What is Asexuality?
Asexuality refers to experiencing little or no sexual attraction, with varying involvement in sexual behavior. (Brotto, 2010) Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual arousal and, so lack of sexual attraction does not mean a lack of desire to have sex. This means that the person can still be aroused but not feel sexually attracted to others. Many people identifying as ace experience libido though not always directed towards any particular person. They often relate to different terms with regards to their sexual identity, some as sex-positive, some sex-negative, while others feel indifferent or neutral towards the act.
Asexuality as a Spectrum
Understanding asexuality offers us an insight into understanding sexuality through the unique lens of a spectrum. The Asexual flag explains the concept of the asexual spectrum through its different gradients. The black is for those identifying as asexual, the color grey is for the identities lying in the grey area between asexuality to allosexuality such as people identifying as demisexuals or greysexuals, white represents sexuality and purple represents the community. (Ralatalo, 2017) Demisexuality refers to experiencing sexual attraction only when there exists a deep emotional connection with the other individual. The connection can be romantic, platonic, or some other form. Greysexual individuals rarely experience sexual attraction or experience it at a low level of intensity. Aceflux have a sexual orientation that fluctuates but generally remains on the asexual spectrum. Other identities included under the ace umbrella are recriprosexual and akoisexual among many others.
Sexual and Romantic Attraction
We often associate sex with romance, as occurring together. However, contrary to popular opinion, romantic relationships are not the same as sexual relationships. Certain psychological and evolutionary theorists believe that sex and romance, although often co-occurring, are two different things. (Bogaert, 2015) The Split Attraction Model also explains how romance does not always hint at a sexual component. (James, 2018) For example – Asexual individuals who experience romantic attraction do not always experience sexual attraction whereas, some people experience little to no romantic attraction, also called aromantic.
Ace Mental Health
Contrary to existing myths and misconceptions, asexuality does not imply celibacy nor is it a result of trauma. It is wrong to assume that it is just a phase or a hormonal issue. These false societal notions around asexuality contribute to the existing ace-phobia. Sexual minorities grow up in heteronormative societies that pressure them into having heterosexual relationships, constantly dismissing their actual sexual identity as a “phase”. Questioning a person’s gender or sexual identity and creating fabricated assumptions around the origin of their orientation can feel condescending and demeaning. Bullying and discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation is another unique life stressor experienced by the community. (Coulter et.al. 2018) To add to that, discrimination and dismissal is manifested in various forms often within the queer community making asexual individuals feel like an outlier. The lack of knowledge and ignorance among the mainstream health care providers contribute to the failing mental health structure. Mental health care providers who work with sexual minority communities need to be informed and abreast with the affirmative therapy trainings in order to provide the right space. Developing mental health interventions that are affirmative and in alignment to the community’s needs should be looked into.
When we acknowledge our privilege and build the right knowledge base, it helps us become better allies to the asexual community. Information will also help reduce the existing prejudice in society and institutions that do not accept or understand their sexuality. At You’re Wonderful Project, we believe in eradicating all forms of discrimination and prejudice that affect an individual’s identity in any manner. We promote and provide inclusive and accessible mental health services.
Ace/ Aro Spectrum Definitions. University Of Oxford LGBTQ+ Society. (2021).
Avia James. (2018). What Is The Split Attraction Model? Betterhelp.
Bogaert, A. F. (2015). Understanding asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield. Brotto, L.A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J. et al. (2010) Asexuality: A Mixed-Methods Approach.
Arch Sex Behav 39, 599–618. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9434-x
Coulter, R. W., Bersamin, M., Russell, S. T., & Mair, C. (2018). The effects of gender-and sexuality-based harassment on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender substance use disparities. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(6), 688-700.
Morag A. Yule, Lori A. Brotto & Boris B. Gorzalka (2013) Mental health and interpersonal functioning in self-identified asexual men and women, Psychology & Sexuality, 4:2,136-151, DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774162
Ralatalo. (2017). Flags of the LGBTIQ Community. OutRight Action International.
University of North Carolina. (2019). Asexuality, Attraction, and Romantic Orientation. LGBTQ. https://lgbtq.unc.edu/resources/exploring-identities/asexuality-attraction-and-romantic-orientation.