With the increased visibility regarding the many ways people can express themselves sexually, there are others coming out to play, ones that the general population might not be aware of. One of the identities that has caused confusion across the board, even among the LGBT community, is asexuality. It has not been as widely discussed as the others and many have only heard of asexuality in science classes regarding amoebas; however, that is not the case when discussing sexual expression. Asexuality is when a person has no interest in sex because of a complete lack of sexual attraction to either gender. It is different from celibacy because celibacy is a choice based on religious or personal reasons whereas asexuality is the way someone is born.
This is a budding avenue of sexual expression that has slowly started making a name for itself, but it has left many wondering whether or not asexuals should be included in the queer community at all. While homosexuality and bisexuality, two of the more prominent identities in the media outside of heteronormative identity, are fighting for acceptance and the freedom to express themselves sexually, this is not the case for asexuals. They prefer to not engage in sexual actions, so why would it fall under the queer community? Simple: A defense for the lack of sexual attraction is just as important as (and relevant to) the defense for sexual attraction.
David Jay, the founder of Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), is one of the most recognized asexuals in the community because of his work to bring this sexual identity into the light. For him, it began years ago when he was in middle school. While his peers were beginning to understand their own sexual interests, he was left behind and alone. He began calling himself asexual, but it was not until 2001, when he was older, that he decided to make asexuality more visible. He created AVEN as a network to spread awareness of this expression and to serve as a beacon of hope for those that had been just as lost as he was. It has now become so popular among the community members that it has been referred to as the asexual Facebook.
As the awareness spread, people who had been questioning their interest in sex found a safe haven in AVEN through which they could express themselves and network with others who expressed themselves similarly. One woman, Swank Ivy, is a YouTuber who posts videos to spread awareness of asexuality. She uploaded “Asexuality: Top 10” during which she explains the top ten most common reasons people believe she is not interested in intercourse. She has been told that perhaps she just hasn’t found the right person, that she is in denial about being a lesbian, or that she has a hormone problem. Basically, she has received every suggestion other than asexuality simply being her sexual orientation.
Some scientific studies on asexuality have been done, mainly with the idea that this lack of sexual interest stems from something psychological. Dr. Lori Brotto, an Associate Professor in the Department of Gynecology at the University of British Columbia, was quick to believe that asexuality was, in fact, a psychological disorder, much like homo- and bisexuality not too long ago. During her study, she discovered that 1% of the participants stated they were not sexually attracted to either gender. She then spearheaded a study that assessed the psychological problems that could affect sexual attraction, symptoms that could erase or suppress sexual attraction. What she found, though, was shocking: None of the people who identified as asexual had any symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, or the like that influenced their lack of interest in intercourse.
She did find out that, while some asexuals do not have a sex drive, others do experience the need for orgasmic release, though they do not have an interest in achieving it with another individual. Masturbation is still seen within this group of people, which came as a shock to most, but sex with yourself is completely different than wanting to engage in sexual relations with another human being. To help her understand, someone told Dr. Brotto that masturbation for asexuals is like “cleaning out the plumbing.” This means that self-satisfaction is more of a physical necessity rather than a legitimate interest in sexual expression, which is the main reason for masturbation across the board for sexual beings.
Love and asexuality have an interesting relationship; however, there are other identities that allow asexuals to experience the types of relationships that sexual beings have as is seen in the 2011 film, (A)Sexual. The only difference is the lack of physical attraction, the lack of interest in the act of having sexual intercourse. Swank Ivy states, “Anything you can be as a sexual person you can be as an asexual person romantically.” This includes expressing yourself as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or aromantic, among others. The roots of the words are still the same as when they are used alongside -sexual. A heteroromantic is only interested in a romantic relationship with the opposite sex, homoromantic with the same sex, and biromantic with either gender. The distinction is made within these romantic identities because there is still emotional intimacy, companionship, and love, but sexual intercourse is completely absent from the relationship. There is also aromantic, which is a lack of interest in a romantic relationship. Swank Ivy is an aromantic asexual. Jay does express a romantic interest in people; however, it is not explicitly stated how he identifies romantically.
Asexuality is not only under the radar but also incredibly misunderstood, and asexuals have found themselves as outcasts even in a community that understands what it is like to be ostracized for something that is out of their control. This is improving as visibility and understanding increases and it is allowing them to join the fight for sexual orientation freedom and acceptance. The only queer “agenda” I’ve noticed is the fight for the right to express yourself sexually without judgment or persecution. A lack of sexual interest is still a form of sexual expression and asexuals have the right to be able to achieve acceptance and validation from themselves, the queer community, and society as a whole. Let’s not forget this group of individuals as we move forward.
If you or someone you know could benefit from networking with other asexuals, please visit the AVEN website.
If you would like to learn more about sexual identities, please click here or here, the former being a more comprehensive resource and the latter focusing specifically on asexual romantic relationships.