How I became aware - and proud - of my asexual identity

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Image credit: Sharon McCutcheon

How I became aware - and proud - of my asexual identity

October 28, 2019
Content Warning: This article includes mentions of sex, but no graphic or explicit descriptions. Note: All descriptions of asexuality presented in this piece are defined by the author. Click here to learn more about asexuality from Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN)

Growing up, like many kids, I was often confronted with sex and sexuality in ways that perplexed me. My siblings and I would often talk about celebrities: their looks, their lives, and who our crushes were. My sisters would all gush about boys they found attractive, even when these men were easily twice our age. I was baffled. I didn’t know these people. How on earth could I possibly be attracted to them?

Then when I came out to my parents as pansexual in high school, my mom’s reaction was to ask how I could possibly enjoy sex lots of “different ways.” My face turned bright red, and I stammered, hastily assuring her this had absolutely nothing to do with sex, but that I just felt the same way about people of all genders. And whenever I went to the mall with friends or family, I would determinedly avoid looking at the Victoria’s Secret window. The lacy lingerie on display made me incredibly uncomfortable, as if I was looking at a naked body, some sexual secret that I didn’t want to be a part of.

It wasn’t until I was in college, and dating an asexual person, that I finally acknowledged my sexuality. We had a long discussion one night in May of my freshman year, and everything I had been keeping hidden since eighth grade came bubbling to the surface: I had never experienced sexual attraction.

As an outspoken queer person and activist, I was ashamed that it had taken me so long to realize this. Why? The answer was simple: I had no information on the intricacies of the asexual spectrum, and I was confusing sex drive for sexual attraction.

Since that initial conversation, I’ve had to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about sex, sexual attraction, and everything in between. Since I assumed that my experience was allosexual (the opposite of asexual; someone who experiences full sexual attraction), I now had to learn about a world that I had no clue existed.

An asexual person experiences a lack of sexual attraction, and the asexuality spectrum refers to the full range of individuals under the asexual umbrella, including but not limited to, identities such as greysexual and demisexual, who may experience little to no sexual attraction. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but what even is sexual attraction?

Sexual attraction is a form of attraction in which someone finds another person sexually appealing, becomes “turned on” by that person’s physical appearance or qualities, and wants to engage in sexual activities with them due to their “erotic appeal.”

That’s great, now what about sex drive? I have a high sex drive, and that factor stopped me from learning more and accepting my asexuality for many years. Sex drive (libido) is the physical state of wanting or not wanting sex in general. Just because someone has a high sex drive and wants to engage in sex often (in theory), doesn’t mean they are willing to have sex with anyone and everyone they see. Likewise, someone could be sexually attracted to their partner, but have a low sex drive, and not want to have sex often, even though the attraction does not diminish.

Representations of asexual people (refering to all people on the asexual spectrum) are few and far between. This lack of representation can lead to negative stereotypes, such as assuming that the community is incredibly homogenous, with all of us hating sex and being anti-sex. This could not be farther from the truth. The ace community is just as diverse as any group in terms of attitudes towards sex.

Two scales are often conflated with each other, and that is: general attitudes towards sex and personal attitudes towards sex. When thinking about sex in general, one can range from being sex positive (believing sex to be something that people should be free to engage in if they so choose); to advocating for sexual freedom; to being sex negative (believing that sex is a bad and evil act that should not be engaged in or talked about.) A sex neutral individual has no stance on the matter or is indifferent.

When thinking about attitudes towards sex personally, the scale ranges from sex favorable (desiring to have sex, finding pleasure and enjoyment from sex), to sex neutral (indifference towards sex, would be okay having or not having sex); to sex repulsed (finding the act of sex personally unfavorable, regardless of general feelings towards sex: a strong desire not to engage in sexual actions.)

An asexual person could be sex repulsed, and have zero desire to engage in sex. They could be sex neutral, and would not initaite sex for pleasure, but might enjoy being able to please their partner. An asexual person could also be sex favorable, have a high sex drive, and desire sex often. All of these descriptions, as well as everything in between, are equally valid representations and ways to be ace. None of these attitudes and actions would make anyone less ace.

I am asexual, I have a high sex drive, and I am sex favorable. My partner is also ace. We have sex relatively frequently, and this baffles most allosexual people we talk to. How on earth can we enjoy sex if we’re asexual?

Having sex is one of many intimate acts between me and my partner, just like sharing secrets or breaking down in front of them. It is emotional, and it is physical, but it is not sexual. I am not turned on by my partner’s naked body. Thinking of them does not make me want to have sex. To me, sex is not sexual. It is simply one experience of many that I engage in.

Many asexual people do not like having sex. However, some do and some have no preference. It is ludicrous to always ask that ace people reveal their sex lives, histories, and preferences over and over again just because it is harder to understand. We owe no one anything—not sex, not explanations, not a detailed infographic explaining our personal journey and attitudes.

Asexual people are simply those who experience little to no sexual attraction. That statement alone has no effect on or relation to: how many people we’ve had sex with, whether we like sex, our libido, our ways of dressing, or anything else. Asexuality is natural, and there is nothing wrong with us or our bodies. We are here, we are queer, and we are diverse. There is no gender, no race, no ability status, no language, no class, no body type that is the “standard” asexual look. We are many, and we are one. To all my a-specs reading this: you are loved, you are valid, you are real. Go, be proud.

Sage Skyler is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and sophomore at Connecticut College. On campus, they are a mentor in the QueerPeer program, a graduate of the Student Support Network initiative, and part of SafetyNet, a group of peer educators about sexual violence. They are also a published writer and TEDx speaker, and pursue queer activism in everything they do. 

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