Just the Tips: What is asexuality?

“Asexual—isn’t that how cells divide, like mitosis? Or plants? Do you reproduce by budding?”

I’m sure your tenth grade biology teachers would be ecstatic to know you paid enough attention in their class to remember these things, but when we are talking about a person who is asexual, the term has a very different meaning. This week on Just the Tips, in honor of last week’s Asexual Awareness Week, we feel that it’s time for us to have a little chat and clear up some common misconceptions about nonsexual orientations!

Simply put, an asexual person, also referred to as “ace”, is one who does not experience sexual attraction. However, not all asexual people experience their sexuality, or lack thereof, in the same way. It is not the same thing as abstinence or celibacy, although asexual people may or may not take part in either of these at any point in their lives as well.

As we know, sexual orientation refers to whom you are attracted. Like how heterosexuality is the attraction to individuals of another gender than your own and homosexuality is the attraction to the same gender as your own, the idea of asexuality is that you do not feel sexual attraction towards other individuals.
From there, the range of experiences varies greatly. You may feel aesthetically, sensually, or romantically attracted to other people. Your romantic orientation may be heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic or panromantic. You could be repulsed or disgusted by the idea of sex itself or you may enjoy it. You may get turned on, watch porn, masturbate or do none of these things.

Like most things in life and love, asexuality is complex and exists as part of a spectrum. Some people who feel that they have experienced sexual attraction before, but feel it weakly or infrequently may choose to identify as graysexual, gray-asexual or gray-ace. Many gray-aces find the term asexual helpful when trying to describe their own orientation, but feel that it does not fully fit with their experiences. Demisexuality is also a part of the asexual spectrum and this describes people who feel sexual attraction only after they have formed a close emotional bond.

One thing that we talk about often at ReproCo is the importance of sex positivity and respecting the decisions that people make regarding their sex lives, including respecting asexual people and their decisions. It is not “just a phase” and it does not mean that someone is in need of fixing. Asexual people are not broken, and they do not “just need to find the right person.” Words like these are hurtful and condescending because they are used to deny that a person’s orientation is real and valid.You are real and valid, however you choose to identify.