Asexual is the adjective form of asexuality, a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction.
The opposite of asexual is allosexual, which is the tendency to experience sexual attraction, sexual desire, or want to engage in sexual activity and relationships. People of any gender can be asexual.
The Asexual Spectrum
Asexuality is said to exist within the asexual spectrum. People on the asexual spectrum (also referred to as “ace-spec” or simply “ace” individuals) feel little to no sexual attraction to others, or experience little to no desire to engage in sexual activity.
The ace spectrum is an umbrella term that encompasses a broader category of identities that identity more strongly with the asexual portion of the greater sexuality spectrum than the sexual (or allosexual) end.
Other notable identities and microlabels under the umbrella of the asexual spectrum include:
- Demisexual: An individual who only experiences sexual attraction towards another after they have developed a strong emotional connection with that person.
- Gray-asexual or graysexual: An individual who occasionally, however rarely, experiences sexual attraction, possibly only under certain conditions. They may or may not feel the desire to act on this attraction.
- Recipsexual (or Reciprosexual): An individual who only experiences sexual attraction toward someone upon realizing they already feel a sexual attraction toward them.
- Fraysexual: An individual who may experience sexual attraction to someone they just met but that attraction may fade or disappear as they get to know the person.
- Cupiosexual: An individual who doesn’t experience sexual attraction yet desires a sexual relationship.
- Akoisexual: An individual who may experience sexual attraction until it is reciprocated, at which time the attraction may fade or disappear.
- Placiosexual: An individual who desires to perform sex acts on someone but not be the recipient of sexual attention or stimulation.
- Aceflux: When one’s sexuality fluctuates between asexual and allosexual
- Apothisexual: An individual who does not experience sexual attraction and is sex-repulsed.
Asexuality is a Valid Sexual Orientation, not a Sexual Dysfunction
Asexuality is not abstinence, celibacy, genophobia (a pathological fear of sex), or a temporary lack of interest in sex due to any number of extenuating life circumstances, nor is it a sexual dysfunction or mental disorder.
Until recently, any lack of desire or strong aversion or sex was either considered a mental disorder or symptom of one. This has since been rectified in the fifth and most recent edition of the American Psychologist’s Association’s manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), wherein it is noted that “If a lifelong lack of sexual desire is better explained by one’s self-identification as ‘asexual,’ then a diagnosis of [Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder] would not be made.”
Asexuality and Romantic Relationships
Asexual people may lack sexual attraction or sexual desire but this does not preclude them from desiring and forming close, intimate, and/or romantic relationships. Asexuality does not make one devoid of emotional needs or desire for interpersonal connection. Unless they are also aromantic (as in the case of an aroace individual; i.e. someone does not experience romantic or sexual attraction) asexual people may desire and seek out romantic relationships.
Since they can overlap, sexual and romantic orientation are often conflated. However, they are two distinctly different terms and concepts. Sexual orientation indicates the sex or gender of the person one is likely to feel sexual attraction or desire towards. Romantic orientation indicates the sex or gender of the person with whom someone is most likely to have a romantic attraction, develop feelings of romantic love, or want to pursue a romantic relationship.
Ace individuals may engage in physically intimate behaviors such as hand-holding, kissing and cuddling, or they may not. They may participate in sexual activity out of curiosity or because the special circumstances under which they can feel sexual attraction or desire are met. This all depends on their individual attitudes and preferences about sex.
Asexual Orientation vs Sexual Behavior
While one’s sexual orientation can influence one’s sexual behaviors, sexual orientation and sexual behavior are not the same things.
Asexuality is distinct from any conscious and deliberate choice to abstain from sex or celibacy. Comparatively, not all asexual people are sex-repulsed and may willingly and consensually engage in sexual activity such as masturbation or with a romantic partner under certain conditions.
Every person’s attitudes and behaviors about sex will vary from one person to another, regardless of their sexual orientation. An asexual identity alone may not reveal exactly how an individual feels about sex. Therefore other descriptors can be used to convey these attitudes.
- Sex-repulsed: describes a person who is disgusted by the idea of themselves having sex or by being exposed to sexual content or situations. This may manifest as strong, visceral reactions.
- Sex-averse: describes a person who does not want to have sex. They may not be disgusted by the notion of sex.
- Sex-indifferent: describes a person who is not particularly averse to having sex but does find it to be personally satisfying either. They may be comfortable engaging with sex with a partner but is not motivated to seek it out on their own.
- Sex-favorable: describes a person who enjoys having sex under certain conditions. Some sex-favorable ace folks quite enjoy sex under those particular conditions and may even seek it out on their own accord. For example, this may occur when a demisexual person forms a relationship with someone which facilitates a strong sexual attraction and desire to engage with them.
Asexual Pride Flag and Important Dates
The asexual pride flag in use today was voted in by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), known as the largest resource for asexual and aromantic people. The flag sprots horizontal stripes that run from top to bottom in black, grey, white, and purple. The black represents asexuals, the grey represents demisexuality and gray-sexuality, the white stripe symbolizes allosexual partners and allies, and the purple holds space for the entire community.
Ace Week, formerly known as Asexual Awareness Week, has run annually since 2010 and takes place during the last week of October. International Asexuality Day, co-founded by ace activist Yasmin Benoit, is celebrated on April 6th.