You may be hearing a lot about asexuality and the asexual spectrum, as societies and cultures learn more about less visible sexualities.
Just as people who are polyamorous are becoming more vocal about their desires and choices and the long history of polyamory, asexuality and the a-spec or acespec (asexuality spectrum) are coming into public awareness.
What Does Asexual Mean?
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction, with no desire or very low desire to engage in sexual activities with others.
While asexuality has in recent years gained more adherents who self-identify as asexual, most experts agree that it is no more or less common than it has always been, just more visible.
Most estimate about one percent of the population is asexual or on the asexuality spectrum.
Asexuality refers to not experiencing sexual attraction or sexual desire for others. Asexual people may have sexual feelings or sensations, such as orgasm or masturbation, but often describe them as mechanical or biological occurrences like sneezing or stretching.
Asexual people—aces or the ace community—may experience romantic attraction and relationships, or the desire for relationships, but don’t feel sexual attraction or don’t desire sex.
Many asexuals feel that love is not sex and that the two don’t go together. Some people who identify on the asexuality spectrum are aromantic—they do not experience sexual attraction, nor do they experience romantic desires.
Asexuality is not the same as celibacy. Celibacy is a period of time or a lifetime of not having sex, but a celibate person can and often does feel sexual attraction and desire.
Someone may be celibate for religious reasons, such as nuns or Buddhist monks, or for health reasons, or other personal reasons, or they may choose to wait to meet someone special or marry before they engage in sex.
Not all asexual people are celibate, either. Some choose to engage in sex for a partner’s sake, or to have a family, or in exchange for romantic and emotional intimacy, even if they do not feel sexual attraction themselves.
What Is the Asexual Spectrum?
The asexual spectrum, or a-spec, is exactly how it sounds. Asexuality is a spectrum. Not everyone is the same or experiences asexuality or sexuality the same.
Some people who identify as asexual never have sex, for example. Others are in a sexual relationship. Some enjoy sex for emotional reasons and some find it impossible to. Some experience low desire rarely, and some never.
Some asexuals enjoy romantic relationships and touching or kissing, but do not want sexual connections. Some prefer it the other way around, because one can scratch an itch so to speak, but they can’t relate to emotional intimacy through physical acts.
Aces, as asexual people sometimes call themselves, may simply use “asexual” or they may identify as something else. Here are some of the asexuality orientations on the ace spectrum. There are many more, but these give an overview of the spectrum.
9 Asexual Orientations
1. Sex-Averse Asexuality
Ace people who are totally uninterested in sexual contact or sexual behavior sometimes describe themselves as sex averse.
2. Sex-Favorable Asexual
Sex favorable aces are sex positive people who don’t feel uncomfortable or “icky” about sex. They are comfortable not experiencing sexual attraction and comfortable with the fact that most people do.
They are comfortable being themselves in a sexual world and understand why others enjoy sex. They may enjoy sex in certain circumstances, or have sex with a partner because that partner needs sex.
3. Sex-Indifferent Asexuality
Sex indifferent asexuality means the person could care less about sex. They are not interested in sex and they are not repulsed or averse. It would be like sweeping the kitchen or getting the mail.
4. Sex-Repulsed Asexuality
Some asexual people find sex and the whole idea of sex repulsive.
Cupiosexual on the asexual spectrum describes someone who chooses to have sex or desires sex even though they don’t experience sexual attraction.
They are interested in sex for reasons other than sexual attraction. They may want to be generous to their partner, or simply stay connected to a partner, or enjoy the emotional connection, or have a family.
6. Libidoist Asexual
Some asexual people have a high sex drive or a normal sex drive (whatever those mean!) While this is unusual and may not make sense on the surface, unpacking the difference between sexual tension or drive and attraction explains it. Like anyone else, some asexual people experience the physical and hormonal fluctuations of libido.
People on the asexuality spectrum who experience a libido do not feel attraction to other people. They describe their feelings as mechanical or biological pressure, a bodily function. Asexual people do not necessarily have low hormones, after all. They simply don’t experience interpersonal sexual attraction.
7. Nonlibidoist Asexual
The nonlibidoist does not have a sex drive. This asexual person does not experience sexual attraction, desire sex, feel sexual drives, or masturbate.
Graysexual is on the asexuality spectrum as the “gray area” between asexual and not asexual. Graysexual people may occasionally experience or enjoy sex or sexual attraction. It may be very limited or not very important to them. Or they may enjoy sex or experience sexual attraction now and again, or to a less intense degree, than others.
Graysexual people may feel they aren’t quite asexual but don’t identify as heterosexual or homosexual or other sexual because they just aren’t that into it, or they don’t see it as very important, or only feel that attraction to a limited level.
Demisexual is on the asexual spectrum, but also applies to people who don’t identify as asexual.
Demisexual people experience sexual attraction only when they feel they know someone and have an emotional bond or connection. They don’t experience attraction to people they don’t know, regardless how aesthetically beautiful or physically attractive those people are.
Demisexuals can be straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, polyamorous, kinky, vanilla, male, female, nonbinary or asexual, or any combination of these.
Asexual vs Aromantic
Sexual feelings and romantic feelings are different. They are connected for many, but even for those of us who equate those feelings and attractions, we don’t always do so.
Not everyone we feel sexual about do we desire romance and/or a relationship with, and vice versa. Asexual people often pursue relationships and romance but don’t feel sexual attraction.
Do you identify as asexual or on the asexual spectrum? Please share!