What Asexual People Wish You Understood About Sex And Relationships
When did you first learn about the term 'asexual'?
Perhaps you never have. It's not a well-understood or even well-known sexuality, but it exists.
Imagine, for a second, that you had no sexual desire for others in a world that tells you that's what life is all about -- relationships, love, family, sex.
"Imagine if that was you, and you didn't know about asexuality," Sydney woman Elyse told ten daily. "Wouldn't you feel broken?"
About one percent of the population is asexual, according to a number of studies. Let's get the definition out of the way: asexuality is when you don't fit into the heterosexual-homosexual spectrum.
Broadly speaking, it's defined by not having sexual desires for another person, although it breaks down into different subcategories.
Elyse was 24-years-old when she realised she was asexual, which by her own admission feels late in life to learn about your own sexuality.
Heterosexual people are provided the privilege of being born into a world that's expecting their sexuality; gay, lesbian, bisexual and even pansexual people are -- by their literal blood, sweat and tears -- carving out this experience, too.
But asexual people? They're often not included in the 'LGBT' acronym, let alone the wider Australian queer community. The full version is LGBTQIA+, with the 'A' standing for 'asexual' and the plus symbol a point of inclusion for anyone who doesn't quite find themselves anywhere else.
For many asexuals -- or aces, as they're known colloquially -- before they learn that their sexuality exists and is valid, there's a strong sense of shame, fear, loneliness and feeling broken, simply because they don't desire sex in the same way their peers do.
"I even used to look up porn when I was about 16-years-old, just to see what everyone else was going on about," Georgia, 21, told me.
"I would try and force myself to think it was normal to watch it, but I couldn't. It was awful and made me feel sick. I hated being different."
Alison, a 26-year-old ace from Port Macquarie, told ten daily that she always assumed she'd grow into having crushes like her peers, but didn't.
A friend suggested she might be asexual, and after a bit of Googling, there was a "light bulb moment".
"Finding a word and realising that there were others like me was a relief," she said. "I didn't feel like I had to pretend anymore."
Alison said that anyone who opens up about being asexual has to be prepared to have the "101" conversation with people. Photo: Supplied.
Elyse runs the Australian Asexuals website and Facebook page, and often finds she's the first point of contact for people discovering their asexuality.
"For a lot of people, I'm the first person they tell," she said.
"They tell me, 'I think this is what I am'.
"Then they ask: 'How do I cope with that? How do I tell my partner?'"
Misconceptions About Asexuality And Aromanticism
Here's a common myth about asexuality: it doesn't mean you never have sex, or never desire sex, or don't enter into a relationship with another person.
Some aces also define themselves as aromantic: which basically means they don't want a relationship.
For others, they still want a relationship -- just without the sex that comes with it.
"Relationships without sex are very possible," Georgia said.
"They're not something that should be seen as weird or bad. There are ways around it, and being open to a partner about what you want -- in any relationship -- is very important."
And then there are still others like Annie, a 25-year-old from Canada, who define themselves as "grey-asexual".
"I can be sexual and experience sexual attraction, but I don't feel as sexual as most of my peers," she explained.
Grey-sexual falls within the asexuality spectrum, and largely defines someone who sometimes feels sexual attraction.
"I know my ability to feel attractions and sexual desire sort of waxes and wanes," continued Annie.
"I like the word 'grey-sexual' because it leaves so much room for variation."
It's an idea that Michael, a 30-year-old ace from Melbourne who works with the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), absolutely agrees with.
"There isn't one type of ace," he said. "The diversity of the community is staggering."
And if you suspect you might be asexual -- or grey-sexual, or any sexuality -- then Michael's advice is to explore that side of yourself.
"Even if the answers you come to are: I don't know."
What do you wish people understood about asexuality?
Annie: "I wish people knew that asexuality isn't about them. If your partner is not keen to have sex with you right away, you don't need to feel defensive about it. It doesn't mean you're a failure."
Michael: "There's no evidence to suggest that aces are any less mentally healthy than the general population. A decrease in one's libido or sexual enjoyment may be a cause of concern for many people, but asexuality is an enduring trait that doesn't cause people distress by itself."
Allison: "Asexuality is an orientation -- it's not a lifestyle choice. Just like people of other orientations can't change who they are, we can't change who we are."
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Featured Image: Supplied.