Today is the second annual International Asexuality Day, which means it’s my day (and a bunch of other people’s too but I can share) and it means I’m not broken. I’m not the only one who feels the way I do.
Someone pointed out that asexuality is tricky because puberty doesn’t kickstart anything sexuality wise. Everyone else is discovering new feelings for other people while asexuals are discovering that giraffes have blue tongues.
You notice change. How often do you not notice there wasn’t one? When do you say, “everything’s going on the same way it’s been since I was a baby… there must be something seriously wrong”?
Plus hyperbole is a thing. People exaggerate all the time (like I just did). I can’t speak for every asexual out there but I figured that a lot of sex talk was outright exaggeration, kind of like how someone hauls in a fish not much bigger than a minnow. It slips free and suddenly, when it’s discussed with family and friends, it was at least the size of my arm! People couldn’t simply want to have sex with someone, could they? Especially just because of looks. What was fun or interesting about that? It took literally decades for me to realize these weren’t “fish tales”.
The first time I heard/read the word “asexual” was in a Mercedes Lackey story in the late 80’s. Everything in me perked up when I read the word. Was this the answer to a question I didn’t even know I’d been asking? But sadly it wasn’t. Her character, Tarma, is asexual because of an oath to her deities and she’s described as, “hard, somewhat aloof, and totally asexual” with “her hawklike face, forbidding ice-blue eyes, and nearly sexless body” (The Oathbound). I recall she wrote elsewhere about her being ‘as sexless as a blade’ but I currently can’t find it. She wrote two novels, at least one anthology, and dozens of short stories about this character so I’ll just have to go by memory, either way my reaction was a sad “that’s not me”.
I didn’t hear the word again for decades, not until somewhere around 2014, when my daughter commented that her friend was asexual and explained what it was. And, this time, that was it! It was me! There actually was a label out there, with other people behind it, that fit me. I wasn’t alone.
To put it at it’s simplest, asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction. That’s the building block of the orientation. If everyone else is nearly drooling and saying, “OMG look at that hottie!!!” you’re the one saying, “Oh my goodness, that puppy is wearing a bowtie!!!” You get two asexuals on their honeymoon and they might be having sex (depending on enjoyment and comfort level) but they might also be playing Scrabble. Your mileage may vary. But if they’re having sex, it’s not due to sexual attraction. There are all sorts of reasons to have sex such as physical enjoyment, reciprocal enjoyment, wanting the closeness and attachment, and even simply wanting to conceive children.
Another form of sexuality is demisexuality. This is when someone starts out with no sexual attraction towards someone but becomes sexually attracted to them after forming an emotional bond. You’re friends, then good friends, then start to fall for each other, and bam! you’ve got the feelings!
You can, like me, be demiromantic as well. It works exactly the same as above except you never have sexual attraction all all and start with no romantic attraction until you’re good friends and suddenly there’s that bam! experience but with romance instead.
Then there’s greysexuality, which is when someone does experience sexual attraction but only rarely and/or weakly. This is not the same as having a low libido, which is not part of the asexual umbrella. That’s when you had a sex drive but it’s either faded or gone away; it’s a medical condition, not a sexual orientation.
One thing to remember is there are more attractions than just sexual. Sexual attraction is the need and desire for someone’s body (and them). It’s the love/lust, passion, and physical desire to be with that other person as intimately as possible. Then there’s romantic attraction, which is all the hearts and flowers. Hugging, kissing, snuggling, long walks holding hands, candlelit dinners… these are all romantic. And finally there’s aesthetic attraction as in when you find someone physically attractive. Often people tie this in with sexual attraction but people also find landscapes attractive too and I don’t know anyone who’s sexually attracted to meadows.
Asexuality’s close cousin is aromantic and people often fall between the two categories, like me being asexual and demiromantic. Demiromantic is under the aromantic umbrella. In simple terms, aromantics have little to no romantic attraction but can and do have sexual attraction. While they’re not looking for a life partner of sorts, what they do look for (and need) are close, supportive friends. I had a therapist (now retired) who told me I shouldn’t have any close friends, just superficial friends (like people on a bowling league). I sat there thinking, “I can’t do that. You have no idea how much I can’t do that.”
When it comes to relationships, there’s one that happens in both asexual and aromantic communities and that’s queerplatonic relationships. These are relationships that are not sexual or romantic but, instead, are intensely deep friendships which create a strong and close bond between two or more people. It’s hard to say more because there aren’t really any rules other than the ones each couple/group sets. There are “in words” like “zucchini” or “marshmallow” for a queerplantonic partner or “squish” for a platonic crush.
Asexuals have our own names and symbols too. The first one is the nickname of “ace”, which is simply an abbreviation of asexual. This, of course, spread out to the playing cards, the main one being the ace of clubs for all asexuals. Then there’s cake, which is yummy of course, but it was also picked because of the whole “I’d rather have cake” saying when it comes to sex.
One thing that’s slowly gaining recognition is wearing a black ring on your left middle finger – black as a neutral colour and the middle finger because the ring finger is for a wedding ring.
And while I was googling, the question “why do asexuals want to invade Denmark?” popped up as an option. This I have no answer to, I only hope any invasion happens a) in the summer b) uses water balloons and bubble guns as weapons and c) offers popsicles and ice water.
There is tonnes of information available online about asexuality, aromantics, and umbrella terms. I find that Wikipedia and WebMD offer the best definitions.
And that being said, I’m off to have some cake! Happy International Asexuality Day everyone!!!