The Myths and the Realities
Approximately 1% of the population identify as asexual yet it is an orientation not generally understood. According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, an asexual (or “ace”), is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. There are also demisexuals who only experience sexual attraction once they have an emotional connection and grey-asexuals who only experience limited sexual attraction. Many people make assumptions about who an asexual is in order to make sense of what asexuality means and looks like. However, those assumptions often lead to incorrect conclusions and unfortunate stereotypes. In order to better understand asexuality, it is sometimes useful to debunk the assumptions and myths attributed to aces.
Asexuals don’t experience love or have relationships.
Aces can have romantic relationships. They can be romantically attracted to folks of one gender, both, or all genders. They can feel romantically attracted to someone, but still not feel sexual attraction. And they can feel the range of romantic emotions just like everyone else, from a small crush to deep passionate love. It just does not translate into a desire to engage sexually. Some aces prefer to be alone, others choose to live and spend time with friends and still others crave romantic partnerships. And asexuals might date sexual folks as well as asexuals.
Asexuals are just celibate.
Asexuality is actually an orientation such that they do not experience sexual attraction to anyone. Celibacy is a choice to not have sex, despite potential attraction. Some asexuals choose to also be celibate, others not.
Asexuals never have sex.
Actually, many aces have had sex. As in many activities, there are a range of feelings towards sex among aces: some are indifferent to it, others are repulsed by it, and most are somewhere in between. Many have tried it in the course of exploring identity. Some aces continue to choose to have sex for various reasons, such as for procreation or wanting to bring pleasure to a romantic partner who is not asexual.
Asexuals just suffer from a low sex drive.
Asexual folks have varying sex drives like the population as a whole. While some may have a high libido, they just don’t find other people sexually attractive. They may channel their sex drive into solo pleasure or other avenues of release.
Asexuals don’t get aroused or have orgasms.
In fact, some asexuals might masturbate and have orgasms as a release. They can enjoy pleasure, but are just not interested in sharing the experience with others. Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to others, not an inability to engage sexually. (And, as in the rest of the population, some asexuals also have sexual challenges, but these are not related.)
Asexuality is a result of trauma.
Some asexuals have experienced trauma, some have not. But past life events do not appear to be a determinant of asexuality.
Asexuality is a choice.
Like other orientations such as hetero, homo, or bisexuality, asexuality is not a choice. It is not something that someone can decide to be or not. It simply is.
Asexuals just need to adjust their hormones.
Actually, most asexuals’ hormone levels are within normal ranges. And those who have tried hormone supplements for various reasons found that it did not affect their asexual orientation.
Asexuals are like trans or intersex folks.
A trans person is someone whose gender differs from the one they were assigned at birth i.e. whose genitals do not match how they identify. Intersex is a “socially constructed category” at birth or later in life where someone’s sex characteristics lie closer to the middle on the spectrum between male and female. Both trans and intersex refer to one’s body, regardless of orientation. Asexuality on the other hand is an orientation i.e. is about to whom one is attracted. In this case, an asexual is attracted to nobody. And thus, an ace can be trans and/or intersex (or cisgendered i.e. where our gender identity matches what we were assigned at birth). They are neither mutually exclusive nor inclusive terms.
Everyone feels asexual at times for days or years.
Yes, sexual people can have long periods of time where they do not feel attraction to anyone in particular for a variety of reasons. But asexual folks have never felt attracted to another. Ever. It is not a phase, it is a valid orientation.
We need to respect that asexuals are not “broken” or asexual until they have a certain life-changing event. Their orientation is just as valid as anyone else’s. And there is no specific test that confirms someone asexual. It is a self-identity, one that someone will label for themselves to help find their place in a sexual society. So it may be a term that fits for some. And it can change, like other orientations can change for folks. What is important is that asexuals feel love, community, acceptance and validation of their experience and desires for how to express and live their lives. By everyone.