Clear? Cool. Here we go.
So... what even is asexuality?
You know, human sexuality is this wonderfully rich, complex thing. I firmly believe that there are as many sexualities as their are people on the planet. That said, asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction to anyone.
That doesn't mean that they don't feel any romantic attraction or are unable to fall in love. It's just that sexual attraction isn't really part of their world.
What is a lack of sexual attraction to anyone like?
So, you know how you might identify as straight, for example, and there's someone of the opposite sex who is your friend. They're awesome, and fun, and you like spending time with them, but you have never felt the urge to sleep with them. It's like that.
Or, Imagine your favourite painting. It's beautiful right? You could stare at it all day. It makes you happy just looking at it. You recognise its beauty. You like being around it. But you don't want to fuck it, am I right? That's people to most asexuals.
No sex. Got it.
Eeeeeeeeeeeh.... not true. Plenty of asexuals engage in sexual activities, including self pleasure, for a variety of reasons. Asexuality is not libido. Those are different. Maybe they really enjoy sexual pleasure, but just don't feel the need to include anyone else. Because, you know, they're not attracted to anyone. Maybe they're in love with someone, and enjoy being that close to their partner, or find joy in making their partners... uh... happy. Or maybe they're not hard asexual, but somewhere along the spectrum, like I am.
Whoa... There's so much to unpack here...
Yes. Human sexuality is wonderfully weird.
Where do I even start?
At the beginning, I imagine.
Right, so what's this about a spectrum?
It's much like orientation, where at one end is absolutely completely straight and the other end completely homosexual. Most people fall somewhere along that line. Some people are much more straight, while others are much more gay. Some people are somewhere around the middle. Everyone appears somewhere on that scale.
The same is true of asexuals. Imagine a sliding scale where one end is hyper sexual (sexually attracted to literally every single person of their orientation), and the other end completely asexual (not sexually attracted to anyone at all ever). Most people tend more towards somewhere around the middle. Some of us are much closer to the ends. I am one of the folks that tends very near the hard asexual end, but not all the way. There have been instances of sexual attraction in my life, but those were extremely rare and required a perfect storm of circumstance.
So... You identify as asexual, but you've felt sexual attraction?
I identify, strictly speaking, as demisexual or grey-ace. That simply means that I do feel sexual attraction, but it's so rare as to be practically non-existent for me. Other demisexuals or grey-aces may encounter it more or less than I do. Like I said, a spectrum.
There have been occasions, very rarely, when I've definitely felt sexual attraction to someone.
Anyone I might know?
That's really not your business.
Just curious, what is the perfect storm you require to feel attraction?
Well, for me personally, I need to have known the person for a long time before there's even the possibility. That said, there's absolutely no promise that just because I've known someone a long time that I'll ever experience anything even remotely like sexual attraction towards them. It's a prerequisite, but not a guarantee.
There are other things, of course, like compatibility of values and so forth... the usual stuff for building solid relationships. Anyway, that's where I am. Other people on the asexual side of the spectrum will have it happen differently.
Okay, I think I have it. What about this libido thing, then?
You mean how asexuality has nothing to do with libido? Oh, that's easy. Libido has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation, or their level of attractedness to someone. It's our sexual attraction to other people that's the whole point of the label. The biology still works. It's absolutely possible for an asexual to have a high libido.
How would that work, exactly?
Thank heavens for sex toys, is all I'm saying.
So, asexuals are okay with sex?
Some of us. Many, I'd wager. I know I am. But some aren't. For some, the very thought of sex makes their skin crawl. These are sex-adverse asexuals. I'm not one of them. I'm quite sex-positive, actually, and even find the whole subject of human sexuality utterly fascinating. You know, the way a biologist might be entirely fascinated by the mating habits of the eastern pine slug (there's no such creature as the eastern pine slug, to the best of my knowledge). It's interesting for me... in a clinical kind of way.
Okay. I think. What about asexuals falling in love, then?
Right, so this is where a tonne of people get confused, because there is a difference between orientation and asexuality. It is entirely possible for an asexual to be gay, for example, and because love is actually not dependent on sexual attraction (even if sexual people say that is so... it's actually not), they might enter into a gay relationship.
Romantic orientation is different from sexual orientation. So, an asexual might have a romantic attraction to people of the same gender as they are, making them gay and ace at the same time. Confusing, right? Human sexuality, ladles and jellyspoons.
Uh... so... are you gay?
No. I'm boring old hetero-romantic. Before you ask, that means that I tend to form romantic attachments with people of the opposite gender. That said, I'm not ruling anything out. Maybe one day I'll fall in love with a woman. Who knows, at this point? All I can say for sure is that the few instances of sexual attraction I've felt were towards people of the opposite gender, and when I imagine myself with someone, they're always men.
Sorry, ladies ...?
This whole thing is very confusing.
I know, right? Imagine trying to live it. I was a mess, let me tell you.
If everything is such a damned mess, why bother with labels?
Some people don't ascribe labels to themselves, which is fine. However, finding the label asexual was a godsend. It lined up mostly with my experiences, provided a stable grounding force, and gave me a whole community of folks who are like me. For someone who felt so alone in the world, that was huge. It was a massive help.
It also helps communicate effectively with people - provided they don't get all weirdly defensive about how someone else identifies - and let's them know what you're all about in a succinct manner. Labels can be useful.
Well, I still don't really get it.
That's cool. It's confusing. I get it. But hey, maybe this has piqued your curiosity, and you'll head off and do some more research. I highly recommend on people educating themselves about this stuff.
I hope my Q&A has helped you get started on that educational journey. Good luck to you, imaginary stranger.