For the longest time, sex terrified me. It still does to an extent, but it was only recently that I discovered it was purely sex involving other people that was the root of that fear. 3 years ago I discovered that I was asexual. Growing up I never even knew sexual attraction existed. Stupid now that I think about it, but from ages 6-20 I was deep in the church and just thought my lack of interest in sex or sexual attraction was just because I was a good Christian girl. When I left the church and home, it took me five more years to work out it was something else. It was only through recent efforts of more inclusive storytelling in mainstream media that I discovered the term, and it unlocked so many answers to questions that had plagued me my entire life.
What exactly IS asexuality?
To be asexual or “ace” for short, is to experience little to no sexual attraction towards others. Everybody’s different, though. Some people still have sex and enjoy it. Other people need to know somebody more intimately before they experience attraction. Some rarely do. There are people with high sex drives, it’s just that other people don’t do it for them. I like to refer to sexual attraction as being “I want them” vs. libido which is “I want it now.” Personally, I’m on the side of the spectrum that involves a level of repulsion towards sex and/or anatomy. Even over-the-top make-out sessions in films and television shows can make me feel queasy and uncomfortable. It’s made figuring out dating a bit of a nightmare.
How do I know if I’m asexual?
I took a long time to figure out my asexual identity. There isn’t much education or representation out there, and I didn’t even know the term to search for it! As asexuality covers a spectrum of identities, there many micro-labels that may fit you a bit better than black-and-white ace. Below are a few that might help you figure things out:
- Demi-sexual: someone who needs to know potential sexual partners better, or feel comfortable and safe around a person before they experience sexual attraction
- Grey-sexual: somebody who rarely experiences sexual attraction. Many only experience once or twice a year.
- Aceflux: one whose sexual attraction fluctuates between different levels of asexuality
- Fray-sexual: someone who only experiences sexual attraction towards people who they’ve just met, often fading over time as they get to know them better. This can commonly be mistaken for having a stranger kink.
There are so many more micro-labels to discover that if I wrote them all down it would be a novel. Luckily the internet has a lot more resources if you’re looking for answers!
Asexuality and intersectional identities
While there’s no pressure to label who you are, and what you like/don’t like, it’s always good to know how to break down the split attraction model. Choosing a label can also be empowering and give you a frame of reference for conversations with friends or loved ones. Here’s a few attraction levels that make dating a little easier!
- Romantic attraction: the interest in making romantic contact or interest with somebody. For example the desire to kiss, make out, sensually cuddle, etc.
- Aesthetic attraction: seeing somebody as beautiful or pretty, or admiring their style without the added sexual or romantic attraction that may follow. Vibes.
- Platonic attraction: the interest in having friendly connections with somebody. This can mean holding hands, cuddling, or spend time with each other without the sexual or romantic attraction that may follow. Many people even get married to their significant platonic/life partner. I like to call it Friends+
Do asexual people still date?
Yep! Asexuality and aromanticism are different things! Ace people experience little to no sexual attraction and aro people experience little to no romantic attraction. There are some people, including myself, who find themselves on both spectrums (AroAce) and that’s perfectly okay! I know figuring out your identity can be tough. It certainly was for me. But remember: it’s okay not to have it all figured out. It took me such a long time to realise that all I really need is a “ride-or-die” kind of friend who thinks I’m pretty and wants to hold my hand for 20 years.
Other misconceptions and media representation
Asexuality is almost never represented in mainstream media, and there are many misconceptions about it that have spread like wildfire. I can’t remember the last time I came out to someone as ace, and the person didn’t immediately invalidate my existence. It’s usually “You just haven’t had the right sex,” “you must have sexual trauma” or even “sex with me will cure you.” That last one I got from a customer at work after I politely refused their sexual advances.
Right now, asexual characters in film are usually the ‘minority best friend’ role, or worse, are simply a misrepresented plot point. Florence in Sex Education is my go to example for this. Wildly praised at the time as the only accurate mainstream representation, it grew to be a sour taste in many mouths. Not only did her character only serve to prop up the sexual knowledge of another character, but she was completely erased from the show without explanation immediately after. #BuryYourGays am I right?
I have, however, seen a recent trickle of characters over the last few years and can’t help but hope I played a part in encouraging this increase through my activism. My current favourites are Ca$h in Heartbreak High, Abbi in The Imperfects and Spooner in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. While these are great, they’re usually side characters or play minimal roles. I’m currently working on developing a TV series called The Dragonfly Society that is looking to potentially be the world’s first tv series with an asexual-identifying lead character. No more supporting roles, thank you!
Asexuality and sexual desire
A huge misconception surrounding asexuality, is that all ace people don’t have a desire for sex. While that’s true for some – including myself – everybody is different. Some asexual people don’t have sex; others do. Some asexual people don’t masturbate; others do.
Personally, I have a weird relationship with sex. While I do experience a level of repulsion, I’ve discovered that I’m comfortable with solo sessions. I’m plagued with mild anxiety, and for me, masturbation is purely for stress relief. Sometimes it’s the only thing that can relax me. When I tell people this, most people immediately ask me about adult media. I was in a sex shop the other day, and the cashier was baffled when I said that I don’t picture anything or anyone when I masturbate. The only thing I may use is an audio app like Quinn, and even then I can get uncomfortable when they start making cunnilingus noises. I don’t speak for all asexuals, though. There are many sex-positive or sex-favourable aces out there!
Sex toys for Asexuals
I prefer sex toys that are mess-free and don’t look like some sort of medieval torture device wrapped in silicone.
Talking to a few other asexual people, a lot of them are put off by toys that are too realistic. They prefer toy designs that are sleek, smooth and that are function over form. They want something they can quickly turn on and off and that doesn’t require an IKEA style manual to figure out how to work. Sex and masturbation can feel like a chore for asexuals, especially if they have a high libido but no interest in sex. Toys that take the stress out of the situation are perfect.
If you’re looking, here’s some toys and items that might come in handy if you or your partner is asexual and/or sex repulsed, or if someone you know is just going through trauma related to touching.
1. Bullet Vibrators
Bullet vibes are small, subtle, and perfect for quick sessions and with controllable speed. Ideal for external stimulation, you can go as fast or as slow as you want. Most are waterproof and USB chargeable so it doesn’t take a whole village to figure out either!
2. Touch free sex toys
You might remember the panty vibe in The Ugly Truth, and this is what I’m talking about. Remote and app controlled sex toys are usually used for partners that are long-distance, but if you’re uncomfortable with touch this might be the perfect item if you’re still wanting to be sexual with your partner. Air pulse toys like the Satisfyer Pro 2 Plus and the Arcwave Ion are also great, minimal mess options.
3. Massage wands
For many asexual people, vibrating wands or magic wands are perfect because you can hold them from a distance and not be involved in touching. Most also have speed-control, so you can set the pace and vibration pattern you want. Usually wonderfully non-phallic, massage wands are a mess free, and stress free option.
4. Vibrating anal plug
Vibrating anal plugs are an option for asexual men – or women – who want the sensation of penetration but who aren’t comfortable with sex. Or another body being part of the stimulation. Self-insertable and sometimes remote or app controlled, you are in charge, and you alone. There are also vibrating penis-rings, if anal isn’t your jam.
This might be a lot to take in, and it’s okay! Whether you think you’re asexual, your friend is asexual, or you’re even just looking to do more research…this was a great first step! It took me a few years to get my head around everything, and I’m still learning. Just know that if you’re reading this and you’re thinking “this is me,” you’ve already got a second family. The asexual community are so welcoming, helpful and here for you. We don’t judge! If you have any specific questions about desire, sex toys or even how to be ally if your friend is ace, you’re always welcome to message me on Instagram! We’re in this together!