Did you ever heard about asexuality, which becomes more loud and visible through the years? Take a peek into the world of people who don’t need sex (or sexual references in pop culture) because cake is better.

 

The missed orientation

When the think about sexuality, we usually deal with it using simple “who is sexually attracted to whom” construction. The only important thing that we rarely consider is the simple fact that not all people are sexually attracted to others. That’s that asexuality is about, and an asexual person is therefore someone who does not experience sexual attraction. It may sound weird and even unrealistic in our highly sexualized world, but at least 1% of people are believed to be asexual. Despite the simple definition, aces (that’s a nice short name for asexuals) are often misunderstood. Check list below to make sure we’re on the same wave:

  • Asexuality ≠ celibacy or pledge. It’s not even a choice. It’s just a way in which you function – without feeling sexually attracted to anyone.
  • It’s not a gender identity and it has nothing to do with it.
  • It’s not a disorder.
  • Asexual are not robots and can fall in love, that’s just not physical.
  • All of the above doesn’t exclude asexuals from all kinds of relationships – they still can be dating or get married. Asexuality is about feelings, not actions.
  • Asexuals are not afraid of sex and/or sexual relationships

Putting it in even simpler way – if you ever wondered why sex is considered to be so important, felt like you just “don’t get it” and never find anyone sexy, you maybe asexual. Head here for more statements that can prove it.

However, the world has never been black and white – there’s always something in between. There are also people, who identify themselves as “almost asexual”. Why? Because sometimes, really rarely, they do feel sexual attraction – or just unsure if they ever did. This is how so-called “grey area” of asexuality looks like.

Next category under asexual umbrella is demisexual people. Those who identify themselves as such are able to feel sexual attraction only to those with whom they already have formed strong emotional connection. “Demisexuality is about desire and arousal, not just sex and who you do it with. It’s not merely that I’m only interested in having sex with people that I love, it’s also that I feel a complete absence of desire or sexual feelings toward everyone else. Ever. What makes me demisexual is that absence. […] I’ve only ever been sexually attracted to three people in my whole life. My partner is sexually attracted to that many people during particularly sexy bus rides,” self-described demisexual explains.

So, there are complete asexuals, grey-aces and demisexuals, if we talk about sexual relationships. As for romantic attraction, there are aromantic, heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic and panromantic asexuals – see infographic by Huffington Post below for more details.

 

The terms might seem a little bit weird to you – and there’s an explanation for that. The whole system of definitions and categories was almost fully created online, on forums and blogs, as a way of self-identification for people who felt related. It also important to remember that asexuality and romantic orientation are fluid and can change over time. “Us aces are like: whatevs.”

“There is tremendous variation in the sexual inclinations of those who consider themselves to be asexual. Some masturbate, some don’t. Some are interested in nonsexual, romantic relationships (including cuddling and kissing but no genital contact), while others aren’t. Some consider themselves to be “hetero-asexual” (having a nonsexual aesthetic or romantic preference for those of the opposite sex), while others see themselves as “homo-” or “bi-asexuals.” [source]

Researches on asexuality

As for now, scientific background related to asexuality is not very impressive – reasons are various, from low visibility to the fact that it only recently stopped being considered as disorder.

“Five or six years ago, many in the medical profession considered asexuality a sexual disorder, much like erectile dysfunction or even a reaction to childhood sexual abuse, neither of which are the case. Yet a number of studies suggest there’s a biological predisposition towards asexuality,” says sexologist Antony Bogaert.

  • Asexuality is included in Kinsey scale as category “X” that stands for “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions”.
  • Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups by Myra T. Johnson is the first known paper on the subject (1977)
  • In 2004 Antony Bogaert explored demographics of asexuality in his studies (Asexuality: Its Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample) and stated, that there are more asexuals than we think “because people less experienced in sex are less likely to take sexual surveys”. In 2006 he published another work that conceptualize the asexuality.
  • In 2008 Krisitn Scherrer published research “Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire”. Participants were recruited from AVEN.
  • In 2014 asexual activist Julie Sondra Decker published The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality (more information below)

Origin: the internet

The first ever thing that could be called an asexual community, appeared on the Internet in 1997. It was a comment section on the article titled “My life as an amoeba” in which the author, Zoe O’Reilly describes how completely invisible asexual community is – or was, from today’s perspective. “As far as the rest of the world is concerned, asexual organisms with more than one cell don’t exist.” Second splash was 4 years later, in 2001, when Yahoo group Haven for the Human Amoeba appeared.

Later in 2001, David Jay created Asexual Visi­bility and Education Network (AVEN for short), that later became the main portal about asexuality, but 16 years ago it looked like a simple front page with definition of asexuality – and it’s already was something, as back when where was no other information available. What’s why asexuality is called “an invisible orientation” – despite the growing community and information base, it’s still a non-existing thing for most people. So, two main goals of AVEN are following: creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community.

In 2010 the asexuality flag was chosen. There were different propositions, some of them included “aces of spades” and half-filled stripes, but members of the community stopped at more traditional and simpler form – stripes. Each of four bars has its meaning: black stands for asexuality, grey for grey-asexuality and demisexuality, white for non-asexual partners and allies and purple for community. Informal “sign” of asexuals is a cake. Because aces prefer cake to sex and because a delicious slice refers to a celebration – in the same way as rainbow celebrates LGBT pride. Black-grey-white-purple colour scheme itself is used by asexuals in a way of self-representation: there are aces’ t-shirts, pins, nail polish and other stuff – you can probably find almost everything in these colours.

16 years after its creation, AVEN became a detailed guide on asexuality and information base for ones who’re interested along with forum for everything that’s related. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome world’s largest asexual community on the Web.

“The early stages of community are deeply empowering for hundreds of people. I`m really humbled to witness it, to be a part of it. And there was that overwhelming feeling of validation, a finding other people like them. And they just gave their entire life story. They talked about how they felt alone in the world, they felt broken. And now when they found the community of people like them, they didn’t feel like they were struggling by themselves”, tells David about his first AVEN experience.

 

Asexual activists and their projects

Mr. Jay himself is basically the face of global asexual community. He realised that he’s asexual at the age of 14 and spent high school feeling “broken”, as fascination with sex was boiling all around him. “Everyone was telling me sex was going to be a really essential part of my evolution into adulthood. Sex was supposed to be the beginning of how I would connect with people. All the images around me of people not being sexual were of people who were broken — people who couldn’t get laid, or people who had psychological conditions, or were depressed. And so I assumed that because I  wasn’t  experiencing a great sexual awakening, that I too was broken.”

Because of that personal experience of alienation he decided to create AVEN – and so everyone who ever typed word “asexuality” in the search bar got a chance to connect with people like them. David Jay is currently in an asexual relationship, and calls his girl “asexy” – although he’s been experimenting with sexual types of relationships before. It’s pretty common for asexuals to do so. “At one point, I thought the only way to get a partner would be to have a relationship with a sexual person. And since I don’t desire sex, I had no way of consenting, so I made a long checklist of things that need to be true in a relationship before I experiment with sexuality. A year later, I found myself in a relationship where all those conditions were met so I said, okay, put on my waders and went in.”

Just as representatives of other sexual orientation, asexuals take part in their own pride parades that are usually held twice in a year – one in Norh America and another in Europe. Another annual event is Asexuality Awareness Week, which is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to the community and allies around the world. AAW fulfils this mission with educational events which are held during the week – workshops, lectures and presentation. Asexual Awareness Week was founded by asexual activist Sara Beth Brooks.

Another asexual organization is Aces NYC created by ace activist Bauer McClave who discovered her identity thanks to AVEN. Aces NYC organizes regular meetings – asexual New Yorkers see each other at least twice a month not only for discussing ace-related topics, but for partying together.

Asexual community is far more than meetings on the Internet and real life – there are also scientific works. As asexuality only recently became visible, amount of them is rather small, but a start has been made. One of the most noticeable examples is a book by Julie Sondra Decker titled The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. The title is quite accurate, as the book was written mainly for those who never heard about asexuality before or new to identifining themselves as such. Recommendation for ones who have an asexual friend or partner included, together with specific ace-related jargon. Introduction is a personal author’s story.

“At age sixteen, I left my second boyfriend perplexed and frustrated. I liked him as a person, but I wasn’t interested in him the way he wanted me to be: definitely not sexually, and not even romantically. My disinterest in having sex with him wasn’t rooted in the usual reasons — that ‘a lady’ was expected to save herself, that I was afraid of sex, that I didn’t want to get diseases or get pregnant — I simply had a complete lack of interest in sex and anything related. I didn’t think sex was a gross concept. I didn’t think it was immoral. I’d just never been sexually attracted to another person. Not my boyfriend, not the hottest people in school, not the heartthrob movie stars. I wasn’t interested. Period.”

Julie Sondra Decker is an asexual activist and a writer, known for her blog posts and videos aimed to increase asexuals’ visibility. She started describing herself as “nonsexual” at the age of 15 – before she was aware of existence of the original term. When she talks about leading life as asexual person, she notices that despite growing awareness aces are still often being misunderstood. For example, she’s had male friends who were trying to “fix” her by kissing and insisting that she will “wake up one day”.

“I had used the term ‘asexuality’ jokingly for years to describe myself,” says Micah R., a 26-year-old transgender blogger and advocate for Gender and Sexual Minorities, who is also asexual. “But one day when I was 18, I decided by chance to Google it, and I found AVEN. It was like, ‘This is me. Oh my god, I’m not the only one. I never questioned my sexuality again. It was the answer I had been looking for. The community has really grown around this experience of realizing that you’re not alone”.

 

Dating and chatting like an ace

As you probably understood from the above, asexuals often suffer from loneliness, and due to their lack of interest in sex the task of forming a relationship can be really tricky – just because in modern culture sex is automatically included in any kind of romantic relationship and seems to be a natural part of it. Imagine a Tinder profile with warning “no sex, please” – the owner of it certainly won’t be popular. What’s why dating sites for aces came along. They include Asexualitic, which describes itself as the first dating service dedicated specially to asexuals, UK-based Platonic PartnersCelibate Passions and other. Asexuals even have their own version of Facebook which is called – you guessed it – Acebook. Forums, groups and chats are provided. “Log on and the vibe is refreshingly relaxed. Strip away the coy sexual innuendo and it somehow feels more real than other dating sites. Profiles are to the point: ‘I’m looking for a partner for life and adventure’, and Platonic Partners attempts to facilitate these goals through events such as wine and cheese supper clubs and cinema nights”. [source]

“Asexualitic is the only asexual dating site worth even looking at, I had a LOT of trouble ranking the others considering that they’re all terrible and I can’t see anyone being able to make real connections on them”, writes the author of Tumblr blog “Sexuality and Advice” in her dating sites review.

 

Problems of (and caused by) the community

As a relatively new community, aces have their own problems to struggle with. They are often being discriminated: due to low visibility, there are plenty of myths (“asexuals are broken”, “it’s just a phase” and stuff) which sometimes lead to sexual violence (“corrective rape”). There are also little of research available – and in this way a lot of moments remain unclear.

For the highly sexualized world of advertising aces seem to be a problem – or at least a completely unexpected group of customers with mindset so different that traditional methods just doesn’t work. The thing is, most of the ads are sexually-based and, as we all know, “sex sells”. However, it turns out that not everyone will buy. “Yeah, media is weird and confusing. I mean, as I get older, I’m understanding on an intellectual level why advertising works like it does, but I still don’t get how just showing a hot lady makes things sell”. [source] If asexual community will grow and aces became really visible, our highly socialized consumer society would have to change the general concept and come with a better idea than featuring hot guys and girls in perfume ads. Sounds inconvenient and pretty challenging.

 

Future is about visibility

Talking about the future of asexuality, the one thing is known for sure – visibility is going to increase. New researches are being done, buzz on various media is becoming more noticeable, community is growing, more and more people are getting involved. Visibility is one of community’s top priorities, and they seem to go in the right direction.

“What is ace culture going to look like in a decade? I don’t know. Will it look like gay culture? That might happen, but I’m not invested in that. What I am invested in is that as more aces come out, a much larger percentage of the population will have access to the term ‘asexual’ than there is right now. I hope asexuality will be far more visible, with more out aces and asexual characters on TV shows and movies. I hope it becomes a part of the bigger world of sexuality,” David Jay says.

“That’s the thing that I’m most excited about — for us to get to a place where someone can start questioning whether they’re asexual as a kid and have the people around them know that that’s okay,” Dr. Matt Dawson of Glasgow University adds. “We also want to get to a place where there are enough people around you to talk to and to have access to things like health institutions without having to worry about your asexuality being made into something that it’s not.”

And, of course, getting more offline is desirable for members of the community. “The Internet is a great starting point but I don’t know what kind of traction or mobility we’re getting from it. If aces want a space in the world, well, we’re not going to get it gift-wrapped. We’re going to have to actively carve it out,” one of the activists comments.

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