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Asexuality can refer to a sexual orientation or to asexual reproduction; only the sexual orientation is addressed here. Asexuals (or aces) are those who identify as having little to no sexual attraction. This indicates a lack of sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of gender, sex, etc. Unlike celibacy, asexuality is not a conscious decision. As long as this lack of desire does not stem from injury or abuse, it is as healthy as any other orientation.
Asexuality has a relatively simple definition. However, much like the similarly-simple atheism, there are many variations of sexualities and romantic desires within the asexual community — analogous to agnostic atheists, gnostic atheists, etc. This article explains many of these differences.
Despite literally not (or mostly not) doing anything with their sexuality, asexuals are still viewed extremely negatively by many members of society — in fact, more negatively than bisexuals or homosexuals. In recent years, the asexual community has been targeted for mass bullying and abuse by asexual exclusionists.
Asexuality is sometimes confused with the idea of "gender-neutrality" where an individual does not wish to express themselves as either male or female, as a political statement, to prevent gender stereotyping, or as an expression of a non-binary or fluid gender identity. Asexuality is specifically a sexual orientation and thus deals with sexual attraction, rather than a gender issue. Additionally, asexuality has no bearing on one's sex drive. Also, just because asexuality means a lack of sexual attraction, it doesn't mean a lack of general love, nor does it mean the person is somehow "not ready" or hasn't "found the right person". Saying that to an asexual is a surefire way to offend the person.[citation NOT needed]
Gupta notes that "the line between a [sexual] desire disorder and asexuality is not clear cut" not least because asexuals "may experience distress, so distress alone does not separate a desire disorder from asexuality" but also that "asexuality does not need to be distressing". Further, and possibly contrary to stereotype, many asexuals "believe in the usefulness of low sexual desire as a diagnostic category" and support "efforts to develop treatments for sexual desire disorders", indicating that many asexuals do not want to prevent others from having fulfilling sexual lives, if others are so inclined.
Asexuals are not a homogenous group. In a 2011 survey of the online asexual communities, only 56% themselves identified as "asexual". Fully 64% identified as "atheist OR agnostic OR nonreligious" while only 22% identified as "Catholic, Christian, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, OR non-denominational". 41% consider themselves part of the LGBT community, 38% consider themself an ally, and 12% do not.
The most popular online forum for asexuals is the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). The forum and several of its members are the subject of the 2011 documentary (A)sexual; the forum itself has been studied in terms of its ability to convey "counterpublic communication".
Several studies have involved the asexual population and literature:
- Miller 2011 (a user of the AVEN forums) surveyed the users of AVEN for their identities and preferences.
- Robbins et al. 2015 "analyzed the “coming out” narratives of 169 self-identified asexual individuals recruited from three online asexual communities".
- Sheehan 2015 reviewed "work[s] regarding asexuality [....] that were written for a mainstream audience", namely the documentary (A)sexual and Julie Sondra Decker’s monograph, The Invisible Orientation (2014).
- Gupta 2015 conducted "qualitative in-depth interviews with thirty asexually-identified individuals living in the United States in order to contribute to our understanding of when low sexual desire should be treated as a medical or mental health issue and when it should be treated as a benign sexual variation".
Aegosexual or autochorissexual: A person who feels a disconnect between themselves and the object of attraction, experiencing sexual fantasies in a detached manner (often in third-person) without any desire to take part in them in real life. The term "autochorissexual" was first coined in 2012 by Anthony F. Bogaert who described it as an "identity-less sexuality" in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior; the more easily-pronounced term "aegosexual" has since become preferable.
Autosexual: A person who masturbates, but has little to no interest in sex with other people. This does not necessarily mean attraction to oneself.
Demisexual: A person who "experiences sexual attraction [only] after forming a deep emotional bond". This is not same as feeling uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with someone you don't love, rather this is simply not feeling sexual attraction until after you feel emotionally connected. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 21% identified as "demisexual".
A Gray-Ace, Gray-A, or Gray Asexual is a person who "experiences sexual attraction seldomly". Gray-asexuals may not consider themselves completely asexual, in that they might feel some level of sexual interest or even engage in sex under very limited circumstances, but not enough to be considered allosexual. Some however, still consider themselves as being completely asexual, and generally are considered to be part of the spectrum. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 21% identified as "gray-asexual".
Microlabels also exist other than these four.
The term "alloromantic" refers to experiencing typical romantic feelings for others but not necessarily sexual ones. Despite their lack of interest in sex, many asexuals can and do experience romantic feelings. This is known as the Split Attraction Model (SAM), which can be used to separate romantic attraction from sexual attraction. People who are not asexual can still identify with romantic orientations, such as aromantic, heteroromantic, panromantic, biromantic, etc. People who aren't asexual can also still use the Split Attraction Model if they so desire. The "normal" position of romantic attraction would simply be called "romantic". Persons may also "affix prefixes such as 'homo/hetero/bi/pan-' to their identity in order to qualify what gender(s) they find most romantically attractive".
A Heteroromantic is a person who is romantically attracted to a member of the opposite sex or gender. Heteroromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons, including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not necessarily sexually attracted to their romantic partners. Most heterosexual people are also heteroromantic. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 22% identified as "heteroromantic".
A Homoromantic is a person who "is romantically attracted to people of the same gender". Homoromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons, including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not necessarily sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to homoromantic is homosexual. Most homosexuals are also homoromantic. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 6% identified as "homoromantic".
A Biromantic is a person who is romantically attracted to two or more sexes or genders. Biromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to biromantic is bisexual.
A Panromantic is a person who is romantically attracted to others but is not limited by the other's sex or gender. Similar to biromantic. Panromantics will tend to feel that their partner's gender does little to define their relationship. Often someone identifying as biromantic will also choose to identify as panromantic. Panromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to panromantic is pansexual. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 22% identified as "Bi/Panromantic" and a further 1% identified as "Androgynoromantic", roughly comparable to panromantic.
- Polyromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to some genders, but not all genders like a panromantic. This is not to be confused with polyamory, though it is entirely possible to be asexual and polyamorous. The sexual counterpart of this is polysexuality.
An Aromantic (or aro) is a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others, and includes "those who see their ideal relationships as similar to those of platonic friendships". While this often is coupled with asexuality, one can be aromantic and be an allosexual. Bear in mind that aromantic is just as much of a spectrum as asexuality is. Just as some asexuals experience sexual feelings in limited capacities, some aromantics experience romantic feelings in limited capacities. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, 16% identified as "aromantic" and 2% wrote in an answer stating that there was no difference between romantic and non-romantic attraction.
A Gray-Romantic is a person with a romantic orientation that is somewhere between aromantic and romantic. In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, ca. 4% wrote in an answer stating that they were gray romantic.
A Demiromantic is a type of grey-romantic who "has the propensity for romantic attraction after they formed a deep emotional bond with their partners". The sexual counterpart to demiromantic is demisexual. Demiromantic people may also prefix a gender orientation to the label, as in "Demi-heteroromantic". In a 2011 survey of online asexual communities, ca. 5% wrote in an answer stating that they were demiromantic.
Again, there is a plethora of microlabels in regards to romantic orientation.
- Sheehan, Ryan. A-Identity Politics: Asexual Exceptionalism, Precarity, and Activism. Diss. George Mason University, 2015.
- "Allosexual", AVENWiki, The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.
- Robbins, Nicolette K., Kathryn Graff Low, and Anna N. Query. "A Qualitative Exploration of the “Coming Out” Process for Asexual Individuals." Archives of sexual behavior (2015): 1-10.
- Hodson, Gordon. (September 1, 2012). Psychology Today. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/721704/LGBT-survey-research-report.pdf. Government Equalities Office. Retrieved on 6 December 2020.
- Gupta, Kristina. "What Does Asexuality Teach Us About Sexual Disinterest? Recommendations for Health Professionals Based on a Qualitative Study with Asexually-Identified People." Journal of sex & marital therapy just-accepted (2015): 00-00.
- Miller, Tristan. Analysis of the 2011 Asexual Awareness Week Community Census. AVEN.
- "Welcome". The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.
- (A)sexual, IMDb
- Renninger, Bryce J. "“Where I can be myself… where I can speak my mind”: Networked counterpublics in a polymedia environment." New Media & Society (2014): 1461444814530095.
- Dansa, Adjoa D. What Being Asexual Means to Me. Teen Vogue, October 22, 2017.
- Thomas, Melody. There is more to asexuality than its definition implies. Stuff Ltd., June 26, 2018.
- Kumar, Shikha. Meet India’s newest sexual minority: The asexuals. Hindustani Times, March 18, 2017.
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- Brogaert, A. F. What Asexuality Tells Us About Sexuality. Archives of Sexual Behaviour 46 (3), 629-630 (2017).
- Jourian, T. J. "Evolving Nature of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." New Directions for Student Services 2015.152 (2015): 11-23.
- https://www.asexuality.org/?q=grayarea. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Retrieved on 6 December 2020.
- https://www.asexuality.org/?q=romanticorientation. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Retrieved on 6 December 2020.