Asexuality

Dear Alice,

I would like to see your site at least mention asexuality (just once!). I submitted a question on this about a month ago which was not answered.

Answer

Dear Reader,

Thank you for asking about asexuality! Asexuality is often overlooked in research and can be wrongly simplified to celibacy or even labeled as a medical condition, both of which are extremely harmful to asexual communities. In a hypersexualized society, asexual experiences are often disregarded, even though asexuality is a valid and rich identity. People who are asexual are considered by many to be part of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual) communities. Asexuality is, by definition, the absence of sexual attraction to anyone. That said, asexual people (sometimes referred to as aces) have a range of different experiences, including various types of relationships with people of all genders.

Sexual attraction can be difficult to define, but it generally boils down to seeing opportunities for sexual activities as "inviting." This is different from having sexual desires, which can include masturbation or sexual fantasies. Sexual attraction can also be seen as a way to turn desires into real action. While broadly speaking, aces don't experience sexual attraction, they may still have sexual desires, with many reporting that they aren't centered around a particular individual. 

Just like other identities, whether or not people experience sexual attraction exists on a spectrum. The term for people who do experience sexual attraction is allosexual. Many people aren't familiar with this term because it's considered to be the default. Thinking of the spectrum of those who do experience sexual attraction and those who don't, some people hold identities between allosexual and asexual. This spectrum between allosexual and asexual encompasses those who may only experience sexual attraction in very specific circumstances and still consider themselves to be part of asexual communities. Some of these commonly referred to identities include gray asexuality and demisexuality. Those who identify as gray asexuals (sometimes called gray aces or gray-As) only experience sexual attraction on occasion. Some may experience it only in certain situations, very rarely, or have other feelings that they don't identify as being sexual. Demisexual people may experience sexual attraction, but only after a strong emotional bond has been formed. 

While many people use their sexual identity (gay, straight, pansexual, etc.) to refer to both their sexual and romantic orientations, they aren't always all-encompassing. A person who is asexual may also experience romantic attraction, even if they don't experience sexual attraction. For many aces, asexuality only relates to sexual attraction and doesn't necessarily define a person's romantic attraction. Asexual people can be romantically interested in people of any gender. Some people may also identify as aromantic (or aro). They may not experience romantic attraction, though they may experience sexual attraction. A person's different attractions are sometimes referred to using the split attraction model (SAM). Under the SAM, someone's romantic and sexual orientation aren't necessarily the same. For example, if a person who identifies as a man experiences no sexual attraction but feels romantic attraction towards someone who identifies as a woman, they may describe themselves as a heteroromantic asexual person. This can be applied to people of all genders and sexual/romantic attractions! Some ace people identify as both asexual and aromantic, and refer to themselves as asexual/aromantic or ace/aro.

Aces may choose to be in relationships. As with any relationship, these relationships will look different for every person, depending on their preferences, as well as their partner's. Some asexual people choose to have sex, either because they enjoy it or to benefit their partners, while others choose not to engage in sexual activities. Some ace people may also choose to be in queerplatonic relationships. These are relationships that are platonic in nature but have a much deeper emotional bond than would traditionally occur in a friendship. 

Because asexuality is often left out of conversations about sexual identity, it can be hard for folks to identify themselves as being asexual. Some people will have strong feelings against having sex, and know definitively that it isn't for them. Others may try sex and then realize later that they aren't interested in having it again. Others still may enjoy the experience of sex even if they aren't sexually attracted to the person they're having sex with. Like other sexual identities, asexual communities have lots of nuance, and what asexuality looks like for one person may not look the same for another. 

Take care,

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Summary of informative links

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Source 1:

SUMMARY

Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. Because everyone’s experience with asexuality is different, asexual people can still experience romantic attraction towards any gender. Some asexual people, however, may be aromantic meaning they have no romantic attraction at all.

Signs one may be asexual are different for everyone. One may assume they’re bad at sex or wonder why they are very disinterested in having it. Others may have sex and realize it is not something they are interested in doing again. Some know immediately they do not wish to get with anyone sexually. Everyone’s experience with their sexuality is unique!

 

Source 2:

SUMMARY

This source gives a comprehensive run-through of what asexuality is. Key points are as follows:

  • A concrete definition is that asexual people do not experience sexual attraction to others. Asexuality experiences are diverse. Some asexual people have sex, others are in relationships with no sex. In total, asexual people make up 1-6% of the world population;
  • It is common to misconceptualize asexual people as religious, celibate, or engaging in abstinence to save themselves;
  • The absence of sexual attraction is not necessarily the absence of sexual desire, sexual activity, or other forms of attraction;
  • Sexual attraction is when you see someone as ‘inviting’ forms of sexual engagement
  • Sexual desires can include masturbation or fantasizing. These desires are not always physically related to another human being. Usually, asexual people report that their sexual desires are ‘nondirected’, meaning that it is not focused on anyone
  • If an asexual person does have sex, it may be a desire to benefit or feel close to a partner
  • Asexual people can also be aromantic meaning that they do not feel the need to pursue romantic relationships. Usually, they are satisfied with friendships or being single. Of course, this is not the case for EVERYONE. An asexual person can very much have romantic interests;
    • There is a difference between romantic orientation and sexual identity. Romantically drawn to people of different, same, or both sexes, people on the asexual spectrum may consider themselves heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, etc.
  • More research and education need to be made on the experiences of asexual people. Often, it is simplified as celibacy or desire disorders (which is very much not accurate). In our hypersexualized society, it’s easy for people to downplay asexual experiences.

 

Source 3:

SUMMARY

Research is extremely limited on the meaning of split attraction. Despite searching through peer review websites and trusted research resources, there was no information except blogs written by those of the LGBTQ community themselves.

The split attraction model refers to sexual and romantic identity and the different kinds of attraction one can experience. Say a straight male feels a romantic attraction towards women and feels no sexual attraction for any gender. In this case, this person would be a heteroromantic asexual.



OVERALL CONCLUSIONS:

The previous response does not provide enough information to make clear what asexuality is. Likewise, the last paragraph is offensive. We should scratch the response and create a new one.

In the introduction, we should define asexuality using source 1. We should make clear how limited research on asexuality is using source 2. In a hypersexualized society, it is easy for people to disregard asexual experiences (last bullet point).

In a new paragraph, we can run through the information in source 2. What does it mean to lack sexual attraction? This paragraph should be primarily to differentiate attraction from desire. We should emphasize that asexuality is a spectrum, and how one engages with it is based on personal preference.

In a new paragraph, we can elaborate on this spectrum; specifically, the split attraction model. Using source 3, we can define this model. By using the example to make the difference between romantic and sexual orientation clear, we make clear why some asexual people can be in relationships or not. Using source 2, we can make our explanation more robust by explaining different titles one can hold under the split attraction model. It is different for every person!

In a new paragraph, we can talk about how one can tell they are asexual using source 1. We should emphasize that these are not all the ways to tell as everyone’s experience is unique.

 

Notes on research:

Information on this topic was very limited. With most articles being from LGBTQ+ advocacy blogs, there is little research done on the asexual community. More research is needed in this field.

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