Asexual folks are not broken, we’re not lying, and we certainly don’t need to have sex to change our minds.
These days, there’s a lot of information on the Internet about asexuality. And while it’s getting more attention, it’s still a misunderstood sexual identity. I am asexual, but just like someone who’s a music lover, the way my asexuality looks to me may be very different than the way it looks to someone else. And that’s OK! What’s not OK is the misconception that people who identify as asexual are broken, lying, or don’t know any better.
What’s also not OK is for anyone to question someone’s sexual identity based on prior relationships or sexual interactions. Let’s just put this out there: According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), “An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction…each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.”
For me, my journey with asexuality started in college. It probably started even before that, but let’s start there. When my friends found out I wasn’t interested in penises and noticed I also wasn’t chomping at the bit to hear all about the previous nights’ sexual escapades, they quietly told me, “It’s OK if you’re a lesbian.” I aggressively protested that notion. Later that year, we were feeling silly and, on a whim, we watched the documentary A(sexual). I was, perhaps, too interested and also confused, overwhelmed, and curious about this film. We joked and said “that’s so cool,” but in my head, I was thinking, I get it now!
However, even then, I wasn’t convinced. Asexuality made sense to me and for me but the mantra “you’ll change your mind once you know what you’re missing” made me question myself. I needed more proof, but my religious beliefs and practices motivated me to choose not to have sex until marriage. This both helped protect my identity and, to some extent, restricted the sexual exploration I thought I needed to get my proof.
That’s probably why several drunken college hook-ups (not sex) and the subsequent confusion (not regret) about my lack of excitement about getting some only frustrated and disappointed me more. Each time, the cycle would repeat itself. I thought I was supposed do those things, want those things. I thought I’d learn to like it. I never did. They say, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” so I thought I just needed practice or one good orgasm to make me realize what I was missing, and then I’d be hooked!
Now, I know better. And telling people hasn’t been easy. (There’s a whole other piece I could write about asexual awareness and why coming out is also important to some asexuals, but that’s for another day.) Plenty of people don’t understand asexuality. So while I can only speak for myself and I certainly can’t claim to know everything about asexuality, I figure I’ll save someone the perpetual Google search and address the top four questions people ask me when I say, “I’m asexual.”
1. How can you be sure if you’ve never tried it?
Some asexual people have had sexual relations before, and will continue to engage in sexual behaviors even once they come out. So, for me I’ve done enough to know I don’t want to do that anymore. I remember wondering once when I was with my partner, Is this doing anything for them? That’s when I knew for certain! Not only was I not enjoying our intimate, sexual relationship, but I also had no interest or desire to reciprocate.
So I’m just sure. I’m sure in the same way some people find certain foods unappetizing or repugnant, and no ounce of encouragement or nagging will entice them to try it. It’s just not something I’m interested in and I’m not going to continue to engage just so I can be super-duper sure.
2. Do you want to have a family?
A common misconception is that a family is comprised of a man and a woman who are married and have children. First of all, families come in all shapes and sizes. The assumption that there is only way to make a family or have children is narrow-minded and dated. Also, all people, asexual or not, have different wants and needs from romantic relationships.
So it follows that some asexual people will have sex for the purpose of reproduction (or for other reasons, too) and some asexual people may want to get married or have romantic relationships. On the other hand, there are some asexuals who are also aromantic or just aren’t interested in being in a relationship, and that’s cool, too.
3. Do you masturbate?
First, what each person does with or to their body is nobody else’s business. Remember, asexuality is about sexual attraction, not necessarily sexual desire or arousal. Simply put, most asexual people can experience sexual arousal—some asexuals masturbate and some do not. However, their sexual arousal or the act of masturbation is not indicative of their sexual attraction for another person or their interest in having sex with someone.
Asexuality is often described as a spectrum and, as I already explained, some asexual people will have sex or will experience varying levels of sexual arousal. So, most importantly, masturbation, sexual attraction, and sexual behavior are not necessarily interrelated or indicative of one another.
4. Are you straight?
Here’s more from AVEN: Some asexuals “experience romantic attraction… [and can] identify as gay or lesbian asexuals, while others identify as straight asexuals; others don’t much care about the sex of their prospective partners.” For me, the intellectual and emotional connections are essential. I’m searching for someone with whom I can have countless engaging and stimulating conversations and never get bored. They need to be great at communicating and wondering. So then, for me, their sex or gender identity doesn’t quite matter.
If you’re interested in learning more about asexuality, there are countless online resources to quench your curiosity. I mean it. The Internet is right there seeping with answers to questions we didn’t even know we had. The bottom line for me is this: Asexuality is real, and rather than questioning and quizzing someone about their sexual identity or recollecting all their past actions to try and make sense of their life, from your perspective, when they come out, the best thing you can do is believe them and support them.
Melissa Lovitz recently graduated from the University of Connecticut where she earned a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies. She is currently a graduate student at Brown University studying Urban Education Policy with a focus on family and community engagement in urban communities. She loves country music, gymnastics, coffee, “Grey’s Anatomy,” popcorn and great conversations. You can read more of Melissa’s work at I’m Probably Overthinking This or follow her on Twitter @MelisLov.
This originally appeared on Ravishly. Republished here with permission.