What Is Asexuality, Really? We Asked A Sexologist

A few years ago, an A was added to the end of the official queer acronym, making it LGBTQIA+. This was a huge moment for the asexual or "ace" community, as it was a sign that asexuality was becoming part of more mainstream conversations about queerness.
So much so, that you yourself have probably heard a lot more about asexuality in pop culture and in conversations over the last few years. But do you know what asexuality really means?
"Asexuality is surrounded by myths, and marked by a distinct lack of information, research and representation in mainstream society," says sexologist and sex coach Georgia Grace. "Asexuality and being part of the ace community is traditionally defined as having no sexual attraction towards others or yourself. But like all areas of sexuality, asexuality can exist on a spectrum — it is a really individual experience."
On this spectrum, we can broadly categorise three general "types" of asexuality that can help explain an asexual person's relationship to sex.
Sex-repulsed asexual people are usually completely disinterested in the act or idea of sex. Sex-neutral asexuals are often those in relationships with non-asexual partners — generally, they aren't closed off to the idea of sex and probably engage in it fairly regularly, but also don't go out of their way to have sex with their partner/s. And finally, there are sex-positive asexuals, who enjoy having sex for physical pleasure but still don't experience sexual attraction to others.
"There are also other related sexual orientations, like demisexuality, which means you can only feel sexual attraction after you already feel a close emotional bond with someone," Grace explains. "And then there's the 'grey area', which is a term for people who feel like asexuality almost describes them but isn’t quite right. There's also homoaesthetic attraction, which is having a strong attraction to one gender that isn’t sexual — it may also be referred to as aesthetic attraction or platonic attraction."
One of the bigger misconceptions about asexual people is that they don't enjoy companionship or physical touch whatsoever. In reality, asexuality is just a new way of looking at people's experiences and feelings towards sex and the value it has in our lives.
When it comes to dating, many asexual people still experience feelings of love and romance and desire a relationship (though, of course, others don't enjoy it). For people who don't experience romantic attraction but still feel sexual attraction, they might be better described as aromantic. But how does an asexual person successfully date or be in a relationship, especially if they're dating a non-asexual person?
"Dating as an asexual person comes with its challenges, like managing social and cultural expectations as well as how you and others feel," Grace explains. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that asexual people don’t want connections. In our broader discussion of asexuality, it's useful to distinguish between attraction and desire — a distinction that I think is relevant for all of us to be aware of."

In terms of where they differ, attraction is simply something that piques your interest. "For example, you see someone and can recognise that you are physically, emotionally, socially or sexually attracted to that person; and you find them compelling to look at or be around," Grace says. Desire on the other hand is the urge or drive to have sex. "In the words of sexologist Kass Mourikis, 'Desire is like a motivational system. It’s the reason or the meaning behind your draw to sex'," Grace says.

"Desire and attraction can co-exist and they can be separate, depending on the context and people involved," Grace says. "You can want to have sex but not be attracted to a particular person in that moment — or you can be really attracted to someone and not want to have sex with them. What's important to remember is that both dynamics are human and normal."
For asexual people in a relationship, sexual attraction to their partner may not be relevant to their sexual experiences, but they might still find themselves feeling desire for someone or something at different points in time. For others, they won't desire it at all, but it doesn't mean they can't find a way to still enjoy physical intimacy with a non-asexual partner — like in any relationship, it's about finding a happy medium between each other's desires and interests, whilst always giving and receiving consent.
At the end of the day, being in a relationship with an asexual person is all about managing expectations, learning how each other likes to experience intimacy, and making space for new understandings around the prioritisation of sex and how this differs for people across the asexuality spectrum.
Ultimately, there are many different experiences of asexuality, and there's a lot more to it than simply not having sex. The most important thing for anyone to understand about asexuality, though, is that asexual people can still have fulfilling relationships and experience physical pleasure.

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