What It Feels Like To Be Asexual In A Sex-Obsessed World
In a world obsessed with sex, how does anyone admit they’re just not interested? Now, new social networks and websites are allowing asexual people to finally come out
‘I’m asexual,’ said my friend Kate* as she paused to polish off the remnants of her sauvignon blanc. It was unnerving seeing her so visibly uncomfortable; this 28-year-old quietly self-assured woman I’d met through work years previously. She went on to tell me that the hot Italian man she’d recently been seeing had been an experiment of sorts, her chance to confirm once and for all that she didn’t feel sexual attraction. Not towards him, not towards anyone.
Research suggests that one per cent of the global population is asexual. That’s 70 million people who have no interest in the physical aspect of relationships, yet asexuality is still largely misunderstood. ‘The most common misconception is that I simply have a low libido,’ explained Kate when I admitted that I was struggling to understand the concept of a life without sex that wasn’t connected to religious or health issues. ‘I just don’t have a libido at all. It’s not that I find sex repulsive, I’ve just never enjoyed it and I find it mind-numbingly boring and repetitive.’
Sexologist Anthony Bogaert, a professor at Brock University in Ontario and author ofUnderstanding Asexuality, offers this definition: ‘Broadly speaking, asexuality applies to anyone who has an enduring lack of sexual attraction towards others. Some may have a level of sexual interest that’s not connected to other people, so they may still masturbate. Others don’t have any sexual inclinations whatsoever.’
Bogaert considers asexuality a matter of sexual orientation: ‘If people have inclinations towards the opposite sex, they’re heterosexual; if they’re attracted to the same sex, they’re homosexual; and if they’ve inclinations towards both, they’re bisexual. Asexuality, then, is the missing orientation – those who lack inclinations to both sexes.’ There are different types of ‘aces’, with asexuals being heteroromantic (romantically attracted to the opposite sex); homoromantic (to the same sex); biromantic (to both sexes); panromantic (to both sexes and transsexuals); or aromantic (experiencing little or no romantic attraction to anyone).
For Kate, a PR executive with elfin good looks and a weakness for 50s dresses, art galleries and margaritas, there is no objection to someone potentially sharing her life, just not her bed. Imagine a Match.com profile with the disclaimer ‘No sex required’ and you’ll get an idea of how tough dating as an asexual can be. Kate blames a lack of proper sex education at school for her struggle to come to terms with her asexuality. ‘I think it would have saved me years of confusion. I knew I wasn’t attracted to women, so I thought I must be attracted to men. There never seemed to be another option.’
It was when she stumbled across an article about the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) – the world’s largest online asexual community – that she realised she wasn’t alone. The site was set up in the US in 2001 by David Jay to share his experiences and to create a public dialogue on asexuality. It now has a global membership of more than 80,000, and Jay has been working along with other activists to promote a greater understanding of asexuality as a sexual orientation.
Video: Ask An Asexual Person
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