By Ryann Kirk
“You just need to find the right dick to change you.”
I was told this at 17 by a guy who I barely knew because I didn’t want to have sex with him.
For the longest time, I knew I wasn’t interested in having sex. I never really saw people in that type of way and the thought of having sex physically disgusted me. Everyone I told about my feelings simply told me I’d grow out of it, that I was just too young or that I hadn’t found the right person yet. But, here I am years later having experienced multiple relationships and a lot of self-realization, and I still feel exactly the same.
Despite knowing for so long about my lack of sexual attraction, it wasn’t until high school that I realized there was a word for it.
What is Asexuality?
While sexuality is already a spectrum, asexuality has a spectrum itself. So while asexual can mean one thing for one individual, it also serves as an umbrella term for many other identities, therefore the definition can vary from person to person.
The most commonly known definition of asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Many associate this with not wanting sex at all or a non-existent sex drive, but that isn’t necessarily true. Asexuality is a spectrum, and that means there are many different types of asexual people, so there can be some who are sex-repulsed and never want sex while others may have a high sex drive and are OK with having sex.
According to a William’s Institute study, around 1.7% of people identify as asexual. While that may seem like a small amount, it equates to over 75 million people. Along with that, out of a sample of 40,000 LGBTQ youth, the Trevor Project found that 10% of them identified as asexual or on the ace spectrum.
This wide spectrum of asexuality can make it so hard for non-asexual people to understand. Many people can’t fathom the idea of not wanting sex or not thinking about it, and different ways that people identify with asexuality adds to the confusion. The amount of times I’ve had to explain myself is too high, and that’s something that most asexual people have to deal with since the world is so uneducated about it.
“It’s definitely all over the spectrum when it comes to the type of people you like, how stressful or not stressful it is, but it’s a constant because of how unknown the whole identity is as a whole,” said Nicole Allen, a 21-year-old aspiring author. “You get the strangest encounters due to just ill-informed people that could be saved if they had more open talks or more education in schools about it.”
Lack of Knowledge
This lack of education not only hinders both non-asexual and asexual people. Since it is not a commonly known sexual identity, many asexual people don’t discover themselves until much later in life. Even if they know deep down that something is different about them, they don’t have any idea why, and that makes it harder to find a label that suits them.
Teresa Abbey, a fifth-year communications major, explained she didn’t fully identify as asexual until recently because she didn’t know about it until a year ago. She said, “It doesn’t help that when all I have to help me is Google. It’s not like any friends or family are going to understand because all they say is ‘You just have to find the right person.’ So you’re like, ‘You know, maybe I don’t know.’”
The fact that our society is extremely sex-focused does not help our case. Everywhere you look you can find sex — in movies, TV, books, video games, school and even casual conversations.
In fact, society is so sex forward that for the longest time asexuality was classified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) instead of a recognized sexual identity. In 2013, the DSM-5 added in a clause under Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder that states if the person identifies as asexual, the diagnoses do not apply. Even with that addition, there lies the implication that asexual people are lacking or somehow damaged because they don’t experience sexual attraction. The fact that asexuality is even in the DSM shows that many have considered it a disorder.
There’s more to life than sex
The hypersexualization in our society makes the existence of asexual people baffling to others. We’re taught that humans are sexual beings, yet that is evidently not true. There is so much more to relationships than sex, and there are other ways of being intimate.
“Usually, people these days think sex is a priority and they see it as something that they need, they should have it, and to me as someone who is asexual, I don’t care for it. I don’t have a connection to it. I don’t want it. So, I tend to just find things that are much better than sex, like going out for a picnic, or making a cake or watching a movie. There are better things than doing the nasty,” said Salem Rivera, a former art major.
The Impact on Relationships and Mental Health
Always hearing how important sex is in relationships and how no one would want to date me if I didn’t want to fuck them led to terrible body image and mental health issues. I constantly felt like something was wrong with me and that I needed to be fixed.
Whenever I got into a new relationship, I resigned myself to just letting it happen cause otherwise, they wouldn’t stay with me. I told myself to just get drunk beforehand so I wouldn’t really process it or to be OK with my partner cheating on me. I’ve told countless of my potential partners that they can have someone on the side to be sexually satisfied.
After looking on asexual forums, this is something many people struggle with. On Reddit or The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, there are countless posts asking for advice on how to get through with doing it. It was seeing these posts that made the realization sink in that sex was an inevitability unless I got lucky and found another asexual person to date. Many times, relationships will be strained because the other person wants something more than what the asexual person can give.
“If it’s somebody I’m talking to, like romantic-wise, like they want to try to become something more, some people would be like ‘OK, that’s fine I respect what you identify as.’ The other half tends to call me boring or say I just haven’t found the right person, I haven’t had the ‘good one’ there’s really no in-between, they’re either supportive or assholes,” Rivera explained.
One big solace towards being asexual is the acceptance the LGBTQ+ community has for us. Most other LGBTQ+ people accept asexuals into their communities with open arms, and while there are some people who don’t recognize asexuality as a legitimate identity, that number is far outweighed by the ones who do accept us.
Despite all the challenges there are with being asexual, it’s who we are and nothing is going to change that. Just like other LGBTQ+ identities are becoming more and more well-known, it’s time for asexuality to be talked about. The severe lack of asexual representation and education is detrimental to us all, and it’s important for society to relearn the importance of sex in everyone’s lives.
To any other asexual people reading this, you’re not alone in your experiences. There’s a whole community of people out there who know exactly how you feel, and if they don’t, they’re willing to be there for you. And if you aren’t asexual and had never heard about it before now, maybe it’s time to do some digging so you can realize that sex is not universal.