Modern Mythology: Ace Up My Sleeve
Asexual. Defined as a person who does not experience sexual attraction. It seems like a simple enough concept, yet there are a million myths and misconceptions about asexuality, going from amusingly wrong to offensive and creepy. To help dispel some of these myths, though, it helps to understand better the components of a sexual orientation.
Most people understand the sexual preference spectrum: you can be physically attracted to men, to women, to both, or to the whole gender spectrum (pansexual, usually including being attracted specifically to trans- as well as cis-gendered individuals), along with other points along the spectrum. But there is a similar spectrum of romantic preference, where you are get the “crush” feeling of attraction to any of the groups listed before. And then there’s the sexual attraction spectrum, ranging from asexual to hypersexual. These spectra are orthogonal to each other: that is, you can sort of picture it as a three dimensional graph. A person can fall on any point: they can be sexually attracted to men, romantically attracted to anyone, and have a high degree of attraction. Or, they can experience no sexual attraction to anyone, but be romantically attracted to women. Additionally, there is a distinction between sexual attraction and sexual desire or arousal. Attraction is, to quote a friend of mine, “looking at someone and saying ‘I’d tap that’.” Sexual desire is the unconscious physical drive to have sex. The story is still more complex than that, but it’s good enough for the moment.
So, back to asexuality. In no particular order, here are a few of the most prevalent myths about asexuals.
- Wait, you can just bud off a new person from yourself? I thought only ameobas and lizards can do stuff like that.
While this would be totally awesome, no, asexual as an orientation is not the same as asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction is when an organism can create new members of its own species without exchanging genetic material with another, so the new organisms are genetically identical to the parent. An asexual person, however, experiences no sexual attraction. Some are indifferent to sex, others are repulsed. Some experience sexual desire, others don’t. But none of them is capable of asexual reproduction.
- So, you’re saving yourself for marriage?
This one assumes that asexuality is the same thing as celibacy. Celibacy, however, is a conscious decision to not have sex, for any number of reasons. Asexuality is just a thing a person is: there is no conscious “Oh, hey, I don’t want to have sex.” That individual simply never feels attracted to another person in that way.
- Don’t worry, you’ll find someone!
Again, assuming that asexuality is either code for celibacy, or for being bad at relationships. Remember the distinction between the romantic and sexual attraction spectra? Many asexuals find fulfilling, purely romantic relationships, indistinguishable from falling in love in many cases, that simply don’t involve sex. Others are satisfied with just forming close friendships, without needing sexual or romantic elements at all.
You’ve just never tried it. Really, give it a shot, and you’ll find it amazing.
This is like telling someone who’s straight that they should give gay sex a try, or vis versa. It’s not really the point. Some asexuals are repulsed by the idea of sex. They just do not want it, and make that clear in any sort of relationships they engage in. Others are indifferent to sex, and some of these form romantic, and even sexual relationships with sexual individuals. They may even enjoy it, still have a libido, etc., but simply not be sexually attracted to anyone. There’s also people on the asexual spectrum, referred to as demisexuals or grey-asexuals, who will experience sexual attraction to certain people after a strong emotional, often romantic, connection has been established. These individuals tend to identify as ace (asexual), but do have typical sexual relationships in those scenarios.
- Have you had your hormones checked? Where you abused as a child? Do you have some sort of mental problem?
Asexuality, just like any other sexual orientation, is not a disorder or a problem. It is just a facet of a person’s identity. As mentioned before, it’s not a conscious act to abstain from sex. It’s rarely the result of hormonal imbalances, abuse, or mental disorders, and sexual attraction should not be the only factor, or even the most important one, in determining if an individual has a true medical issue. Additionally, that is information only important to a person’s doctor, to themselves, and to those whom they feel like sharing that information, not with every single person who finds out one is ace.
There are a ton of other misconceptions about asexuality, such as the list provided here, but that’s enough to get you started. For more information about asexuality, check out the H2G2 article and AVEN.