Asexuality in America

(Updated)

Asexuality: Definition

What does asexual mean? The term is defined as a person who has no sexual feelings and whose sexual desires are not associated with sexual attraction.  Asexuality is a broad spectrum of sexual identity. While there are some asexuals who feel no sexual desire, there are others who just have very specific desires.  Many asexuals do have sexual desire and engage in sex with partners or masturbate. The difference is that an asexual’s libido is not associated with a sexual attraction towards another person.  Someone who is asexual may feel aroused, but not have any desire or inclination to act on those feelings. Below, we will get more into what it means to be asexual and what the characteristics are.

What Does It Mean to Be Asexual?

So, how do you know if you’re asexual? What does it mean to be an asexual person? Well, it’s a complicated question to answer. As mentioned above, there is a kind of a spectrum of asexuality. Firstly, just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t be in a relationship. There are plenty of asexuals who enter relationships to experience companionship, affection and intimacy, just without a sexual aspect. Let’s look at some of the categories someone who is asexual might find themselves in. These include:

  • Heteroromantic – has romantic attraction to people of the opposite sex
  • Homoromantic – has romantic attraction to people of the same sex
  • Aromantic – does not experience romantic attraction
  • Biromantic – has romantic attraction to two or more genders

Asexuality can be a complex topic, but the above categories offer a good list of what being asexual might mean for you. That being said, there are some exceptions. For example, someone who is aromantic might not be asexual. They might feel sexual desire, they just don’t feel romantic attraction towards others.

Characteristics of Asexuals

Before we talk about the characteristics of asexuality, let’s talk about facts. To really understand asexuality, it is important to separate fact from stereotype. Let’s go over some of the facts of asexuality.

  • It isn’t a disorder: Mental health professionals, according to the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not consider asexuality a mental illness. It is considered a sexual orientation.
  • You can be asexual if you’ve had a sexual experience before: In fact, a large majority of people who identify as asexual have had sexual experiences with partners in the past. There are also asexuals who choose to have sex with their romantic partners. They simply lack sexual desire towards others.
  • You can also be asexual if you masturbate: Asexuality does not equal a lack of sexual desire altogether. Many asexuals still feel desire, just not towards others.
  • Asexuality can be a reality for many different types of people; It is important to not to excuse asexuality in anyone who is disabled or transgendered with the struggles they go through. It is entirely possible for someone who is disabled or transgendered to identify as asexual. Nor should anyone’s sexual identity be dismissed because of race or gender.

These facts debunk many of the stereotypes that are associated with asexuality. But, do they necessarily help us answer the question, “Am I asexual?” Well, not exactly. There are a few signs that you may identify as asexual.

  • You may never have had a “crush”, or you rarely develop them.
  • The “hype” around sex might be confusing to you.
  • You aren’t really interested in sex, or the idea of a purely romantic relationship appeals to you.
  • Or you may not be interested in relationships at all.
  • You may be more interested in people’s personalities rather than looks.
  • Engaging in sex feels boring for you.

All of these are potential characteristics of someone who is asexual.

Why Are People Asexual?

Now that we understand more about what asexuality is, let’s talk about why certain people are asexual.  There are generally two groups in this conversation. Some people believe that asexuality is a result of external factors.  For example, some say that asexuality is a behavior people develop due to societal shame and pressures regarding sexuality. Others believe that asexual people have hormonal imbalances.  While still others relate it to experiences or trauma during childhood.

However, others consider asexuality to be genetic.  Many people who are asexual or support asexuality argue that individuals who are asexual are born that way, just like someone is who is straight or gay was born to be that way.  Several studies have been done on asexual individuals. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, asexuality is not a mental disorder. There is not any solid proof that asexuality is a learned behavior or a hormone imbalance.  Also, there are many people who identify as asexual that did not have any negative experiences or trauma when they were young. Science cannot tell us why exactly why people are asexual, but studies are continuing to be done.

How to Be Asexual

We’ve gone over causes and characteristics. But how do you become asexual and aromatic? What does becoming an asexual mean for you? Well, simply put, it means being yourself. If you are not asexual, you can’t turn yourself into someone who is and vice versa. Being asexual means being true to who you are and understanding what you want from yourself and from a partner. Another important reminder is not to get too bogged down by labels. As mentioned above, asexuality is a spectrum on the sexual orientation spectrum so one label might not fit perfectly.

The first step to discovering if you are asexual is research. Understand what asexuality is and what it means. Maybe talk to others who are asexual. See if you can relate to their experiences. Take a deeper look at your own feelings and thoughts as well. No one can identify a person as asexual except themselves. So, it is important to understand what you think and feel. And finally, figure out what that means in relation to others. What do you want from a relationship? Do you even want a relationship? These are important questions to ask yourself. But the most important thing is being true to who you are.

How to Have a Happy & Healthy Relationship as an Asexual Person

So how do you have a relationship with an asexual person? Or, if you identify as asexual and your partner doesn’t, how do you have a relationship with someone who isn’t? Like all relationships, communication is important. In order to have a great relationship with a chosen partner, both parties need to understand what they want out of that relationship. Your partner also needs to have an understanding of asexuality that they might not have at the beginning. They may need you to explain the difference between romantic and sexual attraction. While the topic is becoming more openly addressed, most people still grow up with the idea that these two types of attractions coincide; that you can’t have one without the other. There’s also no shame in looking to other sources for advice on asexual dating. Open communication is the most important thing.

Summary

Asexuality is not considered to be a disorder or illness. Medical professionals consider it to be perfectly normal, not something that needs changing or addressing. While asexuality is mainly defined as a lack of sexual attraction, it is important to remember that asexuality is a spectrum. You might not find that perfect label that tells you exactly who you are, and that’s okay. If you feel like you or someone you know might be asexual, researching and understanding asexuality is essential. The same goes for if you are in a relationship with someone who is asexual. There are organizations out there that support asexuality and can offer knowledge and advice to you.

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