Being asexual

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Asexuality isn’t a complex. It’s not a sickness. It’s not an automatic sign of trauma. It’s not a behaviour. It’s not the result of a decision. It’s not a chastity vow or an expression that we are ‘saving ourselves’. We aren’t by definition religious. We aren’t calling ourselves asexual as a statement of purity or moral superiority.

We’re not amoebas or plants. We aren’t automatically gender-confused, anti-gay, anti-straight, anti-any-sexual-orientation, anti-woman, anti-man, anti-any-gender or anti-sex. We aren’t automatically going through a phase, following a trend, or trying to rebel. We aren’t defined by prudishness. We aren’t calling ourselves asexual because we failed to find a suitable partner. We aren’t necessarily afraid of intimacy. And we aren’t asking for anyone to ‘fix’ us.

From “The Invisible Orientation” by Julie Sondra Decker

efinitions sometimes reveal more by what they don’t say than what they do. Take asexuality for example. Asexuality is standardly defined as the absence of sexual attraction to other people. This definition leaves open the possibility that, free from contradiction, asexual people could experience other forms of attraction, feel sexual arousal, have sexual fantasies, masturbate, or have sex with other people, not to mention nurture romantic relationships.

Far from being a mere academic possibility or the fault of a bad definition, this is exactly what the lives of many asexual people are like. The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), for example, describes some asexual people as ‘sex-favourable’, which is an ‘openness to finding ways to enjoy sexual activity in a physical or emotional way, happy to give sexual pleasure rather than receive’. Similarly, only about a quarter of asexual people experience no interest in romantic life and identify as aromantic.

These facts haven’t been widely understood, and asexuality has yet to be taken seriously. But if we attend to asexuality, we arrive at a better understanding of both romantic love and sexual activity. We see, for example, that romantic love, even in its early stages, need not involve sexual attraction or activity, and we are also reminded that sex can be enjoyed in many different ways.

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