by Stormy O'Brink
This week (October 20th to 27th) aces around the globe will be celebrating Asexual Awareness Week. Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate others about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences. One may wonder why we need Asexual Awareness Week in a time where things are becoming so much more progressive. Unfortunately, the reason we need asexual awareness is because there are still many misconceptions about asexuality- even in progressive spaces. I have been an activist in the LGBTQIA rights movement for nearly eight years, and I have compiled a list of the top five misconceptions about asexuality I’ve heard throughout my activism career:
1) “So you’re just celibate?”
Celibacy is NOT asexuality. Many people conflate these two ideas together, but they are separate because celibacy is a lifestyle choice. Asexuality is a sexual orientation based on the lack of sexual attraction, not sexual desire or behavior. You cannot choose to be asexual. Although many asexual people choose celibacy, some do not for various reasons.
2) “Asexual people don’t have relationships.”
Contrary to popular belief, many asexual people seek relationships and even get married. Romantic orientation and sexual orientation are separate. Asexuality is a sexual orientation. Romantic orientation involves who people fall in love with rather than who they’re sexually attracted to. Romantic orientation may also vary on the basis of gender as it would with sexual orientation.
Some people are aromantic, which means they experience no romantic attraction whatsoever. Some aromantic people still develop serious relationships with people. Although they are not based on romantic feelings, they may be based on intimate friendships and companionships.
3) “Asexuality is caused by hormonal imbalances, a low sex-drive, or sexual abuse.”
Some asexual people have a very active sex drive, but it goes undirected to anyone because of their lack of sexual attraction. This also means that some asexual people masturbate. Their bodies often function the same as an allosexual person’s would, and they can experience arousal. Some asexual people do not have a sex drive, do not masturbate, and do not experience arousal.
Currently there is no evidence that suggests asexuality is caused by hormonal imbalances. We know very little about the actual causes of sexual orientation in general. However, we do know that according to a recent study, asexual people were not found to have a higher rate of psychopathology (depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.) than the general population.
Additionally, the majority of people in the asexual community did not survive a sexual trauma. Sexual trauma does not cause sexual orientation- regardless of what orientation it is.
4) “You’re either asexual or allosexual, there is no grey area.”
Things like sexuality rarely exist in black and white, and there is a grey area in the asexual community as well. Some people identify as grey-asexual, which means that they may have only experienced sexual attraction once or twice in their lives. Other grey-asexual people experience sexual attraction but don’t feel any desire to act on it. Sometimes even when grey-asexual people do experience sexual attraction, they are repulsed by it.
Another subset of grey-asexuality is demisexuality. Demisexual people only experience sexual attraction after forming a close emotional bond with a person. This bond can be romantic or non-romantic, and it tends to take a very long time for them to form sexual attraction.
5) “What’s the big deal? I don’t see how asexual people could have negative experiences with their sexuality.”
I’m glad you agree that asexuality is normal! Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t agree with us. Studies have shown that asexual people are likely to be discriminated against by people of all sexual orientations. That same study also showed that allosexual people are likely to desire less contact with asexual people, and even see them as inhuman because of their sexual orientation. Other asexual people have experienced harassment as far as corrective rape threats- or worse: enduring corrective rape itself.
If you would like to learn more about asexuality, Transcending Boundaries has a lovely pamphlet discussing the subject. Asexual Awareness Week also has a great deal of resources for people seeking to host an event. If you’re looking for some face-to-face interaction, the New England Aces are hosting a series of events in Massachusetts:(A)Sexual Documentary Screening and Q&ASunday, October 20, 7:30pm-9:00pmHarvard UniversityFong Auditoriumhttps://www.facebook.com/events/625823844107178/
Asexual Inclusion in Campus Queer Organizations WorkshopWednesday, October 23, 5:30-7pmNortheastern UniversityStudent Center Room 442 Asexuality 101 PanelThursday, October 24, 7pm-8:30pmMITRoom 56-114https://www.facebook.com/events/624762450880600/
Although there are many more misconceptions about asexuality, these are simply the top five I have encountered. I ask the readers to remember that every ace has unique experiences, and no two people will be the same. Happy Asexual Awareness Week!