving, romantic relationship without having sex. Asexuals and allosexuals are able to have relationships with each other. It requires communication and compromise, but then, what relationship doesn’t?

In the same vein, aromantic asexuals are aces that do not feel either sexual or romantic attraction. Before you start to draw conclusions, let me stress something: this does not make them misanthropes. Many aromantic aces describe having “squishes,” or aromantic crushes. They are usually defined as the desire for strong platonic friendships with someone. These relationships are stronger than regular friendships but do not have romantic elements to them.

Please note that having a lack of sexual attraction does not mean that aces cannot find people aesthetically attractive. If an asexual mentions that they think so-and-so is cute, someone might jump on this and say, “Yes, see, you’re not asexual if you think they’re pretty/handsome/whatever.” This is not at all true. Aces can appreciate attractiveness without being attracted just like everyone else. For example, a heterosexual girl can look at another female and note that she is pretty without being attracted to her. Humans can enjoy beauty regardless of their personal preferences.

I understand a lot of these descriptions may be confusing, and I apologize. Trying to describe how my feelings are different from an allosexual’s (“allosexual” being the most widely accepted term for someone who isn’t ace) is tricky because I don’t know what sexual attraction feels like. It’s a little like trying to describe a color you’ve never seen before, only heard about. There are various blogs and websites around that can help clarify some of the points I’m trying to make, some of which I have listed at the end of this article.
Quite a few people are quick to brush asexuality as a “phase” or as something not worth bothering with. They don’t think it matters; who cares about people wanting the right to do nothing? But see, therein lies the rub. The problem isn’t that aces are being picked on for not wanting to have sex. It’s that aces are dismissed and marginalized. Not a great deal of the population views it as a legitimate sexual orientation, and that can be very discouraging and hurtful. Without getting too uncomfortably personal, I can say this has happened to me before, more than once, by people I considered very close to me. Frequently, asexuals are told there’s something wrong with them: their hormones are wonky, they’re actually gay and don’t want to admit, they’ve been sexually assaulted, they’re repressed…the list goes on into depressing eternity. There are even bingo cards based on it. If these are the kind of response aces get from those close to them, imagine how the rest of the world can be.

But enough of that. This article isn’t supposed to bum you out. There is an ace community out there, mostly Internet-based and fairly small, but still there and incredibly supportive. A majority of it is housed at the Asexuality Education and Visibility Network, or AVEN. There are many wonderful people there who are more than willing to share their experiences and stories for the curious or questioning. There are a few inside jokes running around that you might see, the main ones being that aces get “cuddle-horny” and that aces prefer cake to sex (is the article title making more sense now?). In addition, so many aces have been compared to amoebas (people seem to think relating asexuality and asexual reproduction is hilarious) that “amoeba” has become another nickname for asexuals.

If you’re asexual, you’re in good company. Asexuality in media is actually more prevalent than most people might think. The great detective Sherlock Holmes was directly described as an aromantic asexual and appears this way in most, if not all, of his incarnations. So are Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Charlie Weasley from the Harry Potter series, and Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. Ariadne from Inception shows signs of being ace as well, as does the Doctor himself from Doctor Who. This is just a small list. You might be surprised.

There are a few signs you might be ace (please note that these are not universal, nor are they the only such indicators). For one, asexuals often have trouble identifying flirting, either that someone is flirting with them or they are (supposedly) flirting with someone. Some aces also regard sex differently than allosexuals; they recognize it but don’t really see the point, so to speak (in real life as well as in books, TV shows, and movies). If you’re asexual, you might not be able to picture yourself in sexual situations, or you might have extensive lists about things you’d rather do than sleep with someone. Asexuals in relationships may never initiate sex or pretend to be interested in sex to avoid hurting their partner’s feelings.

Please remember: If you think you might be asexual, the best thing you can do is research and reflect. No one can label you but yourself, and no one knows you better than you do.



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