hello friends and welcome to my coming out party.
I’m an asexual.
And I’m sure you have some questions about what that means because I sure did for the several years before I researched it and the bells went off in my head saying, “wow tyf, this is you af.”
So I want to just get a few FAQs out of the way. Asexuality is so misunderstood that I feel like many aces don’t even really get it, so this is based on research and personal experience. And I’m 99% sure I’m right about everything (as with all else in my life, of course.)
1. What does it mean when I say I’m asexual?
It means I reproduce by dividing myself in two. Simple.
No, it just means that I don’t experience sexual attraction. Heterosexuals are sexually attracted to the opposite sex, bisexuals are attracted to two sexes, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, you get it, right? Asexual means I am sexually attracted to no one. Ever. Out of here with that nonsense.
Think of it this way: have you ever had a physical response to the way someone looks? I have not. Not ever. I just don’t see people that way. Men, women, anybody.
Also, celebrity crushes? Not a thing. I don’t even know them, how can I possibly have a crush on them? I don’t understand.
2. So does that mean you never want to have sex?
3. Why are you just taking a word that already meant something and making it apply to your sexual orientation?
I don’t understand why this is a big deal to people. A word can mean more than one thing. Several words in the English language have several definitions. For example, the word contraction can mean both a) taking two words and making them one and b) what a woman has when she’s going into labor–and no one blinks an eye that those definitions are so different. But if I use a word related to reproduction and use it to describe sexual orientation? Suddenly it’s not ok with the conservatives. And I just… don’t understand where the problem is and why it even affects them at all.
*megaphone* other people’s sexual orientation doesn’t affect you! probably ever!
4. Why do you need a label?
Alright, I hear you, labels are dumb. I especially hate how pretentious I sound when I define myself as a “heteroromantic asexual.” Like, come on, who needs a label like that?
But, as I’m sure many of you understand, labels are very helpful in helping you understand yourself and find a community of people who experience life in some of the same ways. It can be incredibly validating to find that you’re not alone in going through what you’re going through.
It’s like a diagnosis–you have this pain coming from somewhere, and then someone (a doctor, in this metaphor) is able to tell you why. And then things make sense. “Oh, that’s why I behave this way. That’s why I hurt when I do that. Oh, that’s what I can do to make it better.” And there are support groups for stuff like that (cancer patients) and therapy (both for physical and mentally ill people). We can agree that finding community and assistance is helpful, yeah?
So, though nothing is wrong with people who aren’t cis-gender heterosexuals, it’s nice to have a community! It’s relieving to find out that you’re not a defect, you’re just different. ((And that’s why pride is such a big deal–it’s people finally being able to be proud of who they are despite living in a heteronormative world for so long believing that something is wrong with them.))
5. Do you really need to “come out” as ace?
Uh, no, not really, it’s just weird when people are talking about things that you can’t relate to. Also weird when people are objectifying other people based on bodies and I have nothing but horror to contribute to the conversation. I also really like to have deep conversations about anything, and when it comes to people’s favorite topic of ~love~ and ~who do you find attractive?~ it’s just easier to say “yeah, can’t relate because I’m ace.”
And then they don’t understand, but at least there’s a term for it. And then I also get to have really fun conversations where I answer deeply personal questions about my hypothetical future sex life. So you can imagine that it’s a wildly good time.
6. So are you a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Technically, yes. LGBTQIA+ where the A is for Asexual. (And agender, which I am not.)
However, and I don’t speak for all aces because many have different feelings about it, but I don’t feel like I really fit into that community. Like, I’m an ally for sure, but I’m not going to be ostracized from society, or my religion, or my strict conservative friends/family members for being ace. It’s not something that someone is going to hate me for. Sure, they won’t understand, but there aren’t hate groups against us, yknow?
It also helps that I’m a heteroromantic ace. If I were homoromantic or aromantic, it would be different.
Also, in relationships, I could see how being with an asexual would be really hard for a partner. So really, the LGBTQ+ community is for all people who don’t really feel like they fit into a heteronormative world. And in that sense, yeah, I belong.
7. How is that experience of being ace for you?
Some aces feel a little sad and left out because having sexual attraction is so normalized in society.
But me? I freaking love it. I honestly believe that so much of how I am as a person and how I see other people is never clouded or influenced by how attractive I find them. I can see people as people. And I really appreciate that ability in myself. It makes me value people so much more for all the other qualities they possess.
However–representation? It so matters. I get that the lesbians want Elsa to be one of them, but please let Elsa be my ace queen. There are hardly any well-known characters in anything, adult or children’s publications, who are asexual. And for years before I knew I was ace, I just kinda saw all these fabricated relationships in movies and shows and thought “it’s a bummer that a happy ending always equates to love/sex.” Why can’t a happy ending include an apartment and a kitten? A promotion at work? Finding the perfect therapist?
Not that any ace finding love invalidates their asexuality, but it’s nice to know that it’s not everything. And aces can definitely experience other types of attraction that make relationships desirable and fulfilling. Sexual attraction isn’t the ultimate form of attraction! And I’d further argue that it’s not even the best type of attraction. (I understand it’s probably essential for population growth, but otherwise, trash.)
8. There are other types of attraction? How do they differ from sexual attraction?
Remember earlier when I identified as a heteroromantic asexual? That means I experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction. Because of this, I think it’s been more difficult for me to have enough interest in men to get to know them well enough to the point that I become romantically attracted to them. But let’s go through the different types of attraction:
People will sometimes refer to a “physical” attraction. That doesn’t make a lot of sense because there are a few types of physical attraction–sexual, sensual, and aesthetic. (probably more, but I’m only going to cover these three).
Sexual: an attraction to someone based on how strong their sexual appeal is (according to you). Do they have particular features that are “hot”? A body that is “arousing” in some way? I don’t know, I don’t experience this, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
Sensual: An attraction based on wanting to touch someone. I don’t know how to word that better, but yes. Many forms of touch are not sexual. Cuddling, kissing, hugging, etc. These are types of attractions that you can feel for someone that you don’t necessarily feel attracted to sexually. You know those people who give really good hugs? Or really good back rubs? Or their skin is always really soft? These aren’t sexual things, but they are sensual. It’s like a fuzzy blanket, y’know? Or bags of rice at the store? Ya just gotta touch em. Sometimes you feel that toward people. You’re not sexually attracted to the rice bags, you just gotta slap ’em.
Aesthetic: An attraction to someone based on how they look. You might be saying to yourself “but Tyffani, how is that different than sexual attraction? it’s physical!” Well, yes, but it’s like art. I look at some art and marvel at how beautiful it is. I look at other art and I think “wow how is that good enough to belong in a museum?” But regardless, I am not sexually attracted to art. The same goes for people. People are like art to me.
Then there are types of attraction that don’t have too much to do with anything physical, and those are:
Platonic: You ever like someone but you don’t have any “feelings” for them? Some people call this the “friend zone.” You can connect emotionally or intellectually with them, you enjoy being around them, you share common interests and opinions, but you just don’t have any romantic feeling toward them. Without platonic attraction, we wouldn’t have friends.
Romantic: Romantic attraction is where the “feelings” are. It’s “love.” It’s like platonic attraction but… with the feels. You feel?
It’s hard to articulate the difference between platonic and romantic attraction while also distinguishing the difference between romantic and sexual attraction, but there is a distinct difference between all three. Platonic and/or sexual attraction can definitely evolve into romantic (in certain circumstances), but they are three separate forms of attraction.
It’s funny because so many sources on the internet have them all kind of mingled together. If I search the difference between sexual and romantic attraction, it combines sexual attraction and sexual desire. If I search the difference between romantic and platonic attraction, it combines romantic and sexual attraction. It gets really messy, but my guidepost through it all was theasexual.com. I followed them and their blog posts on twitter and they made it all really clear to me.
There are more types of attraction than what I listed, but I differentiate it like this: sexual attraction sees the body and romantic attraction sees the mind/heart/soul.
9. Ok but really about question #2.
Simply put, sexual attraction has nothing to do with sexual desire nor feelings about sex. But let’s speak generally about aces.
So attraction and desire are not the same. Therefore, just because you don’t have a physical response to the way someone looks doesn’t mean you don’t experience a sexual desire or drive in some way. Attraction is matched to a particular person–desire is not necessarily matched to a person (for example, someone who desires the sensation but not necessarily with any particular person). If you don’t experience desire/drive, that’s probably (according to my own understanding) more of a mental condition (depression, ptsd, etc.) that can be addressed. If you don’t experience attraction, that’s just… what it is.
So my answer is this: while attraction (sexual orientation) can’t be changed, attitudes and feelings toward sex can be.
So, in the ace community, there are sex-repulsed aces who are not interested in having sex ever, sex-positive aces who actually enjoy sex for various reasons, and plenty of aces in-between. Some reasons aces might consent to sex despite their own repulsion are: wanting to please their partner, wanting to have children, wanting to “see what all the hype is about,” etc.
Some aces might remain sex-repulsed forever. That’s their own preference/predisposition. If they don’t even want to be sex-positive, then they’re probably not going to be. As far as having successful relationships, I’d imagine that’d be hard. In this scenario, I’m sure it’s easier to stay single forever than finding a partner who’d be ok in a sexless relationship. That’s not to say that sex-repulsed aces still wouldn’t like to have a loving partner for non-sexual forms of intimacy, but the pain of having partners leave after they don’t change their attitude toward sex is probably taxing.
If a sex-repulsed ace, however, wants to become sex-positive, I’m sure there are ways of addressing that. I have no personal experience, but I imagine it would take a lot of work and a really supportive partner.
I think that I personally am capable of sex-positivity, but I recognize that not all aces are. And that shouldn’t be pushed on any of them. Some repulsion runs deeper than others for reasons that may or may not be any of your business. All aces deserve respect in their own personal boundaries. Please understand that though sex is “everything” in this world, it is not everything in the ace’s world. And we like it that way.
10. How did you discover you were ace?
I mentioned how I didn’t really feel like I got it when other people were talking about crushes or “hot” guys, but yeah. I realized I was “different” when I was really young. And it was always weird because my friends were having crushes on different boys all the time and I was constantly either dwelling on the same one for years OR literally not caring at all about boys.
I first remember feeling weird about it when I was in second grade. And I’m not insinuating that eight-year-olds experience sexual attraction, but this just goes to show how engrained both heteronormativity and the idolization of relationships are in this world.
So my friend asked me who I had a crush on. I was eight. So I was like “uh… no one?” because, no, I wasn’t “shy,” I was genuinely of the opinion that boys exist and that’s all there is to them.
But she persisted. “You have to like someone.”
My child brain was stressed because if that was true, I was not measuring up. So in a desperate attempt to be normal, I just picked one of the only guys in the class who was both older and taller than me (because those were my only two requirements as an eight-year-old). Then I talked myself so far into that crush that I was mad in love with that boy for the next five years. (he was actually an excellent kid, 5 stars. I’ve always had high standards, even for spur-of-the-moment crushes.)
The next time I liked a boy, it was because my friends all said: “you would make such a cute couple.” I thought about it and gagged. Legitimately, I remember thinking about kissing him and I was disgusted. But then I talked myself so far into that one that I was in love with that one for years, too. So basically… I’m just now realizing that my friends are responsible for my broken hearts. Thanks, jerks.
I did end up actually liking some guys on my own after that. I mean, asexuality doesn’t mean you don’t experience those other forms of attraction (aesthetic, romantic, etc.), but I feel like sexual attraction is oftentimes the driving force that leads to the other types of attraction. And I just haven’t experienced that initial attraction enough to be interested in developing the other kinds.
There’s a saying in the ace community that “asexual culture is not knowing where your mental illness ends and where your asexuality begins.” My whole life, I thought I didn’t like guys because I didn’t feel worthy of them liking me back. I thought that my self-esteem was just really low and that’s why I didn’t like guys. But after almost four years of not being interested in anyone (but knowing that I was a super fly chick), I started to research asexuality a little bit more, and I realized that I just didn’t experience that attraction.
It took me a month or two to finally adopt that “label,” and now, I don’t care what anyone says, I understand me better. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about labels or me or why we use the term “asexual” to apply to people, I finally understand myself. And it’s liberating.
It took me so long because I kept going back and forth thinking “but I’ve felt ____, that means I can’t be ace, right?” But finally understanding the difference between attraction and desire was really instrumental in me finally “identifying.”
So, in all, I can count the number of guys that I’ve been romantically attracted to on two hands. And I have felt sexual attraction for none of them. And I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with that.
So anyway, if you’ve read this post, I hope you understand asexuality better. And while it might not apply to you or have any relevance to you ever, I hope you really understand better how to differentiate between different types of attraction. Attraction of any kind has a lot of influence on your feelings, and feelings are confusing. As you understand the source of your feelings and which types of attractions you’re feeling toward different people in your life, it could really help you understand yourself and your relationships better.